Welcome to our series called “Trout Bum of the Week,” in which we highlight some of the folks 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.
Rich Strolis is an independent guide on Connecticut’s Farmington and Housatonic rivers, but he’s perhaps better known for his fly-tying videos on vimeo–many of which have been featured on this blog. He’s also the author of Catching Shadows: Tying Flies for the Toughest Fish and Strategies for Fishing Them. He lives in Simsbury, Connecticut, with his wife, Megan, and two daughters, Tessa and Nora. Check out Rich’s website, Catching Shadows.
1. When did you start fly fishing?
I started fly fishing in 1985, when I was 11 years old. It was actually a relatively smooth transition from conventional tackle, as I had been fishing for four or five years already. I guess my fascination for my father’s fly gear in our basement had something to do with that.
2. What’s your favorite water?
Because I have fished so many different places it’s hard to pick. So I put it like this: the one I’m currently standing in.
3. What’s your favorite species to chase with a fly rod?
I am a tried-and-true trout guy, without question. But I’ll apologize now to all my fellow trout bums because northern pike are currently my favorite species to chase. I think they are a match made in heaven for the fly angler: they are big apex predators that hit flies with absolute reckless abandon. There is nothing quite like watching a northern pike turn inside out to eat your fly. I am getting the shakes thinking about it as I type this; excuse me for a minute.
4. What’s your most memorable fly fishing moment?
Finally getting the chance to share water with my father. My dad was one hell of a fisherman back before I came into the picture, and he’s also a master carpenter. Growing up, he supported our small family and worked six or seven days a week pounding nails for a living, so we never got the chance to fish together when I was growing up. A year before I married my wife, he sustained a devastating injury while cutting trees in my parents back yard. Finally, three or four years ago, we got to spend a Father’s Day weekend on one of my favorite rivers, the West Branch of the Delaware, with my mother, wife, and two kids. It was most definitely my most memorable day on the water, rowing the drift boat and fishing with my dad.
5. What’s your most forgettable fly fishing moment?
Being in Puerto Rico with family vacationing. I booked a half day with an outfit in hopes of targeting some brackish-water lagoon tarpon. I apprehensively took the guide’s advice and left my fly rods at home, as he would assured me he would have all the gear for me to fish with. On the day of the trip, my guide had nothing but an absolutely beat 6-weight, as the 10-weight had been “broken yesterday.”
6. What do you love most about fly fishing?
The variety. On any given day that I step into a trout stream, I have the choice to pick from a variety of methods with the same medium. I like having options in my life, and fly fishing provides me just enough to keep me interested all the time. The environments and the people whom I have met along the way aren’t too bad, either.
7. What is your favorite piece of gear?
My Flycraft Stealth. There is nothing I enjoy more than floating water with a good friend. A full-size drift boat has its limitations, but now, I can float a much wider variety of watersheds that I wasn’t able to before.
8. What’s your go-to fly when nothing else is working?
Any variation of a Hare’s Ear Nymph. I prefer them tied on a jig hook with a tungsten bead these days, in pink or red with matching wire rib. (See the video above.) Always seems to catch a fish or two.
9. What was your favorite fly fishing trip?
I have been all over the place and had some very memorable trips, but I gotta say without a doubt this past summer’s trip for northern pike in a remote section of Alaska was by far the best to date. I am still haunted by that place, gotta get back there soon. I’m getting the shakes again, hold on.
10. How do you define the difference between someone who loves fly fishing and a true trout bum?
My thoughts on this have changed a bit over time; maybe it’s where I am in life, the addition of kids, I don’t know. I used to think that in order to be a true trout bum you needed to be on the water every waking moment, hundreds of days a year. I managed to do that for a pretty darn good stretch, and the lessons I learned on the water made it most certainly time well spent. Now, whether I am a bit wiser or just inundated with other responsibilities, I look at it a bit differently. I think I represent the evolving trout bum: I may not be on the water as many days a year as I once was, but I forever am drawn back to the mysteries of a trout stream. No matter what other species I may have the pleasure of tangling with, my compass always points me back to the trout stream. It’s forever ingrained in my soul.