A couple years ago I went trout fishing in Iowa for the first time. My boss / fishing buddy took me over to the Second Avenue Bait Shop in Des Moines and told me to buy this book called “Iowa Trout Streams” by Jene Hughes. He being my boss I did as I was told. It turned out to be a good decision. Now, whenever friends ask me about trout fishing in Iowa, I always mention the book. Last month Jene spoke at the Trout Unlimited North Bear Chapter meeting, and I asked him to answer a few questions for Rod and Rivet.
What’s the best fishing advice you’ve ever been given?
1. The fish aren’t in the air; false cast only as much as you need to. I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve wanted to give up on clients I was guiding because they kept false casting as fish rose in front of them. Learn to shoot the needed line at once (double hauling is every bit as important at close distances in tight cover as it is for distance on big water). Scatter five large paper plates on your lawn and cast from one to another, making sure that your tippet lands on the plate and the piece of bright yarn, your fly, lands a foot and a half or two beyond the plate where it will drift across the previous rise (the plate). Practice side arm casting to get under willow branches. Adapting from the farthest plate to the nearest one can be tricky. Pick your targets at random and allow only the customary two false casts to dry your fly and build line speed.
What’s the draw to fly fishing for you?
2. The appeal of fly fishing, to me, is fooling fish into eating fur and feathers, so I love dry flies. To me, the excitement is not in fighting big fish I’ve hooked. I’s just as soon they get off after I get a good look at them (usually). At the water, I always wait, sometimes even sit, at likely looking spots and wait to see a rise. It’s amazing how often a fish will rise after two or three minutes (that’s a fish you would have scared away by being too eager. Even if you prefer nymphs, it’s good to know where a fish is. Often it stays in the same place; sometimes it’s moving around to pool, run, or riffle. Learn to relax and fish deliberately, if not leisurely. Leave aggression to the bass pro guys (or until you’ve mastered reading the water).
What’s your dream fishing destination?
3. Honestly, the Iowa/Minnesota/Wisconsin streams are my favorite destinations. I do want to fish Crane Creek in MO, and I hope to fish the Wisconsin Coulee Country soon. I’d love to spend a night at that cabin on Timber Coulee sometime. For high-profile destinations, you can’t beat the Railroad Ranch section of the Henry’s Fork of the Snake River near Last Chance, ID. It’s just a ways south of West Yellowstone. I’ve never fished the Southwest’s desert streams and would like to; I’d also like to take a pack trip just to get some riding in. The Bob Marshall Wilderness Area is high on that list, but I don’t do well with high cliffs (or even mountain roads). I’d look into Argentina’s searun browns (Mel Krieger does that annually) before considering New Zealand. Big-fish fans go north for salmon and steelhead, but I’m not them. Give me small, technical streams any day.
What’s one piece of fishing equipment an angler should invest extra money in?
4. I say this in my book: a warm, wind-breaking, waterproof jacket (they used to be called steelhead jackets) will let you fish comfortably on days you might not have fished at all. They cost $200 – $300, more than some good rods. At the other end of the spectrum, I always have three TyRite tools hanging on my vest. They let you hold and tie on flies of any size without mushing the hackle. And I always carry an Amadou. After releasing a fish, I shake the fly vigorously under water, squeeze it dry with the Amadou, shake it for a second or two in a little bottle of drying crystals, and spritz it with floatant. The whole thing takes 30 seconds, and your fly floats like new.
Besides being the author of “Trout Fishing in Iowa,” Jene is the owner of Second Ave Bait Shop, a Professor of English, and the Associate Editor of Eastern Fly Fishing, Northwest Fly Fishing, and Southwest Fly Fishing magazines. You can purchase his book here.