Faces of Fly Fishing: Derek Olthuis

Family, Faith, and Fishing are the best words to describe this week’s Faces of Fly fishing. We had the opportunity to sit down with THE Derek Olthuis. There is no doubt this guy can fish… He has the patience, intelligence, and spirit that several fishermen seem to lack. This past winter he and InTents Media released a trip targeting the “holy grail” up in Canada’s Arctic Circle.

Flylords: Who is Derek Olthuis?

Derek: I am simply a guy who loves fly fishing so much that I couldn’t possibly handle the thought of an office job and so… I pursued a career in fly fishing! I am a Christian, a family man, and an outdoorsman.

Photo Credit Phil Tuttle

Flylords: How do you get to do what you do?

Derek: Obviously, there is a lot of luck involved in being able to travel and fish some amazing places around the world. Probably the biggest thing is developing relationships with companies and providing them with value. Lodges, guides, and outfitters need media more than ever and being able to provide them with content that will help bring exposure to their fishery and business. It has been a good way to build great relationships and open doors to fish in various places around the world.

Flylords: When did the fly fishing journey begin?

Derek: As a boy, I grew up on a small lake in Montana, fishing was the daily norm. Around 8 years old my uncle invited me to come to Bozeman and give fly fishing a shot. He set me up with all the gear, gave me a quick lesson, and sent me out on the Gallatin River. My mind was blown, casting, reading the river, and the fish was unlike anything I had ever experienced. It only took once with the flies replacing the spinners, and the ugly stick turned into a Browning fly rod with an Orvis reel. Since that first time I have never looked back, fly fishing became my main focus.

Flylords: Is there a downfall to all the traveling?

Derek: The hardest part about traveling is being away from my wife and kids. After roughly a week on the road, it becomes tough to be away and as good as fishing might be I start looking forward to being at home.

Photo Credit Michelle Olthuis

Flylords: How do you manage fly fishing time and family time?

Derek: Managing time between family and fly fishing can be tough. My wife and I look at a calendar and figure out when there is a family event or something for the kids that is important and we plan around that. Often fishing means hitting the water early in the morning and coming home around the same time the kids are home from school or fishing at night when the kids are asleep. It certainly requires some sacrifice but if doable when we sit down and figure out the days of the week that will be best for me to get on the water.

Flylords: What was one of the most memorable films that you were apart of?

Derek: Without doubt one of the most memorable trips was heading to the Canadian Arctic to film Seriously North.

Flylords: What makes the Arctic char the “holy grail”?

Derek: All of us (the InTents Media crew) love char, for us, those colored-up sea run arctic char are rare, difficult to access, and among the most beautiful fish on earth. That combination makes them extra special to us and the Holy Grail.

Flylords: Whose idea was it to kneel during the struggle?

Derek: I am not sure that anyone person came up with the idea to kneel down and pray. Everyone on the trip is religious and believes that God is aware of us. As we talked about the trip, the struggles and that this might be our one chance to catch these fish we decided to kneel down together and ask for help from a higher power, from our Heavenly Father.

Flylords: Were you ever afraid of the dangers on these trips?

Derek: We are always aware of the dangers involved in a trip like that, part of the fun is knowing there is a risk that can really turn the trip into an adventure. We do a lot of research and talk through the possible dangers to make sure we have the proper gear and a game plan for anything that might arise. I am a firm believer that being prepared removes the majority of the fear and allows for a more carefree experience. On almost every trip we have experienced discomfort, bad weather, tough fishing, and genuine adventure but I guess that is what makes these types of trips so much fun!

Flylords: What’s the largest fish you’ve ever caught on a fly rod?

Derek: Probably a tarpon. There is something special about tarpon. It is almost as though electricity pulses through the line and into your body when you hook up on a big poon. Trout and char are my bread and butter; however, every fly angler should catch a tarpon on the fly at least once!

Flylords: Favorite fly pattern?

Derek: I am going to have to say a bugger. Buggers are so versatile, you can pound the banks with them, dead drift them, or fish them like a leech in lakes. In fact, I am sure that if you tied them on a salt hook you would do well in the ocean with a bugger. I have caught several species of fish all over the world on a bugger and can’t think of a pattern that is a better no brainer searching pattern like a bugger.

Flylords: What’s the most underrated piece of gear you have?

Derek: Either sunglasses or the hook. I see a ton of people show up to fish with an expensive rod, reel, line, fishing bag, waders, and so on. Then often people’s hooks are cheap, rusty or dull and they are wearing sunglasses they bought at the gas station. Sunglasses are what allows me to see fish and observe them, giving me all the clues to catch them. And hooks are your most important link between you and the fish. All the other pieces of equipment only work if the hook is sharp and strong enough to get the job done. All of the best gear is next to worthless if you have a crappy hook.

Sam Parkinson with the one!

Flylords: What destination would you recommend for a group of angling buddies?

Derek: Huh, that’s a tough one. There are so many great places to fish it is hard to choose one but I might say Alaska. Alaska has so much to offer any angler it is hard to think of a better place for almost any ability level or type of person. There are enough salmon in the river that anyone can catch a fish, a trophy rainbow will provide a challenge and if you get tired of catching fish just look around and enjoy the bears, scenery and overall experience of being in a location that has so much to offer an outdoorsman.

Flylords: Have you learned any lessons about life or fishing from all the fishing you do around the globe?

Derek: Fishing around the world has really taught me a lot. It has shown me how many amazing places there are in the world, how many great people love fish and fishing, and just how lucky I am to live where I live. As much as I love traveling it is hard to beat the Rocky Mountains in the US and Canada. There is so much diversity in the West between types of fish and places to pursue them it has really made me appreciate the areas I so often take for granted.

Flylords: Any upcoming trips?

Derek: In the remaining months of the year myself and the crew will be heading to Minipi in Eastern Canada, Katmai Trophy Lodge in Alaska, and Seychelles. Each will be unique from the others but I can’t wait to fish them all. To be honest, I am really looking forward to fishing around the home from most of the summer, it has been a blast so far!

Cortney Boice and Sam Parkinson load up the floatplane to head out for Seriously North.


This interview was conducted by team member Collin Terchanik.

Header photo by Phil Tuttle.

Faces of Fly Fishing: Tanner Smith

Faces of Fly Fishing: Christiaan Pretorius



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