In this installment of Faces of Fly Fishing, Flylords had the chance to catch up with the man who’s just about done it all. This week, we had the pleasure of sitting down with angler, guide, fly-tier, father, teacher, and published author, George Daniel.
Flylords: Who is George Daniel?
George: Just a guy who has worked hard (and has hopefully starting to work smarter) for the last 22 years to make a living in the fly fishing industry. I’m married to my wife (who also fly fishes) and have two kick-ass kids and an awesome Boykin spaniel.
I would say my biggest drive is lifelong learning and surrounding myself with the best anglers in the sport, which is why I enjoy traveling and spending time with guides on their local water. I am energized by spending time with anglers who will push me to become better at my craft. As they say, “the journey is the reward” and I continue to be rewarded every day.
Flylords: What inspired you to start Fly Fishing?
George: My father introduced me to fly fishing when I was five. He was a skilled angler but had zero patience for teaching me. I lived in a small remote northern PA “village” called Germania. We were a one-car family, living at the poverty level, but luckily a small brook trout stream ran through our property. The stream was called Germania Branch and that section was a Kids Only Section. I was the only kid in a 20-mile radius so for the next 8 years I had my own private brook trout stream all to myself. There was nothing else to do and my family couldn’t afford the first generation Nintendo so I spent all my free time flailing my 7 ½’ Fenwick Fiberglass along the stream.
Eventually, in the mid-’90s, our family moved to central PA. I knew about Joe Humphreys and George Harvey teaching the Penn State Angling Program, and Joe’s Trout Tactics book was my first fly fishing literature. That book inspired me to become a better angler and also created a goal of eventually teaching fly fishing at Penn State. I was 13 years old at the time. I had lots of ups and downs in my angling career but I never steered away from my goal to teach at the collegiate level. Finally last year, at age 40 I began teaching one class and now I teach all the fly fishing courses at Penn State.
Flylords: You’re a best selling author whose most recent book covers everything nymphing, would you say nymphing is your favorite style of fishing? Why?
George: I would say throwing streamers for any fish species and hunting trout with a dry fly is by far my favorite fly fishing approach. In fact, I’m currently working on a book for surface strategies.
However, what I love about nymphing is the actual engineering and science behind the approach. Without getting too geeky…I love the fact that you normally can’t see the fish take your fly as you do with dry fly fishing. Instead, you’re fishing the water, guessing the trout’s feeding position, developing a nymphing system that puts your fly in the strike zone, and working to develop excellent line management so you can either see or feel the subsurface strike occurs.
Flylords: Do you have a favorite fly-fishing author?
George: I’m more like Mark Cuban (yes, the Shark Tank guy) when he mentioned he has never read a book for which he hasn’t learned something from. I can’t say I have a favorite author since I’ve learned so much from so many authors. However, I will say I tend to gravitate towards technical fly fishing manuals. I’m not much into storytelling and antidotes. I just want to obtain the golden nuggets of information and spend my time implementing that knowledge into my fly fishing game and by extension…my teachings. The quicker I can get that info and put it to use…the better. I know so many great writers who can weave stories into their writing but it’s just not for me.
Flylords: You’re highly accredited for bringing the mop fly into the spotlight, can you give the back story of the fly’s creation?
George: All I know is a friend of a friend from North Carolina was credited with creating the first mop pattern. After I left competing for Fly Fishing Team USA, I was hired on by the North Carolina Fly Fishing Team to act as a head coach. One practice was held in central PA and the team came up to work with me. During that time, I lived on the banks of a well-known limestone stream and fished that section behind my house almost every day and knew (at least I thought I did) every fish by name. Paul Bourq was the captain of the team and told me about this “MOP” fly they used to crush stockies and wild fish on their home waters, and mentioned they were going to try out these patterns on this stream known for tough fishing. I told them they were wasting their time because my beloved and educated limestone trout wouldn’t fall for junk flies. After five minutes of fishing in less than ideal conditions, Paul took two of the largest brown trout (upper teens) I’ve seen in that stream section. Insert the humble pie. Ever since then I have learned to keep mouth shut when someone shows me a new pattern, even when it looks like “junk.” The mop fly just has magical powers.
Flylords: The Mop fly is one of the most effective, yet controversial flies out there. What do you say to the people who refuse to fish it?
George: I understand both sides, but don’t knock me or anyone else for using the mop if it’s the only option to catch fish. Fly fishing is whatever you make out of it. Yes, if I had my way I would catch all my large brown trout, bass, and musky ripping large streamers at a breakneck pace or catching large cutthroat trout on the Yellowstone River (in YNP) on Large Chubby Chernobyl patterns. But the fact is, those situations that allow those techniques to work are very limited and I (like most people) want to catch fish during our time on the water. So if I feel the only chance I have to catch a fish is to throw junk flies…I will. However, if there’s a small chance to catch some good fish on dry flies, although I know I’ll catch more fish using a mop, then I may just hold out and throw a dry fly. 41 laps around the sun has taught me one thing…don’t judge other anglers on what they do (unless they’re doing harm to the sport or resource). Everyone has a different reason or goal when they fish so just chill out and enjoy the time you have on the water don’t worry about what the other person is doing.
Flylords: Between being a writer, a teacher, and a guide, do you have a favorite out of the 3 professions?
George: I think doing all three keeps life keeps it exciting for me. Also, those three feed off of each other. I think being on the water almost every day (even when it’s only several hours) keeps your teaching relevant for students. Being a teacher forces you to know your subject inside and out which makes you a better angler on the stream. Teaching also has forced me to become a communicator both written and spoken.
Flylords: Do you have any tips for young writers/ fly fishing enthusiasts looking to explore writing?
George: Simple: Develop your own style of communicating. I believe the subject of fly fishing has been written about more than any other subject. From what I know, fly fishing started in Macedonia during the time Christopher Columbus was “sailing the ocean blue.” In other words, there is really nothing “new” in fly fishing. However, everyone has their own take/spin on the subject and that’s what readers are looking for. Maybe you have a different phrase or analogy to explain how to set up a dry fly rig, and just maybe you’re able a few anglers with your own phrasing. For example, I’m fascinated by reading countless books on special forces. I love reading about their preparations, training, actual combat operations, and how they synthesize all these lessons into future planning. The authors of these books are usually saying the same thing but they say it in their own voice, and because of that I take away countless tips and lessons from each other. Think about fly fishing and the recent explosion of Euro nymphing. Everyone and their brother/sister is writing about euro nymphing tactics. For the most part, this is great because it gives readers options to choose the writing style they best click with when trying to digest the information. We’re all saying basically the same thing but have a different means of delivery.
Lastly, I’ve read a lot of fly fishing literature over the years and have become acquainted with a number of fly fishing authors and their unique voice for sharing their message. Nothing pisses me off more when I read an article, blog, or book and can tell he/she is simply just copying and pasting someone else’s “voice” into their own writing. Readers want to hear your own take on a subject, so give them your original voice, and you’ll be rewarded.
Make sure to tune into the Flylords Instagram tonight at 8:00 pm EST for a live tie session with George!