Find Your Rabbit Hole

by | Feb 21, 2021 | 11 comments

Someone recently told me that fly fishing seems like a lot of work. They said it looks more like tying knots while walking upstream than it does fishing — that the whole thing seems like a lot of trouble just to catch a fish.

I thought about it a moment and replied with honesty. It is work, and that’s just one thing we love about it. Most of us would make the effort even without a fish dancing at the end of the line. And we’d come back to do it over and again. But when a good trout does take the fly, it’s enough to keep us going for a long, long time.

It needn’t be complicated, of course. Fly fishing for trout can be done easily, and done well with a couple of flies in an old box and a pair of hiking boots on your feet. That’s how I fished for years. Chasing small wild trout through steep mountain valleys was a simple affair. If they wouldn’t hit a Royal Wulff, then I was in the wrong place, or I was spooking trout before they ever saw my fly. Back then it was about exploring water. These days it’s about exploring tactics.

As the years pass, so do my obsessions. Fly fishing and pursuing trout remains the constant, but how I approach them with a fly is as varied now as it’s ever been. Boredom is impossible, because river time is too short to answer one question before the next one arises. Because trout are too guarded and mysterious to grant firm answers about much of anything.

While experience is the one true teacher, the ideas of fellow anglers help shine a light on the next path for us to follow. A good book leads you to the trailhead, fills you with a bunch of thoughts that don’t quite make sense and then tosses you down the rabbit hole— saying, have fun, you’ll figure it out.

Wild Brown

Likewise, I remember far off fishing conversations with old fly fishermen who are now gone. They talked about rivers and methods that lost me along the way. But those ideas took seed in memory. And all these years later, some of what they taught me has grown limbs.

In large part, we choose our influences for fly fishing. We select a path of interest and find the tutors. Then we fish. Sometimes, while in the throws of testing and experimenting, I go through long spells where I deliberately avoid fishing with others or soliciting advice. I don’t want my opinions and conclusions, or my own direction, swayed by the bent rod of a friend upstream. But more often, I’m a researcher, a questioner, a seeker of any and all things that are possible while standing midstream with a fly rod.

From Sawyer to Croston, Humphreys and Harvey, Rosenbauer, Brooks, Daniel and Olsen, understanding their ideas through the decades is how I learn. It’s how we all learn. The names change, but the process remains. We build a framework from others. Then we fit together the pieces of who we are as an angler.

Fish hard, friends.


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Enjoy the day.
Domenick Swentosky


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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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What do you think?

Be part of the Troutbitten community of ideas.
Be helpful. And be nice.


  1. Right on Dom! For me it’s the whole learning experience even when I’m not on the water.
    Due to family and work I’m not able to get as much time on the water as I would like.
    When I’m not on the water I’m fly tying, watching fly tying videos, reading about fly fishing. I love it all. It’s feeds my need to relaxation as well as enjoying the challenge of the thinking part of the sport both on and off the water.

  2. I started as a spinner fisherman many years ago. It wasn’t until my brother younger brother did a senior project on fly fishing that I started fly fishing as I too saw it as too difficult. I read fly fishing for dummies and that’s what started me down this wonderful journey. It’s what introduced me eventually to troutbitten. That led me to standing in a stream on a beautiful February afternoon catching rainbows. While I have only recently renewed my passion for catching trout on a fly, I’m now bringing my whole family along for the ride. Thanks for the inspiration Dom.

  3. Please add your name to the list of people from which we learn. I have learned a ton from reading your stuff.

    • I will second that comment!

  4. Dom
    To what degree do you make use of a fishing log in order to draw conclusions regarding your testing of different rigs, techniques, and flies? I searched your site and found no specific article on the use of formal fishing logs. Many of us do and would find it an interesting topic for discussion. Thanks

    • Hi Rick.

      Almost none, anymore. I kept a log in the nineties and early 2000’s. But once I started fishing almost every day, it became too much to maintain. I feel like the information I need is at my hands all the time. When I’m actively comparing leader formulas and tactics, I often keep notes, and I keep those even when I’m done using them.

      I used to keep records of water temps, weather conditions, barometer, etc. But I never found much correlation with any of that and fishing success. Truth is, arriving at the stream with too many preconceived notions about what they day will be like or what flies or tactics may work can be detrimental to success. That’s why one of my pet peeves is seeing anglers rig up everything at the car. How can you know what leader, fly and tactic you will choose until you study the water a bit? (Unless you’re setting out to test something specific.)


  5. “Truth is, arriving at the stream with too many preconceived notions about what they day will be like or what flies or tactics may work can be detrimental to success.”

    Never tell a trout what it should be doing and where it should be doing it!
    Always listen to what the trout say.

    I still use a log because it makes me reflect on the day and improves my memory.
    If I fished 200 days a year I’m sure I would retire it too.

    On a side note, NYS is implementing a modern trout management plan this season that finally eliminates stocking in premiere wild trout fisheries and includes year round fishing a-la PA. Cheers!

  6. Dom,
    I was at the trailhead of Euro-nymphing and I found two trail maps. One was George Daniels’ book – Dynamic nymphing. True other a blog called Troutbitten.

    Thanks! It’s been a wild ride down this rabbit hole.

    • THE other.

  7. Amen


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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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