On Tuesday, I finished my guide season with a productive day on home waters. It was a good fall. And dealing with low water since July hasn’t been all that tough. Drought conditions forced us to wade behind the trout, but that’s where the best dead drifts happen in the first place. These spring-fed rivers kept their base flows, and the fish were happy. The low water compressed trout into areas that are often unreachable under average conditions, and it opened up unique opportunities for adventurous anglers willing to work for perfect drifts.
Our rivers challenge everyone who wades into them, because the trout here are unforgiving — they offer no grace in presentation. These waters demand your best efforts, and sometimes that still isn’t good enough. But while striving for perfect drifts, and never accepting no for an answer this fall, plenty of trout came to hand.
I’m grateful to say that I finished with a hundred and twelve guide days on the water, with at least another hundred for fishing myself. That’s a solid year of fishing, by any measure. Each year, I try to cap my guided days at a hundred, because I need time for the rest of Troutbitten: for the writing, the web development, shop stuff and more. After all of that, I need time with my family and our new puppy too. I want time for camping trips with the boys, and more for coaching Little League baseball. (The boys’ team was one game away from winning a championship this summer.)
In a challenging year that was a hardship on so many, I’m enormously thankful for the support of this Troutbitten readership and community. As the Covid response began restricting travel in early spring, some of my cross-country and out-of-state guests needed to move their dates. But as those days became available, other northeast anglers took their spots.
Half of my days on the water were filled with returning guests, and I love that. I sincerely appreciate the support of my river friends, old and new, in 2020. And I offer a heartfelt thank you to all who joined me on the water this year. Your support makes everything else possible.
My spring season runs from mid March to July 4th next year. And it’s over half full. So it may be necessary to get in touch a little earlier than usual to reserve a date in 2021.
This time last year, I had just launched the Troutbitten Shop. And after the New Year, I started the months-long process of rebuilding the Troutbitten website from the ground up. Those thousands of hours in the office chair were worth it. The Troutbitten Shop operated smoothly in 2020, with fewer glitches than I expected and more sales than I’d imagined. My goal was to start small, with logo-branded apparel, stickers and canvases, just to feel things out and learn to manage online sales.
Thank you to everyone who supported Troutbitten through the shop. More items are on deck. This winter I’ll add leaders and a few other favorite Troutbitten accessories.
I’ve also heard your requests for Troutbitten flies. And in truth, I’ve been working on this for two years. The demand for flies out-distances what I could possibly keep up with by tying myself. And I would need many fly tyers to fill the orders. Carrying inventory or taking custom orders are both options on the table, and I’m exploring all of this.
The real joy of having Troutbitten as my career is in all the chances I have to be creative. I wrote a hundred articles this year, and each one is an opportunity to communicate ideas about why we fish, how we fish, and what keeps us wishing to fish, day after day.
I get a lot of requests to put much of this into book form. And I’ve been in talks with some of the major publishers in our industry. I’m humbled by the interest and opportunity. And as an author, it’s a dream come true. I look forward to the work ahead.
Publishing multiple books is on the horizon. But right now, the biggest stumbling block is copyright law. I simply will not sign a contract that jeopardizes the content that I offer here on the website. Troutbitten is a free resource for all. And that won’t change. I will not remove articles here simply because I put the same topic in print under a publishing house. And I cannot accept restrictions on what I will write on my own website in the future.
These are complicated decisions and negotiations. And I may choose to continue the self-publishing model that has worked so well for me since 2014. The more I see the wide reach and support that Troutbitten has gained, the more I understand what is possible. And again, I thank all of you for that.
In November, Troutbitten videos launched, in collaboration with Wilds Media. I’m excited to be working with my friend, Josh Darling, who is an artist in every way. Josh is an excellent angler as well, so he sees the river and knows how to present it on film.
Josh and I are excited about what the future holds. It’s another chance to be creative and to share what we love about wild trout and wild rivers.
What a strange thing Zoom is. I think by now, in this Covid era, most of us have taken part in these virtual meetings and seen their strengths and weaknesses. I was resistant to doing meetings with Zoom because I value audience interaction more than anything. My presentations are never the same because I operate with no script — just a framework around the ideas to be discussed. I love reading the room and taking questions to see where things should go next.
All of that is more difficult on Zoom. But after a few of these, I feel like I’ve found a rhythm. They’re enjoyable. And the virtual format allows all of us to meet with people from thousands of miles away, in places and time zones that are simply unreachable most Tuesday nights.
A sincere thank you to the clubs across the country that have reached out about these meetings. Many more are now on the books for the winter.
As 2020 comes to a close, I want to acknowledge those who contribute significantly to this Troutbitten project. Thank you to each of the following people for their friendship and their trust.
Bill Dell is a licensed and insured Troutbitten guide. He’s an excellent angler and teacher, with a wealth of knowledge and an open mind. Bill also takes many photos for the website.
Josh Darling, owner of Wilds Media, currently handles video production for Troutbitten. Josh is also Troutbitten’s graphic designer, and he contributes photos to the site.
Austin Dando shoots many of the photos you see on Troutbitten. He has also taken on the task of proofreader for every new article that I publish. Austin is currently tying the leaders to be offered in the shop in 2021. Trust him. He ties good knots.
Trevor Smith contributes photos to Troutbitten. He also generously brings ribeye steaks for the grill on most Troutbitten outings.
My wife, Becky, has been the key to Troutbitten’s growth and success from the beginning. When I thought something was not possible, she said it was. Becky has been a tireless supporter of this creative work that has become my career. And I’m so glad she’s my partner.
Up Next . . .
Thank you, once again, for all the ways you support Troutbitten.
Starting in January, I plan to add some features to the website. Namely, I want to make it easier to find more of what you’re looking for. At nearly seven-hundred articles, it’s easy for content to get lost. As it stands, you can find what you seek by using the search page, by following categories or tags, and by clicking through any of the orange links within Troutbitten articles.
Next, I plan to add a start page, an archives page and a lead page for each of the Troutbitten Short Series. Troutbitten reads like many books on different topics more than a linear blog. And I want to present it that way.
Through your donations, through what you buy in the Troutbitten Shop, the affiliate link purchases, your support of Troutbitten’s ad partners, and the guided trips, you help support and grow this Troutbitten project. So, one more time, I thank all of you.
Troutbitten is an idea. It’s how we fish. It’s our life on the water, and it’s how we share a passion for wild rivers with others who feel the same things so deeply.
Fish hard, friends.
And Merry Christmas.
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Enjoy the day.
T R O U T B I T T E N