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David Kirkpatrick

There is a certain finality you feel when staring directly at a waterfall. Not a termination or an abrupt end, but rather the distinct end of one thing and the beginning of another. This feeling is compounded when you’re over 1,000 miles away from home and starting a new job two days later. Reflection comes naturally when one is observing this phenomenon. Being in the Great North is similar to living in the pacific northwest, but at the same time completely different. Everything feels bigger and more intimidating.

I consider myself a strong wader and as sure footed as they come, but trying to keep up with the locals here is shameful. The fish are bigger too, and there are more of them. Sight casting to pink salmon that are staging up for their run up river is unlike anything I have ever experienced before. Any type of salmonid strikes a soft spot with me, so fishing for them in 4-8 feet of water on tidal flats was something special.


Pink salmon are not highly thought of in some parts of the Great North. Not that the locals have anything against them, they just have spent so much of their life catching pinks that they could stand to try something else. These fish average 3-6 pounds and pull about as hard as your average steelhead of that size, however, so when we found ourselves catching dozens of these fish in a day, it was difficult to complain convincingly.


The crown jewel of these rivers to many Alaskan fly fishers though, are big Dolly Varden. Dollies are a sea-run char that average somewhere between 10-16 inches depending on where you are fishing for them. Make no mistake they are fine fish, but at first I had a difficult time understanding the enthusiasm for these fish. They are easy to catch (even by Alaskan standards) and a big one is pushing 20 inches. They fight hard but all species of salmon fight harder and are generally more responsive to the swung fly.

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It took several trips over the course of two years to really get it. Like anything in life, it is difficult to truly understand something until it has become a part of your daily life. Something you experience day in and day out. Catching a big dolly on the fly is something extraordinary that can happen by luck or by skill, but to understand the significance of it you had to catch one hundred smaller dollies.


There’s a lesson there, it isn’t immediately obvious to me what that lesson is yet, but over time these things tend to reveal themselves; like the big dolly you only see after watching a school of pink salmon on their redds.




Monsoons, Coffee Stands and Unlikely Salmon Behavior

David Kirkpatrick

Tap, tap, tap sounded against my bedroom window as incoherent thoughts of a planned fishing trip for that day slowly materialized. Pulling up the blinds, I see my friend Mike clad in brand new waders giving me the thumbs up. Mike was new to fly fishing and looked as though he had just robbed a mannequin of it’s fishing garb. Although I had considerably less enthusiasm than he did at 6am, I was nonetheless excited to be taking him fishing.

Over the years we’ve developed a kind of enthusiastic sarcasm which acts as a defense mechanism for when things inevitably go horribly and sometimes hilariously wrong. We have endured fishless days in below freezing temperatures, nights spent in hotels where you slept on the bed instead of under the sheets and 8th period Spanish class. Out of this misery formed some kind of bond that made us friends and fishing buddies for life.

As we drove up to the river, the rain started to pour. Being high school boys, we were light years from thinking to look at a weather report and had brought hooded sweatshirts and nothing else to protect us from the elements. As I stood in the pouring rain trying to get my waders and boots on, I had a foreboding sense we had no idea what we were doing.

Again, being a high school boy, you can only recognize these thoughts and feelings years after the fact. In the moment I had only the slightest uneasiness about standing in a river in the pouring rain with only a sweatshirt and shorts on under my waders. Thoroughly soaked before we had even started fishing, we waded out to the first riffle we were going to fish.

I looked over just in time to see Mike’s rod get bent double over. With the classic look of sheer surprise most people wear when they are connected to their first fish on the fly, he tried to bring the fish in. I waded over to help him land it. His first fish on the fly turned out to be a beautiful 16 inch half pounder steelhead that ate an October Caddis dry fly. Though we were freezing and varying degrees of miserable as the wind picked up and died off, we knew this trip could be nothing but a success.

Two hours and no more fish later, the rain really started to come down. I was thinking it may be time to pack it in, but the sight of Mike bull dogging through wind and rain kept me going. Shortly after I found renewed motivation, my line came tight on what had to be snag. I vaguely remember hearing someone say “Whatcha got there?” before a massive dime bright chinook came crashing out of the water. Line started peeling off my reel way faster than I had previously thought possible. I thought “this fish must have had enough with rivers and decided to go back to the ocean now.”

Looking back, I should have known I was using gear way too light for a big salmon, but again the teenage brain said “you got this!!” So down river I went chasing this fish. Somehow, I managed to stop the fish with just a few turns of backing remaining, giving me the illusion that somehow this would all end well. 20 minutes and 300 yards later the hook straightened and came flying out of the salmon’s mouth. Some part of me had to know this was inevitable, but I was nonetheless devastated at losing such a big fish. We stood there in silence when about 20 yards away, a different salmon started jumping up stream. For reasons I didn’t understand then and certainly don’t understand now, I called out to the fish, “COME HERE BOY!” As if to respond to my exhortation, the salmon started jumping like a dolphin. It jumped five feet from me and swam between my legs.

Now, I’ve had some strange things happen to me over the course of my life, but at the time this topped them all. I also realize this story sounds completely absurd, but I assure you the specificity with which I recount this story is because it is neither made up, nor exaggerated. There was nothing to do but laugh hysterically at what had happened in the last 30 minutes and head back to the car.

Completely soaked and at this point flirting with hypothermia, we decided to stop at a drive through coffee stand. These coffee stands that sometimes sell decent coffee and always sell candy disguised as coffee are all the rage in the pacific northwest. “That will be $7.50” the barista said as she handed us our coffee. Now, in my defense, I thought I handed her a $10 bill as I turned to Mike and continued our conversation. She made no reply for several seconds before saying, “Um, I have a dollar.” Not missing a beat I replied, “No, that’s not mine.” This poor barista, now thoroughly confused, just sat there having asked for $7.50 and instead received a $1 dollar bill and then was told the bill she had just been given was in fact fictitious.  

Fortunately, Mike knew me well enough to recognize what had just happened and told me I had given her a dollar bill to pay for our $7.50 tab. About to turn red, I opened my wallet and found the $10 I had meant to give her and made sure that is what she received this time. Forfeiting any right I had to my change, we drove away laughing the way people who have devised ridiculous inside jokes do.    

I’ve had a few rare moments in my life where I seemed to have clarity both on what had just happened and how it would change my life going forward. Fly fishing and friendship are two of the most wonderful things in life and this one day started us down a path that harmonized the two in a unique and awkwardly beautiful way. I say “awkwardly” because most people would not find anything interesting about two guys eating jet boiled hot dogs under the stars after a bang up day of trout fishing in Eastern Washington, but those who do understand it can easily see the beauty in it (if only because they’ve had a similar experience).



How To: Have a better trip

Jared Watson

After returning from a recent trip I took the time to reflect on my year of traveling and fishing. Thinking to myself “fly fishing is really simple, at least it should be”. You go to the water, gear up & catch fish. Simple, right? Well, not always. Recently I spent 3 days nearly freezing my butt off and fishing hard with little result until I could no longer stand. If it wasn’t for the excellent food and drink prep I had done it may have been considered a failure. Things could have gone much worse for my team had I not followed a few of my golden rules, listed and explained below.

Photo Credit @samuelrcass

Photo Credit @samuelrcass

After returning from a recent trip I took the time to reflect on my year of traveling and fishing. Thinking to myself “fly fishing is really simple, at least it should be”. You go to the water, gear up & catch fish. Simple, right? Well, not always. Recently I spent 3 days nearly freezing my butt off and fishing hard with little result until I could no longer stand. If it wasn’t for the excellent food and drink prep I had done it may have been considered a failure. Things could have gone much worse for my team had I not followed a few of my golden rules, listed and explained below. To put this trip into context one of my best friends had just come off a several month stint recovering from a badly broken ankle, and was on day 3 of unassisted walking. He also had a severe case of cabin fever. The other member and myself were suffering from fall semester blues and desperately needed some air that didn't stink of empty monster cans and stale farts. Enter my genius plan to hit the brown spawn in a secret location. I should also mention here that neither of the friends invited had ever met or heard of each other prior to this trip!

Rule #1
If it's your idea, you're in charge of the planning.

From food buying to essential camp gear packing (if you're into the camp sort of thing). You must take charge, but ensure to think of your party as a whole, not just your preferences. Don’t leave planning to the last minute especially for bigger trips, naturally that’s when Murphy’s Law strikes. Side note, this also means you’re tasked with familiarizing yourself with the area if it’s a new destination.

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Rule #2
ABT - Always be tying.

If you tie flies that is. No matter, if you can only find a few minutes here and there to crank a couple of confidence patterns out, THEN DO IT!! Nothing is worse than taking that much needed trip only to lose “the one fly will work” on your first snag, day 1 into a week long trip. So my advice is consistently tie throughout the year, cranking a few crappy flies out the night before you depart is not enough nor will you feel completely confident in your work.
If you don’t tie, routinely stock up or have a trusted friend tie them for you!

Rule #3
Do some homework.

An example from my latest adventure. Heading to a section of the river I’ve fished for many years in the spring, I neglected to find out if the regulations changed at all for Fall fishing. They do. A crucial section of river closes October 1st - December 31st to protect a spawning species of fish. Uh oh. Luckily as I was preparing I thought to give the Ranger station a call and check on weather conditions. During this call I knew I needed to prepare the crew for cold temps and find an alternate section of river to fish. This was a trip saver, I could have had to cancel or worse broken the law because of carelessness. Remember, always check the regs before you wet a line.

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And lastly…
Have fun.

Do you remember why you started fishing? It certainly wasn’t to get mad, throw your rod and pout on the bank. I understand, I get frustrated too, and sometimes questions my abilities as a fisherman. Take a pull from your WETFLY SS Flask and get your flies back in the water. You take trips to enjoy nature, hangout with good people and in my case shirk school work. So, take a breath, take a sip, get your head right and keep casting.

Raise glass to your favorite fishing partners this weekend, remember why you fish and start thinking, planning and tying for 2018!!

Cheers and tight lines,


Forgotten Waters

Jay Stalnacker

The Big Thompson River flood of 2013 was an epic disaster. The flood waters reached historic conditions, hundreds of homes were destroyed and lives were lost. Unfortunately, this isn't the first time a flood has occurred in this waterway and probably will not be the last.

The “Big T” is a unique river system, beginning high in the Colorado mountains and flowing as far east as Kansas, its use and purpose is diverse. The river supplies drinking water for hundreds of thousands and quenches thousands of acres of agricultural lands. Domesticated livestock and wildlife like elk and bear drink from its sparkling crystal clear water. The recreational uses are many, whitewater rafting, canoeing, waterfowl hunting and of course my favorite fly fishing.

2013, Big Thompson River flood - North Saint Vrain River corridor flooded, 36 hours after rains began.

2013, Big Thompson River flood - North Saint Vrain River corridor flooded, 36 hours after rains began.

Rainbow trout found alive in middle of Highway 36, North Saint Vrain.

Rainbow trout found alive in middle of Highway 36, North Saint Vrain.

The flood destroyed the entire Big Thompson Canyon and as a major artery to Rocky Mountain National Park, a significant road repair and rerouting project is underway. This would require that the canyon be closed to most all public access, consequently most fishermen were forced high into the mountains or left to travel elsewhere to fish. Like the flooding river, I chose a new route. During the years long closure, I began to explore the urban fishing corridor. I have fished almost every square inch of this river from the far off eastern plains to the high mountain headwaters. Interestingly, some of the most unique areas of the river are found close by. The “urban” sections meander between pavement and buildings, near schools and railroad tracks and in and out of numerous aqueducts, diversion structures and other manmade control efforts. Thousands live, work, drive and walk past this part of the river everyday and don't think twice. It's in these forgotten waters that the true essence of mother natures beauty reigns.

With my new compact WETFLY Tenkara rod in hand  and sling pack on my shoulder, I began making “micro-trips” along the urban rivers path. The first time I scrambled over the broken concrete, glass bottles and under the graffiti laden highway underpasses I questioned if all this effort was worth it. But as I approached the clean water’s edge it was like a magical transformation in time and space had occurred. All of sudden the traffic and industrial noise was drowned out by the birds, bugs and  rushing water. There were fish rising slowly slurping the surface nymphs and  deep pools and runs just waiting for a soft Tenkara casted fly. This was paradise ten minutes from Starbucks.


When Warriors on the River was looking for a fundraising event it was not difficult to see our best efforts to give back to the community and environment was right out our backdoor. On October 7th 2017 WOR partnered with WETFLY, local government, businesses and the community to clean about ¼ mile of the Big Thompson River in the urban corridor.

Over 30 volunteers removed 2 tons of trash. The area cleaned was purchased by the local city to develop into a public recreation site, with a focus on fishing but has remained closed. Our effort was the first since the flood and has now encouraged the town to move forward getting the property opened for public access. After our clean up WOR held a open class fishing tournament and numerous rainbows and Browns were pulled and gently released back into the water.  The day was a great success as we cleaned our local river and raised $1500.00 for the non-profit.

WOR has now applied to “adopt” this section of river  to ensure the water stays clear, the fish stay healthy and our community has a place to escape. This is no longer forgotten water, it's now healing water.    

Poor Decisions and Leaking Waders

David Kirkpatrick

I can’t remember whose idea it was to go fishing on Halloween on a particularly cold fall day, but after some handwritten directions and a general “there may be some fish around” from the fly shop, we decided to give it a try. Handwritten directions were necessary because there was no way to navigate where private land ended and public land began without using landmarks (at the old red barn turn left).

When we pulled up to the river, I could see I was gonna have to make a decision. The river split and the best run was on the far side, requiring a wade across to the island in the middle. Not usually a problem, but for the pinhole I knew was somewhere in the groin area of my waders. I sat staring at the 42 degree water not even aware of conversation around me and others putting their waders on.

Once my decision had been made I didn’t hesitate. While everyone else was layering up, I strip down completely naked. To their credit, no one ever asked me why I was standing beside a cold river stark naked at the end of October, they just waited to see what would happen next. Once naked, I hoisted all my gear (waders included) over my head and began the waist deep wade to the other side. Once I made it to the other side I simultaneously became aware of two things. First, everyone was laughing hysterically and second, I was being filmed. The fact the lower half of my body was completely numb wasn’t registering for some reason. My plan had been to stay dry by not wading waist deep up to where I knew the leak was. In theory, I could then avoid wading that deep the rest of the day and stay dry, but shivering violently now I began to question the prudence of that decision.

Fully clothed once again, I strung up my rod nonchalantly and tied on a #16 orange stimulator with a pheasant tail dropper. This was perhaps the last chance I would have at catching a fish on a dry that season and I intended to take full advantage. It did not take long to get the first rise, a beautiful 13 inch native cutthroat. A few minutes later, my stimulator disappeared with no warning. I set and felt ferocious headshakes, followed by an impressive aerial display.

As I walked further down river, I found a likely spot on the other side of the river. Wading that deep was out of the question for obvious reasons, so a long cast with a hard upstream mend would be required to tuck the fly in to the soft spot right behind the rock. As I let my first cast go, I knew it wasn’t going to get the job done. To my everlasting surprise, a fish came out of the water from where I had been trying to cast to and caught my fly mid-air. As it landed it hooked itself, though I don’t remember much of what happened next. The image of that fish going airborne for my fly is forever etched in my memory, though.  

This was the last time I fished that season, partly because I got sick from my naked wading experiment (a consequence that didn’t merit a consideration in my decision making paradigm) and partly because I was going to school full time and working 30 hours a week, so there wasn’t a lot of time. Writing this half a decade later and finding myself just getting back from a fishing trip that involved camping in the snow, I’m pleased to discover not much has changed in five years.


David Kirkpatrick

I have been more contemplative than usual with the approaching fall steelhead run. The greater Oregon area has seen a drastic decline in native steelhead populations, with no indications things are going to get better. The Willamette system had a return of 500 fish this year. This is a system that averaged 10,000 fish runs in a not too distant past. Things are not much better looking over to the Deschutes and other famous steelhead water in Oregon. 

It's with this mindset that I'm processing what has been the best July and early August on my home water for steelhead. More than ever I am grateful my home water has managed to thrive in tough conditions. These fish are truly a marvel, traveling halfway around the world throughout their lives and they are too easily taken for granted. I am as guilty as anyone of this, but recent events have changed my perspective and caused me to see each steelhead as something to be thankful for. 

The first fish came in a usual honey hole for us. The strength of these fish is shocking, especially this early in the year. These are fish that were in the ocean just a week or two ago. They are chrome and still have their sea weight on them. This fish pulled me down through the tailout hard and forced me and my buddy to give chase. We managed to land him in some slack water and stood their gawking at this stupendous 28.5" fish. A hatchery fish no less, so after a quick bonking we had him on the stringer and were back at it. We usually keep hatchery fish because that's what they're for. And because I thoroughly enjoy steelhead tacos. 

This is also a fun time of year because there are Chinook salmon in the river that have been known to grab flies occasionally. Doing a float after work one day, I talked to a friend who was fishing from the bank. We anchored downriver a ways, but still in sight of him. After fishing our hole out, we went back to the boat for a beer. It was then we noticed our friend on the bank doubled over with what looked like (even 100 yards away) like a monster. He had no net and gear anglers were downriver from him and afforded no help. We sat there watching him for 15 minutes and eventually decided it must be a salmon. Assuming the hook would bend out shortly, we pushed off and rowed down river.

That night we get a text message of him with a beautiful native salmon. He had caught this fish on an 8 weight that had apparently broke as he was pulling it to shore. He had grabbed the line and got a grip on the fish's tail before it could get away. If this story sounds ridiculous, my brother in law thought the same thing while I'm relaying this story to him. The next day, however, we are on the water at first light and we see him fishing the same spot, but with a spinning rod. "Dude, did you see that salmon I caught last night!? It broke my rod and I don't have another 8 weight so I have to wait for the company to ship me a replacement!"

This is also a great time of year to take people new to fly fishing and try to get them into their first steelhead on the fly. People truly have priceless reactions to their first steelhead on the fly. A friend's uncle got pulled so hard it put him on his butt. He had to sit there helplessly while the fish shot out of the water higher than I've ever seen a steelhead jump. As he's trying to get tight to it, the fish runs up river and performs the 2nd highest jump I've ever seen from a steelhead, shaking the fly in the process. Another friend landed his first steelhead and just stood staring at it repeating "Holy sh**!!" 


The most memorable ones to me though are the ones that get away. On a particularly hot and exhausting day I come tight to a fish that I though felt heavy. They all feel heavy at first, but I thought this one might be different. It didn't do much when I hooked it giving Ben time to run back to the boat and grab the net. It had been a couple minutes of this fish probably not realizing it was hooked when it finally got the picture. I stood there stupidly with line flying off my reel for several seconds before Ben said "dude, most of your backing is gone." That seemed to pull us into action and he ran back to the boat to pull anchor and I ran downstream after the fish. The sweet spot of this run is about in the middle of the tailout and occasionally a hot fish will take you through the tail out into the minor white water below. I chased this fish farther than I had chased any other down into this white water knowing time was against me. I look back and see Ben in the boat just coming around the corner and only 30 seconds or so away. I move to get into better position and the line goes slack. We both saw it at the same time and I imagine the light went out of my eyes much the same as it did in his.   

We are still a month away from what is usually "prime time" here, leaving me to wonder if the rest of the season will finish as good as it has started. I feel partially guilty about this knowing the predicament many other steelhead rivers are in, but not guilty enough to stop fishing or to be more liberal with sharing my favorite spots. 




David Kirkpatrick

Every year Southern Oregon gets a long, sustained hatch of Pteronarcys Californica or giant stonefly. These salmonflies are the largest members of the stonefly family and generally come off consistently somewhere between the end of May to the middle of June. Every year it's a large, glorious event that draws people from all over to throw big bugs at rising trout. Not as many people as you would think though, given the popularity of the hatch. More famous rivers in Central Oregon tend to draw more crowds, so it is occasionally possible to have sections of river to yourself. It is a great thing (especially after a long winter) to have uncomplicated dry fly fishing and eager trout that are mostly where they're supposed to be and will mostly rise to your fly. This year, however, has been noticeably different than any other hatch I've experienced on my home water. 

It started in late May rowing down the river with my dad. The hatch was late this year because of high water and colder than usual temps, but I figured there would be some fish looking up. I had just released a small native cutthroat, when I looked up and saw a slurp against the bank under a tree. The cast and drift would be tricky, I would have to place the bug perfectly about 15 feet above where the fish rose so it could float under the tree to where the fish was rising. I made my cast, just good enough, and was halfway through saying "that's the drift" when the fish smashed my fly. The next thing I remember is line screaming off the reel and thinking "what is the fish doing on the other side of the river?" After about 10 minutes of just barely maintaining my composure (and two attempts at anchoring and netting the fish) we had him in the net. A 22 inch native cutthroat and my personal best for this river. For the rest of the trip, I would randomly start laughing or just say "wow" in various tones of excitement whenever I would think of that fish. 

A few days later I was rowing a friend down the same stretch of river. We had sighted a few fish rising under trees, so I was keeping the boat close to the trees so he could get the best cast possible. Right as we came under a tree, he set on what looked to be a nice 12-14 inch fish. The problem was that his set had been just barely to the outside of the boat, placing rod tip and line in a tree. Before fish or fisherman had a chance to react, the line threaded over a branch and created a pulley system. The fish was pulled from the water and up into the tree in a slow, dangling way that is difficult to describe. My mind went blank as the fish began it's ascension, apparently having difficulty processing what I was seeing. At the top of the branch the fish flipped over and fell at least 8 feet back into the water. I have no recollection of whether we landed the fish after that or it came off or whatever. We were just laughing hysterically at what we had witnessed. 

Later that week I convinced my friend who was skeptical of fishing this section when the "holy water" up higher was producing double digit days in a matter of hours. The weather was overcast that day though, and usually this section of river has a few early run summer steelhead in it that will occasionally look up in these conditions. We anchored at the first run and he fished up towards the head and I fished down towards the tail. After missing a few fish, I hear a reel start screaming and look over to see a stupendous chromer come crashing out of the water followed by my buddy with a completely dumbfounded look on his face. This fish was already down to the tail of the run on a 4 weight rod, so we thought we were going to have to get in the boat and chase him. After not so gracefully forcing myself into the boat, he gets the fish stopped and in slower water. Net in hand I jump out and go down river to where he is playing the fish. With the fish in the net we both just looked at each other in amazement, hardly believing what we were seeing. My arms were covered in goosebumps. The fish was 23 inches and looked like it had traveled to the upper river from the ocean in a matter of days. "Good call" he said as we watched the fish swim away. 

On what turned out to be the last day of the season for me, I was floating with my friend Ben who had just landed a beautiful cutthroat at the last good run before the takeout. We were sharing high fives and fist bumps when I felt my phone vibrate. My buddy Chris texted me saying something to the effect of I was about to lose control of my bowel functions. Chris had put in earlier that day and they had fished a different section of river. "Send me the picture" I said. What I saw was stupefying. By far, the biggest and fattest trout I had ever seen in this river. I showed Ben who just sat down in silence. I still can't describe exactly what emotion I felt then, but I realized this moment was a microcosm of the hatch this year. equal parts exciting, hilarious, maddening and unbelievable.  




Glass Rods and Mountain Lakes

David Kirkpatrick

I was a bit nervous when my Wetfly NitroGlass rod arrived a couple weeks ago. I had never used a glass rod before and had no idea what to expect. Once out of the case and in your hand, the first thing you notice is the sensitivity. This is a rod that will make you rediscover your love for small water fishing and 8-14 inch wild trout. I knew instantly the first place I would take my new glass rod.

In Southern Oregon, there is a small mountain lake most people either don't know about or pay any attention to. Some may overlook it because it isn't considered a blue ribbon fishery and it is pretty far out of the way to go for a few small trout. My experience, however, has been a lake loaded with hungry, wild cutthroat trout that will occasionally push 17 inches. 

Once at the lake I strung up the Nitro Glass for the first time and headed down to the lake. I got into the rhythm of casting pretty quick and noticed right away I could feel the rod loading more acutely than I could with my graphite rod. This enabled me to throw consistently tight loops at a distance of 50-60 feet with accuracy. 

 The first fish I hooked absolutely crushed the fly with the innocence of a fish that has probably never seen a fly before. I felt every head shake, run and jump in a different way than I had ever experienced. "I could get used to this" I thought to myself as I hooked another fish.

Over the course of the day I fished size 14 ants, 18 BWOs and size 8 buggers in different colors. The size 14 ant felt like the sweet spot, but the rod performed well with every combination I used. It didn't take long before I felt at home with the 8 foot glass rod in my hand. 

As the fish got off the ants, I switched to an olive bugger and immediately hooked up with what felt like the best fish of the day. This fish put a deep bend in the rod and sent furious head shakes reverberating down the rod to the handle. What happened next is a bit of a blur, but apparently I played the fish well and we got him to the net. The take had been so vicious, my hands were still shaking from excitement. 

As we were hiking out I realized this was the most fun fishing I'd had in a long time. I won't ever be confused for a glass rod guru, but this rod was an absolute blast. We are just weeks away from the salmon fly hatch here in Southern Oregon and I have a feeling this is going to change the big dry fly game for me entirely. 


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.

Wetfly NitrogenXD Fly Reel

kit carlson

NitrogenXD Kiritimati 11-14wt Resting Over Bamboo Bank

When I started designing the NitrogenXD fly reel, there were several parts of the reel that had to stand out:

  • The size and dimensions had to be perfect; it had to be better than what I’d dealt with in the past and solve some simple problems that kept bothering me. 

  • The reel had to be lightweight, but the frame had to be strong to fight the torque of large fish and reeling against them. 

  • The finish of the reel had to be the best possible coating that would fight corrosion, scratches, “boat rash,” and such. The color of the reel would be second to strength.

  • Drag – The drag had to be smooth, strong, sealed, maintenance free, and endure a 300-yard run against its highest setting. 

  • I wanted configurable spools—different sizes to fit on a single frame so that I could minimize the angler’s cost while expanding the angler’s choices.

  • Cost – I didn’t want another $1,000+ fly reel on the market. There is a balance between spending money on gear and getting to the fish. 

  • Ergonomics – Everything from the size of the handle, diameter and width of the frame, and size of the reel foot stanchion would need to balance in a way that casting, stripping, and fighting would not be compromised. 

  • Beauty – this comes second to performance in my mind, but this reel would need to be handed down for generations, so the styling would have to hold up just as long. 

To work out the sizing of the reel, I covered my desk with every reel I could find. I held every reel—inspecting what was good and bad. I took my notes and came up with a dimension that I felt had the best measurement for each width, thickness, diameter, displacement, and tolerance. I am not a CAD engineer, so I drafted everything out “old skool” with a straight edge and a pencil. Frame strength, backing capacity, heft, grace, save weight here…add weight there… Make it perfect. 

Every reel on showroom floors was coming out in beautiful colors: orange, pink, blue, smoke, silver, green, orange, glossy, matte, clear…. The choices become mind-straining. How do I choose my shoes to match? In the past, a few manufacturers (mostly custom) had brought out a Type 3 anodized reel. Everything else was Type 2, which makes sense with the cost of the Type 3 treatment. You can’t color the Type 3 anodized aluminum either; the level of anodizing wipes out any dye added to the aluminum. Manufacturers told me that the Type 3 reel would be “ugly” and “un-sellable.” But everything I saw looked incredible—like an Abrams tank or something just simply indestructible in this olive/grey, matte finish that seemed to change color in the light. Each reel looked slightly different and had its own personality. I LOVED IT! 

The Type 3 anodized finish wasn’t about color, though. This anodizing is several times thicker and harder than any Type 2 finish. We add an entirely different process to the aluminum that makes it as scratch-resistant as tool steel. The aluminum becomes non-reactive meaning that it will not create a galvanic reaction (resulting in corrosion) when in the presence of other metals (stainless, etc.) and an alkali (saltwater, etc.). Furthermore, the hardness of the Type 3 coating provides a natural lubrication between surfaces on the reel. It took seven months to finally get the Type 3 anodizing achieved and perfected. When it was finished, I was certain that this was the right direction to go. 

When the first prototype came through, it was tested on sharks, jacks, tarpon, and the typical laboratory equipment (scales, motorcycles, etc.). While this drag would perform well for just about any fish you could put on it, it wasn’t great. It wasn’t perfect, so I added more drag surface and doubled its strength. I modified the frame to add additional torsional rigidity, and increased the porting to lighten it up a shade. 

As more prototypes rolled in, more changes came with them—stronger screw here, smoother surface there, taller piece over yonder, and more click, less click, reduce auto-pickup, adjust that…and so on. I tested various backing capacities and began working on the configurable spools. In the past, I had seen reels that were designed starting with the smallest sizes first and then moving up to the larger sizes, based on the small ones. This seemed very backward. To scale up the size and keep componentry the same ends up with the largest reels, the ones most vulnerable to stress, becoming the weakest. I started with the biggest size and made sure that it could hold a 13wt line with over 400 yards of 30-pound, braided Dacron backing.  With 420 yards of backing on the spool, the reel lined up perfectly. Taking that frame, I designed a Super Large Arbor spool that would be lighter and hold less backing with 11- or 12-weight lines, or even a 10-weight. There stood the NitrogenXD Kiritimati with 2 spools that would cover everything from a fast-retrieve 10-weight on up to a tuna-weakening 14-weight with enough gel-spun to follow the Bluefin migration. With that, spawned the dimensions of the 5-7wt “Kenai” size reel and the 8-10wt “Abaco” size, both with available spools to broaden the angler’s versatility in switch, spey, and traditional fresh and saltwater applications. 

The final and perhaps most important part of the development and design phase was to keep the price of these reels lower than the others out there…MUCH lower. I own and fish several reels that I bought before I got married. Let me say that again, these reels were purchased BEFORE I got married. That was also when I bought handguns, motorcycles, took 2-week road trips to fish every river I crossed until I reached the next ocean and probably picked up more than my share of bar tabs. My goal was to keep the biggest sizes around $600 and have the smaller reels fall in below that. Wetfly operates on one of the slimmest margins in the fly industry. We are lightweight (not me), but we keep our expenses as low as possible. That cuts down on some of the advertising, and the bottle of wine at the table might be more of the “Riuniti” variety versus a “Chateau du Gag.”  I didn’t cut any corners on the design of the product, but instead made sure that value was brought to the angler—the lowest price possible with the highest quality attainable—The NitrogenXD Fly Reel. 

-Steve Tatarchuk, Wetfly National Sales Manager - NitrogenXD Fly Reel Designer