Story: “First Principles,” by William G. Tapply

Written by: William G. Tapply


“Try and err and figure it out for yourself.”–H.G. “Tap” Tapply
Photo by Kerry Kimball

One Saturday morning in the summer that I turned eight, my father peered across the breakfast table at me and said, “I guess you’ve been doing a lot of fishing lately, huh?”

Written by: William G. Tapply


“Try and err and figure it out for yourself.”–H.G. “Tap” Tapply
Photo by Kerry Kimball

One Saturday morning in the summer that I turned eight, my father peered across the breakfast table at me and said, “I guess you’ve been doing a lot of fishing lately, huh?”

That was the idyllic summer when the fishing bug sank its fangs into me and infected me for life. I was too young to work, too young for girls, but old enough to wander off by myself. So I fished every day, all day.

A muddy ten-acre pond lay over the hill behind our house, a four-minute walk for a kid who couldn’t wait to get there. That pond was a magical place for an eight-year-old boy. It churned with warmwater life–frogs, turtles, dragonflies, muskrats, raccoons, minks, herons, ducks . . . and fish. Wondrous fish. Bluegills, pumpkinseeds, crappies, yellow perch, horned pout, pickerel, suckers, eels, and now and then a stunted largemouth bass.

“Yes, sir,” I answered my father. “I love fishing.”

He pushed himself away from the table. “Then it’s time we got you a proper pole.”

Now this was a strange notion. I already had my own fly rod, and for a clumsy kid I was pretty handy with it. It was a three-piece eight-foot Montague. Maybe I knew my Montague was a cheap, mass-produced stick, but the bamboo was the color of beautiful burnished bronze, and my Pfleuger Medalist reel had a musical click when I stripped line off it. My outfit was the envy of the neighborhood kids, most of whom used either Zebco spincasting outfits or steel telescoping rods with old baitcasting reels taped to the handle.

I did a lot of digging in our vegetable garden that summer, and I found that with my sweet Montague fly rod, I could lob a gob of worms pretty far out there without losing my bait. I didn’t know it was called a roll cast. But I could do it.

So I already had a proper pole . . . although Dad’s use of the word “pole” threw me. He was the one who insisted it was called a “rod.”

But I knew better than to question my father. So I followed him into the woods out back, where he began narrowing his eyes at the clumps of saplings that grew there. After a lot of frowning and shaking his head, he selected a straight-growing poplar whip. It was about ten feet long and a little less than an inch thick at the base.

“What do you think?” he said.

I shrugged. “Looks okay to me.”

He handed me his pocketknife, and I cut down the sapling, trimmed the leaves and twigs off it, and waved it in the air.

I handed it to him, and he made casting motions with it. “Perfect,” he said.

We peeled the bark off it and cut a foot off the tip, then took it home and rigged it with butcher’s twine.

“There,” Dad said. “Now you’ve got yourself a real fishing pole. Tie on some leader and a hook, make yourself a cork-stopper bobber, dig a can of worms, and go fishing.”

What, I wondered, was wrong with my slick Montague bamboo fly rod? But I didn’t ask, and he didn’t explain. So I obeyed my father and took my new pole fishing.

After that slender Montague, my poplar pole turned out to be heavy and stiff and clumsy. I couldn’t roll cast with it for beans, but after a while I got so I could lob a bobber-and-worm far enough out there to catch perch and horned pout and derrick them in.


Success is sweeter when you figure it out yourself.
Photo by Kerry Kimball

I stuck with that pole for about a week before I started sneaking out to my pond with my Montague fly rod. I never told Dad that I’d hidden our homemade poplar pole behind the woodpile. Luckily for me, he didn’t ask how it was working, because I’d prepared a lie about how I busted it hauling in a big sucker, and I didn’t like lying to my father. I felt guilty enough as it was. For some reason, it was important to him that I fish with that clunky pole we’d cut from the woods.

Pretty soon, when he saw that I was truly and forever hooked on fishing, Dad started taking me with him. We traveled all over New England–usually just the two of us, but sometimes with one of his adult fishing pals. We trolled streamers for landlocked salmon, we cast dry flies for trout and deerhair bugs for bass, and sometimes we used fly rods to drift worms in little woodland streams.

Dad and I went off fishing just about every weekend from April through September. That was my childhood. I was a lucky kid, and lucky me, I knew it.

In all that time, I don’t recall my father ever once giving me a fishing lesson. He insisted I learn the Turle knot (for tying a fly to a leader tippet) and the blood knot (for tying tippet to leader). After that, I was on my own. I learned to cast a fly the way I learned to lob a gob of worms out there–by trying and failing and trying it differently until it began to work better. I learned where fish hung out by putting my worm or fly in different places and letting the fish guide me.

I suspect Dad had to bite his tongue a thousand times. It would’ve been easy for him to say, “No, no. Do it this way.” But he never did.

We just went fishing together. He did it his way, and I did it mine, and you can be sure I watched him closely, because it was pretty obvious that his ways worked better than mine did.

A hundred times when I was growing up, and even years afterwards, I thought about asking my father why he’d insisted I fish with that poplar pole. But I never did. Maybe it was the guilt I never quite kicked about hiding the clumsy old thing behind the woodpile, though I have a strong suspicion that he knew exactly what I was doing.

Eventually I had three kids of my own. They all showed interest in fishing, and I was sorry that we didn’t live in a house with a warmwater pond just over the hill out back. I never did cut them a poplar pole. Maybe I should have. But I did spent a lot of time in canoes with each of them, and I found myself biting my tongue and letting them fool around until they got the hang of it.  I remembered the satisfaction I had felt whenever I figured something out for myself, and I didn’t want to deprive my kids of that feeling.

Gradually, as I watched my own kids bumble and fumble, try and err and try again, and finally grin and shout when they got it right, I figured I knew how Dad would’ve explained why he’d insisted I use that poplar pole.  “First principles, my boy,” he’d have said. “Begin at the beginning. Do it the hard way first. Try and err and figure it out for yourself.  Don’t skip any steps. You can’t really appreciate where you are unless you know how you got there and where you came from.”

Home-made poplar poles, butcher’s twine, cork-stopper bobbers, gobs of garden worms, suckers and eels–they’re every angler’s legacy, and if you skipped that part, well, when it’s time to take a kid fishing, cut her a proper pole and resist the impulse to tell her how to use it.  Let her begin at the beginning. You’ll see what I’m talking about.

* * *

Editor’s note: When I was the editor of American Angler, I had the pleasure of working with William G. Tapply for ten years before his death in the summer of 2009. Bill’s wife, the author Vicki Stiefel, has graciously allowed me to reprint some of his columns and articles here. 

Check out these great e-books by William G. Tapply (available on all formats including iPad, Kindle, Mobi, etc.):

And visit Vicki Stiefel’s new website and facebook page to learn about her new book, Chest of Time: Book 3, The Afterworld Chronicles and the reissue of her Tally Whyte series.

Is That a Real Service Dog? (Or Is it Just Someone’s Pet?)

Looks can be deceiving—do you know how to spot a fake service dog? In recent years, there has been a significant increase in the number of “Assistance Animals” turning up in public places, helping their handlers who suffer from a wide variety of disabilities and afflictions. At the same time, unfortunately, there has also been an increase in confusion about these animals, which has sparked some controversy. This can be distressing to those who legitimately depend on a service dog to help cope with everyday life.

Looks can be deceiving—do you know how to spot a fake service dog? In recent years, there has been a significant increase in the number of “Assistance Animals” turning up in public places, helping their handlers who suffer from a wide variety of disabilities and afflictions. At the same time, unfortunately, there has also been an increase in confusion about these animals, which has sparked some controversy. This can be distressing to those who legitimately depend on a service dog to help cope with everyday life.

What is a Service Dog?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines a service dog as “…any dog individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.” A service dog is distinct from an emotional support dog (ESD), who is prescribed by a doctor or a licensed therapist to provide a therapeutic benefit through dedicated companionship for a person who suffers from an emotional or mental disability.

Separate from each of these is the therapy dog: animal-assisted therapy involves an animal, in this case a dog, as a form of treatment. You might have seen therapy dogs at work in hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, schools, libraries, and in other dog-friendly venues and situations. While a therapy dog can improve the lives of people in various settings, he is not trained to perform specific tasks for a disabled person as a service dog does—an important distinction. The same holds true for the ESD, who can help ease anxiety, depression, and other conditions in affected individuals, but is not a service dog and as such does not enjoy the same rights as a service dog. Only a service dog can go anywhere his handler goes.

The Hallmarks of a True Service Dog (Or, How to Spot a Fake)

How can you tell if a service dog is legitimate? Plenty of dog owners try to pass off their pets as service dogs to bring them into venues where dogs aren’t typically allowed. But a true service dog…

  • Is a working dog, trained to perform specific tasks, and thus must always be prepared to work. A dog being pushed around in a cart or sitting at a restaurant table is not a working dog.
  • Is almost always leashed for his own protection. The exception is a service dog trained to monitor a human’s bodily functions and is thus held close to the body.
  • Is rigorously trained and has impeccable leash manners: a dog who tugs at the leash is not a true service dog.
  • Never barks or whines except to alert the owner of an impending stroke or panic attack, for example. Barking out of impatience betrays a ‘service’ dog as an impostor.
  • Is trained to avoid distractions, including interesting smells. Even in a store, a service dog resists sniffing at items placed on lower shelves.
  • Never eliminates indoors.
  • Never steals food, and will even resist snapping up food dropped on the floor or ground.
  • Is fully socialized and thus self-assured and calm in a crowded venue.
  • Does not seek attention from anybody except the person holding his leash, because he recognizes he has important work to do.
  • Never shows signs of unprovoked aggression towards people or other animals, even if he is trained specifically to protect his handler.

Can I Ask Whether a Service Dog Is Legit?

A business owner can legally ask only two questions of a person with a service dog:

  1. Is your dog a service animal?
  2. What tasks is your dog trained to perform?

Here’s the rub, and part of a growing problem: when a person presents some kind of documentation to the business owner as an answer to these questions, the business owner may assume documentation is official, available, and should always be presented for any service dog—an incorrect assumption. This, unfortunately, puts owners of legitimate service dogs at risk of being refused access, when there is actually no legal requirement for them to present documentation for their dog to begin with.

In some circumstances, a disabled person may be asked for proof of disability or to verify the authenticity of a service dog. For example, if a disabled person files a discrimination complaint, that person must prove their disability and also produce proof of training for the service dog. Likewise, if a person with a service dog is arrested for trespass after bringing the dog into a place where dogs are not permitted, the burden to prove to the court the dog is an authentic service dog lies with the disabled handler, who may be asked to supply a litany of supporting documentation.

Can a Restaurant Deny a Service Dog?

A service dog can accompany his disabled handler anywhere the handler can go, including a restaurant. But the service dog can’t go with the handler where the handler can’t go—the kitchen in the restaurant, for example. There are some other exceptions, including operating rooms or burn units in a hospital, where the dog’s presence could compromise the sterile environment. And some zoos may legally restrict service dogs from interactive exhibits—an aviary is an example. Without his handler, a service dog may not go anywhere dogs are not allowed. In other words, if someone besides the disabled person is handling the dog, that someone may not take the dog into places considered off-limits for dogs. Alternately, a service dog may be asked to leave when its presence at a business or venue fundamentally interferes with the goods or services offered there—for example, when a service dog howls during a concert. Notably, churches are exempt from the ADA and thus are not required to permit service animals.

An emotional support dog may not be allowed in some places where a service dog is allowed, because the ESD lacks the training a service dog possesses to assist a person with a disability or impairment. The upshot is, you might not be able to take your ESD into restaurants, stores, or hotels. Your best bet is to ask first: some establishments will say yes.

But an emotional support dog is allowed access to almost all types of housing, even where no pets are allowed; an ESD enjoys protection under the Fair Housing Act—a letter from a doctor or therapist is all that is required. An ESD can also fly with his handler in the cabin of any plane per the terms of the Air Carrier Access Act—and the dog’s handler can’t be charged additional fees for housing or airlines access.

A therapy dog has no special rights, and like a companion animal, is allowed access only to the places they’ve been invited.

What Is the Penalty for Passing off a Fake Service Dog as the Real Thing?

Currently, 23 states have fake service dog/animal laws in the books, with some offenses punishable by fines and imprisonment. In some states—California and Florida, for example—claiming your companion dog is a service dog is a criminal offense that falls under the aegis of Fraudulent Representation legislation. In each of these states your impostor could earn you stiff fines and jail time, and in Florida the penalty further includes 30 hours of community service to an organization serving disabled people. More states are considering penalties as the problem of passing off fakes as the genuine article gains momentum.

If you see a dog you suspect is ‘posing’ as a service dog, speak to the management of the establishment rather than confronting the dog’s owner. You can also advise the management of their right to ask the owner whether the dog is trained as a service dog, and if so, what tasks the dog is trained to perform. If the dog is not a true service dog, the manager can ask the handler and dog to leave. The exception is an emotional support dog in a housing situation, on an airplane, and in educational institutions.

Can I Make My Dog a Service Dog?

Service dogs require specialized training. But while anybody can legally train a service dog, most dogs lack the chops. Service dog training is a tall order, and goes well beyond sensitizing the dog to his handler’s specific disability—tough enough in its own right—to include impeccable manners and the ability to remain calm in all situations. Preparing a service dog for the rigors of his work requires daily training for a solid year, or even two, and then continued ‘maintenance’ training for the balance of his life. So even if you love your dog and think he might make a good candidate as a service dog, chances are excellent he will fail: it takes an exceptional dog to meet those lofty standards. The best strategy is using a professional dog trainer—whether you attempt to train your own dog, or choose another dog. And a good trainer will be frank and honest about your dog’s service-worthiness.

An emotional support dog requires no specialized training, but must be well behaved, kept under control, and can’t cause harm or a disturbance at home or on an airplane. And while therapy dogs don’t require the same specialized training as service dogs, the best candidates for therapy work are calm, friendly, and affectionate, even around strangers. Therapy dogs should be healthy, clean, well groomed, and possess basic obedience skills. Therapy dog classes are recommended for handlers who wish to allow their dogs to help in situations where people might benefit from a dog’s presence.

Can I Pet Your Service Dog?

A service dog is not a pet. Not only shouldn’t you pet a service dog, but you shouldn’t talk to him, say his name, make eye contact with him, or otherwise attempt to get his attention. And why not? Because he’s busy at work keeping his handler safe. When you distract a service dog—by any means—you’re diverting his attention from the crucial job he was meant to perform. And if he misses a cue because you distracted him, and his person gets sick or injured, it’s your fault. Service dogs perform important work, including leading the blind, assisting compromised people with mobility and balance, picking up and placing items for wheelchair-bound people and even pulling their wheelchairs, alerting chronically ill people to impending seizures, a loss of consciousness, or a dip in blood sugar, and providing support for psychiatric conditions, including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). So even when a service dog appears to be doing nothing, rest assured he’s hard at work and is best left alone to do his job.

What Happens if the Dog Misbehaves?

A disabled person might be asked to leave a business or establishment if their service dog behaves aggressively. However impeccably mannered, a service dog is still a dog, and any dog has the capacity to behave aggressively. When a handler experiences this with a dog, swift and immediate training is in order to correct the behavior. A dog removed from service could be catastrophic for his disabled handler; given that the dog already will have undergone rigorous training, hiring a professional trainer is the best strategy in this scenario. But no service dog can be removed from a business or venue, unless the dog is out of control or has not been housebroken.

Fake Service Dogs and Questionable People: The Problem With Posers

People with ill intent, and who know what they are doing, can satisfactorily answer the two ‘litmus’ questions outlined above and thus succeed at scamming the system: they don’t need to produce a shred of documentation for their ‘service’ dog, and can’t be denied access. It’s an irksome problem that hurts disabled people with real service dogs who legitimately rely on their working dogs to help them. But if you’re disabled and you’ve been denied access to an establishment with your service dog in tow, resources exist to help you fight discrimination

The bottom line: fake IDs and certificates can be bought, impeccable behavior can’t. With just a little bit of scrutiny, we’ll all know a real service dog when we see him.

Pet Adoption Statistics: The Numbers Behind the Need

Each year millions of companion animals enter shelters. Hundreds of thousands are currently in need of homes. Here’s the good news: pet overpopulation has slowed dramatically since the 1970s, when it’s estimated American animal shelters euthanized between 12 and 20 million cats and dogs every year. Compare that to today, when only three to four million animals must be euthanized annually. And here’s another telling fact: in the 1970s there were 67 million pets in American homes, and today there are more than 135 million. In other words, we invite far more animals into our families these days and euthanize far fewer, perhaps suggesting a paradigm shift in how we think about animal stewardship.

Each year millions of companion animals enter shelters. Hundreds of thousands are currently in need of homes. Here’s the good news: pet overpopulation has slowed dramatically since the 1970s, when it’s estimated American animal shelters euthanized between 12 and 20 million cats and dogs every year. Compare that to today, when only three to four million animals must be euthanized annually. And here’s another telling fact: in the 1970s there were 67 million pets in American homes, and today there are more than 135 million. In other words, we invite far more animals into our families these days and euthanize far fewer, perhaps suggesting a paradigm shift in how we think about animal stewardship.

Still, plenty of pets need adoption. Grasping the size of the issue when talking about numbers so large can be tough: let’s break down the facts and figures about pet homelessness in North America.

How Many Dogs Enter Shelters in the US Each Year—and How Many Are Returned After Adoption?

Of the 7.6 million animals who enter shelters each year, 3.3 million are dogs. Why does a family surrender a pet? The most common reason cited is ‘pet problems,’ according to a survey, accounting for no fewer than 47 percent of dogs rehomed in a year. These problems included dog aggression and other behavior issues, more growth in the animal than the family anticipated, or bigger health problems than a family could handle.

So just how bad is the return-to-shelter rate? About one in ten pets adopted from a shelter is no longer in her adoptive home six months later. Figuring out why—and addressing the reasons—is tough, because they are so varied and complex. There’s not a huge difference in return rates between families who did their homework on pet ownership in advance, and those who did not. But one study found that people with uncompromising expectations of dog ownership were most likely to take the family dog back to the shelter instead of working through problems.

Common Reasons Dogs Are Returned to the Shelter

  • More expensive than anticipated, or surprise expenses
  • Human health issues
  • Destructive behaviors (housebreaking was an issue, or furniture or belongings were destroyed)
  • Disobedience
  • Barking
  • Hyperactivity
  • Aggression (with children, other family members, or other pets)

How to Avoid Surrendering or Returning a Dog to the Shelter

Turns out people who ask for help when they encounter a problem with their dog are more likely to soldier on and get through it than to give up their dog. The moral to this story is, do your homework ahead of time, and have realistic expectations of dog ownership. And think long and hard about the best dog breed for you and your family. Consider these variables:

  • The expense of dog ownership. Make sure you can afford a dog. Consider the costs of supplies, food, veterinary expenses (include flea/tick and heartworm preventives), dog training, and then factor in one serious illness for good measure.
  • Allergies. Hit the pause button if someone in your household is allergic to dogs, but know it’s not necessarily a deal breaker: consider a ‘hypoallergenic’ dog breed. And if the allergy is not severe, your doctor can advise you about symptomatic relief. If you’re unsure about allergies in your family, try spending some time with friends who have dogs and watch for allergic reactions.
  • Destructive and Bad Behaviors. Dog training helps: find a class or hire a trainer. And by all means, crate train your new dog. It’s not difficult, and can save you so many headaches down the road. Just like kids, dogs need structure and boundaries and look to you as their ‘pack’ leader to help establish them.
  • Separation Anxiety and/or Nuisance Barking. Plenty of coping strategies exist to help you combat these problems. Read up, and consult a behavior specialist if the problem grows too large to handle alone. Also, research dog breeds ahead of time: some are more prone to anxious behaviors and nuisance barking than others. And be especially sensitive to these proclivities in a dog if you live in an apartment or multi-family dwelling where a barking dog could bother the neighbors.
  • The landlord says no. This one’s easy: check in advance. If your lease says no pets allowed, and you still want a dog, talk to the landlord. He or she might be willing to bypass the rules if you agree to make a special pet deposit.
  • Dog Aggression. This one’s hard. Depending on where you adopted, your new dog’s temperament may have been known and revealed to you ahead of time. Hopefully, you chose a dog who’s sound. But some shelters don’t temperament test, and sometimes aggression triggers may exist in your household, that did not in the foster environment or animal shelter. By all means, separate your aggressive dog from vulnerable family members and friends, but try training before you give up on the dog. Ask your vet.

How Much Does It Cost to Adopt a Dog?

The cost of adopting a dog varies from one outlet to the next. Some organizations levy higher fees for puppies and purebreds. And while a dog rescue can be an excellent portal into pet ownership, be realistic and be prepared for unknowns, including unrevealed behavioral problems or unknown traumas that might have left the dog emotionally or even physically damaged. Often these problems can be overcome with treatment or training, but each comes at a price. So the initial adoption fee—sometimes as inconsequential as a couple hundred dollars, and occasionally even free—is merely the beginning when you take in a complicated dog of unknown provenance. If an adoption fee seems high, look at it through the lens of the rescue or shelter: somebody was paying for your new dog’s food and vet care before you adopted him. He might have required rehabilitation or training before he was worthy of adoption—and the rescue may even have arranged and paid for his neuter surgery. It all adds up. Sticker shock may signal that you’re not truly prepared to welcome a dog into your home.

Fun Fact: In 2017, Americans spent an estimated $69.4 billion on their pets, including animal purchases, food, medicine, veterinary care, grooming, boarding, and other supplies, up from $41.2 billion a decade ago. We really love to pamper our pets!

What are the most popular dog breeds in shelters?

First, know that when you walk into a shelter and see a particular breed that seems over-represented, it’s not necessarily because the breed is inherently flawed but because it’s popular: more of that kind of dog in existence means higher representation in shelters. Also know that shelters do their best to identify a mixed breed, based primarily on looks. The dog may in fact possess little of the temperament of the breed he ‘looks’ like and instead behave more like another kind of dog. In the end, it’s best to judge the dog based on personality more than on looks. Here are ten breeds commonly found in American animal shelters:

  1. American Pit Bull Terrier – This is an extremely popular dog, but unfortunately often subjected to misuse and abuse. Most are loving—choose judiciously and be aware of breed-specific legislation in your area.
  2. Labrador Retriever – Widely popular, affectionate, and energetic dogs, Labs have held the coveted ‘most popular breed in America’ distinction for just over a quarter century, and for good reason. You can expect a Lab to make an excellent family companion.
  3. German Shepherd – GSDs are notoriously intelligent, loyal, and protective dogs, but require abundant exercise and training. Know that not all sable-colored dogs are German Shepherds, but some may be designated as such.
  4. Dachshund – This diminutive dog is known to snuggle incessantly, but also may attach to a single person in a household. The Dachshund may also snap at children who play too rough.
  5. Jack Russell – It’s thought many end up in shelters because the Jack Russell featured in the TV show Frasier popularized this active breed, who is perhaps not the best choice for some families because of her high energy.
  6. Chihuahua – Popularized by celebrities, this breed can make a good choice for urban living. Beware of her nervousness and occasional fear aggression, especially towards children.
  7. Boxer – Occasionally mistaken for a Pit Bull, this big, muscular dog makes a good family dog and gets along well with children, but requires abundant exercise: be prepared.
  8. Beagle – The popularity of this dog has not waned since his introduction as the celebrated character ‘Snoopy’ in the Peanuts cartoons. The Beagle makes a potentially wonderful family pet but needs plenty of exercise and has a proclivity to bay—consider the neighbors.
  9. American Bulldog – This is the largest of all the ‘bull’ breeds, tipping the scales between 75 and 125 pounds. Although the American Bulldog is a loving and loyal dog, an adopting family should check for breed-specific legislation.
  10. American Staffordshire Terrier – This is a massive, muscular dog bred originally as a farm dog; some can make good family companions who get along well with children. Check an individual’s temperament, and check for breed-specific legislation in your area.

Is Pet Adoption Right for You?

According to a 2017-18 survey, 68 percent—or 85 million American families—own a pet, up from 56 percent three decades ago. And of these pet owners, some 60.2 million own dogs—with the total number of dogs last year reported at just under 90 million, so plenty of households include multiple dogs as part of the family. If you and your family are considering sharing your home with a dog, consult our Dog Breed Selector to get a better idea of the breeds best suited to your home and lifestyle. Have reasonable expectations of what it means to own a dog—ask questions, be patient, and seek help if you need it. And by all means consider adopting a pet: visit our partners at petfinderfoundation.com to find out how people like you have helped change the lives of homeless pets.

The Healing Fish Art of Ryan Keene


“Two Panel Trout”
All works by Ryan Keene

When asked where my art originates, a very specific day always comes to mind. I remember waking up that morning in our old, damp tent in the middle of a forest along the banks of my father’s . . .

Written by: Ryan Keene, RAK Art


“Two Panel Trout”
All works by Ryan Keene

Editor’s note: Normally, when we do artist profile, we ask for a basic bio, and we use that as a basis for the profile. But Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based artist Ryan Keene sent us such a compelling story, I decided to let it stand on its own.

When asked where my art originates, a very specific day always comes to mind. I remember waking up that morning in our old, damp tent in the middle of a forest along the banks of my father’s favorite small stream in central Massachusetts. When I looked over to the empty sleeping bag, I jumped out of the tent and ran to the banks while still pulling a sweatshirt over myself. Winter was still fresh on the early-spring day.


“Trout Trifecta”

Standing there, with my fly rod and a vest so large it kept sliding off my shoulders, I could hear the clicking of his reel from what seemed like miles away. It was the only sound in the forest beside the low call of the morning doves. I found him knee deep in a rifle focused on his caddisfly imitation floating past those spots he always taught me to notice. The smoke from his pipe swirled like a nimbus around his head, and his eyes squinted and followed his fly down-current. His hand tightened on the cork of his rod, fingers wrapped around the orange line dangling near his thighs. Then, with the grace of a dancer, he pulled the line taught just as the water exploded. He turned to me like he knew I had been watching the entire time, and in his hands was one of the jewels of the mountain streams–a beautiful brook trout. As the water poured off the slick skin, the red and blue spots almost seemed painted on.


“Tarpon Flank”

Something clicked in my mind that day: I found my calm, my place of serenity, as the struggles of my 10-year-old reality faded in the morning fog. My dad chose that day to start teaching me the art of fly fishing. The world seemed a little different that day. I started noticing the small intricacies of nature. My work focuses on these intricacies, the blues hidden in the shadows of tree, the reds and blues of a old brown trout’s cheeks, and those jewels set along the sides of brook trout.

I would need that serenity again during the winter of 2015 when I came down with pneumonia for the 13th time, but this time it left my lungs ravaged–something I still struggle with today. During my recovery, I needed the calm of the river, that place of contemplation. The steroids made my hands shake and my mind run so fast that I couldn’t hold an idea or thought for very long. For Christmas that year, I had been given a travel set of watercolors, the medium my mom had taught me over 30 years earlier. It had been about a decade since I had painted last, as I had become a full fledged sculptor doing large-scale installations in alternative spaces, from storage containers to old steel blast furnaces.


“Green Highlander”

I started combining the passions my parents had shared with me. In no time, instead of sitting in a hospital bed, I found myself getting lost in the memories being under a tree, sketching with my mom and holding my first rainbow trout with my dad. Art became my escape, a time machine to an era where all problems were left on the banks. I painted my first piece of angling art that day, a simple featherwing fly, and I never stopped. My works echo that mixture of chaos and serenity that all fishermen understand–that tingle in the elbow as you wait for that strike, in anticipation of the dance.

This journey has lead me to not only reconnect with the fly fishing world, but also to the rivers and streams I fell in love with.


“Cutty”

To see more of Ryan’s art, visit his website, or check him out on Instagram and Facebook.

Signs of Affection From Your Dog

You’re treated to signs of affection from your dog every day. Exuberant tail wagging and slobbery kisses from forehead to chin are obvious ones. But some signs of affection are subtler and easily missed unless you know what to look for. Here are seven ways your dog “says” I love you.

You’re treated to signs of affection from your dog every day. Exuberant tail wagging and slobbery kisses from forehead to chin are obvious ones. But some signs of affection are subtler and easily missed unless you know what to look for. Here are seven ways your dog “says” I love you.

How Dogs Show Love

1. They make eye contact.

In general, dogs don’t like eye contact. Prolonged eye contact is a sign of aggression in dogs that can spell trouble. So when your dog locks eyes with you for a few seconds it’s a clear sign he’s comfortable with you and confident you’d never do him harm. Keep in mind, few dogs will sustain eye contact beyond a few seconds, even with those they love.

2. They lean on you.

When you’re sitting on the couch and your dog leans his body weight against your legs—he’s showing his affection. Of all the cozy spots for your dog in the house, there’s no place more comforting than right next to you. Pressing his weight against you reassures him that you aren’t going anywhere as he rests or takes a nap. This is more common in large dog breeds than in toy breeds, who are routinely held safely in your arms or sitting cozy in your lap.

3. They snuggle with your dirty laundry.

If you have to check your dog’s bed or crate for missing dirty socks and T-shirts every laundry day, take it for the compliment that it is. Your dog knows your smell and finds comfort in it when you are out of sight. For a dog with separation anxiety, it’s helpful to consciously place a few items of unwashed clothes near him when you leave him home alone.

4. They lick your face.

Dog kisses usually mean exactly what you guess they do—your dog thinks you’re the cat’s meow. Licking is an instinctual canine behavior that soothes and deepens social bonds between mother dogs and their pups, and among littermates. When you become a member of your dog’s pack, he’ll lick your face to strengthen your relationship, whether you’re a fan of dog kisses, or you duck to avoid the slobber.

If your dog licks constantly and you wonder why, there may be reasons beyond devotion. Dog and wolf pups lick the mouths of their mothers to prompt regurgitation, so your dog may lick your face when he’s hungry. Frequent licking may also indicate your dog has anxiety and is self-soothing through licking. Finally, your dog may simply enjoy the salty taste of your skin.

5. They wag their tails.

A fast, full-circle wag that gets your dog’s entire backside involved is a clear sign he’s overjoyed to see you. But other tail wags can indicate hesitation, agitation, or even dog hostility. Depending on the circumstances, slow wags and stiff wags may indicate your dog is feeling anxious or he’s on the offensive.

6. They know when you’re sad.

Does your dog snuggle close when you are crying or sad and seem to understand there’s something wrong? As pack animals, dogs look out for each other in good times and bad. When you’re having a bad day, your dog instinctively wants to help you feel better.

7. They share their toys with you.

If your dog drops his favorite toys at your feet, bounds around, and looks at you expectantly, he’s telling you he wants to play. But when he drops his toys near you and walks off for a rest in his bed, let it warm your heart. Your dog is sharing his treasures with you—his favorite person.

Those are the undeniable signs of affection from your dog, but many also wonder if other curious canine behaviors indicate love and affection.

Why Does My Dog Rub Against Me?

Your dog rubs against you for the same reason cats rub against their people—he’s marking you as an important member of his pack. Your dog has scent glands in his face that, when he rubs it against your legs, leave behind a scent and let the world know you’re with him. Other reasons your dog may rub against you include simply that it feels good; it’s something akin to a massage; or he has an itch he’s trying to scratch.

Why Does My Dog Yawn When I Pet Him?

Depending on the context, dog yawns mean different things. If you’ve just come home from work and you’re petting him before taking him for a walk, he may yawn to release energy in excited anticipation. If you’re petting him at the end of the day on the couch or as he lays on his bed, he’s probably yawning because he’s tuckered. But contagious yawns in dogs—when a yawn is prompted by another dog or person’s yawn—may indicate empathy, according to 2013 research by the University of Tokyo. Dogs in the study were more likely to ‘catch’ a yawn from their people than from strangers, a phenomenon understood as an empathetic response in humans and other primates. If your dog yawns after you do, you know he considers you an important member of his pack.

Why Is My Dog Obsessed With Me?

Your dog looks you straight in the eyes, snuggles every chance he gets, wags his tail, and drags your shirts into his dog crate. Rather than obsession, these are clear signs of your dog’s unending devotion. You’re the person who provides him with delicious meals and dog treats, plays endless games in the yard with him, and travels with him in search of adventure. You mean the world to him. Just be sure to offer the simple signs of affection your dog understands in return, such as clipping on his leash for frequent walks or hikes, taking him to work with you, and, of course, snuggles, behind-the-ear scratches, and belly rubs— every day.

Pro Tips: How to Blind-Strike Your Way to More Trout

Written by: George Daniel, author of Dynamic Nymphing


Joe Humphreys demonstrates his blinsStriking technique in a high-confidence lie near his home in central Pennsylvania.
Photo by George Daniel

I enjoy participating in the consumer fly-fishing show circuit every year. Presenting information is fun and I like meeting new people, but I really love sitting in on lectures by other anglers. As I get . . .

Written by: George Daniel, author of Dynamic Nymphing


Joe Humphreys demonstrates his blind-striking technique in a high-confidence lie near his home in central Pennsylvania.
Photo by George Daniel

I enjoy participating in the consumer fly-fishing show circuit every year. Presenting information is fun and I like meeting new people, but I really love sitting in on lectures by other anglers. As I get older, I’m more enthusiastic to listen to seasoned anglers share their knowledge and experiences. Often I learn new tactics, while at other times I’m simply reminded of lessons I may have forgotten. For example, I recently attended the Virginia Fly Fishing & Wine Festival and caught a few minute of Jason Randall’s presentation on “Where to Find Trout.” Jason is a veterinarian by trade, and he brings a simplified scientific approach to his other passion, fly fishing. He recently wrote a fantastic book, Nymph Fishing Masters, a collection of tips and information he obtained while fishing with several knowledgeable nymph anglers across the country.

One of the tips he discussed in his presentation is blind striking while nymph fishing, a tactic in which the angler sets the hook in a likely spot, despite not seeing any strike (e.g. an indicator or sighter hesitating or going under). Instead of watching for confirmation, the angler is simply anticipating a strike. Some anglers may call this a “sixth sense,” but experienced fly fishers who know the water well may refer to this as an educated guess: the laws of probability are too great not to set the hook despite not seeing any reason to set the hook.

Jason mentioned picking up this tip from Joe Humphreys. Incidentally, when I was in my late teens, one of my first lessons while fishing with Joe was about blind-striking. (Then this lesson reemerged 10 years later when another mentor of mine, 1989 World Fly Fishing Champion Wladyslaw “Vladi” Trzebunia, demonstrated this tactic while fishing near the Arctic Circle in Finland.) While watching Joe on my local waters, I noticed him presenting his nymphs to the head of a fast-moving riffle, drifting for two to three seconds, and then immediately lifting to set the hook to begin the next presentation. If there was no fish, his blind strike would unroll behind him, acting as a backcast. However, he would often hook a trout without ever seeing his line or leader hesitate.


In pocket water, trout will often strike a nymphs as soon as they see it.
Photo by Sandy Hays

When I asked him if he saw the fish strike, he was honest and said he did not. He explained that trout holding in pocket water, near shallow banks, and at the top of riffles are often aggressively feeding, which means there’s a tendency for them to jump on a nymph the moment it comes into sight. This quick reaction often translates into a missed strike, as the angler is in the process of adding slack into the presentation to allow the nymphs to drop to stream bottom. Slack is often necessary to give the nymphing rig enough wiggle room to drop to the strike zone.

So Joe would purposely blind-strike during the first and second presentation to a specific area. If he didn’t hook anything on the first two blind-striking presentations, then he would let the third (and all following presentations) drift farther downstream until the nymphs reached the end of the presentation or until he saw a strike. Again, he would blind strike the first 1-2 presentations in a specific lie then let the proceeding drifts occur until the end of the drift or until he noticed a strike. The blind strikes were simply part of his system. This blind-striking approach can be used in all water types, but I’ve found it to be more effective in the water types mentioned above, where trout will jump on your presentation the moment the nymphs enter the water.

Jason Randall refers to these water types as “high confidence lies.” So anytime you’re fishing these high confidence lies, don’t forget to blind strike. It’s an important tactic that even the best anglers I know use. So thanks for the reminder, Jason Randall. I’ll make sure to incorporate blind-striking on my next outing in those high confidence lies, and I hope you do, as well You’ll be surprised how well it works.

George Daniel operates Livin On The Fly, a guide service in State College, Pennsylvania. He is also the author of Strip-Set: Fly-Fishing Techniques, Tactics, & Patterns for Streamers, as well as Dynamic Nymphing

When Will My Dog Stop Growing?

Your puppy’s full size—and when he reaches it—can depend on genetics. And though heredity can offer a peek into a dog’s eventual size, even littermates can be considerably different—so don’t base your puppy’s growth on his siblings’. Instead, ensure your puppy is getting the nutrition and care he needs and consider these facts about growing dogs.

Your puppy’s full size—and when he reaches it—can depend on genetics. And though heredity can offer a peek into a dog’s eventual size, even littermates can be considerably different—so don’t base your puppy’s growth on his siblings’. Instead, ensure your puppy is getting the nutrition and care he needs and consider these facts about growing dogs.

At what age are puppies full grown?

The age at which a dog reaches full size depends on the type of dog. Small breeds mature faster than large breeds, both physically and mentally. Large dogs take longer to reach their final height and weight, and their puppy-like behavior lasts longer.

Though a puppy growth chart may help your veterinarian estimate size, it may not be accurate for every dog. Each dog is an individual, growing and developing at his own rate. Even purebred dogs can end up outside the breed standard. Female dogs tend to be smaller than males of the same breed, but growth happens at the same rate. If your puppy is healthy, but not as big as you would have expected, it is likely no cause for concern.

Puppy Growth by Breed Size

Breed Size Full-Grown Age (Height and Weight)
Toy and Small (Chihuahua, Papillon, terriers) Between 8 and 12 months
Medium (Springer Spaniel, Border Collie) Between 12 and 15 months
Large (Labrador Retriever, German Shorthaired Pointer) Between 18 and 24 months
Giant (Great Dane, Newfoundland) Up to 3 years

How do puppies grow?

Puppies go through numerous growth spurts during their first months. What may have started as a one-pound ball of fur quickly packs on the pounds and stretches upward. Growth plates—flexible areas in the bone where new tissue forms and calcifies—grow as a puppy develops. Dogs reach their final height when that tissue hardens and becomes bone, closing the growth plates. They continue to fill out after they’ve reached their adult height, reaching their ideal weight shortly after.

While a dog may look like an adult, you may still have rambunctious puppy behaviors to contend with. Socializing and obedience training are key during adolescence, and can make all the difference for breeds that live in a state of perpetual puppyhood. Because rapid growth and bone development happen throughout the first year, strenuous exercise can damage joints and growth plates. Vigorous activity such as agility training should wait until puppies reach adulthood.

Do big paws mean a big dog?

The assumption that a puppy will grow into his big paws has some truth behind it, but it’s by no means a foolproof way to determine a dog’s full size. Big dogs often start with paws that seem disproportionately large. Tall dogs need big feet to support them, so diminutive paws may hint at a smaller dog. But large feet do not necessarily mean your puppy will be massive. Most puppies go through a stage when none of their body parts seem to fit, and only time will tell.

You may be able to estimate your puppy’s adult size by doubling his weight at 16 weeks, but it’s an approximation. Another formula to calculate adult weight is to divide his current weight by his age in weeks, then multiply by 52. While neither method is infallible, they provide a general idea.

Does my puppy need supplements to grow?

Feeding your dog a high-quality, veterinarian-recommended diet formulated for his needs is the best way to ensure proper growth. Adding supplements or feeding more than is recommended may set up your puppy for trouble down the road. If a large breed dog grows too quickly, he can experience joint and bone problems. While your canine companion may continue to gain weight, a Body Condition Score (BCS) determines whether a dog is overweight, too thin, or just right. Your veterinarian can recommend the right diet to suit your dog’s specific needs.

You know he won’t be tiny forever, but when will that roly-poly Lab puppy be full-grown? And how can you tell how big your puppy will be as an adult? Though it may seem the chewing stage may never end, puppies grow up quickly—just how quickly depends on your dog’s adult size. A small breed often reaches maturity by one, while large dogs may not be fully grown until their second birthday. Keep a growing puppy busy with plenty of fun and games, and teach some basic obedience before you realize he’s big enough to take you for a walk.

How Much Exercise Do Dogs Need Every Day?

Dogs need between 30 minutes and two hours of exercise every day. The exact amount of exercise your dog requires will vary significantly, however, based upon her breed (or mix of breeds, if she’s a rescue), age, and health. Read on to learn how to keep your dog in tip-top shape, and how her exercise needs change over time.

Dogs need between 30 minutes and two hours of exercise every day. The exact amount of exercise your dog requires will vary significantly, however, based upon her breed (or mix of breeds, if she’s a rescue), age, and health. Read on to learn how to keep your dog in tip-top shape, and how her exercise needs change over time.

Dogs Who Need a Lot of Exercise

A dog who needs a lot of exercise often has a lean, well-muscled frame, a natural spring in her step, and an alert temperament. When you let these canine athletes out into the backyard, they get the “zoomies” without fail. Without consistent obedience training, these dogs pull during walks because their people aren’t moving fast enough.

Many Sporting dog breeds—think English Springer Spaniels, Irish Setters, and Pointers—are born athletes who require a lot of exercise to stay physically healthy. In general, these dogs don’t take much convincing to head upland for field training, or to participate in agility training and other dog sports. They’re raring to go, and you’ll lose steam well before they do on most outings.

Bred to chase down fast rodents, Terrier breeds are bundles of energy. Whether your dog is a small Australian Terrier or a large Black Russian Terrier, she’ll need more than an hour of exercise each day. As a bonus, exercise settles down these spirited dogs so they’re easier to live with.

Dogs within the Working and Herding breed groups have strength, intelligence, and stamina to spare, but they vary more than Sporting and Terrier breeds in their exercise requirements. Evolved to keep flocks together over miles of land, herding dogs, such as Collies and Old English Sheepdogs, need lots of exercise. Meanwhile, some watchdog breeds, such as powerful Tibetan Mastiffs and Dogues de Bordeaux, don’t require much exercise to stay healthy.

Exercise needs also vary significantly within working breeds that evolved to carry loads, or pull sleds and carts. Alaskan Malamutes and Siberian Huskies require between one and two hours of vigorous exercise each day, while Newfoundlands and St. Bernards benefit from about 45 minutes of moderate exercise daily.

Though hounds range from low key (e.g., Greyhounds) to high energy (e.g., Redbone Coonhounds), they need more than an hour of exercise each day whether they’re gung-ho or not.

Exercise needs for dogs in the remaining breed groups—Non-Sporting, Toy, Miscellaneous—vary from the low end of 30 minutes of moderate exercise per day to the high end of two hours of vigorous exercise each day.

Couch Potato Dogs

Where other dogs bound outside for walks and game time in the yard, couch potato dogs would just as soon hang out on the you-know-what.

Notorious couch potato dog breeds include Pugs, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, French Bulldogs, and Great Danes. These breeds are lap dogs through and through—even the Great Dane if given the chance.

How to Exercise Your Dog

Whether your dog is an agile athlete, a couch potato, or somewhere in between, she needs daily exercise. Here are some strategies to help establish and sustain an exercise routine for your dog:

Get your dog a checkup. Before making any changes to your dog’s exercise regimen, make sure your veterinarian gives you the go-ahead and helps you devise a plan that takes her age, breed, and overall health into consideration.

Avoid over-exercising puppies. Though puppies have boundless energy, it’s important to avoid overly strenuous activities. When pushed too hard, the growing bones and joints of puppies are prone to injuries that can cause problems later.

Start off slow. If your dog is accustomed to 10-minute walks, don’t suddenly extend her walks to an hour and more. Just like people, dogs need to improve their fitness over time.

Remember the dog warm-ups. Your dog is at risk of muscle strains if she’s chasing fly balls moments after she was lying on her dog bed. Before vigorous exercise, take your dog on a slow walk to stretch her legs and get her blood flowing.

Establish a routine. Whether it’s two long walks a day, boisterous games of catch when you get home from work, or agility training classes, your dog won’t balk when the schedule is consistent.

Don’t assume your dog exercises enough. Even dogs who get the “zoomies” won’t dash around the yard enough to get the exercise they need. And sniffing around the yard doesn’t count as exercise. You must be involved to ensure your dog exercises enough.

Exercise with your dog. Active people with athletic dogs often bike, hike, or run with their dogs. And even if your dog isn’t a natural athlete, you can toss her a ball in the house or yard when you finish your own workouts at home.

Think beyond fetch. Keep exercise interesting by introducing your dog to new sports, such as herding balls (Treibball) or carting. You can also visit the dog park so she can socialize with other dogs.

Remember the mental exercises. Your dog needs mental stimulation to prevent boredom and keep her sharp.

Sustain exercise throughout your dog’s life. Even older dogs need exercise. Your dog will slow down with age, but walks and exercise may help delay the onset of common canine geriatric ailments, such as osteoarthritis and dementia.

How Much Should a Pregnant Dog Exercise?

During a healthy dog’s pregnancy, walks and low-impact exercises are the best options, and strenuous, high-impact activities are best avoided. As the pregnancy progresses, your dog will probably slow down and you should follow her lead on exercise—she knows what’s best. Other circumstances requiring adjustments to your dog’s exercise routine include injury, illness, and recovery following surgery. Your dog’s veterinarian can suggest activities that are best for her issues.

Do Dogs Need Exercise Every Day?

Yes. Dogs need exercise every day and their routine should be as consistent as possible. For most dogs, however, the occasional exercise session missed to bad weather or a long workday isn’t a big deal. If your dog is lively, you can play inside before bed to expend her energy. Indoor game ideas:

  • Stair fetch – toss the ball up the stairs so your dog has to run up and down.
  • Hide and seek – tuck your dog’s favorite dog toys and dog treats around the house for her to find.
  • Indoor agility – set up an agility course in the living room.
  • Tug of war – a good choice only if your dog responds well to the “leave it” command.

Is Walking Your Dog Enough Exercise?

Daily walks are enough exercise for some dogs but not for others. Sporting dogs, for example, require vigorous and challenging exercises to stay physically fit and mentally sharp. Walking around the neighborhood won’t be enough for these dogs. But you can meet the exercise requirements of couch potato breeds with two or three short walks around the block each day.

Whatever your dog’s age, breed, health, fitness, and energy, she’ll thrive with an exercise routine tailored just for her. If she’s a layabout, encourage her to move by extending her walks incrementally and by playing fun dog games in the yard. If she’s the canine equivalent of a jock, give her ample opportunities to move and do your best to keep up.

Pro Tips: What Makes Good Stream Etiquette?

Written by: Bill Cairns


Bill Cairns was a pioneer in fly-fishing instruction and a Master Caster.

It used to be that most new fishermen were gradually introduced to the sport of fly fishing by a family member or friend who had a fishing background, and various rules of behavior would. . .

Written by: Bill Cairns


Bill Cairns was a pioneer in fly-fishing instruction and a Master Caster.

[Editor’s note: Reader Jeffrey Harris sent in the text below, along with this note: “Bill Cairns’ thoughts on stream etiquette bear repeating from time to time. Here’s my retyped version from my tattered copy he gave me 20 years ago. I hope you’ll share it with your readers and Orvis customers.” We wrote about Bill when he passed away last year. Thanks to Mr. Harris for this great reminder of Bill’s legacy. This is still good advice.]

It used to be that most new fishermen were gradually introduced to the sport of fly fishing by a family member or friend who had a fishing background, and various rules of behavior would be acquired over time and adhered to as a matter of course. Nowadays, we welcome many adult newcomers to the sport with no tradition to rely on for guidance so streamside misunderstanding can easily arise.

The rules of streamside behavior are few and easily observed. Mostly they revolve around common sense, courtesy, and consideration of others sharing the stream.

  • A section of water belongs to the first fisherman fishing it. It is inconsiderate to crowd him and just how close an approach is permissible is an obvious variable.
  • A slow-moving or stationary fisherman has every right to remain just where he is. If you are moving, leave the water and walk around him, being certain not to disturb his fishing or the water he might be working. In a similar vein, a fisherman may be resting a pool or planning his next move. It is still his water, and you should not jump in without his permission.
  • A fisherman working in an upstream direction has the right of way over someone coming downstream. Wading upstream against the current forces you to move slowly, cover less water, and you are approaching the fish from behind. The fisherman working in a downstream direction covers more water, more quickly, and has the potential to disturb more water. For instance, careless wading could send silt or debris washing downstream to alarm fish that someone else is working over.
  • Many streams flow through private property. Recognize that access is a privilege, not a right. Respect private property. If unsure about access, ask the landowner politely. On farm properties: don’t trample crops, disturb livestock, or leave gates open.
  • Leave no litter at streamside. In fact, get in the habit of picking up discarded monofilament, cans and other trash, carrying them out to be discarded properly.
  • Recognize that skilled anglers and/or heavy fishing pressure with excessively liberal limits can greatly reduce the available fish populations in any stream section unless voluntary restraint is practiced. A legal limit is not a quota. Let your fishing motto be: “Limit your kill; don’t kill your limit.” Orvis encourages the catch-and-release philosophy of angling, allowing fish to mature, reproduce, and live to challenge other anglers in the future.
  • Multiple recreational use of streams is common. We may share the resource with tubes and canoes. It is the responsibility of the canoer to recognize that the angler has established a position before the canoe floated into view. The canoer should try to pass behind the angler. If space doesn’t permit this, the canoer should float by quietly and with minimum disturbance.

In summary, behave on stream towards other anglers as you would like them to behave towards you. . .and welcome to the world of fly fishing.

Bill Cairns is a legend in fly fishing. He was a fly fishing teacher, ambassador, historian, rod builder, fly tier, and one of the best casters ever. He founded the first fly fishing school in 1966 at the Orvis Company. The fly fishing world lost a true gentleman in 2013 when Bill was 81 years old.

Pro Tip: The ONE Thing You Can Do to Become a Better Fly Fisherman in the New Year

Written by: Kip Vieth, Wildwood Float Trips


You don’t have to cast as well as the late, great instructor Bill Cairns. . . but it sure wouldn’t hurt.

A year has ended and a new one begins. Like most people, I look back and reflect on what the previous year has taught me or what insights I might have gleaned from all my time guiding. I . . .

Written by: Kip Vieth, Wildwood Float Trips


You don’t have to cast as well as the late, great instructor Bill Cairns. . . but it sure wouldn’t hurt.

A year has ended and a new one begins. Like most people, I look back and reflect on what the previous year has taught me or what insights I might have gleaned from all my time guiding. I am always wondering how to do it better or give my clients a more rewarding experience. Recently, the tables were turned on me a bit. One of my longtime clients asked what they could do to make the coming season more productive and enjoyable.

We’ve all read the articles and stories on how to improve your fishing, and perhaps they all seem to really be saying the same things rehashed in a different way. I was looking at some past publications and thinking about the question posed to me. One thing jumped out at me. The answer wasn’t learn to mend, fly selection, knots, or even equipment that could improve your fishing this year. Even though all those things certainly can make you a better angler. It really comes down to one thing that everyone, no matter what their skill level, can improve on. It’s very simple: Learn to Cast Better!

You have probably heard it a hundred times: “They can’t eat it if they can’t see it.” Being able to get the fly in front of the fish is step one. If you’re not getting the job done, then your fishing is really going to suffer. Every year I see it over and over. I guide out of a driftboat 99.9% of the time, and a boat is only as good as its worst caster. If I have to get the boat positioned so that the client has to be right on top of the fish, then it is going to cost the boat a lot of fish throughout the day. In the heat of the summer, when the water is clear and the fish get spooky, it is imperative that an angler can cast away from the boat. Even smallmouths can get jumpy and the fishing can get more technical than most anglers would think. Being able to cast can be the difference between a good or bad day.

Yes, there are many other things that can make or break your day on the water, but if you really step back and think about it, the cast is the most important factor in your success. Even if you have fly-fished for decades, there is still a cast to learn or perfect. That is what makes this sport so special. There is always something to learn or improve on. Heck, I fish very little these days just because I’m guiding so much. (Be careful of what you wish for!) My casting has suffered, and I sometime feel embarrassed when fishing with other accomplished casters.

I have no one to blame but myself. I could certainly use the practice and perhaps a lesson or two. Even the greatest golfers in the world have swing coaches. A lesson in anything is never a bad thing. There are also a ton of videos that are available to watch and learn from. Orvis fly casting instructor Peter Kutzer has a number of them, and they are outstanding. (See the full list below.)

Do yourself a favor this year and commit to becoming a better caster. It will make the sport more enjoyable, you’ll most likely catch more fish, and it will keep you engaged in a sport where you never stop learning.

Kip Vieth owns Wildwood Float Trips, in Monticello, Minnesota. Check out his excellent “10 Tips for Catching a Musky on a Fly.”

Peter Kutzer’s casting lessons

Ask a Fly-Fishing Instructor I: Casting Heavy Flies in the Wind

Ask a Fly-Fishing Instructor II: Roll-Casting for Accuracy & Distance

Ask a Fly-Fishing Instructor III: Casting in the Wind

Ask a Fly-Fishing Instructor IV: Casting Accuracy

Ask a Fly-Fishing Instructor V: The Curve Cast

Ask a Fly-Fishing Instructor VI: Casting Angles

Ask a Fly-Fishing Instructor VII: How to Double Haul

Ask a Fly-Fishing Instructor VIII: Fixing Tailing Loops

Ask a Fly-Fishing Instructor IX: How to Make Delicate Presentations

Ask a Fly-Fishing Instructor X: The Steeple Cast

Ask a Fly-Fishing Instructor XI: How to Avoid Hitting Your Rod with Your Fly

Ask a Fly-Fishing Instructor XII: Don’t be a Creep

Ask a Fly-Fishing Instructor XIII: Parachute and Pile Casts

Ask a Fly-Fishing Instructor XIV: How to Make a Reach Cast

Ask a Fly-Fishing Instructor XV: How to Make a Tuck Cast

Ask a Fly-Fishing Instructor XVI: How to Make an Aerial Mend

Ask a Fly-Fishing Instructor XVII: How to Make Roll and Switch Casts with a Two-Handed Rod

Ask a Fly-Fishing Instructor XVIII: The Basic Cast

Ask a Fly-Fishing Instructor XIX: The Bow & Arrow Cast

Ask a Fly-Fishing Instructor XX: The “Ready Position” and Fishing from a Boat

Ask a Fly-Fishing Instructor XXI: The Basic Back Cast

Ask a Fly-Fishing Instructor XXII: How to Add Distance to Your Cast

Ask a Fly-Fishing Instructor XXIII: How to Rig Your Rod to Move to a New Fishing Spot

Ask a Fly-Fishing Instructor XXIX: How to Make a Single-Hand Snake Roll Cast

Ask a Fly-Fishing Instructor XXX: How to Cast in Heavy Wind

Video Tuesday Tip: How to Make a Backcast Presentation

Video Pro Tip: How to Get a Good Turnover at the End of the Cast

Tuesday Video Tip: How to Make a Belgian (Oval) Cast

Video Pro Tips: How to Teach Yourself to Double Haul

Video Pro Tips: How to Make a Circle-Spey Cast

Video Tuesday Tip: How to Make a Double Spey Cast with a Single- or Two-Handed Rod

Video Tuesday Tip: How to Teach Kids to Fly Cast