Welcome to our series called “rout 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.
I guided (and shared a house) with Matthew Long at Hubbard’s Yellowstone Lodge back in 1994. He was still in college, but he was a fish-catching machine even then. He’s now a well-respected fly-fishing guide, which was always his plan, as you’ll see.
Matthew Long is the owner/outfitter of Long Outfitting in Livingston, Montana. Since starting in 1997, Matthew and his crew of guides have been proud to be a two-time recipient of the Orvis Guide Service of the year award.
1. When did you start fly fishing?
Before moving to Montana, I grew up in central Pennsylvania, in the heart of some of the best fly fishing on the east coast. Penns Creek, Spruce Creek, Little Juniata, Big Fishing Creek, Spring Creek and dozens of other native trout streams were just a stone’s throw away from home.
At the age of eight, I received my first fly rod, a Fenwick Eagle, and would spend dozens of days a year fishing on local streams with my father and brother. What really kicked off my hard-core interest, though, was my family’s summer vacations to Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming. It was really an incredible experience as a child fishing on many of the famous western rivers, such as the Henrys Fork, Rock Creek, or the Yellowstone River in Yellowstone National Park. Even on the toughest of rivers, like the Henrys Fork, I often outfished most of the other fishermen around me, and ended up selling some of my hand-tied flies along the river’s edge to struggling anglers, who did not want to be humbled by a ten year old child.
Those summer trips made a lasting impression on me about the addiction and beauty of what fly fishing is all about. As a teenager, even my mother knew what was slowing happening to her youngest son. She always said, “I am going to lose you to Montana.” In 1993, I ended up in Paradise Valley Montana, working as a fishing guide and have never looked back.
2. What’s your favorite water?
That really is a tough question. Let’s make it “favorite type of water.” One reason I ended up setting up Long Outfitting and living around Livingston is the fly-fishing diversity that is here. There are not many places out West that can compete with the diverse fishing opportunities that my clients get to experience. I did not want to be stuck locally on one type of water. From my home base, I can run a drift boat down the Yellowstone River; wade on Armstong’s, Depuy’s, or Nelson’s spring creeks; or fish a river with wild bison and thermal features surrounding me in Yellowstone National Park.
To answer the question though, I am more into very technical, challenging dry-fly fishing. The more the fish beat me up, the more I have learned about myself and the fish that I am after. Spring-creek fishing tends to be more up my alley than catching 100 brook trout in a day on a backcountry stream in Yellowstone. There is certainly a time and place for that, especially with beginner clients, but most days you can find me hunting for trout, more than fishing for trout.
3. What’s your favorite species to chase with a fly rod and why?
Since I live and work on the Yellowstone River, my favorite fish really should be a Yellowstone cutthroat trout. Definitely for my clients who love to dry fly fish, that is my “go to” species. They are colorful and are very good about eating off the surface, so I call them “client friendly.” One of the aspects of cutts I do love, is the fact that they are very slow and deliberate about the way they eat a fly. Your clients can be two seconds late on the hook set, but their timing is perfect for hooking these Yellowstone fish.
As for me, day in and day out, brown trout might be at the top of my list of favorite species. Trying to catch a big brown on a dry fly can take some skill. Tight lies, overhanging brush, and low light conditions all make them difficult as an angler to fool, and even more so to land.
4. What’s your most memorable fly-fishing moment?
I must admit that I don’t get out and fish as much as I used to, so I won’t talk about any of my personal moments. Raising a family, running a business, and a lot of other crazy life things keep me off the water more than before. But when I am guiding fly fishing clients, memorable things happen every day. I especially cherish and remember the days when you are with your children, and they catch their first dry-fly trout, or when your clients who have never cast a fly rod before are actually surprised to land a few trout. The smiles on their faces at the end of the day make my time on the water very rewarding and memorable. After 22 years of guiding, I still have not totally come to the realization that this is my job and people pay me to do it.
5. What do you love most about fly fishing?
I have always been attracted to water since I was a child. When I step foot in a river or take the first stroke on my oars, the rest of the world disappears. There is something special about rivers and streams and the way that they have the ability to suck you away from real life, with no technology or traffic jams. As I look back at the thousands of days that I have spent fly fishing or guiding, a large part of my life has been spent on some of water that I cherish the most. You must admit, that is not a bad thing. I have been blessed spending most of my life surrounded by beautiful water, spectacular scenery, wonderful clients and friends, and lots of trout. What’s not to love about that?
6. What’s your favorite piece of gear and why?
My clients and I really have fallen in love with the 10-foot rods that Orvis sells. The 10-foot 4-weight Helios 2 is probably my clients’ all-time favorite, and many of them request to fish with one of mine every year.
I personally end up fishing with a lot of 6X-8X tippet when I am on some of the local spring creeks. A really soft-tipped rod helps to reduce break-offs on your hook set, so I really love the 9-foot 4-weight midflex Helios 2.
7. What’s your go-to fly when nothing else is working?
That depends if I am fishing or guiding. When I am guiding, there is nothing better that I fly that you can abuse, and it keeps right on floating. Foam and rubber have become some of my best friends. The Quick Sight Ant and, of course, my Indicator Beetle are great patterns that I use on a regular basis.
If I am fishing on my own, I prefer to fish with smaller, hard to see, don’t-float-real- good, flies. Whether on the big river, or sneaking around a spring creek you will often find me fishing a low profile, CDC, transitional pattern to the spookier fish. Needless to say, I have hundreds of different patterns of those that I cycle through depending on the season.