An Angling Awakening – Reclaiming the Fly Fishing Tradition

Fly FishingWhen I was a kid, most of the time that I spent with my father was project-oriented. Whether we were outside working on cars, building fences, or tending to anything else that needed fixing, we spent time together working with our hands.  As I got a bit older, he and I traded some of these “teaching” moments for those of leisure and we spent more time out on the water using our hands instead to wield rods and bring in fish.

My dad was first introduced to fly fishing when he was a kid himself.  One of his favorite stories is of a family trip to Yellowstone National Park he took when he turned 16.  Not surprisingly, the boys decided to go fly fishing.  They waded out in search of untouched water and practiced their casts along the way.  It had been a long while since my dad had used a fly rod and in the process of trying to reclaim the art of rolling a cast cleanly across the water, he snapped the fly right into the top of his head.  Apparently it was quite the ordeal trying to cut it out of his scalp.  I supposed it’s no surprise that fly fishing never became a passion of his.  As more time passed and life picked up, the fly fishing eventually stopped altogether.

By the time I had become a teenager myself, I found I was hit quite suddenly with an angling awakening of sorts.  Growing up in Minnesota, finding fishable water is about as simple a task as there ever was.  We were in the land of 10,000 lakes, after all, and depending on how broad your definition of a “lake” is, that number fast approaches 30,000.

During the summer months, my brother and I would load up our bikes with bait and tackle, rods placed precariously over the handlebars, in search of the perfect fishing hole.  We had a lot of fun, but honestly for all of our efforts we never got very good.  We didn’t really know what we were doing, and trial and error can only take you so far on its own.

In spite of our many attempts (and often poor ones) over the years, there was no doubt in my mind that fishing was more about the experience of being out on the water and immersed in nature than always catching that legendary trophy.  In the vein of our forefathers, the simple elegance of fishing was enough for me.  It was a prize in its own right.  Looking back, these are some of my greatest childhood memories.

The Fly Fishing Tradition is Born:

South Boulder Creek

Image Credit:

One summer a few years later, my father decided to take our family to Yellowstone National Park.  Roughly 30 years after his hilarious encounter with the bad end of a hook, he introduced his own boys to the art of fly fishing.  My casting was atrocious, and we caught only a handful of trout, but there was no looking back.  This is what fishing was supposed to be.  We waded endlessly across rivers and streams, encountering elk and moose and bears along the way.  We pulled up trout while packs of wolves roamed on the horizon.  This was nature at its finest, and there we were, right in the middle of it.

Since this first encounter with a fly rod years ago, I think I can count on all my digits the number of times I have gone fishing with traditional equipment, using bait and lures and a standard rod and reel.  While I still appreciate fishing in nearly all its forms, the act of getting into the water and exploring the bends and rapids and pools and animals along the way is something that just can’t be replaced.  In fact, in some ways, fly fishing is akin to traditional hunting: entering the environment of your prey and meeting it at its level.  I believe there is a primal, nostalgia that one can only find with a fly rod in hand.  This is why I love it.

I suspect some of these same sentiments have inspired many other fly fishing enthusiasts (and fanatics!) to learn this incredible art.  And that’s exactly what it is.  Fly fishing is a sport and an art and a talent and it can take many years to master.  It is challenging and demanding, but nothing worth doing is easy.  Now that spring is right around the corner, I encourage you to start preparing!  Get your fly boxes in order, clean your lines, create a strategy and prepare your patterns accordingly.  I hope to see you on the water soon enough.  It’s time to catch the wild river spirit!



North Carolina Program Offers Free Fly Fishing Retreats for Breast Cancer Survivors

Article source can be viewed here.

This special fly fishing retreat is one of the very best programs I’ve come across in Western North Carolina. If you have breast cancer, are in treatment, are in remission or recovery from breast cancer, or know anyone in your life in that situation, consider signing up for one of these free, weekend-long retreats at the stunningly beautiful Lake Logan Center in Haywood County.

fly fishing retreat

Casting for Recovery Clininc

From all I’ve heard and seen, from both participants and volunteers, is these retreats can help change your life in a very good way, considering all that breast cancer does to try to destroy your life.

Casting for Recovery Carolinas will hold two weekend retreats for breast cancer survivors at Lake Logan Center on May 23-25 and Oct. 24-26, 2014.

Retreats are completely free and are open to women of any age, in any stage of recovery from breast cancer. Participants will learn the basics of fly-fishing. No fly fishing or fishing experience is necessary. The retreat schedule includes a medical information group, support groups, fly fishing instruction on the water with a personal “river helper,” and lots of time to relax and enjoy the scenic setting.

Deadline to apply is March 14 for May retreat and Aug. 15 for October retreat.

Visit to fill out an application or call the national office at 888-553-3500 to request a paper application.

For more information, email program coordinator Starr Nolan at or call her at 828- 215-4234.

Winter Fishing

Winter Fly Fishing

Photo: Louis Cahill

Bill Krise – Bozeman, MT
Sure enough, it’s winter again. I visited a few local streams just this past week and discovered ice flows blocking access to the open water. It makes me think twice about wading into some of our open rivers to fish.

On those days that I don’t quite feel up for a frigid dip in the near-arctic waters near my home, winter is the time to dream and prepare for the seasons to come. For many of you, whether your go-to streams are closed outright or approaching the deep freeze, it seems you may have the opportunity to dream along with me. And for that bold group who fish their local streams well into the winter, well, you can join us too and dream out on the water.

During the winter months, dreaming can be put to practical use. It is a time for preparing and strategizing in anticipation of the upcoming spring hatches (represented by such patterns as the Quill Gordon, Blue Wing Olive, Hendrickson, Western March Brown and the Mother’s Day Caddis to name a few). It may be cold now, but next year is on the way, and so are the critters.

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As spring starts to break through and warm us up, it’s wonderful to watch the weather and water conditions come alive again as the new season approaches. I can picture it now: a group of otters swimming out from their dens in Yellowstone Park as a small army of visitors crowd around for close-ups. I often think of the deer and wait in anticipation for that time of year when the herds come to quench their thirst in the streams as I fish. The scenery in trout country and the unexpected visits from Mother Nature are a significant part of the fly fishing experience for many.

Winter also gives us all a chance to repair equipment and get things tuned up. Although some of us may be inclined to procrastinate all the way into next year’s fishing season, this can be a great opportunity to clean our fly lines, repair or replace leaders, and figure out what equipment and flies we may need come spring. By doing routine maintenance during this “seasonal downtime” so to speak, you can extend the season of this amazing hobby and start dreaming of catching that big one a whole season earlier.

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Here in Montana, we do a lot of winter fishing. I remember my first time out. I was glad that the temperature stayed above freezing (so my line wouldn’t freeze to the guides on the rod), but I wondered if the neoprene waders would actually keep me warm enough! It was a good afternoon. There were small black midges all over the water, but not one fish took interest. But as we all know, catching fish isn’t the only thing that makes the fly fishing experience so great. That old adage comes to mind: “A bad day of fishing is better than a good day at work.”

Winter fishing tends to be a different experience than what most of us are used to during the regular fishing seasons. In particular, it offers the opportunity to fish small midges and nymphs of various sizes. I prefer big stonefly nymphs, prince nymphs, Whitlock’s squirrel nymph, and pheasant tails this time of year. So get out there and start experimenting. If you have had luck with other flies during your own winter fishing trips, feel free to share them below in the comments for others to reference. But above all, remember that if you can’t get out on the water just yet, Winter offers a great opportunity to reflect on last year’s fishing, get your gear ready, and start dreaming!

The Art of Wading

The Art of WadingBill Krise – Bozeman, MT

Many of us fish from stream banks and wade in when necessary as we move along the bends in search of that perfect spot.  At its core, wading begins as a means of getting from point A to point B when obstacles are present.  But this necessity is, for many, an experience in its own right.  For some, it is the heart and soul of the fly fishing experience entirely.

I myself enjoy wading because at times it gives me the sense that I am truly a part of the environment around me.  What better way to connect with nature than to be fully immersed in it!  Having trekked through streams in the Eastern and Western United States, Alaska, and Asia, I have come to realize just how integral wading is to the sport (and art!) of fly fishing.  But for all its majesty, it is not without its risks.

Everyone cautions, “Wade safely,” but this advice is measured differently by each of us depending on our own individual skills and abilities.  Younger anglers have a tendency to wade into streams without much hesitation.  Some even wade in barefooted!  For others, older anglers in particular, it is prudent to be more discerning.

WadersMany things can happen when wading.  There are large rocks to step over, tree limbs to avoid, stones rolling underfoot, and perhaps even a precarious combination of silt or mud on the river bottom.  Having been spread-eagled over a large rock myself, and even taking a spill in the Firehole on smooth gravel, I have had my share of falls.  I now find it useful to bring along a “wading staff” for extra support in tricky locations.  Even when a slip is preventable, it is always on the horizon of possibility.

In difficult conditions like these, the first (and most important) rule of thumb is to be sure of your footing as you step.  And if you see a foothold in the distance, be sure not to take too long a step, as this can throw off your balance.  For such a seemingly simple task, there is a bit of art and science to wading – and a lot at stake.   So be careful to understand what type of river bottom you are walking on.  Most problems are just a slip away, and one little “whoops” while stumbling around can get you pretty wet!

But for all that could go wrong, remember that wading is the lifeblood of the fly fishing experience.  It is often necessary for finding the perfect fishing pool or that sense of majesty that comes from fishing on “untouched” waters.  This post is not a wading smear campaign in any way.  Instead, it simply offers a bit of precautionary advice that might make your next wading adventure all the richer.  After all, nothing feels better than standing, immersed, in the middle of a natural paradise, rod in hand, searching for that big one.  So get out there and catch the wild river spirit.


The hook is the backbone of the fly and can often make the difference between catching and losing a fish.  Because of this, we take great care in selecting hooks for our many different patterns, using specific specialty hooks to enhance the effectiveness of each fly type (i.e. subsurface flies or emergers). In particular, we are proud to use Mustad Signature hooks for the majority of our patterns.  Time and again, the Mustad brand has demonstrated the level of consistency and craftsmanship that we also strive for at Wild River Flies.

Mustad Signature HooksFor larger nymphs, larvae and stimulator dry flies, we use the Mustad Signature (MS) “Curved Nymph Hook” (C53S).  The MS “Grub Hook” (C67S) also serves well for larvae and for smaller curved variations of our standard nymphs (such as the Pheasant Tail or Gold-ribbed Hare’s Ear).  Universal patterns such as these can be tied on all manner of nymph hooks (whether standard length, 3X length, or curved hooks).

By using different hook styles one is able to create varied looks with the same fly pattern and increase their versatility to the angler.  One additional way that we provide a stronger fly without sacrificing the pattern integrity is by using “larger” variations of short-style hooks.  Our short curved shank flies, for instance, are tied on MS C67S hooks which are a 3X length short hook, creating a heavier hook per fly size than longer shank hooks.

In general, lighter hooks (light wire) are used when tying patterns such as floating nymphs, emerging insects, or dry flies unless the specific patterns are heavily tackled, which is common in the Western U.S. or for certain patterns such as many of our hackled flies.  Nymphs, emerging crippled flies, and several soft hackle flies – which are designed to be fished just under the surface, or in the surface film – are also typically tied on light wire hooks (C49S).  There are also some patterns where the hook weight is determined by variations within the standard pattern itself.  Our deep sparkle caddis flies, for instance, are tied on a heavy hook while our emerging sparkle caddis flies are tied on a light wire hook.

Pheasant Tail Nymph (Flashback)

Pheasant Tail Nymph (Flashback)

For our sinking varieties (our sinking nymphs, for example), we use non-lead wire, bead heads, or combination of the two.  Some patterns (our emerging flies, for instance) are never weighted.

At this point, you may be overwhelmed by all of the variables there are to consider when selecting the correct hook.  Fortunately for you, we know our stuff and have done the dirty work for you.  So whether you are a fly fishing veteran or still in the early learning stages, rest assured that our flies are crafted with care and expertise for the very best fly fishing experience.

For more information on the Wild River Flies fly-tying methods, you can stay up to date on our informational posts by joining our mailing list (located in the sidebar).  For any specific questions you may have, you are always welcome to contact us directly through the “Contact Us” page or via email at


Wild River Flies – A New Beginning

AnglerWild River Flies began a few years ago as a job-creating initiative for impoverished, rural families.  Receiving in-depth training from our Montana fly-tying expert, these low-income workers were given the opportunity to develop their talents and become expert artisans in their own right.  We now have an impressive team of experienced fly-tyers who have mastered the hundreds of patterns and variations that we are proud to offer at Wild River Flies.  As a company, it is our mission to produce affordable flies of the highest quality that are consistent both aesthetically and in terms of performance in the water.

We believe that tying quality flies begins, first and foremost, with the use of sharp, well-tempered and finished hooks.  With this principle in mind, we are proud to use Mustad Signature hooks for the majority of our fly patterns as well as select Dai Riki hook styles as needed.  When it comes to the tying process itself, we take “hand-crafted” to a whole new level.  We blend most of our own dubbing mixes to match the patterns we tie, and we always use quality dry fly hackle rather than taking our “feathers” from someone’s hair (though perhaps that fad is ending anyway!)

Prince NymphIt is a daunting task to select fly patterns from the thousands that are available, but we have been strategic in choosing from among the very best and most popular patterns.  As a result, we offer flies that can be used all over the world and in many different conditions.  Whatever your environment may be, we are here to help you catch fish with greater frequency and without fear of losing the “big one” to a substandard fly.

As our small company grows, we will continue to broaden our selection, striving in particular to incorporate local patterns into our inventory from different regions around the world.  But even now, our broad selection will not disappoint.  And be sure to keep an eye out for sales and specialty patterns, which will become available as soon as we finish our field-testing (the best part!).

So thank you for visiting Wild River Flies, and please consider giving the “new kids” a chance to demonstrate the care and quality that we put into each and every fly.  We take pride in our product and are confident that you will be satisfied.  So now it’s time to go find the big one and catch the Wild River spirit!


EPA Report: Pebble Mine will Damage $1.5 Billion Bristol Bay Fishery in Spectacular Alaska Landscape

Full article can be read here.

“The Environmental Protection Agency’s final Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment (BBWA), released today, shows that large-scale mining in the headwaters of the Bristol Bay watershed would immediately cause the loss of 90 miles of salmon spawning waters and be potentially devastating to the entire drainage and its irreplaceable salmon and trout populations.

In light of the final assessment, Trout Unlimited today called on the EPA to immediately protect Bristol Bay from destructive mining. The BBWA was conducted after nine federally recognized tribes, commercial fishermen and sporting interests asked the EPA to use the Clean Water Act to protect Bristol Bay from large-scale mining in the region, including the proposed Pebble Mine. After nearly three years and extensive scientific research based on the mining company’s own development scenarios for Pebble Mine, as well as hundreds of thousands of public comments and two peer reviews, the report establishes a clear scientific foundation for the EPA to protect Bristol Bay.

“The science is indisputable,” said Chris Wood, president and CEO of TU. “Bristol Bay is the world’s most important wild salmon fishery, and no place for a large-scale industrial mine. The EPA has done its job, and it’s now time for the Obama administration to use its authority under the Clean Water Act to stop the mine and protect the $1.5 billion-per-year fishery.”

Additionally, Wood said, protecting Bristol Bay is the most important conservation priority for TU and its 153,000 members who work to make trout and salmon fishing better all across the United States…” (Continue reading from original source)