Outdoors

Veteran outdoor writer, trout guide, conservationist and School of Trout chancellor Todd Tanner offers knot-tying pointers during the initial class on the Henrys Fork.

Ever wanted to become much better at your chosen passion?

As a youngster I certainly did.

Glacial slowness sank those All-American football dreams and eardrums that refused to depressurize grounded an Air Force flying career.

Hence, for 60 years I’ve practiced refining newspaper scribery, fishing and shotgunning.

But if you’re lacking a spare half century to boost your fly-fishing game then fast forward to accomplished outdoor writer and veteran fly-fishing guide Todd Tanner’s School of Trout. Tanner and his handpicked support crew of precision troutists promise to transform the truly interested into better fly anglers. Failure will not be an option in this endeavor.

A mega-reliable fishing resource introduced me to Mr. Tanner, who hides away in Canadian border-hugging Bigfork, but migrates down to Montana’s trout- happy zones to collect article material, instruct and also energize his valuable ConservationHawks.org climate-saving projects. In its second season School of Trout offers a pair of August and October Henrys Fork opportunities to supercharge your fly rod prowess by leaps and bounds.

Be aware: This is not inexpensive, so if volunteering students can’t embrace change they are better off continuing to pay money for fish rather than learning how to fish. (Bruun statement, not SOT’s).

According to SOT Chancellor Tanner: The Basic Trout Class (Oct. 6-12) is for beginning and intermediate anglers who want to learn from some of the world’s most accomplished fishermen in the process of creating a rock-solid fly fishing foundation. These instructors and presenters include Tom Rosenbauer, John Juracek, Bob White, Craig Matthews, Kirk Deeter, Tim Romano, Hilary Hutcheson, Steve McFarland, Pat McCabe and Tanner. Cost is $7,950 inclusive per student. All food, wine, beer and accommodations are provided by Trout Hunter on Idaho’s Henrys Fork.

The Advanced Dry Fly Class (Aug. 25-29) is designed for fishermen desirous of taking their dry fly skills to new heights. Instructors and presenters are John Juracek, Jeff Currier, Steve McFarland, Pat McCabe and Tanner. Cost is $4,350 per student with Trout Hunter food and accommodations.

Fly-fishing schools are numerous. Most last a day or two, and depending on instructor quality and location, can be an excellent introduction to untangling intimidating ground rules surrounding fly-fishing. Upon close inspection, SOT is a modern re-creation of the early collaborative Henrys Fork Fly Fishing School pioneered by legends Andre Puyans and Mel Krieger. This foundation originated with the innovative fly tying and fishing instruction of renowned northern California Creative Sports owner Puyans. Mel Krieger, a casting mentor for world champion Steve Rajeff, could with his enthusiasm alone, transform rod wavers into fly casters.

In a tasty bite of nostalgia, SOT instructor Pat McCabe was an early Puyans employee who participated in the fabled Idaho programs. I have friends whose lifelong fly-fishing fires were ignited by the Puyans-Krieger institution.

Since discovering these upcoming class opportunities on the venerable Henrys Fork where fly-fishing history continues to be created and written, I’ve digested Todd Tanner’s and John Juracek’s published writings about fly casting, slower more accurate rod actions and how to make your trout outings much more fun. Many are featured on the HatchMag.com fishing site.

After examining what these two avowed disciples of the slower rod movement have to say, I’m eager to try a dose of their reasoning. Todd and John preach that using a fast, stiff rod demands that the caster work harder to bend the rod in order to store its energy to make the cast. They reason that a slower, easier-to-load rod increases all accuracy — from delicate tiny dries to wind resistant hoppers and even placement of weighted nymphs. After all, making a good cast is a great reward in its own right. The maraschino cherry topping is that fly casting well is really lots of fun. But proficiency is achieved only with continual practice.

Inundating students with accomplished celebrity instructors isn’t a new device. The Florida Keys Fly Fishing School, since its creation by serious flats fisherman Sandy Moret, has been treating its students to instruction by the pioneering who’s who of saltwater backcountry long rodding. This Islamorada institution is a destination resort of its own.

I’m familiar with most of the SOT crew members and have known several of them since their humble beginnings. Juracek and Craig Matthews (and wife Jackie) teamed for years as the creative forces behind West Yellowstone’s innovative Blue Ribbon Flies. Although no longer owners, both gents regularly appear behind the shop’s counters when they aren’t spending way too much time fishing. They’re terrific people with a handle on Yellowstone-area history and the honed skills to prevail in any trout conditions.

Bob White has been around southeast Alaska for three decades both as a competent trout and wingshooting guide and host and a brilliant artist. Similarly, Tim Romano bounces in and out of interesting fly- fishing travel and publishing situations, and his photography results are welcomed wherever they are in play. Tom Rosenbauer has long been both the face and now voice of the Orvis Company. Tom has produced an endless trail of books, magazine and catalog articles, presented seminars and insured the latest and cutest gadgets appear in the Orvis catalogs. This ageless bearded dude is now running amok with podcasts and videos that appear on my smartphone with the regularity of the Weather Channel. Few in the fly-fishing world have a broader background with the dedication to passing along good information than Mr. Rosenbauer.

Kirk Deeter inherited me as one of his scribes when he took command of Trout Unlimited’s quarterly Trout magazine and has been nice enough to keep me around. As the former fly-fishing editor of Field&Stream, book author, sidekick of the late Denver Post outdoors icon Charley Meyers and well-traveled angler, Deeter is dynamic education for every group he meets.

I’ve enjoyed seeing the always vivacious Patagonia and Yeti ambassador Hilary Hutcheson on trout TV around her Lary’s Fly Shop in Columbia Falls, Montana. Media savvy and passionate about stopping climate change in its tracks, Hilary energizes any and all anglers she encounters.

I’m not personally familiar with Steve McFarland and Pat McCabe, whose guiding history and angling prowess are substantial. And I’ve now read so many of Todd Tanner’s personalized fly-fishing theories and articles that I deem him in a class by himself.

Finally, new to the SOT lineup this year is a not-so-youthful-anymore world-traveling fly fisherman, blogger and artist Jeff Currier. Just a kid when he took over the fly department in Jackson’s largest outdoor store, Currier has honed his photography, writing, traveling and fly-fishing skills beyond those of a modern A. J. McClane. The first American to ever medal (bronze) in the World Fly Fishing Championships (with a 102-degree temperature and vomiting), this gent’s ability can turn any dull fishing situation into the Jerry Springer Show. From trout to tuna and mahseer to mangrove jack, Currier is both a complete and a "compleat" angler.

Additionally, Trout Hunter’s four-star room comfort and food service give SOT a platinum facility rating that vaporizes the residency rigors of Puyans and Krieger. The only extra you’ll need is an Idaho license.

Paul Bruun writes every other week on his adventures and misadventures in the great outdoors. Contact him at columnists@jhnewsandguide.com.

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