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.
Nick Streit owns and operates Taos Fly Shop in Taos, New Mexico. He is the son of the shop’s founder, Taylor Streit, a legendary guide and author. When he was 17 years old, Nick competed with the Junior US Fly Fishing team, which placed 2nd in the world at a competition in Europe. In addition to his shop and guiding duties, he teaches fly-fishing courses at UMN Taos.
1. When did you start fly fishing?
I don’t remember learning to fly fish. My dad started the Taos Fly Shop in 1980, the year I was born, so I grew up in the shop and on the water. I think I went to school at some point too, but I’m not sure.
2. What’s your favorite water?
My favorite water is new water. I love exploring, whether it’s finding some trickle in the mountains with cutts in it or some flat in The Bahamas, I love seeing new places. Something about wondering what’s around the next bend makes you feel like a kid again.
3. What’s your favorite species to chase with a fly rod?
I’m going to go with the obvious choice and say trout, any variety. There are so many different settings and ways to catch trout, whether its big meat-eating browns in Patagonia or little dry-fly eating Brookies on a small creek, you can never get bored with trout. And they mostly live in the mountains, my preferred habitat, as well.
4. What’s your most memorable fly fishing moment?
I spent a summer guiding the Kanektok River in Alaska when I was 19 or 20. I remember going out to fish for king salmost one evening after dinner with Mike “Mystic” Duffy. Mystical things happened in his company, hence the nickname. We anchored up on a seam, and as I started to strip line off the reel to make my first cast, the spool of my lodge-owned reel popped off and went straight into the drink. In a panic, I dropped the rod and started pulling on the line as fast as I could. Of course, line was just free-spooling off as the current swept the spool downstream. I’m not exactly how many yards of 30lb backing a 12-weight reel holds, but I can tell you it makes an impressive pile in the bottom of a boat. The line finally ran out and the spool came back on board. Then Mystic called my attention to the fly rod, which was leaning over the side of the boat, with about 40 feet of fly line out of the rod tip hanging in the current downstream of us. The rod was pulsing against the oar lock!
I put the spool back on the reel and tried to start winding the miles of backing back on the reel, but it was no use. After a quick struggle, I decided to cut the bird’s nest out and splice the line back together. Now light about 300 yds of backing, I reeled up tight till I felt the fish and set the hook. Ten minutes later, the 25-pound king was in the net.
5. What’s your most forgettable fly fishing moment?
Any day on a crowded tailwater. Not my thing.
6. What do you love most about fly fishing?
The people and the places. I’ve been lucky to get to know plenty of both because of fly fishing. I’m looking forward to many more years of it.
7. What is your favorite piece of gear
I have a 10-foot 4-weight Helios 2 that I love. It’s the perfect stick for the fast pocketwater of the Rio Grande. Its light enough for the shorter casts and not fatiguing to high-stick all day, but it has sufficient backbone to fight the strong cutbows of the canyon.
8. What’s your go-to fly when nothing else is working?
My dad invented a fly called the Poundmeister. It’s a cranefly larva imitation, and it kicks butt about anywhere.
9. What was your favorite fly fishing trip?
Right before I had my first child with my wife, Chrissy, I took a trip to explore southern Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego with my good friends Travis Hansen and Justin Spence. Justin owns a guide service and fly shop in West Yellowstone (West Yellowstone Fly Shop.) It was on this trip he learned that he was soon to be a dad too. So it was timely for us because trips like this one are harder to come by now. We spent nearly a month driving around, camping, and fishing. It wasn’t all glory, as we discovered how tough it can be camping in 60 mph winds on an island with no trees! But we caught some great fish, too, and I will never forget the experience.
10. How do you define the difference between someone who loves fly fishing and a true trout bum?
Most “Trout Bums” I know gave up the idea of only fishing on weekends long ago. Their obsession with the sport forced them to find a lifestyle that would agree with their fishing habits. Whether that’s becoming a guide or just moving to an area with good fishing nearby, fishing becomes the guiding force in most life decisions.