the .raw story : Fly Through Nebraska
Below you will find a passion project between my partner John Paul & myself. Even though we had grown up in Nebraska our entire lives, we had never actually explored the nooks & crannies Northern or Western Nebraska. Many cornfields & sandhill horizons later.. told from JP's point of view, this was our story.
When it comes to the splendor, art, science and beauty of fly fishing, I am oftentimes pondering the notion of why? Why do I really do this? Why do I spend weeks on end searching for a new hole? Why do I devote time thumbing through which fly to use? Why do I find myself at complete peace in the bottom of a canyon throwing my line in the water to catch nothing at all? What is the point in all of this? I still have a very hard time answering all of these questions, but even then, it lead me to a dream. One that I imagine 99% of folks who fly fish would never even dream of: which was to fish every public trout carrying stream in the state of Nebraska with a fly rod in hand. Thus the Fly Through Nebraska Tour began.
I'm sure you're wondering, Nebraska? Where can you fly fish for trout in Nebraska? Well that is exactly what I sought out to do! But let's start from the beginning.
As some young kid from Lincoln, Nebraska the seething desire to catch trout was coursing through my veins before I ever set foot in this world. My father, originally from York, Pennsylvania moved to Lincoln to work for his oldest brother after his stint in the military and settled down here to raise a family. He spent much of his time fishing on the mountain creeks of PA, as did much of his brothers (coming from a family of 12, he had to eat somehow!). He wasn't much of the studious type, rather a football player, hunter and fisherman. I always love hearing his stories of how his history teacher/head football coach and also avid trout fisherman would let him skip class to go fishing, as long as he was truthfully going fishing, which he always did! So, one of the stipulations about moving to a cozy, safe little town primarily known for its College Football, was there had to be trout fishing nearby or good bird hunting. He came across a tremendous pheasant population immediately, that was until commercial farming practices took over and wiped out their sustainable habitat. Next on the list was finding a sustainable trout source. Well, his brother had been on the search for a few years since living here and eventually came across a magazine featuring someone holding a massive brown trout in a beautiful stream. My uncle continued on this search to find out more information and soon learned if you wanted to fish there, you had to pay a daily fee of one dollar. To some, this was a major turn off. To these two boys from back east licking their chops to catch trout, let alone to see a trout was a no brainer!
Anyways I grew up fishing on the premiere trout stream in Nebraska, a tributary to the Niobrara called the Snake River. I learned how to read water, pinpoint where fish lie, how not to horse a fish in, and most importantly - how to enjoy and respect Mother Nature!
Honestly though, I had no desire to fish anywhere else in the state because well, I didn't know of anywhere else and everyone told me it was the best, so why change it up? Eventually though, I yearned for more and the dive into the rabbit hole began. Scrolling through social media one day I saw a photo of someone catching a vibrant, beautiful brown trout full of wildness and vitality. Continuing further down this rabbit hole, the next thing I know I am on a quest for trout all around the state! Browns, Rainbows, Brookies, Tigers and Cutthroats can all be caught here; primarily in small tributaries and streams that break off in the Panhandle and Pine Ridge area from the Niobrara River and the White River, along with a few other more substantial trout carrying waters that can be found in and near the North Platte River along I-80. Therefore, my partner, Nicolette and I, set out for an excursion around the state to catch trout, sunrises, sunsets and all of the mystified beauty that is embedded and rather unknown in this commonly referred "fly-over state."
Now, I could bore you with all of the fish stories and talk about the days where I caught what may have been a state record Tiger Trout (this isn't officially recorded, but after speaking with an elderly gentleman who was familiar with this record, he confirmed it), where I caught well over 50 fish in a day, or about the intricacies of catching brook trout. But I find that irrelevant as to why and what is the point in doing all of this.
For me, for us, it comes down to connection; feeling intertwined with something so rudimentary, so basic, yet so critical for our well-being. It's not just about catching fish, rather it is the essence of being in complete harmony with the environment and everything around. Catching trout is simply a byproduct of the utter presence; knowing what the fish want - or what the don't want! That presence allows us to lay in the perfect cast and to be aware of setting a strong hook. It provides us with the knowledge of how critters are utilizing the banks and how weather can shift on a dime. But even more importantly, again for me, this time allows for peace, contemplation, and awe - something we all need more of, especially as a society - for it brings us back to the present moment with no time to stress and worry about things that will just end up eating away at us.
This deepened connection didn't just begin and end with the streams and trout though. It was enhanced through the travel and adventure in our own backyard. Oftentimes we take for granted what is so close. We found ample opportunity that neither of us had ever seen or heard about before. We moved on the road less traveled, stopped in towns of 50, got stuck in sand, met new friends and fishing partners, lived disconnected from the grid and yet completely connected with the ground, and lastly - we accrued one of the most important forms of currency available - experiences! Oh yeah and all of those fish stories, those are really valuable too!
Nebraska Location Journals Below: