Classic Trout Bum of the Week: Amelia Jensen

Amelia is lucky enough to spend up to three months a year chasing trout in New Zealand.
All photos by Dave Jensen

Welcome to our series called “Trout Bum of the Week,” in which we highlight some of the guys living the good life. . .of a sort. (See the bottom of this post for a link to the previous installments.) Most of the subjects are guides who have turned their passion into a vocation, spending their time in an outdoor “office” that may include a drift boat, gorgeous mountain scenery, and crystal clear water. Others do have day jobs but manage to spend every other available minute on the water with a fly rod in hand. Whether you aspire to one lifestyle or the other, it’s illuminating to explore the different paths these men and women have taken on their way to achieving “trout bum” status.

Amelia Jensen is one half of the Jensen Fly Fishing team, along with her husband, Dave. (He was TBoTW VIII.) They own and operate Alberta Fishing Guide magazine.She has guided extensively on the Red Deer River and other waters of southern-central Alberta. When the season in Canada ends, Amelia and Dave head south to New Zealand for a few months of traveling and exploring the backcountry for browns and rainbows. Their photos and videos have become staples on the Orvis News Fly Fishing blog. 

1. When did you start fly fishing?
Eighteen years ago, my husband, Dave, and I went for a week-long back packing trek through the South Ram River in Alberta. This freestone river flows through a 1,200-foot stunning canyon, and it was there that I had my first experience with a prolific golden-stone hatch, a Fenwick 6-weight rod, and some over eager, gullible cutts. With all the fancy gear I own now, it’s funny to think that all we wore then was sandals, t-shirts, and shorts. Looking back, I was pretty spoiled with my first experience fly fishing, as I knew only the very basics and all I needed to do was get my Stimulator on the water and the tug pretty much transpired from there. Adding a fun and engaging activity like fly fishing was a natural fit to my love for exploration, hiking, and the outdoors in general.

A skilled angler, guide, and photographer, Amelia spends a lot of time on the water.

2. What’s your favorite water?
Small, intimate trout streams are my favorite type of water. Spring creeks or small high country mountain streams have offered some of the more fabulous, memorable fishing experiences for me.

3. What’s your favorite fish to chase with a fly rod and why?
To this point in my life, I’ve preferred brown trout as a whole. I find that if you lessen your impact through your approach to a particular water, then you can experience, long endless moments with browns as they move about in their habitat. I also love to be behind a camera, capturing a moment, and browns will often feed quite effortlessly and endlessly in a rhythmic way that allows me time to take it all in behind the lens.

4. What’s your most memorable fly-fishing moment?
An 11.5-pound rainbow trout caught on a small, high country stream only six feet wide, with undercuts that stretch five feet below the banks. After I hooked this fish, it fought like no other fish ever has for me in such a tiny stream. It jumped, tearing upstream and downstream, before it escaped under the undercut bank.I don’t think I’ve ever felt my heart pounding so loudly in my ears as I did on this fish. I also got to experience it with Dave, who helped me in landing it with his hands, as it had buried itself well underneath an undercut bank. I know that the dynamics of hooking, catching, and landing this fish is not something I’ll likely repeat anytime soon, which is also what makes it so memorable.

Amelia and her husband, Dave, share time in the water and behind the lens.

5. What’s your most forgettable fly-fishing moment?
Fighting goldeye on a fly rod on the Red Deer River…. They are waaay too obliging, and the experience of having one on the line can be equated to fighting a wet sock.

6. What do you love most about fly-fishing?
It’s an activity that requires you to be completely present in the moment to have the most success, and it’s engaging, allowing one to fully connect with the environment around them.

7. What’s your favorite piece of gear and why?
I’ve been using a 4-weight Helios mid-flex rod for a lot of years now, and it’s my go-to rod for pretty much 90 percent of my fishing. Even though Orvis has replaced it with the Helios 2, which is stronger and lighter, the dynamics of this particular rod and how it functions work the best for me, and I’ve caught countless fish on it.

8. What’s your go-to fly when nothing else is working?
An Elk-Hair Caddis has always been my go-to fly. It’s simple, buggy, and lifelike. I’ve caught more browns on that fly than on any other. It just works.

This fine brown is from Amelia’s home waters of Alberta.

9. What was your favorite fly-fishing trip?
My experiences fly-fishing in New Zealand come to mind here, for sure. There’s been a number of incredible experiences, so it’s hard to really say there’s one favorite trip, but walking the west coast New Zealand forests is an amazing experience unto itself. With all the beech trees, ferns, and endless bird life, it’s a visual display of beauty. One year, we fished one backcountry stream that had boulders the size of small trucks and a really impressive gradient (i.e it’s one you’d be terrified to be in during a flood). It was a stream that made you feel vulnerable and had an element of adventure like no other. Much of the day was about finding good-size brown trout surfing a pillow of water above a boulder in crystal clear waters. I have an image that’s kept me smiling for days from when I hooked a fat brown on a nymph, in a deeper pool, that took me for a good ride, with multiple jumps. Landing it before it peeled downstream into faster water where it likely would have broken me off sure made me happy. Still to this day, It’s definitely one of my favorite pieces of video that my hubbie took of me fly fishing.

10. How do you define the difference between someone who loves fly fishing and a true trout bum?
I guess a true trout bum could be seen as one who never gets off the water…maybe sleeps beside it, drinks from it (sometimes), eats at it, and just generally can’t live without it. I suppose when you live out of a modest, camperized van and spend up to 90 days on the water over the course of three months each year in New Zealand, you’re likely considered a trout bum. Yup, that’s me!

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