June 29, 2022

Tom Rosenbauer - The Orvis Guide to Fly Fishing

Tom and I discuss flyfishing gear and flies, his own podcast at The Orvis Guide to Fly Fishing, ocean fly fishing and the best places to fly fish in southern Florida and what fish you can catch.


Disclaimer: Unedited AI transcript

Announcer (00:06):

You are connected and you are listening to specifically for seniors, the podcast, for those in the remember when generation today's podcast is available everywhere you listen to podcasts and with video at specifically for seniors YouTube channel. Now here's your host, Dr. Larry Barsh

Larry (00:35):

In his 1653, treatise on fishing entitled the complete angler Isaac Walton wrote for angling may be said to be so like the mathematics that it can never be fully learnt, at least not so fully, but that there will still be more new experiments left for the trial of other men that succeed us. We have with us today on specifically for seniors, the man who must have been the one that Walton referred to the man that created the Orvis guide to fly fishing, the one and only Tom Rosen. Bower. Welcome to specifically Fass. Tom.

Speaker 3 (01:22):

Thank you, Laurence. Is, should I call you Laurence or Larry?

Larry (01:25):

Larry is best.

Speaker 3 (01:27):

Okay, Larry as a matter of fact, I had to read the complete angler in a, a early English literature class in college. And I, I found it to be one of the most boring fishing books I've ever read. I don't think I even finished it

Larry (01:42):

Well, to be honest, I got through the sample that <laugh> Amazon sent

Speaker 3 (01:49):


Larry (01:52):

But it just seemed, it seemed good for an introduction.

Speaker 3 (01:57):

Yeah, they probably, they probably just gave you the good parts.

Larry (02:01):

Just the first three pages or so what's your story, Tom? How did you become interested in fly fishing?

Speaker 3 (02:09):

Well, I, I always fish with my dad. My dad liked to fish and my dad liked to fish with worms, you know, sitting along the bank of a, of a pond. I think it was an excuse to go out and drink a couple beers. He didn't drink very much, but he liked to have his beer and we'd sit there and and catch catfish or white bass. And I got kind of bored with sitting there. And so I started running around catching frogs and, you know, the kid things that kids do looking for turtles and something, a little more action packed and continued to fish with my father. And then I, I saw God knows where maybe on the American sportsman TV show, your, your listeners would remember the American sportsman. A lot of the people I talk to never heard of it, but, but your, your audience would, and I saw fly fishing and I saw it in magazines and I thought it looked interesting.

Speaker 3 (03:09):

So I just went down to the Western auto and bought myself a $20 fly rod. My father, who was a child of the depression was horrified that I spent $20 on a fishing rod and hacked my way through it. There, you know, there were no videos, there were no podcasts. Then there were, there was no way to learn except books, if you didn't know someone. And I didn't really know anybody that fly fished. And so I struggled for years and you know, in my, in my teaching, because now I'm an educator, I, I try to never forget what it was like to be a, an 11 or 12 year old trying to struggle through figuring this fly fishing thing out so that I can better explain it to people, how to do it.

Larry (04:04):

Where did you live as a kid?

Speaker 3 (04:06):

I lived in Rochester, New York. I grew up in Rochester, ran right on lake Ontario.

Larry (04:12):

Okay. There's the reason mm-hmm, <affirmative>, mm-hmm <affirmative> you mentioned before you had your own podcast and you take questions from listeners.

Speaker 3 (04:21):

I do. Yeah. I have a weekly podcast. It's called the Orvis fly fishing podcast and it's become pretty popular. I'm been doing it for over 10 years. I've got, I'm just about to hit 20 million downloads. So it's, you know, it's been popular over the years and people, people ask questions and I answer 'em, I always have a guest as well. So it's a two part, the first part, I answer questions. And then I have a guest on the podcast.

Larry (04:54):

And what do people email you, or

Speaker 3 (04:58):

They email me or they'll attach a voice file and I'll read it, I'll read it on the next podcast. If it's something that, you know, I think is, is interesting enough to, to play for the listeners.

Larry (05:10):

Okay. For someone who wants to get started with fly fishing, mm-hmm, <affirmative>, let's talk some gear.

Speaker 3 (05:17):


Larry (05:18):

<Affirmative> choosing a first fly rod.

Speaker 3 (05:21):

Well, people think people think it's a is expensive and B you need a whole bunch of gear. And neither of those is, is really true. You do wanna spend, you do wanna spend probably between a hundred, $200 for your first outfit. Anything less than that, and you're go, you're gonna get something that's not, not really gonna perform well. It's, it's gonna be more of a struggle. So you need, you need to spend that much money, but, you know, I tell people it's, you know, it's like a, it's like a, a sixth or a seventh or an eighth, the cost of your smartphone, which only lasts you a couple years, whereas spend 150, 200 bucks on a, on a fly ride. It could last you for your lifetime. You know, if you take care of it,

Larry (06:12):

What, what do you look for in a fly

Speaker 3 (06:15):

Ride? You know, you, you wanna look for a, a brand that you, that you trust. I mean, just like just like buying any other consumer product. You wanna go online and read some reviews and, and look for a brand that you trust or go to a fly shop. You know, there are, there are fly shops in nearly every city, even places where there isn't much fly fishing around go into a fly shop and, and ask the people in the fly shop for some help say, I'm starting out. This is where I'm gonna fish in a lake, or I'm gonna fish in a stream, whatever I'm gonna fish in the ocean in shallow water. What do I need and give 'em a budget, you know, say I only wanna spend a couple hundred bucks, so what do I need? And if you walk into a fly shop and they ignore you because you're a beginner, it used to happen a lot. It doesn't anymore. People are a lot more service oriented than just walk out, just go somewhere else. There's no excuse for it. There's no excuse for it. You shouldn't be intimidated just because you're a novice. When you walk into a fly shop

Larry (07:29):

And a real,

Speaker 3 (07:31):

Yeah, you need a, you need a rod, you need a real, and you need a line. So it's like any other kind of fishing, except the line is, is more of a permanent piece. It's the line is weighted, even though it may, the line may float. And it usually does. It's got some weight to it because it's actually the mass of the line that you're casting as opposed to the mass of a lure. So the line needs to, to bring out the action of the rod. The rod is like a, a coiled spring. And when that rod bends in a proper way with that line pulling on it, then your cast goes out properly. And then you have, what's called a leader on the end of the line, which is fishing line, basically clear, you know, regular, old fishing line, that's tapered. And then that's your kind of more or less invisible connection between that heavy fly line and the, the fly that you're presenting or the lure, you know, the fly is nothing more than a lure.

Larry (08:32):

Do you need waiters? And

Speaker 3 (08:35):

That's the thing that, yeah, that's the thing that intimidates people, cuz waiters, waiters are problematic. You know, the, the fit needs to be right. They're waterproof pants and they're gonna wear out and they're, they're kind of, they're kind of bulky. Although the modern breathable ones are pretty good, but if you're fishing, let's say you're fishing in Florida. If you, as long as you're not fishing during a cold front in the middle of winter, you don't need waiters. If you're even if you're, if you're fishing in Montana in the middle of the summer, you don't need waiters. People do, what's called waiting wet and waiting wet is just a pair of quick dry pants. You do need, if you're fishing in a stream, you do need waiting shoes. Because the, the bottoms of streams can be slippery and you need a felt or rubber with studs on the bottom of those. So you don't slip and fall. But if you're fishing say the beach in, in Florida, you know, you're fishing for Snook along the beach, which is a really good thing to do this time of year in Florida. You're gonna go barefoot with some shorts or quick dry pants.

Larry (09:45):

I didn't know you could ocean fish with flies.

Speaker 3 (09:48):

Oh my God, it's one of the, it's one of my passions I just got from Cape back from Cape 10 days on Cape Cod with my family and I fish for Stripe bass every morning on the beach and saltwater fly fishing is, is, you know, everybody thinks it's just for trout and that, that may have been true at one time, but you can fly fish for a bass and you can fly fish for panfish or brim. Sunfish can fly fish for catfish in certain circumstances, pike Tarpin bone fish, nearly anything that'll eat an insect or a bait fish will take a fly.

Larry (10:29):

Oh, I miss the Cape. I'm from Boston.

Speaker 3 (10:33):

Oh yeah. Yeah. I just, I love the Cape. I just, I love the

Larry (10:36):

Cape. I just miss being down there. I miss the Cape in the winter. Great, great time. Time of the year. Yeah.

Speaker 3 (10:45):

The fishing's not so good in the wintertime,

Larry (10:47):

But no, but the restaurants are open <laugh>

Speaker 3 (10:50):

Yeah, yeah. And you can get a, you can get a seat <laugh>

Larry (10:56):

I think the most intimidating part of fly fishing of the flies themselves. Yes. How do you, how do you pick the right fly?

Speaker 3 (11:06):

Well, people, people agonize over the fly choice, Larry, and it's almost always the, the way you present the fly is almost always more important. So the, the, my recommendation is to either go into that same fly shop where you got the rod or go online, use, use the Google machine and type in best flies for Florida in June or best flies for Montana in may, you'll find some recommended lists. But you know, going into a fly shop is really, is really the best or going online to someplace like Orvis, you know, Orvis has technical people on the telephone or via chat on the website that are, that are perfectly capable of recommending a dozen flies for wherever you're gonna go fishing. So there's a lot of help. There's a lot of help and a lot of knowledge out there,

Larry (12:06):

I guess it depends on the type of fish, the location, the season. Absolutely.

Speaker 3 (12:11):

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. It, it depends. They do vary. It's just like, you know, just like baits when you're, when you're bait fishing or spinning lores. When you, when you spin fish, there's different lores that work better in different waters and for different species. And it's the same with flies. They're just another lore or lure.

Larry (12:31):

Do I have to learn to tie my own flies?

Speaker 3 (12:34):

You don't, but it adds a lot to it. I I've always tied my own flies and I still do, even though I could get on my flies for free based on where I work, but I, I don't have a, I have thousands and thousands of flies. And every one of the flies I have is one that I tied myself because I enjoy it. And it's it brings me closer to it. It adds another dimension, but there lots of people don't, don't have to, you don't have to tie your own flies.

Larry (13:08):

There's a fluidity and an aesthetic to fly fishing. Mm-Hmm <affirmative> that you just don't see in any other form of fishing. It's almost zen-like

Speaker 3 (13:21):

<Laugh> yeah, there's, there's a little, and the casting is probably the most casting in knots. The knots that you need are the most intimidating things. Actually, you only need a couple knots. And probably if you're, if you do any kind of fishing, you probably already know the knots that you need. It's just to tying, tying your fly onto the, onto the leader. But the casting is a different motion and it does take some, some practice and muscle memory. It's you know, it, I liken to, to use an analogy spin fishing is like miniature golf and fly fishing is a little bit more like, like normal. I'm not a golfer, but normal golf where you need to, you need to have either some lessons or you need to practice first before you go out on the, the green or whatever you call 'em the golf course. <Laugh>, as you can see, I'm not a

Larry (14:15):

Golfer, I'm not a

Speaker 3 (14:16):

Golfer either. So, but you can pick, anybody can pick up a spin rod and, you know, throw it out there and, and catch fish. Anybody can play miniature golf pretty much. I even, I can play miniature golf, but I couldn't go out on a, on a regular golf course without some practice. And so you need to, it, it takes some hand eye coordination and muscle memory. So you need to practice the casting motions.

Larry (14:41):

Is there any technique that you can describe without visually illustrating it? I mean, what's the motion of a flight.

Speaker 3 (14:51):

The motion is, is too, too abrupt accelerations to a stop with a little pause in between. So you, the line has to go behind you before it goes in front of you. There's, what's called a back cast and a forward cast, and you have to lift that line off the water and make an abrupt stop so that it unrolls behind you. And then once that, as soon as that line unrolls behind you and is straight and parallel to the ground, it's a hammering motion. It's almost like you initiate it with your forearm and then flick your wrist a little bit. And then the line will unroll in front of you and drop to the water.

Larry (15:36):

Are there lessons online or

Speaker 3 (15:38):

There's millions of lessons online? There's, there's endless, endless fly casting videos. Yes, lots and lots and lots. And there' schools. For instance, the Orvis retail stores we have about 70 of them. And then we have about 300 independent dealers that sell Orvis. A lot of them have what's called fly fishing 1 0 1 classes and they're free they're Saturday mornings. I think they're almost over for this season now. But they're free and you just go in for two hours and you get the basics of how to cast a fly red.

Larry (16:16):

Are there any Orbis locations down in Southern Florida that you know of?

Speaker 3 (16:21):

Not in SU there are some dealers in Southern Florida. The only, the only Orison retail store we have is in Dustin in the, up in the panhandle. But there are some good dealers. There are some good dealers in Southern Florida.

Larry (16:38):

Okay. Since we're based in Florida, since the podcast is based in Florida, mm-hmm, <affirmative> talk about fly fishing in Southern Florida.

Speaker 3 (16:49):

Oh, I love it. I love it. There, there are lots of things that you, that you can do, and I've fished quite a bit in Florida. In fact, I used to go on an annual Tarpon fishing trip with a friend of mine who lives in Florida. He has a boat and, and we would go chase a big, you know, big, a hundred pound Tarpin with a fly rod,

Larry (17:11):

With a fly rod,

Speaker 3 (17:12):

With a fly rod yep. With a fly rod. And that was one of my favorite things to do every year, because it's so different from the trout fishing I do here in Vermont, or when I go to Montana or Wyoming you know, the fish are big. It's more of a physical thing. But they're hard. They're tough. But on the other hand, you have things like, you know, small Snook and speckled sea trout and red fish, all of those fish will readily take a fly. And one of the most fun things to do, I mentioned briefly this time of year when the Snook are spawning along the beaches and running the Sandy beaches is to just, just walk the beach with a fly route and look for, and look for Snook right in the, in the wash right along the, the edge of the shoreline.

Larry (18:07):

And I guess bone fish down on the keys,

Speaker 3 (18:10):

Bone fish are a wonderful fish with a fly ride bonefish and permit permit are a lot more difficult. The keys bonefish are actually pretty tough because they're, they're, there's a lot of fishing pressure on them. Bone fish are easier in The Bahamas or in places like Belize in Mexico. But they're, the bonefish are coming back for a while. The population, the keys was pretty low, but the fish are coming back in pretty good shape.

Larry (18:40):

What about freshwater fishing down here? Oh

Speaker 3 (18:43):

Yeah. Fantastic opportunities large mouth bass, which you have, you know, some of the biggest bass in the country sunfish bluegills brim and then a really fun thing to do is to fly fish for peacock bass in the canals, you know, in Southern, in extreme Southern Florida, where you have these invasive, exotic peacock bass they'll take a fly extremely well. And they're a lot of fun on fly rod.

Larry (19:13):

So the canals are good for fishing.

Speaker 3 (19:15):

Yeah. The canals can be really good for peacock bass and, and small tarpons sometimes if they're connected to the ocean,

Larry (19:23):

But I guess not good for eating from the canals.

Speaker 3 (19:27):

I don't know. I don't, I don't eat, I don't eat Tarpin or peacock bath, so

Larry (19:33):

I'm not, we we use so many pesticides and round up that

Speaker 3 (19:40):

It's yeah, I wouldn I wouldn't eat anything from the canal, but it, it's not about catching something to eat really. You know, it's about going out there and, and being immersed in the environment and, you know, you have to, you have to kind of figure out what the fish are eating, cuz you're trying to imitate what they're eating. So most of the time in Florida, it's either a, a small shrimp or a small bait fish and Snook eat both shrimp and bait fish. So you use a fly that looks kind of like a shrimp or kind of like a little bait fish peacock bass will they're, they're pretty aggressive. They'll take about anything. And then large mouth bass in lakes something that looks like a frog or a, you know, you know, just to try to imitate the, the stuff that they're, they're eating and try to make it behave, like the stuff that they're eating. So you really get a more immersed in the environment. You're just not throwing something out there and waiting for something to happen. With fly fishing, you're always moving. You're always looking, you're always observing. And so it's, you know, it's, it's, it's got a lot to it.

Larry (20:54):

What, what didn't we talk about that people should know?

Speaker 3 (21:00):

Well, they, they shouldn't, they shouldn't give up on it. The casting, the casting can be a challenge, but it's not. If someone has decent hand eye coordination in a couple days, or, you know, a day with a day of practice, you can get good enough to catch a bass or a smoke or, or a peacock bass. It doesn't, doesn't have to be pretty. You just have to get the fly out there in front of you. And one of the best ways I think to start fly fishing is to find a dock or a shoreline where there's some sunfish, some, you know, cuz they're really easy to catch. They'll eat just about anything and just put a small fly on there and find a place where you can actually see the sunfish and then just, just hack away and get the fly out there somehow. However you can in front of the sunfish and Twitch it a little bit and, and watch their reaction and they can be, it can be a lot of fun. Oh, they're very forgiving. And that's one of the easiest ways to start.

Larry (22:09):

Ah, you've got me anxious to fish again. <Laugh>

Speaker 3 (22:13):

Yeah, there are a lot, there's so many opportunities in Florida in, in fresh and salt water, even Gar even Gar in the, the canals, you see the Gar coming up and surfacing and they will, they will take a fly. What most people use is a piece of yarn from a, like a polypropylene rope and they tie it to a hook and the Gar teeth gets stuck in the yarn cuz they're, they're very hard to hook their bit bony, bony mouth. But but they, you throw the yarn out there and the teeth gets stuck in the yarn and then you can land them

Larry (22:47):

<Laugh> and pretty much all of the gated communities have the retention ponds.

Speaker 3 (22:52):

Yeah. And there there's some kind of fish in all of them. You just gotta go out there and see,

Larry (23:02):

What's talk a little bit about Orvis mm-hmm <affirmative> great. You have multiple videos on all techniques on Orvis.

Speaker 3 (23:14):

Yeah. Yeah. We have videos on catching bass and carp and saltwater fish. We have what's called the learning center which is how to fly fish.orvis.com and it's all video based or mostly video based has casting lessons in there. How to tie the knots, how to pick the right fly has all those things video based. And then we have also have lots of videos on YouTube.

Larry (23:44):

Do you wanna mention that URL again?

Speaker 3 (23:48):

Yeah. It's howto fly fish.orvis.com all one word. How to fly fish.orvis.com

Larry (23:56):

And Orvis naturally sells online as well.

Speaker 3 (24:03):

Oh we can fix you up <laugh> oh, absolutely. We can fix you up. Orvis is actually the oldest direct merchant or mail used to be used to call 'em mail order companies. Now we don't call 'em mail order companies. The oldest surviving direct merchant in the United States at the company started in 1856 making fly rods and we still make fly rods here in Vermont.

Larry (24:30):

Tom, this has been great. There are so many questions we could talk about, but <laugh> I think we, we covered a lot of information that newcomers to fly fishing will want to know.

Speaker 3 (24:46):

I hope so. And I hope people aren't intimidated because it's really it. It's not that hard. Larry, it takes a little practice, but, but people should not be intimidated by all the gear and all the flies. You can keep it really simple with just a box of flies in your pocket and a rod, a reel align in a leader and go out on a dock and catch fish with it.

Larry (25:13):

Tom. Thanks for being on specifically for seniors. I really enjoyed our conversation.

Speaker 3 (25:19):

Well, thank you, Larry. It's it is been a pleasure. I always, as you can tell, I always love talking about fly fishing and I love working with beginners. So I hope that I hope that I've encouraged some people to try it out.

Larry (25:32):

Thanks again, Tom.

Speaker 3 (25:34):

All right. Larry byebye,

Announcer (25:38):

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Tom RosenbauerProfile Photo

Tom Rosenbauer

Tom Rosenbauer has been with the Orvis Company for 44 years, and while there has been a fishing school instructor, copywriter, public relations director, merchandise manager, and was editor of The Orvis News for 10 years. He is currently their chief marketing enthusiast, which is what they call people when they don’t know what else to do with them.. As merchandise manager, web merchandiser, and catalog director, the titles under his direction have won numerous Gold Medals in the Multichannel Merchant Awards.

Tom was awarded Fly Rod & Reel’s “Angler of the Year Award” for 2011 for his educational efforts through his books, magazine articles, and podcasts.

Tom has been a fly fisher for 50 years, and was a commercial fly tier by age 14. He has fished extensively across North America and has also fished on Christmas Island, the Bahamas, Belize, in Kamchatka, Chile, and on the fabled English chalk streams . He is credited with bringing Bead-Head flies to North America, and is the inventor of the Big Eye hook, Magnetic Net Retriever, and tungsten beads for fly tying. He has about 20 fly fishing books in print, including The Orvis Fly-Fishing Guide, Reading Trout Streams, Prospecting for Trout, Casting Illusions, Fly-Fishing in America, Approach and Presentation, Trout Foods and Their Imitations; Nymphing Techniques; Leaders, Knots, and Tippets, The Orvis Guide to Dry-Fly Techniques, The Orvis Fly Fishing Encyclopedia, and The Orvis Fly-Tying Guide, which won a 2001 National Outdoor Book Award . His collaboration with photographer Andy Anderson, Salt, also won a National Outdoor Book Award in 2014. He has also been published in Field & Stream, Outdoor Life, Catalog Age, Fly Fisherman, Gay’s Sporting Journal, Sporting Classics, Fly Rod & Reel, Audubon, Men’s Journal, and others. His latest book, Fly Fishing for Trout—The Next Level, was published in November of 2016. Tom is the writer and narrator of “The Orvis Fly-Fishing Guide Podcast,” one of the top outdoor podcasts on ITunes. He lives with his wife and son in southern Vermont on the banks of his favorite trout stream.