Troutbitten State of the Union — 2020 Wrap Up

by | Dec 24, 2020 | 47 comments

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.

River, our Aussie pup.

Guide Life

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.

Troutbitten Shop

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.

Austin. Photo by Josh Darling

The Writing

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.

The Videos

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.

To date, the Troutbitten/Wilds Media team has published two videos. They are found on the Troutbitten YouTube channel, alongside the previous fly tying videos that I produced myself.

WATCH: Troutbitten | The River Doesn’t Owe You Anything

WATCH: Troutbitten | Fly Fishing the Mono Rig: Streamers — Episode One

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.

Trevor. Photo by Bill Dell

The Presentations

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.

You can find my presentations HERE.

Contributors

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.

Trevor’s legendary streamside ribeye. Photo by Josh Darling.

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.

Photo by Bill Dell

 

** Donate ** If you enjoy Troutbitten, please consider a donation. Your support is what keeps this Troutbitten project funded. Scroll below to find the Donate Button. And thank you.

 

Enjoy the day.
Domenick Swentosky
T R O U T B I T T E N
domenick@troutbitten.com

 

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Domenick Swentosky

Central Pennsylvania

Hi. I’m a father of two young boys, a husband, author, fly fishing guide and a musician. I fish for wild brown trout in the cool limestone waters of Central Pennsylvania year round. This is my home, and I love it. Friends. Family. And the river.

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47 Comments

  1. Dom,
    Merry Christmas to you and your family. Out of all the perils we all faced in 2020, I am thrilled to have crossed paths with Troutbitten. What you are doing and offer through literature is unmatched and for that I am truly appreciative! 2021 will be a great year and I look forward to getting back on the water with you. If you decide to go down the fly tying sales path, I would be happy to tie if you needed. Heck, I’m already spinning up a box full of your Confidence nymphs as we speak!

    Reply
    • Dom thanks for all the free and useful info you publish on line, and in particular, thanks for not ruining my reading pleasure with annoying pop ups! Glad you had great seasons all around, river guiding, a winning baseball season, and new website & store. Being an entrepreneur is rarely easy but when done with passion, FOR passion, you will succeed. They say, you never really own your brand, the public has a say in that…and you neednt lose a wink of sleep over Troutbitten. Thanks again for all you give back. Next year WILL be better, I have people… Happy New Year to all, and to all those live released salmonids.

      Reply
        • Wow,220 days on river,thought I was only one crazy enough to wear out new boots in 8 months. Hoping years of success,one of the most fact filled fishing format ever read,keep up good work!!

          Reply
  2. I look forward to reading and learning from Troutbitten every morning. All of you do a great job
    Merry Christmas

    Reply
  3. Merry Christmas Dom to you and your family. I was thinking about your writing and its impact on your readers. When I was a kid I had a book called ‘the bass fisherman’s bible’. Your collective works is that and more; filled with instructions, poems, and stories that can transform the way one thinks and feels about fishing for trout; a bible indeed!

    Merry Christmas!

    Reply
    • Thank you for the support through the years, Mike.

      Cheers.
      Dom

      Reply
  4. Dom,
    Thank you for many moments of real peace during this interesting year.
    Merry Christmas.
    Dave

    Reply
  5. You’ve helped a lot of us during a tough year. Troutbitten content makes life richer

    Reply
  6. Dom, thanks for the 2020 look back and the glimpse into the Troutbitten future! I love your energy, creativity, drive and attention to details. You have taught me that in fly fishing for trout, it’s often all about the details. Best wishes as you lead your business into the future!

    Reply
  7. Love seeing your dog in the photos!

    Reply
  8. Great stuff… Thanks for everything you do and for all your help this year. Merry Christmas to you and your family and happy to be a small part of Troutbitten.

    Reply
  9. Thank you and Becky for all you guys do for Troutbitten . I’m sure I speak for all the fishing folks that read you and a warm thanks .. we all enjoy all the articles and the sky’s the limit for you Dom !!! PS As you mentioned .. make time for the family … work will always be there Merry Xmas Brian

    Reply
  10. Yes, Book Please 🙂

    Reply
  11. Love to see you succeeding and thriving with this. I’ve been reading this blog since 2014 and truly appreciate your analytical approach to fly fishing. I wish you the best of luck moving forward with all that is on the table for the future.

    Reply
  12. I only just this year discovered Troutbitten. I enjoy the content immensely. The articles and photos are inspiring.Thank you and keep it coming.

    Reply
  13. Happy New Year Dom to you and your Family. Well Done, keep up the great work.

    Reply
  14. Outstanding, as always!

    Reply
  15. Thank you for your generosity and constant guidance. Your site is place to go and read amazing articles. Happy Holidays to you, your family and Troutbitten staff.

    Please show us more flies next year and advice us how to fish them.

    Reply
  16. Dom,
    First – thank YOU (and all the Troutbitten crew) for offering up so much high quality content, and providing most of it for free. It is very much appreciated. And for myself, I have learned an amazing amount from it. I look forward to what you’ve got coming in the future.
    Second – I’m so glad that it’s fulfilling and worthwhile for you (and the family). You’ve got “it” pretty well worked out it seems. Cheers.
    Third – about publishing a book. I have “self published” two guidebooks (on wildflowers in my region) and can highly recommend it as a way for you to put out the content you want to, without compromising the (very important) things you’ve mentioned. There are downsides of course, not least of which is that it’s a much more expensive way of doing things, and really isn’t practical if you end up publishing/selling large quantities (I myself have sold about 400 max in a year, most years it’s about 75-150). But you do maintain TOTAL control of your content with no contracts and restrictions that limit you. I think in your case it’s a good way to consider.
    d.

    Reply
  17. Great job to all of you at Troutbitten! Enjoy all your articles Dom, you have a gift and I hope you continue sharing your gifts with us all for many years to come. Continued success going into 2021! Best wishes and health to you, your family, your staff and all your readers!

    Reply
  18. Congratulations on a fine year and an even better 2021! Thanks for all you do with Troutbitten!

    Reply
  19. Dom,

    Thank you your hard work on Troutbitten and sharing it with us! And for the lack of pop-ups as someone else pointed out. I like the ease of navigation. I started fly fishing , and teaching myself tying at 61. And in the two years since was slowed by arthritis in my hip. Replacement was on 12/1. I am looking forward to getting out there this spring. I believe in simple. Many of your articles are just that. Fly fishing has been out there for a zillion years. Still with all the advances, I like simple methods. I do not need new fangled ways. I cannot wait to be back out there taking in all of His creation. Tight lines and much continued successes. Anthony

    Reply
  20. Dom, I won’t repeat all the great things that have already been said because, without a doubt, it would take up an incredible amount of space!
    Thank you, more than you’ll know, for making this fisherman (and numerous others) into BETTER fishermen and women! You’ve challenged us to think and re-think outside traditional boundaries, enriching our lives with your guidance and thoughtful writing. Hoping you and your family had a Merry Christmas, and wishing you all a terrific 2021! A great saying I heard the other day…“Keep thinking positive, and testing negative.” God Bless brother!

    Reply
  21. Dom:
    Another great article. What you are doing is such a great resource for the fly fishing community. Thank you. It was great to see the look back and look forward. Especially nice to know what you are working on for the future.

    Also, remember not all your guiding clients are in the northeast!! I plan to come on over again this year. Thanks for noting that your book is filling up. I’ll need to get my calendar out.

    I wish you and your family a merry Christmas, and a fantastic 2021.

    Reply
    • Right on, Mark. Thanks for the support. I do have guests from all over the US. But this past spring, especially, those traveling across the country needed to reschedule because of travel restrictions.

      Reply
  22. I love your work Domenic,
    Especially during these Winter months.

    Love the videos too and maybe you want to add some of your music to the videos next time.

    I read more books in Kindle form now and you can probably start by self publishing that way. You seem to have all the pieces with great writing, photography partners, editing not to mention support from your Wife!

    When you sell thousands of books on your own, then the publishers will have to bend to more of your requests.

    Best of Luck in 2021

    I’m chasing a new dream this year as well.

    Reply
  23. I’m getting to this late but you deserve the success Dom. You work hard for it, you bolster the entire sport with your contributions and still make time to be a good dad, husband and friend. I’m very excited to see what 2021 brings for Troutbitten and now what you might call the Troutbitten team!

    Reply

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Domenick Swentosky

Central Pennsylvania

Hi. I’m a father of two young boys, a husband, author, fly fishing guide and a musician. I fish for wild brown trout in the cool limestone waters of Central Pennsylvania year round. This is my home, and I love it. Friends. Family. And the river.

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