A couple years ago, we ran a series called “Trout Bum of the Week,” in which we highlighted some of the guys living the good life. . .of a sort. (See the bottom of this post for a link to the previous installments.) This is our second round of profiles. 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.
Joe Demalderis—or simply “Joe D.”— operates Cross Current Guide Service and Outfitters, guiding for trout and smallmouths on New York’s Upper Delaware system and for striped bass and bluefish off Northern New Jersey. He has been guiding for more than twenty years and was named 2010 Orvis Endorsed Fly-Fishing Guide of the Year. If you want to get a sense of why he’s so popular, check out his clients’ reviews on orvis.com.
1. When did you start fly fishing?
2. What’s your favorite water?
Wow, that’s like asking me what’s my favorite food. Yesterday is was pizza, today it’s chocolate pudding, tomorrow who knows? All I know is that, when it comes to water, I prefer moving water, whether it’s from a river’s current of the moon’s gravity. That’s not to say when I’m fishing still water it doesn’t suddenly become my favorite. But in the end, I like clean
3. What’s your favorite fish to chase with a fly rod and why?
Every fish becomes my favorite fish at the time I’m chasing it. I spend most of my fishing time on a wild-trout river, so maybe I can say wild trout. But the reality is that it wouldn’t be fair to the rest of the fish. The beauty of fishing is we don’t have to be monogamous when it come to the fish. It’s all one big fascination.
4. What’s your most memorable fly-fishing moment?
When I identified my first mayfly on the stream. It was a gray fox on a trickle of a freestone when I was in my early teens. Really nothing dramatic. A few days earlier, I had caught one and found out what it was. Now, alone on the bank, this little kid figured it out all by himself, tied on a fly, and caught several rising fish. That one small thing has kept me a little kid my whole life.
5. What’s your most forgettable fly-fishing moment?
There has never been a moment I was on the water, be it a stream, creek, river, pond, lake, bay, ocean, or whatever that I would want to forget. Sure there were blunders along the way, still are, but those times are looked back on with a smile, whether through comedy or remembering a lesson well learned. Many life lessons, such as always carry toilet paper with you wherever you go, are learned streamside.
6. What do you love most about fly-fishing?
The simplicity of the technique. We can choose to complicate it, but in the end, we’re using soft lures efficiently delivered to the fish.
7. What’s your favorite piece of gear and why?
Two pieces really: my rod and my fly line. A good rod and a good line go a long way in making everything simple. The rest of the stuff? I can make due with just about anything. These days, my rod of choice has been a Helios 2 with a 3D line. There was a time when my Garcia Conolon was the greatest rod in the world, and it many ways it was. It delivered me to fly fishing, which wasn’t an easy task, since I lined that rod with some cheapo level line.
8. What’s your go-to fly when nothing else is working?
Gulp! No, seriously, the go to changes regularly. I’m not big on fly changing, but I am big on changing presentations. When I’m fishing a streamer, I’m pretty confident on the fly I chose to match the prevalent bait in the water, so I’ll vary my retrieve in different ways. Some days fish don’t feel like chasing, and other days you have to light a fire under them and kick in their predatory instincts. If none of that works, something chartreuse. Dry flies will push me toward emergers and spinners. Wet flies for me are another hatch-matching opportunity, and nymphs are the same. But if I could only have one fly to fish for trout the whole season, and I had to catch fish, it would be a size 14 Copper-Beaded Soft Hackle Pheasant Tail. If I could sit around and wait for targets, then a size 14 Rusty Spinner.
9. What was your favorite fly-fishing trip?
Favorites, to me, are where I’m at and who I’m with at the moment I’m fishing. There are so many opportunities to have a favorite trip right in one’s own backyard. I’ve loved my trips to Argentina and Chile, but no more so than trips to the Gaspe, or The Bahamas, Montana, Wyoming and others. Would I trade a trip to Patagonia for a trip on the Passaic river, of course not. What makes a destination exotic is pure relativity, and relative to where I live, Patagonia is pretty exotic. Having said all that, my favorite fly-fishing trips were when I took my now 25-year-old daughter and 20-year-old son on local trout streams when they were between 5 and 12 years old.
10. What’s your next dream destination?
I’m researching that right now. Somewhere where the fish viciously hit surface flies, grow to a good size, have sharp, dangerous teeth, run, jump, fight to the very end, and then try to bite you when you land them. I have that now with bluefish on the East Coast, but that doesn’t involve a passport, so I guess it’s too ordinary. Maybe someplace on the east coast of Africa. I’ve heard cool things about Kenya.