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How to Find Your Own Small Stream, with Donna Smith

Description: Finding those tiny, unpressured trout streams is a delightful form of exploration. You won’t find them on the internet or in books or magazine articles—at least the ones you really want to fish. But finding a small stream that you’ll probably have all to yourself and discovering the delights of catching eager trout on dries and nymphs—and sometimes small streamers—is one of the purest ways of enjoying fly fishing. Donna Smith [48:38], a member of the Orvis Outfitter team and an expert on small stream trout fishing tells us how to go about it.
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Podcast Transcript:

Tom: Hi, and welcome to the "Orvis Fly-Fishing" podcast. This is your host Tom Rosenbauer. And my guest this week is Donna Smith. Donna is one of the very talented members of the Orvis Outfitter team. She's one of the people who answers your technical questions on rods, and reels, and lines, and tackle, and fly tying. Donna lives in the Driftless area of Wisconsin. She's a small stream specialist. She's got a lot of small streams in her area. And the topic today is how to find your own small stream because most of these little trout streams, nobody's gonna tell you about them. You're not going to find out about them on the internet. You're probably not gonna hear about them from somebody you're listening to in a bar. They're not going to tell you about them. You're probably not going to read about them in a magazine, you're gonna have to find them yourself. And that's really part of the appeal of small stream fishing and small stream exploration, is the exploration. So, Donna is going to give us some tips on how to find your own small stream. I hope you enjoy it.

But first, let's do the fly box. This is where you ask questions, or you make comments, or you send in tips and I read them if I think they're good tips, or I try to answer the questions, or I take your criticisms. And if you have a question, or a comment, or a tip, you can email it to me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Either just type your question in your email or attach a voice file, and maybe I'll read it on the air. The first question is from Collin. I have a question about textured fly line, and if it affects fishing in the sense of spooking fish. I mainly fish saltwater in 1 to 8 feet of water and can't help but think that a textured line that is zipping through the guides when I strip is being felt or heard by the fish, especially in the 1 to 4-foot range. Is this feeling of possibly spooking fish from the textured line correct? Or am I overthinking using a textured line? Any other info or advice in this field of questioning would be greatly appreciated.

Well, Collin, that's a really good question. And I don't think there is a definite answer to that. I use textured lines when I'm fishing for bonefish and redfish, which are extremely spooky fish in shallow water. And I don't think it's spooks fish. I like the textured lines because they cast a little bit farther. You get a little bit of extra distance with a textured line because of the friction reduction. They float a little bit better, so they pick up off the water a little quicker. But they do make noise in the guides. And I know a number of bonefish guides who don't like texture lines because they think it does spook the fish, they think the fish can feel it or hear it being stripped through the guide. So, I don't have a definite answer for you. There are definitely opinions on both sides of it. And, you know, luckily the Orvis PRO lines are available in both in textured and smooth. So, if you worry about the texture...and I don't think you're overthinking it. I think it's definitely a valid concern. Then, you can go to the smooth line, that's a little expensive to try both of them. They're not cheap lines. But I think you're gonna have to maybe talk to some of the anglers or the guides in your area where you fish and see how they feel about textured lines. But there is a concern among some people about that.

Here's an email from James from Tennessee. Due to a fear of shortage of materials and potential price increases in the flies I normally buy, I'm forcing myself to get better at tying. I can find fly recipes and materials, for the most part. I live near a tailwater that has a particular hatch that is active for most of the year. So, most of my flies will be one type of the possible variants in size. On its tying videos, has Orvis ever considered providing direct links from its fly tying videos to the materials needed or substitute materials needed to be able to tie the fly in the video? I think this would be helpful for those who are new to fly tying. Granted, I do not buy fly tying materials often, and other sites may already do what I'm suggesting, but I think this would make it easier for individuals that may only need to rely on a couple of patterns to buy what they need from the Orvis website, if this was all linked together. Also, thank you for your tying streams. They're very informative. Finally, I noticed that the Orvis Superfine Glass is no longer for sale on the website. Is this a supply chain issue? Or is the rod being upgraded, like, what occurred with the clear water and Recon over the past couple of years? If this is something that is a company secret and cannot be addressed, I understand. I ask this question as my 3-weight superfine glass is one of my favorite rods and I hope that Orvis is not abandoning fiberglass rods. I also noticed that wanting fiberglass in a fly rod is still an option on question 8 of the Orvis Fly Rod Selector tool. So, this option may need to be removed depending on the future of fiberglass rods at Orvis.

Well, James, there's a couple of interesting questions. First of all, you know, in the past, I remember that in the old days, all the flies on the Orvis website used to have the materials to tie those flies listed. And it became problematical because materials become unavailable, they get replaced by another material. You know, if you tried to include substitutes in those, it would get even more complicated. And we just didn't want to disappoint people because of broken links, or because of stuff that wasn't available. So, we don't do that now just because, honestly, it's a constant maintenance problem to keep up with what's in and what's out. And I think it would end up being more frustrating for people than it would be helpful. So, you know, the materials are fairly easy to find on a search on the website, or whether the Orvis website or another website. So, I think you're gonna have to live with what you have now. I don't plan on, and I don't think anybody else plans on linking materials on the videos to the website. Regarding superfine glass... Okay, you guys can't tell anybody I told you this, all right? Nobody at Orvis listens to my podcast, so I'm probably safe. But it is top secret. But since you people are loyal podcast fans, occasionally, I tip you off on something. So, I'll let you know what's going on with fiberglass rods.

And to make a short story long, during the pandemic, there was a surprisingly great demand for fly rods. People wanted to get out and fish. There were a lot of new people getting into fly fishing, and rods were just selling like crazy because people wanted to get outside. And combined with that, we had to reduce the staff in our rod shop because of the spacing requirements during the pandemic. So, we couldn't put as many people in the rod shop, thus we couldn't produce as many rods as we wanted to. And what happened was we concentrated on graphite rods, getting the most popular rods out there for people, and we had to triage. We had to triage the rod models that we put out there. We had to concentrate on the most popular ones. So, we kind of reduced the production of glass rods because those are all made in our rod shop in Vermont. They're not imported or anything, so we make them all here.

And at the same time, Shawn Combs, a rod designer decided that it would be better to have 4-piece superfine glass rods. They were 3-piece, and 3-piece are a little bit more difficult to travel with. And, you know, with the technology we have today, you can make a 4-piece rod that's every bit is as smooth and full flexing and seamless as a 3-piece rod, or a 2-piece rod, or a 1-piece rod. So, Shawn wanted to do take all the superfine glass models and make them into 4-piece rod. So, I changed the cosmetics. I think the new ones are really, really sexy, and they will be 4-piece. Orvis is definitely not getting out of the glass market or getting out of producing fiberglass rods. I can't tell you exactly when they're going to be available, but it won't be too long. If you need a rod right now, not going to get it. But if you can wait a little bit, we will have 4-piece glass rods. So, again, don't tell anybody I told you this. It's top secret.

Ted: Hi, Tom. Ted calling from Oakland, California with a fly-tying question. And it's been a long-standing question between my brother and I, who are both tiers. And we've always pondered if there's a fly or technique that is the most difficult, or one of the most difficult things in fly tying. And it's been interesting over the years to see, you know, how that has changed for each of us. We tie different types of flies, generally. And it always seems like, yeah, there is a technique or a pattern that initially seems very difficult, and then you work with it for a little bit and it becomes much less difficult. But there's also those things that, and they're different for both of us, that are still difficult even after tying dozens of examples, or something like that. And I was wondering for somebody who's been tying as long as you have, if there are still things that you think are objectively more difficult in fly tying than others, given, you know, the wide variety of things you could do on the vice? I'd be curious to hear if you have any thoughts. And thanks as always for the podcast also I love you and Tim's tie-offs. Hope you're doing well. Good luck with the season, and thanks again.

Tom: You know, I still find a lot of things difficult and challenging in fly tying. I've finally gotten a lot more comfortable with deer hair. I used to be a little bit nervous about spinning deer hair heads and trimming deer hair, and I've got gotten a lot more comfortable with that. But some of the things that I find difficult are, winding CDC, you know, I just never liked the way it winds, and I know you can tie it in bunches. But there's times when you want to wind to CDC feather, and I just find that to be not really satisfying the way... I love CDC and I love the way it fishes, but tying it in and winding it I find still difficult. Quill wings on traditional wet flies, I still find fairly difficult. And, you know, I've really forced myself to concentrate on techniques that I find difficult, but, you know, I get more comfortable. I mean, game changers is one thing. You know, tying all those segments in game changers was really intimidating to me, but when I actually started doing them, yeah, they're time-consuming, and trimming them to get them just right is difficult. But, you know, I found that if you slow down and you concentrate step by step, you get some good instructions, and you look at some of the videos online, or you look at some of the instructions in a book like Blane Chocklett's book on game-changers, it's not that hard. So, you know, none of these things in fly tying are that especially difficult once you practice them, really. You know, winding hackles, winding traditional hackles is still...I think I'm pretty good at it but I'm not as good as I'd like to be, you know, just winding hackle on a Catskill dry fly and getting it just perfect. A lot of it's material selection, too. You know, a lot of it isn't so much the technique is getting the exact right hackle or piece of deer hair for doing those things. So, I think that if you concentrate on material selection, and having a variety of hackle sizes, and the sizes and coarseness and texture of deer hair, and things like that, makes it a lot easier. I know that's not a really definitive answer, but I can't think of anything that I really find that difficult once I practice it, and I think that would be the same for any tier.

Here's an email from Bill. Longtime listener, first time questioning. I have a "fast action" 10-weight rod for Saltwater flats fishing. It is difficult to feel the rod load. Would using an 11-weight line help? The answer Bill is yes. You know, a lot of rods today, and especially rods that were made in the past 10 or 15 years, are really super fast. And by super fast, I mean super stiff. And you can get a long cast with a rod that... Honestly, I would consider underlined. And a lot of the rods I think that are sold today, not necessarily Orvis rods, but some other brands. Orvis pretty much sticks to rods that cast the line that the rod is rated for. But there are a lot of people that make rods that feel very, very powerful and feel very light and very stiff, that are actually underlying. So, if you're having trouble with that fast action 10-weight, yeah. I think an 11-weight line is gonna help, of course. You know, it's sometimes kind of self-defeating because not so much 10s and 11s, but you've got a 4-weight rod that's really super stiff. But you're using it for a situation where a 4-weight line is appropriate. So, smaller flies, smaller nymphs, more delicate cast, by overlining it, you have to go to a 5-weight line, which is going to be land on the water a little harder, and not going to be quite as delicate. Is that gonna get you anywhere? Well, it'll make the rod feel better and cast better, and you'll be more comfortable with it but you're fishing a 5-weight instead of a 4-weight. You know, it's always best to try to get a rod that casts best with the line it's rated for because that's what you're buying, right, is you're buying a line size. When you've got a situation that you want to solve for fishing, you pick a line size first really and then you decide what rod is going to work for that line size because it's a line size that determines your delicacy, and how far you can cast, and how big of a fly. You can throw in, to a certain extent, how big a fish you can play with that rod.

Here's an email from Shane. Hi, Tom. How are you? I know you've already read one of my emails on the air, but I have a complaint about the last few episodes I just have to get off my chest and I hope you'll read it. My problem however isn't with you, or with your last guest, Kirk Dieter, it's with the listening audience. In the episodes leading up to the last few, I recall you mentioning that the next few guests might be somewhat controversial, and I was quite excited to hear what you had on deck. Although I may not have agreed with everything they said, I enjoyed them a lot. At only 36, I'm still a pretty young man. But I remember a time when we would sit down with our friends and colleagues to have a beer or a cup of coffee with the sole purpose of having a conversation and sharing opinions on different things. We could disagree and still respect each other's views and remain friends. Quite frankly, it really ticks me off to hear your listeners thank you for all you do for the sport on one side of their mouth, then complain about the content with the other. We are extremely lucky that one of the most knowledgeable guys in the business does a free podcast to help spread information. My suggestion would be to those people, if you want to live in an echo chamber of your own personal opinions, maybe you should do your own podcast. This type of mindset is bad for the sport and is exactly what has given it the stereotype of the old white guy with the Filson hat and red flannel jacket we've been working so hard to break. From the bottom of my heart, thank you and keep the spicy content coming.

Well, thank you, Shane. I'm not so sure I want to do too much more spicy comment. The important thing is, if you listen to podcasts, or you watch videos, and you don't read the comments, and you don't pay any attention to social media, you won't have to deal with all that crap. So, you know, I made it a point after that episode that I did with Kirk Dieter not to read any comments on Facebook. I don't read comments on Facebook anyways. I don't really need opinions from everyone in the world. I don't really care about them. And, you know, I do listen, and I take to heart comments that come into the podcast. But I don't pay much attention to general trolling on social media. So, I'd advise you just to, you know, listen to the podcast, don't go on social media and you and I won't have to worry about dealing with that stuff. But thank you very much for taking the time to comment.

Here's an email from George, quick one. Tom, thanks for all your hard work and podcast teaching. Any thoughts on de-barbing bonefish and permit flies? Yeah, George, you know, one of my favorite bonefishing buddies is Aaron Adams, who's the chief scientist for Bonefish & Tarpon Trust. And Aaron de-barbs all of his bonefish flies. And I have started doing that a long time ago when I started fishing with Aaron. And it's a definitely thing you want to do because sometimes bonefish will take a fly deep, particularly a crab fly, they take them down into their crushes. And handling time is the worst thing. The less time you can handle any fish, the better it's going to survive. And a de-barbed fly is going to come out much quicker often. Often it'll just pop out as soon as you get it to hand. So, that's Bonefish flies. Now, permit flies, you know, I have to admit that we don't hook that many permit. And it is sometimes easier to lose a fish on a barbless fly, particularly a heavily-weighted barbless fly like a permit fly. And we don't hook that many permit. And they have a pretty tough mouth. And, yeah, I know a de-barbed hook will go in a little bit easier. But honestly, I think twice about de-barbing a permit fly. Most guides that want to land a tarpon don't de-barb their tarpon flies because, you know, tarpon can shake a fly easily enough and, again, they have a tough mouth. So, I de-barb all my bonefish flies. And I will say that if I had already caught one permit in a day, if I was lucky enough, then I would probably de-barb all the rest of my permit flies for the rest of the day. But, you know, getting that one fish...yeah, I don't know. So, it's up to you. It will be easy to release that permit, but we don't land that many, and.. of course, that probably argues for de-barbing because no permit or permit are a rare trophy, and we want to protect them too. But I don't think I'm gonna be de-barbing all of my permit flies just yet, being totally honest with you.

Dan: Hi, Tom. Dan calling from Norwalk, Connecticut here. I just moved here from Chattanooga, Tennessee where I had some really good rainbow trout fishing. And it's absolutely where I fell in love with fishing for trout. Recently I moved to Norwalk, and I've been having trouble getting some tight lines. I moved here back in November, it's currently middle of February, and have yet to catch trout. I have been going up and down all the small streams and I've been doing everything I can. And I figured being by the saltwater that it wouldn't really affect me catching rainbow trout, as I know that they can, you know, go from the freshwater out into the saltwater and back into the freshwater. That was what I was hoping for. Now, I haven't really caught anything down in the Norwalk area. I have been up into the Housatonic and whatnot and caught them earlier in my life, but that was much more upstream and definitely freshwater. Really the question I had for you was, me living by the ocean right now, how far upstream would you expect me to have to go to be able to get into some trout? And do you expect that there are any saltwater, salt-going trout in this area, in this neck of the woods? I know that we don't have any steelheads down here, but I was just wondering if you did think that there were any migrating out into the ocean? And how far upstream do you think I should go to try and get into some good trout fishing? Thanks a lot. I love the podcast. Take care.

Tom: Well, Dan there's some pretty good trout fishing in Connecticut. You know, you have the Housatonic and the Farmington, and there are a number of wild brook trout streams in Connecticut that you have to do some poking around to find. But I don't believe there are any sea-run rainbows in Connecticut. In fact, I've never heard of any self-sustaining sea-run rainbows, or actually, they would be steelhead on the Atlantic coast. There must be something about either the tributaries that run into the Atlantic, or the ocean conditions in the Atlantic that just don't support sea-run rainbow. So, if you want to find rainbow trout in Connecticut, you gonna need to go further upstream, way above the estuaries, into places where the water is colder and more suitable for trout. There are sea-run brook trout in Maine and Massachusetts. There are also a few on Cape Cod and in Long Island, well, Cape Cod is part of Massachusetts. So, they're sea-run brookies and sea-run browns. They are not common, but there are a few streams that support them. But I've never heard of a sea-run rainbow population existing on the east coast. But, you know, one of the things you might think about if you want to fish those rivers down low in Connecticut are striped bass. Striped bass are a great fish to chase on a fly rod. They're a native species, and they're relatively abundant. So, you know, striped bass or even bluefish sometimes get into those estuaries. So, you might want to consider not concentrating so much on trout and having some fun with some of the native saltwater fish.

Here is an email from...oh, I didn't get the name. Anyway. Hey, Tom. A caller last week asked about the possibility of stocking nymphs, and you explained why it wouldn't work. But what about stocking minnows or crayfish, bad idea? Yes, absolutely bad idea. A lot of the baitfish that are in streams these days are invasive, and they can really ruin up a stream or a pond. I know that Bob Mallard last week talked about the shiners in a Brook Trout Lake that really ruined the brook trout population. So, stocking minnows is definitely not a good idea. And, you know, if the minnows were native, they would be there. If they're not there, then it's, again, a habitat problem just like the nymphs. And also crayfish, you know, I didn't realize this but a lot of the species of crayfish that we see are invasive as well. So, it's not a good idea to stock any kind of vertebrates or invertebrates in a stream. It's best to stick with what's there and what the habitat can support natively.

Here's an email from Jay from California. I'm sort of a newbie, having only started fly fishing about 8 months ago. I have a question about etiquette out on the river. This past week, I was wading at a fairly popular winter tailwater here in California. This river is known for being very technical with fish that can be frustratingly picky. I was waist-deep in a pool at the end of a tail out, and I was watching a couple of nice rainbow trout that were consistently rising. I spent about 25 minutes casting different patterns, mayfly dries, nymphs, dry dropper combos, really just about anything that could be realistically hatching this time of year. Because I'm still fairly new to fly fishing, my presentation certainly leaves something to be desired, and ultimately, I was not able to entice a bite, likely because I didn't have the finesse and technical skills to make a good enough cast and dress for these picky fish. Because this was a slow day on a fairly popular river, a small crowd amassed behind me to watch these fish and give me the runaround. This particular pool is not really big enough for two people to fish it, so I knew the other fishermen were hoping I would get out so they could have a try at these fish. My question is, at what point is a common courtesy to let someone else have a try at this pool? I would have loved to stay there for an hour or more and really work on improving my presentation, but I didn't want to hog this limited resource. It really was a slow day on the river. I had hiked around a bit, and this was the only spot with any risers. Thank you for putting on a great podcast. I'd love to get your take on this etiquette question because I'm sure it will come up again in my lifetime.

Well, Jay, that's a really good question. Really interesting question. And, of course, there are no written rules on etiquette on rivers. But there are some unwritten rules, not so much trout fishing but for just kind of talk about fishing for anatomist species like steelhead and Atlantic salmon. And there, you're generally fishing the water. You're not fishing to a specific fish, but you're covering water. And it's commonly accepted etiquette that if there's more than one or two people in a pool, then you rotate the pool. In other words, one person gets in at the head of the pool, and makes a reasonable number of casts and takes a step and maybe makes a cast or two, and they takes another step and works through the pool. And then the next person gets in above that person and goes down through the pool. And then when you're done fishing that pool, if you want to fish it again, then you sit down on the bank and talk to the other people that are wading. Some of the best times I've had where we're sitting in rotation talking to other anglers, and this is very common and really accepted in Atlantic salmon and steelhead fishing. In fact, if you don't rotate a pool, you could find yourself in trouble. So, it's just what's done. And I think it's a good way of handling that.

However, you know, in a trout stream, where you're working feeding fish, I think it's another story. And I don't think it's fair that someone should expect you to rotate a pool when you were there first, you got up early enough, or you found the fish, and you really want to work those fish. And in my opinion, I don't think you should have moved. I think that probably made you nervous to have those people standing behind you, but I would stand my ground in that case. You know, it's not the same thing in a trout stream. So, I don't think there's any point where it's common courtesy. You know, I wouldn't leave those fish until I got tired of fishing for them, and decided that I'd go somewhere else. I wouldn't get out until I'd totally given up. And, you know, I know it makes you nervous people standing behind you on the river, but, you know, you got there first and they should go find their own fish. And if they can't find their own fish, then too bad. So, don't let people intimidate you on a stream. But then, again, if you go steelhead or Atlantic salmon fishing, then you should expect to rotate the pool. So, I know those are kind of contradictory opinions, but, again, there are no written rules. And if I were gonna write the rules, I'd say, we don't rotate trout streams when you're fishing overfeeding fish.

Here's an email from Nick from Idaho. First off, thank you for all you and Orvis do for the sport of fly fishing and conservation. It's appreciated more than you know. Now, for my question. I live in Boise, Idaho, and we are fortunate to have the Boise River run right through the heart of town. It's a tailwater fishery with mostly stocked trout. Are there any tips or tricks to fishing for trout in an urban setting like this, maybe for the in-town section, in particular, if you have fished it? I haven't fished it, by the way. I'm a newer angler and have pretty good days on other rivers in different parts of the state, but when I go to the sports in town that seem ideal for trout, I often get skunked. Could it be that everyone else beat me to these spots and caught all the fish already? So, therefore I just end up fishing over barren stretches of water? Throw out some numbers. In other waters, I typically average about 10 to 20 fish an outing. And while I'm in town, I'm ecstatic to even get a strike. It becomes frustrating at times. And I think I might be just missing something in my tactics. Any information you can provide about urban fisheries that would be helpful for all of us that are fortunate enough to have a river stream run through our town?

That's a really interesting question, Nick. And I think it's a good one. So, there are a couple things that could be happening here. One is that hatchery fish, although they don't tend to move that much when they're stocked, they sometimes don't last long. They either get fished out by anglers, if it's not a catch or release fishery, or they get eaten by predators because they're not really as good as wild trout at hiding from predators. They tend to stick out in the open, and ospreys, and herons, and eagles, and things, tend to eat them pretty quickly. So, it could be that there aren't as many fish there. The other thing is that where you have pressured trout, I mean, these fish are easy to get to. Boise is a fairly big town, there's a lot of anglers in your town. And though the fish might be there, but they're just a little bit more particular about what they eat. You know, you find that with pressured trout, they can be there, but they're not going to be easy. They're not going to be as easy as they would be in a wilderness setting. So, the fish could be there, and they just could be playing coy with you. My advice, in general, particularly with hatchery rainbows is to fish a smaller fly than you might be fishing on those other rivers. Fish a finer tippet because the fish can get a little leader shy, they can be suspicious of something that's attached to a fishing line, whereas a wilderness fish might not be. And, you know, everybody fishes bigger flies, and the fish sometimes tend to start eating smaller stuff, just because they know it doesn't have a hook in it. And also it's a little bit easier to fool a fish on a smaller fly because it can't see it as well. So, I would try fishing finer tippet smaller flies, making sure you get a drag-free drift. And if that doesn't work, then maybe most of those fish, hatchery fish have been removed.

Here's an email from Matt from Salt Lake City. I'd like to broaden my fly fishing horizons this season, and I've really become interested in trout spey rods. I don't fully understand the different applications for trout spey versus switch rods, and I'm hoping you can give me some general insights between the two. The typical waters I fish are western rivers, like the green and the Colorado, but I have a trip to Alaska planned for later in the year if that helps to point me in a direction. I also have a potentially stupid question. I started swinging soft tackles a lot more this past year, and I've really enjoyed it. Why are trout so sensitive to drag when fishing dries and nymphs but eager to hit a swinging soft tackle? Is it just as simple as they mimic a swimming Caddis pupa? As always, thanks for all you do. It's greatly appreciated.

So, Matt, first of all, you know, in the old days, in the early early days, not early days, 5, 10 years ago, two-handed rods, there were spey rods and there were switch rods. And spey rods were big, longer, usually 12-foot or longer, heavier. And switch rods were like a 10.5 to 11.5, maybe 12-feet long, and they were a little bit lighter. And we've really gotten away from that spey versus switch, and just call them all two-handed rods. I noticed at Orvis we call them two-handed rods. Trout spey is just fishing for trout with a two-handed rod, and generally a lighter version of a two-handed rod, you know, a 3 or a 4-weight, which is 3-weight in trout spey is really about equivalent to a 5-weight in a normal rod. And I'm not going to get into why because it's a screwy thing. But if you're fishing a 3-weight trout spey, you're really more like you're fishing the flies you would fish on a 5-weight. And if you're fishing 4-weight, it's more like a six or even a seven sometimes. So, you know, I wouldn't worry about trout spey versus switch, they're just two-handed rods. And if you treat it like that, just go out and look for a two-handed trout rod, or what is called trout spey, you should be fine.

And your question isn't stupid. Your question about soft tackle is not stupid at all, and it's something that has perplexed me all my life. You're absolutely right. When we fish a nymph, we strive to get it to dead drift. And we fish a dry fly, usually, we strive to get it to dead drift. And that almost always seems to be more effective. Yet, when we put on a soft tackle, and we swing it, we catch fish. Now, first of all, soft tackles worked very well dead drift as well. So, you know, they do work dead drift. But why would a fish that's eating things that are drifting in the current hit something that is swimming across currents? Because most nymphs when they're drifting, don't swim across current. So, there's a couple things. A couple of things to think about, a couple of things that I believe that wet fly swinging across the current could be imitating a swimming Caddis pupa. There are some Caddis pupa, and there are a few mayfly nymphs that actually do swim. So, at times when a swinging wet fly is effective, there may be some Caddis pupa in the water that are swimming. And some of them that are pretty good swimmers. And so mayfly nymphs that are pretty good swimmers like the isonychia, the big, dark, drakes.

The other thing is that there are also a lot of small minnows and a lot of small crayfish in the water, some of them are really, really tiny, especially a blacknose dace or a sculpin. When they're first hatched, they're no bigger than a mayfly nymph. So, it may be that the fish take these things because they think they're a small minnow or a crayfish which can swim fairly well in the current. The other thing is, it may be just an instinctive reaction of something trying to get away. You know, I mean, that kind of swinging works for steelhead, which are generally not feeding for Atlantic salmon, which don't feed, it works for striped bass in the current. It worked for a lot of things, and there seems to be something almost innate about the reaction of a fly swinging across the current. And that being said, though, you know, one of the deadliest ways to, "swing soft tackles" is not to swing them in the current at all. It's to throw them across stream, make a big mend, and keep that fly line right above the wet fly as it's drifting downstream, and then tighten up so that the flight doesn't swing across currents, but it just rises to the surface in a single current lane. So, it rises up more like an insect would. That's a deadly way to fish soft tackles. But you're absolutely right, swinging them across the current does work, fish take them. I don't know if we'll ever know exactly why. And it's definitely not a stupid question. And it's something that's perplexed people for many, many years.

Here's an email from Tyler from Horseheads, New York. I love your most recent podcast about the controversial topic of native species and what we do for them, good and bad. I found myself with mixed feelings about the part where you discuss catching 30-plus fish in a day. As we know as a fishing culture, this is a sign of success at times. However, as much as I didn't like hearing that catching so many fish isn't necessarily good. I agree with the prospect that pressure on fish needs to be delegated elsewhere. I had a few thoughts to share with the listeners. One, for fishing long days with the goal to catch a lot of fish, spread out the fishing pressure. Look at fishing one spot with the goal to catch maybe five fish then move on to a different spot. Second, challenge yourself and maybe see if you can catch a number of different species in a day. This may entail going to different waters in a day, but it would take pressure off one body of water. I hope these suggestions can start some good ideas to help with the conservation effort for trout and other species we love to fish. Thank you for all you and Orvis do. As always, for the preservation of the sport and the wildlife, we love to enjoy every day with rod in hand. Well, thank you very much, Tyler. Those are some great thoughts and I wholeheartedly agree with your philosophy.

Paul: Hey, Tom, this is Paul Randall from Houston, Texas. And this is the second time that I've reached out to you with a question. And I mentioned that because the first time you answered one of my questions on the podcast. An old friend from a previous season of my life, somebody I hadn't talked to in over 20 years, he heard it, and he reached out to me and we have reconnected over a shared passion for fly tying and fly fishing. And we've even got to meet up on the river and go fishing. And so I'm just grateful for how you bring people together through this podcast in a variety of ways. My question today is around PolyLeaders. I fished with one for the first time a couple days ago. Again, something I had never even heard of prior to the podcast. I've always been a floating line guy. And thanks to your recommendation, I got a PolyLeader and I was using it to go after some white bass here in Texas. I didn't catch any that day but I was really pleased with how the PolyLeader cast throw in an open loop. It really just turned over beautifully, and I was really excited about that. I look forward to doing it some more chasing white bass here. But my question is, is that what it would feel like to cast an overlined rod? I've never had a reason to do that either. But you've talked about it on the podcast and, you know, some people put like a 6-weight line on a 5-weight rod, that kind of thing. And I was just curious as I was casting that PolyLeader, and if that's what it feels like.

Tom: Well, Paul, that's really cool that you reconnected with a friend via the podcast. I really enjoyed hearing that. And you are absolutely right, PolyLeaders are a great solution for getting the fly down without having to buy a whole bunch of different lines. And, yeah, casting a PolyLeader is sort of like what it would feel like to cast an overlined rod because you are adding some extra weight to the end of your fly line that your rods already match for. And, of course, as you found you do have to kind of lob them or use a Belgian cast to get them out there. It's still clunkier than an overlined rod because you're concentrating all that extra weight at the far end of your fly line and not distributing it through the length of the line. So, yeah. It's sort of like an overlined rod, but not quite. It's a little bit clunkier. And if you do want to find out how to do that Belgian cast, which is a great cast to use when you're casting these sinking PolyLeaders, there's a great video on the Orvis Learning Center with Pete Kutzer, showing you how to do the Belgian cast. It's under the advanced intermediate section of the videos and in the casting section. So, Pete talks about the Belgian cast there. Well, that's the fly box for this week. Those are some great questions and some great tips. Now, let's go talk to Donna Smith about finding your own small stream. Well, my guest today is Donna Smith, and Donna is a member of the Outfitter team at Orvis. In other words, Donna is one of those fishy people that helps you with your tackle questions, and just general fly fishing questions. How to pick gear or just how to rig something, they're expert anglers, and they're there via chat or via email at...what is it? This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., Donna?

Donna: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Tom: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. And, you know, if you're on one of the web pages and you're on a fishing page and somebody asks you if you want to chat, you'll get one of the Outfitter team. And if you call up 800-548-9548,[Call +1 800-548-9548 via Google Voice](,+18005489548) you'll get a member of our Outfitter team. So, Donna has a pretty long history with Orvis. Donna, you worked in Orvis retail stores before. Which stores did you work in again?

Donna: Yep. I started part-time in Lombard, Illinois at our Yorktown store there. And I was working full-time at the time as a horticulturist, and I wanted to get a little bit of customer service experience. So, I went to the Orvis store and asked if they would consider me for a part-time position there, which they did. And then I left Orvis for a little bit of time, and I had moved to Wisconsin, to Madison, Wisconsin. And the fishing manager position at the Orvis Madison store opened up. And I walked in and talked to the store manager, and I ended up becoming the fishing manager at that store for a couple of years. After the quarantine in 2020, when we reopened, my manager retired and I became the store manager there until that store closed in March of 2021. And then there just happened to be a spot open on the Outfitter Team. So, I was able to move and work from home now. And all is good because I live in the Driftless Area of Wisconsin, and it's a beautiful place to live and work.

Tom: And not only does Donna live in the Driftless, so she gets to fish lot and is right in the heart of some great fishing, but Donna is also married to Orvis endorsed guide, PJ Smith.

Donna: That's right.

Tom: So, Donna has kind of the inside track on a lot of good stuff.

Donna: Yep. We run PJ's Guide Service together, and we love to teach people how to fly fish. That's kind of one of my passions is teaching people how to cast and just how to fly fish, in general. And PJ loves to guide and take people out and get them on fish. So, living here and working together is a great opportunity for both of us.

Tom: Sounds pretty darn good. Sounds pretty darn good to me. So, today we're going to talk about... you know a lot of small streams in your area, and we're going to talk about...

Donna: We do.

Tom: We're going to talk about small streams and how to find small streams. Because, you know, unless you hire a guide, or even if you hire a guide, they may not take you to... certainly won't to take you to all the small streams in their area, and sometimes people don't want you to know about these small streams. Or sometimes, if you're lucky, nobody even fishes some of these small streams at all, like maybe, you know, somebody warm fishes it once a year. But, you know, we have streams like that in Vermont. So, can we talk about, you know, how to find one because you're not gonna find one on the internet, probably? Nobody's gonna be jabbering away and spot burning about most of these little streams, so you need to do your own homework, right?

Donna: Right. You do need to do your homework. And actually, there really do seem to be a lot of resources, at least here in Wisconsin. And I think there are a lot of states that have some pretty good resources. But, as you said, you do need to do your homework. And one of the big things that we advocate a lot for is just going out and scouting the water and looking for those places and giving things a try. Because without doing that, you know, like you said, not everybody is willing to share their favorite spots, and they're not gonna tell you about some great little stream someplace because they don't want a whole bunch of other people going there too.

Tom: Yeah, yeah. So, what do you look for? Let's say you're going to a part of the Driftless where you've never gone before, I mean, it's a big area and there are a lot of streams. Let's say you're going to an area that you have...there's probably places you haven't been, right? There's probably a few that you haven't been, a few quarters. So, what are you going to look for? You're driving around, you're driving around in your car, you're crossing bridges, you're looking and you're trying not to have an accident, looking at the water, like most of us do. What are you going to look for, Donna?

Donna: Usually, before we get in the car and start doing something like that, you know, we're going to look at those resources that might be available to give us a clue as to where to go. We never leave home without a gazetteer, for whatever state. And I was going through the pile the other day and we have six or eight different states' worth of gazetteers and markings inside. So, I would definitely have that because on there you can find streams, you can look for those little blue lines and find the cross streets where they are so that you're driving down county A, and you look on the map and it says, turn on county C, and you drive along and you're looking for that bridge and that piece of water. Luckily in the state of Wisconsin, we have a trout regs book that outlines all the streams. And that information is available online, and a lot of states have that information. So, between those two things, now you at least are headed in the right direction for finding a piece of water.

Once you get there, now's the time to do that evaluation, kind of that you're talking about. And I'm gonna start, I'm gonna probably look at water temperature, we always have a thermometer because we live in a part of the country where when it does get really warm in July, and we're checking water temps, and last year, it was in end May, early June, the water temperatures were too warm for trout. So, we always have that thermometer, so we can check the water temperature. So, that might be one of the first things we look at, to see is this even a cool enough stream to hold trout? You know, if it's in that 68, 70-degree range where we wouldn't even fish it, even if there were trout there because that would be bad for the trout. So, we'd be looking for that cool water, looking for some depth in the water itself. You know, is there a nice pool right there by the bridge? Or can we walk down and see some pools, and some riffles, and some kind of flow activity to see if it would be worthwhile getting in and fishing it. We might also be looking around for bugs. Look at the grill on the front of the truck. Look for spider webs on the bridge posts, just watching and seeing if anything is coming up.

I'm doing a bunch of those different things to see what is the possibility. And then the other thing is looking at the stream bottom itself. When I lived outside of Madison, there was a stream that was marked as a trout stream. And I took a drive out one day when I was off of work. And part of it was going through a big field, and it was pretty narrow and very sandy looking. And out in the bright sun, I couldn't tell that there was anything as far as, you know, was there an extreme restoration work there? I couldn't see anything like that. It looked pretty overgrown and narrow. So, I drove on to another spot where it crossed another road. And at that spot, it was was wider but looked very, very slow. There wasn't much current at all. I, you know, dropped a piece of grass or something into the water to see how long it took to get to the other side of the road. And it took quite a while. So, there was not much movement to the water, it looked pretty shallow. So, I went on to another spot to see if I could find a better place. So, sometimes it involves a lot of driving around and looking, and then sometimes just getting on your waders and getting in and checking it out.

Tom: Did you find any trout in that stream?

Donna: I did not find any trout in that stream. And sometimes they're marked as trout streams. And maybe from the time the book gets published and they reevaluate over time, maybe there was a fish kill in that area, maybe that section it was just kind of a poor section, might have gotten flooded, pushed out a lot of fish. So, in that case, I really didn't find anything. Sometimes we find waters that look really good but we look at all of the brush and all of the cover, and that scares most fly fishers away. Because they don't have that Joe Humphrey's bow and arrow cast down quite right, or they don't have a good roll cast to get in and check out those areas. Now, that would be a place that if I was with PJ, he would jump at the chance to get in at a spot like that because that isn't a spot that most people will get in, and a lot of times you find some really great fishing in those areas.

Tom: How do you deal with know, you find a stream that's just brushy, right, you know, a tunnel right over the top. How do you guys deal with those super, super brushy streams?

Donna: Sometimes what looks really heavily brushy right there, where you can easily get in, you know, you find a good place to park. And once you get in and walk down aways, a lot of times you'll find that things open up.

Tom: Yeah, exactly. Exactly.

Donna: We have fished in those spots, and I have been known to sit down in the bottom of the creek and do a really tight little roll cast to get my fly out in front of me because I don't have any room overhead to cast.

Tom: Good for you. Good for you. So, you guys don't pass up anything, right?

Donna: Pretty much. If we know that there's some fish in there, we'll at least give it a try. And I know that there have been places where we have gone, and we have, you know, given it our all, and then we get to a point we're like, "This just isn't worth it, you know, it's just too brushy." Or we've gone to places too where we've found the fish, and then the next time we go back and we just can't make anything hit any of the flies that we try. So, you know, sometimes it's day-to-day, too, the conditions change and things happen.

Tom: Yeah, it's a neat thing about small streams, I think, is that the fish are usually so eager to take a fly, that if you're reasonably careful and reasonably good presentation, and you don't get any rises or bumps on your nymph, you know, there's probably not much there because they're probably going to eat it if they're around.

Donna: Right. And a lot of times we'll do something like use a streamer pattern to kind of search out because if nothing else, you might see them come out at it. And, you know, to hit it, even if they don't want to take it, or the splash of that streamer might make those fish move so that you can at least see that something is there.

Tom: Yeah. Do you ever worm them? Do you ever try a worm, I mean, like a not a squirmy worm, but like a real live worm to check them out sometimes?

Donna: I have not done that.

Tom: I do. You know, if it's really early in the season, it's really cold water, and I know they're not gonna move very far for a fly, and it's a stream I've never fished before, probably pretty tiny, and I just want to see if there's any trout in it so I can come back in like May or June, I will pick, you know, lob a worm out there and let it roll along the bottom and see what happens.

Donna: Well, it's one way to figure out if there's some trout in there

Tom: Yeah. Barbless hook, barbless hook, you know.

Donna: Yeah. Yeah. Like you said, it's good way to search. Something else that I've kind of observed this season, now that we're in winter, is also kind of looking at some of the stream conditions as far as what's freezing over, and what isn't. Because those streams that are really freezing over are probably fairly shallow. And so they're going to be warmer when things really heat up in the summertime. And we have a lot of spring creeks here that stay pretty cold, so you kind of have to know where those are for those times of the year when it does get really, really hot. And so observing those things in the wintertime, even if you don't want to be going out and actually fishing when it's really cold, like, you know, today it's in the teens, I think. But knowing which streams stay really cold by seeing what's still open now, so you know that those are the spring-fed ones, those are going to be the ones that are gonna have a little bit more moving water and probably cooler in the summertime. Then, when you're out looking for that small trout stream that maybe you haven't fished but you drove by in the winter and there was moving water and such, now, you've got something that you can come back to in, you know, May or June or July and check those streams out also.

Tom: Yeah, that's a great point. And I just want to clarify to people that didn't quite follow that. It's the fact that what Donna is saying is that streams that have a lot of spring influence, groundwater influence are going to be warmer in the wintertime, and cooler in the summer because they're going to reflect the groundwater temperature which is going to reflect the annual mean temperature at any given latitude. So in your part of the world, it's probably, what? Like 42 degrees or something like, the groundwater?

Donna: Yeah, 44, might be 48.

Tom: 44. Okay, okay, a little bit warm. But anyway, that's gonna be much warmer than a free-flowing stream at sub-zero. That stream is going to be running at 32. And so what Donna is saying is if you see open water in the wintertime, usually means there's some spring influence there, which means it's gonna be colder in the summertime. So, I just want to clarify that in case people didn't quite follow it there.

Donna: Sure.

Tom: And do you ever look for steam in the wintertime, like ice fog?

Donna: Would you repeat that, Tom?

Tom: Yeah, ice fog or steam? Do you ever look for ice fog or steam? Maybe you don't see it as much there.

Donna: I have never done that.

Tom: Okay. It may not happen there. I know, in a lot of the streams, where there's some spring flow coming in, especially on a really cold early morning. You know, at first light, like when I take my son to school or something, I'll look for places where the streams are steaming, and it's ice fog, but that's coming from water that's coming in. It's a little bit warmer, a little bit warmer than the air. So, I look for places like that. Sounds like maybe you just don't have that situation there.

Donna: Yeah, we might get something like that, but it's more in late summer-fall when it's... You know, in the evening, we will see all that fog around the streams, at that point in time.

Tom: All right. Okay. So, you're out there, you've found a stream, Donna. Let's say you found a stream, there's a reasonable casting room, it's a nice day in May. How are you gonna evaluate the stream? Once you get into river, what are you gonna do, what are you gonna do first?

Donna: Well, I'm gonna look for some structure and see, is there some pocket water? Where are the riffles in the pools? A lot of streams here in Wisconsin, anywhere in the Driftless in Iowa and Minnesota, a lot of our water is that just typical riffle pool, riffle pool. So, I'm gonna be looking for those things. I found a great little stream that had a little bit of elevation to it and had a lot of great pocket water, with boulders, and trees down, and things like that. So, I'm gonna look for things like that because that structure is where those fish are going to be able to find resting places, might be a little bit deeper for them in some of those areas. So, I'm gonna look for that, and then work on casting into those places. The riffles coming out of that riffle into the pool, it's pretty oxygenated there. Usually, there's, again, a little bit more depth to the water there and easy place for them to feed.

So, looking at those places would be the first thing that I'd probably do. And we have a lot of streams that get a lot of restoration work done on them. So we'll be able to see those lunker structures where they have reinforced the bank, you know, than in those areas that there's places there for the fish. And if you can swing a nymph through there or rip your streamer through there, there's a good chance that something in those areas is going to come out. So, we're gonna be looking for that type of structure along the bank. Any kind of undercut bank is kind of one of the number one things that the trout like so that they have a good place to rest, to hide from what comes from above because we know that fish like to eat but they also do not like to be eaten. So they need a safe place to be, and those undercut banks are good places for them.

Tom: And Donna everybody's gonna want to ask this question. First, what's the first fly you're gonna put on? And then second, do you go work upstream or downstream by preference?

Donna: Two good questions. So, I probably tend to use two fly rig. A lot of times, I'll put on something, a hippie stamp, rubber legs stimulator, something big that I can see.

Tom: That's a dry fly, right, big dry fly.

Donna: That's dry fly, big dry fly. And then I'm gonna put a dropper. We have our favorite pink squirrel, and it's got a bead, it's kind of heavy. It's pink and gray. And, you know, looks like it could be a scud, it could be a fat nymph, could be a lot of different things. So, I like to use that kind of that hopper dropper setup, with my big dry fly, and a beadhead so that the beadhead gets down. I can see the dry fly on top. And I have two chances to catch fish with two hooks. A couple weeks ago, we had a nice a beautiful day on a Thursday, on my day off, and went out fishing. And the fishing wasn't great but I had two hits on my dry fly that day.

Tom: In the middle of winter. In the middle of winter.

Donna: And a 40-degree day, in the wintertime with snow and cows walking through the field. And I had one on and my line got caught on the ice and I lost them, but everybody was like, "Wow, it took your dry fly in the wintertime."

Tom: Wow, crazy.

Donna: But nothing else was working. The streamers weren't working, the nymphs weren't working. So, I'm like I'm putting, and we saw something coming off. So, I just put on a tiny, it was actually just a tiny little Griffith Gnat. And after a few casts that fish came after it, so they'll take them. We get a hatch of blue winged [inaudible 01:12:32], or, you know, on nicer days in this, you know, late winter, typically, and then we'll have tiny little black caddis in the wintertime. So, my little Griffith Gnat just kind of worked for whatever was coming off, and that seemed to be enough to get them to come up and take it, so. Also, those are the flies that I typically kind of start with, if I'm just kind of searching. If you asked PJ, he usually will put on a streamer and rip a streamer through because at least he's gonna get a reaction. You know, and if he gets a reaction, then it's like, "Okay, now I know there's some fish in here." And then you could work at figuring out if there's something else that they'd prefer to have or keep working the streamer.

Tom: So, you're fishing in small streams, probably you're not fishing those great big giant, you know, articulated streamers, right, in a small stream like that. What does PJ start out with? Can you tell us? Will he let you tell us? Do I need to talk to him? Do you need to put him on the phone?

Donna: I send him off for chocolate chip cookies. I should have written this name down, I'm just like totally drawing a blank. Like just a conehead, small conehead streamer, rabbit strip type. You know, just something real simple and basic. Nothing too big, you know, probably in maybe a size 10 or 12. Nothing real big. And streamers, typically we tie those with a conehead versus a beadhead. But you could also just use a weighted woolly bugger, would work just fine as well.

Tom: But fairly small, fairly small.

Donna: Yep. Fairly small. The guys I worked with at the store in Madison, a number of them love to fish woolly buggers. And that was, you know, one of their go-to winter streamers. So, it's a good fly.

Tom: They work. They work.

Donna: Yep. The rabbit strip-type streamer gives you a little bit more movement in the tail end. Looks a little bit more leech-y, you know, little leech pattern like that is a good one.

Tom: Okay. Okay, and I assume, it sounds like PJ likes to...does PJ like to work downstream and you work upstream? Is that the way you...because he's fishing streamers? Or do you have a preference?

Donna: When I first started to fly fish some 20-plus years ago, I liked to go downstream all the time. Like I was not comfortable going upstream. And I think a lot of beginning fly fishers kind of feel the same way because you're not having to worry about your line control as much when you're going downstream. You can do the down and across, you know, type thing.

Tom: Yeah. And it's easier.

Donna: So, when we started, I would always go downstream, and he would go upstream. And, you know, as I got better at this and more comfortable dry fly fishing, then I started to just always go upstream. And a lot of times when we fish we will fish together, and one of us will fish and the other one will stand off to the side. And we'll flip flop as we catch fish, or we'll work through a hole or two and then the other person will go. So, most of the time now we kind of stay together and just kind of play hopscotch like that through the stream, and just most of the time we're going upstream.

Tom: Okay. It sounds so cute. I could just see you guys. I can just see you guys. So, talk a little bit...

Donna: It works too when you get hooked up. Like, we fish these pretty tiny, little narrow streams, you know, might be a rod length across. And if one of us gets hooked up, and we don't want to mess up that hole, I'd hopped out of the water and held my rod way off to the side so that he could make a cast in. And then once he gets through, catches the fish or just works that hole, then we walk up and get my fly that's caught on the side. So, sometimes that's, you know, to our advantage to be together.

Tom: You mean PJ never gets his fly caught?

Donna: Well, he gets caught every once in a while too.

Tom: So, you know, you're lucky in Wisconsin that you have a lot of either public land or easements from landowners to get to the water, but there must be some private land. Let's say you find a stream, and it's on private land, and you don't find a public easement. How do you go about finding out if you can get permission?

Donna: That's a great question. Because all the moving water here is held in public trust, we can fish on all of the water. But if it's going through private property, and you don't have easy access at a bridge, then getting permission from the landowner is the respectful thing to do. And we encourage people that if you can know, you might be driving by an area and you look and you're seeing this great water, but you're not seeing a bridge, an easy place that you could get in, you can just drive in and knock on the front door and ask. A lot of landowners are going to be very surprised that you are even asking, and very few of them are going to deny you access because they're gonna be so grateful that you had asked permission.

Now, sometimes it may be very difficult to figure out whose property is whose. We're on a stream one time, and if we had tried to find the landowner for that particular piece of property. Now we did get in at the bridge, but later on, somebody told us who actually owned that property and I'm like, "We would have been knocking on a bunch of doors." You know, hopefully, the first person would have told us who actually owned the property. So, you might get lucky that way, you know, if you go to the nearest house, and they might say, "Well, I don't own that, but Joe does, and he lives in the brown house, you know, three farms down." You know, then you go there and you ask. We've seen a farmer in the field, and when he came near the road, we've asked if we could fish his property, and he said yes. One of my co-workers from Madison liked to search out new water all the time. And he ran into people who were not as friendly. He ran into people who didn't know what know, they own the land, the stream ran through their property, but they didn't know what the rights were for public use on that. And so he happened to educate several of those landowners in that case, because, you know, they came and said, "Hey, you can't be here, this is my property." And he said, "Well, I got in at this bridge, and my feet are wet. And so I'm allowed to be here." So, not everybody knows what the regulations are, in wherever they live.

Tom: That's correct. And it varies from state to state too, so when you travel, you have to be careful.

Donna: Right. Right.

Tom: There is a section on the Orvis Learning Center under the resources that backcountry hunters and anglers made up that people can use. It's on the Orvis Learning Center. And that will give you the state-by-state rules because it's going to vary with every state, just exactly how you can access it, what your rights are, you know, what's in public trust and what's not. So, people know, if they're in a state, where they're not sure, you need to check that before you start poking around in small streams.

Donna: Right. Right. And know, and that's a great resource because even looking at individual states, everybody's department that handles that is called something different, too.

Tom: You can't figure it out. You cannot figure it out.

Donna: Yeah. We have a department of natural resources, somebody else's fishing and boating regulations, you know, it can be really daunting if you're not sure. The other thing that people can always try to do, too, is give a call to an Orvis retail store or a dealer in the area where they want to go fishing, and ask some basic questions. Because they may have a booklet that they can share, or they may have the website that will have the information. So, reaching out and using all of those resources is helpful, especially when you want to fish in a state where you have no idea, you know, what the fishing regulations might be.

Tom: Right. There's another way to find out who the landowner is, too, these days. There are, and you probably use it, but there's a number of apps such as Gaia, OnyX, BaseMap that's usually for a premium fee, you know, it's usually isn't in the free part of the app. But if you pay, I don't know, 10 bucks a year or something like that, 15 bucks a year, you can get a countrywide property map and you can zoom in and you can, not only does it have the name of the landowner, usually has their mailing address.

Donna: Wow. Okay.

Tom: Yeah. So, that's pretty handy. So, those things are available. And you can also find out where there's public land, right? You can find out where the public land is and where the private land is. So, those apps are very useful. I don't find maps on my phone really helpful for finding streams because... I don't know. Because you can't scan as easily, the screen is so small that you kind of lose perspective. So, I do like using those atlases or the gazetteers that you talked about. I think they're better for finding new stuff.

Donna: Yeah. For sure.

Tom: Once you zoom in, the apps are useful for finding out property and other things.

Right. You know, I'll say both of us, PJ and I, you know, we're kind of still a little old-fashioned. I like my paper map. And in a place like the Driftless Area with our valleys and our hills, your cellphone doesn't always work, you know, in a lot of those areas. You get out and about in a way and you won't get a cell signal. So, unless it's something that you can download onto your phone, that you might still be able to see when you're in an area when you can't get really good cell service, the paper map does come in handy. Or if you're out here and your phone dies, and now you can still find your way out using a map. So, we do like to have our paper maps with us and find things. But even our trout regulations booklet, all the pages on this are on our DNR website. And I know that there are a number of states that have those similar maps out there so that at least you can start doing some of your research and homework before you leave home.

Tom: Yeah. And I know those GPS programs on your phone, like the ones I mentioned, I don't know if they automatically download maps, but I'm in a lot of places where there's no cell coverage, and I still get the detailed map. So, maybe when I'm in an area, it automatically downloads a map. Or maybe I have to do it manually and forgot I did it. But anyways, they do work. The GPS for a portion of your phone will work without a cell signal. So, you can still use that part.

Donna: Good. Yeah. Awesome.

Tom: All right. Did we miss anything here, Donna?

Donna: I'm trying to think if there's anything else. I seem to have hit most things because we've talked about, you know, how to evaluate the streams and deciding where you want to go fish. One of the other things that I was thinking about was, looking at your streams at different times of the day too. And even, like kind of mentioned earlier about just different seasons kind of looking at those things, but different times of day. You know, you might go out to a someplace that's really bright and sunny, and then a little bit later on, the sun moves and now you've found that section of water might be much more shady. And knowing where you can go when it does get hot is always really helpful. So, looking at those different times a day, bugs are hatching at different times. So, that can also be helpful in part of your scouting.

Tom: Yeah, different times of season, you know, sometimes spring when the waters really cold, the fish are either all in very deep holes or they're just not feeding very much. And it might seem barren to you, but you come back in May or June...

Donna: You're right.

Tom: There's fish all over the place. I know you've been there because I can tell by the tone of your voice.

Donna: Yep. One other thing I wanted to say about the Driftless and the small streams that we have here is one of the things we say is that it's the easiest hardest water to fish. And if you can fish here, it kind of reminds me of years ago people saying when I had learned how to downhill ski, they're like, "Oh my gosh, if you could downhill ski in Wisconsin, where the conditions are pretty crummy, you know, and icy most of the season, you could ski anywhere." And I think that that kind of goes along with the fishing in the Driftless because, you know, we have beautiful water here. There's streams that you get in or you start to look, and you're like, "It's 3-feet wide. There can't possibly be fish here." Or you go to another spot and it's 15 or 20-feet wide. And that translates really well when you go out west.

One of our last trips out to Montana, we were on the Madison River between Quake Lake and Hebgen. And the water was, to me, it was huge, and big, giant boulders and fast-moving water. And I stood there on the bank and I looked at PJ and I'm like, "How the heck do I fish this?" And then across from me was a guy standing on a big boulder with his bright red shirt and his bright red hat casting into the water from the top of this boulder, and I'm like looking going, "There's no way I'm doing that." And he's said, "Do you know what? Just break this down into this first 12 or 15 feet and fish it like a spring creek at home." So that's what we did. I found a spot, I moved into the water. There was a big boulder, nice pocket water behind it. And I just stood there and watched and waited and saw the fish coming up taking something right near the base of that boulder, and just waited and crouched down and made a couple casts and bounced my fly off the back of that rock and right into the water, and bam, fish on. And it was because I just focused on my little spring creek that I was standing in at that moment, that helped me to fish that big water that, at first glance, was just so daunting. But that helped me to be able to fish in this big river. And that was pretty cool.

Tom: Cool. Oh, that's great. That's great. And that's a great place to kind of finalize the value of fishing small streams, right? It gets you ready for bigger rivers too.

Donna: Yep.

Tom: All right, Donna. Well, I want to thank you for taking the time today. And again, we've been talking to Donna Smith of the Outfitter Team. Donna lives in the Driftless Area of Wisconsin, and was lucky enough to be able to fish lots and lots and lots, right?

Donna: Well, thank you so much, Tom. It was great talking with you. And we look forward to your next visit here to fish with us in the Driftless.

Tom: My next visit will be my first visit, and I'm bound and determine it's going to be this year because I'm dying to fish in Driftless [inaudible 01:32:07]. And I think I got a plan for this year, so.

Donna: Well, that's good. We're ready to take you out and show you some great little streams here that will catch some beautiful browns and brooks on.

Tom: I can't wait. I cannot wait. So, I hope to see you this spring.

Donna: Well, we look forward to your visit.

Tom: Okay, Donna. Thanks.

Donna: Thanks very much, Tom.

Tom: Okay. Say hi to PJ.

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