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Fishing close to home, with Bon Iver’s Sean Carey

Description: My guest this week is Sean Carey [48:31], drummer and keyboard player for the indie folk band Bon Iver, who also records solo work as S Carey. Sean has been fly fishing for many years, beginning when he was in high school, and we spend a lot of time discussing the concept of “growing where you were planted” or learning the pleasures of discovering fly fishing close to home. And of course we talk about how fly fishing has influenced his song writing, and also what the theoretical difference might be in the way a classically trained musician approaches fly fishing as opposed to the way a jazz musician might. At the end of the podcast is a special treat—a recording of his song “Yellowstone” (but no it’s not a fishing song even though we all associate that area with fishing).
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Podcast Transcript:

Tom: Hi and welcome to the "Orvis Fly Fishing Podcast." This is your host, Tom Rosenbauer. And my guest this week is Sean Carey. Sean is better known, he's a musician and he's better known as a solo artist with a name of S. Carey. And he's also the drummer and keyboard player in an Indie band called Bon Iver, which if you listen to any Indie rock, you have probably heard of. And Sean loves to fly fish. He's fly fished for many years. And what we're going to explore today is, yeah, we're going to talk about music and fly fishing and how fly fishing affects his composing and his thoughts on the river. But we're gonna talk a lot about fishing close to home. Grow where you're planted, as Sean says, and why he loves, even though he travels a lot and tours a lot, why he loves fishing close to home as much as he does. And we both wonder why more people don't grow where they're planted. So hope you enjoy this. He's an interesting guest. And we'll play one of his pieces at the end of the podcast called "Yellowstone," that I think you'll enjoy if you like kind of mellow Indie rock. So that's our guest for today.
But first, The Flybox. And this is where you ask me questions and sometimes I try to answer 'em. And sometimes I get it wrong. Sometimes I get it right. And when I get it wrong, there will be an expert out there to correct me. So if you have a question for the podcast or if you have a tip you want to share with other listeners, you can send it to me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. You can either just type your question in an email or you can attach a voice file and maybe I'll read it on the air if I pick your question, if I can help, if I can answer the question. Try to keep your questions to things that you think other people might benefit from and also try to keep your voice files two minutes or under. Two and a half is stretching it, but two minutes or under because none of us want to ramble too much. So anyway, let's get started with the podcast. And the first question is from Andrew from Pennsylvania and Vermont.
Love the podcast. Thanks for doing it. Is there some rule of thumb for judging where a fish is when you can see it? I known light bends when you view through water, but how much? Is the fish closer than it appears? Further away? How close or far? Does the fish's cone of vision work in reverse? Can we only see into the water the reverse way a fish sees out or does light somehow bend differently when looking into the water? If we can see fish or the bottom, is it safe to assume that the fish can see us or might we be outside the range of vision?
So Andrew, first of all, I'm not totally sure of the physics of this whole situation. And looking it up on the internet made my head hurt. Fish in the water have a circular window view of the outside world and the shallower they are, the narrower the window. When a fish is in deep water, it can see more of the outside world, that window expands due to the refraction of water. And we're not gonna get into the physics of this now. Regarding us on the outside looking in, are we also restricted to that window? In other words, if we're outside of the fish's window or below the fish's window, kind of below that horizon, can the fish see us? And I honestly don't know. And like I said, I tried to look it up on the internet and I couldn't find it. And physics makes my head hurt. So I don't know about the physics.
But I can tell you in a pragmatic way, that most experienced anglers, sight fishers, when they are sighting fish, you'll often hear them say, "If you can see the fish, the fish can see you." And I don't know whether that's due to physics or not. But it's a good rule of thumb. If you can see the fish, the fish can probably see you. So if you can see a fish in the water, you want to make sure that you are downstream of the fish, behind the fish in the direction of its tail. When they're motionless, they do have a little bit of a blindspot behind them and they don't notice things as much when it's behind them, although in practical terms, when a fish is feeding, it's moving from side to side and it's turning its head from side to side as it slides over to eat something. And so, they really don't have much of a blindspot. But we do know that they don't notice as much when we're behind them. So I'm gonna stick with that. If you can see a fish, the fish has a chance of seeing you.
Sometimes they ignore us. If we move slowly enough sometimes, we don't disturb them, you know, and if we're behind them, they're not gonna notice us as much. The worst thing you can do is make a lot of movements. Of course, fly casting makes a lot of movement, line in the air and your rod waving around and your arm waving around. One of the best things to do, if you think a fish might be able to see you, is to cast on the side, do a horizontal cast. This will keep your rod and your line below that circular window and hopefully it won't show the fish your arm waving back and forth. So I'm gonna say if you can see a fish, the fish can probably see you. But we need our physicist out there to tell us, "Does the window work in reverse?" In other words, if fish is in shallow water and can't see you, can you see the fish? I think you can. I don't think it works in reverse. But we need an expert to weigh in on this. And please, let's not get into an explanation of Snell's law. Let's try to keep it on the elementary school plane, if we can.
Andy: Hey, Tom. Andy here from Northern Virginia. I have a couple small questions. First and foremost, what size rod do you know to use versus lure or fly? Let's say if you're using a closet minnow, you know to use a 5-weight, 6-weight, 7-weight, 8-weight? Or vice versa, if you're using a [inaudible 00:07:04] you go to, say, a 3-weight or 4-weight? I'm kinda curious to see how to figure out that verification on what to use. Second question I have is on tippet size. How do you know what tippet size to use per fly? Again, if you're using, let's say, a closet minnow, 5, 6 or a size 4? Do you need to go up to, say, a tippet size 3 or a size 2? Just curious. As always, thanks again. You are a wealth of knowledge to all of us fly fishers. Do appreciate it. Have a great day.
Tom: So Andy, as the platitude used by management groups and HR people goes, there's a lot to unpack behind this question. And in the podcast, I try to answer specific questions. Telling you what size rod to use, it would take an entire podcast really to explain it. And, you know, how to know what tippet size to use, well, there's a chart that goes along with tippets that you can find many places. And it's a rule of thumb. It's a guideline only. But it gives you a good idea.
The best advice I can give you on these two topics is to go to the Orvis Learning Center and go into the equipment videos section and it talks about, there's some videos there that talk about what size rod you need, what line size do you need, and then how do you choose the right tippet size. And I think that's a better place than for me to try to explain them all here in the podcast. And then, once you have some specific questions, come on back here and ask 'em and I'll be in a lot better position to answer your more specific questions. Thanks.
This one's from Andrew from Chicago. I prefer to use a dry-dropper setup when trout fishing. Often I prefer to use some kind of foam bug as the dry so I don't have to deal with my dry sinking as frequently. The issue with this is that occasionally my dropper line will wrap around the butt of the foam fly and get into a tangle with the front of the fly that will eventually have to be cut and retied on. One way I've found that has helped this is by tying the dropper from the eye of the hook instead of the bend. I've yet to find many issues with doing it this way, but it also doesn't seem that common among anglers I've met. Do you ever tie your droppers to the eye? Why or why not? And do you have any tips to prevent this kind of tangle from happening?
Well, Andrew, first of all, I think that's a great idea and I've heard the suggestion before. And I haven't played around with it too much myself, but I do find, yes, that tying the dry fly, tying your nymph to the eye of the dry fly, tying your dropper to the eye of the dry fly is a way that helps avoid tangles. That is, unless your foam fly has a piece of foam sticking out the front, you know. Some of these foam flies have, like, a head that sticks out over the eye and that's gonna cause tangles as well. So one of the ways to prevent it from wrapping around the back of the fly is to use something, a foam fly where you don't have that piece of foam sticking out the back. You know, some of them are tied under and pulled forward so you don't have something sticking out of the back. So that kinda fly is okay to tie to the bend. But if you do have, you know, something like a Chubby Chernobyl where you got that piece of foam sticking out the back, yeah, good idea to tie it to the eye. And I don't see any reason not to do it.
Another way to prevent tangles is to throw more open loop. You got a lot of stuff going around there, particularly if you have a long dropper. And, you know, trying to cast a tight loop, you're messing with fire there. If you try to cast a tight loop, things are gonna tangle. And so, you want to open up your loop by opening up your casting stroke, making your casting stroke a little bit longer than you normally would. Don't try to strive for a really tight loop when you're casting. That'll help. But, you know, there are days, particularly there are days when you have to change a direction cast or when it's windy, when you're gonna have those problems. And I have 'em myself all the time and, yeah, they're a pain and that's part of living with dry-droppers, which I also love to fish. So try those two things, keep on tying it to the eye. I think that's a great idea. And yeah, I think you're doing it right.
Here's an email from Caleb. Sometimes I see manmade rock dams that people make for fun. I've heard they are good because they make deeper pools for the fish. I hear it is bad because the fish can't get past it. What are your thoughts? Well, Caleb, this is an interesting question because there's a big discussion about people moving rocks around streams these days, so I'll get into it a little bit of detail. First of all, these rock dams that people make, it's funny because I fish some small brook trout streams that are near swimming holes and stuff and people make rock dams. And I'll tell you, there are hardly ever fish in those pools that people make from rock dams. You know, it's not natural and fish are more likely to be found in an area that's got some overhead cover, some logs or a deep bank or something. These rock pools do deepen the water, but the fish don't seem to like it that much, usually because they're kinda clean on the bottom. I don't think they're that damaging because the first spring flood or the first high water is generally gonna wash out most of those rock dams so they're not that big of a deal.
But I don't find it to be that good for fishing. And if I come upon one, I usually pass it up in the small stream. Fish can get past it. Don't worry about that. Fish can get through rock dams. They can get through beaver dams. A trout can slither through some of the skinniest water and as long as there's a little water running over that rock dam or there's a little nook or cranny in there, when the water gets high, it'll go around the edges. The fish will be able to get around those rock dams fine. A trout can jump, according to the experts, a trout can jump about seven times its length. So they can jump over 'em if they have to. So it doesn't really impede fish passage but it is monkeying around in a natural stream that you really shouldn't do.
The other thing that people complain about are these rock cairns where people pile rocks, one on top of the other. And there's a big discussion on the internet about people kicking those over because they hurt the aquatic insect life. Well, you know, it doesn't really make sense because when we're wading around in a trout stream, when we're crushing aquatic insects when we step on the bottom. And if some kid piles a few rocks on top of each other, a lot of the times the insects will crawl back into the water as soon as the rocks get, you know, piled up. As long as the insects aren't crushed, the insects will crawl back to the water. And you're not hurting an insect population by piling a few rocks up and down a river. I personally don't like it because I don't like seeing signs that humans monkeyed with the habitat and piled some rocks up, but I don't think they're hurting a stream and I don't think I should kick 'em over. I just walk by 'em and grumble and ignore 'em. So, you know, in a lot of places, in a lot of states, in a lot of streams, it's illegal to move rocks around in the stream without a permit from the state. Depends on the state and it varies on how much you can actually move around without requiring a permit, but anyway, I wouldn't worry too much about it. It's not that detrimental, but again, not a great place to fish. I'd pass 'em by.
Here's an email from Sean from Louisville, Kentucky. I've only been fly fishing for a few years and trout fishing for only one year. I've always used a clinch knot to tie the flies on. I've joined the Derby City Fly Fishers here in Louisville. Several of the members use the Jack's knot to tie their flies on. I've learned to tie that knot but wanted to hear your opinion of that knot. I've never heard of anyone outside the club talk about that knot. Thank you for all that you and Orvis do for the sport.
So Sean, first of all, I've never heard of the Jack's knot. I'm sure it's a good knot. If people use it and they like it, I'm sure it's a good knot. You know, we get a lot of questions about different knots on the podcast. There are many, many, many, many, many good knots to tie on a fly, to tie two pieces of tippet material. And if you find one and you learn how to tie it well and you like it, then use it. If it works for you and you don't break off fish prematurely, you never know, but if you suspect that the knot isn't holding well, maybe that knot doesn't work so well for the tippet size or the fly size you're using and try something else. But I will tell you something that I constantly get reinforced. I talk to every experienced angler I know, I always ask 'em, what knot do you use to tie on the fly and what knot do you use to tie tippet together? And it's constantly, constantly, constantly I use a standard clinch to tie on the fly and I use either a five or six-turn blood knot or a triple surgeon's knot to tie two pieces of tippet material together. That's in freshwater. Salt water, obviously they're different knots. And for a loop knot, I use a non-slip mono loop. You can look all these up on the Orvis Learning Center if you want to learn how to tie them. But, you know, these are people who have been fishing for 20, 30, 40, 50 years or they're on the water, in the case of fishing guides, they're on the water all day long and their livelihood depends on them tying food knots. And they use those same knots, clinch knot, triple surgeon's and a non-slip mono loop. So, you know, I advise you to play around with knots. It's really fun to learn new knots and try 'em out. But boy, you know, if you want to go with what people have been relying on and still rely on, stick to those three knots, you know, and you're gonna be in great shape.
This one's from Mike. Hello, Tom. Thanks for all you do, as I have spent hours of my life watching your videos and listening to your podcast. Due to multiple issues, I went trout fishing for the first time in five or six years. I decided it was time to get back on the horse and drove three hours to the Ozarks. I felt it was too hot for my favorite wild trout creeks so I went to one of the Missouri trout parks, as they sit literally on the spring and are cold year-round. Channeling my deceased fishing partner and father, I had my best trout park day ever. I like to think he sent a fish or two my way. I have three questions. I tried tenkara fishing for the first time in a catch and release area and had a great success. I was told the pressured fish were leader-shy, so I started with 6 feet of leader and tippet. But as the day went on, I found I only needed 12 to 15 inches of tippet. Why? How did that red tenkara level line not spook the fish? I assume part of my best park day ever was better drag management because almost no line was on the water. Did drag management just outweigh the short leader? Will this work over even spookier wild trout in small clear spring creeks? What do you think?
For my second question, do you know the famous Ozark fly called the Crackleback, invented by Ed Story? Imagine a fly with body of yellow or red floss or turkey rounds. It has peacock curl laid down the spine of the fly and then wrapped with dry fly hackle from one end to the other. A popular way to fish it is dry down stream and then pop it under and swing it or draw it back. I tried it with my tenkara rod at the end of the day after the trout had seen dozens of flies. Nothing worked on top, so thinking what the heck, I popped it under and used the rod tip to pulse it back to me. Sure enough, I finished my day with three more trout. My question is, what makes this fly work well below the water doing things that no insect would do? How does drag kill a nymph but this fly works?
My third question. I have a bunch of my father's reels and boxes my mom packed. If I take them to a fly shop, can someone tell me what weight the lines are? So regarding your first question, Mike, tenkara fishing is unique in that you don't have any line on the water. All you have is tippet on the water. And so, not only do you have a lot fewer problems with drag, but you also don't, you're not slapping that heavy fly line down on the water, which tends to spook the fish. I mean, the fish in a pressured area, it can feel when a fly line hits the water. Even the lightest fly line lands a lot heavier than your tippet. Your tippet, you know, a lot of times you're very little, your tippet is even on the water when you're fishing tenkara. So this not only avoids drag, but it keeps that fly line from slapping on the water. And yeah, you don't really need a long tippet because you don't have that fly attached to a big length of heavy fly line, which causes drag. You don't have that problem because you're following the fly with your rod tip, nice long rod, it's off the water. And yeah, it just works. As long as you're in short distance, a tenkara rod is deadly when you have, you know, issues with leader-shy fish or spooky fish. So yeah, absolutely it will work over spookier wild trout and small clear spring creeks. I think it definitely will.
I have seen the Crackleback before. I had a friend of mine using that silly fly and it is silly looking, you gotta admit, on a very difficult technical tailwater in the Catskill Mountains where the fish are known to be some of the most selective in the world, and just hammer the fish with that fly. What it imitates, I have no idea. It just works. And I honestly don't fish 'em because I don't like the looks of it and that's a silly way to be and it's a dumb way to be. But I don't know why it works pulsing like that. It could be that there's caddis flies trying to hatch out of the water. I have no idea why it works like that. And I would just accept it. I wouldn't overthink it. If it works, then use it. And we may never know why it works.
Regarding your third question, yeah, you know, in the old days, when all fly lines were made with the same kind of coating and core and everything, used to be able to take a...and same tapers, used to be able to take a micrometer to the belly of the line and figure out what line size it is. But with the modern synthetic lines that we have at varying densities and the tapers vary all over the place, really difficult to measure a fly line to find out what weight it is. There's a couple ways to do it with the best way is to take it to a fly shop, and the fly shop owner will probably say, "Well, it looks like maybe a 4, a 3 or a 4 or a 5." You know, they can usually eyeball it and give you a pretty good idea. But then take it out with a couple fly rods, you know, a couple kinda standard medium action fly rods, not a real fast one, not a real slow one, and cast the lines and see how they perform. And that's really the best way to tell what line size you have. There is another way that requires a grain scale, you know, like a small, like a, I don't know, postage scale or a drug dealer scale or whatever. But you take the first 30 feet of the line and you weigh it on the scale, measure out 30 feet, weigh it on the scale. And then you can look up the AFTMA standards online and that weight in grains will tell you what line size it is. So two ways of doing it. I think the best way though is to try it on a bunch of different rods, if you can.
Jerry: Hi, Tom. I have a question about how to handle a hooked fish when it starts jumping. For a good size trout on light tippet, I usually lower the rod tip and extend my arm to create slack. And that typically works at preventing breakoffs. For big fish like bass however, that are hooked with a heavy streamer, something like with a bonehead, this technique hasn't always worked. As the bass jumps, it does a massive head shake and throws the fly. Is that just how it goes or is it better to maintain tension in these situations? Anyway, just wondering what your thoughts are in handling jumping fish. Thanks.
Tom: Jerry, I'm not really sure about that one. I'm not sure if keeping pressure on a bass that jumps with a heavy bonehead is gonna help much at all. Unfortunately, particularly if you're using a barbless hook, big heavy flies, big heavy boneheads, when the fish shakes its head, you know, they've got some mass to shake it against and they can shake the fly loose. You know, I don't bow to things like bass and small trout when they jump because the reason you bow the rod or point the rod at the fish is to keep a heavy fish from falling on a light leader and breaking it. But in the case of bass, you're using a heavy leader anyways, they're not gonna break the leader when they fall on it so you don't need to bow to them. And small trout, again, unless you're fishing 6x and you got a 20-inch fish, you don't need to bow to the fish. You can just play it, you know, normally and keep tension on it. So, you know, I would just keep tension on that fish. You certainly don't need to bow the rod. And you can try putting even more tension on when the fish jumps and see what happens. But I'm not sure if it's gonna work. I think that you got a heavy fly, particularly with a barbless hook, a fish jumps and shakes its head, and a lot of them are gonna throw the fly. Tarpon do it all the time even with a barbed hook and, you know, nothing you can do about it. You laugh and move on and go for the next fish.
Here is an email from Aaron from Blountville, Tennessee. Love the podcast and I've learned a ton from it. I started fly fishing two or three years ago up in Ohio targeting smallmouth bass on my 9-foot-6 height entry level rod I picked up from a garage sale. I just moved to eastern Tennessee a few weeks ago and live only minutes away from some great trout fishing on tailwaters like the South Holston and Wataga River as well as a number of smally streams and creeks, not to mention the Great Smoky Mountain National Park is only 90 minutes away. My first question is about fly selection. My fly box is filled almost exclusively with streamers and poppers for bass fishing. Now that I'm gonna try to learn how to target trout, can you suggest a selection of fly patterns and sizes I should pick up to get started? Second, any trout essentials that I might be missing in my kit for smallmouths that I should make sure to get?
Finally, I think it's about time to pick up a better rod. My budget will be about $500 to $600 for the rod, reel and line. What would you recommend I look at given that budget? Thanks again for the great resource.
So Aaron, first of all, for your trout fly selection, I did a video fairly recently, it's under Tom's Tips both on the Orvis Learning Center and YouTube, on the 12, I think it's like the 12 basic flies you need or the 12 flies you can use all around the world. They're all there and there's a list there. I would go and watch that video and that'll give you a good basic start on your trout flies. I don't even remember what they were and I'm not gonna read them on the air because then people will try to take notes. And it's much easier to go and look at that video and see the flies themselves. So I'll let you do that.
Second, you know, the things that you probably are gonna want in your kit that you have for smallmouth, I assume you have snips and forceps and all that kinda stuff. You're gonna need some lighter tippet for the trout. You're probably gonna need some 4x, 5x and 6x tippet. And then, one of the things that you're really gonna need are a couple different kinds of fly float. And, you know, you probably want a paste or a gel fly float, and then you want a desiccant powder or a dry fly powder or, you know, there's lots of names for 'em. But if you're gonna fish dry flies at all, you're gonna need some kind of fly floatant to keep from floating. And you can also use the paste floatant to grease your leaders. Sometimes you want to grease your leader to keep it floating. Sometimes in really fast water, it helps to grease your leader. So that's the only other stuff I think you might need. I mean, you'll find lots of other gadgets and doo-dads. Oh, you probably want some strike indicators too if you're gonna fish nymphs, you can fish what's called a dry-dropper, where you use your dry fly as an indicator. But there are gonna be times in deep, fast water when you want to use a standard, it's basically a bobber. You're probably gonna want some indicators. But those are pretty much the only things you're gonna need, other than your smallmouth, the gear you use for smallmouth. And you'll discover new things that you'll want to take and there's lots and lots of gadgets and tools and all kinds of stuff that you might want to try. But those are the basic ones that I would take.
Regarding your rod, I would say, and I'm not gonna tell you what model, but I would say you probably want something that's either 8.5-feet or 9-foot for a 4 or a 5-weigh rod. Since you already have a 6 for small mouth, a 9-foot-4 weight would be a really nice rod for the South Holston. You could use that bigger rod when you're fishing streamers and big indicators and stuff like that. The same rod you use for smallmouth, you can use for streamers on those bigger rivers. But that 9-foot or even 8.5-foot for a 4-weight is gonna be good for your smaller nymphs and your dry fly fishing. And like I said, since you already have a 6, I would go with a 4. And, you know, the Recon rod is made in the Orvis rod shop, all made in USA. It's a super rod and it's right in that price point. So that's probably what I would use. And I would lean toward, if you're mainly fish the Wataga and the South Holston, I'd lean toward the 9-footer. If you're gonna spend more time in the small streams, I'd choose an 8.5-footer. But since you're probably gonna be closer to the bigger rivers, I'd use a 9-footer. And the 9-footer will work okay on the small streams as well. So anyways, that's my suggestion.
Here's an email from Sevi from Portland, Oregon. Thanks for all you do for the fly fishing community. Love the podcast and between it and your content on the Orvis Learning Center and YouTube, I've become a pretty decent fly fisher after using conventional tackle for the first 25 years of my life. I fish a number of different rivers, types of water, all for trout. Small streams and stillwaters around Mount Hood, chasing sea-runs and steelhead in coastal rivers, spring creeks and larger tailwaters. I have a couple very different question I'd love your take on.
I fish a lot of small streams in places where I'm always worried about bears or cougars, perhaps irrationally. I typically carry bear spray whenever I'm fishing an area where I might run into these animals. But curious if you carry anything for protection when you're fishing areas where bears, cougars, etc., are around. On top of that, curious how often you run into these types of situations. Given the amount of fishing you do, I can only imagine this has happened a time or two. Would love to hear any stories you have.
Question two. What is your preferred setup for nymphing under an indicator? If I am exclusively nymphing or setting up a rod that I'll use to nymph all day, I will usually cut my tapered leader back to about 4 to 5 feet, tie on a tippet ring or use a blood knot and build the rest of my leader using 3, 4, or 5x, depending on the flies I'm using and water I'm fishing. I feel this helps get the nymphs down quicker than a tapered leader, especially in fast water where you have to get those bugs down quick. Do you think this setup would get your nymphs down quicker than a standard tapered leader? If you're setting up a nymph rig, assuming you won't use dry flies on that rod that day or have a separate rod for that, how would you set it up for nymphing? Looking to understand if you follow my logic and if that gets flies down quicker and would also understand how you prefer to set up your nymphs. If fishing more than one, do you tie it onto the bend of your point fly or at a tag above with a fly off that?
All right. For question one, if I'm in area where it's a heavy grizzly bear concentration, I carry bear spray. I think it works against cougars as well. I've never encountered a cougar. And actually, in all my 50 something years of fly fishing from, you know, including Alaska and Kamchatka, where brown bears or grizzly bears are pretty common, I have never run into a bear on the river. I've seen lots of tracks and I've had the hairs on the back of my neck go up, but I've never run into one. The only time I ever ran into a bear was on the Yellowstone River in Yellowstone Park and he came down to the water, looked at me, he was about maybe 50 feet away, got into the water and swam across the river. That's the only encounter I've ever had with a bear. I've had lots of black bears cross the river in front of me here in the east, but they're not a bear you typically worry about. That being said, it can be a dangerous situation and grizzlies are dangerous animals. So I would always be on the alert, make noise, you know, do all the stuff that you're supposed to do in bear country because I have friends who have had some serious encounters with bears. So it can happen. It's not something I agonize about but it, you know, makes me look around the bend every time I'm fishing. So, you know, just do all the bear aware stuff that they tell you to do, carry the bear spray and you'll probably never run into one.
Regarding nymphing setup, if you're gonna fish nymphs all day, you're not gonna fish dries, I think that setup that you described is perfect. Because, you know, we've learned a lot from the euro nymphing crowd where they say, "Thin to win," where they use a very, very thin tippet, as thin as they can use, 6x or 7x often, to get their fly down quickly. Because a thicker leader, thicker piece of leader retards the sink rate of the fly. And if you have a tapered leader and you got your indicator way up on the tapered leader, the rest of that tapered leader is gonna be thick, thick, thick, thick, thinner, thinner, thinner, thinner down to the fly. And your fly is gonna ride at an angle. Whereas if you use that tippet ring on the end of that leader that you cut off and just drop off a light tippet directly down from that, it's what's called a California right angle nymph rig, which has been around for many, many years. But yeah, if you're just fishing nymphs and indicators, that, I think, is the best way to go.
The one thing I would do is I would go with a longer piece of tapered leader to your tippet ring and your indicator. I find that with a long leader, like a 12-footer, and then an indicator, and then a tippet drop down from that that's, like, one and a half times the depth of the water, I find that by greasing or putting some paste floatant on that long leader I can mend to the indicator without moving the indicator a lot easier than I can with a shorter piece of leader. So you still got that piece of tippet that's gonna sink quickly, but you're gonna keep your fly line a little bit further away from the fish and from the indicator. And, you know, I'd go a little bit longer with the tapered part. Or you could use just a stiff level part, as long as you got that thin tippet attached to your tippet ring right by your indicator. But I think you're doing it right. I think that's the way to go.
And regarding attaching my dropper, I do both ways. Sometimes I tie it to the bend if I'm lazy, and sometimes I'll tie on a separate dropper. Depends on the situation, depends on how deep the fish are. And if I suspect they may be chasing some nymphs in midwater, I might use a dropper. If I'm swinging nymphs or wet flies, I'll definitely tie that second fly on a dropper. But I do both ways and I think you should experiment and use both methods because one might work better one day than another. So you need to be flexible and you need to experiment.
Here's an email from Steve from Michigan. Hi, Tom. I have a problem most people would probably love to have and I thought you might be able to offer some insight. I'm relatively new to fly fishing, have been dabbling in it on and off since I was a teen in the mid-1970s. But I'm only now seriously pursuing it since the summer and enjoying it. I purchased a Clearwater package earlier this year and have the opportunity to do some fishing for panfish and trout over the summer. Previous to that, I had a fiberglass 7-weight, 7.5-foot rod that I bought in 1977 for smallmouth bass and panfish, clearly oversized, but I didn't know at the time. While my casting has improved with practice with a Clearwater rod, I still have quite a ways to go before I would call my casting good.
Here's the problem. My son and his wife purchased the Helios 3F rod for me for my birthday. It's absolutely stunning. I was speechless. I have not had a chance to fish with it yet but will be doing so in late September on a trip to a northern Michigan trout stream. The problem is I don't think my fishing skills are a match for the rod at this time. I would equate this situation to a kid who has just had the training wheels removed from his first bike and then being given a nice expensive mountain bike to ride. I truly appreciate the gift and their intentions are the very best. They said they wanted me to spend more time getting better at something I enjoy and that I might as well do it with the best equipment. But I find the gift overwhelming, partially due to cost, mostly due to my lack of skill. Maybe after I have a chance to use it and get better with it, I may be able to observe the difference in performance between the Helios and the Clearwater much like I can see a difference between the Clearwater and my fiberglass rod. But currently, I feel unworthy of such a fine rod and wonder if I will ever be good enough to use it the way it was meant to be used. I'm struggling to get beyond that feeling. I am curious what a dispassionate person like yourself who has experience with many rods and a lifetime of fly fishing think about this. I know I should stop thinking about it and just go fish, have fun and enjoy the experience. That's what they would tell me to do. But I'm so moved by their generosity and I don't want to disappoint with my still clumsy casting. Thank you for playing the part of psychiatrist and considering my "dilemma."
Well, you know what I'm gonna say, Steve. Get over it. You're overthinking it. I have seen beginners pick up the Helios 3 rod and it has improved their casting. So the rod is gonna flex better. It's gonna improve your casting. It will help you improve your casting. It'll give you more feedback, more visual and tactile feedback. Just go ahead and fish it. The Helios rods are very strong. You're not gonna break it. You're definitely worthy of that rod. And I'll tell you what. The people in the rod shop who, you know, the 37 people whose hands touch that Helios 3 rod to put it through the rod shop are gonna be really disappointed if you don't fish it. So I think you should fish it, not worry about it, have fun with it. It's a beautiful instrument and you're definitely worthy of it. If you love to fly fish, then you're worthy of it. So get over it.
And now, my podcast last week, couple weeks ago with Shawn Brillon on bamboo rods stimulated a number of questions about bamboo rods. So I promised that I would get back to Shawn and answer your questions. And I'm not gonna read all of the emails, but I'm gonna read the questions that I got about bamboo rods and then tell you Shawn's answers.
So the first question was, impregnation, when did it stop and how can you tell? So Orvis rods, right after World War II, were impregnated with a Bakelite resin to further waterproof the rods and make 'em more durable, make 'em less likely to absorb water. The process was very labor intensive and there were some fairly dangerous chemicals that were used. And Orvis stopped impregnating its bamboo rods sometime in the late 1970s. I don't know exactly what year. And no one else does either. No one can figure it out. In fact, the rod shop stopped impregnating rods and didn't tell the marketing people about it. I think some of the marketing materials talked about Orvis impregnated rods long after they were not impregnated. You know, they do use a sealant process on the outside of the rods. It's not an impregnation process. The way you can tell an impregnated rod where they were much darker, they were almost a reddish brown in color whereas the non-impregnated rods are gonna be more of a blonde, or a light tan, blonde color. So that's how you can tell. And we don't know what serial numbers they stopped impregnating rods, but they did stop it sometime in the late 1970s. That's all I can tell you.
Second question was what kind of wax do you use on finished rods? And Shawn talked about a wax that he puts on the rods before they leave the rod shop and it's something that you can do to your own rod to keep it looking nice and keep it nice and waterproof. And he uses a wax called Renaissance Micro...let me start that again. He uses a product called Renaissance Micro-Crystalline Wax Polish. That's his first choice. I think any good micro-crystalline wax polish would work, but he uses the Renaissance brand.
There was another question. What kind of glue do you use to glue a bamboo rod sections together? And Shawn says he uses Unibond 800. Unibond 800 is a two-part urea formaldehyde liquid resin glue. Cures clear, flexible and strong. Days of old, we used resorcinol glue, also known as resorcinol formaldehyde, nasty stuff and left the classic reddish purple glue line, which you don't see in the modern rods.
And finally, what's the best glue to reattach a tip top? And Shawn says, "I like Ferr-L-Tite. That's F-E-R-R-L-T-I-T-E. It's a hot-melt adhesive used in the archery industry. It's heat reversible, 350 degrees Fahrenheit. If the tip top needs to be removed, for example. 5 Minute Epoxy works just fine, but make sure you have the tip top in the orientation needed as it can move during the curing process. And he says also, "Super glue will work in a pinch for that." So that's the best way to reattach tip top. And if you're making a rod yourself, you want to use that hot-melt adhesive so if you ever have to replace a tip top, you know, if it gets worn or something or remove it, you do want to use that hot-melt adhesive.
Jonathan: Hey, Tom. This is Jonathan from Central Ohio and I've got a question regarding rod selection. So I have the good fortune to have a trip coming up for Turks and Caicos in January where I'd like to do some fishing. Now I have a 10-foot-7 weight that I use for Great Lake steelhead and I don't know if that will be an adequate rod for the flats there, specifically bonefish. I know a 9-foot-8 weight is more of a standard rod for bonefish, but considering a 7 and an 8-weight are very close, I've considered jumping up to a 9-weight. I don't know if that's overkill or if that's still appropriate for those fish. And then, being a 7-weight might be a little light, I'm also not sure how having a 10-foot versus a 9-foot rod is gonna affect me on the flats. So any feedback you might have for me would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.
Tom: Jonathan, I think that 10-foot-7 weight will be great for bonefish, particularly smaller bonefish. You know, it's a little longer than most people use. Most people use a 9-foot-7 or 8-weight, but 10-foot-7 weight will work. I use that rod for my carp and smallmouth bass fishing and, you know, carp fishing is very similar to bonefishing and it handles big, you know, 10, 15, 20-pound carp okay. So it'll handle any bonefish. And, you know, the 10-foot length might give you a little bit of extra distance too with your casting if you have to make a long cast. So I think that 10-foot-7 weight will be fine for bonefish. If you're gonna take another rod, I would get a 9-foot 9-weight. You may have the opportunity to fish for some permit or barracuda or even tarpon. I don't think there's many tarpon in Turks and Caicos, but you never know when you're gonna encounter tarpon. And it'd be nice to have your rod. And that 9-weight, also if you get a really, really windy day, you can make that 9-weight work for bonefish as well. Just use a longer leader. So that's what I would do. I'd take that 10-foot-7 weight and then a 9-weight for a backup and I think you'll be doing just fine.
All right. That is The Flybox for this week, lots of questions. And now let's go talk to Sean Carey about music, fly fishing and growing where you're planted. So my guest today is Sean Carey. Sean is one of the members of the band, Bon Iver. Did I say that right, Sean? Bon Iver?
Sean: Yeah, you sure did.
Tom: Okay. I don't speak any French. And what does Bon Iver, I forgot what it means?
Sean: It means good winter.
Tom: Good winter. Okay. And you also record as a solo artist under S. Carey, right?
Sean: Correct.
Tom: And we're gonna play one of Sean's songs at the end, called "Yellowstone," which I thought was appropriate for the podcast, a beautiful song. And so, Sean, you know, it's funny. Your publicist contacted me first and said, "Do you want to have the best fly fisher in Bon Iver on your podcast?" And I thought, "Oh, my God." It's gonna come to you and you're gonna say, "What the hell is the Orvis podcast? I don't wanna be on that stupid thing." And so, I told them I wanted to talk to you directly to make sure that you really were interested in being on the podcast. And obviously, you are because you're here. Because I didn't want to have a guest who really didn't want to be here.
Sean: These are my favorite interviews to do, for sure. You know, it's nice talking about your music, but there's something that's a lot more fun just talking about your other passions. Yeah, this should be great.
Tom: So we're gonna talk about music and fly fishing, but we're gonna talk about a subject that you suggested that I think is great. And it's also a great line and I don't know if you came up with this line, but talking about fishing locally. And you said, "Grow where you're planted," which I thought...was that your...?
Sean: No, no, that's not my line. But it's something that, you know, I think about here and there. You know, I live in a pretty small town in Wisconsin and that's where the band started. And, you know, you can draw a lot of similarities, which we'll probably do today, between, you know, being a musician and being a fly fisherman. But, you know, we had great success early on and it was this wild ride that I was so fortunate to be a part of, you know, just graduating college and hitting the road and gaining a lot of popularity fast. And, you know, I think we could have moved to New. York or Los Angeles or wherever, but Justin, the, you know, the lead singer, it's his main project. Him and I, we have band members now from all over the place, but we're still here in Eau Claire and proud to call it home. And so, just thought that'd be a cool topic to talk about in regards to fishing as well.
Tom: Yeah, and I should have mentioned, in Bon Iver, you are the drummer and the keyboard player, right? And you do some vocals?
Sean: Yeah, yeah. We kind of all surround ourselves with instruments. There's a lot going on. But yes, that's my role, percussion and drums and play a lot of piano and keyboards, and then do a lot of singing. And that's sort of been my role from the beginning.
Tom: And in your solo stuff, do you play guitar as well on your solo work?
Sean: I do, yeah, yeah. I tend to do more of the piano and guitar, just kinda feels better for me, singing my own songs that way. Although I do miss playing drums when I do my own tours. Got a great drummer as well, so it all works out.
Tom: So you get to travel all over. I mean, you guys tour. You toured as a solo artist. You tour with Bon Iver. But you really like fishing close to home.
Sean: I do. You know, we've gotten to fish on the road sometimes and that's always fun. But I think probably because I travel for work so much, when I am home, I don't have this urge to, you know, to fly somewhere to go fish for a week or something. It's nice when it happens, but there's so much water here in Wisconsin that that's sort of what I've been feeling lately, is just more of an interest to just explore around here and just, you know, see what else there is that Wisconsin has to offer.
Tom: Yeah, you know, I'm feeling the same way lately and I don't know if it's COVID that did that or just I'm getting older. I'm a lot older than you are. But, you know, I've found that I've really enjoyed exploring what Vermont and nearby New York State, New Hampshire and Maine have to offer, places that I can just get in the car and go to instead of flying. I get a lot of invitations to fish all over the place, but I'm really loving the close to home stuff. And it's not just trout fishing, it's carp and pike and bass and, you know. I mean, just discovering that stuff close to home is so satisfying, I find.
Sean: Yes, absolutely. And that's probably a big part of it, like you said, is these other species. You know, I spent most of my time in the past being a trout angler and then I think it was maybe five or six years ago, my buddy started guiding for muskies and I had never fished for muskies before, never even really considered it. And I ended up catching a 40-inch musky in my first time out and was...
Tom: Wow.
Sean: ...seriously, seriously hooked ever since. So that is a huge part of it, I think, where I'm at in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, we're right in musky capital of something. There's obviously great musky fishing in a lot of places, but northern Wisconsin, there's so much water and it's a native fish. And it's such a cool fish. And so, that definitely, you know, opened up hundreds and hundreds of miles of water that before I would look at and not think much about. And there's all these great rivers that are right in our backyard and coming right through town honestly that hold trophy class musky. And then, you know, you start to catch big smallmouth on your musky flies and you're like, "Wow, smallmouth fishing is really fun." And you catch pike and occasionally walleye and, man, yeah, it's just...that's pretty much what I...I do trout fishing in the spring and fall, but summer is, once it's a little bit warmer, I mean, it's prime time for those things around here. And then, trout fishing is, you know, little bit slower. So yeah, that's been truly wonderful and has opened my eyes to so many opportunities.
Tom: Yeah, you know, I hear this all the time from people that live, say, in the Midwest or the South and they say, "Well, I don't really fly fish much because I'm, you know, four or five hours from the nearest trout stream." And I'm thinking, "Man, there's gotta be stuff closer to you that's gonna be a lot of fun and really interesting." And you know, we all associate fly fishing with trout and there's so much more to explore.
Sean: Yeah. Absolutely.
Tom: It's interesting, I was fishing the other day with Matt Supinski, a fellow Midwestern guy. He's from Michigan. He's a guide and a writer and we were fishing in the Catskills. And I'm always asking people that have been fly fishing for a long time, "What is it about trout?" And he doesn't saltwater fish and he doesn't carp fish. And I say, "What is it about trout and steelhead?" And he said, "You know, I think it's the first love kinda thing." You know, you always remember your first love with, you know, I don't know, it's when your neurons are forming or something and, you know. I mean, I love catching little 6-inch brook trout and I mean, they're tiny. You set the hook and they fly through the air and why should that be exciting? But it is and I guess it's that first love of trout fishing that makes them so...Sorry, go ahead.
Sean: You know, there's something aesthetically beautiful about all trout and also most of the places that trout live, I think, that definitely adds to it.
Tom: Yeah, yeah. That's true. That's true. So tell me about how you discover these new places. Do you go with a guide or do you go on your own or do you mix it up? How do you find these places close to home?
Sean: I mean, the only guide I ever really fished with is just a couple buddies that do it. So I don't have to pay full price.
Tom: You and me both.
Sean: Yeah. You just kick in some gas money and bring lunch. I mean, you know, obviously word of mouth is a great resource and the internet is unbelievable. Almost too good, in my opinion.
Tom: Can be.
Sean: But, you know, I also just love exploring. I love kind of, you know, going on Google Maps and just checking out different places that look good. And then, you know, oh, I have a free Thursday or whatever and just sort of spending the day checking out these spots and seeing what's good and maybe what's not, or what piques my interest and exploring it further. Yeah, I love that. That's part of the addiction, I would say, is just, yeah, finding new water, finding a fish in a place that you've never been is super rewarding, I think.
Tom: Yeah, finding a place that's close to home, you know, that's so exciting because you know you can fish it almost any time you want. You know, you could fish it before work, after work, you know, sneak a day off. I mean, it's so rewarding to find that stuff close to you, even if it's not trout.
Sean: Yeah. Two summers ago, there was this musky that I knew where it was living right in town, and I ended up missing, I missed it, I think, four or five times, never hooked it. But, you know, I'd go back every couple weeks when I thought the conditions were good and I would see it and I just could not hook the musky. But it was exciting and it was, yeah, it was literally a, you know, five-minute drive from my house and one-minute walk down to the river. And it reminds me, I need to go back there. I haven't been back there this summer, so.
Tom: It's getting to be musky season, right?
Sean: Yeah, the fall is great. That's the spot that, you know, the same fish is probably not there, but there might be a fish in that hole. They seem to like, you know, certain holes and once you find a spot that holds musky, there's probably gonna be one there.
Tom: Yeah. So tell me about some other places that you discovered. And I don't want you to mention any locations. We don't do that on this podcast. But, you know, in generalities, tell me about some of the places you've discovered, you know, close to home, fairly close to home other than that musky spot.
Sean: Yeah, there's also a lot of trout water and I remember coming to college up here and thinking that, you know, all the trout fishing was down in the Driftless Area. There was one creek that's fairly popular that's close by and I would go there a lot. But after graduating and sort of just chatting with more people, I realized that there was some water that I had looked at and even, you know, taken some casts in, but it's just sort of a different style of fishing. There's not really hatches. You can't really nymph it. But there's some creeks around here that you would never know that there were fish there, but there actually are once you kind of learn how to approach them and learn where they are. And there's a lot of that water that's, I guess they call it more marginal, but actually holds some pretty nice fish. That's been really fun to discover.
Tom: Are these little tight brushy streams?
Sean: Yeah, exactly. You know, you're rarely doing a full cast. You're doing a lot of, I don't know what you call that cast, if you call it like a boomerang cast or something, but where you kinda hold the fly in your left hand, I'm right-handed, and sort of use the rod kind of just to fling your fly line on [inaudible 01:04:10]...
Tom: Oh yeah, bow and arrow cast, I think is what a lot of people call it.
Sean: Bow and arrow. Yeah. That's really helpful.
Tom: And do you do that with dries or streamers or what kind of patterns do you use in these?
Sean: Mostly streamers. Yeah.
Tom: And you poke it into those little pockets and twitch it, kinda jig it through there?
Sean: Mm-hmm.
Tom: Yeah. Sometimes it's just kind of jigging it into those little pockets that works.
Sean: Yeah. And then as far as warm water stuff, there's so many lakes. And I don't really fish lakes very often. But that's a whole 'nother story. But we're kind of in river country in this part of Wisconsin, so there's a ton of rivers that have, you know, the Chippewa River flows right through town and it has something over a hundred different species of fish. It's kind of like the deeper you get, the more doors are opened and gets almost overwhelming when you think about like, "Oh, I want of explore this, this, this and there's never enough time." But that's a good problem to have.
Tom: Do you ever think of trying to catch one each of all those species?
Sean: I have not, although I've had a few days where I've had, you know, gotten like musky, pike, smallmouth or something and tried to get a, I don't know if it's official, but I think a homerun would be musky, pike, smallmouth, walleye or something along those lines.
Tom: Wisconsin grand slam.
Sean: Yeah, exactly. Or throw in a couple trout in there or something.
Tom: Yeah. How about perch and catfish and stuff?
Sean: I caught a perch in a trout stream, but I don't usually target them. You can definitely catch, you can go and catch bluegill and panfish with little dry flies or even, like, the Pink Squirrel, which is a famous fly in the Driftless Area. That does a number on bluegill. That's fun. And been doing some more of that lately because I've got three little kids, so we've been doing a lot of panfishing and getting them into the sport that way.
Tom: Was that your daughter in the video that I saw?
Sean: Which video was it?
Tom: It was the first song you sent me, the official video...I can't remember.
Sean: Oh yeah, yeah. Not, that wasn't actually. That was not my daughter.
Tom: Just curious.
Sean: I've got two girls and a boy and they, yeah, so far they're all into it. So it's a fun activity.
Tom: Yeah. You're lucky because not all kids take to it. Some kids are not interested and some are, so you're lucky. So how long have you been fly fishing, Sean? When did you start?
Sean: I've been fly fishing for I think about 15 years or something. I grew up just conventional fishing, but when I got to college here in Eau Claire, I met my friend, Ben, and we were both percussion majors. And he was an avid fly angler, so he roped me into it.
Tom: Uh-huh. And do you fish much when you're on the road?
Sean: Occasionally. It all depends on the tour and the location and, you know, I guess the days off or the time. But we did, with my band, we've done a few of these house show tours, where we actually go and play in people's homes, rather than traditional venues. And that was super fun because you end up having a lot more free time. And we sort of scheduled some of those stops around places we wanted to fish. You know, like we played Denver, then we had three days to get from there to Salt Lake City. So we just fished our way through Colorado and a little bit in Utah. A couple of guys in my band also fish, so that was great. That was so fun.
Tom: But you're the best angler in your band, according to your publicist.
Sean: Well, that's Bon Iver, which I have no competition. But Ben, my friend who got me into it, he also plays in my band, in S. Carey. And he's a fantastic angler. So yeah. We learn from each other all the time.
Tom: That's fun to have a fishing buddy like that, that you learn from each other. I have a couple of those too. Let's talk about, you made an interesting comment about how musical training, your musical training affects how you approach fishing. And I would imagine this would apply to, you know, anybody's lifestyle. Like, you contrasted the way a jazz musician might fish to the way a classical musician might fish. And let's explore a little bit about that. How do different kinds of musicians approach fishing, in your view?
Sean: Yeah, you know, that was just an interesting idea I had and I was thinking about all sorts of comparisons. I think, you know, I think I'm sort of an analytical person, so I sort of think about different musicians and what their fortes are. You know, some people are just way better at just improvising and going with the flow. I think I'm more in that category. I don't read music well. I sometimes feel like if I can just sort of trust my intuition more than thinking about what the chord is or what to play next, that's, for me, when I feel like I'm the most in the zone. But you know, that's not everyone and lots of musicians, classically trained or otherwise, are gonna be a lot better with something in front of them that can sort of guide their decisions. And I was thinking about that with fishermen too, because you don't, fisher people, anglers, you don't often talk about that with your buddies, but people have way different styles. And I don't know, it's just a fun thing to think about. I think, you know, I think you can probably, as much as you have strengths, you can probably learn from your weaknesses as well. And I think as an angler, for me, I can probably learn more from people that are little bit more methodical. And that would probably help my angling instead of just sort of, you know, going with whatever fly I feel like is, you know, gonna be the best in that moment. I don't know. Yeah, what do you think about that?
Tom: I don't know. I've never thought of it before. So I think that if we follow that, say, Yo-Yo Ma or John Adams would fish probably bamboo rods up stream, or they'd fish classic dry flies, you know, something that's got a lot of tradition behind it. And maybe an Indie rocker would just poke a Pink Squirrel into little pockets and see what happens. Or, you know, try something different. And the classical musicians would probably mainly fish for trout and salmon, and the jazz musician might fish for carp and bluegill and smallmouth and pike and gar and all kinds of crazy...I don't know. It's interesting to think about.
Sean: Yeah, it's fun to think about. I think, you know, one thing I've noticed with, like, lot of guys that make, like, musky videos, is they have sort of more, like, hard rock music. It sort of annoys me actually because it's like, I don't know, that music doesn't connect with me usually in the way that I see it. But yeah, you know, I think also, like, I think people that are fisher anglers that are a little maybe too methodical or maybe think too much, there's something to be said for that too where it's like, you know, I think maybe they're overthinking. That can be a real detriment to people that maybe, you know, they're gonna try, like, 20 different flies and sometimes I think you could have, like, three to five flies and go out and catch a lot of fish if you have confidence in what you're doing. I don't know. It's just something to think about.
Tom: Yeah, I think a lot of people overthink it based on the questions I get for the podcast. And I think a lot of us tend to overthink fly fishing. And that's the beauty, I think, of fly fishing, is because you can approach it any way you want. You can approach it from a real traditionalist manner or you can improvise and experiment and have fun. So there's all kinds of ways to approach the game. And, you know, like you said, even amongst my fishing buddies, we'll approach a river with a totally different manner.
Sean: Yeah, yeah. And there's obviously strengths to every which way. And I notice that a lot with musicians that I interact with too, and I tend to lean more towards you know, I guess just maybe trying to not overthink things and trying to just be in the moment and trust your instinct and intuition in both fishing and with music. So that's something that I encourage other musicians that I play with to do. And it's easier for some people than others.
Tom: 'Course you do have to have, I think you do have to have some basics. You have to have a little confidence before you can improvise, right, both in music and in fishing.
Sean: That's true, yeah. There's obviously training and practice that has to go on.
Tom: I mean, with fishing, you have to understand the environment and the fish's needs and currents and things like that. And once you have those kind of basics, you understand what's going on, then you can improvise. But I think a lot of people, when they first start out, they need more structure because they're not sure of what they're doing. And, you know, you need results when you're starting out, you need a little success. Otherwise, you're gonna give it up. So yeah, that's an interesting thought though. So how would a jazz musician fish a trout stream?
Sean: I mean, I don't play much jazz anymore, but that was sort of my main upbringing as a musician. So the way that I fish a trout stream is, I mean, I guess I usually fish a little bit faster than some of my friends. Sort of, you know, going to the most likely holding spot first or maybe, like, you know, trying to think where the biggest fish might be. And then just, you know, I mean, I think you're in the moment and you're sort of trying to figure it out, but you're also not afraid to use some different tactics, maybe even sometimes, you know, twitching, if you're nymphing, I'm not afraid to do some twitching or moving it around. I guess just trying all the things and figuring out what's gonna work. I don't know.
Tom: Your friends are more methodical? They'll fish more of the water and try to maybe not go to the best pool first but work their way up to it?
Sean: In general, yeah.
Tom: But then you're always there when they work up to it, right? You beat 'em to it.
Sean: We've had some conversations about that, for sure.
Tom: Yeah. I can imagine. Sean, tell me how does fishing influence your songwriting? They're both kind of creative processes and they probably work off each other. But how does your time on a trout stream affect your songwriting?
Sean: Yeah, I mean, I think that's a really great way to say it, is time on the stream or even time in the car. I actually write a lot in the car because I can listen to demos and I think, you know, the headspace that you can achieve and get in when you're fishing is part of the allure, right? It's part of the addiction, I guess, for me is, like, I just love that. I love that clear headspace. And so, yeah, sometimes it's honestly it's an escape from work, but then other times, it's a total, like it can be totally creative and, you know, songs that I'm working on are sort of cycling through my head on repeat and I can think about lyrics. I could think about parts. I could think about arrangements. And one thing that I like to do is sort of envision what the song, what the end result is gonna be, envision that in a, I guess, aural way, where I can sort of hear what I want it to be. And then once I have that, then it's just trying to achieve that. And that's what the recording process is. So I think sometimes when I'm out fishing, that headspace allows me to hear what the final product is hopefully gonna be.
Tom: Uh-huh. It's interesting because a lot of people say that they love fishing because it takes 'em away from everything else and they don't think of anything else. But I guess music is different because it's going on in your head. It's such a creative thing that it probably doesn't intrude on your fishing like worrying about selling refrigerators or putting in new plumbing or something would do to you.
Sean: Yeah, exactly.
Tom: Or thinking about the next podcast to do.
Sean: Yeah. Well, I think being a musician, there's many parts to it and there's definitely the creative part. But there's also that, you know, business part of it, where that is the part, you know, like you said, thinking about the next podcast, or me thinking about, "Oh, gosh, I gotta leave next week and be gone for three weeks," or "Oh, I need to respond to that email." There's that part of it that's probably equal as far as time and energy. But that stuff, you know, rarely enters my brain when I'm out there, which is great.
Tom: Yeah, it's good to be able to separate the two parts of your business, of your creative life like that and not allow the more mundane stuff to intrude on your fishing.
Sean: Yeah, exactly. And then, you know, as far as being a songwriter, I tend to lean on just my inspiration with nature. That's been huge for me as a person and as a musician and songwriter from the start. And, you know, I think we all know that sort of whatever you want to call it, spiritual connection or whatever. I love sort of tapping into that as a songwriter and using analogies. And if you really dig into some of my lyrics, you know, there's some fishing things hidden in there that aren't super obvious. It's definitely such a big part of my life and, you know, I'm sure people listening to this and yourself and people that are really into fly fishing, they totally get it. It's a lifestyle and so it definitely enters my music in various ways.
Tom: Yeah, yeah. I can imagine it does. And I'm sure that people will pick up now that they've listened to some of your lyrics or read some of your lyric online and they'll pick up the subtle things that came from your fishing life. Speaking of fishing life and songs, we have a song of yours to play at the end of the podcast that I thought would be appropriate, because the title is "Yellowstone." And it's a beautiful song. And there's obviously some, well, there's no overt fishing reference in there, but you say, "Let's get in the car and go to Yellowstone" or something.
Sean: Yeah, basically. Yeah, this song, it's about, you know, I guess it's about a relationship that sort of needs a kickstart. It's, you know, it needs something fresh and it's that idea of just, like, you know what? Let's just drop everything. Let's get in the car and let's drive to Yellowstone. And Yellowstone itself, it just sort of worked with the syllables and the rhyming, but to me it definitely meant just, like, it wasn't specific when I wrote the song. But, you know, any place that's sort of really inspiring and outdoors and I think I was thinking about Montana, for me personally as a place to escape to. But yeah, that's what the song's about.
Tom: Mm-hmm. Well, let's play it and Sean, I want to thank you for being on the podcast and sharing your music with us and people can find you either on Bon Iver or as S. Carey. And there's songs. Buy the CD, people. Don't stream. He doesn't make enough money. Go to his shows. Buy the CD. Don't watch him for free on YouTube. Or watch him for free first and then buy the CD. Because it's...
Sean: Thanks so much, Tom. Yeah, thanks for having me and thanks for plugging the music. And it's always helpful and it's always nice to meet people, fellow fly anglers out there on the road.
Tom: Yeah, and I always love talking to creative people who fly fish, because I'm a decidedly non-creative person. So it's always interesting to get someone, a creative person's perspective on fishing, so thank you.
Sean: Well, you create these podcasts and people that...
Tom: They're pretty nuts and bolts.
Sean: Well, they're good resources to have and, you know, I think especially fly anglers that, especially in the winter or something where you can't get out as much as you want to, it's a nice resource to have and nice to just learn about all sorts of different kinds of fishing. So good job, Tom.
Tom: Yeah, I listen to music during the winter when I tie flies. I don't listen to podcasts.
Sean: Yeah, well, it scratches an itch for people, I'm sure.
Tom: Yeah, yeah. Well, thanks again, Sean. Really appreciate it.
Sean: Thank you.
Tom: And let's listen to "Yellowstone."
Sean: And in the past I know that we've ended on a sour tone.
I dreamt that we packed the car and ended up in Yellowstone.
And I, I want to see the foreign dress.
Under the moon tree.
And time, and time will tell all of what you need to know from me.
Safe's the kind of word that makes a love grow old and die.
I knelt, I wept, the grass was burnt caramel.
And your well went dry.
And we should lose our way before we lose our minds.
Lose our minds.
And I, I want to see your foreign dress.
Under the moon tree.
And time, and time will tell all of what you need to know from me.
How was I saved.
Meet me where the map ends.
I want you in my forest.
I know I like a painting.
It's what you're scared to know from me.
I want you in my forest.
I know I like a painting.
It's what you're scared to know from me.
I want you in my forest.
I know I like a painting.
It's what you're scared to know from me.
I want you in my forest.
I know I like a painting.
It's what you're scared to know from me.
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 a body of an email or as a voice attachment. You can find more free fishing tips on