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.
Ryan Newman has been fishing the Provo River his entire life and has been guiding for Rocky Mountain Outfitters for seventeen years. He manages the operation by scheduling guides, booking trips, and troubleshooting day-to-day operations. He guides full-time in the summer and on weekends during the school year, when he teaches AP US History and U.S. History at Pleasant Grove High School in Pleasant Grove, Utah. Check out his appearance on the “Hooked on Utah” show below.
1. When did you start fly fishing?
My family has always been an outdoorsy family. My dad died when I was six, but he had already instilled a love for hunting and fishing in me and my siblings. I happened upon my dad’s fly-fishing gear one day and was instantly obsessed with figuring it out. I, my brother, and my cousins flailed around the river with little success for a couple years until I met my fly fishing mentor in 6th grade. Mr. Ward was the janitor at my elementary school. I was a little terrorist, acting out to get attention. If you got in trouble enough, you had to work with the janitor as punishment. Mr. Ward took an interest in me and noticed the only thing I responded positively to was hunting and fishing. He would read fly-fishing articles and books to me while I mopped the floors or wiped tables. I ate it up; in fact, I would act up in class intentionally to go work with Mr. Ward. He taught me how to fish the Provo River from the bottom up. He also taught me how to tie flies. Of Course, it escalated from there.
2. What’s your favorite water?
A hip-deep riffle that’s slightly faster than walking speed that I can nymph the heck out of. Specifically, there is a bend on the Provo River that is close to the highway where my mom used to pick up my cousin and me at the end of the day when I was a kid. One of us would sit up on the guard rail watching for her, and the other one would stay in the river and get a couple more casts in. I still fish that bend often and smirk every time.
3. What’s your favorite species to chase with a fly rod?
I wish I could say something exotic (my dream is to sight-fish for redfish), but I would have to say brown trout. After all these years, I feel like I have to figure them out every day I’m on the water…which is kinda cool.
4. What’s your most memorable fly fishing moment?
When I was 14, Mr. Ward took me to Washington to fish and visit family. We fished Rocky Ford Creek, where I landed my first fish over 20 inches. I was amazed at how smart and difficult the fish were in that spring creek.
5. What’s your most forgettable fly fishing moment?
My fellow guides will get a kick out of this, as they still give me crap about it. Early on in my guiding career, we were fishing a section of the Middle Provo that I wasn’t super familiar with. I was leading a group of anglers down to the rest of the group, took the wrong trail, and got “turned around.” I mean I wasn’t really lost, but I had NO idea where I was! I could see the Highway but didn’t know where to go to find the rest of the group. That was an embarrassing phone call. I was determined to never let that happen again, and I committed to walking the entire length of the Middle Provo, about 12 miles.
6. What do you love most about fly fishing?
The views are incredible, the water sounds cool, the fish are amazing, and I have met some of my best friends through fly fishing.
7. What is your favorite piece of gear?
I have a 9-foot 4-weight Recon that I find myself reaching for a lot. I know this sounds weird, but I feel like that rod understands me.
8. What’s your go-to fly when nothing else is working?
On the Provo, when things get tough and the fish have seen everything, I throw a fly I call the “Little Dirty.” It got its name from another guide who was guiding with me at the end of our PMD season, when fishing gets a little tough. He landed a fish for me, saw the fly and said, “that’s dirty.” Hence the name. Or a Sow Bug, if they don’t eat that, we go home.
9. What was your favorite fly fishing trip?
Every year, I love going to the Orvis Guide Rendezvous in Missoula. . .the whole experience is amazing. And the Missouri River is such a dynamic fishery.
10. How do you define the difference between someone who loves fly fishing and a true trout bum?
I think people who love fly fishing go a few times a year, maybe more. They view it as a hobby or sport. Trout Bums, on the other hand, view it more than a hobby but as a way of life. You know guys who turn off their alarm to go to work but have to check the flow even though they aren’t fishing that day. When they are on a business trip, they plan it around the best water in the area. The guys who have full shopping carts on multiple websites because one day they might need an 8-weight fly line even though they’ve never caught a fish over 20 inches, but one day they might. I love those people!