This is an interview I had with Umpqua signature fly designer, author, and head guide and co owner of The Blue Quill Angler Pat Dorsey a couple years back on my old website, In Pursuit of Trout. I am republishing it here for new eyes to check it out. I hope you enjoy!
(Prime) What brought you into fly fishing, guiding, and ultimately about writing about your experiences? and and writing about your experiences?
(Pat Dorsey) 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.
What was it like working with such a talented group of fly fishermen? What was your hope for the book and why should the guys back east add this to their library?
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 other 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.
What are 3 tips for better midge fishing success? And which 3 patterns of yours should be in every fly fishermens' 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.
How would you describe your style of fly design?
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….
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…
To the person traveling to Colorado to fish for the first time, what advice would you give them?
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.
. How can a client better prepare to have a successful day on the water on their guided trip? Is it adjusting expectations, or putting in practice on the water?
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.”
For all those wanting to tie better midges- 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…
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 was working on a new print edition of his book Fly Fishing Guide To The South Platte River, which is available now!
Click HERE to buy.
Thank you for reading! If you have any fly tyers you would like to see interviewed, drop a comment below.
Prime Fly Company