Orvis Outfitter Team Member: Charlie Robinton

Predatory brown trout are Charlie’s favorite targets.
All photos courtesy Charlie Robinton

Welcome to our new series in which we profile members of the Orvis Outfitter Team, the customer-service folks who answer all your tackle and fishing questions via e-mail (fishing@orvis.com), telephone (800-548-9548), and live chat on our website. Spread out around the country, these experts have the experience and knowledge to help Orvis customers make the right choices and become better anglers. Our second subject is Charlie Robinton, of Kings Beach, California, on the northwestern shore of Lake Tahoe.

Charlie has worked as a fly fishing guide on the South Fork of the Snake River in Idaho and throughout Western Washington for trout and steelhead. He originally joined Orvis in 2014 as a Fishing Manager for the Roseville, California retail store. He still has the urge for adventure, and whenever he has the chance will travel anywhere in search of new species to target.

1. When did you start fly fishing?

I started fly fishing as a young man in middle school, around 1998, on small streams near my family’s cabin in Lake Tahoe, California.

2. What’s your favorite water?

So hard to pick just one! I wouldn’t have said this for most of my fly-fishing journey, but I have grown to love and appreciate my home water on the Truckee River in California. It is a challenging but equally rewarding place to fish, and there are some huge fish hiding in its nooks and crannies.

A spotted seatrout is still a trout, right?

3. What’s your favorite species to chase with a fly rod and why?

I can’t seem to keep myself from hunting for large, predatory brown trout wherever I can find them. However, that goes for almost all large, predatory fish. Anything that will chase down and eat a fast-moving fly and strike with aggression gets my attention. Largemouth bass and big pike are both high up on my list as well.

4. What’s your most memorable fly-fishing moment?

A while back, I spent several years out in Western Washington learning to Spey cast and fish for steelhead with swung flies. After a little over a year of steelhead trips that mostly amounted to casting practice, I finally connected with my first steelhead on the swing, while camping alone on one of the coastal Olympic Peninsula rivers. I can still feel the jolt of the take as my fly swung through the juiciest bit of water in the run, the line ripping off the reel before I could even react, and seeing this huge fish do backflips out of the water 50 yards downstream. Getting that fish to hand fell just short of a religious experience, and it was certainly an unforgettable one.

Swinging flies for steelhead is Charlie’s latest passion.

5. What’s your most forgettable fly-fishing moment?

I once left my fly rod outfit on the roof of my Subaru while driving to the next hole. When I got there and realized my mistake, I panicked and raced down the dirt road back to the place I’d just been fishing. I’m speeding down this logging road, practically drifting my beat up old Outback around a corner, and there is my rod, stretched across the road in front of me. Completely by dumb luck, my wheels straddled the rod, and I avoided running it over. Upon inspection it was fine, and I continued to fish with it for the rest of the day, and for several years after.

6. What do you love most about fly fishing?

I love the presence it creates and the constant engagement of a new challenge. There are endless opportunities to experience something new, and it is impossible for me to be aloof or distant while fly fishing, tying flies, etc. It grounds me in the present and helps me connect with my basic human instinct to explore, to have fun, to problem-solve, and be creative.

If it will chase down a fast-moving fly, like this dolphin fish, then Charlie will cast for it.

7. What’s your favorite piece of Orvis gear and why?

I love my Helios 2 10-foot 4-weight. I have been using this rod as an all-purpose trout rod since the Helios 2 was released, and it just does everything I ask of it. It is a little stiffer in the tip than other 10-foot fly rods, and has a little more backbone, which I like for larger Euro nymphs, such as stoneflies or jig streamers. There may come a day when I replace it with a newer Helios model. But that isn’t today.

8. What’s your go-to fly when nothing else is working?

A big, white streamer. If I’m not catching fish anyway, might as well fish something that is fun to fish and might attract the biggest fish in the water. It has paid off more than once, as well.

A beast of a Wollaston Lake northern pike puts a bend in your rod.

9. What was your favorite fly-fishing trip?

I visited Orvis-endorsed Wollaston Lake Lodge in Saskatchewan several years ago. There are so many big pike in that lake, and the the size of the lake itself is just mind boggling, something like 4200 square miles, all of it filled with back bays, weed beds, sloping points, and other incredible structure to cast a fly to. The whole experience was amazing, from the fishing to the environment, to the food, lodge, and staff. And, there’s nothing in the freshwater world quite like watching 40 inches of green lightning tear through the water to inhale a big fly.

10. How has working as a member of the Orvis Outfitter team affected your own angling?

Being an Outfitter Team member feeds the stoke and keeps me interested, learning from my teammates and our customers. Being such a diverse group with anglers all over the United States, it has also opened my eyes to new fisheries and destinations. I have added quite a few new places I’d like to visit from talking fishing with my Outfitter Team members.

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