Faces of Fly Fishing: Miles Nolte from MeatEater

Flylords caught up with Miles Nolte, the Director of Fishing at MeatEater. Miles has been an outdoor writer and editor for more than a decade and was a fishing guide for even longer than that. Check out the interview below.

Flylords: Who is Miles Nolte?

Miles: Right now, I’m the Director of Fishing at MeatEater, but before taking this job I spent nearly 15 years working as a fishing guide in Alaska and Montana. I’ve also worked as an outdoor writer and editor for more than a decade.

Flylords: What came first the writing or the fishing?

Miles: Fishing. Fishing has been my passion since I was a kid, like 4 years old. Before discovering girls, fishing and baseball were all I really cared about and, not surprisingly, I was drawn to stories about those topics. In college, I majored in English because nothing else held my attention. English degrees don’t exactly translate to career paths, so I wound up working as a fishing guide and found that offered me plenty of good stories to tell. I got my start writing for The Drake magazine, freelanced for a while, then I wrote the Alaska Chronicles, which earned me some credit in the industry. Then Gray’s Sporting Journal hired me as their angling editor, a position I held for the better part of a decade. Last year, I was offered the chance to work here at MeatEater. 

Flylords: As a writer in the outdoor industry, I know you have worn many hats, can you tell us a little about some of the jobs you worked on to stay afloat as a full time writer?

Miles: First off, writing is both easy and incredibly difficult. I say it’s easy because I’ve worked a lot of truly shitty jobs in my life: restaurant and bar janitor (don’t forget to scrub the puke off the back of the toilet), dishwasher, construction laborer, server, bar back, adult babysitter. Sitting at a desk tapping on a keyboard doesn’t compare to roofing in the summer, so when I hear writers complain about how hard they work, I can’t help but laugh (sorry Hemingway). That said, writing is work. Writing well requires a great deal of time and discipline. Additionally, young writers are almost always writing on spec, meaning they’re spending a huge quantity of time and energy on something that they may or may not be able to sell. Freelance writing also doesn’t come with any benefits. So, before starting here at MeatEater, I spent the previous decade or so working multiple jobs: I was the angling editor at Gray’s Sporting Journal, a full time instructor in the English Department at Montana State University, a freelance contributor to multiple magazines, head writer at Tributaries Digital Cinema, and a fishing guide in the summer. 

Flylords: Alaska Chronicles is definitely one of our favorite books, what inspired that book to come to fruition?

Miles: Any time anybody chooses to read my work, I’m appreciative. To be honest, I never set out to write a book when I wrote the Chronicles. Initially I just found myself in a situation where I couldn’t make up stories as strange and interesting as my everyday experiences. The most basic writing advice that everyone gets in school suggests, “write what you know.” I just started writing down what was happening to me and publishing it on The Drake website. People really liked it, and a few months later, a Departure Publishing contacted me about making it into a book.

Flylords: Tell us about your new position with MeatEater? What’s it like having a desk job?

Miles: Some days, I miss being on the water and knowing exactly what’s happening with our local fisheries. Other days, I miss the freedom of a freelance lifestyle. But, I honestly could not be more enthusiastic about the work I do and the group of people I get to work with. I get to sit down with an incredibly smart, creative crew and try to invent the future of outdoor media.

Flylords: I know you have basically spent the last 6 months working on Das Boat, how did you help this series come to life?

Miles: My role on Das Boat was writer, producer, and creator, but it took a huge team of people to make that show happen. Our goal was to create a unique fishing show that celebrates American fishing in a way that’s been neglected by much of the fishing media. So much fishing media has focused on going farther away and catching the craziest fish we can think of in the craziest place possible. To be fair, I participated in that in some of my own previous work, but I think a lot of folks have started to find that focus alienating. We saw an opportunity to celebrate accessible and amazing fishing that’s been overlooked in some ways. 

I also just have a thing for shitty old aluminum boats, and so do many of my friends. I think a lot of anglers got started on those boats, and they gave us our first taste of the possibilities that boats represent—that freedom and access to a world generally inaccessible to terrestrial creatures. As we’ve gotten older, we’ve either purchased or just lusted after newer, flashier, more technologically advanced crafts. Don’t get me wrong, fishing out of tricked out boats is nice, but nothing has ever quite had the same magic as that first boat I used as a kid. We wanted to make a show where one of those boats was the star and people seem to resonate with that. Our episodes weren’t guided; they were all about interesting people enjoying each others’ company, making viewers feel like they could do it, and giving the spotlight to local fisheries and resources.

Flylords: What was the greatest challenge in putting together Das Boat?

Miles: Our timeline. We came up with the idea for the show in April, starting shooting in June, and released the first episode in August. That’s a terrible idea. No one should ever create a show on that tight of a schedule. My thanks go out to all the people who busted their asses in order to meet our deadlines—Steven Rinella, RA Beattie, Bryan Gregson, Sean McCormick, Will Phelps, Paul Bourq, Tim Harden, Sam Lungren, and all the rest of the crew. 

Flylords: Can you recommend 5 books for our readers?

Miles: Brown Dog, by Jim Harrison, The River Why, by David James Duncan, Trout Bum, by John Gierach, Indian Creek Chronicles, by Pete Fromm, Wild Thoughts from Wild Places, by David Quammen.

Flylords: How about a beer?

Miles: An admission, perhaps sacreligious in these bitter times: I’m really not into the whole IPA craze. Hops are fine, but I actually prefer a bit more balance to my brew. I also tend toward local fermentations—Gallatin Pale Ale by the Bozeman Brewing Company is my standard, go-to, gullet moistener. That said, I’m also a fan of the brown water, and MeatEater recently partnered with Willie’s Distillery in Ennis, Montana on a particularly delicious bourbon. It’s definitely not an every day spirit, but it’s a good special occasion sipper.

Flylords: What’s next on the radar coming up for the MeatEater Fishing Dept?

Miles: When I started at MeatEater, I had two goals: 1) I wanted to show our current audience that we can do fishing in a way you think is interesting, and 2) I wanted to give anglers a reason to spend some time looking at MeatEater. 

MeatEater is known for hunting, and so lots of people who fish, but don’t hunt, may not have bothered tuning in. But MeatEater’s approach to outdoor media, our focus on understanding and respecting our resources and fostering a meaningful relationship to those resources, resonates beyond hunting. We’re bringing a similar ethos to our fishing content.

We’ve built out a series of writers and articles that are specifically focused on fishing and conservation issues that I’m proud of. Most folks don’t come to themeateater.com thinking they’ll find fishing, but the fact we’re getting traction and having people come to us for that makes me feel like we’re doing a good job. 

Our plan is to continue to expand our fishing offerings. We’re working on a video series about ice fishing, another Das Boat season and a few other video ideas. We’re also putting out weekly fishing articles on our website. The MeatEater Fishing Department is only going to keep growing.

You can follow along with Miles at @watermiles on Instagram and also MeatEater @meateater.

Season Finale of MeatEater’s Das Boat Premieres

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