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Are Fly-Fishing Traditions and History Important? with Sarah Foster

Description: My guest this week is Sarah Foster [54:15], executive director of The American Museum of Fly Fishing, on why she thinks learning about the history and traditions surrounding fly fishing are important and add to our enjoyment. She talks about recent exhibits and acquisitions, and what is in store for the future of the museum. It's a must-see for anyone visiting southern Vermont.
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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 Sarah Foster. Sarah is the Executive Director of the American Museum of Fly Fishing. And we talk a bit about why history is important in fly fishing, [00:00:30.313] why tradition is important. It may not be important to you. You may just like to go out and go fly fishing and not worry about what people did 20 or 30 or 100 years ago. But I think a lot of people are interested in how we got where we did today with our various ways that we practice fly fishing. So, Sarah is going to talk about that and about how the museum has really embraced [00:01:00.453] a lot of diversity, younger people especially these days, and what the current exhibits are, because there are some fascinating exhibits in the museum.
If you want to visit the Museum of American Fly Fishing, it's in Manchester, Vermont, and there is an event coming up on May 4th, the Battenkill Fly Fishing Festival. [00:01:30.522] It's held in Arlington, Vermont, which is just a little bit south of Manchester. It's about a 10-15 minute drive. But it's a pretty cool event. I've been attending it for the past couple of years, and it has things like speakers and music, and fly tying, and craft beer, and food, and a whole bunch of interesting vendors. So, it's a great day. It's become quite an event, and it's also [00:02:00.767] being held in conjunction with Trout Unlimited's Northeast Conference. So, there's going to be a lot of cool stuff going on, and the Battenkill looks like it's going to be fishing pretty well around May 4th. The bugs are starting and the water is dropping. So, it's a great weekend if you're in the area. Make sure you visit the festival and the American Museum of Fly Fishing. You can check [00:02:30.099] the hours of the museum on their website, which you should do after you listen to this podcast. And of course, while you're there, you may want to visit the Orvis Flagship Retail Store, just saying.
All right. Well, let's do the fly box. And the fly box is where you ask questions or you share tips with other listeners, or you send me a comment. I don't always read the comments on the air [00:03:00.836] unless they're really controversial, and then I like to read them. But anyway, you can send your question or comment or tip to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. And you can either attach a voice file or you can just type your question into your email. I read them all, but I don't answer them all.
And the first question [00:03:30.265] is from Elliot, and it's an email. "Good day, Tom. I'll preface my question by saying that you and I hail from the same region in upstate New York, so the streams I fish would be very familiar. I've been fly fishing all my life, 39 years old, and may have just had an epiphany. Conventional wisdom says to dead drift nymphs downstream off the bottom and so forth, as I'm sure you have too. I've caught many fish bringing nymphs upstream in log jam pools [00:04:00.052] as they swing down and across, and caught no shortage of fish accidentally as I drag the fly through the same current as I walk upstream to the next pool. Today, however, I started getting a lot of strikes retrieving nymphs upstream through pools as you would a streamer. I was getting five or more strikes in this fashion for every one that I would dead drift. What do you suppose would cause the fish to strike a nymph, a holy grail and hares ears, fished in such [00:04:30.659] an unconventional manner? Was it working like a wet fly? Was it at the right height in the water column? Did they mistake them for emergers or other insects? Or have I just been overthinking things royally for many years?"
Well, Elliot, you're absolutely right. Sometimes nymphs do work well stripped through a pool or swinging on a tight line. We don't know exactly why it works, but [00:05:00.100] there's some possibilities. One is that you're fishing for hatchery fish and they're just looking for something to eat, and they do things that don't make any sense sometimes if they're freshly stocked. Another thing is that there are some mayfly nymphs that swim quite rapidly. They almost look like little minnows in the water. Isonychia is the most common [00:05:30.882] genus of these mayfly nymphs, and they're really good swimmers.
The other possibility is that the fish might have thought that your nymphs were little tiny tiny sculpins or dace, or even just emerged trout, because those things swim. We're fishing a nymph and we think the fish take our flies because they're nymphs, but they may think they're something else. So anyway, if it works, I wouldn't mess with it. [00:06:00.024] Interestingly, I remember a stream that I fished in upstate New York and it was unusual in that we fished wet flies and stripped them back upstream and that was the most effective technique in that stream. So, maybe you're fishing the same stream. The same techniques may not work the next time you go out, but I would always try and urge other people to try fishing [00:06:30.278] your nymphs or whatever flies in unconventional manners and see what happens. Sometimes you're going to discover something pretty interesting.
Here's another email from Casper from the Netherlands. "While, hoping for some nice spring weather, we were caught in some cold and rainy weather during our monthly fishing and camping trip in the Ardennes region in Belgium this past weekend. Heavy rainfall resulted in high flows in the main river [00:07:00.731] we like to fish, making wading a little dangerous because we like to euro-nymph. The good looking spots were hard to reach. We decided to fish a smaller local stream with more accessible flows and we started catching fish almost right away. While fishing slower pools, I noticed a trout coming up to the surface from what looked like a very turbulent throw to the pool right after I made the first cast. I would appreciate very much if you could help me with these questions. One, is the throat of a pool a common place [00:07:30.282] where trout can be found or could it just be characteristic of this specific pool that made it attractive to trout? Two, I measured the water temperature and it was around 7 degrees Celsius, 44.6 Fahrenheit, and the fish were actively feeding. At what temperature does a brown trout's metabolism start growing and making it start feeding?"
Well, Caspert, typically the throat, and I think by the throat you mean the head of a pool [00:08:00.744] where it first dumps over a shelf or comes out of a riffle. In larger rivers, it's often not the best place to find trout because the flow is very heavy there and the fish just can't hold there easily and still feed. In smaller streams, particularly if there's a shelf, if there's a drop off, the fish can hold [00:08:30.067] below that drop off and then dart up into the throat of the pool to take an emerging or a floating insect. It's more common in smaller streams. But if the throat is very turbulent, it's often not a good place to fish. But obviously it was in this particular pool because you saw fish feeding there. [00:09:00.984] And so I would say that probably it wasn't as turbulent as it would have been in a bigger river. Fish don't like turbulence because it pushes them around too much and again, doesn't allow them to hold their position easily. But apparently this throat was not that fast and not that turbulent, so the fish were there.
Regarding water temperature, we can make generalizations about fish feeding, but [00:09:30.482] fish can get acclimated to both warmer and colder temperatures outside of what we normally think of the optimum temperature. So, 44.6 degrees Fahrenheit, I would not expect to find rising fish. Generally, it's when the flow is lessened and the water temperature gets to be in the high 40s to 50s. That's in general, but I have seen fish rising [00:10:00.712] at colder temperatures as you did. And so, t depends on the river, depends on the conditions. Sometimes if the water starts out a few degrees lower and warms relatively quickly, that will stimulate the fish to feed. It's often not so much the absolute temperature as it is the change in temperature. A couple degrees of rising temperature can stimulate fish to feed, [00:10:30.293] even brown trout. We can make generalizations, but your observations are always going to be more valuable than anything you read in a book or listen to on a podcast. And obviously, in this particular stream, the fish will feed at 44.6 degrees.
Zach: Hey, Tom. This is Zach from Canton, Ohio. I was just listening to this week's podcast and heard the caller call in with a question [00:11:00.570] about fishing around wastewater treatment plants and just had a little tidbit. At least for the Cleveland area and Akron area, really, if you are fishing for steelheads, something to consider would be what's called CSO events, which is combined sewage overflow. Basically, the sewage is combined with stormwater and sewage water. In the event that there's a very severe rain event, [00:11:30.647] the sewage treatment plants get overrun with water since it's combined with the stormwater and sewage. So, they have to bypass the treatment plant and pump it into the river. For example, I know the Cuyahoga River experiences this. Now, they have been forced by the EPA to limit the numbers, the amount of occurrences each year, [00:12:00.828] which it has reduced greatly since they've been doing a lot more projects to reduce this number. Realistically, you're probably not going to be fishing in the case that you would have a CSO event because it would be a lot of water and you're probably not going to be out there to begin with, but that is something to consider. So, yeah.
Tom: Zach, that's good to know and important. [00:12:30.392] I promise everyone that we won't talk anymore about sewage treatment plants on the podcast, but yeah, good to know. If you've got a really strong flow, and even after a strong flow maybe, when things settle down and look fishable, you might want to think twice about fishing below a sewage treatment plant.
All right, let's do another email. This one's from Ryan in Colorado. [00:13:00.058] "I had my first venture of the year into a small creek this weekend. My fiberglass 7-foot 3-weight was getting too jealous of the 5-weight over the winter. When we got on the water, it was cloudy and about 40 degrees and there were some beautiful size 18 dark gray black betas. That's a mayfly by the way. Perfect little sailboats in the creek with wild browns and rainbows going crazy. Both my fiancé and I had a great day bringing about a dozen to hand over four hours. [00:13:30.045] We had luck with a bunch of different flies, black parachute Adams, purple haze, and Griffith's Gnat on top, as well as a zebra midge and pheasant tail on a dropper, usually using 3x or 4x to a dry fly with 4x or 5x on a dropper. We had success in several pools and taking turns casting.
It seemed like we'd catch a fish on a fly, then the other fish were wise to it and we'd have to change the fly to get another fish to take it. For the most part, [00:14:00.617] we were catching fish in the heads and middle runs of pools on the seams, fishing to risers in the bubble line. The water is a small creek, typically 5 to 20 feet wide with pre-runoff flows around 50 CFS. I almost always see another angler or two at the trailhead, but say the fish probably only see one angler a day during the weekends. I tried 3x, 4x, and 5x tippets and didn't seem to notice a difference. And the rises to naturals [00:14:30.715] right next my fly never stop. Do you think these fish were being picky or more spooky? Here's a tip, especially for folks tying their own flies, just go ahead and tie an extra and bring it along. If you only have one or two of a certain pattern, color, size combo, then you're bound to lost them both and be left sitting on a ban with an empty fly box. Happy spring."
Well, Ryan, I guess your question is why could you catch one fish [00:15:00.612] in a run or a pool, and then get ignored by the other fish until you change flies. I don't exactly. Sometimes the fish will after the first couple of casts, the fish might see that particular fly dragging, and they can recognize one fly from another. Not that they're not going to take it, but they can know the difference between [00:15:30.928] a purple haze and a Griffith's Gnat. They're different profiles. I think that maybe on your subsequent cast, maybe the fly dragged a little bit and the fish saw that and said, "I'm not eating that." Then you could repeatedly throw it over those same fish and they know it. They're not going to take it.
I don't think you were spooking fish with your cast because you said they rose right next to your fly. So, that would be my other [00:16:00.196] thought was watch the fish's rhythm and do they stop rising when you cast and then start up if you let them rest for a couple minutes. That would indicate they're being spooked, but obviously they weren't being spooked. So, I'm not sure. I don't think they learned by seeing another fish caught on a fly pattern, but there was something about your flies and I would suspect drag. I think that fishing a size 18 [00:16:30.399] on 3x or 4x, it's a little bit of heavy tippet and I think it's going to drag fairly easily. Five X or even 6x might have been a better way of avoiding drag and putting on a longer tippet. That's my suggestion if you run into the same situation again.
Here's an email from Donald. "First, the kudos. I recently bought a pair of Orvis [00:17:00.187] half-millimeter wet wading socks and my feet have never been happier. They are incredibly comfortable. There is an added benefit in that I can comfortably fit my wide feet into boots that feel a little too tight with normal neoprene socks. These are now my go-to for wet wading in fresh water, and I expect they will become my go-to in salt water with my Christmas Island Flats Boots. By the way, credit to the designers for making them light gray so they won't get too hot on a casting deck. [00:17:30.015] And finally, the question. I recently bought a high-end contemporary bamboo rod and it has been a revelation. I thought it was going to be a niche tool for use in limited conditions, but I was just flat out wrong. It is shockingly capable and I love it. Now I find myself wanting to try out all sorts of classic and contemporary bamboo rods including Orvis to compare their actions. I suspect I'll probably end up buying several. [00:18:00.340] My question is how do modern Orvis bamboo tapers and actions compare to their older counterparts? I know glues have improved and I'm guessing tapers had to change a little when the impregnated finish changed, but will an Orvis rod from the '60s or '80s feel a lot like its newer equivalent or have the modern rods evolved significantly?"
Well, that's a great question, Donald, and by the way I love those half-millimeter wet wading socks as well. [00:18:30.086] I always suggest to people don't ever wet wade either in fresh water or on the flats without wearing some sort of sock between your foot and your wading boots because you're going to end up with blisters. No matter what wading boot you use or what kind of booty you use, you need something in between that wading booty and your foot to prevent blisters. So, those are great.
Regarding the bamboo rods, [00:19:00.458] the Orvis bamboo rods, yeah, they have changed quite a bit over the years. The older Orvis rods prior to, I would say prior to maybe the mid-1990s or the early 2000s, prior to that the actions were very slow and the tips were a little stiffer so that the rod flexed well into the butt [00:19:30.522] and not what we would consider a modern taper at all. They cast fine, they were easy to cast, and they were durable, but I think you're going to find the newer Orvis bamboo rods have a little bit of faster action, not super fast because bamboo is never going to be a really fast action because of the [00:20:00.723] modulus of elasticity of the material. But they're going to be a little bit more powerful in the butt and a little bit more flexible in the tip, and that is due to modern glues that enable us to make those tips just a bit thinner and different tapers. So yeah, the older ones are going to be different. Not that they're going to be bad, but I think the old philosophy [00:20:30.371] in the Orvis bamboo rods was to make a rod that cast okay, but a rod that wouldn't have a tip so thin that it would break often. And I think durability in the old days was more important to the rod makers than exactly the way the rod cast. So, I far prefer the newer actions on the Orvis bamboo rods. But I still have [00:21:00.797] some of the older ones and they're fun to fish as well.
Here's an email from David. With trout season underway, I've been taking the occasional stock fish and noticed that some of the holdover brown trout had eggs. It is well past the brown trout spawn, so I was wondering why these female browns may still have eggs. Were these fish that never found a mate or are these fish that were unable to spawn because they may have been unable to identify the adequate locations for spawning habitat [00:21:30.850] since they were stocked? Or do stock trout that live in the system for multiple seasons eventually figure it out? Lastly, what would have happened to those eggs if the fish were not taken?"
That's an interesting question, David. I think that those fish probably held eggs because hatcheries are often monkeying with the [00:22:00.793] spawning cycle in trout to get fish in the raceways to spawn at different times than they would naturally just because it sometimes allows them better growing seasons. So, that hatchery might have tried to develop spring-spawning brown trout or winter-spawning brown trout or summer-spawning brown trout because they can do that by monkeying with the [00:22:30.348] photo period of the fish when they're in the hatchery that can change the light and dark periods and fool fish into thinking it's a different season than they would normally spawn.
Whether those eggs would be viable in the spring, I don't know. Wild brown trout, as far as I know, always spawn in fall and the eggs hatch [00:23:00.362] typically in March. They overwinter as eggs and then hatch typically in March in most latitudes in the northern hemisphere. But I don't know if those eggs would be viable or not. It's interesting. Often hatchery fish are not viable spawners and that may be one reason. But I don't think it's because they couldn't find a mate or they couldn't find the right gravel and held onto the eggs. Although that could be possible as well. [00:23:30.246] I'm not exactly sure. Maybe someone who listens to the podcast and is experienced in fish culture could answer that question. But anyway, I don't think the eggs would be viable. So, it probably didn't hurt that you took those fish.
Here's a fly tying question email from Andrew. "Recently, I had good luck fishing an evening caddis hatch with a few of your rabbits foot emergers that I tied. The problem was [00:24:00.200] after every second or third fish, all the snowshoe rabbit hair would come out and I'd have to retie that fly and tie on a new one. Do you have any tips for tying in the snowshoe rabbit to lock it in place better? I suppose I could just apply a drop of Zap-a-Gap, but I prefer not to use that stuff. Somehow it feels like cheating."
Well, Andrew, you know, I used to think that Zap-a-Gap was cheating too, but I find myself using it more and more. But [00:24:30.082] that snowshoe rabbit hair is fairly slippery stuff, and I think that if you just make sure that you apply more pressure on that hair when you tie it in. One of the reasons I like snowshoe rabbit is that it doesn't flare. And when you tie it in, unlike deer hair, you can make a really smaller head, smaller tie in points, easier to handle than deer hair, and gives you about the same profile. [00:25:00.400] I would say just use a little more pressure on your thread and make sure that you're locking that hair down not just in one place, but wind forward a little bit on it so that you have a longer tie-in point and then cover that tie-in point with a fur hat or something. But, you know, don't rule out using Zap-a-Gap. If you don't like that, then, you know, a couple drops of head cement on the hair. [00:25:30.892] But I think just probably more pressure on your thread will lock that hair in place.
Rick: Hi, Tom. Thank you very much for a wonderful podcast that you do. I have a few questions. This is Rick from Kansas. First of all, I was going to ask a question of whether or not there's a significant benefit between a Rite Bobbin and your typical bobbin when tying? And secondly, [00:26:00.715] what I've found is when I use 70 denier thread, even though I take special precautions of not applying too much tension, it just seems to break all the time. Do I just keep restarting or tying over the break, or would you recommend going to a heavier thread? The other question I have is when you're applying head cement, [00:26:30.511] what is the time difference between using a UV light to dry it and then air drying it? And then if you have any ideas, I have a friend who raises chickens and he has been giving me feathers, but are there particular feathers that I should be requesting or any thoughts on those questions? I would appreciate it. And again, thank you for all the [00:27:00.719] help you've given me over the years. Thank you.
Tom: So, Rick, I don't use the Rite Bobbin that much. The advantage is it has kind of an adjustable drag so you can easily adjust the tension. I know Tim Flagler, my nemesis from my fly tying online live sessions, likes the Rite Bobbin a lot. I think the only advantage [00:27:30.520] is that it's easier to change spools too. Maybe I should go back and use it more. But you can adjust the tension very easily with that knob. So, that's the main advantage of the Rite Bobbin.
Regarding your 70 denier thread, so there's a couple things to look at here. One is, does your bobbin fray the thread? There may be, [00:28:00.388] sometimes you can get a bobbin with a little burr or a nick in it. And as the thread goes through the tube, it can fray the thread. And the answer to that is either to polish that tube with some really, really fine grit sandpaper to try to remove the burr or just get another bobbin. Seventy denier thread should hold up. [00:28:30.052] It's pretty strong stuff. The other thing is, is it just one spool of 70 denier thread or is it a number of them? Because you can get a bad spool of thread. Sometimes a thread gets scored as it gets wound out of the spool. Sometimes it gets old and if it's been exposed to sunlight, the thread can weaken over time. So, if it's just with one spool, I would just try another spool of thread. [00:29:00.330] If it's with all 70 denier thread, then I would look at your bobbin and see if it's got a little burr or something in it.
Regarding UV cements and head cement, UV cement cures almost immediately, but a lot of people, particularly if they're putting a fairly thick coat on, will leave the... And this is especially true with streamer flies and saltwater flies [00:29:30.520] where you have a fairly good coat on there. Sometimes people leave it out in the sunlight to further cure it. But UV does cure almost instantly, but a full cure I think I would wait a day or so. Head cement depends on the solvent used in the head cement, but that generally dries in about, [00:30:00.704] I don't know, two or three minutes. You could just put a drop of head cement on a piece of paper and depending, because you may have a different head cement than I do, put a drop on a piece of paper and then see how long it takes to dry.
Regarding chickens, almost every feather from a chicken is useful. Even the tail feathers, which you normally don't see, you can use those for nymph bodies [00:30:30.506] and things like that. But generally the hackles on the neck and the saddles on the back of the chicken are the most useful. Wing feathers sometimes can be used. The covered feathers on wings can be used for bigger soft hackles. So, it really depends on what you tie, but almost every feather on a chicken is going to be useful in some way or another. So, if your friend's giving you feathers, [00:31:00.046] I'd keep them all and see if you come up with a use for them at some point.
Okay. Here's another email from Dylan. "Hi, Tom. I figured I'd ask you a striper question since here in Massachusetts the prime season is very close. I will mostly be targeting stripers from the shore. I've done my research and have watched all your videos. I know you like a 9-weight rod, a stripping basket, [00:31:30.411] and use floating, intermediate, and depth charge lines for different scenarios. My question is, if you had to pick one line to fish from shore, would it be a floating or a line with intermediate tip? How much time before the incoming or outgoing tide should I be fishing? And what specific structure are you looking for when fishing the surf or other types of environments? I appreciate all that you do. You are a legend in our discipline." Well, thank you. Thank you, Dylan. [00:32:00.654]
I think that if you pick one line to use from shore, I would say that floating line with the intermediate tip is going to probably be your most useful line. If you're fishing a gurgler or a popper, if you start to strip immediately, you can still work it on the surface. And then that intermediate tip will allow you to get below the waves when you're fishing the surf and keep your line [00:32:30.238] a little bit more under control because the surface waves tend to push a floating line around. But there's lots of people who use strictly floating lines for that scenario as well. But my pick would be a floating line with an intermediate tip.
Regarding how much time before the in-going or outgoing tide should you be fishing, that's going to be very situational depending on exactly the spot you're fishing. So, if you go [00:33:00.876] to one spot all the time, you regularly fish a spot and you know it holds stripers, I would fish it through all tides because there are places I know of where high tide is better. There are places I know where the beginning of the incoming is better. There are places I know where the beginning of the outgoing is better. And there are places where in the middle of an incoming or outgoing tide. [00:33:30.450] So, it's going to vary with each situation. My advice would be to fish all tides and then try to figure out which is the best tide for your particular situation because it's going to vary. Every place you go is going to be different.
As far as if you're fishing the surf, what structure to look for. Look for a change in the beach structure. [00:34:00.694] Look for flats. Look for drop-offs. If the beach is kind of monotonous and it has a gradual depth increase, that's not going to be as good as places that have a flat or a place is a little what my late friend Tony Stetsco used to call guzzles where when the surf backs off, [00:34:30.542] it kind of forms a little foamy whirlpool. But generally look for changes in depth and changes in structure. Points, little bays, as opposed to a flat featureless beach. But even those flat featureless beaches can produce fish. Again, every spot is a little bit different, and you're going to have to learn your spots to figure out what are best [00:35:00.573] in your area.
Here's an email from Erin in Shreveport. "Hi, Tom. As always thank you for being awesome and helping us fly guys and gals. A couple questions for you. Can you explain exactly what shock tippet is and what is its purpose? I fish for redfish once in a while. Is this something I should be using? Also, I try to fish the gummy minnow fly sometimes and it seems I always have trouble casting it. Flutters and spins through the air sounding like a helicopter. Surely I'm doing something wrong here. [00:35:30.087] Too long of a leader? Either way, I get no distance with my cast with it and I have to use way too much force to get it out there. Lastly, I'm going to be fishing with a guide in Destin for tarpon this June. Any advice for someone who's never fished for tarpon before? Tom, thank you for your time in Tight Lines."
So, Erin, a shock tippet does provide some shock absorption. In other words, if you were fishing, let's say, a 12 or a 16-pound tippet and a big fish crashed your fly, a heavier piece of material would provide some shock absorption, and also they're generally tied in with a Bimini twist which does have some stretch to it and guards against shock. But in my mind, the main use [00:36:30.571] of a shock tippet is for fish that have either sharp teeth or abrasive mouth or gill plates. Tarpon, big tarpon are the obvious culprits in that they have a sandpaper like mouth that can gradually wear through a tip it on a long battle, and also they have very sharp gill plates that can cut a tippet. So, I think it's mainly for abrasion and cutoffs as opposed to shock. [00:37:00.418]
I don't think you need a shock tippet for redfish unless you're fishing for really, really, really large redfish that might wear through a tippet. I don't think you really need a shock tippet. Redfish are a little more cautious and suspicious of flies in my experience, and a shock tippet might be a little too stiff and heavy [00:37:30.522] to give you a normal presentation. There're some fish, for instance, snook or even sea trout, where you want a little bit of a shock tippet. You want something like 30 or 40 pound fluorocarbon. You don't need as heavy as 60 or 80 that you'd need for tarpon. But they do have an abrasive mouth and sometimes a shock tippet helps with snook and sea trout. [00:38:00.672] Sea trout have sharp teeth. But also you can get away with no shock tippet at times for those fish. But I don't think you need a shock tippet for redfish.
Regarding your gummy minnow, I would say, yeah, you're probably using too long and too fine of a leader. The tippet I would use on a gummy minnow, depends on what size it is, but it'd probably be at least 16, [00:38:30.947] maybe 20 pounds, and not too long of a tippet, maybe 20 inches of a tippet. That may help your fluttering and spinning. The other thing is maybe if you're using a loop knot on that gummy minnow, try using just a standard six turn clinch knot. Sometimes a loop knot will make flies spin a little bit more in the air.
[00:39:00.751] Regarding advice for tarpon, I can't give you much advice for tarpon fishing. I love tarpon and I fish them a fair amount, but every tarpon guide has his or her strong opinions. My suggestion, first of all, listen to your guide and do exactly what your guide says because they know what they're doing and they're going to be angry if you don't do [00:39:30.841] what they tell them. The biggest advice I'd give you, I guess, is don't trout strike, don't raise your rod to strike a tarpon. You want to strip strike and use your body at the same time. You want to use your core and your lower body both to strike a tarpon and to fight a tarpon. You don't want to use your arms as much as you want to use your lower body and the butt of the rod. So, that's about the only advice I can give you. [00:40:00.358] Otherwise, listen to your guide.
Here's a good question from Sandy. "Thanks for everything. You do an amazing job relating to and helping all of us fly fishers every week. Question about how you choose your last fly. I am from outside Philly and fortunate to fish on a small wild trout stream. This stream sees a fair amount of pressure, especially during the spring. I can make it to the stream after work for the evening hatch [00:40:30.578] and fish dry flies to rising brown trout. On a typical evening this time of year, I'm usually working with bluing olives and often casting to fish in slow flat water. As a newer fly fisher, I'm working hard on slowing down, being purposeful, reducing drag, changing my casting position, lengthening my leader, going down to 7x, downsizing my flies, and using emerger patterns. Basically, I see lots of late refusals and though I haven't yet cracked the code, [00:41:00.380] I'm getting better in large part thanks to all the teaching on the podcast.
One problem I have trying to figure out what my last fly should be is I run out of light. How do you choose your last fly when it is too darn hard to thread a small fly, 18 and smaller for me, in little light and have trouble seeing it drift? Do you have a strategy that you could share in a situation like mine? For me, usually ends up being one that is close enough to the hatch that I can [00:41:30.562] see well enough to thread, tippet, and maybe even see floating. I bet you have a better method. Lastly, there is an open spot in riffles near my car on the way out where I can sometimes blind cast to a trout in the dark and fool one from time to time on a larger fly, size 16 or so. Makes all these late refusals a little less painful."
Well, Sandy, [00:42:00.197] I'm afraid I pretty much do the same thing you do, but I think that late refusals often come because we can't see our fly and we can't see it dragging and we're maybe not being accurate enough because we can't see our fly. So, what I will do is to put on something like a parachute Adams where it has a white wing where I can see it, [00:42:30.778] hopefully see a little bit of it, something that sticks up, something that's white, because white reflects more available light than anything else. So, I think a white wing right before dark is better than bright orange or red or yellow or whatever. And yeah, sometimes a little bit bigger. The fish get less suspicious as the light gets lower. Their eyes take a while [00:43:00.847] to adjust to the change in light, and you may be able to fool with a larger fly. A larger fly is going to be a little bit easier to see.
Now, as far as tying on that smaller fly or fly at all, take a headlamp with you and turn your back and tie on your fly with plenty of light so that at least you don't have to worry about tying it on. There are flies that have glow in the dark wings. [00:43:30.853] I don't know how well they work. You know, shine a headlamp on them and you can see them a little bit better in the fading light. They're not that bright, but sometimes that will help. But there's one other thing that I do that might make it easier for you.
After a hatch or a spinner fall, there are often drowned flies in the water. And I find [00:44:00.517] that one of the last things I will do is put on a soft tackle, a soft hackle that's about the same size and maybe color, although fish don't see color that well as the light fades. But I'll put on a soft hackle that's about the same size as what's been hatching. And I'll swing it in the current, and swing it with not too much swing, but just a kind of a slow swing through the water column. [00:44:30.558] And you'll be able to feel that strike because you're fishing on a tight line. So that's what I often do is just swing a soft hackle after it gets too dark to see. And sometimes I can pick up a couple of fish that way. So try that the next time and take a headlamp and a pair of close-up glasses so that you can tie on those flies at last light.
Here's an email from Andrew from Pennsylvania in Vermont. [00:45:00.134] "Do polarized sunglasses lose effectiveness or have there been improvements in the polarization over the years? I know frames have changed, but I'm wondering about the lenses themselves. I've got a pair of Orbis branded sunglasses that must be 20 plus years old. They've held up great and seem to work just fine. So just wondering. You've been taking a lot of good-natured heat and suggestions about using a wading staff for several episodes recently. The recent episode with Ralph Cutter was very informative. [00:45:30.638] I hope I'm never in a situation where I need to use his advice, but if I am, I hope I can remember them in the heat of the moment.
Regardless, using a wading staff. When I was a young kid in my 20s, I bought my first Jeep 4x4. An experienced veteran gave me a piece of advice I thought was sound and I've used it. He told me never to go into a place using four-wheel-drive because if you get stuck, you are stuck. Use two-wheel-drive going in. And if you get in a bad situation, [00:46:00.847] you've got the option to use four wheels to help you get out. I think the same principle applies with using a wading staff. Never use it to get yourself into a spot. If you get in trouble, you are in trouble. Only use it if you need to get yourself out. I've been carrying an Orvis full staff on my belt for years. It comes out of its holder more for helping me free a stuck fly than it does to help me wade.
A few episodes ago, you had a listener mention [00:46:30.554] that he was getting up there in years and was having difficulty manipulating his fingers to tie knots and he asked for some advice. Several knots can be tied using forceps or plunger style hackle pliers to hold the end of the tippet. Plus many knots can be tied loop style. Hard to explain, but they are on YouTube. For example, a surgeon's knot can be tied by making a loop with both sections, putting your index finger through the loop, twirling three times, grabbing the tippet end with thumb and forefinger, [00:47:00.538] pulling through and tightening. Much easier than a traditional method of feeding the tippet end through three times. I hope to see you this May at the Battenkill Festival. TU, Trout Unlimited Rendezvous."
Well, Andrew, I hope to meet you as well. You've been a regular listener and have sent a lot of questions in over the years. Regarding polarized sunglasses, I don't think there's been much of a change in technology [00:47:30.554] in the polarizing film itself. I don't know exactly, but I haven't heard of any real breakthroughs in the polarizing film. Colors have changed and some of the more modern colors, I think, enhance contrast a little bit, which help. I think the biggest improvement in polarized sunglasses has been the addition of [00:48:00.851] anti-reflective coatings, which also help to cut the glare a little bit and help you to see better.
Polarized sunglasses can lose effectiveness over time because they can delaminate. A good pair is probably not going to delaminate much, but less expensive polarized sunglasses, they will delaminate over time, particularly plastic lenses. Glass lenses, [00:48:30.293] not so much. Sounds like you have glass lenses. They can lose their polarization, but I think that the main improvement has been in AR coatings and scratch resistance. By the way, most people replace their polarized sunglasses because they just get scratched so much that people don't see as well through them. But if yours are still working, then I would stick with them.
That's a good piece of advice on wading [00:49:00.014] and also thank you for your tip on tying knots. I'm going to look up that surgeon's knot technique myself. So thank you very much, Andrew.
Here's an email from Henry. "I always use a wading staff. However, I wonder if the metal tip on a rock isn't an alarm clock for the fish. Have you ever put a rubber tip on the staff to reduce the sound?" Well, Henry, a lot of the wading staffs [00:49:30.727] these days do come with a rubber tip that you can either keep on or take off if you need a little bit more traction. And I don't think that, I personally don't think that the sound of a wading staff on the bottom bothers fish at all. It's not a sound that indicates danger to them. Rocks move around a lot and make noises. And although sound carries pretty well through water, trout don't hear that well [00:50:00.028] at a distance. And there's also often a lot of background noise. Particularly if you're wading in a riffle there's so much background noise that I don't think noise on the bottom is going to matter. But if you think it does, if you think it does spook fish, then yeah, most staffs these days come with a rubber tip that you can put on them.
Caleb: Hi, Tom. This is Caleb from Michigan. First of all, [00:50:30.480] I want to thank you for everything you do on the podcast. I recently found it and I really love the entire podcast. I especially love this question and answer session. I've been learning a lot of things I didn't realize I needed to know, so I really appreciate it. I have two questions today. My first question is on rod choice. I currently fish with a 6-weight. Almost exclusively I've been fishing with it for quite a while. And I really like the rod [00:51:00.830] and have been planning on getting a 4-weight for smaller creek fishing and just smaller fish, maybe smaller pan fish and whatnot.
But on listening to your podcast, some of your small stream podcasts, I've been reconsidering and maybe thinking of bumping it up to a 5-weight, maybe a 8.5 foot 5-weight, as that seemed to also be recommended [00:51:30.652] by a lot of people for smaller stream fishing, and I'm thinking it might be a little more versatile. I'm not the type of person that really wants a bunch of fly rods. I just would like to have a couple rods that can do quite a few different things and I can invest in. So wondering your thoughts on that, the 5-weight over the 4-weight for smaller creeks and also just having a second rod to give to someone when we're both fishing.
[00:52:00.080] My second question is on wondering if you know anything about fishing grayling in lakes. I am planning to go to Northwest Montana this summer and hoping to identify some lakes that have grayling stocked in them and wondering if you have any tips on grayling in general and especially grayling in lakes. Thanks for all you do.
Tom: So, Caleb, I think since you already have a 6-weight, [00:52:30.808] the difference between a five and a six, there's a little bit difference here but not so much. But if you already have a 6-weight and you just want one more rod, I would get a 4-weight. For small creeks, a 4-weight is a little bit lighter and a little more flexible and it's going to be more fun with the fish. And I would say for smaller creek fishing, something between 7.5 and 8 feet, although [00:53:00.176] even an eight and a half depending on how tight the stream is, 8.5 footer for a 4-weight can work just fine. But you said you also want to give a second rod to a friend. So, if you're on bigger to medium size rivers, then in that case I would go probably with an eight and a half for a four because with a greater length you're going to be able to roll cast a little bit better. You're going to be able to hold line off [00:53:30.922] the water when you need to and have a little bit more control in mending your line. So, if you're going to strictly fish small streams, 7.5 to 8 foot. If you're going to do it in small streams and share it with the... Or if you're going to also use it in medium size to larger rivers, I'd go with 8.5 footer. But I would go with a 4 weight if you already have a six. [00:54:00.541] That's my advice.
All right that is the fly box for this week. Let's go talk to Sarah about the American Museum of Fly Fishing and our fly fishing tradition. Well, my guest today is Sarah Foster. Sarah is the Executive Director of the American Museum of Fly Fishing, right? Did I get that right? Because I know...
Sarah: That's right.
Tom: ...the name changed [00:54:30.857] a long time ago, but I've been around for a while.
Sarah: Sometime in the '90s, right?
Tom: Yeah. And people sometimes call it the Orvis Museum because originally it was housed in the Orvis Retail Store and then moved just next door to Orvis. But it's not the Orvis Museum. It's a non-profit, fully non-profit, I don't know what is it, 501(3)(c) or whatever you call it?
Sarah: That's right. Yeah.
Tom: Okay. And it's an independent organization [00:55:00.942] that happens to be right next to the Orvis Flagship Store, but that's really not a coincidence because the late Lee Perkins was one of the founders of the museum, and again, originally housed in the retail store. But it's an amazing place and a lot has gone on over the past...in your tenure. How long have you been there, Sarah?
Sarah: Well, I've been the [00:55:30.692] Executive Director since 2007. So I have been here almost 17 years.
Tom: Yeah. And a lot of cool stuff has gone on in your tenure and I haven't done a podcast about the museum in a long time and I think that a lot of people that listen to this podcast are interested in fly fishing history and the rich traditions that we have, and the museum certainly showcases those. [00:56:00.552] So, why don't you tell us what's going on these days, what kind of exhibits do you have there, what kind of events are you hosting and if you have any traveling exhibits and the whole shooting match, what's going on?
Sarah: Yeah, well, there's so much going on. So, I think I misspoke. I've actually, I've only been the Executive Director for 7 years, so it wasn't since 2007. That's when I originally joined the team here, I've held a few different roles. [00:56:30.532] But I've seen the museum even just in the past five or six years just the museum has made its way through some scary times and some really exciting times. So, I guess just kind of jumping feet first which I tend to do.
In the last couple of years we've taken in a few large very significant acquisitions. So, a couple of things that I'm super proud of being able to sort of steward through, one of which is the Thatcher Book Collection. [00:57:00.862] It is virtually a complete collection. I mean, if we're talking about sort of the world's rarest books, then I think we have it covered here. So, there were over 400 books in this one donation. Charlie Thatcher who made the gift to the museum, he sort of thought long and hard about where the best place for this to land and it was a real honor for him to trust the museum with it. And not just for us to preserve it but to use it as well, right? So, we've already dug in, done some research. [00:57:30.691] We've published some articles about it, and I think that's what's important to think about.
I don't know how many listeners are going to be museum goers or sort of general public. I don't actually have that stat. But even if you're not, it's like you have to think about the impact that museums have on everything we consume essentially, right? You think about films and books we read, and even articles. So much of that, the museum had some sort of role [00:58:00.821] in like people call and say, "Hey, give me everything you know about '80s saltwater fishing." Or when they were filming the movie "A River Runs Through It" in the '90s, we were on set to make sure everything was period specific. And so, you think about everything that happens here. It's still equally important to come through the museum physically and enjoy the curated exhibits, and access some of the collection, but it's also a really important institution for the community as a whole, right? [00:58:30.511] Our entire culture relies on museums and institutions like this as a resource.
So, anyway. So, thinking about the Thatcher Collection is a huge one over the last couple of years. We also took in what we call the Trophy Art Collection and that was over 200 pieces of original sporting art. And as we know, art and angling are very closely tied. And I think one of the things I love most about art is it really allows you to like immerse yourself in the angler's experience, right? So, for us [00:59:00.789] this exhibit right now that's currently on view highlights about 30 paintings from this collection, and it's a chronological journey so you go in kind of get the sense of like A, how the artists have changed in their relationship to the water into the angler. So, initially there's a lot of dead fish or mostly landscape with a tiny little angler doing the wrong thing. And then you can you can see how it's changed and then you look at some of this contemporary art and it's like you're there, and the angler's doing the right thing, everything looks perfect. [00:59:30.609] So, those are two big acquisitions that I think have made the museum... Just sort of elevated the museum. Brought us to the next level over the last couple of years.
Tom: Tell us about some of the paintings, some of the artists that are in the exhibit.
Sarah: Okay. So, we think about like Benson, Pleissner. So, Pleissner happens to be one of my favorite artists. I actually, the first project I worked on [01:00:00.816] when I joined the museum in 2007 was an exhibit around Ogden Pleissner. He's a local...you probably know him, local sporting artist. And it turns out we have three original oils in the collection. One is called The Battenkill, and it's just really moody but it depicts kind of a perfect day on our local water. And it's always spoke to me. I love that painting.
Others from the Monier Collection that's currently on display is a piece by James Montgomery Flagg. [01:00:30.907] So, I don't know if the artist's name is familiar but he was the one responsible for basically the iconic symbol of America, the Uncle Sam image, if you can think of that. It's the same artist. So, it's a good variety of art too, right? A lot of it's focused on anglers but also some of them are quirky comical and more like advertisement pieces or illustrations for older magazines. So, it's a good mix. And then it's also nice for us to be able to encourage [01:01:00.766] people maybe who not don't have a strong interest in angling or fly fishing or fly fishing history, but you can still get people interested in art and history to take a stroll through the museum.
Tom: What else is on exhibit right now, Sarah?
Sarah: The other big one is tied together which is an exhibit around Joan and Lee Wulff. And that's been extremely popular, very well received. It's been amazing working with Joan. So, a lot of times we're curating these exhibits [01:01:30.558] and we don't have access to the people or the places. So, being able to go down and spend days with Joan and really just combing through her collection and hearing her stories firsthand, and allowing her to voice record things so people who are walking through the exhibit can actually see her or see her photos, but they can hear her speak about all these experiences. Very cool. And I have a photo on my phone that it's just a fun one to reflect back on, but it's her holding her very first [01:02:00.515] casting competition trophy from 1939.
Tom: Oh, wow.
Sarah: It just blows my mind. She's had such a life.
Tom: Yeah, amazing life. That's the one where she's in a dress and high heels and everything?
Sarah: That isn't the one.
Tom: Oh, okay.
Sarah: So, from 1939 she was actually in a juniors competition. I think she was still a teenager. But we have all those iconic photos of her in ball gowns and beating out all male competition. So, yeah, she's a real legend in my eyes.
Tom: [01:02:30.405] She is a legend and an incredible woman, and just wonderful, warm person.
Sarah: Mm-hmm. Yeah.
Tom: So, people always want to see the icons of the famous people on display, you know, Eisenhower's Rod and... Talk about some of those famous pieces of equipment that are on display in the museum. [01:03:00.412]
Sarah: So, a lot of those like the gear from Eisenhower, Carter Bush, other luminaries including Daniel Webster, Babe Ruth, Bing Crosby, Ernest Hemingway, a lot of those are actually on display at our satellite gallery down in Springfield, Missouri.
Tom: Oh okay.
Sarah: Yep. So, in 2022 we opened the gallery in the Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium. It's a it's a Johnny Morris project so associated with Bass Pro Shop. [01:03:30.409] And we're one of many exhibiting partners. So, there's others. IGFA I know it's relocated space there. Ducks Unlimited, Archery Hall of Fame, the Boone and Crockett. There's a whole crew of exhibiting partners that have come together to make this destination of outdoor experiences. And so, a lot of the big names are on display there and that's mainly because A, it's a state of the art gallery. It's completely outfitted for us [01:04:00.149] just recently. It also sees probably 40 times more visitors than we see. It's the place that it should be on display, to be fair.
But we are working towards public access to our entire database. So, currently everything lives in a system called PastPerfect which is a collections database program. And we've been hoarding it to ourselves. We've been using it just internal purposes obviously for tracking and monitoring the collection. [01:04:30.481] But we're very, very close to opening that up for public access. Everybody anywhere has the ability to go in, search for items, read about the provenance, look at images, even look to see where they're on display. Is it on display in the museum or not?
Tom: Wow.
Sarah: So, that's going to happen this year which is a big thing.
Tom: Wow. Oh, that'll be incredible for research, for doing research on the history. Speaking of which, [01:05:00.744] the museum has an incredible library. I've used it myself when back number of years ago I was doing pieces, historical pieces on famous fly anglers for I think it was Fly Fishing The East. I can't remember. It's no longer around. And I used the library a lot. Can anyone access the library? Do you need an appointment? [01:05:30.212] Let's say someone's doing research and they want to see some of the older books that they just can't find or they're too expensive to buy used. Can anyone use that library?
Sarah: It's technically a members only library. Anybody who's a member can come by appointment. So, and I know it sounds sort of restrictive but membership start at $35. It's easy, right? Like a couple drinks if you're going out. And it's also [01:06:00.225] supporting a good cause and all the things we're doing. We do realize and this has been a major focus for me over the last two years or so, that we can't rely on people being motivated to support, on just sort of the feel good, "I'm going to do the right thing and support this institution." And for us now it's like how do we really add value? And what's the member experience? And so we're putting together all these new programs like book clubs and film clubs, and classes, and courses with our conservation groups and just council partners. [01:06:30.371]
So we're really trying to invest in this membership program that people have an interest in supporting for those reasons right. And then we'll still have sort of our legacy members who know that it's an institution worth supporting. So, membership fees, $35. You can come in, spend the day in the library, you can spend the day in the collection. Jim Schottenham, our curator, he's always happy to take people in. He was actually just meeting, before I jumped on this call, with one of the museum ambassadors [01:07:00.576] and they were doing some research as well. So, I hate being like the hidden gem. I want people to realize that we're a public institution and we really are here for any needs. It's not just about us curating these beautiful exhibits and hopefully people come in and take a stroll. But we're the authority in fly-fishing history. And I'm not saying that to be self-praising but I really do think that there's no other museum that has a curator and a collection, [01:07:30.249] and a community that we've built. I'm proud of that. I feel like we're a really small but mighty organization.
Tom: So, let's say I was doing some research and I wanted to see John Atherton's Pinky Gillum bamboo rod. As a member, could I make an appointment to come in and actually see that rod?
Sarah: Yes, absolutely.
Tom: Okay, great. Oh, we should tell people how they can become a member before we forget. [01:08:00.428]
Sarah: Easy. I mean, go to the museum's website, amff.org, and you should be able to find any of the membership options. There's an entirely new membership forum and portal. That's the way to do it. I mean, of course, you could link through it if you're following us on social media, which I would encourage. It's a good way to get a regular dose of fly-fishing history.
Tom: Yeah. I know you guys lately have been very active on Instagram [01:08:30.946] which is really cool to see. What's the Instagram handle for the museum?
Sarah: It is @flyfishmuseum.
Tom: Okay.
Sarah: And thanks for mentioning that. I love that. I love that people are seeing that. And it's been interesting, a good learning experience to see what is grabbing people's attention. There're so many ways you could angle, you know, how do you want to pitch the museum. And so it's been fun to see that [01:09:00.447] actually the museum journal which is our quarterly publication has been probably the most well received post or any of the ads that we've been running. That's the one that gets people's attention. They click through, they want to learn more. I think it's because it's unlike most other mainstream magazines. You're not getting a lot of ads, you're not getting kind of the just recycled content. A, we have a really cool pool [01:09:30.871] of volunteer authors who are all leading historians in the industry worldwide, and so they're people who are spending time doing the research, writing the articles. It's stuff that just it's new. It's brand new content and I think that people hopefully have an appetite for.
Tom: Oh, the journal is just fantastic. I inhale it every time I get it. And that's a huge benefit of $35 [01:10:00.452] to get this. It's a quarterly journal right?
Sarah: Quarterly.
Tom: Quarterly. And Kate Achor does such an amazing job of editing that magazine and curating that magazine. It's got some fascinating stuff in there. Talk about some of the recent articles that have been in the museum magazine, just to give people a flavor of the kind of things they might learn.
Sarah: Oh, gosh. I'm gonna have to phone a friend on this one.
Tom: [01:10:30.268] Yeah, I know. I should know too but I can't remember it specifically.
Sarah: No, no. I've got a few on mind. So, the most recent journal that's actually just coming out in probably a week. It's at the printers currently, so hopefully people will be itching to get that in the mail. But this actually has two articles about Hemingway which is it's sort of a fun theme issue. And I've always, I'm like, "Everybody loves a good theme party and a good theme song," so I love the idea of it just by chance, right? And again [01:11:00.771] we work with all volunteer authors, so we don't have the luxury of saying, "Oh, we really want a piece around this, or this is a topic." For right most part, right? We do some internal pieces when we know we need to feature some stories or some collection artifacts. But for the most part we're at the grace of just whatever comes our way.
So, it just happened that Kate received two pieces on Hemingway and we were able to kind of do this theme issue. So, that's exciting. So, we also give an award each year, just sort of an internal award [01:11:30.672] to the number one piece. Like what contribution was made by an author that should be recognized. And we give the Austin Hogan Award. So, for the one we just donated we just acknowledged from 2023 was Joseph Grigley. So, I don't know if you know the name. He actually is also an artist who's on view. His exhibit's at the MASS MoCA currently, but he wrote a really great piece [01:12:00.695] in the spring issue, the Neversink Skater. So, that was interesting. Yeah. We have a good queue of things coming in for this year as well. Paul Bruun actually just authored a piece about the history of the One Fly Tournament.
Tom: Oh, cool.
Sarah: It's a good read. Paul's just such a good storyteller.
Tom: Yeah, he sure is. And let's talk a little bit about some of the events [01:12:30.074] that the museum hosts because you guys have been really really active in the past 10 years or so. Tell people about your annual event.
Sarah: So, fundraising events. We do two award dinners, right? We give out a Heritage Award and we give out an Isaac Walton Award. The Heritage Award is given to an individual or an organization whose commitment to the museum, the sport of fly fishing, and the conservation [01:13:00.253] of natural resources sets the standards. And then we also give the Isaac Walton Award which is more to somebody who lives by the complete angular philosophy. Think more of like think guides, think writers. So, those are the two biggies and they're both obviously equally important and both together account for a good portion of our operating budget. For this year, 2024, we'll be honoring the the Jackson Hole One Fly Foundation for their conservation work and also kind of what they just bring [01:13:30.953] in terms of camaraderie and spirit to the sport. And the Isaac Walton Award will be given to Guido Rahr who's the Executive Director of the Wild Salmon Center.
Tom: Right. Yeah, he's done amazing work over the years. That's great.
Sarah: Yeah. And then a lot of the on-site programs which are more like free community events, we also host a fly fishing festival every August. It's a good one-day event, and we bring a lot of vendors and presenters, [01:14:00.599] and demonstrators to the ground. It's typically a 600 or 700 person event. So, it's a good day. We always open a new exhibit that day, we have book signings, casting lessons. Orvis has partnered with us on doing the casting competition once again. So, that's just a fun day, like get everybody here, get them going through the museum. And we also do programming throughout the year with with kids during the summer. We do fly tying throughout the winter. [01:14:30.901] And then we just actually launched this new Real Talk Webinar program. And I mentioned Jim Schottenham'ss name earlier, but he's our curator and just he's a wealth of knowledge. And so, he's sort of the webinar star. So, he goes in and each month he'll select items from the collection that he wants to highlight. And so, that's been a fun series to get off the ground and I hope people will continue to tune into those.
Tom: Are those webinars archived so that people can watch them?
Sarah: [01:15:00.361] They are. Yes. Everything's archived on the website.
Tom: On the website. I haven't seen any of those. I gotta go in and watch some. I'm sure they're amazing.
Sarah: Yeah. I'd probably suggest going through the blog page and you'd be able to find them all through the Webinar tab under that.
Tom: And one of the things that I've really admired during your tenure in the museum is the [01:15:30.544] more inclusionary sense that the museum gives. It used to be... I mean, I was on the board at one time and it was basically a bunch of old guys and they didn't even want young people in the museum because they didn't have the money to donate. And it's so different now. There're so many young people involved. You have an ambassador program [01:16:00.820] and it's really, it's so much more diverse than it used to be. And so, I think anybody's welcome in the museum, anybody that has any interest at all in the history of fly fishing, and it's such a rich history. And I'm so glad to see that.
Sarah: Well, I'm glad that you noticed that. That's great. Partly because we did rebrand. So, hopefully you noticed that our logo changed [01:16:30.480] a few couple of years ago. That was the first step in this evolution. So, the logo in the past was very rod and gun club seal which was it was a beautiful logo and it served us very, very well for, I think, 20 years. But yeah, we're just, we're trying to be more less club feeling and more of we're a national organization. And one of the conversations I've had with my board recently is more about...and it feels counterintuitive, right? [01:17:00.323] The museum by nature, by definition is focused on things, objects, artifacts, right? And for me, it's been like how do we transition to also focus on the people. You know what I mean? Like, it has to happen. You can't rely only on the artifacts which, of course, I feel very confident in operating at the standards a museum should.
We actually were just re-accredited by the American Alliance of Museums late last year [01:17:30.518] which fun fact there's only 3% of the nation's museums are accredited. So, it's a very long and rigorous process. So, my point is it was important enough to us to go through the process, right? They scrutinize all of our policies, our collection, our storage, our programming, the financials. But for me it was like we need to prove A, that we're a trusted public institution. We want people to know that they can count on us [01:18:00.758] and all of the good stuff there. So, I think it's just all in line with what you're saying. It's like trying to move this museum into the future. How do we become more of a community-driven, member-based organization versus maybe what... And of course, where it started has got us to where we are today, so that's exactly how it should have unfolded. But it's great to see that you're recognizing the shift, I suppose.
Tom: Yeah. Which reminds me, I think I need to re-up my membership. I think it's lapsed. [01:18:30.361] I better do it.
Sarah: I think we could make that happen.
Tom: And everybody else should too. I'll go on the website today and re-up my membership. So, Sarah, what's on the horizon? What gets you excited about the upcoming year or two in the museum? Maybe some things you can't tell us about because they're in process, but what are you excited about? [01:19:00.516]
Sarah: Yeah, I'm just excited about the growth. Like I said, we've been really pushing our membership program and adding so much value to members. And the growth we've seen just in a really short time is encouraging to me. You just worry like does this generation care about museums, right? And just trying to paint the picture again more about what we offer versus just coming to see the... [01:19:30.472] It's less about just knowing that there's exhibits on display and that the collection is properly stored and maintained, but it's we're doing so much more. You know what I mean? It's just making sure people realize that we're doing all we can. And even if they don't care about it today, maybe in 5 years or 10 years, maybe they don't at all but their next generation will.
So, I think that's really encouraging to see that people are on board, they're seeing the value and seeing the importance, and supporting. I'm also looking forward [01:20:00.474] to next year, 2025, we're going to be revamping the main exhibit gallery. For those who do come to visit in person you'll be treated to an entirely new exhibit. And I think that the plan is to highlight more of high level comprehensive history of fly fishing exhibit versus some of the things we have on display right now. We do have reel time, which is a sort of a journey through the evolution of the reel, which is very cool. [01:20:30.568] But to be able to dedicate the entire gallery to kind of all the pillars of the sport is going to be really fun.
Tom: I can't wait to see that. Now, I know the museum isn't open every day. So, what are the hours currently for the summer of 2024 for those of you who might be listening to this much later in the archives of the podcast.
Sarah: So, our summer hours we're actually open every day [01:21:00.622] except for Monday, we remain closed.
Tom: Oh, really?
Sarah: Yep. And if you're only visiting Manchester, Vermont on Monday, we would let you in. Do you know what I mean? [inaudible 01:21:10.298] in the office, anyway. So, A, it's so discouraging when people are like, "I go every time and it's closed." So, we're open six days a week, starting June 1st. And then we do have winter hours which are only Thursday, Friday, Saturday. That's tough, but for us it's winter, it's very heavy fundraising season.[01:21:30.088] It's a good time for us to start building some strategies and planning for the year. So there's a lot of behind the scenes work that happens even though the museum is only open those three days throughout the winter. But yeah, starting June 1st, Tuesday through Sunday.
Tom: Great. Great. Well, Sarah, anything else you want to tell us about the scene while we're talking here?
Sarah: Oh, gosh. I think we covered quite a bit in a short time. [01:22:00.397] No, I guess, I'll just leave people with again that the reminder that a museum is, it's a place for reflection and inspiration, and I think it's just the reminder that we're here when you need any of that. You need inspiration or reflection. But also just promising to preserve the history. This is a sport that so many people love and are really passionate about it, [01:22:30.657] and I think that that's what makes this museum possible is there're so many people passionate about it. So, yeah, just I guess that's what I would leave the listeners with is that we're here and we're committed to it, and we really just want you all to know that it's a resource for you at any level.
Tom: Yeah. And I really sense in the fly fishing community at large a great increase in an interest in the history of fly fishing. I think for a while, [01:23:00.046] I don't know, for a while maybe post River Runs Through It, people just want to know what was new and where they could fish, but I sense there's a real deep interest in the traditions that we have and how we got where we are right now. And so, hopefully, people will become members of the museum because as you said, it's not very expensive. And what's your [01:23:30.506] membership now?
Sarah: Like the number of members?
Tom: Yeah.
Sarah: We have about 1400 members worldwide. I mean, we've always had kind of a quorum of members in the northeast, which I think is shifting. And we're definitely seeing the effects of more remote programming. That's one of the issues people are like, "Well, I'm never going to get to the lot." But now that that's less of a benefit, there're so many more, [01:24:00.329] I think we're seeing members kind of scattering across the country.
Tom: Yeah, 1400 members is it should be much higher.
Sarah: I agree. I absolutely agree.
Tom: It should be much higher. There are so many people that are interested in history and there's millions of people in the country, in the world, many millions that that fly fish. You need more members, you need more support. I'm sorry but...
Sarah: Hey, I agree.
Tom: [01:24:30.679] So, this is Tom up on his soapbox saying that if you're at all interested in the history of fly fishing then you need to become a member of the American Museum of Fly Fishing. There, I said it.
Sarah: I appreciate that. Very well spoken.
Tom: And don't be like me and let your membership lapse.
Sarah: Well, now we have auto renewal, Tom, so that won't happen again.
Tom: Oh, good. Oh, great. Good. You just put it on my credit card every year. Good. That'll be wonderful. I won't have to remember.
Sarah: [01:25:00.974] Well, thank you very much for having me on. It's always a joy to connect with you.
Tom: Well, thank you, Sarah. And again, you and your staff have done just an amazing job, and thank you for all that you do.
Sarah: Thank you very much, Tom. We'll talk to you soon.
Tom: All right. We've been talking to Sarah Foster who is the Executive Director of the American Museum of Fly Fishing. Thanks, Sarah.
Sarah: Thank you. Bye-bye. [01:25:30.112]
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 howtoflyfish.orvis.com.