Where did you grow up?
I was born in Eau Claire, WI, but spent the majority of my childhood in Hudson.
When did you start fly fishing?
Did you conventional fish before fly fishing?
Yes, I did quite a bit of conventional fishing before I began fly fishing. I would sight fish for trout using worms and fathead minnows.
What attracted you to fly fishing?
My brother bought a 7’6 3wt. He tried it first for bluegills, and then insisted on me trying it for trout. We weren’t that impressed with how fly fishing worked, after all we were already catching fish with spinners and live bait. It wasn’t until my good friend and fishing partner, Jerry Khang, invited us to the driftless region that I began to realize how much fun fly fishing could be. Even though we struggled to cast fifteen feet, we were fortunate enough to still catch fish with #18 parachute adams. From then on, I sought to learn as much as I could about fly fishing, and worked hard to become a better angler.
Do you remember your first brown over 20″ in the Midwest.
I caught my first 20” on opening day of my second year fly fishing. My good fishing partner Jerry and I went fishing near Viroqua, with the goal of catching a fish over the mythical 20”. Thankfully, we were successful on our first day, and I finally laid hands on my first. It wasn’t until three months later that I was able to catch my second 20” brown from my home waters. I came to realize the effort and skill that catching big fish requires. I was intrigued by the challenge, and became motivated to show others that fly anglers are just as capable of catching large inland trout in the Midwest.
What weight rod do you usually fish?
I use a 5 weight, fast-action rod.
What is your leader and tippet size for streamers?
My leader is usually 10 to 12 feet. I use a 9 ft tapered 1x leader and attach another three feet of 1x tippet.
What is your leader and tippet set up for nymphs?
The majority of my nymphs are tied with tungsten, so I generally do not change my leader set-up.
Strike Indicator or no strike indicator.
I use one if I am trying to manipulate the drift in fast-moving water or larger pools, where it is necessary to keep a tight connection to the flies and mend properly. This helps to slow the drift in order to reach the required depth. I will also use one in pressured water where the fish have been well-educated, and their takes are subtle.
How long on your streamer set up is it from your fly line to your fly?
I prefer anything between ten and twelve feet.
Sink tips or no sink tips?
I’ve used 5ft slow-sink polyleader before, but didn’t find it to be any more effective than a standard mono leader. Efficiency is essential, and if you’re throwing sink tip you are limited to certain presentations. I like having the ability to throw dries, nymphs, and streamers without sacrificing too much time.
Fluoro or Mono?
I prefer mono, because it’s cost effective, and performs just as well as fluoro, if you frequently check for any line abrasion and periodically retie your knots.
Heavier flies or lighter flies.
One of the perks of tying your own flies is that you can cater them to your fishing style and the particular fish you are trying to catch. I have flies for almost every scenario, whether I am fishing 6 inches of water or more than 5 feet of water. Not all large trout will be found actively feeding in deep water, so it’s important to carry a variety of nymphs and streamers with different weights.
What is your favorite time of year for finding these big fish?
March through May, as well as August through October.
What is your favorite kind of water to fish for these big trout? Low water? High Water? Small? Big? Lesser known?
It takes a combination of factors, but high water and lesser known streams are where you will encounter the most actively-feeding fish.
What are your favorite three patterns for big browns?
Two of my own flies, which have yet to be named and quite effective, are an articulated mouse (about 3 inches), and a fly that landed me my personal best (#6 olive/blue/black nymph). Last, but not least, the infamous Sex Dungeon.
What kind of set up in a river are you looking for to find these big fish?
There is a combination of things I key into. An area providing overhead cover, as well as an escape route where the fish can completely conceal itself from danger (undercuts, roots, log jams). An area where the fish can hunt larger prey (shallower runs or tailout) or easily slide into a main funnel. The most productive areas I’ve encountered have those characteristics within 30 yards of each other.
How long will you work on one fish if you know he is there?
The amount of time I’ve spent has ranged from 15 minutes up to 3.5 hours, where I made roughly 20 drifts on the fish. The majority of the time was spent analyzing the mood of the fish and then deciding what drift/fly was needed if a streamer produced no reaction. I’ve lost more battles than I’ve won, but each fish I’ve encountered has taught me something new, and inspired me to tie something that would best fit the scenario.
If you could give piece of advice to someone aspiring to catch a 22+ inch brown in the midwest what would it be?
Overcast, windy days are the best to be on the water. Being stealthy is extremely important; wade and walk slow when you’re approaching areas that might hold a big fish. Take the extra time to slow down and keep a close eye on the water instead of just casting blind. If you happen to find a giant, I urge you to try hunting it; chances are good it won’t be moving far. Hunting fish has taught me where I need to improve, whether it be finding the best approach without being seen, casting, or even being there at the right time. Remember, there is no way to cheat experience and time on the water.