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.
Bob Reece is a junior-high science teacher from Cheyenne, Wyoming, who spends his summer guiding for North Park Anglers in Walden, Colorado. He also works with the Cheyenne branch of Project Healing Waters and runs a fly-fishing club for 7th and 8th grade students at the school where he works. He’s also a frequent contributor to this blog, and you can check out his posts here. You can learn more about Bob and his fly patterns by visiting his Reece’s Thin Air Angler Facebook page.
1. When did you start fly fishing?
I took my first camping trip when I was six months old and spent the rest of my childhood tagging along with my dad, watching him fly-fish. Over that time, I fished with a little spinning rod, rigged up with a clear bobber and fly. I spent as much time watching him from the banks of streams and rivers as I did fishing. Even at that young age, I remember trying to glean what information I could from watching his effortless movements. When I turned twelve, my dad gave me my first fly rod, a maroon Cabela’s 5-weight. From that minute I held its corked grip, I was hooked.
2. What’s your favorite water?|
Thirteen years ago, I was introduced to what is still my favorite body of water to fish. I traveled to this place using directions that had been given to me by my dad. After numerous hours of driving, I was under the impression that he had jokingly led me to nowhere. A few more minutes of patient travel proved my theory wrong. What opened up before me was a massive canyon with the epitome of a trout stream flowing through it. The Noname River in Wyoming has provided me with many epic days of fly fishing. It consistently produces incredible days of catching rainbows and browns ranging from 12 to 20 inches.
Bob fights a fine cutthroat in one of his favorite out-of-the-way places.
Photo by Pat Reece
3. What’s your favorite species to chase with a fly rod and why?
Cutthroat trout have a crisp beauty that is matched only by the places that they live. Five years ago, I took my first back packing trip into a high-elevation lake. It was my first encounter with these fish, which were in full display of their spawning colors. I remember watching the first methodical take through the clear water of the lake. The combination of the extreme beauty of the fish and its perfectly fluid precision instantly established a bond with this species.
4. What’s your most memorable fly-fishing moment?
Into my late teens, I had never fished a streamer pattern for trout. My dad gave me a Dave Hughes book on fly tying that contained the steps for tying a Zonker. Out of sheer curiosity, I ordered the materials and tied up what I’m sure were some motley imitations of the pattern. A few weeks later, I stood in a hay meadow on the banks of the North Platte River. Gazing down at my fly box, I plucked out one of my newly tied streamers. I remember feeling a little awkward tying something that large onto the end of my leader. Without stepping into the water, an important lesson that I haven’t forgotten, I laid out my first cast against the opposite bank. I made one strip of the line before it abruptly jerked in the opposite direction. Shortly thereafter, I landed a plump 20-inch rainbow and was forever hooked on streamer fishing.
5. What is your most forgettable fly-fishing moment?
Fresh off of a long Wyoming winter, I set out on an ambitious day trip with my brother.It had been quite warm for several weeks, and I was sure that I could drive into one of the more open access points to the North Gate Canyon on the North Platte River.I smiled as I drove over a thin layer of snow.As I neared the gate to the parking lot, I noticed a snow drift standing about 3 feet high.I confidently drove the front of my jeep up the drift failing to realize that there was a cattle guard supporting it.The weight of my vehicle quickly pushed the snow through the openings of the guard and wedged my Jeep nose-down in the void that was left behind.Unable to move forward, our only option was to retreat forty feet backwards up the hill that we had just come down.Four hours later, we managed to reach the level area we had been aiming for.I backed the Jeep up, with the intent of having it pointed uphill before we headed out to fish.However, when I applied the brakes, the slick mud under the tires kept it from stopping.This allowed my rear window to meet the 2×4 jutting out from a Forest Service sign.The subsequent sounds of the window shattering and my brother loudly laughing persuaded me to call it a day and head home. I laugh about it now.
6. What do you love most about fly fishing?
I love my job and the kids that I work with. Yet spending nearly two hundred days in an enclosed room with 8th graders uses up my emotional capacity. In this sense, fly fishing saves me from losing my sanity and restores my patience reserves. It’s my reset button. My time on the water helps me to be a more effective teacher and more importantly a better husband and dad. In addition to this I have a strong desire for adventure. Fly fishing provides me with the perfect avenue to explore the wilderness and God’s creation while in pursuit of trout. I get a huge rush out of working to discover epic fishing spots off the beaten path.
7. What’s your favorite piece of gear and why?
My vest. After hundreds of days on the water my current pack is as structurally sound as when I bought it. I also love the thoughtful design that was put into its creation. The pockets and attachments for everything that I need are there and are sensibly located. I do get flack for fishing with such a big pack, but many of my days on the water are spent with my son, which means I need to carry lots of extra food, dry clothes, etc.
8. What’s your go-to fly when nothing else is working?
In today’s world of fly fishing there are a ton of complex patterns, some of mine included. Quite often these patterns work well. However, my go-to fly is at the opposite end of the spectrum. I’ve been fishing my Simple Mini, a pine-squirrel mini leech, for the last five years. It has caught fish—among which have been my largest rainbow and cutthroat—in every imaginable type of water.
9. What was your favorite fly-fishing trip?
Two years ago, my wife and I took a backpacking trip up to a couple lakes in Colorado that sit slightly above 11,000 feet. The fishing was marginal the first day. As I looked at Google maps on my phone I realized that “a little ways” over the peaks behind us was another lake that we could explore if the fishing didn’t improve. The next morning we headed up from our camp. We hiked 700 vertical feet up, 1,200 vertical feet down and 500 vertical feet up again to reach the next lake. After several hours of great fishing for high mountain cutthroat, we hiked the whole thing in reverse back to our camp. The adventure and exploration of it was amazing in itself, but sharing that experience with my wife pushed it off the charts (especially since she was still smiling when we made it back to camp).
10. How do you define the difference between someone who loves fly fishing and a true trout bum?
Many people “think” about fly fishing with their minds. Other claim to “love” it with their hearts. A trout bum fuses thought and passion into actions that guide them through a relentless quest of mastering their craft, the pursuit of trout.