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.
Dave Danley—operations manager at Falcon’s Ledge in Altamont, Utah—is a Utah native and has fished and guided our home waters nearly his entire life. Having earned a degree from Utah State University in Fish & Wildlife Biology & Management, he is a font of knowledge about the species he fishes for, as well as the bugs, birds, and plants found nearby. Dave is also a world-class distance runner, who once qualified for the Olympic Trials in the marathon.
1. When did you start fly fishing?
I have fished my entire life and often would ride my bike down to local small streams by my house to fish when I was still in elementary school. My uncle, who was a guide on the Henrys Fork, taught me how to properly fly-fish when I was 12 years old and helped me buy my first fly rod. I fell in love with the sport right away and spent every moment I could chasing fish with a fly rod after that.
2. What’s your favorite water?
There are so many great fisheries in Utah that it is difficult to choose just one. Growing up, my favorite water to fish was the Provo River. It is a wonderful brown and rainbow fishery that runs through the beautiful Heber Valley where I grew up. I would ride my bike down and spend all day on the river, watching fish and aquatic insects. That is where I learned about fish and entomology. The Provo River has some great hatches, and one of my favorites is the stonefly hatch. The big browns come out and tuck under the overhanging willows and bushes and feed on stoneflies as they fall into the river.
The Uintah River is now probably my favorite fishery. The Uintah is just up the canyon from my home and runs through a gorgeous canyon in the Ashley National Forest. The Uintah River is a brown, rainbow, cutthroat, and brook trout fishery, and many days you will catch all four species. The Uintah Canyon is a wide floodplain with lots of beaver and log dams which causes the river to have many braids and endless tributaries to explore. I have explored this river for years, yet there are still braids and side-streams I haven’t explored. During the summer months, you can throw a caddis, Stimulator, or Adams and catch fish on dries all day. The endless options and great dry-fly fishing make this fishery one of my favorites.
3. What’s your favorite fish to chase with a fly rod and why?
Tiger trout are my favorite species to chase with a fly rod. They are beautiful fish with green and red colors. The tiger stripes and other fascinating patterns make this trout species strikingly beautiful. These rare fish are tough to find and even harder to catch. They are aggressive predators and grow fast. I have really enjoyed chasing and learning about these elusive fish for the past five years.
4. What’s your most memorable fly-fishing moment?
My most memorable fly-fishing moment was a day on the Provo River in early July. The stoneflies were thick on the bushes, and the brown trout were rolling on any stonefly unlucky enough to fall into the water. I put on a small Stimulator and worked my way upstream, casting under the overhanging bushes. On nearly every cast, I caught a beautiful brown trout ranging from 12 to 22 inches. I had to switch my Stimulator out for a new one nearly five times throughout the day because it had become so beat up from the catching fish. It was a beautiful 80 degrees, one of the largest hatches I had ever seen, and I didn’t see another fisherman all day long. I took a short break in the afternoon to eat a snack and sat down in the thick grass on the river bank. I spent the remainder of the afternoon catching more beautiful brown trout. I haven’t ever seen such a perfect day since.
5. What’s your most forgettable fly-fishing moment?
Every fly-fishing moment is memorable, but if I had to choose a moment I wanted to forget, it would be the time that I hooked my wife in the elbow. I was so intent on casting at a rising trout that I wasn’t paying attention to my back cast, and my wife walked behind me as I was in my back cast. I was able to remove the hook from her elbow with my forceps and it turned out just fine, but I haven’t ever been able to live that one down.
6. What do you love most about fly-fishing?
The thing I love most about fly fishing is the beauty of it. Everything about fly fishing is beautiful. The fish are beautiful and live in beautiful locales. The casting is beautiful and the flies are beautiful. I never grow tired of exploring beautiful parts of the world for beautiful fish species.
7. What’s your favorite piece of gear and why?
It is difficult to choose my favorite piece of gear. I would have to say my Helios 2. The rod is light, powerful, and a beautiful piece of craftsmanship. It allows me to make long casts to fish I need to reach, and has great accuracy for precise casts in tight spots. I have thoroughly enjoyed fishing my Helios 2, and always admire the great craftsmanship each time I pull it out.
8. What’s your go-to fly when nothing else is working?
My go-to fly when nothing else is working is a Klinkhammer. The Klinkhammer is an extremely versatile fly and can be tied in gray, olive, yellow, or tan to imitate many different aquatic insects. It can be very effective on nearly any freshwater fishery. I use it on small streams to large rivers to imitate blue-winged olives, PMDs, and emerging caddisflies. This fly can also be used in lakes and ponds to imitate Callibaetis and other emerging stillwater insects.
9. What was your favorite fly-fishing trip?
My favorite fly fishing trip was to Slovenia a few years ago. I was amazed by the natural beauty of the country and the large number of spectacular fisheries found there. The Julian Alps in the northern part of Slovenia were breathtaking, and the crystal-clear streams and rivers that flow out of the mountains were full of rainbow, brown, and marble trout. I was extremely impressed by the natural scenery and the fisheries. I had the wonderful opportunity to fish four different rivers in Slovenia and catch rainbows, browns, and marble trout.
10. How do you define the difference between someone who loves fly fishing and a true trout bum?
I would say someone that loves fly fishing appreciates the beauty and art of fly fishing and tries to get out and enjoy this wonderful sport whenever they get a break in their life. A true trout bum makes fly fishing their life. They work in fly fishing, go on fly fishing vacations, have fly fishing friends, and tie flies when they can’t fly fish.