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Selectivity in Fish Feeding Habits, with Matt Supinski

Description: This week, my guest is guide and author Matt Supinski [51:36], one of the most innovative thinkers in fly fishing with a long history in the business. The topic is selectivity, which Matt wrote an entire book about a few years ago. What is selectivity in fish feeding, is it always operating, why does it happen, and how can we use it to our advantage when fishing? It’s a fascinating topic and one Matt and I explore in depth.
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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 today is Matt Supinski. Matt is a writer, a guide, a personality who's been around the fly fishing business for a long time, lifelong fly fisher, and someone who really thinks about fishing in, I think, a different way. And the topic today is "Selectivity." And I think selectivity in trout or even in other species is something that is often misunderstood. Of course, we really don't know a lot about it because there haven't been many scientific studies done on selectivity. There's been a few, but they've been mostly laboratory experiments with trout in tanks.
And Matt is gonna talk about what he has experienced in a lifetime of fly fishing regarding selectivity. And he actually wrote a book called "Selectivity." So he's the expert on selectivity. So we're gonna talk about exactly what it is. Is it always important? Is it always in operation? And how we can use this concept of selectivity to fool more fish and have more fun on the water. So hope you enjoy the podcast. It rambles a bit and I think a lot of you like rambling, so stay tuned. But first, the Fly Box. And speaking of the Fly Box, I've not been getting a lot of phone calls lately, at least good ones. And I need some more phone calls so that I can play your lovely voice on the air and answer your questions.
So maybe if I give you a little guidance on the kind of questions that are best, that'll help get some more phone calls. So first of all, try to keep them under two, two and a half minutes long. If they go to three to four minutes, they get to ramble a little bit and I probably won't answer them. Try to ask a specific question, try to give me as much information as you can about a situation that's been bugging you, or that's been giving you problems on the water, whether it's freshwater or saltwater, you know, whatever species it is. Try to ask a specific question, and bear in mind that the calls that I'm most likely to play and to answer are the ones that I think are gonna be valuable to other listeners, to the podcast, not something that's just specific to you.
So that's the best kind of guidance I can give you, and I hope to hear your voice on the Fly Box email. And if you want to send a phone call, or if you wanna just type your question into an email and have me read it, you can reach me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. I listen to all of them, I read all of them. I don't answer all of them, but if it's a good question, I will. So hope to hear from you. And without further ado, here is our first question. This is from Joe, from Vancouver, British Columbia. "I have a question about roll cast. I've heard you say that having a longer rod, 10 foot versus 9 foot or under, will help make longer roll cast. I'm having trouble roll casting with my 10 foot 5 weight.
My 10 foot 5 weight is an Orvis Clearwater from about 2018. I have shorter rods, 8.5 foot and 6.5 foot 4 weights that I can roll cast with much better and farther distances. These shorter rods have much slower action than my 10-foot rod. Does rod action affect the ability to make roll cast? Are there any tips for roll casting with faster action rods? I would love to hear your thoughts." Well, Joe, you're exactly right. Longer rods are easy to roll cast. That's why, you know, big Spey and switch rods are usually 11 feet and longer because 2-handed casting is basically roll casting. Lots of variations of roll cast, but they're all basically roll casts, and longer rods will roll cast better.
But at the same time, slower rods generally will roll cast better than stiffer rods. You know, a Helios D series is probably not gonna roll cast as well as a Helios F series, Helios 3F series. The F series are a little bit more full flexing and they're gonna roll cast better. Now, for really long roll casters, one thing you can do, and this may be the problem, is that if you're making a long roll cast, let's say over 35 feet long, you're probably better off with a double taper line. Weight forward and double taper lines most of the time, unless they're a specialized taper, if they're standard tapers, they're the same for about the first 30 feet, 35 feet, the exact same taper. But weight forward lines taper down quite quickly after that 35-foot section, because you're planning on shooting most of that line. And when you have 40 feet or 50 feet of line out and you're trying to roll cast it, you're gonna have trouble because that smaller diameter running line is going to not have enough mass to deliver that roll cast.
So for that 5 weight, I suspect if you put a double taper line on it, it's gonna roll cast better for you. So try a double taper line and see if that works better for you. Here's another email from Sean, from Florida. "Tom, I recently moved to Florida after growing up and fishing in Pennsylvania. Casting for trout in small streams is quite different than casting in the surf or intercoastal waters. And I realize that I need to get better at my casting distance. My question is about the small practice rods that various companies sell. Do they help? And is it worth getting one to help improve my casting technique? Can't see how they would help me working with improving my double haul. Would my time be better spent on the water using the actual rod I will be fishing with? Your podcast has been a great source of information, thanks to you and Orvis for all you do for conservation and fly fishing."
Well, Sean, yeah, it's yes and no on those practice rods. First of all, you're not gonna be able to get good distance or a good double haul if your basic casting strokes are not sufficient. So those practice rods will enable you to get a better casting stroke. However, when you move into the double haul, you need to have that return. You need to slide that line back through the guides in between hauls, and the practice rods don't do that. The yarn just won't slide back through the guides. So it's very difficult to practice your double haul with those practice rods. But again, they're gonna be helpful with your basic casting stroke, which is gonna be important on your longer cast. You've gotta have a good short casting stroke. You gotta have a good basic casting stroke before you can cast a longer length of line.
And pay a special attention to your back cast. The back cast is so important. Oftentimes we worry about getting distance and we concentrate more on the forward cast, but they're really mirror images of each other, and that back cast has to be as good, if not better, than the forward cast in order to get distance. Regarding the double haul, the best advice I can give you is to go onto the Orvis Learning Center and look up Pete Kutzer's fine-tuning your double haul video. It's under the Intermediate Advanced videos somewhere. But if you go into the learning center, go into videos, go into Intermediate Advanced videos and look for that section that's in fine-tuning your double haul. I think that'll give you some good practice exercises for helping with your double haul.
Irma: Hi, Tom, this is Irma Bird down here in Texas. I have a question for you concerning leaders and tippets. This summer, we're heading to a tailwater river in Arkansas, whose name I will not mention. When people spin-fish this body of water, they use a green-colored monofilament line. This is because they have found that they are more successful with it than they would be if using a clear-colored line. Would we be more successful if we use green-colored leaders over clear-colored ones? What are your thoughts? And is such a product even available?
Tom: Well, Irma, I'm not sure that the color of your leader or your tippet makes a difference. I think that fish can see tippet no matter what color it is, and no matter how fine it is. I mean, they're used to eating little tiny insects, and they can see that tippet. But if the tippet is allowing the fly to drift naturally, they're probably going to ignore it. And I'm not sure if the greenish cast really makes a difference. I mean, people have things that they believe in and they have confidence in and they fish better. But, you know, the Orvis tippet material actually has a slight greenish cast. Orvis Superstrong Plus has a slight greenish cast. And for stealth, a lot of people rely on fluorocarbon, which is totally clear.
Fluorocarbon does have some slight invisibility factors in that the index of refraction is very close to water. And so it does sort of disappear in the water, but I think fish can still see it. So I wouldn't worry about your tippet having a greenish or a brownish or any other color cast. Again, I think that fish see it. I would go and fish the tippet material that you like and you trust, and I think you'll do fine in that river in Arkansas. All right, let's do another email. This one is from Matt. "I'm a relatively new fly fisher, and I'm just starting to acquire my own gear. When I went to buy split shot, I was surprised to see most of the available affordable shot is made of lead. I had assumed that the dangers of lead to fish, birds, and other wildlife, not to mention humans was widely known and the standard would be something else by now.
Should I worry about using lead split shot? I always try to fish responsibly and generally be part of the solution, not the problem. Would I be polluting the environment and potentially injuring fish and wildlife by using lead shot?" Well, Matt, there are good alternatives to lead shot and they're gonna be sold in any fly shop or on the Orvis website. They're made of some kind of tin alloy. I'm not sure exactly what they're made of. They're a little bit harder than lead, so it's a little bit tougher to crimp it on your line, and it's not quite as heavy. But the environmental advantages, they're inert and the environmental advantages of using this non-toxic shot is pretty great. I mean, we've stopped using lead shot for waterfowl many years ago.
And, you know, split shot has the same issue. Birds ingest the lead or animals ingest the lead and the acid in their stomach releases toxic compounds. Lead itself in the water, unless it is exposed at the acidity in rain or whatever, is relatively inert. But the problem is that the acid in an animal's stomach or acid in rain can oxidize that that lead into some toxic compounds. So it's available, it's around. It sounds like maybe you just went to a big box store or something to look for your split shot, and you're gonna find mostly lead there. But if you go to a good fly shop, you're gonna find plenty of options for non-toxic shot.
Here's an email from Mike C., from Western Mass. "I consider you a media mentor when it comes to fly fishing. People look up to you and your advice, and you help mentoring listeners to become better fly fishers. Growing up, my media mentors were Gadabout Gaddis, "The Flying Fisherman," giving my age away now, Curt Gowdy, and "The American Sportsman," Lee Wulff, Art Lee, Fly Fishing magazine, and Homer Circle "Sports Afield" magazine. There were no podcasts or social media. My question for you is who were your media mentors growing up?" Well, Mike, we must be a similar vintage. Maybe you're a little bit younger than me because those were all my media mentors. Actually the late Art Lee and I are a little bit more contemporary. I did know Art quite well and fished with Art.
But the other ones were my heroes, were my media mentors. I was lucky enough to know Lee Wulff and Curt Gowdy later, you know, after I got involved in the industry. But growing up, they were my media mentors as well. And the only one I might add is Joe Brooks who was a great all-round fly fisher. He was on the "American Sportsman" and did a lot of writing for the magazines. And the other one might be Vince Marinaro who mostly wrote books, but he did have a landmark article in, I think it was in "Outdoor Life," many years ago about fishing the Trico hatch, which he called the canis hatch. So anyways, those are my media mentors and sounds like you and I had kind of the same heroes when we were growing up.
Here's an email from Ed in New Hampshire. "First, the rod design podcast was one of my recent favorites, along with the ones you've done in the past, online construction and design. I'm a geek. I have a question that I'm hoping you can help me with. This past spring, I was participating in the time-honored tradition of mostly unsuccessful casting flies to the lake-run rainbows and landlocked salmon that head up the tributaries during Lake Winnipesaukee ice-out. I managed to hook into an exceptionally large rainbow in a well-known location that I won't mention, and the fight was on. When I finally got him to the net, I was under an overhanging tree branch, and my Helios 5 weight had a decent bend in it.
He threw his massive head, tossed the fly, and I suddenly heard a very expensive snapping sound as that Helios straightened, and then broke. The rod shop wizards and the world-class service folks had me back on the water in less than a week. Though I haven't seen a fish that size again all season, but the whole episode got me to thinking. I've done a lot worse to rods and not had them break. I do, however, have a rooftop rod carrier. I won't mention the brand because they're all more or less the same and Orvis doesn't sell one. I only use the carrier over the course of the day when I'm hopping between spots, and never store the rod for long periods of time in it.
But I have noticed if I drive a decent distance, say from your neck of the woods in Vermont back to the lakes of New Hampshire, with a rod in it, you can see some dull spots form on the guide wraps where it was vibrating in the rod carrier. Do you, or those aforementioned wizards in the rod shop, think that a rooftop rod carrier causes enough vibration to damage a rod? They do make running around between spots easier and I always find my rig in the store parking lot because of the 10-foot-long aluminum tubes on top. But I'm wondering if I'm hurting my rods. Thanks again for everything." Ed, no, I don't think rooftop rod carriers hurt your rod.
The only vibration that might hurt a rod is if you're running in a boat and you've got the rods in a place where they might be banging on a thwart or on a hard part of the boat, a metal or a fiberglass part of the boat and they're constantly hitting that. That could damage your rod. But most rods are broken...when a rod breaks and you don't know why it breaks, it's most often that you've hit the tip of the rod with a big heavy conehead or a split shot. You know, you throw a tailing loop and your loop doesn't go over the top of the rod, but instead comes through and hits the rod. You know, anything metal or heavy that's on your leader or in your fly can hit the rod and maybe cause a tiny fracture that won't show up until later when you put a lot of stress on it and a fish is really bending it.
Or you're snagged on the bottom and you're pulling on it, that tiny fracture can grow and fracture the entire rod. But as far as rod carriers are concerned, no, I think you're gonna be very safe. As long as the rod is held in a softer, you know, whatever is inside the rod, foam or even cloth, it's not gonna hurt the rod at all. So it's unfortunate that you broke that tip of your rod, but, you know, a rod snapping back onto a branch, you can fracture that rod quite easily because all the stress is being applied over a very small area. It's not like playing a fish or making a long cast. So that's unfortunate, those things happen, but glad that folks in the rod shop got you turned around in a week with your replacement tip section.
Here's an email from Josh. "Although I'm a card-carrying acolyte of the cult of Tom, I would like to push back gently on the issue of pumping discussed in your last podcast. As a strong advocate of catch and release, formally known as keep them wet, I would think you would find that pumping is inconsistent with the best practices of catch and release as it involves forced and potentially multiple injections of water into a fish while being handled, and more likely than not, squeezed and poked while being held out of the water. Frankly, I'm not even a big fan of fish pictures, but at least you can take pictures in the net without taking them out of the water.
We harass them enough when we pierce their lips and jaws with razor-sharp hooks, and then yank them out of their homes into suffocating air. Let's figure out what they're eating by close observation, not by gagging them. So I'll agree to disagree, but thanks for listening to my rant and I remain your devoted follower. Thanks." Well, Josh, I'm gonna agree to disagree on this. You can pump a fish's throat, you can use a throat pump because it's not going into their stomach, even when the fish is in the water in the net. Just squirt a little water in there and suck it back out with the pump. And if you practice this, maybe practice on pan fish or something else, or just practice with a fake fish or just practice it before you do it and you have that pump ready, you can do that quite quickly and it really does not increase your handling time very much at all.
And you don't have to lift a fish out of the water. And, boy, careful observation. Yeah, it can help you determine what they're eating, but until you get something out of their gullet, you never know exactly what they're eating or what stage. And I don't do it a lot, but I do it in a situation where I can't see what they're eating and I'm curious about what they're eating. So I'm gonna remain curious. And I think it's a good way of finding out what they're eating without having to kill the fish.
Don: Hi, Tom, this is Don from Western North Carolina. I've got a question about changing flies on the water. And I don't do that a lot, but when I do, especially if it involves changing tippet material, maybe moving from nylon to fluorocarbon, trying on a dry dropper or maybe moving to an indicator or nymph rig, I seem to spend an inordinate amount of time trying to change things and tie knots, and so on. I'm not that young anymore. My eyesight's not all that great. So that's certainly part of the challenge. I do use some magnifying glasses that help, but I'm just curious if you have any tips about how to try to expedite that process when you're on the water.
And is there anything you could even do in advance maybe to prepare for that? I do prepare some dry dropper rigs in advance and carry those in little plastic bags. But just would love to hear your thoughts on that because I seem to spend an inordinate amount of time just fiddling around with tippets and tying on flies. Thanks for all you do. Love what you and Orvis do to support the sport and those of us that are new, and of course, the conservation. Thanks.
Tom: So, Don, it sounds like you're doing most of the things that you need to do. Good light and, you know, good vision, using close-up glasses if you need them are gonna help. And tying your dry dropper rigs ahead of time is a great practice. The only other things that I can suggest is that you practice those knots at home even more. You need to develop muscle memory in your fingers in order to tie a knot easily. And, you know, honestly, I've been doing this fly fishing stuff all my life and tying knots, and if I'm learning a new knot, it takes me quite a while to learn that new knot, even though I've been tying lots and lots of knots. You have to develop muscle memory in your fingers in order to do that smoothly and efficiently.
So practice, practice, practice, practice those knots at home under good light. And the other thing is use a little more tippet, you know. Don't scrimp on your tippet. Use a longer piece of tippet, make bigger loops when you tie the knots, you know, you're Tying a blood knot or a clench knot or whatever, make sure that you retain bigger loops to help you poke that end of the tippet back through. You're not gonna use that much more tippet by using a slightly larger loop or a slightly longer end of tippet. So those are about the only things I can suggest. Practice and use a little bit more tippet material. Here's an email from John from Colorado.
"While fishing this spring and early summer on the Arkansas, Colorado, South Platte and Fraser Rivers in Colorado, I've experienced some great hatches of caddis, drake, salmon, stone, and PMDs. The hatches were so numerous, the flies were getting into my eyes, ears, and mouth. I suggest washing them down with the great Colorado IPA. Unfortunately, my experience did not include catching many trout. Very few trout were rising, so I assume they were gorging themselves on emergers and not bothering with those insects on the water surface. Yet when I fished emergers or on a dry dropper rig, I still failed to get their attention. So I'm asking the sage/guru of the fly fishing world, if you've experienced situations like this. And if so, what do you do to get the trout to eat your fly? Thanks in advance for your advice. It's greatly appreciated by all of us who listen to your podcast."
Well, yeah, John, I've seen it way too many times. And typically, you talked about spring and early summer. I think what you experienced was water that was too fast and maybe too cold for the fish to come to the surface or anywhere near the surface. You know, fish like to feed in water that's running about 1 feet to 2 feet per second. And the early spring water, the water at the surface could be, you know, running at 4 feet, 5 feet, 6 feet per second. And that's just too much for them to handle. They have to waste too much energy and they're not gonna come to the surface. So they're gonna be probably feeding on those nymphs, but deep. And the only way to catch those fish is to, you know, fish a deep nymph method.
So not just an emerger or dry dropper, but fishing with an indicator or euro nymphing so that you're getting down to the fish. The water close to the bottom or in slower pockets is going to be much more comfortable for them, and they're not gonna rise up through that faster water in the mid column and the upper column of the water. They're just not gonna do it because it burns too much energy. In situations like that, if I'm looking for dry fly fishing and I see a lot of bugs, other than fishing nymphs deep, the other thing that you can do is to really move around a lot and find a place where the water is slower. It might be a back eddy, it might be a deeper pool, it might be the tail of a pool, someplace where the water is moving slower, even at the surface, you may find some fish feeding on those insects.
So you really have to move around. If you're looking to fish an emerger or a dry fly, you gotta find those slower pockets. And, you know, in some rivers, it's tough to find those slower pockets, but if you can, you may actually find some fish responding to those insects. But they don't always feed on the surface, even in a good hatch and it can be frustrating. Here's an email from Kurt from Rochester, New York. "Tom, I really enjoyed your reaching podcast on the redeye bass with Matthew Lewis. Made me draw comparisons to some of the smallish stream smallmouth bass fishing I've done. For the past couple years, I've been exploring a local smaller stream here in Upstate New York in pursuit of smallmouth bass during the warmer months.
This particular stream has limited public access and is maybe 50 feet to 75 feet across, with some wider and narrower sections. The water is generally pretty skinny with some deeper holes. There appears to be good food source in the form of aquatic insects, terrestrials, and crayfish. Smallmouth and rock bass are plentiful and eager to eat just about anything I throw at them, but the fish tend to register on the wimpy end of the size chart. Most fish here are 6 inches to 8 inches, and a 10-inch fish is good size. The largest smallmouth I've caught here is 12 inches, and I would consider that a rare trophy lunker. This has been my experience fishing other similar size streams, even in Southern states where the growing season is longer. Regardless, fishing for these little guys on a 3-weight or 4-weight is a ton of fun.
Intuitively, I would not expect the fish here to be of lake or large stream river size, but why is the overall size consistently small in small streams? Is it a function of available habitat, sheer numbers and competition for food? Is there a physiochemical explanation? Are these just juveniles or are they genetically or otherwise stunted adults that will never grow to adult size? Hypothetically speaking, would these same small fish grow to normal size in a larger body of water? Just an educational curiosity more than anything. Thanks." Well, Kurt, yeah, I think that, you know, in those smaller streams, there just isn't the habitat and the food supply to allow those fish to grow bigger. In a lake or a bigger river, they have slower water, they can cruise around and get a lot more food.
A bigger river or a lake is gonna have more abundant food and it's gonna be easier to capture, so the fish burn less energy for each calorie they ingest, and they're just gonna be able to get more food for any given period of time. There's just more stuff around and more habitat and less current. Those fish could very well be juveniles that are gonna drop down into Lake Ontario or another larger lake and grow big. Smallmouth tend to spawn in in feeder streams. They ascend their feeder streams. So early in the spring, you may find some bigger fish in these streams that are in there spawning. And they may very well be juveniles, but they may also be fish that just are suited to the habitat. And I expect, I don't think they're stunted genetically, I expect that if you remove some of those fish from one of those small streams and put them in Lake Ontario or a large river, that they would grow to the same size as the lake run fish. But, again, that's just speculation too. But it's probably food supply and just the ability to capture food is gonna be greater in bigger waters.
Here's an email from Benjamin. "Hi, Tom. I am 12 years old and live near the Provo River. I had one question for you. I just recently got into fly fishing have been really enjoying it, but the one thing I was wondering, next to my house, there is a pond where the bottom is made out of grass and moss, stocked with rainbow trout and brown trout up to 25 inches. And there is giant Koi fish, and I hooked one on spinning gear. I do not have a kayak or raft to get to the middle, but on the shore, there is a small little stream with which I have caught some fish on spinning rod, but I have had a hard time on a fly rod. I have tried crickets, beetles and other bugs I have found there, but I have had no luck except my friend hooking, but losing one. So I was wondering if you have any recommendations.
I also wanted to share one story about that pond. During the winter, I was sleeping on a pond near that hill and saw 50 or more rainbow trout mating where the stream I was talking about reaches the pond, and it was the most beautiful thing. And one of the rainbow trout was an albino." Well, Benjamin, that is certainly a cool experience, seeing those fish spawning. And fishing that smaller stream, you know, they can be difficult particularly just getting a cast, but there's a couple things you can do. One is to try fishing a dry dropper, which would be a bigger bug, you know, like a hopper or a beetle, something you can see, and then using what's called a dry dropper. So hanging a nymph, I usually tie a piece of 4X or 5X about, maybe 8 inches long to the dry fly.
And you may catch fish on both the dry fly and the nymph if you have enough room to cast. If you don't have enough room to cast and you're trying to fish a small stream where it's really tight and brushy, one of the things you can do is take a little tiny streamer like a size 10 or a 12 or a nymph, and put a split shot ahead of it, maybe a couple inches ahead of it, and kind of lower it into the little pockets in that small stream and twitch it. It's almost like fishing a jig on a spinning rod. That's what I used to do in small streams when I was your age. And you can sneak up to those little pockets and kind of lower your fly into the deeper water and just twitch it. Or you can do what's called dapping, which is just dipping your dry fly on the water.
But generally those fish are kind of spooky in those small streams, so sneaking up on them is gonna be important. Approach the little pools from downstream and be careful not to stand upright over the pool, and see what you can do. I'm sure you'll eventually figure out how to catch those fish. You're 12 years old and you probably got lots of time to fish and lots of time to experiment. So I wish you the best of luck. Here's an email from Kevin from Central Mass. "Hi, Tom, longtime listener, first time submitting a question to the podcast. I'm looking for some help solving a saltwater slump. I started fishing in saltwater about five years ago, mostly during family vacations to the cape and islands in recent years when visiting family in Southwest Florida.
In New England, I would typically patrol the beach after dinner or early in the morning, looking for tail slaps, diving birds, or fishy-looking structure, and essentially blind cast in and around those areas. I have some success and found it highly addictive. My cast developed to the point where I can pretty reliably put the fly where it needs to be out to about 50 feet. Fast forward a few years, and I have multiple lines, tie my own flies, and scope out fishy water whenever travel takes me to the coast. You know how it is. I've fished with guides a few times in the surf as well. Lately, I've been spending more time site fishing for stripers on beaches and flats in the Northeast, and for beach snook when visiting Florida.
One consistent problem I'm having is getting curious fish to take in shallow water. I find that I imagine you get lots and lots of looks and follows, but I'm stuck figuring out what to do in the situation to trigger a strike. I've tried continuing my trieve as is because that attracted the fish in the first place, speeding up, pausing, fast two-handed strips, short quick strips, etc. But typically, what seems to happen is either the fish loses interest or end up stripping the fly back to within a rod length, and the fish sees me and bolts. Yesterday I was on a famous flat on the cape and at low tide, there were stripers everywhere, but I could not figure out how to get them to take. Again, lots of fish changing course to follow my fly, nosing around it, then losing interest or darting off when they saw me.
Some young kids fishing live eels nearby didn't have this problem. On the flats and in shallow water, I typically use 11 foot to 12-foot 12-pound leader, usually mono, unless on a coral flat. Do you think the solution to this is in the retrieve, leader length, or material? I assume the fish are following the fly. The pattern shouldn't be the issue, maybe the wrong size, wrong color, too much flash? I hope you can help, Tom. Otherwise I might resort to live bait, or God forbid, take up golf. Thanks for all the information in your books, videos, and the podcast. It has been truly indispensable to my and countless others' fly fishing journey. Please keep it coming. Take care."
Well, Kevin, I don't have a lot of experience with beach fishing for snook. I've done it, but I couldn't really give you any intelligent advice, but I have done a lot of flats fishing for stripers on the cape for many, many years. And what I can tell you is that those fish can be frustrating, and some days they'll eat everything, or not everything, and other days you can cast to 50 fish and not have any eat. And it happens. It's tough and it's challenging. And I think it's one of the reasons people love this site fishing for stripe bass is because it's so difficult and challenging. And it sounds like you're doing everything right. Generally, I find that going to a smaller fly will sometimes get those fish to eat.
You know, the bigger flies that you're using for blind casting, big Deceivers and Gurglers and bigger Clousers, and things like that don't work as well on the flats. Need to go to a smaller fly, even a bonefish size fly. And I often use bonefish flies on the flats or little tiny crab flies, small permit-sized crabs in a size six or an eight. And, you know, you hit on a couple of things. I would keep the flash off the flies. I think sometimes the flash attracts the fish, but when they get close to it, it's a little bit too much. And these fish have seen a lot of flies. You know, they get some pressure. So I would go, you know, your leader length is good, you know, 11-foot, 12-foot leader is good, 12-pound tippet is probably about right. I don't think you wanna can try 8 pound or a 10 pound, but I don't think it makes that much difference.
So, smaller fly. The other thing is if you're fishing a floating line, sometimes an intermediate line will work because... I'm not sure why, but it seems to keep that retrieve a little bit lower in the water column. These fish are mostly eating crabs and shrimp or dead sand eels and they're used to picking stuff off the bottom. And sometimes the floating line, your retrieve will attract the fish, but it's not where they want to eat it. They want to eat it on the bottom. You'll often see fish kind of turning on their sides because they're eating stuff off the bottom. I'm sure you've seen them flashing and turning on their sides and they're picking up shrimp or small crabs or dead or dying sand eels.
So going to an intermediate line, and this sounds counterintuitive, but there are also people who believe in a full sinking line, a fast sinking line, like a depth charger, a full sinking line with a long leader. You know, it's a little bit less stealthy because they hit the water a little harder, but if you can lead those fish, if you can cast well ahead of the fish when you see it coming, get that fly down to the bottom, and just crawl it along the bottom, not fast at all. You might give it one quick strip to catch the fish's attention, but after that, you wanna either do a short strip and a stop, or just slowly, slowly drawing the fly along the bottom, you might have better luck. But take heart. Those fish are tough and there's some days when they're gonna be nearly impossible to hook. So good luck. Try those things. See how it works.
Here's an email from Ryan. "I'm from the Cumberland Valley in South Central Pennsylvania. We've got a ton of great fishing nearby from historic spring creeks, like the Letort to the mighty Susquehanna, one of the best smallmouth rivers in the world, if you ask me. My wife often asks if we can move, and I typically answer, "Eh, but the fishing." My question doesn't pertain to leader formulas or fly-tying material substitutes. It's something a bit more existential. First, a little backstory. I'll try to keep it brief. I've been working the same job for about 13 years now. It's a manufacturing job, and it typically consists of long 12-hour days of manual labor.
The money's okay, but the real benefit is the schedule. When you break it down, I only really work six months out of the year. This leaves a tremendous amount of time for fishing and makes my friends very jealous. Once or twice a year I have some clarity for some reason, and realize that I really hate the job so I'll go looking for something else. This happened recently, and I got an email from a local fly shop mentioning that they were hiring the same week. I applied assuming I'd be taking a pay cut, but so excited to work in an industry I'm passionate about that it barely seemed to matter. I truly enjoy helping people, especially when it comes to fishing.
I actually started a YouTube channel a few years ago for that very reason. I don't get millions of views or anything, but whether it's 1 million or 27 million, as long as one person reaches out and says, "Thank you. This information really helped," that's good enough for me. Later that week, I had a phone interview with the owner of the company. I should interject that this is not a small hole-in-the-wall fly shop. This is a company with multiple physical locations and a strong online presence. The interview was basically me getting grilled like I was a Belgian bonefish guide who crossed trains in Montauk and vacations in the Pacific Northwest.
Thankfully, I have a bit of experience with most things, although I don't claim to have mastered any, but I was able to field this questions well, in my opinion. We finally reached the topic of compensation, and when he mentioned an hourly rate, my jaw hit the floor. I remember the distinct thought of either laughing or crying. Laughing, because the rate of pay was laughable, fast-food wages. Crying, because I was so disappointed that I had let myself have such high expectations for what this job could have been. I regained my composure and asked about benefits. He replied by telling me that they often held contests for employees and I could win trips and gear, and of course, my employee discount.
This time, I may have chuckled aloud, but I resisted making a joke about paying my doctor with cases of airlock indicators. I think he sensed my frustration at this point because he then told me that this is just the way it is. If you wanna be in this business, this is how it works. This whole interaction left a very bad taste in my mouth for a number of reasons. I understand that occasionally fly shop employees are also guides, but I think in the great majority of the country, that just isn't the case. My question to you, Tom, is have you seen this sort of thing play out across the country? People not being paid a living wage and still being expected to be knowledgeable? Is working in this industry synonymous with taking a vow of poverty, as I was told?
I'll keep the Orvis company Orvis Stores out of my question, because I know there's a corporate structure there that's very different from independently-owned fly shops. You may very well not have an answer to this, Tom, but I thank you for your time and insight either way. I think writing this out was cathartic for me. Needing to get it out of my system. At the time it stung, and in the following weeks, I've realized that I don't need to work in a fly shop to help people. I've doubled down on my YouTube output, not that I'll ever surpass the likes of yourself and Pete, but the ability to help just one person is always enough to keep me going.
Finally, thank you for your selfless contributions to our sport. I know your humility won't let you hear it, but you are truly the Lefty of this generation. It'll be amazing to look back years from now and see how many people discovered and excelled at fly fishing because they saw Tom Rosenbauer on YouTube." Well, that's very flattering. And, Ryan, I am hardly a Lefty. I don't think there will ever be another Lefty. They broke the mold when they made Lefty. But that's extremely flattering. Regarding fly shop pay, yes, it is difficult. And if you go into most fly shops in this country, you will notice that other than the owner of the shop, who is probably barely making a living at the fly shop, he or she is, is doing it because they love it. Most of the people in the shop you see will either be really young or they'll be old retired guys. Running a fly shop is a very, very difficult thing to do. It is very difficult to make a decent living in a fly shop.
And I am sure that fly shop owners, and these particular fly shop owners pay their employees as much as they can, but the margins aren't that great in fly shops. It's a tiny industry with not a lot of money. You know, some people may think that there are people getting rich in fly fishing, but they aren't. And fly shop owners are paying their employees, I'm sure, as much as they can and taking good care of their employees, but they just can't afford benefits or higher salaries. Sometimes the manager of a fly shop might be doing okay, but it's tough. And that's why you see young kids who are just starting out or guides that are supplementing their income by working in the shop, or older retired people who, you know, are just doing it because they love it.
It's a labor of love and it's not a way to make a living. It's not a way to make a good living anyway. It's very difficult. So my hat is off to these people who work in fly shops. They're there because they love it. They're not making much money. And so all of you who go into fly shops, know that these people are doing it because they love it and they're not doing that well financially, but they're doing the best they can. So, unfortunately, as the fly shop owner told you, it's just the way it is. It's not a lucrative business at all. And it's very, very difficult.
Tim: Hi, Tom, this is Tim in Fairfax, Virginia, and I've got a question about matching reels to rods of different weights. So I'm looking at getting a 5-weight freshwater rod, and I've got reels for, for instance, 6-weight and 8-weight. And I'm just curious what the issues might be with putting a 8-weight reel on a 5-weight rod, assuming that there's a 5-weight floating line on that reel. Obviously, I think I know that heavier reel is intended for larger fish where you may need better drag and all that. But given that for a lighter rod it's mostly holding the line in place and that it's probably, you don't need the drag quite as much, is it really that big an issue to have kind of a heavier duty reel attached to that 5 weight rod? So I'm curious what your thoughts are on that. If that's a no-go or, you know, it doesn't make a huge difference. And appreciate everything you do. I love listening to the show. So thanks so much.
Tom: Well, Tim, you said you had a 6-weight reel and an 8-weight reel, so I'm not sure why you don't try to put that 5-weight line or that 6-weight reel on your 5-weight rod, because that would be a better match, unless you're using the same reel for 6 and 8. It wasn't quite clear there. You can put an 8-weight reel or a reel that's suitable for an 8-weight on a 5-weight rod. The balance is gonna be a little bit off and it's gonna look a little big, a little massive. And there are people who say that your casting isn't gonna be as good because when the rod and reel are balanced you're gonna be able to cast better, but you can make it work.
And it's not out of the question to put an 8-weight suitable reel on a 5-weight rod. The reel's gonna feel a little heavy, but your casting will work. And, yeah, the drag is overkill and the size of the reel is overkill, but it doesn't mean it won't work. So you could make it work until you're, you know, until you're able to get a reel that's a little more suitable. I would go ahead and do it. There's nothing wrong with it. The reel should fit on the reel seat because there is a standard in the industry of reel feet and reel seats on rods. And so it should fit okay. It's just gonna feel a little heavy, but I'd go ahead and do it if that's what you gotta do. It won't hurt a bit.
All right. That's the Fly Box for this week. Let's go talk to Matt Supinski about selectivity. Well, my guest today is the great Matt Supinski. Matt and I have known each other for many years and we've never fished together. We're gonna fix that this summer, I think. But Matt is owner of, is it Gray Drake Outfitters?
Matt: It's just old white guy that takes people fishing outfitters, you know, it's just...
Tom: No, what is the name? It's Gray Drake...
Matt: Gray Drake. Gray Drake. Yeah. Gray Drake Outfitters. Yeah.
Tom: And Matt also does a wonderful online magazine, and what's the name of the magazine, Matt?
Matt: "Hallowed Waters Journal."
Tom: "Hallowed Waters Journal," which is a, I'd say fairly advanced kind of online magazine. And then Matt has a podcast and he's interviewed some really, really interesting people. And you used to be a chef, right?
Matt: Yeah. I'm a trained chef. I went to culinary institute. So, you know, I get excited about cooking a lot as I do, you know, picking mushrooms. And I do a lot of that when I'm walking the stream. So all that great stuff is in "Hallowed Waters Journal." And I have an Epicurean Gourmet column where I share all my recipes. So any of you foodie chefs out there...and you know what, Tom, I think everybody that I know that fly fish loves food, and drink. I mean, it's just like, you know, it's endemic to the...
Tom: Well, and, you know, if somebody doesn't like food, they're a little suspect anyways, right?
Matt: Yeah, exactly.
Tom: I mean, Jesus, you know, I mean, I do hear people say, "I only eat to sustain myself." And I think, boy, that's a weird person.
Matt: That's crazy. That's crazy.
Tom: Anyway. Matt, you have a book that you wrote a number of years ago called "Selectivity." And you've studied, you've talked to scientists, you've observed fish all your life, so we're gonna talk about selectivity today. What it is, why fish even do it, and you know, how we can deal with it as anglers. It's probably one of the most fun parts of fly fishing I think, because it's a real puzzle when you have selective fish. If they always took the fly we threw out there, it would get kind of boring. So Matt, what is selectivity? How do you define it?
Matt: Well, yeah, so I think in the old notion of what, you know, one of my mentors, Carl Richards, who you and him and Dick Pobst, you remember Dick, God rest his soul.
Tom: Sure.
Matt: And you know, God rest Carl's soul, but I had the chance of fishing with them quite often on the Muskegon where I'm at. And we spent a lot of time having these late-night chats with big bottles of bourbon and all kinds of stuff. And I apologize to Carl, I probably ended his demise. But, you know, it was a thought process that we were enamored with, trout being fussy and finicky to our flies, refusing our flies. So when we say those trout are selective, we mean that, man, they're getting picky. So it all comes down to the pickiness of the experience.
And I think that is the Zen and the karma that fuels trout fly fishermen, trout bombs. I mean, the refusal is the beginning of the journey, the way I see it. And it's something I think you appreciate too, because you're kind of old school and you were the guy that dives deep into the lore and the experiences and all those golden great years of people that have come before us and are still around that, you know, started the whole selective process. But really, selectivity, according to the way I took it to the next level from what Carl and Swisher did, Richards and Swisher to me, selectivity is a hard drive. It's like a genetically behavioral code that is evolved into trout and salmon to support their life's survival strategies.
And it gives them the ability to be very discriminatory and to have choices and to select and be fussy for a matter of life survival and predatory efficiency. So really, what it comes down to, it's about them being better predators and feeding more efficiently, which in the long term is the conservation of energy, which, you know, in the Darwinian survival of the fittest means the hatchery trout that runs out of the hatchery tank and runs around and chases everything probably isn't gonna make it. But the wild fish that has learned to be more selective or discriminating or fussy, or how many thesaurus words you wanna look at, is probably gonna be the one that survives. So I think that is the crux of selectivity. It's born out of survival.
And trout, above all, you know, I mean, bass, let's think of bass. I mean, we're not gonna sit around and have a selectivity talk about which Woolly Bugger we're gonna put on today to go catch bass. We know pretty much that we're gonna put a Woolly Bugger on, and we're gonna go catch a bass. But to a trout fisherman, and you're on the Delaware, the Catskills are in, on the Battenkill, or anywhere in the country, you're gonna have fly boxes upon fly boxes, because you know there's gonna be decisions made by trout that aren't always gonna favor you, and you're gonna be stumped.
Tom: But what's the evolutionary advantage of selectivity? I mean, why shouldn't trout just eat everything that goes by? They'd get more calories that way, by just eating everything that floats over that looks good. Why do they key in on a certain bug when there's other bugs around?
Matt: That's a very good question. And you know, I like fishing tiny, small streams like you do. So I think we're brothers from another mother in a sense because, you know, I spend my days with my 2 weight up in the national forest here chasing little wild brookies and little wild browns. And that is my passion, and I know that's your passion also. And you'll find some of the most selective trout, little ones, 8 inches to 10 inches, 12 inches in those little creeks, those wild little spring creeks, especially Clearwater spring creeks, because they have to make a quick snap judgment decision in a very quick moment. And it better be the right decision or they're gonna be chasing every twig and leaf and piece of debris that is coming down that river, and finding out that they're ingesting a lot of non-caloric type things.
And some of them will, you know, if you go to the Delaware or you go to Henry's Fork or the Missouri or any spring creek or, you know, Cumberland Valley spring creeks or anywhere, you're gonna find really selective fish. That's all a matter of habitat and the function of the slow water and their ability to discern food for a longer period of time. But I think it is basically a over the millennia driven genetically program, behavioral mechanism for them to queue in on the most specific elements of their forage in a high conveyor belt abundance. So if that size is right, if the tippet is not too big, if the angle of the wings are perfect, I'm gonna keep feeding and feeding and feeding and feeding on that one. If there's any variation of it, it means warning, Mr. Trout, there's something wrong here.
Tom: So it keeps them from eating junk food, in other words.
Matt: I think that's it. And it keeps them, I think the next level is basically, the selectivity or the fussiness really kicks in when we start pounding the fish in catch and release waters and heavily fished waters. You know, I'm gonna just use a quote from Carl's book, "Selective Trout." It says "The selectivity of trout has been the most difficult and challenging of the numerous problems that can confront a fly fisherman. Now and in the future, with fishing pressure increasing at a tremendous rate, the problem will become even more acute with the advent of special fishing regulations and the increase in the number of no-kill areas. Trout that are caught more than once become even more selective and leader shy." So that in essence sums up the whole experience. And what degree do we go from there, is what we're talking about.
Tom: And Matt, there's a classic example of frustration in a trout stream that everybody will experience at one time or another. You have multiple hatches so you got a bunch of flies on the water. And let's say you have little blue wing olives, little Baetis floating down. And then you have a few big Green Drakes floating down. And the fish totally ignore those big meaty Green Drakes and instead focus on the little olives. To most people, it doesn't make sense. Why do you think that happens?
Matt: I think it's because of that code. So that hard drive code also comes in software packages and apps. And I'm gonna talk technical talk here, but in essence, once, you know, it's that the switch is on to target a size 18, 20 Paraleptophlebia Mollis, which is a little tiny blue wing olive, a little brown or blue wing olive. And it comes down in massive abundances between this time and that time from 11:00 a.m., until 2:00 p.m., or from 7:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m. And my program that I'm running right now is targeting that specific bug, and that's basically how trout in that, you know, selectivity hard drive learn to say that this is pretty dependable food. It's proven, it's efficient. I could consume 200 of them in an afternoon, get X amount of calories. And anything else I am not targeting. I'm not looking for.
And I think that switch, it's called that selectivity switch, and it's the, you know, it's the hatch when you've seen sulphur hatches start off and not efficient touching sulphurs because they've just been weaning off of Hendricksons. And it takes about 24, 48 hours for them to all of a sudden say, oh. I mean, I've seen water on my river, the Catskills, all over, you know, the South Holston, billions of sulphurs coming down the river and not one fish is touching. But you put on a Hendrickson spinner, bingo, they're right on it. And I think that code takes time for the fish to acclimate from one app to go to the other app and say now this is the app and the mode that I'm operating in.
It's those security codes that are genetically behaviorally instilled in these fish. And it's those fish, those trout that abide by those codes and don't deviate. Deviation in nature is not good. Stability in nature is good. And deviation usually causes you to fall off the cliff because you weren't watching. The squirrel fell off the cliff because you got too aggressive. So I think that's the way trout are programmed and salmon also, especially Atlantic salmon, is that to stay in these codes. And Lee Wulff put it great, that if, you know, if a big Atlantic salmon came into a Atlantic salmon river and there were tons of little baby fry Atlantics around, the Atlantic salmon would kill every par in the river because, you know, they're eaters. But I think the beauty of nature is that it develops these behavioral codes, otherwise called life survival strategies, LSS, that tells them to operate in certain parameters, in certain schemas, if you know what I'm saying.
Tom: Do you find trout always selective or are they sometimes more opportunistic?
Matt: Well, yeah, so what I did with selectivity and when I was doing the book, the guy we both worked with, Jay Nichols, he was trying to say, "Well, selectivity, you're talking about selective trout." So I took selectivity to a different level. I took it to that it's a hard drive program in trout, but there's different phases of selectivity. So there's the aggressive active phase, there's selective reflective phase, and then there's the passive dormant phase.
Tom: All right. You wanna explain all those three?
Matt: Yeah. So, you know, the aggressive active phase is the necessity to feed opportunistically with short windows for maximum caloric intake. So it's like when those hatches get really geared up and you get to the river at 11:00 on a late April afternoon, and the Hendrickson hatches started after a day or 2, those trout are on them in a big way. I mean, you could literally plop yourself in the middle of a school of them and they won't even know that you're there. And G. E. M. Skues, our good British philosophy fly fisher talked a lot about, you know, "The fish is not even noticing me, but on another day that fish would jump the moment I came 100 feet away from the creek."
And it's frenzy feeding during a hatch with resolute and efficient, simple rises. And it's a result of new and abundant food source that has been quickly acclimated to, like, sort of, oh, grasshoppers or cicadas or something that's or, you know, or night feeding to a mouse. The trout is less discriminating to the fly design, but it still has a certain hard drive edge code that says beware, because things could change any minute. But, yeah, they're probably the most opportunistic, or you go to a mountain stream or you go to a destination, you know? I had Dave Jensen on my podcast and he was talking about how predictable brown trout are in his videos.
And I said, "Yeah, Dave, because you're fishing streams in New Zealand and Patagonia that no one's fished before. So don't tell me..." You go to a guy in the Delaware or the Battenkill and tell him they're very predictable and he'll totally disagree. So, you know, I mean, it all depends on where you're fishing, but the selective reflective is already once that food form becomes established, they start to discern, they start to get more picky, they start looking at cripples and emergers. So it's more leisurely yet precise feeding with a high degree of inspection of every detail. Is the wing flapped on its side? Is the body too thick? Is it the right color?
And we need to talk about color because some people think that's old wives' tales. My mentor, Marinaro, said it was just a bunch of junk. And then you get into compound and complex rises. There's those rise forms where they come right up and take it slowly. There's rise forms where they sit vertically underneath the fly and float with it. You get that. Sometimes these selective reflective fish require very stealthy approach on your knees, on your body. Fly presentation must be perfect. Whereas in the aggressive state, you could get away with a little drag. You could get away with a little sloppy cast because the frenzy is there. And their mode is frenzy feeding.
So in selective mode, it's you take the upper west branch of the delta, or the east branch that you and I like to fish. It's those long inspection times, and I'm not really quite sure. And the other guy's fly dragged a little bit, yours is not, the wings look great. Bing, all systems are go, I think I'm gonna take it. And then you got the passive dormant phase, which is overfeeding, satiation, which is changes in weather, barometer. The spawning activity. Sometimes they...when they're spawning, they're really tough to have them look at a fly. And then excessive pressure. Excessive pressure, and I think I've read something one time, you said that, you know, catch and release waters sometimes no-kill flies only waters can pulverize a trout into not eating anymore.
I mean, just refuse to eat because he's afraid he is gonna get caught again. And it's really kind of interesting that with the amount of pressure we have today, selectivity is just gonna get to be a more predominant theme, and I already see it now. Everybody's trying, you know, when you and I were growing up, we didn't know about emergers. We knew about a Cahill and Adams and, you know, a Quill Gordon, but everybody's now, "I'm fishing this flushed in the film, I'm fishing in the meniscus. I'm doing this, I'm doing that. And I'm doing this." Because I think that pressure is pushing the code to be driven more in the favor of the fish. So, you know, selectivity will become, as Carl said in "Selective Trout," is gonna become more topical of a term as people get more on the water and our patterns get better and our equipment, gets better and our casting gets better. It's all very complex.
Tom: Why do fish seem to prefer emergers at times, Matt?
Matt: Well, that's a good question. And I just did a podcast with Al Caucci, which I think you heard and you said you liked and enjoyed very much.
Tom: I did. Yeah. It was a great podcast.
Matt: You know, a lot of what we fish, a lot of these big no-kill rivers are usually big tailwaters or spring creeks with placid waters. And you don't have really a lot of no kills on fast brawling rivers too much as a whole, you know? The trout there are more opportunistic that the bubbles, the current, the riffles are gonna push those bugs around a lot. So I don't think a trout would even know if there's an emerger there or not. It's food, it's moving, I could see it being long, I'm gonna take it. But a lot of the waters that we fish, especially no-kill fly-fishing-only waters, they're placid, they're long flat pools. Tailwaters, spring creeks, big, you know, Catskill-type pools, South Holstons.
The water's very slow moving. Though the meniscus is very difficult to crack by mayflies, and especially the Ephemerellas. Ephemerellas as a whole, i.e., Sulphurs, Baetis, you know, Hendricksons, keep going in cold. They have that dolphin-like kicking, but as soon as they get near the surface, that surface tension acts like a hard pressure system on their body keeping them forced in that surface tension. And in that surface tension, they have a tough time breaking out of it. So at that point, they're most vulnerable to the trout as cripple nymphs or emerging nymphs that are having a tougher time breaking out of their shucks.
And it's because of that, and you just need to go to the west branch of Delaware or the east branch of Battenkill flat sections, or a long pool on the Beaver Kill, or anywhere down south on a big tailwater, or out west on the Missouri. Missouri's a classic example of it out there. Those fish will take 20 to 1 of stillborn cripples or nymphs an inch below the surface. Or that's why you see a lot of the back and tail bulging of trout is they're not really taking on top. So our fly boxes are loaded with beautiful dry flies, but it doesn't seem anything wants to take them. And it's because of the way people are fishing these days, but it's also because of the way that mayflies break out of the water.
Unlike a swimming nymph like Isonychias that emerge very quickly, some do hatch on shore, but a lot of our Isonychias bicolors, and on the Delaware too, a lot of those emerge full-blown in the middle of the river. They swim really quick and they cut that surface tension. So a very fast swimming nymph will cut that surface tension, but most Ephemerellidae usually don't do it. And those are some of the most powerful and prolific hatches that we fish to, thus those emergers are becoming more and more prevalent.
Tom: Okay. Matt, a little sidebar here. What are some of your favorite emerger patterns? Not a specific insect, but just like for the Ephemerellas, for the sulphurs, PMDs Hendricksons or whatever, what type of a merger do you like best?
Matt: Yeah, so the bodies, I like to use like a pheasant tail type body on them, and with some...or you could just use brown Z-Lon, because most Ephemerella nymphs are brownish olive or brown Z-Lon. Yep. So, you know, it's based on Al's Compara Emerger concept, you know, which really started that whole trend in the, you know, the Z caddis, X caddis, and all the teardrop caddis stuff that Carl Richards was doing. But so some form of shuck that they're protruding out of, and sometimes, you know, a half body of a pheasant tail with a little bit of puff of dubbing of the color of the mayfly that you're imitating, like a little sulphur dubbing or a little olive dubbing for the thorax.
And then CDC is probably the most commonly acceptable today and probably is the most buoyant without a lot of, you know, fanfare that doesn't make it look too dunnish. It makes it look sort of crippled. Also snowshoe rabbit. And I know you're a big fan of snowshoe rabbit also. Snowshoe rabbit in CDC, tied in a bent fashion, either protruding forward or overlapped or tied backwards. Or deer hair. Like Carl uses coastal deer, excuse me, Al uses coastal deer hair. But keeping it very minimal, very stark, very simplistic, and just having it buoyant enough on top that it just floats halfway in the meniscus and halfway above, I think are your best prominent emerger patch.
Tom: Okay. Do you use any special hooks when you tie your emergers? Do you use, like, do you use a standard dry, or do you use a curved hook or a Klinkhammer hook? Do you use anything special for your emergers that you use?
Matt: Yeah, I use Curved Shrimp Scott Hooks, you know, Klinkhammer hooks. I've played all around with them. There's another bunch of new Daiichi hooks. I use Daiichi hooks a lot. They have bent bodies to them. Darrel Martin hooks. So, yeah, I play around with curved hooks, and I bend a lot of my hooks too. So I heat them up a little bit in the vice and bend them myself to get the angle I want, especially on spinners. When you're fishing spinners in the film, if you look at the spinners, they have a crooked body to them. So what I do with my straight shank hooks is I will heat them up and then bend them a little bit in the vice to give it that curved feeling. Because I will get on some very selective reflective fish that are very discriminatory during our Gray Drake hatch and our Green Drake hatches. And I will take curved spinners above and beyond a straight spinner. I know it sounds a little extreme, but I've sort of seen that happen.
Tom: I have a pattern that's in the Orvis line now that's a spinner with a bent body.
Matt: Wonderful. Wonderful. That's fantastic. That's awesome.
Tom: Who first started? Was it Kelly Galloup that first started bending spinner patterns? Do you know? Because I don't know who started that, but it's...
Matt: Yeah, I think Kelly was one of the first that started it. I know Zimmy Nolph on the Pere Marquette who was sort of a legendary guide back to the early 1900s. He started playing... And I think when I interviewed him for my "Pere Marquette" River Journal book, he talked about having a hex spinner that was bent out from a big brown that night and he kept that pattern for a while, and it seemed to perform the best because it was bent out. So I think Kelly knew Zimmy in me very well and I think Kelly is very observant.
And his book, "Spinners and Cripples," you know, everybody thinks of Kelly just as a streamer guy. But Kelly's a, you know, I just talked to him a couple of days ago and Kelly does a lot of stuff for "Hallowed Waters Journal" and he says, you know, "Contrary to popular belief, I fish dry flies more than anything." So even though you're known for streamers, but, yeah, Kelly probably was the one that really made it very popular.
Tom: And when we talk about bending a spinner pattern, just so people know, we're talking about bending it horizontally, not vertically, so that it's bent off to one side. Right?
Matt: Correct. Yes.
Tom: It's interesting, you said you heat the hooks up before you bend them. I just always kind of grab them lightly with a pair of pliers and bend them, or put them in the vice and bend them. You say you heat them. How do you heat the hook and why?
Matt: Just with a little blow torch that I use to do crème brûlée of all things and just soften it up a bit. Because sometimes when you bend hooks, they will crack if you're not too familiar with their tensile strength. So I do it, I just go to a different level. But you could really just bend them if you're very careful, and slowly bend them and look for the points in that hook which might be the abrasive part where you're gonna crack it. But you don't really need to. I just like to make sure that if I get that 20 incher I don't wanna have any issues with it. You know, even just matches or a lighter, a lighter would work very fine too. Just hold a lighter under the hook for a while and just soften it up just a little bit.
Tom: And do you ever have any problem with bent hooks breaking? I never have, but I'm just wondering because it probably weakens them slightly, I would imagine, doesn't it? Because they've already been tampered.
Matt: It really doesn't, and I haven't, so I wouldn't know unless I asked an engineer and [inaudible 01:20:32] engineer. But to be honest, I've never had one break on me either. I turn the smaller sizes, like 20s and 22s and 18s. If you get really, really down low, you might have more of a ability to break, but I have not. And it's all the X of the hook too. I mean, very, very thin hooks and X value are gonna break a lot quicker than a little heavier hook. You know what I'm saying?
Tom: Yeah. Well, let's talk about color while we're talking about flies, because you mentioned color and sounds like you have some strong opinions on color and selectivity.
Matt: Yeah. And when I wrote "Selectivity," you know, I had a good time to spend when I was in Washington D.C. in the hotel days back when I was in my late 20s with Vince Marinaro who wrote "A Modern Dry-Fly Code," "In The Ring Of The Rise." And I used to fish with Vince on the Letort on Mondays. He was kind and he wanted to be nice to me and usually, he was only nice to me when I brought him smoked salmon from the hotel. I got some Scottish smoked salmon, and I got some Barolo Italian wines, and Vince being a good Italian from Pittsburgh, loved Barolo wines. And I'd call him and say, "Vince, do you mind if I follow you around?" Because I, you know, I wasn't an equal. I was a lackey net boy.
Tom: Yeah, yeah.
Matt: You know, Vince came first, I'd always walk four steps behind Vince and I wouldn't dare try to beat to his side. And I would bring him Scottish smoked salmon which is about, you know, $50, $60 a pound today. And he loved that and he loved Barolo wines. And so I'd say, "Hey, meet me at, you know, Bonnie Brook or so and so at the core or down below, and, do you mind? I got a nice side of smoke salmon for you." So all of a sudden I was in the club. "Okay. Meet me at so and so." So it was kind of fun how that works. But, you know, he was not being on color. And another guy that you know of, Datus Proper, who wrote a really good book, if you bookies out there...
Tom: Oh, brilliant book.
Matt: ...need to read, "What the Trout Said."
Tom: Brilliant book. Yep.
Matt: He was part of our inner circle and he was part of National Capital Chapter of Trout Unlimited that I belonged to when I was living in Georgetown. And so I'd fish occasionally with Datus on the Yellow Breeches and Falling Springs. And then Vince would come along or Vince would be bitchy, "If you're fishing with Datus, I don't wanna fish with you. If you..." you know, just a bunch of old white dudes just about everything. You know, and it just got a little crazier that way. But, you know, when it came to color, I was always a big fan of color.
And these guys were like, "Color is sort of a witch tale." So actually Vince was the guy that says it's all old wives' tales and it's folklore, color is nothing but mere folklore. And whatever Vince said, Datus said too. And Datus, in his book, said, "Yeah, color is a matter of suspect and a matter of folklore." But that's before all the UV studies came out. And all the UV studies that focused on how white looks a lot like chartreuse and how purple looks a lot like brown and how da, da, da. And I think what UV scientists have learned, that color is very important to fish. And I talk a lot about this in my podcast with Al Caucci, is that the cones and rods of a trout are a lot different than humans, but they do see color, but they see it in tonal opaqueness and in total tonal versions.
So tone is more important than pure raw color. And I think what Caucci did with their spectrumized dubbing and all those beautiful blends and mixes is that they develop more tone into the bodies. So when you look at an Isonychia, is it really green, purple, mahogany, or a combination of above? And I think UV spectrums added to the fact that trout do see UV color through UV light, and that's where we're at with that whole color thing. So, yes, color...
Tom: Hold on a minute, hold on a minute. All the studies that I've ever seen say that trout lose their UV receptors once they're beyond the parr stage.
Matt: Well, I guess, yes, there are studies out there that, but you tell me that during a sulphur hatch, you're gonna go to the West Branch and put on a blue wing olive and consistently catch fish on a blue wing olive when every fish has taken assault.
Tom: No, but I don't need UV Spectrumized dubbing or UV treated dubbing or whatever, because they can't see it.
Matt: Yeah, no, it's not... Yeah, I guess you're right.
Tom: I mean, I've discussed this with people before. A lot of this stuff that is called UV is really nice dubbing anyways, and it's mixed colors. But as far as worrying about a UV treatment, I don't know. I'm not buying it. I'm not buying it yet until I see some more evidence.
Matt: No, you're absolutely right on that. It's the UV light and their perception of it and how it affects color. But to say that this material is UV treated, no, I'm dead on with you on that.
Tom: Okay. Okay. I just wanted to... Because if they can't see UV, they can't see UV. It's part of the spectrum. And if they can't see it, then it doesn't matter.
Matt: Right. But the tonal qualities, I think are the most important thing. And you know, a green is gonna be perceived as more grayish, greenish, brownish. So to the novice angle you gotta be relatively in the ballpark.
Tom: That's what I always tell people. Yeah, tonally you gotta be close.
Matt: Yeah. So an Adams fly is like Ed Van Put does on the big Delaware. He only fished Adams dry flies, parachute Adams, 50,000 boxes of it. And then Adams is gonna replicate a tremendous 80% of every dark mayfly that's out there in every size and form.
Tom: Well, it's kind of neutral gray anyways. It's kind of an 18% gray card. So it, you know, it may reflect whatever the trout wants to see. Right?
Matt: Exactly. Exactly. And that's what I liked about Dick Pobst book he did for you, "The Orvis Guide to Mayflies," which is still one of the best books out there, because he broke it down between the light mayflies and the dark mayflies and the seasons. And, you know, to the average trout fisherman that loves what they do and they don't wanna become totally obsessed by bugs like I am and you are, and other people are, and lose their mind over little things that they don't need to pay attention to, get Dick Pobst Orvis, trout, stream, insects, pocket guide. And that is all you need. And carry it in your vest. And it's simple.
So simplification, I think I'm sort of like that Don Quixote chasing all these windmills of things, but I think that's part of the passion. That's part of the Zen and karma of what we do. We wanna take the sport to the next level, we wanna go there, and we wanna experience it. And when we make a judgment, when we design a fly, that all of a sudden is so potent and everybody is saying, "Oh, my God, what are you catching them on?" Because I designed that fly and this is why I designed it. And these are the reasons why I designed it. But really? Seriously? I mean, 90% of that is all romanticism and it's all excitement that we're generating because we wanna feel good about ourselves.
Tom: Well, it's all confidence too, right? I mean the old cliché is that if you're more confident with a fly, it's gonna fish better for you, regardless of whether it's any good or not.
Matt: Exactly, 100%. There's an old tale that you get to the Atlantic salmon river and, you know, or you go... the best story was in my "Selectivity" book when me and... his name, this was back when I was in D.C. And we were going to England because he had a shop, [inaudible 01:29:34] and he had a little Orvis shop in Rockville, Maryland. And we got a chance to go fish the Orvis water in UK, the Itchen. And John Randolph was the guy that was running it back then. Not the John Randolph from the magazine, but another John Randolph.
Tom: John Russell, John Russell.
Matt: John Russell. Excuse me. John Russell. Yes. Sorry. And we got to fish some prime beats, we got to fish the Broadlands, we got to fish Timsbury, we got to fish, you know, a lot of Cambridge, a lot of really prime beats. And then we got to fish Timsbury one day and we go to Timsbury the first day, and our young English chap picks us up. And, you know, here I spent, oh, geez, I talked about it on the book. I spent months and months digging up every entomology book from the UK on every species of blue wing olive, pale, watery, you know, Ephemeradanica. And, you know, being a fanatical Marinaro disciple, I was armed with every British mayfly.
And I get there and I'm, like, panting like a little dog, and I said, "So what should I put on, my wonderful Gilly?" And he's like, "Well, Matt, you know, take the best fly in your box that you're most confident in and just put it on. You'll catch trout. And I'm like, it was the most...I was so let down, it's like somebody deflated a big yoga ball. And just, the air came out of me. And then, like, you mean this? And I hold up like a size 14 Adams parachute. And he goes, "Precisely, it's all you need." And I'm like, I spent months studying every bug and he tells me put on the fly that I'm most confident, mate. And me and Ash caught like 40 trout each that day, all fat, you know, 16-inch to 20-inch brown trout. The moment they rose, you know, it's on the test, you can't fish until the fish rises. And we cast out there and sure enough, poor thing comes up, thinks he's gonna take a floating pellet because they just probably released them...
Tom: Yeah, that's the test.
Matt: And the test and sure enough, at 40 trout each, and we're like, "Okay, this has gotta stop." And we are only supposed to, you know, take two trout, your brace and off to the bar and drink your lagers and bitters and ales and stuff. And this guy let us fish for two days on the beat and we, like, paid him off to leave us alone, you know, to not watch us. And we sent him into town. We gave him money, he went into the town to watch a British soccer game. It was like a World Cup game at the time. And we're fishing at Timsbury we're catching like 60 trout and we're like, "Okay, we can't do this anymore. This is wrong." And then he comes back and says, "I don't wanna know anything about this. Whatever you chaps did, I want nothing to do with this." You know? And then like a month later, he sends us a letter, like, "You guys destroyed that whole beat. Nobody could catch a fish on that beat anymore. You guys are terrible Yanks. You bloody Yanks. What's wrong with you people? You're just greedy Americans. That's why Americans are ugly Americans when you come to Europe." So we taught him selectivity pretty quickly.
Tom: Did you put on a Woolly Bugger in that stretch?
Matt: No, no, no. No Woolly Buggers. No. But I did...
Tom: I have.
Matt: Oh, I bet you did. Being with Orvis top dude, I bet you could do whatever you want over there. But I did a sculpin on the Itchen, and I talk about it in my "Selectivity" book. And there's a mill, Abbots Mill, I think, on the Itchen. And I talk about myself. And there was a water wheel in a mill and there was a huge brown living underneath that water wheel. And according to the Gilly, the Gilly said that he would come out at nighttime and take ducklings and all kinds of creepy things, and he's known to eat little babies. And I said, "Oh, sounds like a Shenk sculpin." And I had a fresh box of Ed Shenk's sculpins with me. And I hid that one way at the bottom of my vest. And we sort of bought that Gilly off and we told him, "Here's some money, go into town and, and buy some sandwiches and stuff." So I snuck that sculpin underneath that water wheel. Have you ever done a water wheel cast?
Tom: No. I don't think I have.
Matt: So a water wheel cast is you aim it for one of the decks of the water wheel so it hits the deck and it comes into the shelf of the deck and it eventually drops into the water below. And then you strip it out of there. So that way you can...
Tom: The water wheel cast, very interesting.
Matt: Yeah. You cast it into the shelf of the water wheel and you hope it lands on there. And then it pushes your fly underneath the water wheel, because that's where the brown trout was sitting. And it was a pig. And I hooked him and he must have been, wow, 20 plus, way up there. And he came off, I fought him really hard and then I heard somebody coming and I was so embarrassed that I sort of shook the hook out of his mouth. And I, "Don't mind me. I'm just admiring the beautiful architecture here." Oh, yeah. That was my faux pas. We did a lot of terrible things back then.
Tom: Well, I think I know the Gilly you're talking about and he's retired, so you're not getting him in trouble.
Matt: Was that the British bomber pilot?
Tom: No. Oh, Jim. Jim Hadra[SP}. Was that Jim Hadra? Yeah. So what else about selectivity? I mean, certainly drag comes into it, but drag is more than selectivity. It's presentation. So, you know, we're assuming when we talk about selectivity, I think that you're getting a drag-free float, right?
Matt: Yeah. Yes and no. Because, you know, drag, we talk about it's, we're gonna get into presentation here and I think this is important. You know, I think we are too passive a lot of times in our fishing. And I talked a lot about that with Al when I did the podcast with him, it's that, you know, if you go to these big flats on these big tailwaters or spring creeks or big pools and, you know, Beaver Kill, Battenkill, blah, blah, blah, blah, anywhere down south etc., you see that when a mayfly emerges, he comes off, they sort of take their time. They're not in any hurry to get off the water. And the colder the water, the more stubborn they are.
So we have to realize water temperature. Now, you could go to go Harry Creek in the middle of summer or on the Battenkill and watch a white Cahill come off, lickety-split ma'am. They break that water, bing, they're gone. They're in the trees, like, immediately. But [crosstalk 01:36:34]water, like Hendricksons, sulphurs on tailwaters and spring creeks, they take a long time to come off. And you'll see them, you know, they come out, pop their wings, dry their wings, flicker them once, float for about a foot or two, then flicker their wings again, float from another foot or two, skimmy around a little bit and then bing, they slowly go off. So I think that period is that selective window when fish is looking for drag in the code, in the software program, in the app that they're in. They're looking for the average Joe Blow that doesn't know what he's doing, looking for drag, looking for the clumsy cast, looking for, you know, they're picking up on irregularities.
But one thing that we don't do enough of with mayflies, we don't twitch them enough, in my opinion. We fish almost dead drag, dead drag, dead drag. And the longer the cast you could get, the longer the float you get, and parting a little slight little twitch every once in a while catches a fish's attention. And I think that's something we don't do enough. With Caddis, that's another problem with caddis. When we fish Caddis hatches, we don't... Caddis are super movers. They're super squiggly mover all over the place. Those need to be hopped and skipped and pulverized under water and sunken to imitate egg-laying females. Pupa can do a little bit of jittering in the surface. So presentation-wise, I think we need to look at the way the mayfly or the Caddis or the stonefly... stoneflies love to flutter like crazy.
I think we need to impart more action into our flies, which sometimes the guy that has a poor, or the lady that has a poor cast and gets dragged, tends to catch the fish. Where the guy that's dead drifting and dead drifting and dead drifting doesn't catch anything. And especially on smaller streams where smaller wild trout are targeting motion and movement. And you know that very well.
Tom: Yeah. Yeah. Although that's a slippery slope because what we can do with our rod tip or with our line hand is so much more overt than what a mayfly or a caddisfly can do that you almost always overdo it. Right? So how do you do it, Matt? How do you make, like, emerging caddis, how do you impart that movement without making it too overt?
Matt: Yeah. So the biggest problem, you hit it dead right on it, because we are lazy arm fishermen. So, you know, in our casting styles, we are taught to keep the scotch bottle underneath our elbow to our body to create a nice tight loop.
Tom: No, we don't do that anymore. We don't do that anymore.
Matt: Well, in the old tradition, the way I was taught, My Polish dad filled up a scotch bottle with iced tea and he threatened that God would come down from heaven and strike me when he put that bottle under my arm, that I better keep it there. But if it fell on the pavement, that I wouldn't be around anymore. And that's the way I was taught how to cast. My dad was in the British army after the war for a while, and that's where he learned how to fly cast when he hung out the officer's club water on the Avon and all that. He was stationed out of South Hampton.
Tom: Oh, nice. Nice.
Matt: So I learned that whole tradition from him. But we don't do that anymore. But it's still a nice sufficient cast when you see a guys casting... But we have lazy arm syndrome. So we keep our elbows down. So when you tell somebody to twitch, you're gonna get a lot of drag, a lot of drag of the line that just... It's not even a twitch, it's a push it under the water and swim it, which totally blows it unless you're fishing Isonychia nymphs and you're fishing fast stuff. So I do something called the Statue of Liberty cast, which as soon as I land the fly on the water, the pupa or the ovipositing female, I take my arm and it's called raise your hand if you're sure so you could see your armpit, like the Sure deodorant .
And I raise my hand up as high as I can, and it lifts the line off the water and you have the ability to twitch the fly once or twice, or hop it like the popcorn, like follow the bouncing ball. And that's the way I fish my emerging pupas and ovipositing females, and it is absolutely deadly. It is destructive. And especially on this river, I perfected it a lot when I used to fish with Carl and Dick Pobst. And then I went out to the Missouri one time and there was a caddis hatch coming off and everybody's fishing, you know, caddis very placidly and very, you know, slow like mayflies. And I started doing the Statue of Liberty cast, and oh, my God, it was devastating.
It was within the first one or two seconds, that trout targeted the movement of that caddis. Because when you watch those caddis over parted, it's a follow the bouncing ball, pop, pop, pop, pop. And I lift my arm up as the fly is landing on the water and I could have 30 feet, 40 feet, 50 feet of line up and I could still lift that, but I don't swim it. I don't sink it. I don't, you know, push it. I pop it. So that's the key when you're trying to elicit that movement, is to pop it with gentle twitches, as long as you're not dragging it with the line.
Tom: So you probably need a little longer rod and probably a long leader to do that really well.
Matt: Exactly. That's why I fish 10-foot and 11-foot rods and 18-foot leaders. It's like tenkara. So the other day when I was talking to you, I was fishing in an 11-foot 3-weight rod with an 18-foot leader and I sort of fish them almost like tenkara style. It allows me to cover so much water, it allows me to have more manipulation of the fly. Because I could do that Statue of Liberty, if you look at the statue of Liberty, she raises her arm really high up with the torch. And that's basically what I'm trying to do. So I'm doing a lot of that high sticking, but it's like ultra-high sticking. It's super high sticking. And I could do those manipulations and movements with controlling a lot of line on the water. And I even taken that approach to fishing really tiny, small spring creeks. And it's almost like dapping. And that's why I borrowed that whole concept from tenkara. I know you're a big fan of tenkara.
Tom: Not really.
Matt: Well, you've said you were years ago.
Tom: No, I never said I were. I've done it and it's kind of fun, but I wouldn't say I'm a big fan of.
Matt: I thought you were a big...
Tom: No, I like big boy fly rods.
Matt: [crosstalk 01:43:43] you were a tenkara guy.
Tom: No, I like big boy fly rods with a real arm.
Matt: Okay. Well, now, I think much more highly of you. But, yeah. And then, it's really important to study your bugs and the way they emerge. But with caddis, here's another thing, so caddis, especially... And caddis are becoming more and more prominent. So as much as we, you know, like, we're like wine drinkers, we talk red wine, but we drink white. In the hatch matching...
Tom: Not all of us, Matt.
Matt: Well, I'm just saying. That's what the most connoisseurs... connoisseurs talk red wine, but mostly drink white wine.
Tom: Oh, okay. All right.
Matt: And we talk, you know, really expensive scotches, but we drink cheap scotch and cheap bourbons, but, you know that's just our game.
Tom: I'm in on that.
Matt: We talk mayflies, you know, we always talk mayflies, mayflies, but mayflies are, you know, with climate change, with habitat destruction, there's a lot of things that are going on, water quality. Mayflies can be on the downstream, unless you're in Cleveland. We're getting ready to watch a Cleveland Indians game and watching 10 million locust, Hexagenia attack the ball field. Mayflies are on the demise. And especially in areas that are heavily pressured in the Catskills, caddis have been saving a lot of those hatches. And we don't realize that caddis, the females, they will hatch and they will, you know, they're going to the trees and they'll come back to lay their eggs.
But the bottom line is when they're ovipositing, they also are divers and LaFontaine started with the sparkle pupa's diving caddis. And I tie up a caddis pattern now that is so lethal because it imitates the floating pupa with that teardrop Antron shuck that Carl Richards started. And then I do that shuck and I burn the teardrop on it, like an amber Antron then for the body, for a Cinnamon Caddis I use cinnamon dubbing with ginger hackle, very light. And then I do a tan CDC behind the deer hair and it gives it a little more fluffiness that also imitates fluttering of the wings. Because I think CDC imitates the fluttering of the wings when you put some loon locks on it and it puffs it out and, or your CDC oil. Do you make a CDC oil?
Tom: No, we have a powdered similar. It's a dust.
Matt: Yeah. You have to make a CDC oil now because I made you have to make one.
Tom: No. No. No.
Matt: Just kidding. And then my deer hair. But that's why it's called a triple play because what I could do with that, it has the flushness in the film of imitating a pupa that's stuck in the film. And then I could do the Statue of Liberty cast and hop and pop it to look like an ovipositor during the middle of the drift. And at the end of the drift, when the fly starts to sink and I got 30 feet, 40 feet of line out or something, my drift sometimes are 20 feet, 30 feet, 40 feet with these long rods as long as you're mending continuously, upstream mending and staff mending, I could let it sink. And when I let it sink under, then I do the pulsing, pumping underneath water, which throws those air bubbles that LaFontaine said exist, where Carl Richards said that's a bunch of bull crap. There's no such thing as air bubbles.
And it was really amazing back then. That's why I like nostalgia. Because every time I pour Carl a glass of bourbon, he'd always bitch about LaFontaine. "There's no such thing as goddamn air bubbles, that sounds a bunch of baloney. Gary's crazy." And the beauty of fly fishing today is everybody still says, "Oh, he doesn't know what the hell he's talking. Oh, he's a nice guy, but he don't know what the hell he's talking. Oh yeah. He is great guy, but he doesn't know what the hell he's talking about." So that's the beauty of fly fishing. So they do throw the air bubbles, because I've actually had an aquarium tank and I still have my aquarium tanks and I still get my bugs every day and put them in there.
When caddis do dive down to lay eggs on the rocks, which a majority of the females do, contrary to popular belief, they do let out a lot of air bubbles because they already have air bubbles trapped in their system from flying around. It's not in the immersion. It's not when they're emerging that they're throwing the air bubbles out. It's when they're diving down and then diving back up because they already have air locked into their bodies from being airborne. And that is probably, if you wanna catch a fish, any amateur right now who's just starting out in fly fishing, go get an elk hair caddis, and go to a trout stream and stand in the middle of the trout stream in the run where you think there are trout and cast your flies as far downstream as you can, and then walk slowly upstream while you're reeling your line in like you're getting ready to quit. And I guarantee you, you will get the biggest trout of your life by doing that.
Just think about how many times, you know, your wife or my wife would say, "Matt, how many times have I said come to the car?" "One more cast, dear, I'm on stock pull here I got a fish that's rising in." "Nope. You said four times that's the last cast." And then you go ahead and you start reeling your line in you're like, "I gotta go home," and then bam, slam, as you're walking up the bank, you get nailed by a trout. I see it every day on the water...
Tom: Yeah, yeah.
Matt: Right? Because what that's doing is that is imitating that caddis pupa after, I mean, that caddis adult after it's dive to the bottom of the river, is trying to come back up to the surface and it's really struggling to get up because it's really sunk at this point. It's dead meat. But it's gyrating and pulsing. And when you're reeling your line in, that's the best way to imitate a pulsating caddis or an emerging mayfly. Think about it. It's those little turns.
Tom: It's a lot of work though. I mean throw all the line you can and then walk upstream and reel all your line in. Then you gotta strip it all off again and cast again.
Matt: Yeah, but you'll catch a trout every time.
Tom: Guaranteed?
Matt: Pretty much.
Tom: I'm gonna try it tonight.
Matt: Please do. I mean, seriously, you'd shocked. I actually, last week I guided a guy, and we were fishing Isonychias and you know the way Isonychias they swim really fast.
Tom: Yeah. Look like a minnow.
Matt: They emerge really quickly. Like a minnow. Yeah. We were swinging Isonychia, I have this iso-wiggle nymph that I have in my two books, the nexus, the one that you did the beautiful introduction for. Which, by the way, hopefully that check went through for that introduction. If not, I'll send you another one.
Tom: Oh, yeah. I bought a new car with that check.
Matt: Oh, okay. Well, oh, good. So that's all I wanted to make sure.
Tom: Yeah, no, I bought a Tesla with that check I got for writing the intro for your book.
Matt: That's what I was expecting. You know, a nice eco-friendly. I was expecting nothing else from you Vermonters up there, to be eco-friendly. So hopefully that Tesla's doing good. But this wiggle nymph, we're swimming and then our biggest fish of the day, believe it or not, a beautiful 19-inch, 20-inch brown came when he laid the rod down on the back of the boat with about 30 feet of line out. And then he started explaining some crazy thing in the UK that he was doing. And all of a sudden, boom, we were, like, trolling, the dang brown hit it. The guy was in a fast water riffle where the rod was kind of bouncing up and down. So it imitated the Isonychia trying to break the surface, probably caught somehow, and that fish clobbered it.
And then we went two more times by just, okay, you wanna catch a trout? Just throw the line out, lay the rod down in the back of the drift boat and don't do nothing. And we caught two-trouter. Not the biggest. But, you know, we caught two-trouter. After rod was laying a minute or more on the bottom of the boat. So put that in your selectivity pipe, Supinski, and smoke that.
Tom: Yeah. Really.
Matt: Oh, God. We're having too much fun here.
Tom: Yeah. Well, that's good. It's good. Well, Matt, I wanna thank you for spending an hour with me today. I really appreciate you taking the time.
Matt: An hour is gone already?
Tom: Yeah.
Matt: Oh, geez. I was just getting into it.
Tom: I know. Well, we could go on for another couple hours, but I got a meeting in a half an hour I gotta get ready for,
Matt: Well, we gotta do part two.
Tom: Okay. We'll do part two. We'll ask the podcast listeners for part two with Matt Supinski, what would you like to hear about?
Matt: That would be great. We gotta talk about the Wacka[SP] and Springbrook and...
Tom: No, quiet. Hey.
Matt: Well, no, about the old days, you know, about us fumbling around.
Tom: No, nobody wants to hear about the old days. They wanna hear about how to catch fish. We're not gonna...
Matt: Yeah. Well, I'm Dan Quixote, I'm still chasing those windmills. But it was really nice to hear that you were messing around there. And we gotta talk about little trout streams also because there's a lot of selectivity going on in little trout streams that we need to be paying attention to, and bipolarism of big browns. We need to talk about that. Oh, I got so many good things to talk about.
Tom: Okay. Well, we'll ask people what they want to hear about.
Matt: Wonderful.
Tom: Except we're not gonna talk about Upstate New York trout streams.
Matt: No, no, no.
Tom: We're not gonna do any hot spotting here on this show.
Matt: We can talk about the Battenkill.
Tom: No, we don't want to talk about the Battenkill. That'd be boring.
Matt: Then we'll talk about this little place that I'm gonna take you this summer.
Tom: Yeah. Well...
Matt: We're not gonna name it. That's off the grid.
Tom: Okay.
Matt: That's only for us to know.
Tom: Okay. People can find their own streams, right?
Matt: Exactly.
Tom: All they have to do is look on Instagram. There's plenty of people hot spotting there. We don't need to do that.
Matt: Get a DeLorme Mac. And if it's blue, you go there. That's all.
Tom: Yeah.
Matt: Wonderful.
Tom: All right, Matt. Well, thank you so much. We've been talking to the amazing Matt Supinski. Wonderful storyteller, chef, experience guide, and master of selectivity. Matt, thank you very much. And I'm very much looking forward to part two.
Matt: Wonderful, and I'd love your listeners to come and check out our "Hallowed Waters Journal." Go in to And we're trying to relive a lot of what we're talking about in this new publication that I started and we're going to print, we're doing print issues starting this summer. [inaudible 01:55:12] hard copy print.
Tom: Very cool.
Matt: So, very exciting, and we're going to the next level. But, Tom, thank you so much for having me. It's great talking to you and I will see you this summer, my friend.
Tom: Yeah. I'm looking forward to it.
Matt: Wonderful. Thank you.
Tom: Thanks, Matt. Bye-bye.
Matt: You have a great day, sir.
Tom: Okay. You too. Bye-bye.
Man: Thanks for listening to the "Orvis Fly Fishing Podcast" with Tom Rosenbauer. You can be a part of the show. Have a question or a comment? Send it to us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. in the body of an email or as a voice attachment. You can find more free fishing tips at