It’s not only about catching fish. It’s how you get there.

It’s been a while since I made an update to  I’m happy to report this is not just from the usual toils of a demanding career, but also because I’ve managed to fish quite a bit.  I recently returned home from a Memorial day weekend tradition of visiting my brother in Vermont for some family time, fishing and Coleman-style eating.

In particular, one experience from this trip inspired me to return to blog writing.  TroutTeam6 member and friend, Derek Davies, has recently taken up fly tying.  He also has to pursue mastery of fly fishing in earnest.  Every fly fisherman who ties flies understands the joy of catching a fish on a home brewed fly.  However, some fly-tyers are afraid to deviate from the already known quantities of productive patterns.

Most fly-tyers start with simple patterns and try to master them first.  Fly tying can be an artistic experience with room for creativity, innovation and personal flair.  There are opportunities to express yourself just as with any other art form.  Take this fly for instance: the Nickelodeon (aptly named for its color scheme).


This fly is basically a woolly bugger, but this is most certainly a Derek Davies creation.  Bold in its colors, and unashamedly named; I don’t believe I’ve ever encountered this color combination in such a fly.  Using materials he had lying around, with a color scheme so unique, he told me he felt this fly screams “EAT ME” to trout or at least causes them to ponder for a moment: “check this out . . . “.

As with any new pattern, the fly-tyer wants to test it out and attempt to entice a fish.  Derek took the Nickelodeon to his local ponds and immediately proved he could fool sun fish, small bass and crappies with this fly (fish which generally have no limit to what they will attempt to consume).  But what would a persnickety trout think of the Nickelodeon?  Could he get a trout, the pickiest of fish, to look upon this fly as a meal?

Fast forward to our trip to Vermont.  After a fair amount of hearty ribbing about the ridiculousness of the fly from his friends, you could tell Derek was a man on a mission to prove his worth as a fly-tyer and as a fly fisherman.  In spite of watching others catch fish with more traditional flies, he continued to fish his fly, dropping it on the noses of fish after fish.  Sometimes it spooked the fish, and sometimes the fish did not seem to care about the fly at all, as if it was another piece of detritus floating down the river.  He tried to induce strikes from the fish with all manner of presentations.  The day was nearing a close, but Derek still persisted.  He said: “One more cast; I know I can get a fish to move for the Nickelodeon!”.  A few sighs were released from myself and his brother, and we sat on a nearby rock to watch this exercise in futility.  Derek, with his Techlite polarized glass TLT lenses (definitely not jealous) could see where the fish was hiding beneath a grassy outcropping with overhanging trees.  The bet was $5 for his first cast to end in the trees.  Derek lifted his rod with the utmost care.  The fly rod bent back as we both stared.  His cast flew true, dropping the fly softly onto the water just up stream.  It took only a few seconds for the fish to strike, an aggressive take that left no doubt.  Soon the pool was alive with the fight of a fisherman and an angry trout.  Cries rang out from everyone, with hoots and hollers, and more than a few swears.  Minutes later, with expert netting from his brother, Derek was smiling in the way only a fly-tier can explain.


It was so much sweeter for Derek with all the efforts he put into tying this fly.  Not to mention working the river all day, but culminating with his prize.  This was more than just catching a rainbow trout.  This was a journey that started months ago when he came up with the Nickelodeon fly.  I am glad I shared a small part in that journey.  Have you ever been a part of someone’s fly fishing journey?

Nick, Nick, Nick, Na Nick Nick Nick.  Nickelodeonnnn.  BOWWWW!


8 Years, 10,000 Casts and One Big Payoff!

My brother and I have been fishing together for over 25 years.  It is amazing to me that I have done anything in this world for that long.  That is almost two-thirds of my entire life.

Eight of those years have been spent trying to help him catch his first legitimate steelhead. After I moved to Minnesota, it took me a few years to get my first steelhead and now I can consistently catch them.  However, when he visits for our annual steelhead trip, he only has 1-2 days to try to maximize his casts and hone his steelhead tactics.  He has been overdue for a nice steelhead for quite some time.

I am so glad that I happened to be fishing side by side that day with my brother. Both John and I got to share in the excitement and pure joy of Adam’s first steelhead.  There is nothing quite like watching someone experience the adrenaline of a steelhead on the fly, and first time experience too!

Even after 25 years, there are still new experiences to find on the river.  Have you ever gotten someone onto their first fish on the fly? Feel free to share it in the comments section below, and enjoy the video.


The End of Winter is Near . . .

After a long, hard winter in the upper Midwest, we Minnesotans start to monitor the temperatures and ice outs for the first day with good “fishable” weather.  The winter was spent acquiring new fishing gear, organizing fly boxes, filling those same boxes with new, untested fly patterns, and of course, a copious amount of scheming.

The anticipation for the return to nature in search of hungry trout grows exponentially with rising outdoor temperatures.  It always culminates in a wonderful first day on the river.  Sometimes, it doesn’t always end with fish landed.  But new stories are made, legends are forged and a new year of fly fishing is ushered in with the song of the fly line soaring through the air.  What was your first day out like this year?

Cubic Feet Per Second (CFS) Tip


It occurred to me that I have never mentioned CFS before.  CFS stands for cubic feet per second.  It is a very simple thing, but CFS is very important aspect of my fishing preparation.

The United States Geological Survey (USGS),, has put flow meters in many of the main rivers and tributaries within American watersheds.  I personally use check these almost every week for my local waters to get a good feel for how healthy the streams look.  Add in my prior experiences, and I can estimate whether or not a particular day will be easy or hard to fish.

This past week, we had so much rain, I thought my local waters would be unfishable.  Driving an hour, only to find out a river is blown out, is not my idea of fun.  So I went to the website to check the CFS, and here is what I found:

CFS Kinni

Notice the flow peaked on 10th, and then had another peak on the 11th.  This was due to the rain storms we had.  Fortunately for me, the river recovered very quickly, and by the 13th, it was ready to be fished again.  Some of the best fishing I have experience has been during the downward progression about 10-20 CFS above average,

Without this tool, I would have decided not to fish this weekend.   Even though it is slightly above average, this looks very fishable to me, but I will let you know how it goes.

If you are not using the USGS water flow readings, maybe it’s time to start.  You can easily enter a google search with your river name and the words USGS and CFS.  And if you really want to improve your “fly fishing IQ”, keep track of which water levels produce the most amounts of fish at certain times of the year and maybe you will be able to duplicate your successful days.


The Trico Hatch

Every year from starting in late July through the end of August, I head out to Wisconsin’s Rush River to fly fish during the Trico hatch.  This amazing hatch can be brilliant when you catch it right.  Thousands of small insects (smaller than 1/2 a finger nail) flit about in the air, mating and then becoming part of the great circle of life.

Eager trout start rising everywhere like water boiling.  It is quite a scene to witness. However, fun and frustration are two adjectives that quickly blur together while fishing. Due to the tremendous amount of available food on the top water, my fly offering is more likely to be taken randomly than due to my own skill level.

With that in mind, over the years I’ve developed some techniques that seem to work well for me:

  1. Stay low and quiet. This is true for all fly fishing, but even more so for this hatch.
  2. Start with nothing bigger than 5x tippet.  If 5x isn’t working, go to 6x tippet.  If 6x isn’t working, then go to 7x tippet.  There’s a company that makes 8x tippet . . . (
  3. Keep your leader long, at least 12 – 15 feet.
  4. Size 22 flies are NOT too small.  In fact, they may be too big.
  5. There are actually quite a variety of tricos in the air, so grab some out of the air and find your best approximation.
  6. Don’t be afraid to drop something really small off that trico, like a size 22 emerger with a little sparkle in it.  Sometimes, a smart trout will take that offering to conserve energy.
  7. If you are targeting rising fish, as opposed to prospecting, then try to time your cast to land in the feeding lane when you think the trout will be ready to eat again.
  8. Have fun, try not to get frustrated, and change your setup frequently until you find what the trout are looking for.

I’m off to the Rush River tomorrow to go after one of my favorite hatches.  What’s your favorite fly hatch?


Maybe I’ll get one of these colorful brook trout tomorrow . . .

Spring Steelheading

Where to begin? I’ve had so many good fishing trips since my last posting, it’s hard to break it all down. Well, we’ll start with the last Steelhead trip of the year.  Each year, my buddies and I venture into the wilderness of Brule, Wisconsin to fish for the magnificent Oncorhynchus mykiss. A steelhead is essentially an anadromous rainbow trout. That’s biologist-speak for a fish that migrates up a river for spawning from a lake, ocean or other large body.  Steelhead are known for their challenging fight and acrobatics. They generally drive fly anglers nuts because of how hard they are to catch on an artificial fly. For a fly fishing fanatic, there is no greater challenge than landing a fresh chrome steelhead.

With the usual suspects (Adam, John D. and John M.) visiting me to take a chance at fly fishing glory, we headed to our usual steelhead hunting grounds on the Bois Brule River in Wisconsin. This year had been a particularly good year already for us steelheading, as shown in this picture of John D. landing a nice steelhead in the early season (he landed another large one later that day as well).

john steelhead 2016

The real hero of this story though is my brother Adam, who broke his 5 year long skunk of not catching anything on the Brule River, and brought more fish to hand than I can count. This year was unique because we caught some browns and brook trout in addition to the skip jacks and chromes. The highlight was when my brother had his first “real steelhead” tighten his line.  This is the type of fish that is at least 20 inches and pulls out your line so fast, you barely have time to check if you remembered to set your drag.  Unfortunately, it outsmarted him before landing it, but now he knows what we mean when we say we’ve got “steelhead fever”.  As for the rest of us, we landed plenty of large brooks, browns, smaller rainbows, and plenty of skip jacks (teenage steelhead), and I had two chrome brutes on that danced in the air, winked at me and loosed my barbless hook.  It was disappointing not to land a big one on this trip, but a few dozen fish later, we had plenty of stories to share with each other at the “Crow Bar”, the local watering hole.  Now it’s time to start getting ready for the fall run!