The Complete Angler

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.

Additional Resources


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.

Comments on “The Complete Angler

    Eli on April 11, 2010 3:43 PM:

    Fantastic, can’t wait for some river time this spring.

    Arlo on April 11, 2010 3:44 PM:

    I fully expected ACL to be a cane rod purist.

    Exit Lines on April 11, 2010 3:54 PM:
    MB on April 11, 2010 4:00 PM:

    Got some practice in on a stocked lake 2 weekends ago – they were jumping out of the water, good to get outside.

    Drew on April 11, 2010 4:12 PM:

    If you find yourself fishing any of Michigan’s heralded trout streams (Au Sable, Manistee, Pierre Marquette, etc) – my recommendation for a Guide would be Hawkins Outfitters – they are excellent. Landed my first legit Brown on one of their trips last spring.

    Nick on April 11, 2010 7:11 PM:

    I was up in the Adirondacks last week and some folks were throwing lines around at the protected section of the Au Sable….got me itching, despite the crazy melt volume making it difficult to fish..

    Hawkins is good Up North, as Drew points out…personally I prefer the guys at Schmidts in Wellston.

    K.A. Adams on April 11, 2010 8:41 PM:

    You all might be interested in

    Gone Fishin' on April 12, 2010 12:49 AM:
    Tomtom on April 12, 2010 4:15 AM:

    Its not until you start to ware a tie outdoors that you realise just what practical outdoors ware they are, so good for keeping your neck warm.

    Happy fishing from the UK.

    Al the Unfazed on April 12, 2010 4:48 AM:

    Out West here in Oregon I’ve been fishing a Scott Fly Rod with a Ross Reel for almost a decade. Both are guaranteed for life and I’ve sent both back to Colorado for timely repair. Hard to find a setup with as much quality, balance, and class as these two in the under 400.00 dollar price range. Trout season has started here, but we’re still wearing our Pendelton Wool jackets buttoned to the top… Spring refuses to arrive. Tight Lines to all this season! Sincerely, Al the Unfazed in Portland

    JVK on April 12, 2010 10:58 AM:

    HA!! Love the post!!!
    boy that is a challenge to not wear a vest… i started out not wearing one, but i have amassed more stuff over the years and now wear a vest. maybe its time to strip down to the basics again.
    the Scott A series is great and is what i use. although i’d have to disagree with the felt sole boots as we have problems with invasive species being transported between water systems… rubber soles for me, sorry.

    Schimdts is the place if you are in michigan… great guys and always welcoming and helpful when you stop in the shop.


    BalsamLake on April 12, 2010 12:44 PM:

    You’re so right about the Leinenkugels. Here in Minneapolis it’s the definitive draft when heading for the streams and lakes of Western Wisconsin. And although the brewery has retained its character and culture, I hate to tell you that they’re owned by Miller, who is owned by South African Brewing. Oh well.

    Sarah on April 12, 2010 8:25 PM:

    Also, check out these stunning handmade fly rods:

    Parker on April 12, 2010 9:58 PM:

    JVK sounds like the man. There is no greater reassurance than having everything you could possible need (winter-summer) in a vest on your back. I also agree with the rubber sole boots. Unfortunately I am still in some felt boots, lacking budget at the momemt for a new pair. However, my boots are indeed Weinbrenners passed from my father’s late fishing buddy to him and onto me. They will last under extensive hiking whether it is in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison to Cheeseman canyon on the South Platte. Great post

    Richard on April 13, 2010 12:06 PM:

    Ah, the joys of standing in a river waving a stick! Those of you thinking of taking it up, there is no better reason to cruise e-bay as the sport can make a “gear hound” of the best of us and no man should have just one rod. It’s also a wonderful reason to “Buy American” because from rods and reels to waders, the USA makes the best hands down… and for if you are in the NYC metro area you’re lucky, as two hours northwest is the Catskills (birthplace of the sport in America basically) and then there is the strange attraction of fishing for stripers in sight of the Manhattan skyline! ( I use mostly Sage and sadly out of production Old Florida reels btw) Tight Lines!

    Daniel on April 13, 2010 9:49 PM:

    Catskills, huh, just keep heading north and hit the Adirondacks, drive through Lake Placid turn left at the bottom of the ski jumps and fish the Ausable river. That was my April-Sept haunt as a young man. Good trout too. To bad

    whereisthecool on April 14, 2010 5:59 AM:

    The absolute brand for flyfishing is SAGE guys..

    Chris Bryer on April 14, 2010 7:18 PM:

    It’s all about Hot Creek for me.

    Chris Bryer on April 14, 2010 7:20 PM:

    …and for you Cane rod guys you might try Winston Rods. They make cane and graphite. I have a few of their graphite rods and they are very soft and close to cane from a presentation perspective.

    Sage rods are great for windy days when you need more punch.

    David on April 20, 2010 1:56 PM:

    Scott A2 rod has been discontinued and it has been replaced by the newer A3. Winston makes excellent trout rods too. They’re truly and deeply rooted making trout fly rods and when people think fly fishing for trout, most people think Winston rods. Scott rods are very good but they’re not famous for pure trout fly fishing.

    JDG on April 21, 2010 9:22 AM:

    Glad to see you covering another outdoor sport. It’s a great time to discover (re-discover) fly fishing. In terms of rods, over the past 4-5 years there has been a resurgence of bamboo rod building and as a result there are some excellent rods being made at relatively reasonable prices. In fact, this may be the “golden age” of bamboo fly-rods. You don’t have to spend $2,000 – $3,000 on a rod from Orvis or Winston to get a nice bamboo rod. In fact, with a little time and research you can find rods made as well, if not better, than Orvis or Winston, for the price of a top shelf graphite rod. Of course, you can still spend big money on rods made by Bob Summers, John Pickard and others if the name on the rod makes a difference.

    Also, fiberglass is making a big comeback. It’s hard to believe that some glass rods are bringing $1,000 and up, but there are a handful of builders getting that much. Scott, Winston and Sweetgrass are making glass rods and there are also a number of smaller companies like Kettle Creek turning out really nice fiberglass blanks for less than $100 which can be built into beautiful rods for less than $250.

    Tight lines,


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