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The Orvis Fly-Fishing Podcast

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The Orvis Fly Fishing Guide Podcast provides weekly tips from acclaimed fly fishing author and lifelong fly fishing enthusiast, Tom Rosenbauer. Get the most from your time on the water!


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The Orvis Fly Fishing Guide Podcast provides weekly tips from acclaimed fly fishing author and lifelong fly fishing enthusiast, Tom Rosenbauer. Get the most from your time on the water!




Back Cast: A Life in Fly fishing, with Tom McGuane.

Originally Posted on March 3rd, 2023 Back in 2008 when I first began this podcast I had two dreams—that I would have my two literary heros, John McPhee and Thomas McGuane as guests (they are both passionate fly fishers). I was lucky enough to record a podcast with John in August of 2021 and this week's podcast is with Tom McGuane [44:36], author of 20 highly regarded novels, screenplays, collections of short stories, and what is in my opinion the finest book of fly-fishing essays ever written, The Longest Silence. Most people who interview Tom want to talk about his crazy days in Key West in the 1970s, , fishing for tarpon with Jim Harrison, Guy de la Valdene, Jimmy Buffet, and other notable characters. However, in the podcast we talk about what he is doing now—his fascination with small-stream trout fishing, why he would rather wade than fish from a boat, his opinion on guides who yell at their clients, and how to grow old gracefully and still continue to fish with a fly rod. It was a real honor to chat with him and I know you'll enjoy this very special podcast. In the Fly Box this week, we have some wonderful and thought-provoking questions and tips form listeners, including: What is that white rod that Pete Kutzer uses in your casting videos? Is there a written history of Orvis? What is the best reel lubricant, and how should I maintain my cork drag surface? Can dumbbell eyes damage fly rods? If so, what should I do to keep flies tied with them from hitting my rod? Do trout eat those little black and brown stoneflies that hatch during the winter and early spring? Can you explain when I would use weighted flies vs. split shot vs. poly leaders when fishing nymphs? Can you compare the relative advantages of the 10 1/2-foot 3-weight and the 11-foot 3-weight Blackout rod? I saw people catching fish on nymphs. I tried exactly the same patterns and didn't catch anything. Why? I have a reel that takes a 9-weight line. Can I get an extra spool and put it on my 7-weight rod?


Twelve Tips for Fishing Dry Flies, with Todd Tanner

Todd Tanner [43:02] is a lifelong fly fisher and journalist and spent years as a guide on the Henry's Fork, one of the best (and toughest) dry-fly rivers in the world. He also prefers not to fish nymphs. Todd shares his 12 tips on improving your success with dry flies this week, and they are solid and helpful. In the Fly Box this week, we have a great and varied selection of questions and tips from listeners, including: I don't see any brook or brown trout in the usual places this fall. Are they all upstream spawning? Two great tips from a listener for beginning fly tiers. Is a 10-foot 4-weight a good rod for both Euro nymphing and dry-fly fishing? A great tip from a listener on how to prevent your dry fly from getting too soaked before retrieving it for the next cast. A listener makes the point that watershed-level stream restoration is often not possible. If my stream is stocked with rainbows, will I find them in other parts of the river system and will they survive? Can I use a less expensive spool of fluorocarbon spinning line instead of the expensive stuff sold for fly fishing? If I use only the tip of a CDC feather, can I use the remaining fibers for something else? Kudos from a listener on a wonderful experience he had in the Orvis retail store in Atlanta What kind of insects are most common in infertile streams? Is there a reason Orvis makes a 10 ½ foot and 11-foot H3 rod and not a 10-footer? A great rattlesnake story from a listener I found a whole bunch of trout rising in a seam and tried everything but could not catch them. I tried all kinds of dries and nymphs and changed my tippet and my angle of approach. What do you think the fish were eating?


Must-Reads in Classic Fly-Fishing Literature, with Michael Checchio

I get frequent questions from listeners on what I would recommend they read in fly-fishing literature, as there is so much out there it's tough to sort through it to find what's worth reading. Michael Checchio [38:10] is a retired journalist and investigative reporter and a student of fly-fishing books, so we spend some time discussing what he feels are must-reads (or maybe just interesting reads) in the vast river of what has been written about fly fishing. Here is Michael's list: Fiction A River Runs through It by Norman Maclean "Big Two-Hearted River" by Ernest Hemingway (short story) Ninety-Two in the Shade by Thomas McGuane The River Why by David James Duncan Non-fiction The Longest Silence by Thomas McGuane The Angler's Coast and Dark Waters by Russell Chatham The Curtis Creek Manifesto by Sheridan Anderson "Hat Creek" and "Deeds Among the Steelhead" by Bill Barich (magazine articles; may be tough to find) The Spawning Run by William Humphrey Trout Bum by John Gierach "The Same River Twice" by David Quammen (published in Outside Magazine) "A Sporting Life" by Jim Harrison (magazine article, may be tough to find) My Story as Told by Water by David James Duncan In the Fly Box this week, we have lots of questions and tips, including: How do I know when to strip strike and when to trout strike? Do I really need to go barbless on small dry-fly hooks? How do I know what size material to use if I want to lengthen my leader? A great tip from a listener on learning to cast with your "off" hand A tip from a listener on wetting new tying materials befor you use them to see what color they will be Why do I only see larger wild brown trout in one section of a river I fish? How do I see my sighter in difficult lighting conditions? If I am fishing for stocked rainbows and grayling, where should I place my grayling fly—on the bottom or on the dropper? Should I use my 10-foot 7-weight Recon that I use for steelhead for streamer fishing from a boat for trout? What is the main difference between a Helios D and Helios F rod when fishing for bonefish? My bamboo ferrule only fits ¾ of the way to full engagement. Is that OK? Why do I see steelhead smolt in my river but never chinook salmon smolt? Is there any way to get the bad smell off a bucktail? Why don't people fish bucktails much these days? Is there a way to tell a northern strain from a southern strain brook trout visually?


We're "Fixing" Trout Streams All Wrong, With Chris Jordan

My guest this week is Chris Jordan [41:13], a scientist with NOAA who specializes in habitat restoration. His view is that, in our arrogance, we've gotten habitat restoration projects all wrong most of the time. We think we can engineer river systems to conform with what we think they should be, but rivers are dynamic and mostly unpredictable and that, whenever possible, we need to look at watershed solutions—helping rivers do the job with a lighter hand but a larger scope. Follow this link to learn more: In the Fly Box this week we have a wide variety of interesting questions, including: Should I bother fishing carp flats when the water temperature is in the 50s and air temperature is in the 30s? Will brown trout live in warm water rivers some of the time? Is it worth it to fish the mouths of cold-water tributaries for brown trout? You always say that trout prefer to be in water that is two-to four-feet deep to feed. Yet I have caught my largest trout in pools that are 10-to 15-feet deep. I'm confused. How does George Daniel attach his light nymphing leader to his fly line? I fish small streams with a 10-foot, 4-weight Recon rod. I worry about spooking trout when my rod casts a shadow over the pool I'm fishing. Should I go with a shorter rod? Some great suggestions from a listener about fishing with kids, and why we should make it more about building relationships and not always about catching fish. I consistently foul-hook trout when fishing multiple flies. Am I striking too soon or too late, or striking too hard? If most people fish barbless flies, why don't manufacturers make more barbless hooks? Do states only stock trout in specific locations due to allocated quantities, or are there environmental factors in play? Can I use a 6-weight Bank Shot line on my 11-foot, 4-weight Euro rod to try two-handed casting? I have a friend who ties all my flies. What should I get him as a thank-you gift? If I hook but lose a big lake-run rainbow, would it be possible to go back later in the day to try for it? I have a small brook trout stream on my property. Should I put some trees in the river to help the fish? A listener suggests that although smallmouth bass don't need much habitat help from us, they grow slowly so handling them with care is important if you want a trophy smallmouth fishery.


15 Ways to Break a Fly Rod, with Charlie Robinton

Besides breaking your fly rod in those boring old ways like car doors or ceiling fans, there are other, less obvious ways and most of them are preventable as well. This week I chat with Charlie Robinton [49:00], rod repair expert on the Orvis Outfitter Team, and we'll explore other ways fly rods are broken—including some unusual ways they have been broken over the years, thanks to stories from our terrific rod repair team. True, if you break an Orvis rod we can usually have it back to you in about five days—but a broken rod is still not a fun way to start (or end) a fishing trip. In the Fly Box this week, we have some perplexing questions, tips from listeners, and some listeners who take exception to some of the things I've said in the past, including: Where can I take my sons and granddaughter on Route 20 in Idaho where they can easily catch trout? What is a good rod manufacturer? A listener describes a perplexing day on a difficult river and analyzes his day and asks Tom if he agrees. Do you take all of your fly boxes when you fish or do you determine what you will likely need for the day? And where do you put your lunch, sunscreen, and raincoat? Last year I had great luck for pre-spawn brown trout and this year I can't hook them. Should I keep trying different streamer patterns? A caution from a listener on serious reactions to UV resins A suggestion from a listener on sliding beads down your leader if you want to make any nymph a bead head. A listener says he has never had fly-tying threads weaken over time and disagrees with my suggestion that they can weaken after a few years. Are beaded or non-beaded flies more successful? How can I use adhesives to keep the dumbbell eyes on my Clouser Minnows from rotating? You have said trout eyes are designed to look up. When I catch trout they are always looking down. Why? You recommend using a throat pump. But what good does it do you when you have already caught a fish? And then you take their food away? Does gel flotant on a hook have a negative effect?


A new nymph fishing technique and the under-rated 10-foot fly rod, with George Daniel

My guest this week is the great George Daniel [42:00], who is always pushing the envelope, evolving and experimenting. He tells us why he uses a 10-foot fly rod for nearly all of his trout fishing, even in smaller streams and he also introduces a new nymphing technique he has been experimenting with. In the Fly Box this week, we have a great variety of questions and tips, including: Can I use a poly leader in salt water for stripers? Why do I find fewer and smaller fish in low water conditions later in the season? How often do you find yourself adjusting indicator depth in medium and large rivers? What should I do with the reject flies from my tying bench? Is a bow-and-arrow cast stealthier than a roll cast in small streams? I see large crayfish in a stream. Why don't I see smaller crayfish? Are fiberglass rods more sensitive than graphite rods? Do creek chubs compete with brown trout? What can I do to keep the wings on my parachute flies at 90 degrees once I start fishing them? I found I could double haul better with some Orvis rods I tried than with entry level rods I have. Is it simply the difference between a premium rod and my current lower level rods? I keep breaking off coho salmon. What could I be doing wrong? Can I fish egg and worm patterns and streamers with my 7-foot, 4-weight rod? A tip from a listener—if you want to find out where trout live in a particular river, observe them from a bridge. Is there an organization devoted specifically to smallmouth bass?


Managing instream flows, with Hal Herring

Hal Herring [50:31] has been reporting on conservation issues in the American West for over 30 years for Field & Stream magazine as well as other publications. In this week's podcast, he explores the many complexities of trying to keep enough water in our rivers for both agriculture and trout populations, which has become an increasingly difficult juggling act. Hal also gently berates today's hunters and anglers about educating themselves on the science and the politics behind these issues. It's not enough to just complain about the lack of water—it's important to understand the issue before you can have a credible opinion. In the Fly Box this week, we have some great tips and questions, including:


Learning from Trout DNA, with Helen Neville

Helen Neville [38:57] is Trout Unlimited's senior scientist and also an expert in trout genetics. In this interview, we talk about what scientists have learned about trout evolution and relationships in the past decade. They now have tools at their disposal that can tell them how closely two trout populations are related, how much hatchery trout have interbred with wild populations, and how various races and subspecies of trout have evolved. You'll also learn how they extract this DNA and study it—but you had better review your high school or college genetics first because it gets a bit complex. In the Fly Box this week, we have some great questions and a couple helpful tips from listeners, including: —


Secrets of the Battenkill, with Doug Lyons

The Battenkill is an iconic and often frustrating trout stream. It's a gorgeous river with a healthy population of wild trout but it has had its ups and downs over the years. Doug Lyons [49:48] is a lifetime Battenkill expert and knows the river perhaps better than anyone, and his new book Fly Fishing Guide to the Battenkill unravels many secrets of this special river—perhaps more than many of us locals are comfortable with! Doug and I had fun sharing our theories and thoughts about the river. In the Fly Box this week, I have some especially interesting questions from listeners, including:


Tips on fishing high alpine lakes, with George Hunker

This week, my guest is long-time Orvis-endorsed guide George Hunker [49:26], who has won two awards (guide of the year and the coveted lifetime achievement award) for his excellence in creating wonderful experiences for his customers. George has a lifetime of experience in fishing alpine lakes in the Wind River range in Wyoming, and his tips will be valuable to anyone who fishes these wilderness gems for trout. In the Fly Box this week, we have a varied assortment of questions about tackle, fly tying, and techniques, including:


Seven Deadly Sins of Pike Fishing, with Josh Nugent

Northern pike are a fascinating and explosive fish to catch on a fly rod. There is not much that beats a big northern smashing a streamer close to the surface or eating a popper. Josh Nugent [47:05] is a very experienced pike angler and has a host of tips on tackle, leaders, flies, retrieves, and how to find pike all year long. This episode should really be called Everything You Need to Know about Fly Fishing for Pike, but Josh loves those Seven Deadly titles so I'm going with it. In the Fly Box this week, we have some great questions, both basic and more advanced, including:


Tips for urban fly fishing, with James Spica

You may have some amazing fly fishing right in your neighborhood even if you live in a big city. Urban fly fishing may not be pristine, but it has its own charms and moments of excitement, and you don't need to drive for hours to get to it. James Spica [46:05], fishing manager of Orvis Royal Oak, gives us good tips on finding this kind of fishing in your area, what species you might encounter, and some tips for making the most of your experience. In the Fly Box this week, we have some great questions as usual, including:


Ten tips for summer smallmouth, with award-winning guide Matt Miles

My guest this week is Matt Miles [55:11], 2023 Orvis Guide of the Year. Matt has extensive experience guiding for trout in the Rocky Mountains, but has returned to his home state of Virginia to concentrate on warmwater species, especially smallmouth bass. Matt offers 10 great tips for fishing for summer smallmouth in rivers based on his extensive experience. In the Fly Box this week we have some interesting questions and also some great tips from listeners, including:


Small stream bluelining in the Rockies, with Jeremie Prine

My guest this week is Jeremie Prine [47:39], owner and head guide of Dunoir Fly Fishing Adventures of Dubois, Wyoming. He specializes in fishing small wilderness creeks (as well as larger rivers) in Wyoming and is one of the best small-stream anglers I have ever met. Jeremie shares his tips on finding these streams, how to fish them, and of course what flies he likes for bluelining. He also gives some great tips on exploring in grizzly bear country, and you should pay attention to his tips, because in a lifetime of chasing fish in the back country he has never had to use bear spray (but he still carries it every time he goes out). In the Fly Box this week, we have some excellent tips form listeners, as well as many questions on fly fishing conundrums, including:


Montana trout suffer mysterious disease, with Wade Fellin

This week my guest is guide and lodge owner Wade Fellin [45:48] of Big Hole River Lodge. Wade is on the vanguard of trout health in Montana, particularly in the Big Hole Valley, and they have been seeing trout die at the time of year when water temperatures and flows are optimum, which is concerning. Wade shares with us how they are obtaining samples of trout to send to a lab, and some possible reasons for this problem, and what might be done to address the issue. He also makes it clear that trout fishing in Montana is still awesome and that people should not cancel a trip or not plan a trip. Fishing is still great but we need to perhaps take even more care in releasing fish—and in deciding how many fish to catch in any given day. In the Fly Box this week, there are some great questions, tips, and comments from listeners, including: A listener shares with us how he analyzed a problem with his casting and solved the problem. Are we over-using UV cure resins in our fly tying? I can't afford new waders and have leaks in my old ones. Should I try to buy a pair of used waders? When fishing dry flies in lakes, should I twitch the fly or just let it sit? When aren't all nymph patterns tied on jig hooks? Why am I missing so many small trout in a local stream? With the severe flooding in Vermont, how will that affect my fishing when the water drops? A listener wants to give a shout-out to two generous anglers who gifted him and his wife with a box of flies while they were on their honeymoon on the Henry's Fork. Good tips on the benefits of a long-handled net Why am I missing hook sets on my fiberglass rod? How can I involve my family more in my fly fishing? Do you have any tips for coiling line so that it does not tangle when I shoot line? I am moving from DC to Dallas and I know there is no trout fishing around. Are there any fly-fishing opportunities near Dallas?


Foraging along trout streams, with Sam Thayer

I think most stream anglers are interested in foraging, since we're immersed in nature all day long and although we watch for fish and insects and birds, many of us don't pay attention to the plants. And there are many delicious plants along trout streams you can take home for dinner—most of which will be more nutritionally dense than what you buy in the store—and free. If you have done any foraging at all, you have probably read some of more of Sam Thayer's [40:38] books. In our household his books are the primary source. I was lucky enough to spend some time talking to Sam about why foraging along streams is especially good, and what we can expect to find there. In the Fly Box this week, we have no phone calls but some great questions via e-mail, including: Why do trout in small streams take flies more readily when the water is high? Where do you recommend I go trout fishing in the East in July when I visit this summer? A great story about a listener getting generous advice from a famous angler along a trout river. A tip for keeping rod sections together using clothespins. What is the best streamer reel, line, and leader for a 7-weight rod? What do you do when there is a very heavy hatch and almost too many natural insects? I am having trouble hooking fish using the hand-over-hand retrieve when striper fishing. What can I do to increase my hooking rate? What are three things a novice dry-fly angler should pay attention to? Do you ever tie up dry/dropper rigs at home prior to going fishing? Will my 8-weight be enough rod for fishing for striped bass from a boat? What are some tips on picking flies for striped bass fishing at night?


Fishing the Baja surf on foot with Scott Sadil

Scott Sadil [41:39], author and Fly Fishing Editor of Gray’s Sporting Journal, is a pioneer in fishing the surf in Baja, and in his many years of experience he’s learned a ton of valuable tips. Even if you never plan on fishing Baja, you’ll find his advice helpful for finding fish along a wide beach, choosing which flies and tackle to use, and learning new techniques for moving the fly. In the Fly Box this week, we have some fascinating questions from listeners, including: I am having trouble casting a size 6 fly with lead eyes on my 5 weight. What can I do to correct this? I am struggling with my distance casting. Any tips for helping with this, and for fishing large tailwaters? When I hook panfish and bass along a shoreline, they always head for shore yet carp always swim to deep water. Why? My Royal Wulffs don't float properly when I drop them in a glass of water. What can I do to help? What kind of flies and colors do you suggest for fishing the surf in Costa Rica? How should I dispose of old waders that leak? Is there one rod I can use for surf fishing, largemouth bass, and streamers for trout? If you float a river in a canoe of kayak by yourself, how do you get back upstream at the end of the day? Should I use a 7-weight or 8-weight rod for throwing big streamers for trout? How should I fish freshwater rivers that are tidal for bass and pike? And how do I get wire onto the end of my leader for the pike? Why do people use a Bimini Twist? I would think it just pushes the weak spot in a leader further back. Is bug spray harmful to fish? If I am hiking into high alpine lakes, should I hike in my wading shoes?


The insidious Nature of Neonic Pesticides, with Michael Miller

Warning—this week's podcast with biologist Michael Miller [36:28] is not exactly uplifting, in fact it's downright depressing. I feel that neonic pesticides are the main reason we have seen dramatic declines of insects on our trout streams and may be even more of a threat to invertebrate populations than climate change. But it is a problem we can remedy more easily than climate change because it's mostly a problem in the United States (Canada and the EU have either banned or greatly restricted their use). I hope this podcast makes all of you take action and raise your voices to get the EPA to ban these dangerous chemicals. On a happier note, we have some wonderful questions in the Fly Box this week, including: It's great to hear that Tom gets skunked as often as the rest of us. Why did I see mayflies when I was a mile from the nearest stream? Do bright fly lines spook fish? Why were fish slashing at my streamer without me hooking them? I am having problems casting a 15-foot leader Where should I take my sons fishing in the Bozeman/Livingston area if I can't afford a guide? If I hook a fish deep in its throat, should I try to get the fly out or cut the tippet? Can I get closer to fish in a riffle? What are Tom's top 5 trout flies? I am losing a lot of fish on my 10-foot 3-weight rod. What should I do differently? Where do big trout tend to live in a river? If I am catching just small fish will there be any big fish around? I can't get my floating line to float well, even after cleaning it. What can I do?


15 Tips for Fishing Emergers, with Pat Dorsey

OK, I lied. There aren't 15 tips. There are probably more and if you want to count them up you can e-mail me and correct my mistake. But I get a lot of questions about fishing emergers, and I thought a podcast on how to identify when fish are taking emergers and how to fish them would be welcome. Not only that, world-famous and beloved fishing guide and author Pat Dorsey [36:05] gives us his favorite fly patterns for fishing emergers including a couple secret ones. In the Fly Box this week, we have some thoughtful questions and a few tips from listeners, including: A great tip on casting with your non-dominant hand Will wildfire smoke affect trout populations? If I hear there are native brook trout in a stream, how do I find out where they are? A nice tip on untangling snarls of fly line. Bigger brook trout started taking my nymphs on the swing instead of dead-drifted. How should I take advantage of this next time? How much of an incline in a small mountain stream can trout survive? A listener was disappointed in my podcast with John Gierach because we did not discuss how anglers can have a positive impact on climate change. Two listeners want to know what type of floating line to put on their Euro rods when they switch to dry flies. Why are some articulated streamers tied with the hook down and why are some tied with the hook up? I have a busy life. Am I missing opportunities by not tying my own flies? Brown trout are invasive in my cutthroat stream. Should I take them home to eat them, or just kill them and throw them up on the bank? Is it ethical to back and fish a place on my own if a guide showed me the spot? I have heard if you cut the welded loop off a fly line you can't use it any more because it will absorb water. Is this true?


The making of "Mending the Line", with Joshua Caldwell

This week my guest is Joshua Caldwell [32:30], director of the new movie (premiering in theaters today) "Mending the Line", about a combat veteran with PTSD who works his way back into society with the help of a fly fishing curmudgeon. The movie stars Sinqua Walls, Perry Mattfeld, and Brian Cox as the old curmudgeon (of course). It's a story that could easily fall into cliche but I found it to be heartwarming and compelling, and the casting is excellent. Joshua talks about the trials and tribulations of making the movie in a short time frame, challenged by tough weather. It's a fascinating peak behind the curtains of an independent film. In the Fly Box this week we have the following questions and helpful tips: What is your opinion of an approved IGFA leader for tarpon as opposed to using straight 60- or 80-pound leader? I am having trouble with the partridge hackle on size 20 soft hackle wets. Can you help? How much time should I spend in each little pocket when bluelining? I have a Recon Saltwater 7 and I want to get a 7-weight freshwater version. How much difference is there between the two? Will a black bottom on my boat spook fish in shallow water? A great letter from a fly fisher in Switzerland detailing how to negotiate the tricky fishing regulations in his country Can I use a tippet ring with different tippet sizes, even ones that are quite different in diameter? Do stocked trout move as much as a mile, or do they stay close to where they are stocked?