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The Metolius river in Central Oregon

Don Fitzwater

The Metolius river in Central Oregon is known as one of Oregon’s great fly-fishing proving grounds. You will find every skill level imaginable here. From the zen master who cuts the tip off their green drake hook because “they just like to see the fish rise” to the corpo who appears to be confused about which end of the rod to hold.


My first trip started with the usual thrill of approaching new water, combined with a vague sense of anxiety about whether I was “good” enough to catch fish there. The river is crystal clear in most spots and is one of the most spectacular places I have ever seen.


I was told the green drake hatch would be coming off in the early to mid afternoon. I decided to hike a ways from the crowds that were fishing within a mile of the parking lot. As I wandered down stream, the hatch started to come off. The river started exploding with hungry trout. I honed in on one larger fish that was sipping them off the surface more casually and in a pretty clearly defined feeding lane.


The issue was it was in a riffle about 50-60 feet from shore and the side of the bank I was on had a steep drop off, making a good cast very difficult. On the other side of the river stood the only other fly-fisherman I could see. He was using a switch rod and bombing flies all over, hooking 3 or 4 fish in as many minutes. This guy had it dialed in.

I found a ledge I could use to wade out far enough to get a decent reach cast into the lane of the larger fish I was eyeing. As I start to wade out, I notice the guy across from me has reeled in and was sitting on the bank watching me. Feeling the pressure now, I make my first cast that I’m sure the fish laughed at. The water was up to my chest and just below the point of spilling into my waders, but it was the only angle I could hope to make a good cast to this fish. I manage to get a few decent casts and the fly floats right through his lane, but no dice. I change my positioning a little and make another cast.

In the next instant, three things happened simultaneously. The first being the fish crushed my fly and I was on time with the set. The hooked fish leaps out of the water and from the opposite bank I hear “Oh F*** yeah!!” Startled by the enthusiasm and the wild fight of the fish, I slip and become a set of waders and boots about to float down river. Somehow, I manage to regain my footing and stay tight to the fish. Again from the opposite bank, “That’s a good one isn’t it?” In an uneasy tone I replied, “Yeah I think so.” “F*** yeah it is!!” came the reply from across the river. There was a certain guttural tone this guy was using which conveyed a level of pleasure that made me feel uncomfortable.

This was not the first or last fish that was brought to hand that day, but it was certainly the most memorable! To date, I have not been back to the Metolius and a part of me never wants to go back because the experience of that day will never be replicated. There is something to be said for leaving a perfect memory intact (never mind the fact that to me a perfect memory is having expletives yelled at me while I’m fighting a fish).

Welcome Team WETFLY

Jay Stalnacker

Hello Team WETFLY members,

 The 2017 Pro Ambassador Team wanted to use this forum to create a place where we can all share, learn and have a conversation about fly fishing. One of the most important aspects of WETFLY is our support of grass root programs that get folks engaged in conservation of our waters and encourage them give back to their community. It not only takes money and time but also the leadership to move an idea from a restaurant napkin to a movement of change. Leadership qualities exist in all of us and WETFLY wants to encourage you to become a better leader so that you can make a difference for your own local cause. My experiences fly fishing have become an analogy to the lessons of leadership I have gained as a public safety professional. To kick off the new forum discussion I wanted to share some of these lessons of leadership to open up some conversations about how we can make change.

 A few years back I started to learn to fly fish. Over the years I had tried to self-teach and had very little success. After all it seemed fairly simple. Fish eat bugs and one would assume the bigger the bug the more likely a fish would want to eat it. Unfortunately, it's not that simple as fly fishing is both a science and a art. You can educate yourself by reading books. You can buy the most expensive gear. But ultimately it's about an accurate cast sending the right fly to an exact spot. It's a memorizing effort as you stand in the crystal clear mountain water listening to the river glide and over rounded rocks. If you know where to look and watch closelyyou can actually see the trout nestled in the slower pockets occasionally moving with lightning speed as their favorite food pass by.

 Fly fishing is not for the inpatient. It's a slow purposeful effort to identify the right bug and the best location. Worse is watching as trout surface to sniff your fly and then dive back under and continue feeding on some unknown food. One also needs to have self-control as the knots are small and complex and the flies are even smaller and a bit sharp. Tying a fly or your line leader can just about send a guy like me into a fit of explosive frustration. Casting is a even bigger test of nerves. Accurate and controlled fly casting is about as difficult as a unbeatable carnival game. You’re just about to get it then something goes really wrong like a tangled line in the tree behind you or a fly snagged on your friends ear.

 When it all comes together it is a magically feeling. Looking up you see rustling fall leaves with vivid reds, greens and yellow glimmer against the clear water and as you stand in the cool water you feel grounded and connected to something bigger. Looking around you begin to identify the insects hatching and flying low over the water and soon you see a beautiful rainbow trout sipping them off the top of the water while slowly moving against the current upstream. As you cast you feel the line glide backwards and with a gentle snap forward it silently glides past you placing the fly on the surface as if an insect naturally landed. With very little notice the fish attacks and your line goes tight, "fish on" you yell. You pull gently but with constant pressure allowing the hook to set. You cautiously allow the fish some room as the reel spins with tension and soon the trout is tired and allows you to reel her towards your net. There is always one last effort and usually as you reach for your net she will run again often with a violent thrashing but soon she is worn out and ready. As you hold her in your hand you look at her beauty as it's truly a rainbow of colors. Quickly you unhook the fish and gently place her in the water helping her catch her breath and soon she recovers from the fight and swims out of your hands upstream towards freedom.   

Granted fishing is not for everyone but there is a greater lesson in this story. I believe leadership is a lot like fly fishing. There are folks who read a lot of books. They buy all the equipment and as we say in fire, perfect their "fire-line fashion". They look like the tourist fly fisherman that just left the guide shop. Everything is new and shiny but they have no idea what to do with it or how to use it. Like fishing a leader must spend some time on the river occasionally falling in and filling their waders with water. A leader must also learn to read the current of the organization and see the hazards where their line can get caught. They must be able to create strong knots that hold under stress and untie the line when it becomes tangled. Leaders need to be able to see what folks not only need but what they want. A great leader can match that pattern and attract the best followers to surface and join in a fight. They encourage them to run with the line and fight for what means most but in the end they will hold you up while you catch your breath and gently return you to the water always ensuring you’re moving up stream.

 Leadership takes both science and art and when those two elements come together the results are amazing. It's a truly unique leader that can shout "fish on" as they attract the best to their organization. It's this leader that is connected with the water and sees what is above and below the surface. This next week spend some time standing in the current, identify the folks that are looking upwards and help them move up stream towards a common community cause to promote conservation of our waters or help a part of your community in need. As an example of this leadership, in 2017 WETFLY will be hosting a river cleanup retreat for all of our ambassadors. Follow the blog for more information on how to register and participate.  

 Jay C Stalnacker

Wetfly gives back to the outdoors

Don Fitzwater

Did you know a portion of your Wetfly purchase goes directly to help regulate and manage the outdoors you love? Yes, it’s true! (approximately 1.5%-5% MSRP, Max $10)  of your Wetfly purchase goes directly to a (FET) Federal Excise Tax quarterly related to fly fishing equipment (percentage varies on different products) for products that Wetfly sells to its customers. You can learn more here:

Only imported product manufactures like Wetfly have a Federal Excise Tax mandate and these funds are captured quarterly and go directly into a federally managed fund that is intended to help and protect our way of life—the outdoors! The interesting thing is USA made products do not have any mandate to pay into this tax fund that was set up to protect our way of life.  Often time’s an imported product is frowned upon compared to a USA Made product, which is interesting since the imported product is a direct contributor with actual dollars helping protect our way of life, the outdoors. Kind of weird, huh? Wetfly thinks so. Makes you think a bit differently on who is actually protecting your favorite stream or lake when you fish or hunt, doesn’t it. 

Don’t get us wrong, we love USA made manufactures and have even tried to utilize some to produce Wetfly products but often times they become so cost prohibitive to our end customer which is why we do what we do.  Wetfly imports products for 1 reason:

To make fly fishing easy and affordable.

Only people can enjoy the outdoor fly fishing experience if they can do it. Fly fishing historically has been an elites club—not anymore, not since Wetfly was founded in 1999.

Please help Wetfly keep your tax dollars accountable, these FET funds are set aside each year along with fishing/hunting license purchases and other related taxes to help protect the outdoors. Write your representatives, demand where your states funds are being used. Wetfly is proud to help protect the lands that we love to recreate and fish on. We need your help, please educate other manufactures of this tax as well. Since USA made products do not have to pay this tax, encourage them to donate to great programs like Trout Unlimited, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, and many others. Additionally Wetfly often sponsors programs through product donations to help the grass root efforts like and among others. Please reach out to us if there is a program that you think would benefit from a Wetfly sponsorship.


Early conservationists, many of them avid hunters and anglers, saw the rapid decline and plight of many species in the late 1800s through the early 1900s due to unregulated market hunting and habitat loss.

Through the efforts of leaders like President Theodore Roosevelt, Aldo Leopold, John Muir, and the establishment of sportsmen’s organizations, they helped pave the way for today's system of science-based, regulated wildlife management (of which hunting and fishing plays an important role) to ensure sustainable wildlife resources for future generations.

Recognizing the need for funding support for professional wildlife management, some visionaries helped establish a unique partnership between sportsmen/women, industry, and federal and state agencies to establish dedicated funding sources for wildlife and fisheries conservation. This funding comes from federal excise taxes on certain equipment (such as firearms, ammunition, archery equipment, fishing gear and boat fuel) purchased by hunters, anglers, shooters and boaters.

The funding is distributed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to state wildlife agencies through the Wildlife Restoration Program and Sport Fish Restoration Program on a match basis. When combined with the states' sales of hunting and fishing licenses, this cumulative funding provides the bulk of support for on-the-ground projects that benefit fish and wildlife conservation and provide hunting, angling, shooting, boating and related wildlife recreation opportunities for the public.