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Kelsey Rosborough on Alternatives to steelhead in the Pacific Northwest

Description: There is nothing more magnificent than a wild steelhead on the fly but because of poor returns this season fishing for them will be limited. That's no reason, though, to park your fly rods in the garage. The PNW has some alternative species that although are not native, they are a worthy target on a fly rod: carp and smallmouth bass. And they're not going away so we might as well enjoy them. Join my guest Kelsey Rosborough [51:04] from the Orvis Outfitter Team (those knowledgeable folks who answer your technical questions when you call, e-mail, or chat about fishing products) as he tells us where to find these fun fish and how to target them.
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Podcast Transcript:

Tom: Hi, and welcome to the Orvis Fly Fishing Podcast. This week, my guest is another member of the Orvis Outfitter Team, which is a talented group of individuals that helps answers your questions when you call up or when you chat with Orvis customer service on fishing products or if you send an email to And Kelsey Rosborough is an experienced angler in the Pacific Northwest. And we're going to talk this week about, kind of, alternative species to, you know, what are the most common and popular fish that we pursue the fly rather: the Pacific Northwest steelhead and Pacific salmon. And these two species are under some pretty severe threats, and we hope that it's a temporary situation. But, you know, there aren't a lot of opportunities right now for Pacific salmon and steelhead fishing. Some of the rivers are closed. Other rivers have minimal runs. So, you don't want to hang up your fly. There are other things to chase in the Pacific Northwest. And of course there's trout. But there are also a couple other species that are introduced or, if you will, invasive species: smallmouth bass and carp. And Kelsey is going to talk about pursuing these two alternative species in the Pacific Northwest. And I'm sure regardless of where you fish for either these two critters, you'll find some helpful hints. But, first, let's do the fly box. And if you have a question for the fly box, you can send it to, and you can either just type your question in your email or you can attach a voice file. And if I can answer the question, I'll read it on the air.
Now let's start with an email. The first one is from Markus from Germany, "I've got two tying questions for the next podcast. When I'm tying dry flies, sometimes I leave not enough space behind the eye and partially block my hook. I would thread feathers or deer hair. The fly looks pretty at that point, but when I'm on the water, it's a real pain because everything is getting in the way of my tippet. How can I reliably estimate the space I have to leave behind the hook eye without ending up with a disproportionate fly or too less space to whip finish? And my second question, when a fly is destroyed by fish, rocks, or maybe trees, do you save some materials of that fly for your next tying session? I don't have any problem with reusing steel sharp hooks or, even more, tungsten beads to save money and to avoid waste. I also try to get my zonker strips back off my flies when the hook is blunt. When it comes to feathers, I don't see much value in it. Thanks for all the help and information, and I'm looking forward to all the podcast during the close winter season, at least here in Germany."
Markus, you know, crowding the hook eye is a problem for all of us, and I still find myself doing it way too often. So, I guess when you're tying the fly, my rule of thumb is to leave about 50% more space than I think to finish that fly off because, you know, if I estimate just the exact amount I want to leave to finish off the fly, I always end up crowding the hook eye. So, you know, maybe 50% more than you think you need, and it really depends on what last material you're tying off at the eye. So, with dry flies, it's usually a hackle, but it may not be. One way to avoid the problem of crowding your eye with the dry fly is to use flies that don't use hackle like comparaduns or sparkle duns. Those finish off quite nicely with just a little bit of fur, and you seldom crowd the eye with that, but it's when you have to tie a couple of hackles off that you often leave not enough space and then you end up crowding the eye. So, you know, the other thing you can do is, once you finish that fly, right before you whip finish, take a couple of good tight turns to make sure everything is secure, and you can actually take your thumbnails or your thumbnail and the nail of your forefinger and push the thread back against the shank. Sometimes that will back off those winds enough to give you a little more space and then you can whip finish. So, you know, it's basically a little bit of practice and leaving a little bit more space than you think you're going to need.
As far as saving stuff, when a fly is ruined, I typically don't. I usually lose a fly before it falls apart or it [inaudible 00:05:23] in a tree. You know, it's rare that... I don't know. I find it's rare that a fly gets to the point where it's so worn out that I don't use it anymore, but this does happen sometimes. And, yeah, it's probably a good idea to save, especially tungsten beads because they're expensive and hooks, if they're salvageable, sure. You know, take the fly back home and, with a razorblade, start to cut the material off with a razorblade. And then probably best to unwind because you don't want to scrape the shank of that hook with a razorblade too much because hooks have, kind of, a rust-proofing finish, a lacquer on them. And if you dig in too hard with that razorblade. you're going to expose the steel and the iron to air and water, and it'll oxidize and rust. So just be very careful and try to just start cutting with the razorblade and then unwind the rest of the fly.
Here's an email from Mike from Nashville, "As a native Long Islander and former resident of New Jersey, I would like to respond to the lister from Delaware who's having some consternation as a new fly angler in his quest for trout and catching more "desirable fish" on the fly route in general. I would dare suggest that he pivot another way to saltwater. Get an 8 weight rod and a stripping basket and look for weakfish, bluefish, striped bass aka rockfish on the Delmarva Peninsula, American shad, Hickory shad, redfish, false albacore, and even fluke, summer flounder and others. The Delmarva Peninsula is a fabulous place to be a fly angler. It also opens up a whole new world of flies for him to tie as well. To that, I would suggest that he or other new saltwater anglers of any creed pick up a copy of 'The Fisherman's Ocean' by David A. Ross. It is an invaluable resource for all anglers to learn how the ocean works and how to find fish to catch. I think this listener will find it particularly helpful."
And I would add my recommendation to Mike's about David Ross' book. David is a great scientist. I've fished with David before. He really knows his stuff. And, you know, David worked for Woods Hole Institute, and so he's a scientist who really understands the ocean. So, "Fisherman's Ocean" by David. A Ross is a great book if you're interested in Northeast saltwater fishing or saltwater fishing anywhere for that matter.
Charlie: Hi, Tom. This is Charlie from Maple Plain, Minnesota. I do some journaling after each day I go fishing, and I track what worked, and what didn't work and that sort of thing, and the water temperature, the air temperature—I'm trying to think of what else—what the weather was like. And I find it useful if I returned to some water that I haven't been to in a couple of years to go back and look at my online journal to see how I did, and what worked, and what didn't work. I'm wondering if you do anything similar or if you once did and have given up on it because you didn't think it had much utility. And I'm wondering if you're aware of very many others that find this useful. I'm also curious if there's any software that you would recommend that does a good job of this. I use a WordPress blog, and I make all of my entries private entries, so it's free. And it just, in a sense, is like a fishing diary for me. Thank you, Tom.
Tom: Charlie, a fly fishing journal is a great idea, and this is one of those cases where you should do as I do, do as I say, and not do as I do, because I don't do it that often. And I kick myself. You know, when I'm in the process of writing a book, I will often take notes right after fishing about that particular topic that I'm working on. So if I'm working on something, I'm reading the water, I'll take a bunch of notes on where the fish were, and why I think they were there, and what the flow was and so on. But I don't have a regular journal. I used to. I don't know. It's just another piece of work when I get back from fishing, and sometimes I think it, kind of, takes away from the experience for me personally because I don't want to have a chore to do after I come back from fishing.
But a journal is a great idea, and it's going to be a priceless resource for you in the future, not just for catching more fish, but for, you know, going back and enjoying some of those times that you spent on the water. I guess I have sort of a journal in that I take a lot of pictures when I'm fishing, and my pictures, kind of, will jog my memory about various things. And seldom is it fish pictures. It's more of people on the water, different water types, something like that. And, you know, people have various ways of journaling. There's just the plain, old, you know, free hand notebook that you write in. People sometimes, as you do, do that online in just a word format. And then there are people who take much more detailed notes.
I don't think there's really good software available. And the problem with software is that it pigeonholes you into particular categories, you know, a pre-made software program, and you may not want to take your notes that way. So, I would think—this is the way I would do it—if I were going to keep a detailed journal with water temperatures, and flows, and insect hatches and all that stuff, what I would do is I would use an Excel database because I'm kind of an Excel geek. Then you can create whatever categories you want, and you can filter it and sort it. And, you know, it'll organize the dates for you. And so if you're a spreadsheet person, that would be kind of good. And then you can also have a text column, you know, at the end of each entry where you can take notes about things that aren't so cut and dry, your remembrances or friends that you had there. But things like water temperature and hatches and all that stuff can be handled pretty well in any kind of database program. And, you know, it's much more searchable than just hand notes. So, anyway, there are various ways to do it but, Charlie, whatever works for you, it sounds like you've got a good system, and there are lots and lots of different ways to do it.
Here's an email from Sheldon from Pennsylvania, "Where does the saying 'bright day, bright fly, dark day, dark fly' come from? To me, this seems opposite of what should be true. So, I'm curious if there's any scientific rationale for it. I would love to hear an explanation if you have one. Also, sometimes my clinch knots slide through instead of binding down when I pull them tight, leaving me with a curly end. What am I doing wrong? Thanks and have a great day."
So, Sheldon, I believe that the saying "bright day, bright fly, dark day, dark fly" came from Atlantic salmon fishing, which of course there is no rhyme nor reason to how to choose a fly for Atlantic salmon or very little rhyme nor reason because Atlantic salmon don't feed and we're just trying to intrigue them and get them to strike something. But actually it is true that on dark days, a dark fly is more visible. You know, at night, dark flies are more visible. Dark days, dark flies are more visible. And I'm not going to get into the physics of it because I probably couldn't explain it very well. I'm not so sure that a bright fly is more visible on a bright day, but maybe a bright fly and a bright day is a little more subtle than a dark fly and, you know, breakday fish are a little bit spookier and a little bit shyer. So maybe the bright fly, which is, you know, not going to stand out as much as a black fly, might work better. I don't know, but I honestly do use that. At least I start out with that philosophy. And, you know, let's say I'm fishing streamers for trout. And if it's a bright day, I'll start out with a whiter or tan fly and see how that works. And if it doesn't work, then I'll go to a dark fly or I'll go to a bright color or something. But it's a good way to start. It's a good place to start. It doesn't always hold true, but, you know, it's at least a place we have to get ourselves started when we choose a fly.
Regarding your clinch knots, I have a couple of things that could be going wrong. One is that when you tighten a clinch knot, you want to make sure that you never pull on the tag end, which is the end you're going to clip off. So you always tighten the knot in the direction that force is going to be applied once it's in use. So once you tie that clinch knot, you want to just keep the tag end from slipping back through, but you don't want to pull on it. You want to pull on the hook and you want to pull on the tippet. A couple other things that you should do, one is to always wet your knots, lubricate your knots so that they slip together carefully. And you want to tighten your knot with a fairly quick pull, and I don't mean an abrupt jerk, but you don't want to tighten it slowly either because you want those coils that have gone around the standing part to, kind of, pop together and lock together. So try those things. The other thing that can cause a curl in front of your fly is when you are threading the tippet through the eye of the fly, don't put pressure on the tippet. I know sometimes like my line is hanging downstream and there's some pressure on it. And when I pull a tippet through the eye of the fly, the pressure from that line that's hanging downstream will score the tippet up against the eye when I pull it through. And then when I tighten it, it leaves me with those little curly cues. So, try to take pressure off the standing part of your line when you're threading the fly. Anyway, try those things. And, yeah, it's really tough to get those curlies off the end of your tippett once you've tied a fly on. So, anything will help there.
This one is from Steve from Michigan, "I started fly fishing this past year, and your podcast has really helped the learning curve. I've made it all the way back in the podcast to the beginning of 2019. I have a couple of questions that I'm hoping you can answer and maybe... First, it seems fly fishing and fly tying go hand in hand. I don't really like tying. So, my question is, are there others out there that just like to fish and not tie? Second, I always get my line tangled while walking between holes. What's the best way to move between holes without having to take 10 minutes to untangle everything before fishing the next hole? Third, you mentioned Orvis-Endorsed guides. What's the criteria to get the Orvis endorsement? For my tip, I always have trouble tying on my dropper to the bend of the hook, so I found an easy way to get the tippet tied to the bend of the hook. First, pinch, the tag end and the line between your thumb and forefinger. This creates a loop. Next, take your forceps and put it through the loop and spin it six to eight times. While still in the loop, grab the tag end and pull it through the loop. This will create a smaller loop as part of a clinch knot that can be then slipped on the bend of the hook and pulled tight."
Well, Steve, thanks for that tip. Regarding your questions, not all fly fishers are fly tiers. I would say, I don't know, maybe 50%, 40% of fly fishers tie their own flies. So not everybody does. It's just another part of the game. And if you don't enjoy tying flies, then don't do it. I find it to be at least half my enjoyment, and I think you understand fly fishing and choosing a fly is better when you tie your own, but it's certainly not necessary. And lots of people don't tie their own flies. And a lot of people that tie will also buy some flies, because they don't like tying particular patterns or they just like to tie the simple stuff and buy the more complicated stuff.
Regarding getting your line tangled while walking between holes, here's something to try. So, take your line and pull out about maybe one and a quarter to one and a half times the length of the rod off the tip of your rod and past that line around the bottom of your reel seat and then bring your fly up and hook it on one of your guides. That could be the first guide, second guide, third guide, whatever, depending on how much line you have out. So what you're left with is one piece of line is going through the guides. Another piece of line is outside and free of the guides. Take that free piece and wrap it around your rod right at the stripping guide, like, two or three times, and then just, kind of, lock it in place up against the stripping guide. This'll keep everything, kind of, held to the rod. And then when you get to your next spot, you just take that piece that's been wrapped around, and you unwrap it easily, and then you're set to go. You know, kind of difficult to explain over podcasts, but just put a rod together and try it out.
I don't really recommend hook keepers because I find that my fly always comes off of hook keepers when I'm walking through the woods. I find it much better to hook my fly onto one of the guides, and it won't hurt the guides at all. I just find that it's a much better method than using a hook keeper. Plus, when you use a hook keeper, you often keep your fly line inside your guides, because you don't have enough leader out. And then when you're starting to fish again, you have to pull your fly line manually out of that tip top in the last few guides. So try that, see how it works.
Regarding Orvis-endorsed guides, Orvis-endorsed guides are carefully evaluated first. We do our due diligence on guides. We investigate them. We make sure that they're insured. We make sure that they have good safety checks in place and safety equipment if it's in a boat. And then one of our staff will actually go and fish with the guide for a couple of days to make sure that they're up to snuff. So that's pretty much it, and it's going to vary depending on the type of guide and what they do. But they are carefully inspected, and we meet them and we meet with our endorsed guides once a year at a big thing we call the Guide Rendezvous and compare notes and other guides exchange information. So, it's a great program. And, you know, you can be assured that you're going to get a top-quality guide when you hire an Orvis-endorsed guide.
Rick: This is Rick from Western Pennsylvania. Two things that have bothered me ever since I started tying fly. The first is, when I tie on lead wire, that little nub that sticks up usually and you end up cutting it off or pinching it down becomes very frustrating. The second is when I tie on a wire, that there's a little section always left over, one, two, maybe three inches that you lay down and you lose somewhere. Two remedies I came up with and I've never seen done is the first with lead wire, instead of using the regular wrap, I use a reverse wrap. That way, when I put my thread on, wrap it down, and secure the lead, the lead is actually wrapping in the same direction as the thread does, thus eliminating that nub that sticks up. The second is I've used Tim Flagler's do-it-yourself tippet tenders to put on my wire spool to hold it so it doesn't unravel. What I have found is I can then pull this section of wire out, tie it on, and then hang the spool on my materials clip. That way, as soon as I need to wrap a wire on, I bring it forward, wrap it on, tie it off, snip it, and I haven't lost any excess wire. Just a couple of thoughts. You know, I hope they work for other people. They worked for me. Thanks for everything you do."
Tom: Well, Rick, those are a couple of great tips. Tim Flagler's tippet tenders, if you don't know what they are, he makes them himself, and I think he's got a video on Tightline Productions' videos in YouTube. But that's a great idea. And that idea of wrapping your weighting wire backwards or, in other words, wrapping toward you instead of away from you is a brilliant idea. And I'd never thought of that. And it's actually counterintuitive. I actually had to sit down and do a vice and wrap some wire on a hook to realize that, yes, that last piece of wire at the end of the wraps of weighting, when you wrap it backwards like that, you're going to be wrapping over the wire in a way that's going to force it down against the shank instead of pushing it away from the shank. And you have to try it. To those of you who are listening, you have to try it. Great idea.
And, Rick, I hope I can talk you into using something other than lead for your weighting. I mean, a lot of us call it lead wire, but most people use non-toxic wire. It's almost as heavy as lead and lead's not good stuff to be putting on the bottom of the stream. And, also, actually I suspect that if you tie a lot of flies with lead wire, it can make you sick. I remember I used to get mildly ill after tying a whole bunch of weighted nymphs with lead wire, and I think it's, kind of, a minor lead poisoning deal. You get it on your fingers and then, you know, you forget about it, and you put your fingers to your lips or something like that. So, try to get away from the lead wire, if you can. There's lots of good alternatives both non-toxic wire and tungsten beads to get away from that lead.
Here is an email from Lawrence from Lawrence, Kansas, "After a long hiatus away from the sport, I've recently gotten back into fly fishing. And aside from spending as much time as possible out in the water, much of what I've learned in the last year has come from your podcast, your YouTube videos, and your books. So, thank you for all that you do for the sport, especially for beginners like me. Your efforts are much appreciated. Living in Kansas, most of my local fishing is for small mouth, white bass, and panfish in local lakes and ponds mixed with an occasional trip to the trout streams of Southern Missouri in Northwest Arkansas. This fall, I also traveled to Montana and Idaho for a five-day trout fishing trip that I hope will become at least an annual trip. I have a question regarding white and wiper bass fishing in reservoirs."
So, a wiper, for those of you who don't know, is a cross between a striped bass and a white bass.
"But, first, I have a comment. For the past several months. I've been working my way through the backlog of your podcast episodes. And today I stumbled on the June 19th, 2020 episode in which you fielded a question from a gentleman who recounted an article written by Chad Brown. In the article, Chad, an African-American, detailed his disgusting encounters with blatant and overt racism while fly fishing. Like you, I was appalled and deeply saddened to hear how Chad, a decorated U.S. Navy veteran, an all-around good guy has been verbally accosted while flying fishing solely due to the color of his skin. You hit the nail on the head when you said, 'We have a long way to go in this country when it comes to racism and racial injustice.' Over the many months that I have been listening to your podcasts, I've come to admire and respect you not only because of your knowledge of all things fly fishing but also because of the kind, generous, and respectful manner that you treat people. After hearing your repudiation of racism and racial injustice in your June 19, 2020 episode, my respect level for you, which I did not think of any higher, went through the roof. Thank you for your unequivocal denunciation of intolerance. When people speak out, change can happen."
Well, thank you very much for that, Lawrence. Appreciate that.
"Now to my question. Last spring was my first year of targeting white and wiper bass at our local reservoir. Clinton Lake is a 50-year-old U.S. Corps of Engineers project. It covers about 7,000 acres and houses several species of fish, including blue and channel cats, crappies, small mouth, white bass and wiper hybrid. The inflow is primarily from a small river, a tributary of the Kansas River and a small creek. Inflow rates are seasonal depending upon rainfall, and the outflow to continuation of the small river is also seasonal but overall slow moving. The white and wipe respond begin sometime in March-April when the water reaches at or near 57 degrees and is accompanied by productive fishing activity. As you know, the white bass spawn doesn't last long, but for about a 10-day stretch, fishing is quite good especially along the rocky face of the dam. I had reasonable success last year weighting along the face of the dam, using clouser patterns of different sizes and colors. After the season, I heard your January 9th, 2020 episode on white bass fishing with Jim Weatherwax and learned even more that I hope to apply this coming spring season. Thank you for that. My question pertains to fish behavior. Everything I have read indicates that, as the white bass bond develops, the fish move upstream to lay their eggs, which in case you would expect to be the inflow streams to the reservoir. Though my knowledge is limited, I've never heard any local anglers talk about nor have I seen discussion board posts mentioning fishing the inflow locations for white bass during the spawn. Everything seems to be focused on the face of the dam. How does this fact line up with what's written about white bass spawning? It seems as though they are behaving completely opposite to what would be expected, though they are clearly displaying spawning activity near the rocky face of the dam. Do you think their behavior is confounded due to the artificial nature of their confinement in the reservoir and they have simply adapted to their unnatural habitat or is this typical and I simply missed something in my readings? Despite not overhearing of anyone fishing the inflow locations during the spawn, I'm considering targeting these areas. Would you expect the timing of fish that would hypothetically be moving upstream to be the same as when the fish appear on the face of the dam? Any thoughts or suspicions you might have would be greatly appreciated. Thank you again for everything you do for the fly fishing community."
Well, Lawrence, not sure why those fish are spawning at the face of the dam. It would make sense that they spawn in the inflows because they're broadcast spawners and their eggs aren't going to be, you know, laid in the gravel or something. They're just going to be free to circulate in the water calm. And by going into the inflows, the eggs are going to get washed back into the reservoir where the fish can live and grow. So that makes total sense. And I think that you should definitely investigate those inflows. I would think that there's probably white bass and wipers spawning in that area. The one thing I can think of is that stocked fish that try to spawn will often return to the place they were stocked because they're imprinted on that particular area of water. I know it happens with landlock salmon, and it happens with trout that have been stocked. And so I suspect that those fish might've been dumped in at the face of the dam when they were young and stocked, and they're just coming back to the place they were imprinted on to spawn. There may be other fish that spawn in the inflow as, you know, a natural fish would, but you're going to have to find that out for yourself.
As far as timing is concerned, they probably should all spawn at about the same time. Typically spawning behavior, like a lot of things, is partially determined by day length or photo period in the long-term, but in the short term, it's often dictated by water temperatures. So, fish are going to spawn at a certain time of year due to day length, but within that period of a month or so, they might be one or two or three or even four weeks early or late, depending on the water temperature because, kind of, the immediate cue to spawning is going to be water temperature and flow. So I can't tell you. It depends. I would suspect that, if the water temperature at the dam is the same as the water temperature at the inflows, then they're probably going to spawn at the same time. If the inflows are a little colder and they could spawn a little later, but you're going to have to have fun and experiment and find this out for yourself. Good luck.
Another email. This one's from Nicholas from Sweden. "Hi, Tom, loving the podcast and great stuff each and every episode. So, thank you for doing what to do and keep doing it. I especially want to thank you for encouraging people to practice casting. Since I started doing it 10 to 15 minutes every other day, my casting has gotten much better. I have a question and a tip or two. My question is this. I recently upgraded my DSLR. So now I am more comfortable bringing my old one out into the river wading, etc. Problem is that my lenses are still a bit precious to me, so I need to get something used in good condition. It would rather not take more than two lenses. I know you probably can't give me specific recommendations, but what kind of focal lens do you like for fishing stream photography if you could only bring two and how much do you value a wide aperture versus image stabilization in these scenarios? My tip regarding staying warm while winter fishing, a topic that I know you think about a lot and have given great advice on. I was a soldier in the Swedish army for five years, and so I spent a lot of time being either cold, wet, or most often both. From that, I have some experience trying to stay warm. For hands, I would say the following. Bring multiple pairs of gloves. If you like fingerless, use them, but bring properly warmed ones, too. Gloves get wet. And when they do, everything starts to suck. I always put on dry gloves when I move between spots or during pauses and put either the wet ones back on or put on a new pair. Commonly I will carry as many as four pairs. Gloves can also be dried by putting them around your neck or inside the waistband, which feels terrible at first but works. Wring them out first though. Always bring dry clothes in a dry bag if you wade deeper than your shins. Finally, if you're cold, get out of the river and get moving hard. No amount of clothing or heating pads will ever beat your body's capacity to generate heat by physical exertion—jumping jacks, squats, sprinting up a hill or whatever you can do that is safe. Insulating clothes only keep heat inside. They don't provide it. If there is no heat to insulate, then the nicest, most expensive poppy jacket or vest won't be worth much. Generate body heat. Also, relatedly, if you have a bit to go to get to the river, take off some thicker items of clothing so you don't get sweaty because that will make things a lot worse for you. Again, thank you, Tom, and have a nice day."
Well, those are great tips, Nicholas. Thank you very much. There's nothing that beats doing some jumping jacks on the banks of the river. That's about the quickest way to warm up that I know of. It's not fun. Nobody likes jumping jacks, but they certainly do work or deep knee bends or whatever you need to get your internal furnace moving. So thank you for that.
Regarding lenses for fishing, boy, you know, it depends on what kind of pictures you want. I mean, I am typically not taking pictures that are going to be used in a catalog or a magazine. I'm typically taking, kind of, narrow shots of stream features, or insects, or fish, or whatever. But, you know, what I do is maybe not what you want for a memory. So it really depends on what kind of perspective you want. I know a lot of people that use super wide angle lenses, and that's a different look. And they can get really close to things and get a lot of the background in there. And then there are people who like a very tight lens that's more like a telephoto or a portrait lens because they want to take pictures of friends and they want to maybe make the mountains look bigger. They can shorten that perspective and make mountains look bigger. So, it really depends on what you want to get out of it. Honestly, it sounds like you want to just use prime lenses and honestly, you know, the zoom lenses are so good these days, although you say you want to get inexpensive lenses but still a zoom lens... The lens I use most often is a 35 to 70. And, you know, if I were to pick two prime lenses for fishing, I would probably pick, like, maybe a 24 millimeter and then maybe 100 millimeter. And I might even use 100 millimeter macro. If you're into flies and bugs and stuff like that or just stream rocks and mosses and things, a macro lens is really nice. And also nothing beats a good 50-millimeter lens. You can get a really good 50-millimeter pretty cheap and then you zoom with your feet as the photographers say. So, I can't really tell you what lens to buy. It really depends on what kind of shots you want to get out of it.
And as far as wide aperture versus image stabilization, again, do you want to get a lot of pictures where the background is out of focus that look a little more professional or do you just want snapshots? And I would always use image stabilization in a stream. You know, you're moving around. You're not very stable. Chances are you won't have a tripod. I don't carry a camera outdoors without image stabilization one way or the other, whether it's in the lens or in the body. Actually, all my cameras are Sony, so the stabilization is in the body. I hope that helps, but I can't give you a really concrete advice because it depends on what kind of pictures you want.
Here's a question from Todd, email from Todd, "Confused about advice I hear about getting a fish in. Get them in quickly but don't horse them in either. How long is too long? I fish for trout in small to medium sized streams."
So, Todd, it's a good question, but it can never be too short. The quicker you can get a fish in, the better. But the fish is going to tell you how quickly you can get it in. You know, I've caught a 14-inch trout that would come in like a tamed poodle on a leash. And I've also caught 14-inch fish that took me into my backing. So, you know, when you first hook a fish, you'll probably know how long you're going to have to play that fish because the really hot ones, typically wild fish, and fish in fast current and fish where they're in a high-oxygen environment will just take off. And you can't stop them with any kind of tippet. You're going to have to let them run a little bit. And there are other fish that are...they're going to very quickly come in. But get that fish in as quickly as you can. And you need to know how much pressure you can put on your tippet. You want to put pressure almost to the maximum on your tippet. You just want to get that fish in as close as possible.
sSo, you know, I would say don't worry about not horsing them in. Horse them in if you can, because it's going to be safer for the fish. And plus you get the fish in quicker and you get to go catch another fish. So, anyway, it's something that you'll eventually get a feel for. But just put as much pressure as you can on each fish without breaking your tippet. And if you're not sure about that, tie your tippet to a big log in the river, throw the log in the river and see how much pressure you can put on that log before you break your tippet.
Here's an email from Gary from Derby, Kansas. "Hi, Tom. Thanks for the podcast. I find it to be very informative and helpful as I continue my journey on the fly fishing life. My question is in regards to the life of flies. How long does a typical fly last? The flies I use tend to survive between one to three outings depending on how many fish I catch. I'm sure I have no flies that have survived more than five outings. Is this on the average? I hear people talk of having flies 5 to 10 years old, but surely these aren't being used. Just curious. Thanks again for all you do for the sport."
Gary, you know, it varies depending on how delicate the materials are. Some flies will last for 20, 30, 40 fish before they start to fall apart. It depends on the skill with which the fly is tied and also the materials. And some flies are very delicate and they might not survive two or three fish, things like CDC, very delicate feathers will often break or just fall apart quite quickly. So, it's going to vary. But flies that aren't used, you're right, can last a long time. I have flies in my fly box that are probably 30 years old, and they're 30 years old because I haven't let the hooks get rusty and I've never used them. They're flies I don't really like, but they're still in my fly box. So, they'll last a long time. If you keep them dry and you keep them away from insects in the off season—beetles, and moths, and stuff like that—flies can last for a hundred years if they're stored properly. But as far as how long they're going to last on the river, you know, it depends on if you're catching small trout or big trout. Small trout have small teeth, and they don't tend to tear up flies much. Bigger trout, you know, once they get to be 16 inches or bigger, have pretty good sharp teeth, and they can tear up a fly depending on where you hook them. So it's really going to vary. But I would say, you know, if you're getting one to three outings out of a fly, that's probably pretty average and pretty good.
Jared: Hey, Tom. Greetings from Australia. It's Jared here. I just want to start today with a comment. I heard on your podcast the other week a lady talking about a trout coming up and bumping and nosing and slapping at their fly, I think, six times she said. I've actually seen this happen myself before on one of the local streams I fish. It's a particular spot, which always holds a fish. It's a good location. Now, I fished through here a couple of weeks before and caught quite a good size rainbow in there. I came back through a couple of weeks later and actually presented the same fly through that spot and witnessed the same thing happen. The trout came up three times. I'm hitting it and thrashing it aggressively like I was trying to get it out of his territory. It, sort of, confused me at the time. Anyway, I kept fishing up, and I came back through and I thought I'll try different fly. So I presented a different fly through that run. The fish came up and ate it, and I'm pretty sure it was the same fish that I caught a couple of weeks ago. Now I've thought about it for a while and thought how strange it was. And the only thought that I had was perhaps the fish remembered being caught in that fly and remembered some form of pain being associated to it and was trying to slash at it and get it out of its area because it remembered, you know, something bad being associated with it. So that was just my thoughts on that.
Just a quick tip as well. I hear a lot of people, you know, talking about casting heavier lines, sinking lines, heavier weights and weighted flyers. And as someone that came from exclusively trout fishing and into saltwater wells, I had a bit of trouble crossing over. You know, when I first started, I was always hitting my rod tip with heavy weighted clousers, and I couldn't quite figure it out until I discovered Belgium casts. So Belgium cast is, for those who don't know, you're pulling it back down flat and then repeat it back over the top almost in a constant motion. It sort of creates an open loop, but it means, for one, your rod's always in motion, so you're not getting the shock of, say, a heavy clouser when it comes to a stop, but it also allows you to clear your loops. so you never really have the problem with hitting your fly rod. And although it's an open loop, you can generate a whole bunch of line speed with it, and you really won't struggle on heavyweight roads to empty the reel casting that way. It's also super effective, you know, with the wind behind or wind in the front. You can reverse that cast. You know, start low to high, high to low, depending on what the wind's doing, so it's just a great cast for those that are struggling with casting those heavier lines and heavier weighted flies.
And then final question, something that's been puzzling me for a long time, although it's probably not very important. I just wanted to get your thoughts on it. And that is the x-caddis versus an elk hair caddis. Now I've been taking notes over a long time fishing, switching between both an elk hair caddis and an x-caddis. And undoubtedly in my stream team in Australia, the elk hair caddis seems to outfish an x-caddis constantly, which is strange to me because when I look at the fly, the x-caddis seems like a much better representation with the thin body of an actual caddis. Now, the only thing I can put this down to is that the hackle provides a little bit of movement in the water. Anyway, just wanted to get your thoughts on that and what your experience has been with fishing different caddis patterns and what you find the best. All right. Thanks, Tom, and thanks for everything you do.
Tom: Jared, that's interesting. This fish slapping thing is not going to go away. You know, I'm not sure. I think that, yeah, maybe the fish got used to the fly. And I think what happens a lot is fish do kind of remember fly patterns and their memory now it seems to be from what I can tell about three weeks. Memory of a particular fly or fly patterns, it seems to be about three weeks. And I won't go into detail how I've determined this hypothesis, but it's about three weeks. So that fish might have remembered the fly, and what may have happened is that the fish saw something on the water that looked edible, went for it, and then at the last minute decided, "Oh no, I remember that fly. I've been hooked on it before," and just bumped it just out of... I don't think it would be anger or curiosity. I think it would be just momentum that carried the fish to the fly and the fish kept its mouth shut because it didn't want to inhale the fly. But who knows? Anyways, it's interesting stuff to think about. Definitely.
Yeah, and the Belgian cast is a great cast for, you know, keeping constant tension on your fly, particularly with bigger flies. And for those of you who don't know how to do the Belgian cast, you really need to see a video on it. And there's a great one in the Orvis learning center. If you go into Fly Fishing Video Lessons, Advanced/Intermediate Fly Fishing Lessons, Chapter 13: Advanced Casting Tips #5 Casting sinking lines in the Belgian cast. Pete Kutzer does a great job of showing how to make a Belgian cast, which is a very, very handy cast in lots of circumstances.
Jared, your x-caddis versus elk hair caddis, you know, I find the opposite. I find that the x-caddis is a far more deadly and effective fly than the elk hair caddis. What I suspect is that most of the fish that I'm fishing for are taking emerging caddis. So it's a caddis that's just about hatch, it's still at the surface film, it's still got a shuck hanging onto it, and it's trying to get away but it can't, and fish recognize this vulnerability and they take the x-caddis. I suspect that what your fish are doing is eating adult caddis that are, kind of, fluttering on the surface of the water. Certainly, if the fish are not taking emerging casts but taking fluttering caddis, the elk hair caddis is a better fly because it doesn't have a shuck, and it rides higher on its hackles, and it creates more disturbance, and it looks like a fluttering caddis on the water, even though you may not be moving the fly, the hackle gives it the impression of fluttering around. So, I suspect that's what it is. The other thing is possibly if they're not caddisflies on the water, the fish may be, I don't know how many moths you have that fall into the river in Australia, but the elk hair caddis is a damn good imitation of a small moth. And so the fish may be actually looking for moths and not caddisflies or some other terrestrial, maybe a small hopper or something like that. But anyway, I'd keep trying the x-caddis, because eventually you're going to find some fish that are eating those emergers, and they're going to like the x-caddis better. So that's my theory anyways.
Well, my guest today is Kelsey Rosborough, and Kelsey is another member of our outfitter team. If you are not familiar with the outfitter team, if you ask a question in chat on a fishing product or if you call our dedicated fishing line, we have got a team of experts there who are not just...they're not just people answering the phone. They are people who have vast experience in fly fishing and in fly fishing retail and the products. They're anglers themselves. They understand your problems. And, Kelsey, what's your background before you became a member of the outfitter team?
Kelsey: Yeah, I grew up in the Willamette Valley of Oregon, and I started fly fishing when I was about nine years old. My dad handed me a fly rod and told me that if I could hit the hula hoops in the backyard, that he would take me on his annual fishing trip to the Missouri River in Montana. So, I worked and worked. And we went on a fishing trip there and, kind of, never looked back. You know, I went to high school and didn't do a whole lot of fishing. And then in college, I started working for the Orvis retail store in Portland, Oregon, and learned a lot there from many colleagues and customers, and was promoted to the fishing manager position of the Bellevue, Washington store, which is no longer around, and took a brief break from Orvis, and now I'm back with the outfitter department and happy to be here.
Tom: Cool. Well, we are happy to have you. You're a valuable member of the team, and I know that you've helped lots of customers with their problems and their questions. And, today, we're going to call on your knowledge and want to talk about, kind of, alternative species in the Pacific Northwest. I mean, steelhead and, to a lesser degree, Pacific salmon are the name of the game in your part of the world. But right now, they've got some problems. And whether you choose to leave steelhead alone or not, there aren't as many to chase as there used to be, and hopefully, we can we can fix that problem or at least make it better. But there are other things to do and not pester the steelhead, and hopefully you're gonna tell us about some cool stuff.
Kelsey: Certainly going to try.
Tom: All right, well, take it away.
Kelsey: Sure. So, you know, the big thing to do in the summertime anyway, you know, early season summer is still good for trout fishing. You've got some summer steelhead runs, and actually the Deschutes, which I consider my home water, actually closed this year for steelhead fishing. So it wasn't even an ethical question. I mean, you had to follow the law. You had to leave the steelhead alone. So, I started fishing for, sort of, alternative species, as you call them, namely carp. I'm a big carp fan. Not many people are, but they should be.
Tom: Oh, there's more of us around than you think.
Kelsey: I'm sure there are. You just don't see a ton of social media posts about carp these days. They're around, and I always like them. I follow way too many carp people, so I always like seeing their pictures. But, yeah, I took a liking to carp pretty much from the first time that I saw them. Bass fishing can actually be really, really good, although bass are not native to the Pacific Northwest.
Tom: Neither are carp.
Kelsey: That's true. Yeah, neither are carp. I would say carp are less native than bass. But we also do have some other species like a northern pikeminnow, which are native, and they're actually pretty fun to target. Fly a rod through, they'll crush your fly just like a bass will. And they inhabit some of the same water that not only the carp and bass do, but even salmon and steelhead. I'll be swinging for steelhead sometimes and think you hook a big one, and it turns out that it's a nasty pikeminnow. They'll eat your flies readily too. So when the salmon and steelhead aren't cooperating and you find a big pot of northern pikeminnow, the fishing day can be saved.
Tom: Are streamers mainly for pikeminnows?
Kelsey: Yes. Yep, I typically swing my favorite black and blue leech for steelhead, but any kind of olives, sometimes black, sometimes white, you can get pikeminnow to eat. I prefer mostly black and white. I'm kind of simple with my streamers, black and white, either marabou or rabbit and a little bit of flash usually gets the job done on most of the predatory species.
Tom: And if you wanted to target pikeminnow, you know, what kind of water would you look for? You know, is it the same water that you'd find steelhead in or are they in slower water and do...?
Kelsey: Yeah, not really. I would say the pikeminnow... You're familiar with steelhead fishing. If you've got a big, long run steelhead, I'm going to target are mostly in the head and then the tailout of the run. And then the pikeminnow that I'd seem to catch, it's usually an accident to be honest with you, but I'll be swinging into, sort of, the start of the tailout, and these pikeminnow are, kind of, hanging out above the true tailout right before it starts to shallow up. That's kind of where I find most of the pikeminnow that I catch.
Tom: Mm-hmm, and you say you could see them schooling in there.
Kelsey: You can if you're crazy like me and travel on the, sort of, sometimes dangerous rivers via paddleboard to get to one side of the river. Yeah, you can see them sometimes.
Tom: Okay. All right, but let's talk about species that are probably going to be more popular with anglers, and that's small mouths and carp.
Kelsey: Yup, totally. I would say, you know, mostly Oregon—I'm not as familiar with Washington—but we've got some really good small mouth fisheries and carp fisheries. I would say, you know, to my knowledge, the Columbia is world-class as far as the carp fishing goes. There are millions of them, and they get really, really big in that big river. And then also the small mouth bass fishery can be amazing at certain times of the year. And, you know, unfortunately they're not native, and I'm sure they're eating some of the salmon and steelhead's smolt, but they're there and they're fun to target. And they're not going anywhere, so I feel like you may as well try and leave some of native species alone while they're having some trouble and target these fish that eat flies readily and pull really hard.
Tom: Yeah. Yes. There's not much better fish for a fly rod than a small mouth. So, let's talk about places you might look for small mouth and, you know, not without giving away secret spots but just kind of general areas, bigger rivers, things like that, and then what kind of techniques you use to target small mouths there.
Kelsey: Sure. Yeah. Well, we have a number of rivers down south in the southern Willamette Valley that holds small mouths. They don't generally mix really well with the trout streams, but even in, like, the lower Deschutes, you're going to find those small mouth that nose up into the mouth of the Deschutes from the Columbia. The Columbia itself has a crazy number of small mouth bass. Any Willamette mainstem and lower Willamette sections and tributaries are going to have some small mouth bass nosing up into those. And then you can also find them in low elevation lakes, kind of, scattered around the Willamette Valley in Oregon. You can find them right near downtown Seattle between Seattle and Bellevue in Lake Washington. They're in there too. Lake Sammamish also. So, around big cities where most of the people are, you can find them.
Tom: You know, what kind of water do you look for and what flies do you find work best for your small mouth?
Kelsey: Well, it depends truly on what body of water you're fishing. In lakes, I'm looking for structure. Not a lot of water movement, so I'm looking for structure, I'm looking for weed beds, and that's where you'll find them there. I like to rip some streamers. Sometimes I'll throw some poppers. I usually prefer lower light conditions for the top water stuff. And then in the rivers, I like a little bit of water movement, and then, sort of, drop-offs and rocky ledges is where you're going to find most of those small mouths.
Tom: Mm-hmm, and mainly crayfish and bait fish eaters in your radius.
Kelsey: Absolutely, absolute. Yep. We have a number of rivers that have a healthy crayfish population. And then, again, I'm a simple fisherman. It's just tough to beat a clouser minnow [inaudible 01:02:25].
Tom: Okay. I was going to ask you your favorite pair. And what color of clouser minnow do you like for small mouth?
Kelsey: Oh, it's got to be chartreuse and white.
Tom: Chartreuse and white, okay.
Kelsey: I'll go all white too. But, you know, we used to actually sell a fly called a Hawkins' Hat Trick. I'm not so sure that it's in our lineup anymore, but that is definite my favorite, lesser known small mouth fly.
Tom: Mm-hmm. Okay, okay. Any other ones that you like?
Kelsey: You know, I pretty much stick to the Hawkins' Hat Trick. The Dolly Llama works well. That's going to be my favorite for if I need to get down a little bit deeper, you know, tying a massive one with a cone head. So, yeah, Dolly Llamas, Hawkins' Hat Tricks, even a Wooly Bugger works. And then, you know, I do like some of our smaller popper patterns for small mouth. You can go larger for occasional large mouth fishing, but the smaller popper patterns are really fun when the fish are active.
Tom: Mm-hmm, and what do you like for a crayfish imitation? You have a favorite crayfish fly?
Kelsey: To be honest with you, I don't. I don't have a whole lot of experience fishing crayfish patterns. To be honest with you, I think that's kind of in my own head because I don't really know how to fish them effectively. So I prefer to just kind of, like, pitch a streamer and see what happens. And I'm not real patient to let the fly sink all the way to the bottom and jig it. So, I usually do okay, and the fishing is usually good enough for me with the streamers that are higher up in the water column.
Tom: That could look like a fleeing crayfish too.
Kelsey: Totally.
Tom: A crayfish that's trying to get away and really swimming will swim sometimes up toward the top and, you know, they don't look like much. They just kind of look like a wiggly mass when they swim. So, streamers can work. I mean, you don't often want your crayfish to look like a crayfish looks like sitting on the bottom. You want it to look like swimming crayfish.
Kelsey: Totally.
Tom: Okay. Now I know that you want to talk mostly about carp and honestly so do I. I love carp fishing. So let's talk about northwest carp fishing.
Kelsey: Yeah. So, again, they're going to be in similar watersheds, low elevation lakes, and, you know, basically anything that attaches to the Columbia or the Willamette systems. They're going to have carp in them. And also floodplains of both of those rivers at the right time of the year early season. It's really tough to get in. There's a lot of water coming from... Well, the Columbia is fed by, you know, all the way from the Clark Fork in Montana. Part of that snow melt from Montana comes out all the way to us. So, we've got a lot of water early season, and it's tough to find spots where you can access the river because it's so high. So, anything that's flooded that attaches can hold carp. So, I actually caught my very first one in a cow field with cows all around me.
Tom: No kidding. Wow.
Kelsey: No, it's not a lie. I used to fish these flooded cow fields, and there were carp everywhere. It was pretty fun.
Tom: Oh, wow. Yeah. So the Columbia is a huge river. It's monstrous. What do you look for if you're looking for a carp spot on the Columbia? What kind of water do you look for other than cow fields?
Kelsey: Yeah. No, those are a little tougher. The first thing I want to do is look on some, sort of, satellite image. So, you're looking for... You know, Google maps is your best friend. You're looking for a flat area. It is really, really tough to catch carp in water that you're standing in that's above your knee. You can do it thigh deep sometimes, but it's certainly not ideal. So I'm looking for long, flat areas that you can see on the map. Sometimes you have to use your phone. Sometimes that's different from a computer just based on what images that they're using at the time. And water levels are going to be tricky.
The Columbia is dammed, so they can release more water sometimes. And up until Bonneville Dam, which is a ways upstream from Portland, it's all tidal. So, at different times of the day, you're actually going to get varying water levels, which can sometimes be advantageous and sometimes that's not... Excuse me. Wow. Sometimes not so fun.
Tom: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm. Yup.
Kelsey: So, yeah, you're looking for flat areas. And if you get to that area and it's sort of a combination of rocky and muddy bottom, that's what you're looking for. The food source is going to be the most important. So, we have a really healthy population of fresh water clams. And you can often see these crushed up or broken clamshells that are bright white. And if you see divots in the mud, you can pretty much guarantee that there have been and will be carp around again at some point.
Tom: How do you catch a clam-eating carp?
Kelsey: Well, the clam fly is the best one.
Tom: There is a clam fly?
Kelsey: I'm not so sure that this is, you know, 100% a clam fly. It's essentially a flesh fly, but the current store manager of the Lake Oswego store showed me this. I tie it on about a size 4 to an 8 hook. You got to vary the weight a little bit, depending on which kind of carp you're going to target, but it's basically tan or ginger cross-cut rabbit. Yeah, so I tie them on about a size 4 to 8 hook, and you wrap that cross-cut rabbit up the hook and add some weight, whip finish, and you're good to go.
Tom: Do you trim it top and bottom or did you just leave it splaying all over the place?
Kelsey: Oh, no, you don't need to trim it. It's just needs to wave a little bit like a little bit of broken clam flesh.
Tom: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm. And you just throw those ahead of a tailing carp and [inaudible 01:09:35] they come along and eat it.
Kelsey: Well, it depends a little bit on the type of fish that you're targeting. So I like to say... Well, in my observation, there are about four types. You've got the happy fish, which are the tailors. Those are your best targets. You're going to see them eating, actively feeding, not moving a whole lot. You just plop your fly pretty much right on their head, let it drop, and oftentimes those are going to be the ones that eat. And you've got your cruisers. They're on the move. They're doing their thing. Not great targets. It's tough to get those to eat. I can't really help myself, so I like to take shots at them but not often do you get one of those that wants to eat. And then you've got your centers. I call them centers.
Tom: We call them sleepy Joes.
Kelsey: Sure, sleepy Joes works, too. And I just like to sneak up on those ones really, really quietly, DAP the fly red on their nose, and oftentimes I think it's just kind of a reactionary strike where they can just, kind of, suck it in and away you go. And then you've got your jumpers. And to be honest with you, I'm not sure if that's 100% a spawning behavior or if they're clearing their gills from [inaudible 01:11:01] around in the mud, but those are not good targets either.
Tom: Yup, yup. I have had good luck with jumpers, not during spawning season, but after spring season, just throwing a squirmy worm out there and just letting it settle slowly. That has worked for me on jumpers occasionally. I don't know if it would work out there, but it works here.
Kelsey: And the jumpers, you know, they may not be the best targets, but you can almost guarantee that you're going to find other carp around that are willing to eat.
Tom: Mm-hmm. Yeah, yeah.
Kelsey: Yeah, if you see jumpers.
Tom: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm. So, how about how about lakes? What are you, you know... Probably a lot of small suburban lakes and ponds in the area have carp in them as well.
Kelsey: Yup, yup. Lakes are a little bit tougher. You can find access to them in, you know, mostly parks. Lakes are a little bit tougher for me because there are often other people around or oftentimes people that are, you know, throwing rocks or fishing already. And most of the times that I see people catching carp in lakes, they're just throwing bait and it's deeper. So it's hard to tell to target the fish in the lakes. But if you see, again, kind of, a combination of muddy bottom, usually there are more weeds in lakes, so you'll oftentimes see cruising fish, kind of, meandering around through the weeds. A thing to look for there is channels through the weeds. Carp oftentimes use the same path to get from place to place, so you can look for them in the channels in the weeds, especially in lakes.
Tom: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm. Now in your river fishing, do you see mudders? Do you look for muds?
Kelsey: Yeah. And actually sometimes it's almost impossible to see the individual mudders because there are so many of them making this giant mud that, yeah, the rest of the river will be running clear. And then all of a sudden you'll happen upon this giant mud ball. But, yes, certainly you do see individual mudders.
Tom: So that's something to look forward to if you're just, kind of, driving along or walking along, if the river is clear, look for patches of mud.
Kelsey: Absolutely. Yep, yep. And then basically, you know, polarized glasses are a necessity. So if you're driving along and you can see a large flat area and especially if you see some mud or, I mean, a tail is just the best thing to see if you're driving along. You got to try not to drive off the road straight into the river when you see that. But, yeah, you're definitely looking for muds, you're looking for tails, especially if there's a calm section, disturbances in the water that shouldn't be there.
Tom: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm. Do you find carp in moving water sometimes as well in the Columbia?
Kelsey: Absolutely, absolutely. Yep. You know, the Columbia floods and there are a bunch of tributaries that come in in varying spots, and you'll see carp in that moving water. Almost, it's like the head of a mini rapid, you'll see them, you know, sucking whatever they're sucking off of, kind of, the rocks and the heads of those moving water areas. I've never swung one. I've tried. It doesn't work so well.
Tom: Yeah, dead drift is usually...
Kelsey: Yeah, yeah. And that's why I like to vary the weights because if you do have that moving water, you need something heavy to get down quicker.
Tom: Right. So, you're sight fishing and, kind of, high sticking them when you see them in that current?
Kelsey: Mm-hmm. Yep, yep, and you've really got to... You know, it depends on the way to your fly, but I like something obscenely heavy at that point and you just flick it up and then kind of bounce it along the bottom as you can. And a lot of times, if you hit them close enough, they'll suck it in.
Tom: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm. What are some of your other favorite carp flies for that part of the world, Kelsey?
Kelsey: Yeah, so we have a lot of damselflies around, and worms are a constant food source. There's a fly called John Montana's Hybrid that I really, really like. And that's basically just a chenille tail with whatever color body you want, usually olive, a hackle collar. And I tie a little bit of a variant. I like white rubber legs on mine. I have them without, but I really, really liked to be able to see that fish inhale the fly. And it's a lot easier to watch white rubber legs disappear than a tiny little hybrid. So I try the ones with the white rubber legs first.
Tom: Okay. And how many rubber legs do you put? I'm just curious because you must have to put it on enough so you can see it. How many?
Kelsey: Oh, yeah, just like four. And not real big on those, you know, just enough so you can see it. So, you know, you tie one piece in and that creates two legs. So just one of those pieces on each side.
Tom: Mm-hmm. Okay, okay. What other patterns do you like for carp there?
Kelsey: Yeah, it's mostly clams, worms, and the hybrids. So purple worms and red, kind of, blood worms are a favorite as well.
Tom: And how do you tie your worms? What do you use for those?
Kelsey: You know, they're not real picky in my experience. So just a little bit of chenille, just like your San Juan worm, although I will create some, again, obscenely heavy worms with some dumbbell eyes and, kind of, wrap the chenille haphazardly around the dumbbell eyes to cover them up a little bit.
Tom: Okay. Uh-huh. Yep. So you got a tail, you got a head and a tail, and then in the middle, you wrap it around the eyes a little bit.
Kelsey: Yep, yep, that's right.
Tom: Cool. These carp are pretty big. What tackle do you prefer for...?
Kelsey: So, yeah, they are big. They are rod breakers. Ask me how I know. Yeah, I had to call the Orvis outfitter department after a day of carp fishing one time because I shattered my weight. But, yeah, you know, I prefer anything from a 7 weight to 9 weight. I prefer a fast-action rod. As far as lines go, I'm a little bit nerdy about my fly lines, and I like our PRO Power Taper line. It gives you that quick shot that you need sometimes And then as far as like leaders and tippet, I haven't found them to be real leader-shy as far as diameter goes. So I usually go with like 1X or 0X. I've done it with 20-pound. I really don't think they care, but I was using a 20-pound when I broke my 8 weight. So I haven't used 20 pounds since.
Tom: Yeah, 16 will do it.
Kelsey: Yep, yep.
Tom: Wow. That's a big carp.
Kelsey: Yeah, yeah. I mean, I would say on a really good day of carp fishing. If you're into them thick, you're probably going to have at least, you know, in the area near Portland on the Columbia, you can have days where you take, I don't know, 75 or 80 shots at carp. And then if you land 20 of them, one, two or three of them could be over 20 pounds.
Tom: That's a hell of a day of carp fishing.
Kelsey: It's pretty fun sometimes.
Tom: And is there not much pressure on these fish? Because, you know, carp get pretty tough once they get pressured. They're not stupid. Is there much pressure on these carps?
Kelsey: Not really. You know, a couple of the fly shops advertise it a little bit. But the thing about the Columbia is that these fish move around so much. I mean, you know, they're in between dams and stuff, but they can go all the way to Washington from Oregon or, you know, flip sides of the river, no problem. So they're constantly, I think, new fish coming into these same spots and, you know, sort of eating as they please. But there's so many of them, and the river is so vast that really haven't had a problem much with pressure...
Tom: That's great. That's really great.
Kelsey: So far anyway.
Tom: That's fantastic. And I guess it's a big river, so there's so much water and fish.
Kelsey: Yeah, it's a ton of water. And then you really... I mean, if you're in downtown Portland and you want to drive and you want to go for a carp, I mean, you have tons of access to fishable water out the Columbia River Gorge on both sides of the Columbia. Really within 20 minutes, you can be to excellent carp fishing. And then if you want to go all the way out the gorge to where it's warmer, there are literally big carp out there, too. And, yeah, there's plenty of access.
Tom: Wow. Sounds like heaven for a carp angler.
Kelsey: It's really fun. Sometimes you want a boat. It helps to have the boat. You can usually get places. If you know where to go, you can usually get to good flats walking. It just takes some effort. But, yeah, once you get a little bit away from the road, that's, kind of, where I prefer to fish, not near a massive interstate.
Tom: Yeah. Yeah, I can imagine that. Wow.
Kelsey: Yeah. Beautiful area. Tons of fish. And then, you know, in those same areas, you do have. small mouth bass too. So occasionally you would just come across a giant log in the river, and it's usually worth to check over to, because you never know. Sometimes a big, small mouth will be sitting there. And they'll eat the clam and the hybrid, too.
Tom: They will, really?
Kelsey: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. Like I said, I don't think these fish get a ton of pressure. So you could just flip anything into them and a lot of times, you know, it's worth a shot anyway. That's the way I look at it.
Tom: It doesn't sound like your carp as quite as spooky as some of the ones I fish for. Are they pretty easy to approach or are they spooky?
Kelsey: It really depends on the day to be honest with you. I've been out there where I have to pull my leader into my guides to make a "cast" because there are so many carp around me that you don't even need to cast to them and they're just hanging out next to your legs. Other times, you can see them, and this is actually how I prefer to do it. I like to cast a fly line. So, you know, you'd take a 20 or 30-foot shot and sometimes, you know, you land a big fly on their head and they'll spook for sure.
Tom: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm. Okay, but it doesn't sound like they're quite as spooky as the fish I'm used to. So that's pretty...
Kelsey: Probably not.
Tom: It's pretty cool.
Kelsey: Yeah, probably not.
Tom: Sounds like they eat better too.
Kelsey: They eat very, very readily.
Tom: Must be a lot of crayfish around. I found that when carp [inaudible 01:23:29] a lot of crayfish around, they tend to get more aggressive in their feeding.
Kelsey: Sure. Yeah, I mean, to be honest with you, in the Columbia anyway, I don't think I've ever seen a crayfish. I'm sure they're there, but the flats that I usually fish, it's not like you're spooking a lot of crayfish as you walk.
Tom: So they're eating worms and clams.
Kelsey: I mean, yeah, some of these flats, you can walk for, I don't know, probably half a mile to a mile of just straight divoted mud where they're just digging on clams.
Tom: Wow. Now, do your carp eat some bait fish? Because in some places, like, I don't know, Lake Michigan, they actually eat gobies. They actually will chase a fly down because they're eating bait fish. Do you see that at all?
Kelsey: Never. I've never experienced that. I haven't done a lot of experimenting with a bait fish pattern or even just like a wooly bugger that's stripped or anything like that. But there's never been a time where I've seen, you know, carp busting bait fish or anything like that or really looking like they're aggressively chasing after something. Usually they're just digging.
Tom: Just digging but they'll still eat a fly even though they're eating clams. Huh, wow.
Kelsey: It's really just a flesh fly but we call it a clam fly and it works.
Tom: I could tie those.
Kelsey: Tie about two dozen of them right before you leave in the morning and just go out.
Tom: All right. Is there anything else you would want to share about either carp or bass fishing in your area?
Kelsey: You know, one thing I would like to say is that carp fishing in my area is one of the few times in my experience anyway where a large-arbor reel with a good amount of backing is almost necessary. The Columbia is a big river. These fish takeoff and you will see your backing. Usually that's not the case in most freshwater situations, but you will see your backing on the Columbia if you hook a big fish.
Tom: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm. What's the biggest carp you've landed out of the Columbia?
Kelsey: Well, the biggest that I have weighed... I don't take a tape out there, but I take a scale sometimes and just measure the net and then subtract the weight of the net. Around 22 pounds.
Tom: Wow, big carp.
Kelsey: I've seen bigger ones, but those ones seem to be a little smarter.
Tom: Yeah, they've probably seen a few flies in their time.
Kelsey: Yeah, yeah, or been hooked by the bait fishermen. There are actually a few people that actively target them with bait, and I'm sure those big ones have been caught by bait anglers before.
Tom: Do people shoot with bow and arrow there?
Kelsey: I don't actually know that it's legal, but I've never seen anybody bow fishing. Gosh, I hope it's not legal and nobody listening to this podcast wants to go bow fishing, but I've never seen it. You would do well. Let me put it that way.
Tom: I've noticed that places where they bow fish, they get really spooky for obvious reasons. And that may be why our carp are spookier, because I know it's legal in Vermont and New York State, and it may be legal other places in the east. But, you know, people do go out with bows and shoot them for I don't know why.
Kelsey: Sure, yeah. I mean, I don't think it's legal. I'm not 100% sure on that. I would have to check the regulations, but you would do well if it happened to be legal.
Tom: We don't want to go there though. We don't want to encourage anybody.
Kelsey: No, and, you know, they're not native but just another point is that even though they're not native, they get a bit of a bad rap and a lot of people want you to just, you know, "Oh, you're fishing for carp. Why aren't you throwing them up on the bank?" Well, they're here to stay. If I killed every carp that I ever caught, I wouldn't have put a dent in their population. So I use barbless hooks for them. I don't kick them around or anything like that, and I just let them do their thing.
Tom: Mm-hmm. Yeah, yeah. They're not going away.
Kelsey: Nope, nope. Not a chance.
Tom: Especially with angling pressure, they're not going away.
Kelsey: Totally. Yep, exactly right.
Tom: We might as well enjoy them while they're there.
Kelsey: Yep, I totally agree.
Tom: All right, Kelsey. Well, I want to thank you for taking us on a little tour of your area and recommending, you know, some fun species to target on the fly rod. Too bad you can't swing for... You can swing for small mouth. They'll occasionally take a swung fly.
Kelsey: Oh, yeah. Yep. I've been swinging for steelhead sometimes, and you get the small mouth bite, and you're just a little bit disappointed in that one, but they've saved a skunk day before.
Tom: You could take a trout spey out and target small mouth swinging. It might be fun.
Kelsey: Yep, you definitely can. And it is fun.
Tom: All right, Kelsey. Well, thank you so much. We've been talking to Kelsey Rosborough of the outfitter team at Orvis. And, you know, if you need some help on a product or you got a problem with a product or you just have questions, these are the people to ask. There's 14 individuals that really know their stuff. And, Kelsey, do you know what the toll-free number is? I don't have it here.
Kelsey: I do. I actually have it memorized. It is 800-548-9548.
Tom: Okay, that's the one. And there's an 888 number, too. That one's on the website.
Kelsey: I think there is, but the 800 number will get you there. You can also email us at We will see those emails and respond. If you have any questions, that's totally cool. You can webchat. You can give us a call. We're happy to answer any questions you have.
Tom: All right. Well, thank you so much, Kelsey, and wish you all the best.
Kelsey: Thank you very much, Tom.
Tom: Okay, bye-bye.
Kelsey: All right, bye.
Man: Thanks for listening to the Orvis Fly Fishing Podcast with Tom Rosenbauer. You can be a part of show. Have a question or a comment? Send it to us at in the body of an email or as a voice tag. You can find more free fishing tips and how to fly fish at