Author: TB

Top 10 Beers


OK…. if you’ve been following our blog, or our Instagram feed, or hopefully both, you’ve likely noticed beer somehow works its way into our pictures and conversations.  As a matter of fact, it’s one of our consistent questions of our fishing guides…. What is the best local beer and a local watering hole where we might find one?   It turns out that sometimes, there is a great local beer, but not a local watering hole to get one.  Often times, there is an awesome local watering hole, but not always do they have the “recommended” local beer.  Well, this post is focused on our fav beers…. look for a future post highlighting our fav watering holes.

A few caveats before giving you our Top 10.  First, we’re not into the current IPA craze, so most of the beers are of a darker, maltier, less hoppy variety.    Second, we drank some amazing brews at breweries that don’t distribute much beyond their brewery, so they didn’t make our Top 10 beers, but look for them to possibly show up on our fav places to drink beer.  Third, we drank some awesome beers along the trip, but to make the Top 10, we had to be able to buy the beer within 20 miles of where the SaraLinda was parked.   Mean Old Tom is a great example from Maine Brewing Company; it would definitely be a Top 10 beer, BUT, we couldn’t find it anywhere near where we fished in Maine.  Finally, we can only drink so much, so we KNOW we’ve left some great local beers off our lists.  However, given our local research and fly guide recommendations, these are our Top 10…. just view the video above to see if any of your favorites made our list!

For much of the past two years, we’ve been on our River Ramble, exploring trout streams across the USA.  All total, we’ve been on this journey for 487 days and have visited TU Greatest 100 trout streams in 26 different states.  In fact, we’ve now fished 95 of the Top 100 streams and 149 different trout streams in all.  I know what you’re thinking, you’re still 5 short, and indeed we are.  There is one more state we’ve yet to visit, Alaska.  While we are looking forward and already deep into planning our Alaska adventure to fish the final 5 (and a few more of course) of the TU 100, we wanted to take a moment to look back on this past two years.

As we’ve continued to discover, Its Not About the Fish…. its about the people we continue to meet along our Ramble.  We’ve been blessed to have fished with some of the best guides in the world on the best trout streams in the world.  In small villages and communities, we’ve met some great local fly shop owners and staff who’ve sent us to some off the beaten path fisheries that, while not TU Top 100 streams, easily could have been.  What we’ve enjoyed most have been guides, shop owners and community members who’ve befriended us, shared their stories with us and allowed us to see the rivers through their eyes and experiences.  We feel so lucky to have met each and every one.

Our tagline for our blog, “Fly fishing, food, friends and fun” has been just that.  We’ve sampled more than a few local brews, pubs, diners and dives along the way.  We’ve also had a great time visiting family and friends in Arizona, Indiana, Missouri and Montana…. rafting, zip lining, pickle ball, baseball, hiking and of course, fishing too.

Our “mothership”, the SaraLinda, has performed like a champ, taking us nearly 35,000 miles along this journey.  We’ve camped in state forests, state parks, national parks, Corps of Engineers campgrounds and even dry camped in amazing, remote locations.  The 180 sq. ft. we’ve been living in is dwarfed by the incredible outdoor expanse we’ve called home these two years.  Our backyards have been the Tetons, Yellowstone, Great Smoky Mountains, Appalachian Trail, Maine wilderness and stream side campgrounds in most every state we visited.

2016 was a great year and we posted up a “Year in Review” video for it last December.  We’ll be fishing numerous streams across the country in 2018 as well as the streams we’ll fish in Alaska, but for now, we wanted to share a look back at 2017.   We hope you enjoy this short music video and a few highlights from our 2017 River Ramble.

Fly Dogs II


As we settle in for the holidays, one of the things we’re always thankful for are the furry friends who we meet in fly shops and who often accompany us as we go fishing.  Last year we celebrated them with a “Fly Dogs” post and we’re reprising it again in our 2017 edition, Fly Dogs II.  We ran into many beautiful canines on our Ramble this year, but we decided to highlight these five.

We always love it when we walk into a fly shop and are greeted first by the shop dogs.  It was no exception when we walked into the Kern River Fly Shop in Kernville (CA) to meet up with Guy Jeans, owner/head guide, who we dubbed “Stonefly Guy” because of his band,  Stoneflys.  The first to greet us was Jackson Jeans (pic 1 above).   Excited doesn’t begin to describe Jackson as he jumped from Guy to Barb to me.

We had the same reception at A&G Outfitters in Dickson City (PA).  We met Adam Nidoh, our guide to fishing the “Urban Oasis” that is the Lackawanna River, in the parking lot of the shop.  When we went inside, we were met by Lucy, the fly shop dog.  After she said hello to Barb and me, she went back to relaxing in her favorite spot (see featured pic) as we went off to fish for the day.  Fly shop dogs are the best!

We met Sammy at the Fisheads Fly Shop in Navajo Dam (NM) as we finished paperwork for our float trip on the San Juan with Chris Taylor, “San Juan Streamin”.  Turns out, Sammy jumped in the truck with us and made the float down the river with us as well.  Sammy sat and watched as Chris rowed us downstream and sat up each time we hooked and landed a fish, never trying to get to it or getting in the way.  She was amazing and so much fun to have wth us.  She really liked one of the fish I caught too (see pic 2)!

It isn’t just float trips where we have these special friends join us.  We met our guide, Matt “Gilligan” Koles, Gilligan’s Guide Service, who showed us the Truckee River, at his home near Truckee before heading out to fish.  When we got to the parking spot and got out, he was joined by Elliot.  Matt asked us if we were ready to “bushwhack” a bit to get to some great holes, and of course we were up for it.  We encountered some great fish you can see in our post, “Gilligan’s Truckee”, but we had a blast watching and listening for Elliott as we waded the river.  He kept up with us every inch of the way and dutifully followed Barb and Matt as you can see (pic 3).

On our “Driftless Kick!” with Pete Cozad of Driftless Angler, we had the pleasure of meeting Pete’s dog, Teak (pic 4).  We watched as Teak ran and jumped to catch the frisbee Pete would throw on the grounds of The Sportsmens Club on the West Fork of the Kickapoo near Viroqua (WI).   What was so special was how Teak seemed to hang onto every word Pete was saying during our interview.  We’ve included a picture in this post, but to really see how Teak was listening, tune into “Driftles Kick!”.

Finally, a reprise of our favorite fly dog, Solomon.  You can see him in our 2016 post, “Fly Dogs” sitting on the welcome mat of TroutHunters Fly Shop in Island Park (ID) on the Henry’s Fork of the Snake.  Well, this year was even better.  We met Sue and Dud, Solomon’s owners and fishing buddies, to fish the Madison River on our “Madison Redux” with Steve Smith, Rivers Edge Fly Shop in Bozeman (MT).  The bite was on and it was an EPIC day of fishing, but what made it so special, was having Solomon with us.

Solomon LOVES to go fishing with Sue and Dud, and also LOVES to get in on the action when he can.  The picture above (pic 5) is one of our all time favorites.  You can see Sue downstream fishing and Dud (red cap) and Steve coming upstream following Solomon, who’d just jumped out of the boat and started running upstream to our boat.   Why?   Of course, we had a fish on!  When Solomon sees a bend in a rod, he’s on it.  We love fishing with Sue and Dud and always enjoy it when Solomon, our fav fly dog, comes along.

I”m sure when we get to Indy for Christmas, we’ll be heading to FlyMasters of Indianapolis fly shop for something.  We’re looking forward to being greeted by their shop dogs to wish them a Merry Christmas!

Ramble On!

The Driftless area is a region encompassing parts of southwestern Wisconsin, southeastern Minnesota, northeastern Iowa and northwestern Illinois.  The area got its name due to the lack of glacial deposits, “drifts”.  What this translates to is a region of deep carved river valleys with some of the best trout fishing in the midwest.   We first heard about this area from Jen Ripple, editor/founder of Dun Magazine when she spoke at the 2017 GRTU TroutFest.  Ever since, we’d been excited about fishing this region.

Our first stop in the region took us to Viroqua (WI) to fish the West Fork of the Kickapoo, our “Driftless Kick!” start.  We next went to an area near Rochester and Lanesboro (MN) to fish the Whitewater and Trout Run streams, two more fisheries that are a part of the TU Greatest 100 Trout Streams.  To be honest, the area around our campground reminded us a lot of where we grew up in the country outside Kansas City.  However, when we drove to meet our guide, Mike Lewellen, of Troutlaws Fly Fishing Guide Service and followed him to the Whitewater River, the “Driftless” landscape emerged before us.  Our day on the Whitewater was filled with beautiful brown trout at most every bend of the river.  As we finished our day on the Whitewater,  we talked with Mike about our guide trip on Trout Run in a couple of days, and asked him where else we might fish.  He recommended Ducshee Creek near Lanesboro (MN).

Later that day, back in the campground at Chester Woods, Mike dropped by the SaraLinda and as we talked more about fishing Duschee Creek, Mike indicated he’d like to show it to us…. what a treat!  The deal was struck, we’d meet Mike in Lanesboro, buy lunch and he’d show us Duschee Creek.  We met at the Root River Rod Company in downtown Lanesboro, a really cool little town and a VERY nice fly shop.  After spending some time in the shop and lunching on bison hotdogs, we headed out to fish Duschee Creek.  The creek was absolutely beautiful and it was a great pleasure fishing with Mike.  We all hooked into some gorgeous brown trout throughout the afternoon and came upon a unique flower bed as well.

The next day we headed to Trout Run.  I mean…. any stream named “Trout Run” has to be good…. right?  When we got to a small bridge near a couple of small farms, we saw three other cars parked alongside the road, obviously other fishermen.   Getting out of the car, Mike told us not to worry, there were miles of stream, in both directions from the bridge, full of trout.  We decided to head upstream a ways to begin our day.  After a morning of catching a few trout here and there, we headed back to the car and were met by the local dog who entertained us during lunch…. entertained meaning he really was hoping we’d share some lunch with him.

After lunch, we headed back up stream further to a hole Mike really wanted us to fish.  I have to tell you, the folks in the “Driftless” area, fishermen, landowners and the state, have struck a great deal in providing access to streams.   While landowners have their properties fenced, primarily for cattle, there are ladder crossings near all the streams so anglers can easily cross fences to continue moving up/down stream.  We were both so impressed with this cooperation on the part of everyone.

That afternoon on Trout Run, Barb schooled me but good!  She hooked into some big, gorgeous “Driftless” browns at several different runs along the stream.  At one point, I was stalking a far bank run for a few trout that kept rising, teasing me but not taking my dry fly when I heard both Barb and Mike yelling at me to come up and fish with them.  Little did I know that while I was stalking with little success, they were in a hole with some great fish.  I’ll move faster next time!

We had the distinct pleasure of fishing with Mike for three days in southeastern Minnesota on three different streams.  I’m sure a lot of fly fishermen take the drive along I-90 from Chicago and points further east and head west to fish in Wyoming and Montana.   I would highly encourage them, and all our midwestern friends, to make sure to stop in southwestern Wisconsin and southeastern Minnesota and fish the Driftless area streams.  We barely touched all the fishing opportunities available here.  Make sure if you do, you call Mike at Troutlaws and book at least three days to fish this amazing area.  We’ll for sure be coming back again!

PS  Yes, that’s a Pink Squirrel on my hat!  It’s a famous fly pattern in the “Driftless” area as it turns out.  I couldn’t resist buying and wearing it while we fished the area.

When we met our guide for the Little Red River, Jamie Rouse of Rouse Fly Fishing, we were experiencing conflicting emotions.  It was the last river of our River Ramble adventure in the lower 48 states we were to fish.  We were happy we’d made it this far but sad that this part of the adventure was coming to an end.

Like the Norfork, they’d not been generating at the dam, so, the water levels and flow in the river were low.  However, Jamie had just the spots for us to explore.  We jumped in his boat and headed upstream, fishing around weed beds, trying to lure hiding trout to our flies.  He asked us if we wanted the day to be “silly great” and given it was our last guide trip in the lower 48, we said “ABSOLUTELY!”  Hence, we started fishing with egg patterns which drew rainbows one after another to the boat.  Later, we jigged a bit, and threw streamers and hooked into some nice browns.

As we left the river, we chatted with Jamie on the ride back to our car.  He is one of the most knowledgable and fun guides you could ask for.  He kept us laughing all day, of course “silly” fishing and having tons of fun.  We’ll be back to fish with Jamie in the spring when the river comes back into good shape, but for now, we hope you enjoy our “Guide Talk” with him…. truck style!

We had fished the White River before, a couple of times, but, really looked forward to fishing it again with some of the team from Dally’s Ozark Fly Fisher in Cotter, AR.  Cotter lays claim to being  “Trout Capital USA”.  While Roscoe (NY), Bend (OR), Asheville (NC) and Craig (MT) might argue with them, Cotter is definitely a contender.  Indeed, there are two rivers nearby with some of the most and biggest trout in the lower 48, the White and the Norfork (the North Fork of the White River).

We first fished the White River with Larry McNair, who is a retired teacher and head basketball coach at Cotter High.  The other guides referred to Larry as the “Godfather” of the White because of the number of times he’s fished and guided on it.   We put the boat in at the Rim Shoals access point and proceeded to go upstream just a bit, before fishing both sides of the island at the boat ramp.  Barb caught a nice brown and we both hooked into numerous nice sized rainbows.  Throughout the day we talked fishing and basketball which was right up my alley.  As the day progressed, we caught several more healthy browns and a bevy of rainbows.  The White River was really good to us on a cold, rainy day.

The next day, we went to try our hand on a section of the Norfork with another Dally’s guide, Gabe Levin.  It was only a small section due to conditions in Norfork Lake which were producing off-color water and very low flows below the dam on the river.  It really wasn’t an ideal time to fish the Norfork River, but it’s a TU Top 100 stream, so, we were obliged to wet a line and see what we could do.  On our first drift down, we both hooked into a couple of small rainbows before Barb landed a beautiful Fine Spotted Cutthroat….. gorgeous fish!  At this point, realizing we could fish this small stretch longer, or, we could head back to the White and fish a different section, we made a no brainer decision, bring on the White again!

Gabe took us to several different spots both up and downstream of the confluence of the Norfork and White Rivers, including Buffalo Shoals.  We stopped counting pretty quickly as to the numbers of fish we’d brought to the boat.  While we didn’t find any of the big browns, we did just fine seeing a variety of sizes of colorful rainbows.

We chatted with Gabe over lunch on the river as eagles soared and squawked above us.  We only saw a couple of boats upstream where we’d gone to fish and have lunch.  His “guide talk” is a “twofer” combining the White and Norfork, with pics from both days sprinkled in.   Please take a look at the video to understand fully why Cotter is “Trout Capital USA”.

Rocky Tops!


Our last stop in Tennessee brought us to the Knoxville area to fish the Clinch River.  The chapter in the TU book regarding the Clinch didn’t paint a particularly positive picture of the river, so with some trepidation, we met our guide for the day, Michael (Rocky) Cox of Rocky Top Anglers at the boat ramp and prepared for our journey.

It was a foggy and very cold 27 degrees at the boat ramp when started the journey downstream on the Clinch.  However, the bit of gloom written in the TU book was very quickly dispelled as we started catching fish on a regular basis.  Beautiful rainbows abound in the Clinch and Rocky put us on them all day.  In the afternoon, the weather warmed up considerably…. as did Barb.  I don’t think Barb let a fish go by all afternoon without hooking and landing it.   When she was netting her fish, it was my chance to hook one;  she was on fire!

We had a blast fishing with Rocky and did a very unique interview with him.  While we’ve done interviews in boats on the banks of streams, we’d never done one while the guide was actually rowing… until now.  Please click on the video above and enjoy Rocky’s wit and wisdom as he rows us down the Clinch in Tennessee.

When we were planning our Tennessee swing through the Volunteer State, we also planned to meet up with James and Janice Kelley of Hendersonville, TN.   Our rendezvous location was Townsend, TN, a small town outside the “quiet” entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP).   James and Janice stayed in a little cabin at our campground while Barb and I were in the SaraLinda.  We met for dinner, caught up a bit and talked about plans, which first included fishing… at least for James, Barb and me.

James, Barb and I met the next morning and headed out to fish the Little River in GSMNP.  We met our guide, Chad Williams, at the “Y” in the park where you either go toward Gatlinburg or Cade’s Cove.  We had a great day of fishing in the park that’s chronicled in “Little River, Little Fish“.  As you can see in the gallery, James had a great day catching beautiful, small native rainbow trout.  Afterward, we headed back to the campground to hear how Janice’s day went and to head to dinner at the Trailhead Steak and Trout House in Townsend.   Great dinner and lots of fish stories and laughs to share, especially of James’ “river dance” and swimming session.  We even got a nice pic of James and Janice outside the restaurant with an old, spooky wagon.

While day one was all about the fishing, day 2 was all about touring GSMNP and the area.  We started inside the park, driving up to the Elkmont area which is rich with history, including the Appalachian Clubhouse pictured in the gallery above.  In the early 1900’s, the Little River Lumber Company began promoting this area as a resort.  A group of nearby civic leaders and businessmen created a clubhouse first as a sportsman’s club which morphed over time into a social club.  Its members included the elite of Knoxville.   The lumber company not only logged the area around Elkmont and the clubhouse, but also provided train service for members to travel to and from the area.

After we toured the Elkmont area, we slipped just outside the park into Gatlinburg.  After having a huge brunch at the Pancake Pantry, which was hopping at 10:45 in the morning, we took a few moments to explore town.  We visited some local stores before finding a nice spot for a quick Halloween/Fall pic in “the Village”.  Next, we headed up the mountain above town to view the damage done by the fires of a year ago.  You could still see the burned out homes, businesses and landscape and were amazed at how the fire jumped and moved about, scorching one spot before jumping over and ignoring others.

We took a different route back into the park, touring Pigeon Forge (TN), home of Dollywood.  The whole Gatlinburg / Pigeon Forge area reminded Barb and I of the Lake of the Ozarks area in southern Missouri.  As you drove down the main streets of each town, you saw restaurants, theaters, t-shirt shops, mini-golf courses, go-kart tracks, taffy shops, and more.  I’m sure both cities are bustling in summer with families, but this was late October and it was an “older” crowd, touring the area and enjoying the fall colors blanketing the mountains.

Our next stop was the Cade’s Cove section of GSMNP, one of the most visited spots in the park.   This valley was a thriving community in the early 1800’s with churches, mills and many families residing here.  Cade’s Cove contains more historic buildings than any other area of GSMNP.   Wildlife were abundant here as well, as we saw numerous turkey, deer and even a small bear jam (although the bear was already out of our sight).

When we got back to Townsend, we grabbed ice cream at the drive-in restaurant next to our campground, sitting out in the sun to keep warm.  Janice then led us to the river behind our campground causing James to grab his fly rod once again and yes, catching perhaps the smallest fish of the trip… maybe it was 2 inches long?  Maybe.  Afterward, we enjoyed dinner at a local Mexican restaurant, which for Tennessee, was actually pretty good.

Our last morning consisted of packing up, getting the SaraLinda ready to roll, and making a drive to the entrance to GSMNP for our obligatory picture in front of the park sign.  We had such a great time with James and Janice and are already looking forward to our next adventure with them.  This area of Tennessee is one we’ll be returning to visit again… great fishing, beautiful scenery and most importantly, great friends for sharing it all.  Thanks James and Janice!

We absolutely love fishing small rivers inside national parks so when we realized the “prongs” of Little River we’d be fishing were inside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP), we were excited.  What made it even more exciting was having James and Janice Kelley join us in Townsend, TN for our time in and around the park.

We met our guide, Chad Williams, of The Smoky Mountain Angler at the “Y” just inside GSMNP.  We’d already “wadered up”so after talking about our day, we headed up toward Tremont, and a prong of the Little River.   When Chad picked a good spot for us both to pull over, we parked the cars and hiked across a bridge to some holes just downstream.

Given that we were wade fishing a small stream, we were spread out on the river, sometimes out of sight of one another.  Chad did a great job of finding good looking water for each of us and within a short time, we were all catching beautiful, small, wild rainbow trout.  We would “creek stomp” to another hole, usually upstream, and more often than not hook into at least one more of these native fish.

After a great morning of catching Little River little rainbows, we headed to the main prong of the river to see if we could hook into something a bit bigger.  We scrambled down steep hillsides, did a bit of bushwhacking, and carefully navigated slippery boulders in the river, but, never could find that “big one”.  Barb and I hooked into a few, but James lived up to his fly fishing nickname, “Hot Stick” as he continued to catch several small rainbows in each hole he explored.   After a great day stompin’ around in the “prongs” of the Little, we headed back to the campground to meet up with Janice and head to the steakhouse.

We had the pleasure of floating and fishing the Hiwassee with Jeff Sharpe of Southeastern Anglers, and we were about to meet up with him again, this time to fish the Tellico.  Our meeting spot was the local Hardee’s in Tellico Plains, which was really hopping on a Sunday morning at 9am.  We grabbed biscuits for breakfast and headed up the Cherohala Skyway along the Tellico River.  At River Road, the Tellico splits off the Skyway, so we did as well, traveling up River Road right beside the river.

This is a “creek stompin” kind of river, with boulders strewn about, small pocket water and some deep plunge pools.  We hit a spot where the North River joins the Tellico, fishing some of the swift pockets before heading upstream.  We stopped at a gorgeous plunge pool and on one of my first casts of a nymph rig, my strike indicator went down.  When I pulled on the line to see if it was a fish or bottom, it just stuck there.  I assumed it was bottom and tugged it a bit more and it came out… Whew!  But not so fast Jeff said… and of course, when we ran it through that exact spot numerous times, it never got stuck again… so… it was likely a very big fish.  I would love to have seen it, but not this day and off we went.

The road above us was closed near the fish hatchery due to a plane crash that had occurred in early October.  A Navy training plane with two aboard had crashed near the hatchery and the road we were on was closed about two miles below it along the river.  We came to the barricade in the road and decided to park and walk up a ways to check things out.  We again found some nice pocket water and began to pull a few fish out, nice ones too.  Jeff had a glimmer in his eye when he recommended we go have lunch and come back up above the barricade after lunch.

As we were walking out, just past the barricade, a couple of guys pulled up beside us and asked us how fishing was going.  Jeff told them that the fishing up above the barricade wasn’t going well but down lower on the river was good.  He was trying to control his smile as he gave this advice to the two guys in the Jeep, knowing that fishing upstream was turning on.

After a great lunch of smoked chicken, potato salad, beans, and, yes again, Apple pie, we headed back to the barricade, parked, and started walking upstream.  This time, we walked further than before and found a long run below a patch of swift water.  Jeff indicated he wanted to go down and look at it first, but Barb and I couldn’t resist and followed him down.  As we all peered out into the water, we saw several fish, let’s say three or four, hanging out right below where we were standing.

In our best stealth mode, Jeff and I hiked about 30 feet below the fish, carefully stepped into the stream, crossed it and very quietly slid back upstream to a spot where we could cast to those three or four fish.  After getting our dry/dropper rig set…. a parachute adams with a tactical pheasant tail dropper, I started making casts toward the fish.  BOOM… fish on… next cast….  BOOM fish on… next cast…. well, you get the picture.  The run we were standing in was full of fish.

I fished the hole for a while before coaxing Barb out to fish it a while as well.  Amazingly, we fished the hole for quite a while using only that same parachute adams and same pheasant tail nymph.  We caught one on the adams and as folks in certain parts of Georgia say…. “I don’t believe I said” how many fish we caught on the pheasant tail.  Put it this way, it was enough that we used the “E” word to describe the day…. “Epic!”

When finally, the pheasant tail nymph was a down to a bead, a hook and a few scraggly strands of fibers, a fish took it and we broke off.  It was a sign to call it a day.  When we got back to our cabin, we sat down with Jeff to chat about our day on the Tellico.  You won’t want to miss this video which details our “E” day on the Tellico.