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How to Fish Delayed Harvest Trout Streams, with Award-Winning Guide Dustin Coffey

Description: What is a delayed harvest stream and how do the regulations work? Do you use different flies and methods for hatchery fish? How far do hatchery fish move and in which direction? You'll learn the answers to these questions and many more with Dustin Coffey [46:39], the winner of the 2024 Orvis Endorsed Guide of the Year award.
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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 Dustin Coffey of North Carolina. Dustin is the Orvis 2024 Endorsed Guide Of The Year, which is a [00:00:30.216] great honor and well-deserved. And I think you'll get an idea of how well-deserved it is just by listening to him talk and his passion and his excitement for fly fishing.
Dustin's been fly fishing for a long time, he's been guiding in the mountains of North Carolina for many years. And our subject today is delayed harvest streams and the difference between hatchery and wild [00:01:00.006] trout. Do hatchery trout move very far? Where do they move? Upstream or downstream? Are there any special flies you need for hatchery trout? And how long do they take to acclimate to a stream? So these are questions I get quite a bit on the podcast. And I honestly don't fish delayed harvest streams very much so I'm going to rely on Dustin's knowledge of that kind of fishery where you can often find both wild [00:01:30.036] and hatchery trout.
And before we do the Fly Box, just a couple announcements. One is I've got some hosted trips coming up if you want to take a fishing trip with me. I've got one at Three Rivers Ranch in Idaho, September 28th to October 5th, 2024. I've got one at Magic Waters in Chile, February 8th through 14th. And I have a hosted trip for a Chile combination week at [00:02:00.202] Estancia del Zorro and Cinco Rios, February 15th through 22nd. So love to see you there. I often get people that come on these trips that are podcast listeners and they heard about the trips on the podcast and it's always great to meet you in person. So hope to do that.
And speaking of hosted trips and a tip on a product, just got back from a hosted trip to the great and wonderful Swain's Cay Lodge [00:02:30.241] in Mangrove Cay on Andros Island in the Bahamas. And I, for the first time in saltwater, wore a pair of the new PRO Approach Hiker saltwater wading shoes and I was absolutely delighted with these wading shoes. I wore them for about eight hours in a boat all day because [00:03:00.112] I'm always ready to jump out of a flats boat if there's a wadable flat. So I wore them all day. I just wanted to see how comfortable they were.
And the weather was about 90 degrees. It was hot and it was sunny. And I was not uncomfortable at all wearing these PRO Approach saltwater hikers in the heat all day long. And you do want to wear these with a 0.5-millimeter wading sock, by the way, because even though they do have a [00:03:30.083] nice soft liner inside them, if you do a lot of walking, you're going to end up with blisters no matter what kind of wading shoes you have. So I recommend the 0.5-millimeter wading socks.
And then when I got back from fishing, we usually got back about 3:00 every day, a little after 3, I'd go and take about, I don't know, 1.5-mile, 2-mile walk along the beach, mainly looking for big barracuda, and walked over [00:04:00.112] coral and limestone and sand and weed and everything else that you might encounter along a Bahamian shoreline, and I found them to be just terrific. My feet weren't tired. I didn't get any bumps or bruises on the bottom, didn't have any cuts from coral. And I'm just in love with these shoes for saltwater wading.
The other nice thing about them is they're non-marking. So when you get into a [00:04:30.255] guide's nicely-cleaned flats boat, you're not going to leave black marks all over the boat. They really appreciate that. And if you own a boat, you're going to appreciate it too. So they're great wading shoes. I'm going to be wearing them in cooler temperatures. I'm going to be wearing them on Cape Cod this summer, I'm sure. And they're great for small stream fishing.
These are light tan and with the non-marking soles for saltwater, there's also a camo model with black soles for wading in [00:05:00.004] trout streams. So they're great shoes. If you do any wet wading at all, they're terrific and they're much better than wearing clunky heavier wading shoes if you're wet wading during the summer or in warm water.
All right. Let's do the Fly Box, which is where you ask me a question or offer a tip and I try to answer it, try to get you the answer to your question. And you can send your question [00:05:30.010] to me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. You can either attach a voice file to your email or you can just type your question into your email. And I read them all, but I don't answer them all. So let's start the podcast.
The first one is from Jason from Ortonville, Michigan. "Hi, Tom. Thanks for everything you do to help us mere mortals learn the beautiful sport. I have a question about flyline. I fished an [00:06:00.044] 8.5-foot 5-weight encounter for a couple of years then I upgraded to a clear water of the same specs. I did well with the encounter, but I have yet to hook a single fish in six months of trying with the clear water. I can fish the same hole, exact same fly, same tippet and get drastically different results. To me, the only real difference is the color of the flyline. The encounter has a pale, almost mint color and the clear water line is bright yellow. Could that be causing the issue? [00:06:30.084] They're both floating lines, but the mint is double-tapered and the yellow is weight-forward. Thanks again and tight lines."
Well, Jason, I'm afraid I have maybe good news, maybe bad news for you. It is not the fly line. The flyline color is not that important. The most important thing is not to dump your line on top of either a feeding fish or a place where you suspect there is a fish because the fly line landing on top of them, as opposed to a leader landing on top of a fish, [00:07:00.415] creates some commotion and it will scare the fish. It will spook them and then they'll stop eating. Sometimes a longer leader will help.
I suspect that you were just on the same hole in a different day when the water temperature is different, the water level is different, the fish were eating something different, but I am absolutely certain that the color of your fly line did not make the difference. And as far as the difference between double taper and weight-forward lines, [00:07:30.204] they're exactly the same taper for the first 35 feet or so. So unless you're making long casts, it shouldn't make a difference in your fish catching. It's going to make a little bit of difference in your casting, but not in your fish catching. I would look elsewhere. I would start to eliminate some other variables and don't worry about the fly line.
In fact, a lot of people like bright yellow line because they see it in their [00:08:00.110] peripheral vision and they can see if their casting is good enough and they can see if their loop is tight even without looking directly at it because you catch it in your peripheral vision and then you know about where your fly is with a bright line. So I would not worry about it. In fact, I was just bone fishing with a gentleman in the Bahamas one day and he was fishing a bright fluorescent orange fly line. Bonefish are known to be kind of spooky and [00:08:30.223] he did quite well on the flats that day. I wouldn't worry about the flyline color.
Here's an email from Alberto. "Hi, Tom. This is Alberto from the Pacific Northwest. I've listened to your podcast over the years and I cannot thank you and the community enough for all the things I learned. You really make an impact on me. I have a question related to streamer flies for brown trout and Atlantic salmon. I used to consider myself a proficient streamer angler, having caught hundreds of Pacific salmon, [00:09:00.023] sea-run cutties and rainbows in Washington, BC, and Alaska using streamers.
This past winter, I was lucky enough to travel down to Patagonia for a week of trout fishing and while I had a great time, I noticed that my typical streamer patterns that really work well in the Pacific Northwest, rolled muddler, vampire leech, Christmas tree, epoxy fry, and so on, didn't work almost at all with the browns. Instead, our guide recommended using big ugly streamers with a lot of [00:09:30.180] fluff and tail, which are the complete opposite to the usual sparsely tied baitfish patterns that I find most successful up here. I was confused as I'm sure that there were small fry and baitfish in the rivers I was fishing.
Our guide's theory is that a lot of the Pacific salmon patterns with colored bead heads like the egg-sucking leech trigger in salmon because it simulates the eggs while browns don't really care that much about that presentation. Do you [00:10:00.111] agree with this statement? I'm not completely convinced as I have yet to see an egg darting through the current, but I guess the argument makes sense as both natural and artificial eggs are common bait for Pacific salmon.
My second question is about fly fishing for Atlantic salmon. I've heard in the past that Atlantics are more closely related to browns than to Pacific salmon. Shall I apply the same brown trout streamer principles like ugly black and olive woolly buggers and articulated streamers? [00:10:30.048] Or do you think my Pacific salmon flies have a chance? I'm planning the trip east for some Atlantic salmon fly fishing and any tips will be appreciated."
Well, Alberto, you know there aren't really many baitfish in a lot of the Patagonian rivers. Trout are not native to that part of the world and so the only thing in a lot of rivers, the only thing you're going to find as far as small fish are young trout. [00:11:00.225] There are a few native baitfish but you hardly ever see them. They're not that common. And I think, my theory, and this is a theory only, is that a lot of these streams are not terribly rich with insect life and minnows and they don't have crayfish. They do have a crab called a pancora, which is a freshwater crab, but it's not in a lot of the rivers down there. [00:11:30.157] It's only in certain rivers.
But I think those big ugly fluffy things just catch the trout's attention whereas your more subtle, slim baitfish imitations maybe don't anger them enough or just don't get their juices going like something big and ugly just because they may not see the fly. I don't know what conditions you are fishing in but sometimes a more subtle pattern just doesn't get their attention.
So yeah, I [00:12:00.394] have tried slimmer, smaller streamers in Patagonia and they don't seem to work as well as bigger, bulkier streamers that make a lot of commotion in the water. As far as fly fishing for Atlantic salmon, you never know with Atlantic salmon. I suppose that your patterns might work. Atlantic salmon don't feed on their spawning runs [00:12:30.329] and so it's either a reflex or an aggressive response. Nobody really knows for sure why they strike a fly. But if I were you, I would go with the traditional Atlantic salmon flies. You can't beat something like a Cossaboom or a Blue Charm or a Black Bear Green Butt or an Undertaker. Atlantic salmon flies tend to be quite small.
[00:13:00.550] These days, particularly in Atlantic Canada, a size 6 is a fairly big fly and they lean more toward 8s, 10s, even 12s for Atlantic salmon for whatever reason, I don't know. But I wouldn't argue with success. And you may want to try your big articulated flies for Atlantic. You may have to be careful if they have two hooks because [00:13:30.093] some of those rivers are single-hook only so you may have to cut one of the hooks off. But I would try it but I would also make sure that you have some classic Atlantic salmon hair wing patterns along.
Vinnie: Hi Tom, this is Vinnie from Denver, Colorado and I have two questions for you. I have pike fishing coming up in the Adirondacks of upstate New York and had a question about leader selection. I've heard of two recommendations. One is a wire leader and the other is to use [00:14:00.193] a straight 4 to 6-foot piece of 50-pound fluoro. My brother does a lot of conventional pike fishing and recommended the fluoro. My question is, if I use 50-pound fluoro, should I tie in a weaker shock tippet segment in the butt section? I have heard the core on mono fly lines is 30-pound test. Is that still true for 9-weight lines? If so, should I tie in a short 20-pound segment into my leader so my leader snaps if I get caught on a log instead of [00:14:30.138] my fly line?
Okay, on to the next question. I am planning to upgrade my trout rod this June. I currently have a past-generation Recon and was looking at the new Helios in a 5-weight with either 9-foot or 8.5-foot length. I fish mostly dry flies, dry droppers, rare nymph rigs, and rare streamers. I mostly fish our famed Colorado tailwaters but also spend a lot of time on our smaller mountain streams. What are the pros and cons of the [00:15:00.096] two similar lengths? Should I be considering a 4-weight? Thanks for all that you do for the sport.
Tom: So Vinnie, you're right. The core of the fly line is somewhere around 33, 34 pounds and it's possible to break a fly line. You know, you won't break your fly line on pike. The pike don't pull that. Even the biggest pike doesn't pull that hard and you're never [00:15:30.201] going to break 40 or 50-pound or a fly line on a pike. But if you get hung up on a log, I guess there is a chance of breaking your fly line and regardless, if you're using wire, you're probably using straight 40 or 50-pound fluoro behind that wire. And if you're just using 40 or 50-pound fluorocarbon, you could put a short piece of 20-pound in it but that would require some [00:16:00.269] tricky knots.
You'd probably have to tie an improved blood knot or you might even have to put bimini twists in there because tying 20-pound to 50-pound, I guess with the triple surgeons, it would work but it would be...the knots would be iffy. You know, if you're really worried about it, this is kind of a weird thing to suggest, but you might want to put a wind knot in your 40-pound or 50-pound. That's going to [00:16:30.153] cut the strength of that about in half and, you know, if you're worried about breaking your fly line, that might do it as well as tying a piece of 20-pound. Tying a piece of 20-pound in the middle, somewhere in the middle, or at the butt end of a straight 40 or 50-pound fluorocarbon is going to make your casting a little difficult. It's going to hinge. So, you know, if I were worried about it, I'd just put a wind knot in my leader, a purposeful wind knot and [00:17:00.472] see about that.
Regarding your rod, it's really a toss-up. The 8.5-footer is going to give you slightly better accuracy, particularly at shorter distances. The longer the rod, generally the less accurate it is at distance. So, the 8.5-footer is going to give you more accuracy than...slightly more accuracy [00:17:30.035] than the 9-footer. However, the 9-footer is going to give you a lot more advantages because you can hold more line off the water with that extra 6 inches. If you have tricky currents, you can keep your more line off the water. Even in your small streams, you know, most of the small streams in Colorado I've seen are mountain streams that have plenty of back cast room and, you know, a 9-footer will work just fine, 8.5-footer will [00:18:00.284] work too.
The 9-footer just gives you a little bit more reach. It'll roll cast a little bit better and it'll allow you to cast a little further when you have to make a long cast. So, I would go, if I were fishing Colorado tailwater's small streams, I'd go with the 9-footer. Whether you consider a 4-weight or not is probably up to you. It's going to give you a little bit more [00:18:30.235] delicacy. I mean, you have a Recon 8.5, maybe a 9-foot 4-weight would work. It would be certainly fine for the tailwaters and the small streams. But that's going to be up to you. It'd really be a toss-up.
Let's do another email. This one's from Kevin from San Luis Obispo, California. "I heard you mentioned that you wear Orvis Pro Hybrid Wading [00:19:00.166] Boots. I recently purchased a pair and wore them a couple times. I'm considering adding cleats for better traction. You also mentioned recently that you added cleats and highly recommended it. My question is, how deep to insert the cleat into the felt? Do you stop when the base of the cleat is flushed to the felt sole or should it be recessed a bit? Also, do you use a power drill driver or hand screwdriver? Lastly, do you use any adhesive on the threads? Really enjoy all your instructional videos and [00:19:30.108] the podcast."
Well, Kevin, you want to insert those cleats into the felt as far as they will go. They will stop at a certain point and yes, they're going to be a little bit recessed. You don't want those tips of those studs sticking out very much. You just want the bare tips of those things extending beyond the felt. That's enough to give you the traction you need. If you don't put them in deep enough, you tend to skate on top of the stud. [00:20:00.208] So you want to put them in as flush as you can get them to the felt sole. That's what I would recommend. They aren't the easiest thing in the world to put in.
Generally, I start them with a hand screwdriver and then once I get them in there and once I get them in place, then I finish them with a power drill driver just because it's a little bit less work. But it's [00:20:30.359] easier to start them, I think, with the hand screwdriver. I don't use any adhesive on the threads. That wouldn't be a bad idea. I've never had one come out. Honestly, there's a plate underneath that felt sole that holds those things really well. I've never had one come out, but it wouldn't hurt to put a little adhesive on the threads, certainly.
Here's an email from Sam. "I'm currently planning a trip in Eastern Quebec. I'll mostly target Atlantic salmon, but would love to fish some river stretches [00:21:00.053] known for their runs of sea-run brook trout. I'm a decent trout angler, but the regulations on these rivers, no added weight on flies, no split shot, often no sinking line or sinking tip, etc., will force me to adapt a bit. Some anglers target these fish with traditional trout dry flies, but the most popular way seems to be to fish streamers and big leech patterns.
I love fly fishing streamers, so I have no problem fishing this way, but I typically use weighted flies or sink tips to get my fly [00:21:30.290] to the fish. Do you have suggestions on ways to get my fly down without adding weight? I was thinking flies with a slim profile and long thin leaders, but are there materials I should avoid or use more when tying a streamer that won't stay within inches of the surface? Any other tips or ideas on what to do?"
Yeah, Sam, there's some things you could do. First of all, as effective as they are, I'd stay away from marabou streamers because they tend to be quite buoyant. [00:22:00.128] That marabou is fluffy and when you false cast it, it really has a problem sinking. I think that more traditional slimmer flies, you're right, are going to sink better. Something like a Mickey Finn, a traditional Mickey Finn bucktail might work, or a featherwing streamer like a black ghost would be a good option. They're both very slim and they should sink quicker [00:22:30.075] than a bulkier fly. You do want something that's fairly slim. So featherwing streamers or bucktails, featherwing is probably going to sink a little bit better than a bucktail because a bucktail is slightly buoyant, but if you tie it sparse, it shouldn't be too bad.
Then the other thing to get them down is to just cast them more upstream before you start stripping. Take a lesson from steelhead anglers and throw it more upstream and make multiple mends [00:23:00.177] to allow the fly to sink without being dragged up to the surface by the floating line. Also, yeah, a longer, thinner leader. Don't go too thin because some of those sea trout are pretty big and you might hook a salmon as well. So I wouldn't go too thin, maybe 2x or so, 2 or 3x. But a longer tippet will help you to get that fly down. So more upstream direction to your casts [00:23:30.218] and a longer tippet should help to get those flies down for you.
Here's an email from Gus. "I live in Southern California and recently purchased a couple pedal drive kayaks. I plan on using them in the local harbors, fly fishing for spotted, bay bass, and calico bass, as well as taking them on trips to lakes and fly fishing for them for trout or bass. I recently found some videos on YouTube of people kayak [00:24:00.270] fishing for stripers on a large river that is within driving distance of me and I want to try it out. All the content I've seen is people fishing conventional equipment and trolling really large, plug-style lures in a rainbow trout pattern. I'm assuming this is because the stripers eat the stock trout in the river. The stripers that are being caught range from 5 to 25 pounds from what I've seen.
My question is, is there anything wrong with trolling a large fly like a game changer or something similar using fly fishing equipment or is trolling [00:24:30.034] forbidden by the fly fishing crowd? I understand that it's not really fly fishing, but my plan is to troll one direction up the river then fly fish and cast my way back down. Would this be a viable option? Is there a rod setup that can serve multiple purposes such as trolling large flies but also being able to use it to cast to stripers when necessary and maybe even used for other fishing like offshore? If so, what types of fly fishing could be done with that particular rod setup?
For this application, [00:25:00.117] would you suggest an 8, 9, or 10-weight rod or something else? And would you stick with a single-hand rod or something more like a spey rod? I guess I'm looking for something that will allow me to try out this river but also something that I can use in future fly-fishing adventures as I start to try new species and destinations. Thanks for taking my question and thank you for taking the time to make us all better fishermen."
Well, first of all, Gus, there's nothing wrong with trolling with a fly rod. It's a traditional [00:25:30.067] way of fly fishing here in New England. It's quite well accepted and in early season, that's what a lot of people do for brook trout and landlocked salmon and lake trout and even pike. So yeah, you can troll with a fly rod and, you know, somebody tells you you're not fly fishing, then ignore them because you're doing what you want to do. For trolling, I would stick with a standard single-handed rod because it's going to be easier [00:26:00.245] for casting on your way back down, particularly from a kayak. It's going to be difficult to cast a...I think, cast a spey rod from a kayak. I'm sure people do it but I wouldn't. And I would suggest a 9 or a 10-weight rod, you know? Either one would be fine. And you don't need a special rod for trolling.
The one thing you might want to invest in is a full sinking line. Generally, those are better for trolling and if [00:26:30.005] you want your fly to go deeper, you just troll a little bit slower. And if you want your fly to go shallower, then you troll a little bit faster. But a full sinking line can often help. A floating line, you're going to be pretty limited to fishing just under the surface. So a full sinking line might be the way to go. And then when you get up to the top and you want to drift back down and cast, you can switch to a floating line or a sink tip or whatever you need to get down to the right depth. [00:27:00.029] Generally, an unweighted fly on a sinking line seems to work better than a weighted fly. But a weighted fly could work as well. But yeah, I would definitely try it. It sounds like fun and it sounds like a good way to do it.
Here is an email from Paul from Maple Ridge, British Columbia. "In regards [00:27:30.284] to the question in the Fly Box from a listener from Whistler, BC, who asked about the orange goo he saw on a stream, I live just a couple of hours from Whistler in Whonnock, BC, and I can tell you, it's a natural occurrence. My household water source is from a well and I had to install a green sand filter to remove iron and other minerals from the water. Here's the wiki expression of the phenomenon.
The orange slime is a product of iron-oxidizing microbes, which feed on [00:28:00.068] iron molecules that come from the soil. As a result, an orange-colored iron plaque forms on sediment below the water and has the appearance of a toxic orange goo. And iron bacteria are of no threat to human health. They are found naturally in soils and water in low numbers and will thrive as more iron becomes available. However, the orange slime in the water or leaching from the shore is often considered to be an aesthetic problem."
Oh, Paul, thank you. I [00:28:30.185] had not heard of that before, but that's good to hear that what that listener found was a natural phenomenon. I still don't think it would be really good trout fishing in a stream that has a lot of that because I don't think it would be very beneficial to the aquatic insects and baitfish that live subsurface. I imagine it would smother a lot of those creatures, so there probably [00:29:00.577] isn't much food for trout in that stream. But it's good to hear that it's natural, and thank you very much for clarifying that.
Jim: Hi, Tom. This is Jim Aylesworth from Sugar Land, Texas, where there is no equal. Like you, I have a great digital SLR mirrorless camera. I take it on every fishing trip. When you interviewed professional outdoor photographer like Brian Grossenbacher on trout, he said, "[00:29:30.267] To get great photos, I can't fish at the same time." Andy Anderson of "Salt" said the same thing. Well, Tom, as much as I love photography, I'm not willing to leave my fly rod at home. So this is my question to you. When do you put down your fly rod and shoot some photos? I saw you do it when a moose crossed the Teton River, so obviously you like photos of wildlife. What else? Do you shoot photos [00:30:00.026] of your fishing buddies while they're fishing? Do you ever take photos of your buddies fish? Some call it a grip-and-grin. I call it a hero shot. How about when you're foraging in the woods? Do you take your camera? Just let me know.
Tom: Well, Jim, you know, Brian and Andy are absolutely right. You can't take really great photos and fish at the same time. [00:30:30.298] I fish with a number of very good photographers, and although they love to fish, they don't when they're taking pictures, when they're seriously taking pictures. Myself, I generally, when I carry my good camera, bigger camera, I generally I'm looking for a specific shot because usually when I'm [00:31:00.041] taking pictures fishing, I'm usually working on a book or a magazine article, and I have a list that I keep with me of pictures that I know I need. As I write the text, I keep a note of what I need. So, you know, my shots are mostly journalistic. They're not artistic. And I don't have a really good eye, so my pictures are usually fairly straight, very straightforward.
I don't take grip-and-grins unless a guide asks me to. [00:31:30.095] I try to avoid grip-and-grins. Sometimes a guide will ask me to, you know, take a picture of another angler doing a grip-and-grin or even myself. I hate to do it, but sometimes if the guide wants me to, I'll do it. I don't like them. I think they're cliched and dumb and they're just not very attractive, especially with my mug in the picture.
You know, more and more I've been using my phone. Phones are so good these days. [00:32:00.001] The resolution is getting better and better, and these newer phones with three lenses are pretty good. And, you know, if I'm taking a picture of a buddy or if I'm out foraging, and these pictures are just for my own use, just for my own enjoyment, and as keepsakes, I'll take a lot of pictures with my phone, more and more. And so, you know, there is less and less of a need for the bigger [00:32:30.002] interchangeable lens cameras, although there are a lot of things that you can't do with a phone. That's the reason I carry the bigger cameras, macro shots and long telephoto shots, and things like that. But boy, phones are going to catch up pretty quick, and I don't know what I'm going to do with all my camera gear.
Here's an email from Bill from Austin, Texas. "I'm a newbie fly angler, and I've been practicing my casting on our lawn several times a week. But when it comes to my 708 Streamer rod, I'm not sure [00:33:00.125] what to put on the end of it. Any suggestions to a fly to load the rod for my practice sessions? I know practicing in the water is best, but not always available time-wise."
Bill, that's a great question. A lot of people go out and practice with a lot of fly on there and, you know, particularly a bigger fly. You know, if you're casting a streamer, it does make a difference in your casting and you want to practice with something that simulates a streamer on the end of there. So there's a couple things you can do. One is to just take [00:33:30.251] an older streamer fly, one maybe the hook is rusted or one you don't like, and just cut the whole bend off the fly so that there's nothing that can hit you or get caught on the grass or get caught on bystanders as they walk by your lawn. That'll work.
And the other thing you could do is you could take a paper clip and maybe wrap some a couple pieces of duct tape to it or even [00:34:00.450] if you have some feathers laying around, wrap a couple feathers onto the paper clip and that'll simulate the way to the hook and then you can, you know, add the air resistance of the streamer depending on how air resistance the streamers you fish. You could just add stuff to that paper clip to simulate a fly. You could even, you know, put a little weight on there, put a split shot or something on there to simulate the weight of a weighted streamer. Those are my suggestions, [00:34:30.047] but it's a good idea to practice with something on the end of there other than yarn because yarn doesn't really simulate a fly on the end of there unless you're trying to simulate dry fly fishing.
Here's an email from Mark from Charleston, Rhode Island. "Hi, Tom. Recently I've noticed how loud the crunch of my wading boot studs and wading staff tip are on the rocky bottom of a favorite river while trying to stealthily approach a fishy-looking section of water. Does this noise spook the fish?" [00:35:00.236] Well, Mark, I don't think it does. You know that sound travels very well underwater, but one, do the fish hear it, and two, does it bother them? I don't think it does. They hear a lot of stuff in the background, particularly in riffles and moving water. You know, rocks and gravel do move and roll and there's a lot of noise going on down there.
And even in a slow pool, [00:35:30.346] it's thought that trout don't hear, even though sounds travel underwater, trout don't have the hearing receptors to pick up those sounds. And I've done this. I've waded carefully up on a trout and being very careful not to push waves ahead of me and rubbed my studs back and forth on the bottom of the river and made a lot of noise, and it didn't seem to bother [00:36:00.005] feeding trout at all. So, I do not think the noise spooks the fish. Some people are going to disagree with me, I know, but I don't think it does. And I've proven it to myself.
The thing that does spook fish and what makes people think that their studs are spooking fish is when you push waves ahead of you, particularly, you know, the slower the water, the more the waves are going to travel. And those waves riffle the surface of the water in an unnatural way. And that's the same kind of waves that [00:36:30.245] a heron would make when stepping into the water or an otter would make when swimming or a bunch of mergansers would make when trying to attack a trout. So, I think those waves that we push are a lot more dangerous to our approach than the noise of our wading boot studs and wading staff. If anybody wants to disagree with me, I want to hear the science of it. I don't [00:37:00.134] want any opinions. I want the science.
Here is an email from Aaron from Hopkinton, Mass. "I'm fairly new to fly fishing and have been mostly still water fishing at a local pond to build my basic skills. I took Monday off to try fly fishing in a local stock stream for the first time. Two questions. First, I've heard you talk about fishing in streams with rocky bottoms and sandy bottoms, but this stream had a very mucky bottom. Any tips for that situation or is that a sign to go [00:37:30.060] somewhere else? Second question, trying to do a standard cast left me caught in the trees often. Not fun. On these common Massachusetts streams that are 20 to 30 feet wide and heavily wooded, is it safe to assume I should be relying on my roll cast over other options? Any other casting methods I should focus on?"
Well, Aaron, yeah, typically silty mucky bottoms don't have a lot of trout food in them. They do support things like leeches [00:38:00.425] and midges and crane flies, but they don't are not going to see a lot of caddis flies, not going to see a lot of mayflies or stoneflies in that bottom. But I have seen trout in streams that have quite a mucky bottom. So, it's possible that trout live and feed there, but probably not going to be as good as an area that has a rocky bottom. There's just more structure and more places for the invertebrates and minnows and crayfish [00:38:30.100] to live. But, I would try it. I wouldn't rule it out. If that's what you got, give it a try.
Regarding your cast, yeah, a roll cast is a good idea. The other thing is a lot of people false cast too much on smaller streams. You want to just make one or no false cast on small streams. The more you false cast, the more chances you have, obviously, of getting stuck in the tree. [00:39:00.240] So, if you're fishing a dry fly, just fish one with lots of floatant on it and one that will dry off quickly with one false cast. You can roll cast a dry fly pretty well if it's been treated. So, yeah, a roll cast is good.
The other thing that people sometimes overlook is to either learn to cast left-handed, which is easier said than done, but learn to cast over your opposite shoulder so that [00:39:30.335] let's say you're wading up on the right-hand side of a small stream and you're right-handed, if you make a standard cast, you're going to get caught in the trees. But, if you take that rod and cast over your left shoulder, bring your thumb up to your left ear, thumb of your right hand up to your left ear, you can usually get out of trouble. So, learn to roll cast, learn to cast off your opposite shoulder, learn to dump your back cast. So, turn around and make a cast [00:40:00.437] at the opposite direction of where the fish is, and then just let your backcast drop. So, those are all things you can do in those tighter, smaller streams. And you generally don't need a really short rod in those small streams.
Here's an email from David. "I was fishing on the Davidson River in North Carolina last year one afternoon around Thanksgiving. The local fly shop told me that nymphs were the way to go, [00:40:30.092] though there might be some small blue-wing olives or emergers. I had on a double nymph rig and over a couple minutes as I walked up through a riffle toward the tail out, I saw a couple rises in the slow pool above. I wasn't sure whether it was one fish in multiple locations or whether it was more than one fish. Regardless, the rises were not steady because I was rigged up for nymphs and I would have had to change the nymphs and the yarn indicator to a dry fly and maybe even change the leader.
I chose to throw the nymph rig to the area [00:41:00.390] where I'd last seen the rise. I tried to be careful in my approach, staying downstream and out of the pool, fishing over a down tree from the rapids below the pool. I didn't catch anything. Anyway, my question is whether I should have taken the time to tie in a merger or a small blue-wing olive. How would you have approached this situation?"
Well, David, I don't like changing things up either if I'm only seeing one rise and it's infrequent. If I'd seen a lot of rises, [00:41:30.000] then I would have switched out the nymph rig. But the occasional rise, I would have tried...I would have kept trying the nymph. It's possible that you just spooked the fish because it was in a slow pool and your nymph rig might have spooked the fish. So one thing you might want to do is take off your indicator and maybe put on a couple of smaller nymphs so that you're a little stealthier in that slower pool.
Sometimes fish, when they get onto a hatch, [00:42:00.214] do kind of ignore the stuff down below them. So if your nymphs are weighted, you might want to try unweighted nymphs. That might not require changing your whole leader, just taking off the indicator and putting on unweighted or lightly weighted nymphs. That might have been a way to go. But then again, sometimes when they get to feeding on the surface, they will ignore nymphs. I've seen that a lot of times where you think you should be able to fish a nymph through a [00:42:30.231] hatch because you think, "Oh, the fish must be eating nymphs as well as dries." Sometimes they get pretty keyed into that surface food and ignore stuff down below them. So lots of theories on what you might have done there. But again, with just the occasional rise and not a steady rise, I would have stuck with a nymph too. I just would have made it a little stealthier.
Jared: Hi, Tom. This is Jared from Austin, Texas. [00:43:00.320] I had a question for you, hoping you might have some insight or perhaps another listener can weigh in. Here in the Austin area, I really love fishing for bass. And I've kind of grown into targeting gar quite a bit as well. Some of my favorite streams here, especially longer pools, I'll target Guadalupe bass at each end. And then the longer deeper sections of the pools, gar love to hang out, especially in the summertime, [00:43:30.249] even late in the day can be really good fishing.
I use Clousers pretty much exclusively in the summer. And all these gar are tearing them to shreds, you know, these flies get messed up pretty quick. The hooks though are still great and I would love to reuse them and start tying my own Clouser Minnows. Do you have any ideas on getting rid of the head cement? I've used various tools [00:44:00.107] to chip away at it, but, you know, these hooks still have a lot of gunk all over them. I'm hesitant to use any kind of solvent or paint thinner thinking it might leave a bad odor on the hooks maybe to mess up if there's any kind of coating.
Anyway, just food for thought. Maybe you have a suggestion. When I first got into fly fishing a few years ago, a good friend of mine had two recommendations. He said [00:44:30.312] to listen to your podcast from the very beginning and watch as many Pete Kutzer videos on learning how to cast. And both of those turned out to be great pieces of advice. Appreciate you, Tom, and everything you do. Love listening to the podcast. Have a great one. Bye.
Tom: So, Jared, first of all, if those are commercial Clousers, they probably don't have head cement. They probably have epoxy or UV-cure epoxy. So the first [00:45:00.191] thing I would do is to try to scrape it off with a single-edge razor blade or an X-Acto knife. That may scratch the finish of the hook and it may cause it to rust a little bit earlier. But if you're careful, you can try to peel that epoxy off. And don't use a double-edged razor blade. You want the beef of either a single-edge razor blade or an X-Acto knife. If that [00:45:30.004] doesn't work, you can try a heat gun and heat that stuff up, and again, try to cut it off with an X-Acto knife.
And then the other thing you can do is I wouldn't be afraid to soak them in acetone or denatured alcohol or paint stripper. You may have to try all three to see which one works because epoxies use different solvents and you never know which solvent they've used in the epoxy. One of [00:46:00.214] those should soften up that epoxy. If it's head cement, acetone will certainly soften it up. And then you won't hurt the hooks at all. And if you worry about the smell, just after you get done soaking them and cleaning them up, just wash them in soap and water and then dry them and that should get rid of the solvent smell.
All right. That is the Fly Box for this week. Let's go talk to Dustin [00:46:30.046] Coffey about hatchery trout versus wild trout and fishing in delayed harvest streams. My guest today is Dustin Coffey. And Dustin recently received one of the most coveted awards in the fly fishing business, the Orvis-Endorsed Guide Of The Year. Congratulations, Dustin.
Dustin: Thank you very much, Tom. I'm tickled plum pink. I really [00:47:00.118] am.
Tom: Yeah. And this is something that is decided by customers and customer reports, not some mucky muck at Orvis that decides who gets the guide of the year. So it's well-deserved and it's an honor. And I'm going to get to fish with you in June and I'm really excited about that.
Dustin: Yeah, I'm looking forward to it as well. At the lake, you talked about some carp. So I'm looking forward to getting out in front of the lake and hunting some [crosstalk 00:47:30.982]...
Tom: Oh, that'd be fun.
Dustin: ...and maybe catching a few brown trout on the Watauga too.
Tom: Yeah, I wouldn't mind a couple of brown trout either.
Dustin: Yeah, that'd be fun.
Tom: Two of my favorite fish. Anyway, tell us a little bit about where you guide and the area. And then we're going to talk about delayed harvest, catching delayed harvest fish, and what they do. Because I don't know that much about delayed harvest. We have a couple of hatchery-supported streams where I live, but I tend to avoid them because they [00:48:00.117] get more crowded.
Dustin: Understood.
Tom: So tell us about your area, where you guide, and what your conditions are like.
Dustin: Actually, I'm very fortunate to be born and raised in the South. We call it the high country. Like I said, latitude and longitude-wise, we are in the South. But elevation-wise, the high country in North Carolina has the highest mountains, Eastern Mississippi. And with that comes the coldest and cleanest water, in my opinion, around here. We have some [00:48:30.167] great fisheries on top of the mountain. You've got brook trout three minutes away from our base, Watauga River, headwaters of Watauga River 15 minutes away from our base, the tailwaters on the backside, and the dolomite formation, about an hour drive down the hill.
I talk about the Charm Circle in New York and all the other areas, but we have a pretty good circle here, as you do in Vermont, as we was talking about earlier. But very fortunate to have a great fishery, smallmouth as well. Like out here on the East, we have smallmouth fisheries [00:49:00.148] like the West has trout fisheries. We have a lot of good smallmouth down here. You can change it up. Like we're talking, if the weather throws you a certain path or something comes up on one side of the ridge, Lord willing, you can go to the other side of the ridge and maybe have a different fishery or different style, maybe have some clean water or better weather. So we're very, very fortunate to be in the high country of North Carolina and East Tennessee. Sure.
Tom: And you guide for a resort, right?
Dustin: [00:49:30.202] Yes. Yep. Chetola Resort in Blowing Rock, North Carolina. I think we're the oldest and the first Orvis Lodge in North Carolina. We've had a connection with Orvis for a long time and feel very blessed and fortunate to do it. I can't talk enough about how it makes me feel to be able to be associated with Orvis and to get that Orvis Guide Of The Year. It's kind of like you talked about. I call it like heavyweight championship of guiding for real. I just feel so fortunate. All the other guides that you see that [00:50:00.313] come through there that get this award, they're all solid individuals. Like you said earlier, you have to earn it and you earn it with the guest and the client reviews. So I really appreciate that. I want to thank all my clients for all the reviews they left me.
Tom: How long have you been guiding, Dustin?
Dustin: Twenty-four years professionally.
Tom: Wow. You don't look that old. You don't look that old.
Dustin: People say it all the time, but I do a great job. If you enjoy what you do for a living, you don't work a day in your life. You [00:50:30.010] work every day, you work harder than anybody, but you don't work a day in your life. But yeah, I'm almost 45. So I've been doing it.
Tom: Yeah. Well, great. You mentioned something. Let me ask you about it, a little sidebar here. You mentioned the Dolomite area?
Dustin: Yes. The Knox Dolomite Formation. If you look at on the map, if you look at like I like doing internet recon and top graphical recon, you can look on the map and you can see on [00:51:00.231] the Google Earth, the high country of North Carolina, the mountains, it's all freestone, high mountains, rugged. And if you look on the left side over on the backside of the ridge, you can see kind of looks like where a river has came through. Well, that's where the ocean was. I think it was the old Appalachian Ocean. Yeah, and it laid down limestone. And so the water comes off the cold mountains, flows down. When it hits the Dolomite, it totally transforms. It changes. It puts more...let's more vegetation grow. That let's more insects [00:51:30.363] grow. That returns more fish.
Tom: Wow. Yeah. I've always been fascinated by the influence of geology on trout stream productivity. And that's very interesting.
Dustin: It's amazing. And down here, like I said, you can go from one ridge to the other and get in a totally different substrate.
Tom: Fascinating. Are we going to see some of that geology when I come and fish with you?
Dustin: Yeah. Good Lord willing. If you want to, we'll go by and check out Linville Falls, which when you're looking at that, certain parts on there, [00:52:00.265] we'll look at it and you can actually see part of the African continent where it broke away.
Tom: No kidding.
Dustin: Yeah. So stuff like that, I enjoy that. Rough Ridge trails right here. So we'll go look at some of that stuff, Lord willing, if we have time...
Tom: Cool.
Dustin: ...and see some of that.
Tom: We only got one day, so we're going to have to pack a lot.
Dustin: There's so much to see. [crosstalk 00:52:19.674].
Tom: Maybe we'll pass up the carp. Maybe we'll pass up the carp. Anyway, you know, I asked you to come on today because there's a concept that is [00:52:30.126] mostly in the Southeast United States. I'm sure they do it other places, but they call it something different, called delayed harvest. And, you know, I'm not really familiar. I mean, I've fished those streams, but I'm not really familiar with the concept and how it operates. But I know it's very popular. Can you tell us about the concept and then maybe some hints on fishing for these delayed harvest fish as opposed to wild fish?
Dustin: Yeah. Well, [00:53:00.240] and for me, I tend to...I talk all the time about physics. So I treat every situation and every place that I'm in like I'm fishing for wild fish. I don't really differentiate my mind. I don't let myself slip into know, my grandpa said the number one mistake I make is time management. So I try to not let myself slip into thinking that, oh, I can just go out or what I call Samsonitis from the Bible where I can just go out as I've done before, you know what I mean, and just wipe the fish in the head. I [00:53:30.412] try to treat every fish like it's that type of fish.
But delayed harvest, North Carolina has, I think it has 34 delayed harvest streams. And it's kind of where for half the year, North Carolina puts catchable-sized fish in there and it is for catch and release only. It's places where people can hopefully have the opportunity to come to a public area and have the opportunity to actually catch trout, hook and line fish. You don't have to be an expert. As I say, the odds are ever in your favor. You know what I mean? So [00:54:00.348] it's kind of like some of the most best opportunities you can have as far as in public water to catch a fish. If you've not really been experienced, you've not really went out, that is delayed harvest for sure.
Tom: Now, are these streams that get too warm at a certain time in the year, or are they year-round streams?
Dustin: Great question, Tom. We could have a dialectic on that for sure. I mean, and we won't get into that too much because I'm really a fan of [00:54:30.263] biologists that I have in North Carolina Fisheries Commission. But I think that a lot of places, like in a lot of things, we're behind the times. And what I mean by that is it's supposed to be marginal water, water that cannot sustain trout year-round. But a lot of the water that they stock that turn into delayed harvest waters are waters that do have wild trout populations. So there's kind of a... Some streams, yes, are marginal. Some streams that are on the delayed harvest program, you can catch wild fish in those streams [00:55:00.365] for sure. But they're supposed to be marginal water, not be able to hold trout year-round.
Tom: Okay. And so talk about what species do they stock and what size and what time of year. Again, for somebody who's not familiar with the concept.
Dustin: Yeah. So the delayed harvest, as far as the season on that, I think if you're able to... We'll be open to harvest trout from June the 3rd, and it closes on September 30th. So in that [00:55:30.195] section of time, you can go in there and catch fish. It has no lower restrictions. You can fish worms, night crawlers, anything you want to. But from October 1st until June 1st, it's catch-and-release only. People will come in there and have the opportunity to catch some fish and let them go and be able to experience it for sure.
Tom: And you have good winter fishing down there. You don't have the same conditions that we do up here in the North.
Dustin: No, sir. You're right, Tom. That's exactly right. We do have really [00:56:00.067] good... It's a year-round fishery. We are in the South, so that lets us... We are high elevation, so we do get some snow. But a lot of times we'll get two, three inches, by the morning, it's melted away by 10:00. That night it may cool back down, get two or three more inches by the next time it melts back off. So it's a really unique fishery, a really cool trout fishery down here. And we do have a year-round fishery for sure.
Tom: Most of the time. I remember one time we had an Orvis Guides rendezvous in Asheville. I think it was in February and March [00:56:30.363] and we were thinking, "Oh, great. We're snowbound. We can go down and catch some trout, have some good trout fishing, see some hatches." And it went down to like zero and some of the streams were even frozen. So we were so bummed. But that's rare. That's rare for you guys.
Dustin: Yeah, that's rare, but it does happen. When regular hatchery sported water opens, I think it's the first Saturday in April down here, I always tell people it's going to snow. It will snow that first Saturday in April in the High [00:57:00.507] Country of North Carolina. You're going to have a little snow. It just happens every year you're going to have a little thing like that. But I remember that year we actually went over and fished the South Holston with Dave and I mean, it was amazingly cold. We had to do a photo shoot that time. So it was an absolutely brutal day you're talking about when they had that got around it.
Tom: You remember that day too, huh?
Dustin: I do. Yeah, still I do. Yeah.
Tom: Yeah, that was rough. All right. So people [00:57:30.362] ask me this a lot, these kinds of questions, like when these fish are first stocked, where do you look for them? How do they behave? You said you fish for them like you fish wild trout, but they got to have...they got to be a little different when they're first dumped in there, right?
Dustin: No, they are. I mean, when they're first put in, you got to think what that fish... We can have another dialectic on [00:58:00.409] what that is. You got to think they're going from getting fed every day to being bumped around and then dropped off into a strange environment. I mean, they are really, really nervous and scared. They don't know what to do. So it takes them about a day and a half to start to acclimate to...
Now, some people come in there and you'll catch a fish and you could catch a few fish, but more than likely, most of the fish is going to take about a day, at least 12 hours to really start to acclimate. They'll try to start picking stuff [00:58:30.003] and they'll start messing around, but I think it's more just nervousness and not really actually a feeding behavior that you'll catch them. So I usually wait. If they stock it on one day, I don't want to fish until the next day because it takes a while. Like you say, it takes them a while before they get real cagey.
Tom: Do they tend to sit in particular types of water once they're stocked, when they're stocked?
Dustin: Yeah. So when they're first put in, they're schooling animals by [00:59:00.064] nature. So they want to stay together. All they've ever known is the closeness of their buddies. So they'll tend to stay together and they'll stay in an area really close to where they're originally put in at and they'll stay in schools. As nature takes its course and they realize that Johnny or Billy or Bobby is not coming around with the food and throwing into them anymore, that number, they can't sustain it. The biomass can't sustain it. So they have to spread out. They have to start moving into other areas.
And then they learn [00:59:30.165] bubble lines, hydrology. This is where the most amount of food comes through. If I stay here the most, this is where I have the higher opportunity to pick up the fish. When they begin to learn the hydrology of the river, it kind of... And it doesn't take them long to catch onto that. Hunger is the main driving force, I think.
Tom: Don't I know about that.
Dustin: I got that disease where every time my elbow bends, my mouth opens. I know about it for sure.
Tom: [01:00:00.241] Dustin, do they tend to be, when they're first stocked, do they tend to stay in slower water because they're used to still water, or do they spread out into riffles pretty quickly?
Dustin: Yeah, I think they'll stay in their group where they can stay the tightest together for a day. And then when that belly starts growling, they move pretty quickly to spread out to try to get some space between them so they can start trying to find something to sustain them a little bit.
Tom: Interesting. And you say it only takes a few [01:00:30.119] days.
Dustin: Yeah. I think it takes, like I said, within 12 hours. When they go in, you may see a few of them. They'll come up and eat bubble because they're really in shock. It's not them feeding at all. And then within an hour or two, they may start to sample certain things, but it's just out of nervousness, in my opinion. And then after about 12 hours, I'll really watch them. And I watch fish. That's one thing I try to do, is observe. As a guide, we're natural observers. So I really watch and I pay attention. I do fish a lot of stocked water. So I treat them all the same. So I watch them all the same with the same [01:01:00.098] intensity. And after about 12 hours, they're actually starting to actually feed on bugs like other trout in that area are doing in my opinion.
Tom: Interesting. They're still learning. So they're still going to sample weird things, right? They're going to...
Dustin: They're making mistakes all the time. My grandpa, he pretty much taught me to fish. He would fish in the hill. He would fish in the sleet. He would fish in rain. A couple of times, he fished in lightning. But if it was windy, he'd beat you to the truck. [01:01:30.076] And the reason why, he would say that it would blow stuff into the water, he'd tell me it gives them a belly ache. Now, I don't know. But I like to think maybe, man, he had a point to that, but he would just say he would wash certain things in the water and fish make that mistake until they get a little bit wiser to that. And they'll eat stuff they shouldn't eat and maybe fills them up, maybe they get a little thing they don't want to eat as much. So they do make mistakes.
Tom: Well, wild trout make mistakes too. If they didn't, we'd never catch them, right? They got to sample [01:02:00.270] stuff or they'll never switch from one bug to another as the catches progress.
Dustin: Yeah. They're always catching.
Tom: Yeah. How far do they move, Dustin? That's another question I get a lot. How far do the hatchery fish move in general? I know it's hard to generalize, but do they move very far?
Dustin: They do. One day, I'm going to write a book called "Fishing by Degree." You can go into a lot of different things [01:02:30.146] on just that one word, but obviously, one that sticks out is temperature of the water. And some of this water that they're stocked and are marginal water. So as it warms up, as the season goes on, it maybe get a little warmer. They're going to move up into areas that has that water temperature variant that they need in order to be able to survive and to be able to feed.
So they'll move up to places where springs are coming in, underground springs, and they'll continue to move up the water until they hit that temperature [01:03:00.045] that they can survive in. And they may have to move a mile and they'll do that easily. I have seen stockfish two miles up a wild stream. And this is a stockfish and that fish has moved up there, in my opinion, to get cooler water, to get to that cooler water. So I think they'll move a long way.
Tom: Mostly upstream in your experience?
Dustin: They'll do both. So you have the same thing as everything. They'll move upstream when the temperature is warming, they'll move up. And then as it goes, you'll get drop [01:03:30.151] backs same way. They move for the degree of the water. They need that water temperature.
Tom: And they're able to sense that. They're able to figure out whether they need to go up or down.
Dustin: Yeah. It's amazing. It's kind of like me and you, I think. And I don't know, but I'm pretty sure when it starts getting hot, we kick the air conditioner on. They can't do that. So they'd be like, "Hey, this place is getting a little too tight for me. It's a little too straight. I'm going to have to move on up, get someplace a little bit more comfortable for me." I think they do that, no [01:04:00.233] problem.
Tom: And you think it's almost hardwired in them to move upstream when the water gets too warm.
Dustin: I do. I do. Just like feeding. I think when they start feeling uncomfortable, they need to move. And I think they understand it upstream. They're linear. They're always swimming to their head. So I don't know if that plays a factor or not. And dropping back, you know how fish will drop back too, so I think that plays a factor. I think they move up. I think they recognize that the cooler water is coming from up. So I don't know how they do that. I think it'd be a fascinating subject [01:04:30.061] to study. But from what I've observed, that's what they do.
Tom: Okay. And in your experience, if you wanted to catch hatchery fish, let's say there were only hatchery fish in a particular river, or you wanted to catch hatchery fish, would you do anything different?
Dustin: So, no, in a [01:05:00.020] way. And the reason why is I'm a stickler for doing the same thing every time because I want to...your most basic technique, refined to perfection, is the most advanced technique in the world. So I do it the same way every time that way in those moments of crisis that I default to my previous programming and I program the correct way. So I try to do everything the same way every time. Now, what I throw, the type of flies that I throw, absolutely changes on the type of fish that I'm targeting.
Tom: Let's [01:05:30.412] talk about that a little bit.
Dustin: Yeah. So when you go out to the stream, my grandpa used to say the number one mistake an angler makes is moving too fast, getting in too big a hurry. You know what I mean? Plan your attack before approaching the stream, meaning no... A lot of people do this, especially on hatchery-supported water. These are water that people come to, a lot of people, they get a lot of pressure. They'll have trails to the water and a lot of people will approach that water in the same way that everybody else does.
Well, those fish after a while [01:06:00.064] get acclimated to that. They know that that danger comes from the right. They know that that tree over there to the right wasn't there five minutes ago. You know what I mean? And a lot of times if you approach it from the other side, they're not as wary. You know what I mean? So doing certain things, doing different things really helps you. As far as the flies go, these fish have came from hatcheries. They're used to getting pellets. I don't know if color matters as much as contrast or shape, but eggs are deadly. [01:06:30.302] Mock flies are deadly.
These things trigger that instinctual response. I call it, you got to give those stockfish a case of they can't help it. You know what I mean? You got to trigger that instinctual response where they think if they don't eat this, Johnny beside them is going to. And mock flies, flies that have a little bit of movement, Pat's rubber legs, squirmy wormies, of course, or whatever you want to call the dirty snake, those flies out there really, really [01:07:00.460] catch wild fish, but they really, really destroy fresh stockfish.
Tom: Okay. Do you ever create specific pellet flies like deer hair pellet flies and things like that, or do you not go there?
Dustin: I'd have to take a shower. If I did that, I'd feel so dirty about myself I wouldn't be able to...
Tom: But it would work, wouldn't it?
Dustin: Oh, it would destroy them. It'd be unfair. One of the reasons that in my opinion that fly [01:07:30.562] fish, and this is permission to speak free, but the whole reason I'm fly fishing is because I want to choose to do the other thing, not because it's easy, but because it's hard. I want to fool that fish into thinking a chicken feather is a bug. You know what I mean? And the caddis now, I'll do a caddis, a brown caddis. I'll throw a brown caddis over a stalker and won't think twice about it.
Tom: Yeah. I'm convinced that the goddard caddis is a pellet fly.
Dustin: It is in a way, but somehow or another you can slightly justify [01:08:00.271] that.
Tom: Yeah. You don't have to take a shower after you fish a goddard caddis, right?
Dustin: Yeah, that's right.
Tom: Any difference? I assume they stock mostly browns and rainbows, correct?
Dustin: Well, in North Carolina, they're doing a little bit different thing. They're stocking a lot of brook trout.
Tom: They are. Interesting. Okay.
Dustin: And we can have another dialectic on that as far as the effectiveness of that. My opinion, brook trout, because they're char, have already [01:08:30.345] acclimated and been relegated to places that were too steep and too remote for a logging skidder to get to back in the day. You know what I mean? And I don't know that we're going to be able to bring those brook trout in the areas that they've not already put themselves in. You know what I mean? And are doing well. But North Carolina stocks a lot of brook trout and we do stock browns and rainbows. I think we stock more brook trout than we do brown.
Tom: Interesting.
Dustin: Yeah, rainbows first, brook [01:09:00.160] trout second, and then brown is the very last least number that North Carolina stocks. I'm pretty sure.
Tom: Now, any difference in the way if you know that, for instance, they stock brook trout or browns or rainbows, any difference in the ways you fish for them or the flies you use?
Dustin: Yes. A brook trout, I'm going to throw a lot of attractor patterns, brighter color stuff. I'm going to throw streamers. Because brook trout is a very, very aggressive fish. [01:09:30.141] They're really aggressive. And like a brown trout is for the most part. But I think a brown trout is a little bit more wily. They're a little smarter fish than a brookie. But a brook trout is very aggressive. I got a little fly I call the red-eye mountain devil. And that's an attractor pattern. Stimulators, yellow stimulators, anything like that. We have an old fly called a yellow hammer.
Tom: Oh, I know that one.
Dustin: Oh, Lord. They'll get them. The brook [01:10:00.284] trout, they just give a case they can't help it and they'll eat. So brook trout are really, really aggressive. And I'll throw pretty much anything I want to but I give a little bit of movement, skitter it, and I'll just make them...they'll just eat it. They can't help it. But brown trout, they come up and give it the old one eye. You really have to make sure the fly looks right and the presentation's right.
Tom: So you're going to use more wild trout techniques on brown trout, more subtle stuff, even if they're freshly stocked.
Dustin: Yes. Yeah. I mean, [01:10:30.231] yeah, even if they're freshly stocked, I'm going to change that over a little bit. They'll still eat them. Now brown's aggressive fish and they'll eat streamers as well. But once they've been in there a little bit longer, those brown trout seem to be a little bit more selective. Like I said, they give it the old one eye. They swim around it and say, "I don't know. You may have to do that over."
Tom: How about rainbows?
Dustin: Yeah. They're the middle ground. They're the middle ground. And I can tell more about the fight when I have a fish [01:11:00.212] and anything. Brown trout will bulldog you and rainbows run and jump. And I think they eat the same way. I think if it comes by and it looks good, they'll snap to it.
Tom: Yeah. They seem to be. I think rainbows feed more frequently than browns. I think they're just eating all the time.
Dustin: They do. Yeah, I think so as well.
Tom: Now, do the stocked rainbows migrate toward the faster [01:11:30.497] water after a while?
Dustin: I think the speed of the water and where they're at in the water has to do with as they get on later on as far as what bugs are hatching, when the bugs are hatching, where they're at. And I think they'll move to that. Another thing that I like to talk about is too, that they really catch on to really quickly is deeper than a heron's leg. There's pools. And I call them wintering pools and summering pools. And fish will travel between those. [01:12:00.078] And a pool, in my opinion, for a fish to sustain itself in there, has to be deeper than a heron's leg. You know what I mean?
Tom: Yeah. That's a good thing to remember.
Dustin: Yeah. Because they'll move up into other areas, but they may not... And they're also vulnerable there. So they'll know that. So they'll go up there and attack the caddis when they're coming off in the riffles and then they may drop down back into that wintering pool with that pool that's about three to four feet, that's just off to the back of that riffle. You know what I mean?
I've seen a lot of your stuff where you diagnosed that really, [01:12:30.005] really well. I've been watching some of your stuff lately too, even more. And I really enjoy how you break that stuff down because it needs to be done like that. It needs to be broken down into certain pools in certain areas. And my grandpa always said the number one mistake anyone makes is moving too fast and planning your approach, reading that water and kind of thinking about what you just said as far as where these fish are going to be at, at this time, what's coming off, and putting your fly in front of the fish for the most amount of time as possible. Well, your odds are going to go up. They have to, you know?
[01:13:00.276] So I think they move the riffle when the bugs are off or when certain types of bugs like caddis, and then when they're not, say if the crane flies are coming off, they're going to be back towards that leaf sliver. They're going to be back towards that deeper pool. It's just an ebb and a flow and a change. It happens daily.
Tom: They don't move too far though daily, right? They move up and down.
Dustin: No. Yeah.
Tom: But they don't move...
Dustin: They don't move too far daily. Yeah. Absolutely. And they'll stay there. Like if the water's okay and you have a good cold stream, say it's not marginal, they may not have to migrate as far, you know? But if the [01:13:30.203] water is cold, you may catch that same fish in that spot the whole year. He may be what I call a resident. They may hang out there. They may not want to move far. They don't need to. If they don't, they won't. If they're getting everything done like an old hound dog, you can't kick them off the porch as long as they're getting fed.
Tom: I love your expressions, Dustin. I love your expressions. How frequent is it that you have holdover fish, so fish that survive more [01:14:00.006] than one season?
Dustin: In North Carolina, a lot. Now, here's another thing with delayed harvest that I'm seeing less and less of, and we can have another dialectic on that. I'm seeing less of my patriarchs and matriarchs. So an example of that is a stream. I don't know if I should drop the name of the stream or not.
Tom: No, don't do that. No, we don't want to do that.
Dustin: So there's a stream here that whenever I was younger, I used to fish it, and I still fish it. But when I used to fish it younger, at a certain time of the year, say November, brown trout from [01:14:30.173] the lower section of the river, the bigger section of the river, that semi-marginal, would move up and spawn. Fifteen years ago, they made the upper section delayed harvest for whatever reason, I have no idea. But now, I'm seeing less of those matriarchs because they're getting intercepted. And the otter, the heron, and the uneducated angler does not differentiate between stocked or wild, just indiscriminately. You know what I mean? Taken.
Tom: Sure, yeah. Yeah.
Dustin: Yeah. And if you're only taken out, you're not... And eventually, those streams become dependent and deficient. And [01:15:00.350] I'm seeing a lot of that. But some fish, they move a long ways in the water, and some don't. I think it's just in the nature of the fish. Some fish want to move, some fish are content such as they are.
Tom: Do you have a lot of otter in your area?
Dustin: We do. And [crosstalk 01:15:18.801]...
Tom: Boy, they are a fishing, aren't they?
Dustin: I'm telling you. Disney done a good job of making them beautiful and quaint. But when you see them out there, they're river wolves. And the first thing I see them doing, I like to watch. Like I said, [01:15:30.263] I'm a guide first, so I enjoy watching. And if you do it at night, I can hear them coming. I'll come out there. And I've seen them a couple of times a couple of people call me over there. But first thing they'll do when they attack, they'll try to get the tail. And they'll chew that tail as fast as they can. And then they'll try to get another one. And then they'll come back and play with them things. So they are very efficient. They understand that if they take the motor away, that they can come back and get that, that it's done. They're smart. But North Carolina just put some more otters. They released more otters out.
Tom: Oh, [01:16:00.345] great. Well, they're beautiful animals and they're fun to see for sure.
Dustin: They really are. And they have their place.
Tom: Yeah. Interesting you mentioned herons because I have herons and we have a lot of herons around here and I have them in my backyard in the river. And I always thought that, "Ah, they're probably eating frogs and the smaller dais and sculpins and things like that." But I saw a video the other day of a heron eating a...must've been like a 12-inch trout. [01:16:30.266] Do you see heron eating larger trout?
Dustin: Absolutely. And how they do it and how I watch them, this is another thing that I tell people too. It goes back to people moving too fast. Heron, it makes its living on fish. Okay. Have you ever seen a heron come in and land on the water like a duck?
Tom: No.
Dustin: You don't see that. But a lot of people when they get to the water, the first thing they want to do is step off into the water. You know what I mean? Splash, splash, splash. But a heron will sit back and wait. And I watched them get a I'm [01:17:00.412] talking 20-inch fish. These are big ones.
Tom: You're kidding me.
Dustin: Oh, no.
Tom: Wow.
Dustin: They'll get that thing and then they'll fight it. And it's a fight, watching the battle. And they'll slide it all the way back up to the edge and then they'll just go for the sweet stuff. They'll do the eyes, but I don't want to gross anybody out, but they'll do the brain, the eyes, and the rest of it, they'll leave for the king.
Tom: Interesting.
Dustin: They don't care to get a big one. If they can get it and they can get it on the bank, they'll get the tender bits and leave the rest for the raccoons. [01:17:30.188] But they don't differentiate. They'll try for those big ones if they can get them. And how many times have you seen like in certain areas to go around and you see a fish that has that big old dot on the top of his head? You know what I mean? He's been popped. He got popped and got away. Yeah. Yeah. So it's pretty cool. They're efficient.
Tom: Yeah. And we can learn a lot as far as approach by watching a heron.
Dustin: Absolutely.
Tom: You know, they move very slowly and it's... Of course, if you fish enough, you [01:18:00.226] know that it's movement that scares the fish. You know, you can wear all the camouflage you want, but if you're waving your arms or you're waving your rod, they're going to see it.
Dustin: False cast and movement is it and sound travels four times faster through water than it does through the air. So if you can make your approach and make your cast to the fish you see without entering the water, why would you enter the water? Now, some people just enjoy the pressure of water on their waders. If that's the case, enjoy [01:18:30.350] that. You know what I mean? But if you're going for a stealthy approach and you're really trying to get a fish, think about these little things that you're just talking about. If you don't need to get in there and watch the things that make their living every day by doing that and a heron is one of those things. And another good thing to think about, I think they fell over 65% of the time. So don't feel bad, you know? And they still survive. So when you get out there, you may not catch that fish today, but come back tomorrow. Try it again. Keep going.
Tom: Sixty-five percent, huh? Because you've [01:19:00.046] really studied these things.
Dustin: I try. Well, I enjoy it. One thing I'm doing more than anything is learning. I learn from everybody I meet and I spend my time with the smartest people in the world. Let's face it, these people with residual incomes a lot of times with that guide and they're smart and I spend my time with smart people and I like to listen and I observe. So I learn a lot of stuff. There's a lot of cool people.
Tom: Yeah. If you don't learn something every time you go fishing, you're doing something wrong, right?
Dustin: It may be what not to do, but you're exactly right.
Tom: Yeah. It's usually what not to do.
Dustin: [01:19:30.401] But you're building a database.
Tom: Yeah. Yeah, you sure are. You sure are. And taking notes and keeping a log, which I don't do and I should.
Dustin: I used to do it. I need to do it again. I used to when I was younger.
Tom: Yeah, me too. And I stopped. And you know you feel the pressure when you get done with day fishing. Oh, I got to write in my log and it's like, I really don't want to do it today. So I guess that's why I don't do it. I'm just lazy. I don't know about you.
Dustin: Yeah, I have to concur. [01:20:00.237] I need to get back at it. I know I should, but for some reason...
Tom: Yeah, it's so valuable. It really is.
Dustin: It really is.
Tom: It's so valuable.
Dustin: Because going back, you don't have to think about it. Because as much as... And my problem is I think, "Oh, I'll remember this. I know this now." Arrogance. You know what I mean? And that's all it is. And then later on, I can go back and I could remember, "Oh, no, when that big March Brown came off, it was this time last year. You know what I mean? I thought it was three more weeks from now. And [01:20:30.040] when you see it in paper, it's amazing how I can miscue dates a little bit in my head. I think it was one time. And you miss the hatch, you miss it.
Tom: Yeah. Now, what other predators do you have down there? Do you have osprey and eagles on your streams?
Dustin: We do. And right above one of our sections on our water, we have an eagle's area over there. I call him Freedom Fred. And he flies by all time, takes him a few of them. But yeah, we have otters and we have osprey, [01:21:00.009] and we have eagles. And here's another cool, fun fact that a lot of people don't know about eagles is most of their diet does not come from fish. It comes from waterfowl. So the eagles is not as much as the osprey and those otters. They really lay a hurt on me. Yeah. But it's pretty cool. We do have those predators for sure.
Tom: Do you have mergansers?
Dustin: We do.
Tom: Good.
Dustin: And that's the thing that's been coming up. I've noticed in the last eight years. And so like, what's another word for some...? [01:21:30.348] Cormorants and anhinga. I'm saying it wrong. I apologize. But yeah, those suckers are...they're vicious.
Tom: Everybody likes to eat trout. Everybody likes to eat trout. They got no sharp spines and they got small scales. And so everybody likes to eat them.
Dustin: Tastes good with salt and pepper.
Tom: Yeah. And they're easier to handle. Your hatchery fish, are they less [01:22:00.045] spooky? Are they less wary than the wild fish?
Dustin: Yes. Yes, they are. I think that as time... Now some of them, like I said, some of them are going to be different and they'll react on it. But I think that as it goes on, they're getting... Because we could have another topic on that. Some of those fish may not have made it in a natural setting. You know what I mean? And we have to be very careful, they may not [01:22:30.148] have deserved to make it to the level that they're at then. And then when you put those out there, now that's why they have them triploid. Most of them can't reproduce, but some of them do. But I do notice that it is making them a little bit more, I wouldn't want to say less of a game fish, but it kind of seems like it. But some of them you get brings back your faith in humanity. You know what I mean? Because some of them still tough and thank the Lord for those that still fight hard.
Tom: [01:23:00.918] Are all of those fish that they stock triploid or just some?
Dustin: So great question. They're all triploid with the exception of a few brood fish that the state puts in so-called banks. These are areas that they don't think the fish is going to reproduce or if they could, it wouldn't be impactful. But all of the fish that North Carolina produces with the exception of a few of the brood fish they [01:23:30.000] put in certain banks are triploids unable to reproduce.
Tom: Do they try to reproduce? Do they migrate and build [inaudible 01:23:39.980]?
Dustin: They do, but they don't lay eggs. So that's another thing that we can have a topic about. And the reason why they do that is, in my opinion, is docileness. If you have a fish that cannot reproduce and you have a raceway, that raceway could hold 5,000 fish that could reproduce. But it could hold 10,000 that couldn't because they're not [01:24:00.213] as, you know, "Quit touching me. You're getting too close to me." So they're a lot more docile than the ones that can reproduce. So they do them like that.
Also, they do them like that because they talk about not wanting to affect the trap population. But as I said before, we could have a totally different dialectic on the biology of that as well. We won't really get into that. That's for people with higher pay grades than me. But in my opinion, I am seeing them getting [01:24:30.057] a little bit more docile and the hatchery supported stuff, I think there's different ways to do it. I'm more building riparian zones like West Virginia does certain things where they had their water and due to mining it's kind of messed it up. And they've had some reclamation where they're coming in there with limestone dams in the stream kind of putting riparian zones. And then behind that, they're backfilling with crushed pumice limestone to help bring down the pH and the connectivity of the water.
I think North Carolina and other states should [01:25:00.017] maybe look into doing that more than just, you know, throwing copious amounts of sterile fish in the water, right? But people want to catch fish. That's why delayed harvest is popular. That's why private water, we're losing a lot of our public places to privatization due to the fact that there's capitalism. And I think if we as a state could make a section of water that's comparable to what private water is, it would devalue private water. You know what I mean?
Tom: [01:25:30.095] Yep.
Dustin: In a way. So we can have a big dialectic on all that for sure. But that's kind of a slippery slope to get onto on that.
Tom: Yeah, it is. Pellet-fed private fisheries, right?
Dustin: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, and I thought we've got sections of that, and I see it all. But people in general, in my opinion, they just want to have the ability to come out and catch fish. And they don't care about the backend stuff. But as conservationists and people that actually care about the next [01:26:00.364] generation, you have to think about those kinds of things too. Not just putting numbers out there, being able to say, "I stocked 980,000 trout." I'd be able to say I stocked 200 great ones. You know what I mean?
But anyway, like I said, that's where the evaluation of your stream stocking and being able to stock all the fish you want to in those marginal water if you stock every one of those sterile fish. But if in my opinion, if a stream is capable of sustaining wild trout populations, in my opinion, it should be [01:26:30.076] recognized as the rare gem it is and taken off of that and put on to catch and release, you know?
Tom: Absolutely.
Dustin: I mean, in my opinion, all of them, you know, because wild fish is just...especially down here, it's such a rare thing to have and it's getting rarer and rarer, it seems, to be able to catch wild trout in the south.
Tom: Can you tell when you catch a fish, do they fin clip the hatchery fish? Can you tell whether it's wild or hatchery?
Dustin: Yeah, I can tell immediately. But they don't do [01:27:00.304] actual fin clip. They do on some of the brooders, I think. I'm not 100% sure on that. I don't want to misquote that. But I can tell the fish really quickly by their fins because they've spent their life in a concrete vat and their fins are rubbed off. They look all gnarled. They don't have the beautiful white tips. Now, some stockfish do have white tips and those fins do grow back every time. But usually a fresh stock fish, when you see that fish, they're not going to be as beautiful, robust, [01:27:30.306] opalescent as a wild fish is. They're going to have their fins rubbed off. They're going to be kind of gnarled. And that's because they've rubbed, bumped with their buddies and kind of rubbed that concrete and rubbed their fins off.
Tom: How long does it take for a hatchery fish, let's say it holds over, how long does it take the hatchery fish to get that coloration of a wild fish and for their fins to kind of regenerate and be nice and smooth?
Dustin: Yeah. [01:28:00.293] It takes them a long time to get smooth. And if it's damaged to a certain point, it'll never grow back. They can grow back in about a year, year and a half. They can start growing back good. As far as the color of the fish, the keratinoid, that really has to do, in my opinion, with the diet that they're getting. If that stream that those fish are in had a lot of crayfish or a lot of crustaceans or a lot of sow bugs or scuds, they're going to be really, really colorful because they have a high keratinoid count in the food. If it's a freestone stream, they're not getting that. They're eating a lot of [01:28:30.469] just other fish, small fish. They're eating more small invertebrates. They're not going to have the color that they're going to get from those crayfish or those scuds, stuff like that.
Tom: And I've noticed over the years that some hatcheries must have a specialized diet that includes certain compounds that give the fish color because there is one stock [01:29:00.174] brook trout stream here, not too far from me, where the stockfish are gorgeous.
Dustin: Yeah, they do. They actually put keratinoid in the foods. A lot of it's like krill oil or shrimp stuff. They'll actually put that in there. And that's what gives those fish those color, is the keratinoid in the food they eat. So they absolutely do that. That's actually thought out. And then some of the farm-raised fish you get that have that pretty pink meat, some of that is from what they put in there [01:29:30.370] for their food to turn into that color so it looks that way.
Tom: I've heard that adding paprika to a trout's diet will give them that color. Have you heard that?
Dustin: No, I've not. But like I said, I know if you add it on the end after you cook them with a little bit of butter, it's pretty good. Now, here's the thing too. There's another thing when I was young, because everybody starts off like when I was really, really young, my grandpa would take me fishing and we'd fish with worms. [01:30:00.201] And then because he'd fish with a fly rod, but he'd have worms. And one thing that he would do, he'd take coffee grounds and then we'd put red food coloring in there. And he'd feed those worms, his own worms, the coffee grounds with that red food color. You would see the red in them. And we'd catch a lot of fish like that.
Tom: Interesting. We won't go too far into that though.
Dustin: No. No. Slippery slope. Slippery slope. It was [01:30:30.185] the old days.
Tom: Worm fishing is very effective and it's a good way to learn.
Dustin: Yeah, it is.
Tom: As you know, it's a great way to learn.
Dustin: Great way to learn. Yep.
Tom: All right, Dustin. Well, that was a great overview of delayed harvest and hatchery fish. And really appreciate you sharing your knowledge with us today.
Dustin: I appreciate your time. I appreciate your call, [01:31:00.457] your email. I look forward to fishing with you coming up here soon. I'm really looking forward to that. But I want to thank you for what you do with all the stuff you put out there, the work you put into it. I watch a lot of stuff out there and you are very, very good at your presentation, what you do, how you handle people, how you handle me, how you move through what you're doing right now, and I really appreciate it. You're kind and courteous in everything you do. And it shows, shows by your action.
Tom: Well, it's all due to [01:31:30.565] people like you who share their knowledge, right?
Dustin: Yes. I see it. I tell people I stand on the shoulder of giants. I mean, there's a lot of fishermen out there that we'll never know their name, they'll never make it into the museum but they were fantastic fly fishers.
Tom: Absolutely.
Dustin: Yeah. I learned from them.
Tom: Absolutely. All right, Dustin. And tell people how they can get hold of you or book you as a guide. Where can they find you?
Dustin: I always tell people to go [01:32:00.217] through... You look at the Orvis site. When you're doing research, it's kind of like trying to get a McDonald's cup of coffee. You know that if you go on Orvis and they're on the Orvis website, they've been checked out. They're vetted. They're legit. Sadly, a lot of places around here use semantics. They're allowed to sell Orvis gear, but they're not Orvis certified or you know what I mean? There's a lot of that stuff going on. So I tell people to go to the Orvis website. It shows the type of Orvis organizations around in your area and then go to that, see what that is. And then [01:32:30.091] go to Google, then go to the internet and search in for that.
But we're Chetola Resort in Blowing Rock, North Carolina. They can go online and book us. We just finally got on that train where people can go online and book from the comfort of their home 24 hours a day. We have a concierge so they can call in if they want to talk to a person. If they want to talk to me, they can call my number. If I'm not on the water, we'll go and I'll pick up the phone and answer. The only thing I like as much as fishing is talking about it.
Tom: Yeah, that's apparent. [01:33:00.104] They can find you in the Orvis website under Dustin Coffey.
Dustin: Yep, Orvis website, Dustin Coffey, Chetola Resort at, Chetola Fly Fishing. They can find me there. But be happy to get on the water with them and share some of the stuff that the Lord blessed me with, knowledge, and the other people that I've learned from over all my years of fly fishing.
Tom: All right, Dustin. Well, thank you so much. Really appreciate it. And again, I really look forward to [01:33:30.005] fishing with you next month.
Dustin: Me too, Tom. You got to make me sound good now.
Tom: Oh, don't worry about that. You don't need my help for that, Dustin.
Dustin: Just edit me in there so I don't [crosstalk 01:33:42.490]. I appreciate it a lot, Tom. I really appreciate your time. I thank you for calling me and I really do appreciate what you do.
Tom: All right. Well, thank you so much, Dustin.
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