April 1 is the beginning of trout season here in New York. Conditions don’t really pick up until later in the spring, but that doesn’t stop the faithful from lining the banks for a crack at the first fish after a long winter.
Here are the essentials for your time on the river—note the absence of the dreaded vest. Unless you are an accomplished guide or a decade-long member of AARP, you are forbidden to wear one.
Most exalted makers are blindly devoted to their high-end rods at the expense of their value line. Not so Scott. The Montrose, CO company does right by those who rightly expect a $300 rod to do what’s asked of it.
Trout are the gentlemen of fish—some anglers even wear ties, out of respect, while pursuing them. We don’t go that far, but the selective species are perhaps the most dignified ambition in the fishing pantheon.
Hardy’s, the venerable English reel maker, recently moved much of their production to Korea, inspiring righteous anger in some quarters worthy of an ACL message board smack-down. We’re partial to Ross, which makes dependable reels closer to home, like the large-arbor Evolution.
We never gave much thought to protective shirting until we got off the river one day and our chest was scorched red. We slunk in sunburned shame to our Filson catalog. As usual, the Seattle mainstay had anticipated our every oversight—their SPF 50 featherweight shirt travels widely and well.
Based in Bozeman, Simms defines the wader market. Their more elaborate offerings may have too many bells and whistles-we stick with the lightweight Blackfoot, streamlined and easy to pack. When the river gets cool, don’t be heroic, keep your priorities in order and don the long underwear.
To each his own single malt—we go for any classy Islay ourselves. But when you pass a flask around the boat you’re not supposed to meditate on notes of peat, you’re supposed to warm up. You need something uncomplicated and reassuring, probably a blend, J&B fits the bill.
The bible of navigation, trusted by anglers across the country. Comprehensively details every dirt road and backwater stream in every state—the only unequivocally correct fishing guidance you’ll ever get.
Does this look comical? Does it amuse you? Scoff not at the caddis, a pillar of the dry fly craft. Where sound tactics begin and end: Simple, trusted, indispensable.
Rio is one of the admirable companies that does something small and does it well: they make fly lines, leaders and tippet material. It turns out that’s not minor at all. They’re responsible for nearly everything that connects angler to fish, allowing, as the great Robert Hughes says, ‘a jerk on one end to feel a jerk on the other.’
You can’t drink whisky for eight hours if you intend to catch fish—that’s why they invented beer. At the risk of setting off the Miller’s partisans—you know who you are—Leinenkugel’s, pride of Chippewa Falls, WI, is our beer of choice for a long day on the river, even in Miller’s backyard.
Go with felt bottom boots if you spend a lot of time in small streams and with spikes if you’re in bigger waters. Too many modern boots look like they belong on the moon—if you’re going to wade in rivers, wade in Weinbrenner.
DAN BAILEY’S: A legend in its own time, Bailey’s was founded in 1938 and never surpassed. The Livingston store was one of the pioneering Montana outfitters, and now has a comprehensive catalog.
BLUE RIBBON FLIES: When you have questions in West Yellowstone—as is likely when you’re strategizing about the Upper Madison—they have answers and an invaluable e-newsletter.
Like a dependable men’s store professional a good guide should be widely learned and offer sound advice when asked. Other virtues will vary, but good ones accept a drink when offered.
VERLON HERNDON: A wise man from Oklahoma and an expert carpenter. Your man if you want to float the Salmon, north of Ketchum.
ERIC THORSON: A Seattle Mariners devotee who, if challenged, will drink more beer than you. The last word on the Big Hole, the legendary Montana river. Also has access to private water should you want to fish creeks less traveled.