As the calendar turned from 2016 to 2017, I decided to set a personal goal for how many times I would get out fly fishing in the year ahead. 2016 was the year that I got addicted to fly fishing. I got out on the water as often as I could, learned how to tie several different flies and met a ton of fishy people that shared my obsession; but in 2017, I wanted to turn it up a notch. I felt confident in the skills I had learned the prior year, and knew if I put in a big year of work, I could put myself in a place to see success. After mulling over what a realistic goal was, the number 100 stuck out. It was a number I knew was attainable, but would require effort…. oh, and a lot of time.
In order to make sure I had an accurate count, I hung a special fly fishing calendar where I would highlight each day I wet the fly line. As the year progressed, my calendar started to show a lot of yellow. Tracking days, made me more motivated to get out on the water, put time in, and explore. On August 20th, I hit my goal: 100 days of fly fishing had already been completed. As I write this, I’m sitting at 104, and trying to re-set my goal for the end of the year, taking into considering that the season ends in October, and the days here in the Driftless are getting shorter (extends mousing time though!). Below are some highlights from my first 100 days on the water in 2017.
I had fished during the winter of 2016, but with my 2017 goal, I was more motivated to get out as much as possible, even in the freezing temps of January and February, racking up 24 days between the two months. I recall a few days with some buddies of mine in the single digits, where we spent more time scraping ice from our rods than actually casting. I learned to love winter fishing this year. The cold refreshing air, the crisp snow and silence of the woods are something I learned to love. You come across very few other people, and if you do, it’s fun to connect because they are probably also a fanatic like yourself. Also walking land is much easier without all the foliage that comes with spring and summer. I took a lot away from this winter’s outings and learned a lot.
I tried my hand at saltwater fly fishing for the first time this spring in Tampa Florida. The weather was far from cooperative, blessing us with 25mph winds and seasonably cold temps. With that said, I was able to catch a few fish on the fly, and that was good enough for me. Return trips are definitely in the future. Saltwater is such a different game than what I’m used to, and it’s one that I want to play more.
1st 20″ brown on the fly
Although I had put in a lot of time in 2016, I hadn’t cracked the 20″ mark on a brown trout. This spring I got that monkey off my back by landing my first 20″ (photo below). Needless to say that fish brought a lot of excitement and relief. After hitting the mark once, I was fortunate enough to hit it several more times, including my new personal best 23″.
First carp on the fly
I have a few buddies that are super into carp fishing and encouraged me to give it a try. I was fortunate enough to have a good teacher (Josh Mattis @mattressonthefly) that showed me the ropes and was able to help me get that first carp. After that experience, I became a believe in the carp fly game.
South Dakota Trip
Abigail and I took a 5 day trip out to South Dakota with the purpose of both fishing and sight-seeing (I was more excited about the fishing, but really did enjoy the sights). In South Dakota, we were able to explore several different streams, and catch an abundance of brook, brown and rainbow trout, as well as meet a lot of really awesome people. Overall, I was blown away by the beauty and quality of fishing the Black Hills had to offer. (We have previous blogs about the trip if you’re bored and want to read more about it).
Exploring new water
From the beginning of my fly fishing obsession, I’ve enjoyed exploring new rivers and streams and expanding my knowledge of the Driftless Area and beyond. I have fished a total of 33 different streams and rivers in my first 100 days of fishing in 2017, many of which were ones I had never previously fished. I continue to try and expand the streams and sections of water I have fished, and encourage others to do the same. It’s fun to explore new areas and who knows, you may find a secret spot or two.
The new friends I’ve met
One of my favorite things about fly fishing is the people it allows me to meet. It’s crazy to look at all of the people that I’m friends with now that I didn’t even know a year or two ago. Often times people with different backgrounds, personalities, or interests than what I would normally surround myself with. When two people share the bond of fly fishing, friendship comes easy. Before you know it, you will be spending hours or even days with people that you didn’t know just months prior. I really enjoy building relationships and being apart of the local fly fishing community (and Instagram community too). I credit a lot of what I’ve learned about the sport to the people I’ve met and built relationships with. It’s impossible to learn and be an expert at everything, which is why asking questions and learning from others is valuable.
Looking ahead to the rest of the year
As summer winds to a close and fall approaches, I’m looking forward to what is ahead. Fly fishing changes with the seasons, and many anglers would agree for the better in the fall. Plus there aren’t too many places more beautiful in the fall than the Drifltess Area. With some big fall browns spots already scouted, brookies streams in the back pocket, and a trip or two to Minnesota’s North Shore planned, I think I should be in for a fun time. Who knows, maybe 2017 will be the year of 150…