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Gearbox Talk: Fly Fishing Gear with James Nash & Jacob Knight

Gearbox Talk: Fly Fishing Gear with James Nash & Jacob Knight
April 28, 2021

Fly fishing guide and Purple Heart recipient James Nash came to Gearbox Talk to share what gear he recommends for catching trout. James explains how he learned to fly fish and what gear he used at first, the biggest mistake beginners make when starting out and how to fix it, the biggest obstacle for folks wanting to get into fly fishing, the bare essentials to start fly fishing when it comes to gear, his perspective on reels for new anglers, what to look for in a good fly fishing spot, he demystifies fly names, what flies to use when you don’t see any bugs on the water and what flies to go to first, and his favorite piece of fly fishing gear.

James Nash's Recommended Fly Fishing Gear

Prince Nymph

Wooly Bugger Streamer

Orvis Clearwater Fly Rod


Redington Rise Fly Reel

Costa Diego Sunglasses Green/Black


Maui Jim Ekolu Polarized Sunglasses

RIO Avid Trout WF Fly Line

GoWild has hundreds of fly fishing rods, reels, flys, accessories, boxes, waders and more. GoWild also taps into our community of fly fishing fanatics to crowdsource the best fly fishing gear that everyone trusts. We bring that information to our shopping experience to help everyone buy better, smarter and with confidence. Shop our entire fly fishing section to help you find the fly gear that is proven and can stand the test of time. 

Shop all Fly Fishing Gear


Gearbox Talk Transcription:

Brad: you have long wanted to try fly fishing you may even dabble it's time to get past thinking about it and get your waders wet but first watch this episode of Gearbox Talk today we're talking to James nash yes it's the same James that's been on the show to talk about broadheads and bear hunting in addition to being an amazing hunter the guy was a professional fishing guide for years and interesting fact he's a Purple Heart recipient look up episode 53 of my other show restless native to learn more about that story also put the link in the show notes today though it's all about fishing fly fishing as James tells us how to select the right gear including the bare essentials which at beginner reels James unveils the biggest mistake that most beginners make we'll talk about how to choose the best fishing spot James unveils his go-to fly and we'll do our best to demystify all those crazy fly names now Jacob knight is back too he plays part-time co-host here at Gearbox Talk but yes his mullet is full-time we call it the kentucky waterfall if you are hooked on how-to's and gear breakdowns subscribe to this show hit subscribe hit that bell icon to make sure you don't miss our weekly content alright let's get to it this is Gearbox Talk with James nash meet the industry's widest variety of game-changing ammunition however you shoot and whatever you hunt fortune favors the prepared find your federal premium advantage today James nash we got our first three-peat guest here on Gearbox Talk how's it going man

James: it's going great how are you good good 

Brad: I'm doing great Jacob how's it going 

Jacob: it's going great man it's sunny outside 

Brad: jacob's just here to personally turn this conversation into how to help Jacob fish a little bit better 

Jacob: that's right 

Brad: I brought Jacob in because he's super passionate about fly fishing as well I thought this would be fun James we're gonna start though man I just kind of want to hear a little bit about how did you learn to start fly fishing and what was that gear that you really first started using to get into it 

James: so I started tying flies when I was eight years old and it's almost distracting to like do the math of how long that's been at this point but I tied flies for several years for other people and they're terrible right I didn't know what I was doing I wasn't good at anything and then I actually started fly fishing when I was somewhere in the 10 or 11 range and the reason that I did it is the reason that fly fishing exists at all and that is because bait can be hard to come by and it's not reusable but flies are so I was seeing people that didn't have to go out and catch worms and dig up you know dig up worms and catch grasshoppers and all that stuff that were just catching fish after fish and I was like that's that's more efficient they're catching more fish they're having a good time I need to give this a shot so I started fly fishing in earnest at that time it actually took me a couple years before I caught a fish and then it just escalated from there I started guiding fly fishing trips when I was 14 and then continued guiding all different kinds of fishing and other things moving forward and and built a couple different businesses around it at different times but starting out it was real basic and it was with some super old gear none of it matched you know tips broken off rods you know taking pieces of willow to make guides and taping it on it doesn't have to be complicated but it can sure get that way yeah 

Brad: yeah it definitely seems like if you if you research it enough and start to overthink it you can you can do that with anything you know you've been on here several times talking about everything from archery to bear hunting to now fishing and I definitely think you can overthink some things and sometimes it's best to just get after it you know speaking of getting started what are some of the bigger mistakes you see you know maybe thinking back through when you started but also as a guide like what are some of those mistakes you see beginners most often making when it comes to fly fishing 

James: they buy kits so they they want to do everything in one package and they're like I'm gonna buy I have fly fishing kit and it comes with a case and a rod and a reel and a couple flies from the maldives and and it isn't good at anything and then they go out and they kind of have a bad experience and they're like well that was that you know they're they're kind of in search of the image of fly fishing and their equipment holds them back from achieving that so the the better move is to start out at a little bit higher level with your equipment and then go out and try and get guided for a day or or get some instruction which is often much less expensive than getting guided and then you'll actually have a good foundation to build off of to move into this and just have a lot better experience 

Brad: I'm going to jacob's got the next question here but I want to I want to ask one that kind of came up as you were talking I have heard from fly fishermen you know that casually knew they've kind of talked about it being like boxing that if you start on your own you might develop some habits that are harder to unlearn and then I've heard the opposite of that like just go out and get after it and you kind of alluded to some of that I just kind of wanted to know your position on that like is it better to go out and get that person to kind of give you that tutorial early or should you just get after it not overthink it 

James: it really depends what your goals are and practice doesn't make perfect practice makes permanent so if you go out and do the wrong thing over and over again then that becomes very difficult to change but what you have to realize with fly fishing we're not doing this to feed ourselves right what we're trying to feed is our satisfaction and our enjoyment so you only need to build your skills up to the level where you can have fun fly fishing and then you're good and for some people that skill level is way up here for other people you know that skill level is super basic they can go out there and be terrible at catching fish they can be snagged up in the bushes and falling down on the riverbank and not knowing what they're doing and have a wonderful time and you know what they've succeeded because that's the goal we're out there to have fun 

Brad: love it

Jacob: so let's talk a little bit about the obstacles that somebody new that's getting into it I mean you kind of address the the kits so those kits are kind of targeted at people because they're a little bit lower price to be able to get everything to get started what do you kind of see as being the main obstacle that prevents people from getting into it 

James: the main obstacle is when people start to research it they're gonna probably end up on some internet forums that where people are literally speaking latin and they're like oh I need to know the genus and species of 1500 different mayflies like no no you don't and you know there's some nomenclature that goes with that gear like you know the length and weight of rods and the weight of lines and the size of hooks and the different types of flies that we use and it can seem really overwhelming and it can feel like I'm never going to get this so I'm not going to try and it doesn't have to be you can start out at a really basic level and you can achieve success the way you define it at that level and then look to level up as you go 

Jacob: yeah I like that mentality thing that you keep bringing up is what what's your goals for what you're going out to do with this fly rod so taking a little bit of a step back what is the bare minimum essentials of gear that you would tell somebody 

James: got to have a reel you gotta have line and leader and a tippet you gotta have some flies you need to have some forceps those are like the the pliers that you see surgeons using and then you know a handful of flies and if you've got that and a fishing license so you're good and legal then you can go out there and and get a hook in the water and hopefully put it in front of a fish and you might even convince them to eat it 

Jacob: is there a particular rod that you recommend for people beginning I get asked that question a lot it's like there's tons of options out there of course someone new is not going to spend a thousand six hundred dollars on a rod but where do you tend to find that sweet spot 

James: so rather than focusing on on the price of the rod I think you should focus on the quality of the company that makes the rod and what is their customer service like do they have a good warranty and if they have a warranty how long does it take to get a new rod if you break yours so all fly rods break every fly rod that exists today at some point will be broken and probably your first fly rod is gonna break too it's just things that happen to them so if you have a company with a really good warranty that can turn that around and get you your new rod back quickly then you're you're looking good okay you know that the fly rods that I fish are winston fly rods and the reason that I do that is because they're an american-made company and they make a really good product it's a it's a long time montana brand they live in trout country and they have excellent customer service they're more expensive but what I get for that price is important to me 

Jacob: very cool so the next piece of this is the reel and you know you'll hear a lot of beginner stuff says the reel just hold holds line you don't need to worry about it I've kind of gone the approach of what are you trying to fish for because that kind of tells me what kind of reel you need but what's your approach when it comes to picking out that first reel

James: I like to see I like to see a decent reel because it is going to last longer and for the most part for most trout fishing a reel does just hold the line it also has to pick the line back up so when you reel in you need that line to come back and then when you pull the line out line needs to come out that's that's the basics of it the drag is the critical portion of that reel so if that drag fails on a cheap reel which it will if you get a reel for 30 or 40 bucks and you fish with it very much that drag is going to fail and then one of these days you're going to go to pull line off the reel and it's just going to barf it up into a big nasty ball and you're going to get pissed and throw some stuff in the water and you know maybe try golf I don't know but if you just take one step up from that and you know you get into that 90 to 100 dollar level you're probably gonna have a reel that's just gonna last forever 

Brad: nice for okay so we kind of established rod and reel set up there let's skip over some of the we could go all day on you know various types of gear we're talking line and flies but I kind of wanted to ask you you know a lot of what I've seen through conversations on GoWild are you know where do I even go to fly fish like what's a good spot if you're totally new to this and like you said you start reading on forums you can get into like mass amounts of of you know of really just freaking yourself out from you know researching all the hatch how do you recommend a beginner just find a good spot to try fly fishing 

James: call your local fish biologist and you've got one and they like fish they've built a career around fish and they like talking about it I just talked to with our local fish biologist about this on saturday and he's really surprised but he only gets about three phone calls a week from anglers looking for information and he really wants to be there as a resource to talk to people and he'll tell you everything you need to know he'll tell you where to go what bugs are hatching what fish are available what the seasons and limits are it's a one-stop shop for information so start with that resource for your area and I don't care if all you've got around are catfish and smallmouth bass or if you're on a you know blue ribbon trout stream someplace that person can tell you about access and everything that's going on for the time period that you're fishing and if you're traveling to fish do the same thing call the biologist that lives in the place that you're traveling to 

Brad: great advice 

Jacob: so you brought this up earlier about knowing the latin names for bugs and just people can go down that rabbit hole and it gets crazy demystify the types of flies for us what what are the main ones that we need to know 

James: so if we're talking trout fishing there's a few basic categories there's dry flies and that's a fly that floats on the surface of the water there are wet flies they kind of swim around in the surface film there are nymphs that descend down into the water column and then there are streamers and those tend to imitate crustaceans minnows bait fish things like that that are down underneath the surface of the water that you kind of pull and animate in their presentation you know different fish species are going to feed on different things at different times and that's all just part of the glory of learning about this stuff you get to become a part of this this other natural world that is so so interesting it is fascinating you go start turning over rocks I don't care if you're a you know 72 year old woman or a nine-year-old kid you're going to be fascinated at what you find that that is in that world and you get to start learning about it and participating in it in a really interesting way 

Jacob: so you get to the river you're not seeing any bugs coming off the water you're not really seeing anything in surface film what's your go to maybe three to four flies that you just always have on you at the ready 

James: prince nymph okay like the prince nymph is is a fly that looks like a lot of different types of bugs it can look like a catas larva it can look like a stone fly it can look like a mayfly it just looks like something that a fish wants to eat and they're very willing to eat it so I don't care if I'm in you know the the arctic ocean or a trout stream in montana or you know a bass pond in louisiana I'm pretty sure I can catch a fish on a prince nymph and I've i've definitely done that in lots of places and caught fish where you know nobody's ever thrown a prince nymph before so that's gonna be number one if it's if it's a lake or something like that a woolly bugger I mean that's just an easy fly to tie it's an easy fly to fish it's not particular about the presentation that's required fish love to eat a woolly bugger and you know if if you really have those two things in your quiver like you've got a good place to start 

Jacob: yeah I don't think any new fly angler that I talk to the the woolly bugger is the easiest thing for them to understand you can't mess up you know you don't have to worry about the drag from the the current on the river or anything like that you just throw it out let it swing through and it definitely makes sense to most people trying to get into it 

James: for sure and if you want to take that step into tying your own flies which is so satisfying to be able to create a fly take it to the river and catch a fish on it like that just fills your heart up with satisfaction yeah like a woolly bugger is the place to start it's easy to tie easy to fish fish love it if I was to put a fly in a survival kit that was going to go with me anywhere in the world it would be a number four woolly bugger 

Jacob: the good thing about them too is you can mess them up you know you cannot tie it perfectly and they'll still work for bluegill and some of the warm water fish they don't care as much about 

James: sure yeah it moves around under the water it looks alive and fish want to eat it 

Brad: awesome we're gonna we're gonna be dropping in some gear like to try to help people guide people to you know some of the beginner stuff I'll work with Jacob to kind of curate out a list of some some of the things that fall in line with some of the stuff James has talked about but James I got to know man you know what's your favorite piece of fly fishing gear that you have I'm just kind of curious here i'd like to wrap up episodes with that question and get a little insight into your own gearbox 

James: sunglasses like if you're going to have one piece of gear that's going to change the quality of your experience out there a good pair of polarized sunglasses glass lenses alright good high quality glasses that's gonna keep that the light coming off the water from giving you a headache you know you're not gonna be squinting and hurting your face and fatiguing yourself in a really serious way you're going to be able to see down into the water you'll be able to see some fish occasionally that is the one piece of gear that like if I get to the river and I don't have it I will turn around and go find it you gotta have good pair of sunglasses 

Jacob: yeah there's a safety element to it too if you're waiting to be able to cut through the glare to see where the rocks and the holes are when you're waiting it's it's crazy safe 

James: and those hooks are sharp you don't want that stuff in your eyeball and I'm telling you that fly gets to whipping around sometimes you're gonna hook yourself occasionally don't let it be in your eyeball 

Brad: what's your go-to pair of shades 

James: man I use maui jams I use costas and I use deltas I think if there's one important aspect to it it's that where the arm that goes around your ear hooks to the frame that holds the lenses that needs to have a little spring in there so if it doesn't have that spring then eventually those arms that go to your ears are going to wear out especially as you put them up on your head or down into your shirt or your jacket and pretty soon you're going to bend over and every time you do the sunglasses are going to fall off and that's a frustrating experience so whatever brand you decide to go with just you know make sure it's good high quality again I ask you to use glass lenses because they're not going to get scratched out they're going to last a lot longer kind of secure that investment and yeah make sure it's got some springs in those frames 

Brad: personally the only sunglasses I keep up with are the ones I actually made an investment in like all the 15 pairs I just lose immediately like I just can't keep anything I didn't actually pay good money for alright Jacob you got any final questions for James here 

Jacob: I don't think so man I want to come out and fish some of those winston's with you though 

James: oh they're they're a fine rod you know I gotta leave you with one other piece of information and that is you know beyond the biologists I think it's important to go to a local fly shop local to the area that you're going to fish in and buy some things from them and I don't care if it's a little plastic cup with half a dozen flies in it alright buy some stuff from those guys and keep them in business and then after you've made that purchase say hey what should I go and do with this it's it's very very important that you do that and you're going to get a lot of information that is timely and personal and a fly shop is invested in your success right because if you have a good time fishing you're going to come back and you're going to buy more stuff so they're not going to give you bad information they really want you to succeed at this 

Brad: you're speaking jacob's language here and we've talked about this a ton over how good and so I mean you could make it free like you could just show up and ask those guys and they're going to tell you because they love this stuff they love to talk about it but jacob's told me one of his favorite things to do is to stop and visit all the local shops when he travels 

Jacob: yeah when I'm traveling that's usually one of the first things I look up is where's the local shop even if I'm not there to fish like I just like checking them out and then catching up with them 

James: the most genius fly shop I've ever seen is actually here where I live the joseph fly shop and half the store is jewelry and the other half of the store is fly fishing stuff so it's like you're both gonna spend some money and it's okay it's like church and state over here so you know she goes to the jewelry side you go to the fly fishing side you both come out of there happy like those guys are geniuses 

Jacob: it has a bar yeah they have a bar so you hang out you drink a cage

Brad: yeah yeah those expensive fly rods start to look a little better after you know pint two or three. awesome dude this was great I appreciate you coming on Gearbox Talk every time to talk about you know get help people get into the outdoors and you know at the heart of your request of getting people to shop local which totally agree with you know support those local shops but a lot of that is you know keep them alive because they keep fishing alive they keep you know people outdoors and it's such a critical part like that localized advice is such a critical part of keeping people outside because the more you know the more you can have fun and the more you can bring future generations into it so I love that as a wrap up point here but again man thanks for coming on 

James: my pleasure thank you for having me 

Brad: thank you James I do think this makes you our most frequent guest on Gearbox Talk that's your third show I think gotta thank federal premium also for sponsoring Gearbox Talk and go wild and I gotta remind you that all gear mentioned is in the show notes if you click any of those links and you buy that gear we likely make money if we make money we're gonna donate a portion of our proceeds to a camp called raising outdoors that's gonna teach kids two fish you can literally help the next generation by buying the gear and the links just make sure you give your spouse a heads up before the gear hits your doorstep and tell them it was for the kids alright that's it for me today I'm out







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