Woolly Brothers: Beards in Fly Fishing

Every now and again on Casting Across I share information about a product or a company in fly fishing. The goal is usually to tell a story. It is either the story behind a piece of gear, a business, or my experience utilizing something on the water. I’m happy to share these stories, and make recommendations to those who read.

Today, I’m sharing a totally different kind of product! After walking around some fly fishing shows this winter, I realized that there is a certain look in the community these days. Sure, there are logo hats, flannels, and the occasional tucked-into-the-jeans Columbia shirt. But the one feature that transcended all ages was facial hair.

I’m talking beards, lots of beards. There are even multiple beard-centric social media fly fishing icons.

I’ve worn a beard a few times in my life. These days, I’m taking it a little more seriously: for my own benefit and that of my lady (surprisingly, she isn’t a fan of beardruff). I started using beard oil to keep things a little cleaner and more tidy. My brand of choice is Yukon’s Beard. After seeing the sea of beards among anglers this past season, I talked to Tony Denham, the proprietor of Yukon’s Beard, to get his take on the phenomenon:


Generally, why has facial hair – big beards, in particular – experienced a resurgence in our culture?

There isn’t a singular reason that big beards are making a resurgence in our culture. I believe it is due to multiple causes that have set in motion the trend we’re seeing today. It’s not simply a clean-cut matter (pun intended).

The past decade we’ve even seen traditional corporate America being challenged by Gen Xers and Millennials who don’t want to conform to conventional preferences that hold back their creativity. The corporate “dress code” of the suit and tie is transitioning to jeans and an untucked shirt. With this, the face of man has changed. Sporting a beard brings the essence of wilderness, adventure, and the free-spirit into the workplace. I also think the resurgence of the beard is an affirmation of men who want to express their masculinity in a culture where the lines between gender are becoming blurred.


As a beard expert, what does the image of the bearded angler say about the man and the sport?

Whenever I think of an angler I always envision an older gray haired man with a full beard; sporting his hat and rain gear. He has a pipe dangling from his mouth, maintaining it with one hand while he carries a rod and reel in his other. Where I get this image from I’m not quite sure! However, I see the bearded angler as a symbol of time, perseverance, and character. He is a man who boldly faces the elements.

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A Good Day Not Fly Fishing

Fly fishers the world over celebrate the arrival of spring. Even those who grind through the winter months look forward to the warmer weather, increase in insect activity, and expanded opportunities to catch fish.

If you haven’t noticed, everyone else also wants to get outside with the onset of spring. Even non-fly fishers. Even the non-outdoorsy. Even your family.

Sometimes, those three categories are one and the same. The wife and kids want to take advantage of the pleasant weather by taking a nature walk and get outside. This is a perfectly reasonable request. Even bears, who get to sleep all winter, choose to spend their cooped-up time separated from loved ones.

This first weekend in spring was beautiful in the Mid-Atlantic region. Sunny, 70s, and not a cloud in the sky. Perfect weather for fly fishing. Bugs would be hatching: stoneflies, some early caddis, and bunches of midges would all be buzzing around the sun-warmed water. The fish have already been active this season, so they would be completely receptive to a well-presented offering.

Or, I could take a nature walk.

Let me be clear: I have it good. My wife and boys love being outside. My leash for things like fly fishing is longer than I deserve. I’m blessed to the point where I certainly can’t complain about a nature walk; even in lieu of a great day for fishing.

So, we took a nature walk.

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Last Cast of the Week, 3/24/2017

Congratulations to Calvin from Mifflinburg, PA for winning the StreamWorks accessories! Remember to subscribe to be eligible for most upcoming giveaways. 

Most Fridays on Casting Across are  devoted to other people’s contributions in the fly fishing community. Articles, pictures, social media accounts, videos, podcasts, products, and more will be featured on The Last Cast of the Week.

Today, I’m sharing items from Trout Unlimited Chapters: Guadalupe River, Deerfield River, & TU Teens / Madmen.

If you’d like to be featured in the Last Cast of the Week, or have seen something that others might be interested in, use my contact form or shoot me an email (matthew[at]castingacross[dot]com). Also, be sure to subscribe to Casting Across to never miss a post.


  Guadalupe River TU: Texas for TU (and TU for Texas)

It isn’t about how many trout swim in Texas. It is about how many trout anglers and coldwater conservationists call the Lonestar State home. The funsraising efforts of this 6,000+ member Guadalupe River chapter are remarkable. I’d argue that your dedication to a fish and an ecosystem is legitimate if you  accomplish the kinds of things that this chapter is; all while being at least a half-day’s drive from good trout fishing. Read about the Troutfest, the chapter, their river, and their hard work.

Deerfield River TU: Fly Fishing Impact on Local Economy

Trout Unlimited is a multifaceted organization. It isn’t just fly fishing. It isn’t just conservation. It isn’t, believe it or not, just trout. Sometimes, it is about money. No, not the $35 annual dues. A Massachusetts chapter is conducting a survey to  demonstrate the economic value of the angling industry for local communities. As is the case most everywhere,  dollars will get people to move. The Deerfield chapter wants the Deerfield River to be protected and sustained. Having some positive numbers will help them and their case before policy makers.

TU Teens / Madmen TU: Winter Blog

The very first TU Teens program was started in Gallipolis by teenage anglers. They routinely provide content for the Trout Unlmited blog. This quick post is a quick recap of what they have been up to the second half of winter.  Not only does this initiative show general involvement from young people in fly fishing and conservation, it  demonstrates the kind of ownership that will increase the likelihood of these positive influences sticking around in their lives.

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Cortland Sylk: Fly Fishing Heritage in the 21st Century

A year ago, I had the idea to explore the emergence of “retro” gear in fly fishing. Whereas very recently the necessary paradigm of equipment in the industry was always and only “lighter, faster, sleeker,” the past decade has seen many companies revisiting traditional elements. With the partnership of some  premier fly fishing brands, I assembled a rod, reel, and line that all fit into this category: Orvis Superfine Glass, Pflueger Medalist, and Cortland Sylk. I’ve been fishing with the gear for a year, and today I’ll be looking at what makes Sylk an interesting fly line worth considering.


In a small industry like fly fishing, there are not a lot of companies to begin with. Given the nature of the market and the culture as a whole, there are few that stand the test of time. Yet in the middle of New York State, Cortland Line has been producing fishing line since 1915. Their first line was made from silk, and was soon patented into a signature fly fishing staple.

Fast forward to the turn of the 21st century, and fly lines were still being made by Cortland in New York. Technology had come a long way in the nearly hundred years since they began braiding silk in the very same facility. Moreover, fly fishing had changed. PVC replaced silk and other materials due to cost, versatility, and the unimaginable diversification of angling opportunities.

However, there was a certain niche that a silk-like line still fit into. “There have always been people who fished bamboo, and this line was specifically built for them,” says Brooks Robinson, manager of public relations and social media at Cortland. He’s speaking of Sylk, the contemporary fly line designed around 2000 to mimic the performance characteristics (and appearance) of traditional silk line. “It isn’t designed for fast rods. It has a taper that fits a slower stroke that is usually found in bamboo or glass.”

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Why I Write About Fly Fishing

I write more than I fish.

To be fair, I do write about fishing a lot. Realistically, that isn’t going to lead to enough quality grip-and-grin fish shots to make for a visually dazzling website. Moreover, that isn’t going to lead to hundreds of “likes” on social media.

And if I am being honest, sometimes that gets me down.

Not down down. Just kind of occasionally bummed out. Maybe it is fly fishing blog envy, but I look around and see some of the amazing places and spectacular fish that are out there. By and large people respond and gravitate towards imagery, and I think “well, I can’t compete with that.”

I’ll tell you precisely what brings this on. It happens every now and again. Some weird social media algorithm gets rewritten or I fail to use the right keyword and there are a few weeks of low website hits. My content doesn’t change and my logistics remain steady. It just happens.

It usually doesn’t take me too long to jostle myself out of the scowl. I don’t do this for website hits. I don’t write so that I get thousands of social media followers. I don’t write to get on the pro staff of companies. I don’t write so that people say “hey, you’re Casting Across!” on the stream. I don’t simply write so that my fly fishing pictures can have a few token words or hashtags.

I write about fly fishing because I enjoy it.

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Last Cast of the Week, 3/17/2017

Most Fridays on Casting Across are  devoted to other people’s contributions in the fly fishing community. Articles, pictures, social media accounts, videos, podcasts, products, and more will be featured on The Last Cast of the Week.

Today, I’m sharing items from Richardson Chest Fly Box, Wes Ashcraft, & Texas Fly Fishing and Brew Festival.

If you’d like to be featured in the Last Cast of the Week, or have seen something that others might be interested in, use my contact form or shoot me an email (matthew[at]castingacross[dot]com). Also, be sure to subscribe to Casting Across to never miss a post.

Also, be sure to check out this post on fly fishing tools & accessories, which includes details on registering to win three premium StreamWorks products.


Richardson Chest Fly Box

Once you see the image of a Richardson box, you’ll realize that you’ve seen it before. If you’ve read or watched some of the classics from George Harvey or Joe Humphreys, these boxes are (literally) front and center. A Pennsylvania company, Richardson has been making chest packs since before chest packs were “in.” These hand-built fly boxes sit tight and high, are incredibly customizable, and versatile enough to use with a vest or by themselves. Even if you just want to do some online window shopping, I highly suggest checking their website out.

Wes Ashcraft –  Custom Fly Fishing Hats

There are a lot of amazing fly fishing hats to be had out there. I’ve shown an incredible amount of restraint at recent Fly Fishing Show stops. Social media makes it even harder to keep the credit cards in the wallet. One  artist that creates some very cool apparel is Wes Ashcraft. As you’ll see in the link above, he utilizes a few different techniques. Some patterns are more realistic, others are slightly stylized. His brookie hats really caught my eye, and I think you’ll enjoy following his work.

Texas Fly Fishing & Brew Festival

Although the inaugural Texas Fly Fishing & Brew Festival has already taken place, you should still follow their social media accounts.  Some of the names, brands, and activities that they featured in their first year are worth checking out – and very impressive! Regional fly fishing expos are  incredibly valuable to the angling community and the host communities as well. So go ahead, check them out, and scroll back through the highlights of what fly fishing looks like in Texas.

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Fly Fishing the Blue Lines? Try “No Lining”

Scrolling through Google Maps in the Appalachians can be a little overstimulating for a fly fisher. Every valley, hollow, and mountain pass has a blue line of varying width running through it. Generally, every blue line will contain trout. The problem is that not every line contains enough trout to warrant a trip. Especially on the east coast, issues like mining, logging, and their harsh side-effects have ravaged rivers large and small. Remediation has restored some ecosystems, but not all of them.

There is a ritual: I stare at the map, wondering which blue line is worth exploring. Certainly, there are some no-brainers. The famous rivers that have flies, rods, or even shops named after them do have fish. They also have access, and people, and pressure from said people that just visited the aforementioned fly shop to buy the rod and flies named after the river. A stream like that might work if it is a Wednesday or there is a snowstorm, but not so much on a beautiful Sunday. Even the bigger mountain streams are a tough go if you are the second angler through.

Once the big-name rivers are off the table, then I consult guidebooks and state classification lists. “Blue-ribbon, class II, wild trout, delayed harvest on months that have 31 days,” or something to that effect, “from the border of forest service land to the stump with a skull and crossbones on it.” In my mind, rivers like this are hit or miss. They have lots of signs. Signs scream “fish!” Rural signs scream “come catch and eat these fish!” A trip into the woods could yield a full day of native brook trout, or it could lead to a skunk. Or it could result in a run in with bears, law enforcement, or mountain folk. (FYI: Of the three, I’d pick bears.)

Passing up the stars and B-listers means digging deep and casting a relatively unknown actor. These are the true blue lines. The tiny trickle that might be Pine Run, “or maybe Little Pine Run? Or something else entirely? There isn’t really a label once it gets up high and branches off a few times.” Creeks like these bestow an ample supply of bushwhacking street-cred. Your small stream, native trout bravado is legitimized by the amount of time you spend hiking away from roads, trails, and cell service. All you have is your map, your fly rod, and your sense of adventure (and the latest in high-tech / retro-chic gear, naturally).

But what if there was another world even deeper inside the rabbit hole of backroads, backwoods trout fishing? What is the new angling album that not even the indie-fishing hipsters know about?

Forget blue lining: this is no-lining.

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Fly Fishing Tools of the Trade

Want to win some free fly fishing gear? Read down through the article to find out how.

Ask any fly fisher what you need to start up in the sport, and they’ll quickly answer something to the effect of: “Just a rod and reel.”

Then, after a brief pause: “And line and flies, of course.”

And shortly after that: “You’ll need a vest, fly boxes, tippet, leaders, nippers, flotant, weight, a net, waders, boots, polarized sunglasses…”

As they continue to drone on, you’ll get the picture.

Fly fishing is easy enough to get into, but there are plenty of miscellaneous items that make the whole venture much more comfortable. Given the tendency for outdoors enthusiasts to like gadgets and gear, various and sundry tools are usually important for anglers. But what makes a good tool, and what makes a better tool?

On the banks of the Truckee River in Reno, Nevada, StreamWorks creates fly fishing tools. “StreamWorks was born out of frustration with the fly fishing accessories that were available at the time,” says company president Tom Duffy. “Our founders were avid fly fishermen who saw major design flaws in those accessories and started making their own tools.”

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Last Cast of the Week, 3/10/2017

Most Fridays on Casting Across are  devoted to other people’s contributions in the fly fishing community. Articles, pictures, social media accounts, videos, podcasts, products, and more will be featured on The Last Cast of the Week.

Today, I’m sharing items from Tenkara USA, Fishpond, & Blue Ridge Outdoors.

If you’d like to be featured in the Last Cast of the Week, or have seen something that others might be interested in, use my contact form or shoot me an email (matthew[at]castingacross[dot]com). Also, be sure to subscribe to Casting Across to never miss a post.


Tenkara USA – How to Choose a Tenkara rod video

Maybe you’re not into tenkara. I get it – it isn’t for everyone. But, as I’ve said before, I think a lot of negativity simply comes from a lack of exposure. The best way to  get a feel for this type of fishing is to actually pick up a rod and give it a shot. Daniel Gelhardo, Japanese fly fishing evangelist and owner of Tenkara USA, has put out some great entry level videos that will explain the ins and outs of the technique. His first entry is a breakdown of the five rods in his company’s stable. It is a clear-cut and straightforward introduction  that gives you all the information you need to get a rod and give tenkara a try.

Fishpond – Boulder Briefcase

Now, I don’t own this briefcase. I wish I did, and I’d like to one day; but currently I do not. That being said, I’ve checked it out a few times at shops and at the Fly Fishing Show. If you’re in the market for a new briefcase / weekend bag, this is a great option to pursue instead of just picking up just anything. Fishpond makes great stuff across the board, but their high-tech waxed canvas series is a perfect synthesis of modern manufacturing with vintage aesthetics.  I’m not going to promise that having fly fishing branded luggage will make you feel adventurous when you’re going to/from  work or class… but it definitely won’t hurt.

Blue Ridge Outdoors – Women in Fly Fishing

If you listen to or read April Vokey, you know that she’s explained the  counter-intuitive bristling that can occur upon hearing  the label of “woman fly fisher.” I get it. Labels have a tendency to separate more than  refine. All that to say, this piece is a great synopsis of what some leading fly fishers (who happen to be women) are up to. This site isn’t a soap box for my worldview, but I do think that articles like this are still important and necessary. That sentiment applies to the fly fishing community as well as the greater outdoors culture.

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Adventure & Aesthetics: Pirate Fly Fishing

Bright and shiny sells. Often, bright and shiny is only indicative of the external: a façade and nothing more. The fly fishing industry is not immune to this marketing malady. Reels, apparel, and flies that look really good or capture the eye might not help you one bit when it comes to catching fish. In a visual world, form has the capacity to overshadow function.

If you’re on “fly fishing social media,” chances are you’ve seen Pirate Fly Fishing’s fly patch pop up in your feed. It is hard to miss: it’s a big, bright, brown trout-colored rectangle. Sometimes they display it all on its own, other times it is covered with meaty streamers. It looks appealing, and it looks like it works. Their publicity efforts worked on me, because I was interested enough to click on through to their website. After checking out their site, I was interested enough to contact the company.

Pirate Fly Fishing is Maddie Bonthron and Justin West. They live outside of Denver, are recently out of college, and want to make functional products that “look good doing it.”

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