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Geartrade manager Joseph standing in the stream with fly fishing gear.

A GT Interview: Talking Fly Fishing With Joseph Bucher

This week we had the opportunity to catch up with Geartrade’s very own Joseph Bucher to talk all things Fly Fishing.  Joseph is a Utah transplant originally from Northern California who loves to spend free time with friends exploring the mountains or the desert. He loves getting a terrible night sleep on the ground just as much as in his bed. When he’s not behind the desk working (or tying up bugs) you can find him backpacking, fly fishing, climbing or snowboarding.

Read on for Joseph's insights for beginner anglers along with some heart-warming tales of his first years learning to fish. We hope you enjoy it as much as we have! 

Q: I guess we should start with the basics  - Can you tell me how you got into Fly Fishing and who led you to it?

A: I actually have my grandpa to thank for this one. He was a big outdoorsman and fishing guide who was always taking me out on different lakes and rivers in the Sierra Nevadas and the surrounding Sacramento river delta. I grew up chasing Kokanee, Rainbow Trout, King Salmon, Sturgeon and any other species I could get into. That area of Northern California is extremely biodiverse with rivers and tributaries flowing into the Sacramento river from Mt. Shasta, the northern slope of the Sierras and the Coast Ranges. It really was a special place to grow up learning to fish.

 At that time I was only doing conventional fishing with a spinning rod, it wasn't until I moved to Utah that I picked up a fly rod. There weren't a whole lot of people I knew that fly fished. Luckily my buddy, Hayden, had an interest in learning it, too, as he had grown up only fishing conventionally. We both started our journey around the  same time not really knowing anything about it. Needless to say both of us learned a lot in the first two years going out. It was a trial by fire to say the least, we honestly didn't catch much of anything during that time. I mean a few fish here and there but no “lights out days” as they say. 

Q: Are you still in touch with that person/those people who introduced you to it? Do you still get out together?

A: Yeah!  Hayden and I still get out and fish all the time, whether here in Utah or other surrounding states like Wyoming and Idaho. Though I don't get to fly fish with my grandpa, I do still send him photos of the fish I catch and all the cool places I go. He gets to live vicariously through me and I really can't thank him enough for taking me outdoors any chance he could.  

Q: If you could describe the perfect conditions for a day out  in your eyes, what would it be?

A: For me the perfect conditions would be in the late spring or fall. Those seasons offer a lot of cloud cover which is ideal for fishing rivers and lakes. For the angler it reduces glare on the water and you don't cast a shadow. On sunny days the fish will tend to seek shady cover close to the banks and become less active. However, when it's overcast the fish will roam more freely in search of food without the increased threat of predation. 

Q: What are some of the more difficult parts of Fly fishing you think folks might not realize when they see others doing it?

A: The first thing is reading water, you may see someone walking down a river for a while before they stop and decide to put some casts in. That's because fish have specific areas they like to hang out at, this is especially true when on a river. For example, I’m looking for seams in the water that have a white foam line running on top. This is usually a good indicator of where fish are. I like to think of it as a conveyor belt of food that is coming straight to them, and all they have to do is pick out what looks the best. Another good thing to look for is structure. This could be boulders, downed trees or even overgrown bushes. Fish like to use these spots for cover or as a break from the current. Typically the less energy they have to expend the better, I mean swimming against the current all day can take its toll.

 The other piece would be making a good mend in your line after you cast. It can look easy when others are doing it but if not done correctly will completely shut down your chances of getting an eat. Ideally, you want the fly to be traveling at the same rate as the water in order for it to look as natural as possible. If you don't mend your line upstream it will pull the fly down at a faster rate than the water. To a fish this looks completely bizarre, and they wont touch it. Those are some of the big things that can be difficult at first to pick up on. 

Q:  Tell us a story: What is your favorite memory of Fly Fishing (Good or bad…or both!)

A: There are quite a few great memories I've had while fly fishing but one definitely sits at the top. It actually happened in January of this year when I decided to take my raft out and float a section of the lower Provo with a friend. The put in area still had a foot of snow on the ground with more to be expected the next day. I had the raft on top of my Four Runner and thought I could get a little bit closer to the water so we didn't have to drag it as far. However, in true fashion I got stuck… At this point my buddy and I decided it would be a problem to figure out after we were done with the float. Definitely not the best decision but we were committed. 

It couldn't have been a better day on the water as we both caught fish and enjoyed the beautiful scenery. This all faded away as we approached the take out and realized the  looming task ahead. By the time we got back to my rig it was starting to get darker and much colder, not ideal when you are trying to dig out a car. The kicker was  I didn't have a shovel and every tow company told me to kick rocks! We were on our own and literally up a creek without a paddle, or in this case a shovel. We tried to pull it out with the other car to no avail and decided it was time to drive into Heber and get some shovels. By this point we accepted our fate and we spent the next 4 hours digging it out. Finally, my car caught the track pads under the tires and I gunned it out. I dont think Ive ever yelled that loud out of pure joy; it was glorious. We were both dog tired and ice cold but we prevailed. Needless to say, that was the best night of sleep I've ever had. I can look back and laugh on the situation now and what a great time it was for the good and the bad. 

Q:  What is one thing you wish you knew when you started fly fishing?  Is there anything you wish you didn’t know that’s maybe worried you or caused you to second guess things?

A: Bugs, bugs and more bugs. Majoring in entomology would have really helped me out when I first started fly fishing. Knowing what type of bugs are hatching above, below the surface during certain times of the day and even year. There are small bugs below the surface that hatch year round like Midges and Sow Bugs. While bigger hatches like the Mothers Day Caddis, Blue Wings Olives and Buffalo Midges happen above the water during specific times of the year. 

The second part of this question really hits home. When I first started out fly fishing in Utah I knew there were areas of our local rivers like the Provo and Weber which could be technically illegal to fish because of private property laws. There was a lot of gray area around whether you could walk up stream while staying in the river and be legal. As bad as it sounds I wish I didn't know because it caused me a lot of stress while out on the river wondering if I was technically breaking the law. Unlike other states like Montana, where it is legal for someone to walk up a river through private property and fish private property as long as they stay in the river. This is because it's a public resource that no one person can own. Here it's a different story. Just this past year I was fishing a section of the lower Provo and was approached by a landowner who told me I was breaking the law and needed to leave. I inquired more and asked him how I was as I had stayed in the stream while I hiked up to the area I wanted to fish. I was under the assumption that it was legal as he did not own a public resource. He politely told me that he didn't own the water itself or the fish that inhabit it, but that he did in fact own the riverbed I was standing on. Technically that was land and he owned it. I said thanks for letting me know and left feeling extremely frustrated and bewildered by the fact that someone could own a specific part of a public resource. 

I did some digging when I got home and came across the Utah Stream Access Coalition or USAC for short who was in a legal battle with the state over this exact issue. In the 2023 Legislative Session H.B. 208 “Criminal Trespass Amendments” was passed. Sponsored by Rep. Scott Chew H.B. 208 assigns a defined penalty for wading and walking on stream beds that are of non-navigable waterways that flow through privately owned waterbeds. It gives authority of law enforcement to issue a class B misdemeanor for offenses. This is something that goes on your permanent record and can really hurt you in the long run. Fly Lords does a really good job of outlining the issue as a whole while talking with USAC. 

Q: Picture this: You’re stuck in your favorite area with only 3 pieces of equipment and one favorite fishing snack for yourself. Where are you, what did you bring, and why?

A: Good question! I am definitely a couple miles back into a Uinta basin at some high cold mountain lake. Can't give away which one but it starts with an A and ends with an S…. I brought with me a big foam grasshopper, an artificial mouse and a headlamp. During the day those fish are extremely hungry and looking for a big meal, one of their favorites is a nice hopper. However, when the sun goes down something else they absolutely go crazy for is a mouse. It can be hard to see where you are going which is why a headlamp is crucial as I am not a fan of falling into an ice cold lake at night. Plus, it is necessary to help me find my favorite snack I tucked away on the water's edge to get cold. At this point the mountains are definitely blue when I crack it open and take a sip. 

Q: What is your favorite part of fly fishing… and your least favorite?

A: For me personally it's exploring new places I have never been before. There is no better feeling than standing or floating down some new river in a new state. Especially in the evening if you catch a good sunset or even sunrise for that matter. You get to hear all the birds chirping or see deer cross the stream just ahead of you. Sure catching fish is a great time but getting out into the best parts of nature is what it's all about. 

My least favorite part would have to be untangling a line from a tree or from anything for that matter. I swear the line intentionally does it sometimes just to teach me some more lessons in patience. 

Q:  What are some good things for a true beginner to have and keep in mind?

A: Apart from a pair of waders, rod and reel, the biggest thing is a positive attitude. It can get very discouraging when you spend all day on the water and don’t catch anything. Especially when the person down stream seems to be hooking up with every other cast. Anytime you learn something new it takes time to pick up on all of the little things you don’t realize. Not every day is going to be great when you first start out so it's important to stay positive and enjoy the fact you are not behind a desk! 

Q: Finally, what is your best advice for somebody looking to try Fly Fishing for the first time?

A: Go into your local fly shop and talk with the staff. They are a wealth of knowledge and will be able to point you in the right direction on what flies to use and places to go. Plus, you are supporting a local business who does a lot to give back to our local waters. It’s something I wish I had done first starting out instead of trying to figure out everything on my own. 

Here in Salt Lake we have Fishwest and Fish Tech, both have great selections of tackle any beginner would need.  If you are farther south near Orem, Fly Fish Food is an excellent shop, and in Heber, Fish Heads is a go-to.

Finola McDonald thinks bios are really hard but here is her best go: Finola is a runner, a writer, a climber, snack enthusiast, cat mom, and city lifer turned nature lover who loves getting people outside. She is a firm believer that time in Earth’s wild spaces is time best spent and we need it more than ever. She hopes by sharing her passion for our planet and outdoor recreation, she can convince others of the same. In her free time, you can find her touching cool rocks, running around SLC and the Wasatch, and trying her hardest to leave this earth better than when she entered it.

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