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6 Fly Fishing Gifts under $100
Fly Fishing Gear Reviews

6 Fly Fishing Gift Items Under $100


The holidays are here! The magic, the sleigh bells, the hand warmers in your waders, AND gift giving. Help us make the whole process easy for you. Read about our 6 favorite gifts under $100 along with personalized descriptions about why we would want these products in our stockings or under our tree. Don't forget to check out our other blogs in this series, coming soon.

[Previous blog: 5 Gifts under $50!]

Simms Coldweather Flannel
: $99.95

This flannel combines the warmth of a fleece jacket and versatility of a fishing shirt. Essential to any winter angler. I recommend wearing a light baselayer underneath while fishing. The warmth and comfort can’t be beat. Comes in a variety of different colors. It does fit a little snug I would recommend going up a size.

Patagonia Sun Hoody (Mens and Womens): $59.00-$69.00

I remember when I first bought a sun hoody I thought it seemed odd to wear a hoodie in 80+ degree weather. Having 50+SPF sun protection the hoody keeps you at a reasonable cooler temperature. The hood adds great protection on the back of the neck and head area, it is a nice alternative to a buff (I find buffs very constricting). Sun Hoody’s are an essential to any angler looking for sun protection and comfort.

Echo Base Fly Rod: $89.99

Echo has been making its mark on the fly rod industry for the past decade with the lower priced quality fly rods. You can’t beat a rod with a lifetime warranty for under $100. It may not cast flies with dreamy presentations and pinpoint accuracy but it's always important to have a surplus of rods as we all know car doors are not a place for a fly rod. This medium-fast action rod can get it done wherever you may be chasing fish.


Orvis Safe Passage Chip Pack: $79.00

Chest and Hip Pack wearers unite. It can be worn as a chest pack or a hip pack, your choice. The pack is perfect for a minimalist that has a few boxes and all the necessities. With an affordable price it's great for those two hour sessions after work.


Umpqua Beginners Fly Tying Kit: $100

Give the gift of fly tying. Can’t beat the price of $99 to get started at fly tying. It comes with everything you need to begin twisting up your own flies. I received this kit years ago and it was a great way to jump into fly tying and get started. I eventually upgraded my vice to a more expensive one and the vice in this kit is now my travel vice.


Hatch Nippers: $100

Anyone that has fished a Hatch Reel Understands the quality machine work of the company. If there are any golfers out there, the factory in California where the nippers and reels are made also makes the famous “Scotty Cameron Putter.” Nippers are an essential to every angler. These nippers are of the highest quality and come with a lifetime warranty. They also come with a lanyard to make sure your investment won’t go down the river.

Check out our FULL gift guide on our Pinterest page here!

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5 Fly Fishing Gift Items under $50
Fly Fishing Gear Reviews

5 Fly Fishing Gift Items under $50


Orvis Tacky Deluxe Box: $35

The ultimate fly box. Orvis and Tacky created this box that holds a ton of flies, is low-profile, lightweight, and very durable. Tacky boxes provide a silicon inside unmatched from any other box providing a clean organization even for the clumsy fly box dropping anglers like myself.


Rio Headgate Powerflex Tippet Holder with 2X-6X: $39.95

A collaboration between Fishpond and Rio Products gives you a fully loaded high quality tippet holder stocked with the essential tippet sizes for every trout angler. The perfect gift for any fisherman, as tippet is an essential that we can never have enough of.


Montana Fly Company Stainless Steel Hip Flask or Coffee Mug: $29.99-$34.99

Coffee or Whiskey? I think any angler likes the thought of that while hitting the water especially in the colder months. Montana Fly Company’s designs bring out the fishiness of these essentials. They come in a variety of different graphics from various fishing artists. The coffee mug works better than my yeti and has a flip top cap. Can’t beat that!


ExOfficio Boxers: $30

This is the best gift under $50 a guy can receive. There is nothing like ExOfficio boxers. They provide all day comfort and they don’t smell at all. I’ve brought two pairs of these boxers on week long trips and have been good to go. I’m not suggesting this but these boxers are the best and an essential to any guy. They also come in some sweet fish patterns.


Dr. Slick Mitten Scissor Clamp: $22

By far my favorite forceps tool on the market. All it takes is a quick squeeze to get them open to get that fish off the hook and back where it belongs. You can operate with gloves, big hands and requires not too much strength. The quality of the machine work in unmatched for the price. The scissors are extremely sharp as well. Whether it is debarbing hooks, clamping split shot or pulling that hook out I highly recommend them to every angler.

Check out our FULL gift guide on our Pinterest page here!

Also, don't miss our NEXT blog: 6 Gifts under $100]

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Prepping your Fly Fishing Gear for Winter
Fly Fishing Tips and Tricks

Prepping your Fly Fishing Gear for Winter


Guest contribution by Ray Kyle, Vail Valley Anglers Shop Supervisor and Fly Tying Instructor.  You can find him published in the Vail Daily newspaper weekly through the summer and monthly through the winter. 

For us, there is no end to the fishing season here in Colorado. Others pack away their gear and pull out their ski or snowboards to enjoy the great snow on our local mountains. We believe you can do both. Most fly fishing gear should last years, if not decades with proper storage and cleaning. I’m going to go through some things to help you get your gear ready for the long winter.


Getting your rods ready for the winter is pretty easy, will save some precious space, and will reduce the chances of breakage. Most rods, when purchased, will come in a metal or cloth covered tube. These tubes are the best place to storage your rod after breaking it down and they don’t take up much space. After I break down my rods, I like to take a damp paper towel and give them a quick wipe down and double check that there are no cracks or damage to the sections. If there are, I’ll send them back to the manufacturer to have them repaired for the next time I use them.


Lines tend to accumulate dirt and grit while fishing them in the summer and fall. I like to strip out all of my fly line into a bucket or large bowl of hot water mixed with just a couple drops of mild dish soap. Let the line soak in there until the becomes luke-warm. Then pull the line through a moist rag with a good amount of pressure to remove all of the debris and dirt. Let the line loosely coil on the floor and allow it to air dry. After the line is dry, take a new rag and soak it with a line conditioner or dressing (find at your local fly shop) and pull the line through the rag as you wind it back into the reel. Now you’re good to go for the next time you go fishing!


Freshwater reels don’t need the same types of maintenance as a saltwater reel would, however it is still a great idea to do a bit of upkeep on an annual basis. I like to take the spool off of the housing and drop some reel oil inside of the moving parts to keep it well lubricated. I also like to check all of the screws (reel handle and reel foot) and make sure they are good and tight. After lubing and checking the screws, I will wipe the entire reel with a damp rag before putting it back together.

Fly Boxes

This is one area that I like to set aside a couple hours to complete. After a long summer and fall of fishing and guiding, I typically have a couple dozen flies still attached to tippet or just hanging out in the bottom of my hip bag. I will go through each one and trim off knots or strains of the tippet, assess them to see if they are worthy of being put back in the appropriate fly boxes and if they are, I will return them back to their home, ready for the next time I tie them one.

With all my fly boxes laid out in front of me, I like to take an inventory of what flies I have and more importantly, what flies I need. I will usually have two columns when I create this “needs” list. One column is for the flies that I will buy and the other column is for the flies that I’ll try to tie over the winter months.

Tying Flies

The late fall and winter is a great time to spend hours behind your vise, whipping up flies for the next season. I go into production mode when I am trying to fill my boxes, laying out all the material for a specific fly, so I can be as efficient as possible. I like to set goals for the number of flies I intend on tying in my session, this way I am filling in the gaps in my fly boxes. By the end of winter, I usually will have all my boxes filled and looking prime for the ensuing busy season.

Fly fishing gear, like most gear in the mountains, is expensive but it is meant to last and perform season after season with proper care and maintenance. Many of the things I talked about in this article are relatively easy and quick to complete and will assure a long life for your equipment. Before you stash your fishing gear away for the snow season, give your gear a little love, so it will love you back when you are hooking fish next season.

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Fly Line Technology | Slickness
Fly Fishing Gear Reviews

Fly Line Technology | Slickness


Guest contribution by John Van Vleet, Marketing Manager at Scientific Anglers. 

Did you miss Part 1: Fly Line Technology | Texturing? Read it here

You might have heard, or read, about slickness additives in fly lines before. They’ve been around for quite some time, and always garner a mention on a fly-line package bullet point, but not all slickness additives are the same. Not even close.

And now, with the introduction of Scientific Angler’s AST Plus, the difference between simple overcoats and built-in additives is much greater than ever before. To get a real sense of what a slickness additive is and how it performs, let’s first take a look at one of SA’s original additives and then compare it to our newest innovation.


Nearly 20 years ago, back in 1998, SA introduced an additive to its fly line coating called AST, or Advanced Shooting Technology. This introduction was groundbreaking at the time, because no fly lines on the market contained a dedicated slickness agent that was built directly into the coating of the fly line, all the way through to the core.

With the introduction of AST, we added a powdered solid material to the coating of the fly line by mixing it into the colored PVC goop that we use to coat the cores of the lines. This provided several benefits:

  • Reduced Friction — Fly lines with AST were noticeably slicker than previous fly lines, not only to the touch, but also as they moved through rod guides with each cast.
  • Increased Shooting Distance — An immediate benefit of the reduced friction was an increase in shooting distance. Fly lines moved more freely through rod guides and added distance with each cast, which is why we called it Advanced Shooting Technology.
  • Longer Lifespan — AST was built into the fly line’s coating, from the outer surface through to the core, meaning that as fly lines wore down, there would always be AST present; this is in direct contrast to a simple overcoat, which is favored by many of our competitors and dissolves quickly. Their “out of the box” slickness doesn’t last nearly as long as SA’s because it’s not built into the coating.

AST quickly become the industry leader in slickness technology. Eventually, other fly-line manufacturers would introduce slickness additives of their own, which is why we spent several years perfecting a new version of AST, which we (not-so-creatively) named AST Plus.


Eighteen years after the introduction of the original AST, in 2016, we managed to improve the formulation of AST, and introduced AST Plus in our Amplitude series of lines. Before I get into the nitty gritty details, I’d like to share an anecdote from one of our final casting tests.

At our facility in Midland, Michigan, we have a casting pond out front, which allows us to string up a rod and cast a line at a moment’s notice. One day late in the development process, our Research and Development Manager, Josh Jenkins, lined up five rods, with five identical line tapers, each one built with a different additive. These were the final five formulations that we were to choose between. Over the course of the day, everyone in the office gave each line a cast and, almost unanimously, we all chose the same formulation. That’s a small glimpse into how impactful AST Plus was to all of us at the SA headquarters.

As for how it differs from the original AST, the main physical difference is that AST Plus is a liquid-based additive, rather than a solid. That difference alone led to one of the most interesting discoveries we made about AST Plus: it actually moves throughout the coating toward the surface, constantly refreshing the outer surface of the fly line with fresh AST Plus. What does that mean when it comes to making fly lines perform better? Here’s a quick rundown of the benefits:

  • The Slickest Lines on the Market — In our tests, fly lines with AST Plus are 50% slicker than lines with our old AST additive, and nearly 70% slicker than lines from any other competitor. (See Drag Chart illustration)
  • Increased Durability — Throughout our durability testing, lines with AST Plus lasted, on average, 8 times longer than other lines on the market. (See Durability graph)
  • Maintains Slickness — One of the most unique, and beneficial, aspects of AST Plus is that it is a coating additive, meaning it is built down to the core of each line and not just an overcoat that can wear off quickly. As our lines wear, AST Plus moves throughout the coating, constantly moving to the surface to regenerate slickness. This means that lines with AST Plus maintain that out-of-the-box slickness long after you spool one on your reel. (See AST Plus illustration)

What Does This Mean for You?

While facts and figures are fine, anyone can create a statistic or a fancy graph that shows their line in a positive light. The true test of a fly line with AST Plus is on the water. We’ve been fishing lines with AST Plus for over two years now and the takeaway is this: At SA, we have hundreds of years of combined fly-fishing experience and none of us have ever seen anything like AST Plus. It’s a true game changer in every sense of the word. From casting on our pond to presenting dry flies to sipping brown trout, AST Plus simply makes our lines perform better.

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Fly Line Technology | Texturing
Fly Fishing Gear Reviews

Fly Line Technology | Texturing


Guest contribution by John Van Vleet, Marketing Manager at Scientific Anglers.

Over the past decade, no technological advancement has affected fly lines nearly as much as the introduction of texturing, pioneered by Scientific Anglers in 2007. From a performance and durability standpoint, textured fly lines shoot farther, float higher, and last longer than any smooth fly line ever produced. This isn’t just marketing speak; the results have been proven time and time again both in the laboratory and on the water. While 2017 marks ten full years since the introduction of textured fly lines, there still exists a bit of mystery and misunderstanding about these lines.
Let’s aim to change that here, by delving into how textured lines are produced and how they are able to offer benefits that no smooth fly line could hope to replicate.
The Production of a Textured Fly Line
Many anglers have a vague notion about how fly lines are produced, but don’t quite have the full picture of exactly what is involved in the making of a line. It all starts with a core of some kind: for coldwater applications this is typically a braided multifilament that looks much like the backing on a reel; for warmwater applications, we use a monofilament similar to our tippet material; for tropical lines, we use a braided monofilament for added stiffness. These cores then pass through a proprietary machine that coats them with a polyvinyl chloride (PVC) blend that we call a goop. The coating machine administers the goops in varying diameters, which allows us to create individual tapers. The coated line then passes through an oven to cure and ends up being wound on a large drum, with 50 lines being interconnected on the drum, each line separated by a large bump.
From there, the drums move to our coiling process. A winding machine feeds the lines from the drum through the hands of our coilers, where they feel for imperfections. When the coilers reach the large bump, they snip the lines, wind them with twist ties, and get them ready for the looping process.
In order to produce a textured line, we introduce the lines to an embosser before the lines are fully cured. As the coated lines run through these embossing wheels, our Floating and Shooting textures are imprinted into the coating, where they then run through the oven and fully cure.
At SA, we use two different types of texturing: a diamond-shaped pattern that we call Floating Texture, as well as a golf-ball dimple pattern that we call Shooting Texture. Both textures result in higher floating, further shooting, and longer lasting lines; however, the Floating Texture is a bit more aggressive and only appears on the last few feet of a line in order to provide more flotation.

So What are the Benefits?
There is a naturally occurring phenomenon known as the Lotus Effect that served as the inspiration for fly line texturing. The Lotus Effect can be seen on the leaves of many plants where a droplet of water beads up and runs off the surface of the leaf. The cause of this is a micro texture on the surface of the leaf. The texturing reduces the surface area, creating what is known as a hydrophobic surface, literally a surface that repels water.
In adapting the Lotus Effect to the surface of fly lines, the same hydrophobic properties became apparent. Fly lines with texturing have a reduced surface area, resulting in lines that actually float higher in the water than traditionally smooth lines. This helps lines shed dirt, reduces water spray on casts, and allows anglers to mend lines much more easily. Smooth lines float lower on the surface of the water, meaning that picking up the line and mending is more difficult due to the surface tension of the water, and the line’s flotation isn’t quite as effective as a textured line.
The additional benefits of texturing on a fly line are two-fold: they shoot farther and last longer. This is due again to the reduced surface area of the line, which in turn reduces friction. This reduction of friction allows textured lines to move more freely through rod guides, thereby creating slicker lines that actually shoot farther than smooth lines. There is a reason the golf industry dimples golf balls; they become more aerodynamic and roll farther on fairways.
With this reduction in friction, we also see lines that last longer and are more durable. Without as much surface area, the lines do not wear down nearly as quickly as smooth lines. Think of the texturing as similar to tire treads. The only points that wear down are the raised parts of the textured surface, allowing lines to increase their lifespan, giving anglers the chance to fish the same line for much longer.
Try Them For Yourself
Over the years, many people have complained about the noise of these lines moving through rod guides, or that textured lines tend to dig into stripping fingers. With recent advancements in our texturing technology, we have addressed both of those issues with our Shooting Texture, the only texture that comes into contact with rod guides or fingers. This rounded, golf-ball dimple shape is not nearly as noisy as the original texturing was 10 years ago, and has a much smoother feel on the fingers.
The best way to decide whether or not a textured line is right for your fishing style is to try one for yourself. The vast majority of the SA team uses nothing but textured lines these days, simply because they perform better and last longer. 

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8 Reasons to try Trout Spey
Fly Fishing Tips and Tricks

8 Reasons to try Trout Spey


Guest contribution by Vail Valley Anglers Guide and Product Buyer Andy Leister, find out more about Andy here.

You may have heard that term or others like “Trout Skagit” or “Micro Spey” thrown around fly shops, online blogs, or bars frequented by gear junkies. Too often, gear junkies unfortunately are guilty of putting this style of fishing on a pedestal and turning it into a language more similar to Chinese Calculus rather than one of fly fishing. Well folks, I agree. I would like us to set aside the minutia and jargon for a moment and let anglers of all skill sets know that success with Trout Spey is totally achievable, a ton of fun, and will help to make you a better more well-rounded angler. Here are 8 reasons why you should give Trout Spey a chance.

It’s still just fishing…don’t be afraid

In my experience, trepidation is very common among anglers of all ability levels when it comes to Trout Spey. I often think back to the first time I started fly fishing and the nervousness I had walking into fly shops and trying my best to hide my naiveté and speak intelligently about hatches and whatnot. Once I finally start accrue some success and knowledge, my days on the water became a pursuit of trying to replicate previous successes. This is a fine way to fish but it wasn’t until I was invited on my first steelhead trip and thrust back to the days of hiding my inexperience and nervousness that I realized I had been wearing my accrued knowledge and experience like a safety blanket, rarely pushing to learn something new. This was a realization that changed my fishing forever. I stopped caring so much about replicating success and instead started to wonder, what other ways are there to catch trout? Fortunately, there are many amazing products, educational resources, people, and places where experimenting with Trout Spey can lead to fun and inventive days on the water. At the end of these days, I may or may not have had the same success by the numbers as I would have staring at a bobber but I was having such a fun time on the water it didn’t matter.

It’s not as hard as you think

I’ll let you in on a little secret, fish DO NOT care about how beautiful or ugly your cast is, or how expensive and fancy your gear is. Trout Spey is more about technique than gear. While having the right tool for the job will help your angling, most people I speak with are often surprised to hear that they don’t need a two hand rod to start fishing in a two hand style. As of the morning that I am writing this, there were 47,700 results on YouTube for “Trout Spey.” While I am not going to get into the particulars of casting or techniques, know that there are a lot of great products and resources out there to help us shed our safety blankets and get going in the world of Trout Spey. Some of my favorite products and videos come from a company called Olympic Peninsula Skagit Tactics, otherwise known as OPST. These folks have some great products to turn a simple 9 foot 5 weight rod into a great Trout Spey set up. Often times when I bring the OPST setup out on the water with clients and friends, they are amazed at how easy it is to roll cast. From there, with a few pointers, most people get the hang of it very quickly. 

You’ll catch fish in places you never thought they were before

It never ceases to blow my mind where the occasional bite or hook up may come from. Generally in dry fly or indicator fishing, we have all been taught to focus on certain types of water depending on what we are trying to accomplish. While it is true that trout favor different types of water throughout the year, Trout Spey has shown me that we may have been overlooking great fishing opportunities. Some of these instances have revealed themselves while trying to make a long cast to other side of the river and instead of getting the bite on the bank, I’ve gotten the flash, bite, or hook up on in the middle of the fast water and even in rapids and wave trains. It has taught me to not only think about the surface currents but the depressions, currents, and structure underneath what we can see on the surface.

Change from a visual experience to a tactile one

Part of what makes fly fishing the amazing experience it is, is the fact we usually see and thus react to the fish eating. From a bobber jerking under the water quickly, to the slow analyzing bite on a dead drifted dry fly, to the ferocious upward swiping eat on a streamer, fly fishing puts visual stains on your brain…and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Well…there is another way. I am not trying to take away from the visual awesomeness of techniques listed above but there is something to be said to making a perfect cast and having your fly disappear in the dark depths, and then having the rod almost ripped out of your hand. Feeling all nuances of a bite, and how violent or subtle they can be, is an amazing experience no matter how you slice it. Some may say, “well that is no different that fishing with a streamer” but I would challenge them to say it is because often times I am fishing with rods 1-2 rod weights lighter than most avid streamer fishermen prefer. Hooking up on a 20” fish on a 5 wt. on a large articulated streamer is a new experience in and of itself. While I love long slow dry fly eats as much as the next guy, putting the wood to a big fish on light tackle makes it hard to leave the river too. 

It’s not as expensive as you might think, and you have options!

Option 1: Don’t tell the rod manufacturers this but you DO NOT need another rod to get started in the world of trout spey. There are many great products being produced these days that will turn an average single hand trout rod into a great little Trout Spey setup. I prefer to start newbies with a Skagit style line system on a standard single hand trout rod. Starting at the backing, an angler will need to connect a shooting line (also called a running line), a Skagit head, a sink tip, and leader material. Most all products nowadays are connected with a loop to loop connection. Some of my favorite running lines are OPST Lazar Line, RIO Grip Shooter, and Airflo Super-Dri Ridge Floating Running Line. Some of my favorite Skagit heads are available in the OPST Commando Heads and RIO Skagit Trout Max Shooting Heads. Once you have the shooting link and Skagit head chosen, the sink tip will be the part you change depending on the conditions, water level, and techniques used. Sink tips can range greatly and I recommend having at least two and preferably three tips to choose from. Some of my go-to’s are RIO InTouch MOW Tips, OPST Commando Tips, and Airflo Trout Polyleaders. To figure out what size you need in any of the products listed above, I would highly recommend calling our shop and speaking with our staff. It is important that the shooting lines and Skagit heads balance the rod you are trying to use and that sink tips match the size river you are fishing. This is where most people get frustrated and confused. I agree, the way the industry has gone about setting this up is not at all user friendly. If not us, please speak with someone with experience about your existing equipment, skill level, and the waters you aim to fish. 

Option 2: For those that may have some experience or want to fully immerse themselves in the two hand world, there is nothing quite like having the right tool for the job. Many rod manufacturers are building small two hand rods that are raising the game in Trout Spey. The staff’s overwhelmingly favorite rod on the lighter end of the budget has been Redington Hydrogen Spey Rod. For the money, this rod has been tough to beat and for someone looking to throw a real two hander without breaking the bank, this rod has been a home run. For line and reel recommendations for the Hydrogen Spey, please call, chat, or visit us, we’d love to chat fishing with you any time.

Option 3: For the guy or gal that has the “buy it once, buy it right” mindset, the overwhelmingly favorite rod for Trout Spey has been the Winston Microspey. These rods were some of the first to be produced for this style of fishing and if you ask people who have been doing this for a while, many of them, myself included, will attest to their quality, action, and prowess as a real two handed rod geared down for trout fishing. Available in 3, 4, and 5 weight options, these rods behave and cast like their bigger brothers for steelhead and salmon but make catching even a 12” brown trout an absolute joy. I have often found that some of the big rods that are available in 4, 5, or 6 weight switch or spey rod, are just too stiff and take a little of the fun out of catching normal sized Rocky Mountain trout. Again, you don’t have to spend top dollar to get into trout spey, but if you don’t mind, this rod does not disappoint. For line and reel recommendations, please reach out to us. We have put a lot of time into fishing these rods and can get you set up right the first time.

You’ll improve your single hand game

One of the many fringe benefits to putting some time and effort into learning how to spey cast is that most all of those casts can be done when you go back to single hand style fishing. I would even go as far to say that some of the two hand techniques work better than some of the single hand techniques in some scenarios. For instance, I prefer to throw large loops while indicator fishing. While working large deep runs, a Snap T style cast with a normal indicator rig and single hand line is now my preferred cast, usually resulting in less tangles and longer drifts. I’m not saying you’ll never need an overhead cast again but having more casting tools in your quiver is never a bad thing. To me, Trout Spey is another tool on my angling Swiss Army knife.

You will develop skills for fishing anadromous species

I realize not all people are going to get a chance or have the time and resources to fish for steelhead, salmon, or sea run browns but what’s wrong with dreaming? For those who do have the option or invitation, who would want to show up on a dream trip and want to start from square one in their own skill set? No one. Trout Spey techniques have mostly all come from the world of traditional spey casting. Having even a basic understanding of the fundamentals before you get on a plane is only going to amount to more time fishing rather than learning when you get to wherever and whenever you’re going. 

It’s fun!

Hopefully by now we have quelled a few insecurities and a little trepidation. Whether or not you are seasoned angler, or a novice just getting into the sport, Trout Spey is mind blowing, inventive, and all around fun way to spend some time on the water. While there will always be days where you be insane not to fish dry flies or other days where you just need to nymph em’ up, Trout Spey is useful tool and an investment in your angling skills. Dry or Die or Down and Dirty, just remember, the Tug is the Drug.

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Destination Trout | New Zealand
Fly Fishing Travel

Destination Trout | New Zealand


Guest contribution by Vail Valley Anglers Ambassador, Kinsey Durham. Check out more of Kinsey's adventures here!

As you would expect - fly fishing in the South Island of New Zealand was an incredible adventure. Even though the fishing was very technical and I haven't been fly fishing for that long, it was still worth the trek to the other side of the world. I definitely recommend everyone who loves fly fishing and traveling to visit this truly magical place.

My friend, Emily Petrie, and I were lucky enough to spend 5 days at the Owen River Lodge in the South Island of New Zealand with New Zealand’s only female guide, Hannah Clement. The Owen River Lodge, Felix (the owner), and everyone associated with it, are absolutely amazing. The fishing, the service, the food, the company was out of this world. The lodge is made up of beautiful white cottages along the Owen River. The Owen River is famous for holding big Browns and being extremely technical to fish. There are over 25 fishable rivers/streams that are within an hour and a half drive of the lodge, not to mention lakes. We had a super rainy day that caused the rivers to blow out, so we visited Lake Rotiti nearby to throw streamers. It was one of the most gorgeous lakes I have ever seen. But when we were pulling up to the river, Hannah asked us if there was anything that we were afraid of. I was expecting her to say there were big spiders or something around the lake. I was totally shocked when we saw a bunch of fresh water eels. They were huge, black and would swim by you while you fished. It was eerie and scary!

Fly fishing in New Zealand is about quality over quantity. If you are looking to catch 10+ fish a day, New Zealand is not the place to go. You are sight fishing and you do not see that many fish a day actually, especially ones that are feeding. New Zealand Browns are wild, huge and very hard to catch on the fly. Expect to cast 40+ feet perfectly with relatively few mistakes. New Zealand has the clearest water in the world, so fish spook very easily. So, you need to be able to cast pretty well with a dry fly long distances. We fished mostly dry flies during our trip. My favorite fly that we fished was a cicada pattern. Watching those big browns come up for that big bug, was so exhilarating and incredible.

There were a wide variety of casting situations during our trip. Sometimes, we had to roll cast because we were in a very tight area with bushes and trees everywhere. Other times you were casting super far upstream to put a fly in front of the Brown. You want to stay behind the fish while it is feeding, so that you don’t spook it. Hannah, also, taught us the bow and arrow cast. You pull the rod back and hold the fly and let go to fling it into the water in the very dense areas. It was pretty sweet.

One of the things that I loved most about fly fishing in New Zealand, was that there was no one on the river. I am used to fishing in Colorado where there are people in every hole. Here, it was just Emily, Hannah and I and the river. There were a few cows, though from time to time. There are so many rivers and options with big Browns on the South Island, as long as the river is not blown out. I, also, enjoyed all of the walking that we did. You never stayed in the same place for more than a few minutes. You are constantly on the move hunting for those big, bucknasty Browns walking though the most beautiful landscapes I had ever seen.

If you do decide to travel to New Zealand to fly fish, do some other adventures around the South Island, too! I would highly recommend renting a car. Things are very spread out and you will want to explore the rest of the island. You will have to drive on the wrong side of the car and road, though! I was nervous to do it, but it was a lot easier than I expected. I spent a few days in Nelson and it was beautiful. It overlooks the ocean and you can even get into some saltwater fishing there. The town is quaint and there are amazing restaurants and the friendliest people. Emily took another week to travel around the South Island. She ventured to Milford Sound and did an amazing kayak tour. You can, also, take helicopter rides to the tops of glaciers out there!

New Zealand not only made me a better angler, but intensely deepened my love and passion for the sport. It is an insanely beautiful country where everyone is overwhelming nice. I cannot wait to go back to fly fish the South Island again, but this time I am going to stay longer.

Tips for Fly Fishing New Zealand:

  • Practice your casting and make sure you can cast 30+ feet and that your flies lay out perfectly. Practice casting from your knees, too. Sounds weird, but there were times where I was casting from my knees so I would not spook the fish.
  • Practice sight fishing. Be able to recognize when a fish is feeding. Your guide will be spotting fish for you, but it would be nice to have more than one set of eyes!
  • Your clothing color matters. Wear neutral colors like light green to avoid spooking fish.
  • Go with a guide. You do not need to stay at a fancy lodge, but hire a private guide to help you find the right places to fish. The big fish are few and far between, so make sure you aren’t wasting your time.
  • Practice dry fly fishing. Timing is everything and you do not want to be learning the timing of when to set when you are there and miss a chance at that huge New Zealand Brown.
  • Practice streamer fishing. If it is raining, the rivers blow out and you will streamer fish in a lake or blown out river.
  • Make sure you go during the summer months, otherwise you won’t be able to fish.
  • Practice fighting and landing big fish. I lost a couple of big fish fighting them. It is so heart breaking and everything has to be perfect. The more experienced you are fighting big fish, the more of a chance you will have landing it.

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Fly Fishing, Running, Beer | Welcome to the Flyathlon
Fly Fishing News Vail Colorado

Flyathlon | Run + Fish + Beer


Guest contribution by Katie Mazzia, Vail Valley Anglers ambassador, trail runner, fly fisher and mom of Jack Arnot. Employed at Vail Health as a registered dietitian nutritionist and diabetes educator.

The Rocky Mountain Flyathlon (RMF) has been touted as "Colorado's Coolest New Triathlon” by 5280 Magazine.

A Flyathlon is an event that combines fly fishing, trail running, drinking craft beer and fundraising for water and native fish conservation….with some of the coolest people on the planet! I first learned about the RMF from my good friend Nancy Hobbs, Executive Director at American Trail Running Association (AATRA). I was in disbelief! And for some reason, I’m drawn to "lesser known sports". Burro racing, a Colorado Heritage Sport was my last gig. This is where you run a trail race and lead your donkey with a rope for various miles!

I've [spin] fished since I was a little girl with my dad, grandparents and cousins. Now, fly fishing is a new sport to me since 2013 after my son started competitive events. I figured if I was going to be out on the water all day, I might as well learn! As cliché as it sounds (drum roll), I'm seriously hooked.

I’ve supported CAIC, MS, Diabetes Research and various other causes in my life as well as volunteered for World, US National and Regional Fly Fishing events plus a dozen or more big trail running events--Western States 100, Hardrock 100, Leadville 100 although there's something about the Flyathlon that brings my favorite things in life together: running on dirt in beautiful places, fly fishing small creeks and rivers with good, passionate people for a cause. I’m now an official “Flyathlete”.

Three events later, I can’t wait for the next one. The trail running distances vary from 5 miles - 12 miles. The last one I completed in August was in Saguache, CO (12 miles, 3K vertical); let’s just say the views kept me going. There’s also a short course too—7 miles. If you don't catch a fish during a Flyathlon, no problem, you'll just receive a 20 minute penalty. On the contrary, if you catch a big fish, you just might trump someone's place in "fish points"--2 minutes is deducted for each inch. The cut-off times are generous, so even if you are a "riker" (hiker + walker), you'll likely finish before the bell. There is also a "fish whisper" on course to help you with fly selections and best spots to fish!

Then the night goes on back at RMF base camp….if you catch the smallest fish, biggest fish or are the male/female winner, then you go on to compete in corn hole, horseshoe and a beer can shootout for additional prizes like a custom fly rod. Next, you camp in scenic, remote locations, enjoy delicious BBQ, tell fish stories and drink post-race beer from UpSlope or try some awesome varieties of Three Barrel beer! All of this in cool mountain towns (Creede, CO was my favorite so far) with endless views, new friends...this is what dreams are made of and 110% guaranteed good time!

The Flyathon is a non-profit 5013c named Running Rivers--something special. If you believe in preserving native trout species and waterways now and for the future, please consider supporting the RMF with goods, monies, participating or volunteering! It's SO worth it.

Where does the money go?

RMF San Luis Valley Projects

Haypress Lake. This small reservoir on private land in the Rio Grande basin has for many years served as the broodstock source for Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Rio Grande cutthroat trout recovery program. A small grant from the Rocky Mountain Flyathlon is helping with an engineering study that will ensure dam safety, so that the lake can be maintained long-term as a home for Rio Grande cutthroat trout and a source for restoring the fish into new waters.

RMF Native Cutthroat Trout Projects

George Creek greenback restoration. Leveraged with funds raised by local TU members and a grant from Patagonia, Rocky Mountain Flyathlon funds will help cover the cost of installing a new fish barrier for the George/Cornelius Creek area in the Poudre watershed. The barrier will help secure suitable habitat for greenback recovery upstream.

The last event was a few weeks ago in Saguache, CO on Middle Creek (off the charts trail running and fishing) and raised 27K. These people are the "reel" deal!

You might just be in it for the free beer, conservation efforts or just plain old camaraderie; I love the whole combo! Co-Founder of the RMF and President of Running Rivers, Andrew Todd and his team of volunteers drum up a rockin’ event. This guy is the master mind and creator of fun. He is a dad, husband, dog owner, trail runner, fly fisher and works full-time as a toxicologist for the EPA in addition to holding these events! The RMF is truly a “bucket list” activity.

Gear Checklist

  • Fly Rod (I use a Greys Streamflex 10ft 3wt)
  • *Tippet: Trout Hunter 5.5X or Umpqua 5X
  • *Nippers
  • *Net (I carry the biggest on course!)
  • Salomon or Other Hydration Pack with 20 oz. an hour
  • LifeStraw
  • Food--150 calories/hour (sport chews, bars, dried fruit, gels , PB sandwich)
  • *Flies, duh 
  • *Floatant
  • *Patagonia Sun Shirt or other
  • *Eye wear, hat, visor, cowboy hat
  • *Buff
  • Trail Shoes (Hoka Trail or Solomon Cross Tech are my choices)—you can add some spikes “cleats” to the bottom if you want to get after it and wet wade!
  • Capris or longer running shorts (branches and brush are abundant!)
*Vail Valley Anglers has all this rockin' gear to set you up!

More Resourses

Next Event: There are still a few spots left for the Lake Fork or take a road trip to Iowa for the “Driftless Flyathlon”
Drake Magazine

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Introduction to Euro Nymphing
Fly Fishing Tips and Tricks

Introduction to Euro Nymphing


Guest Contributor: Jack Arnot

European or “Euro” Nymphing is a versatile and extremely effective style of fishing that allows you to fish efficiently. You can achieve the depth required at a faster rate and stay incredibly connected to your flies throughout a drift. Euro Nymphing may sound like a “mystery” because it wasn't originated here in the United States, but in fact has been the main style of fishing in European countries for a very long period of time and the technique used for competitive fly fishing.

Euro Nymphing has many advantages compared to other fly fishing set-ups such as indicator fishing. It starts with the following:

  1. The rod tip is elevated enough so the sighter, 2-3 brightly colored sections of the line that act as the indicator, is visible and straight almost all the time. This makes for a well-connected, controlled drift.
  2. The angler is also able to "lead the flies" in a drift and present different sighter angles to reach various depths of a run which eliminate all weights and conventional indicators.
  3. In place of split shot, most flies used with Euro Nymphing are weighted with quality tungsten beads.
  4. Euro Nymphing can detect strikes with the slightest of movement in the sighter so set the hook often!
  5. It requires a lighter fly line then usual so the sag won’t change the speed of the flies or hinder the sighter angle or drift in any way.

Personally, I have fished many different lines and found the Rio Euro Nymph 80ft double taper line to be adaptable in most, if not all conditions. There is virtually no mending required with Euro lines as they are light enough to pick up off the water and you don’t have to keep adjusting the line constantly with the current. This is a very important factor when fishing because you want the flies to be presented in the most natural way and maximize drift time.

When nymphing, I tend to fish a two fly rig with my flies about 50-60cm apart from each other on a "tag" system which allows the top fly to move freely and is easier to change out (see "Rigging the Leader" below). Some people prefer to put flies very close together but with proper weight and drift speed I find spacing them out a little longer helps in the long run.

Lastly, one of the most important factors is the weight of flies. Paying attention to how deep a fly will sink can be vital to catching fish. When you eliminate traditional weight with split shot and use varied tungsten beaded flies, you can fish smaller and heavier weighted patterns that get in the zone quickly. This is perfect for picky fish and allows you to cover the hardest flowing water in the river to a shallow riffle with just a quick change of fly pattern with a different weight. It also saves time because you don’t need to adjust a strike indicator or split-shot---just alter the fly pattern and tungsten bead weight and then consider tippet size.

My leader is 12ft of 12lb. fluorocarbon for the butt section, 8ft of 10lb fluorocarbon for the mid-section, finished off with a 2ft-tapered colored sighter. This leader is great for searching heavy, faster runs and still works really well in technical situations like pocket water with small flies.

The main reason Euro Nymphing has proven so adaptive is you're in control of every aspect of the line, leader, flies, and rod. Every part can be dialed in just the way you need it to be for the short time you’re fishing. There is less guess work as to what the flies are doing below the surface since you know immediately from the feed back in the sighter and length of the two flies spaced out. Overall, Euro Nymphing is a streamlined and efficient way to catch fish and I would recommend it to any one who is currently fly fishing or wants to start.

You don't have to cast far to Euro Nymph either so it's great for the beginner fly fisher! Rods are longer in length, typically 10ft, 3wt. vs. a traditional 9ft. 5wt trout set up.

Jack Arnot is our youngest and still one of our most accomplished ambassadors.  He is a junior at Vail Christian High School and still finds time to be a competitive angler and avid fly tier. Outside of fly fishing he excels in cross country and track. This kid is one to watch - check him out on social media @jackarnot.  

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Mothers on the Fly | Natalie Bennion
Fly Fishing News Vail Colorado

Mothers on the Fly | Natalie Bennion


Natalie Bennion (@a_ladys_angle) is first a wife and mother of two - but what caught our attention about Natalie and her online presence was her fishy-ness, her photography and her positivity. In a recent interview she was kind enough to share with us a glimpse into her busy life and boy, was it a breath of fresh air. This mother's day we celebrate the female outdoorswomen who are paving the way, figuring it out, and making it happen. Thank you moms!

What is your biggest pet peeve while fishing? Tying a 3 rig set up and then snagging on the bottom of the river and losing the entire set up on the first drift.

What is the story of your first fly fishing experience? I picked up my first fly rod in September 2015. Over the past year or so, I have had many friends ask me why I began this journey to educate myself in the art of fly-fishing. In my mind, the answer is simple. I want to be on the river with my husband and son making memories. Why do the men always get to have all the fun? Sure, my husband and I have to make some less than ideal fly fishing compromises handling a small child around a roaring river, but we always make it work. The day is always well spent and the memories are invaluable.  These experiences one the river with my son and husband are worth more value than any treasure this world has to offer. It is the entire experience, time under the trees, in the mountains, the sounds of the river that got me hooked to fly fishing.

Do you have a good luck charm? My son. He cheers for me on the sidelines of the river. He gets to release every single one of my catches. It’s his favorite part.

What is the first thing you would tell a novice angler? Personal growth is exactly that, personal. Don’t compare your beginning journey to some-one else’s years of experience. Be patient with yourself.

What is your favorite fly rod? Haha, I am a poor college student and currently fish with a simple Redington rod. I have yet to discover my favorite brand and rod.

What is the craziest thing you have seen on a river bank? While living in Alaska our close friends saw a seal swim up river to clean out the last of the King Salmon. This seal was nowhere near his ocean home. It was insane!

Highlights of this past year? The biggest highlight was having the amazing opportunity to live in Alaska for 15 weeks. A different kind of fly-fishing that I will never forget.

Wade or float? Wading… for sure. It wins all day long. Although, I do get a little jealous when a drifter floats by and reaches that one hole I will never get to.

East or west [coast]? Spirit of the West baby!

Do you listen to music while fishing? If so, what do you listen to? No, I get to listen to a chatty 4 year old talk about Transformers, pooping and bears.

What is your drink of choice on the water? Water

What is your signature snack/restaurant on the water? I keep it simple with a classic peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Makes a great snack for the kiddo too.

What is your favorite: nymphing, streamers, dry flies? I love nymphing. Probably because it’s how I originally learned to fly fish with it being fall. I love any kind of red zebra midge, rainbow warrior and have killed it in the winter with shrimp mysis.

What is your day job? What do you love most about it? I am a mom and a portrait photographer. I love being on my own time schedule and being my own boss.

What do you want to be when you “grow-up”? Grow up ha-ha? I don’t think I’ll ever grow up. But being a mom is pretty dang cool.

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Fly Fishing News Vail Colorado

Video: Waterworks Lamson Exclusive Interview


“You heard it here first…” – Ryan Harrison, founding partner of Waterworks Lamson

2017 is already shaping up to be an incredible year of innovation for the fly fishing industry and Waterworks Lamson is no exception. This exclusive interview includes mountain bike technology, innovation, and what makes this company get up in the morning.

Not to mention the much anticipated Saltwater Reel and the first Waterworks Lamson…fly rod?! We aren’t kidding, this classroom style “Bat Cave Session” is worth a watch. 

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