Pat Dorsey is one of the more well known personalities in the fly fishing business- and for good reason. Pat has done a lot in his 35+ years experience. He is an Orvis Endorsed Guide and won the 2001 Guide of the Year honors. He is an author of 4 books and countless articles, a signature fly designer for Umpqua Feather Merchants, as well as being co-owner of the prestigious Blue Quill Angler fly shop in Colorado.
I am extremely appreciative of Pat taking some time out of his evenings after guiding to answer a few questions for us.
There are many paths life can take a person these days- what brought you into fly fishing, and ultimately guiding and and writing about your experiences?
I caught my first fish with my father Jim Dorsey when I was 10 years old in the Gunnsion Valley. Early on, I knew there was something special about fly fishing. My Uncle taught me how to tie my first fly shortly thereafter. My passion was fueled by catching tough trout on small flies, which ultimately led to a career in the fly fishing industry.
Pat’s latest project was Colorado Guide Flies and it is a tremendous book with the insight of countless Colorado fly tyers and guides. What was it like working with such a talented cast?
Colorado Guide Flies is the project I’m most proud of. The book is filled with stunning photography (which is another passion of mine) and a lot of great information. I fished with the best guides in Colorado whom shared their flies, tips, tactics, and techniques to catch trout on the watersheds they guide on. The book contains nearly 600 flies with recipes. It is a must-have for any angler (east or west) as these flies are proven guide flies that fish well all over the country.
Let’s talk about commercial fly tying. How did you start your commercial experience- what was the first fly that was accepted by one of the big tying houses? Also- for the new or young tyer out there reading this- what advice would you give him to get a fly into a catalog?
I was a commercial tier before I was a guide. I supplied flies for a dozen or so fly shops in Colorado. In my prime, I was tying nearly 28,000 flies a year. 25 years ago, I started guiding. For a while, I tied and guided, until my guide schedule would not allow me to tie on a large scale. That’s when I sent my flies to Umpqua Feather Merchants. The first fly they accepted was the Black Beauty, a long time proven pattern. This was followed by the Mercury series of flies, and through the years, I have submitted several patterns.
Your signature flies are extremely well known, and most are midges. Is this a result of you liking that style of fly or a byproduct of where you guide day in and day out or both?
It is a byproduct of where I guide. The South Platte in Cheesman Canyon (Deckers) is a classic tailwater fishery, loaded with lots of midges and mayflies. In most cases, you’ll be fishing with flies size 20 and smaller.
I will readily admit- midges are not my forte, I absolutely love the patterns but I don’t tie or fish them often. I know your book goes well beyond a pattern list- and talks about how to fish them effectively. What are 3 tips for better midge fishing success? And which 3 patterns of yours should be in every fly fishermen’s boxes regardless of locale?
The smaller the better. Oftentimes, fishing a size 24 (instead of a 22) is the difference between catching fish and NOT catching fish. The Mercury Midge, Top Secret Midge and Black Beauty (and its variations) are must haves for all tailwater junkies.
Let’s talk about stages of fly development. Where do your ideas come from more- seeing new materials, someone else’s flies, or being on the water and observing a certain look, behavior, or problem?
My design has always been simple yet effective. I keep my flies thin and sparse and typically use some flash as a trigger. A prime example is the silver-lined bead (Mercury Bead) on my midges. It imitates the gas bubble in the thorax prior to emergence. The realistic looking appearance helps entice trout to eat my offering….
For all those wannabe midge tyers- what are some must have materials to tie with? What tips can you give for those struggling to tie correct proportions on the smaller hooks?
Think simple, sparse and most importantly small. Start with a size 18 and move down in size as you get comfortable. Once again, practice makes perfect. I tie just about every day, some for guide trips, and some for my personal days. Fly tying is the next part of the addiction…
Being friends with you on Facebook for a while- I think everyone gets a little Fly Box Envy from seeing row after row- dozen after dozen in what I believe are Wheatley Swing Leaf boxes What are your thoughts on fly box organization? Do you bring all of your flies to the water on an outing, or do you narrow it down by hatch type, season, and river? Why do you prefer the Wheatley Swing Leaf boxes to the others?
I carry at least two Wheatleys with me at all times, sometimes three. They have all my tailwater flies and some bead head patterns that work well for larger freestones. I carry another ripple foam box with scuds, one with aquatic worms, and several dry fly boxes depending on the hatch. I only carry what I need though, for instance, I do not carry Tricos in January, just midge adults.
How many flies are in the midge box? I would guess 800……??!?!?!?!?
Some of my Wheatley’s have well over 2000 flies in them. Some of the rows have 50 flies…
For the people like myself who have yet to fish Colorado and the Rockies, give some advice on preparation. Is there any specific gear- rod size, tippet selection that you would recommend? Are there any books I should read?
The Rockies are a special place. We have 9000 miles of trout streams, of which 170 of those is gold medal. There are a lot world class tailwaters and lots of fabled freestones. You’ll find good nymphing, dry fly fishing, and streamer fishing. A 9 foot, 5 and 6 weight rod are ideal for these waters.
Are there any fly fishing websites that you like and recommend in general, or for fishing Colorado specifically?
I would recommend on checking the flows before visiting a river.
Otherwise I recommend using my fishing report on www.patdorseyflyfishing.com
Being a guide you probably see it all as far as clients are concerned. How can a client better prepare to have a successful day on the water? Is it adjusting expectations, or putting in practice on the water? What would allow you to do your best job for them?
All my guide trips begin with a discussion about their expectations. My goal is that the customer is a better angler at the day’s end. Practice makes perfect, I encourage them to get back on the water as often as they can. There is no substitution for time on the water. I make myself available via email and cell phone to help them along the way. I tell my customers… “A guide trip is never over…reach out to me anytime with any questions or concerns.”
What is your current favorite
Vise: Regal Stainless Steel
Bobbin: I use Thompson ceramic bobbins that are 30 years old.
Thread: Mostly 8/0 Uni
Hook Brand: Tiemco
Tying Book: I learned to tie flies from the Jack Dennis manuals
Fishing Book: Mike Lawson’s book on Spring Creeks is a must-have
River to Fish: Cheesman Canyon
Species to Fish For: Wild trout most of the time….
Your floating your home river in the following seasons and can only use 1 fly- what are they?
Winter- Black Beauty
Spring- Stalcup’s Baetis
Summer-Chocolate Foam Wing Emerger
Fall- Flashback Mercury Pheasant Tail
Are you working on submitting any flies for 2017 or are working on any new fly designs? Any other projects you have in the works for 2017?
I have submitted some new flies and I am updating my South Platte book. It is currently out of print….
Are there any sponsors you would like to shout out?
I am blessed to be a Simms Ambassador, on the Sage Elite Pro Team, Umpqua Fly Designer, Regal Pro Staff, and Scientific Anglers Pro Staff.
Lastly- What does the industry need more of?
The industry needs people that are willing to give back, sharing information to help others. It’s a small world and a tight knit industry. Take a kid fishing…they are the future of our sport.
Pat- Thank You for taking the time and sharing your knowledge and expertise on fishing for, and tying flies for selective tailwater trout. You can reach Pat through the following links.
Pat Dorsey Fly Fishing: HERE
Blue Quill Angler: HERE
Pat Dorsey’s Fly of the Month Club: HERE
You can also visit some of his sponsors below.
Simms Fly Fishing: HERE
Regal Vises: HERE
Scientific Anglers: HERE
Sage Fly Fishing: HERE
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