5 Reasons to Fish the Adirondacks: Interview with Wiley’s Flies Guide Matt Wormell

DockTalk365 New York

I interviewed Dean Wormell, author of the Gin Clear blog. He mentioned during the interview that his son Matt is a guide in the Adirondacks. I figured that the apple wouldn’t fall from the tree and that Matt would be a great interview just like his dad. Indeed, I was correct. Matt took some time to fill us in on his background and his fishing in the Adirondacks. As the title of the interview says, Matt gives us his 5 top things about fishing this region. If you have ever been to the Adirondacks, I am sure you will agree with why he loves fishing there. If you haven’t, his list is definitely going to make you want to go. So keep reading for that list of 5 as well as a lot more about Adirondacks fishing.

We interviewed your dad. What influence has your family had on your fishing?

At 22, I’ve been fishing since I could walk and fly-fishing for the last ten years, so this was a very hard question for me to answer. To be honest I cannot really say. I mean I’d have to dig back years into my childhood. Growing up, my family and I would vacation in Maine. I remember that would have been my earliest experience with the fishing pole catching bass and bluegills and since then I was addicted. That’s when you insert the cheesy line ‘The tug is the drug’. In elementary school, my mother and I had a deal, when homework was done, I got to go bass fish at the local pond. The real story behind how my family started fly fishing was because of me, I taught myself, then my dad, my mom, couple of my friends, and even my older sister knows a little.

When did you start guiding? And what got you started in fishing professionally?

I guess there are two different answers to that question. As a paid guide, two years; the other answer is a few years after I started fly-fishing.

To answer the other question, why not do what you like to do as a career and I love to fly fish so I took the liberty show it, experience it, with friends and family at first, basically being a free guide. I enjoyed watching my friends and family catch their first fish on the fly. If you look at it this way, for every fish I put some one on it counts as a catch for me and I guess that’s why I do it, to continue sharing that moment with others. Whether it is their first trout or three-foot northern pike.

I have often wondered how professional guides deal with the pressure of needing to put their clients on fish regardless of conditions. How do you deal with that pressure?

Another tough question to answer. I work for an outfitter and depending on the current conditions, we will shut down our guiding business in some fisheries. Sometimes because of low water or water temps being too hot for the fish and that was a lesson I had to learn this guiding season. I myself would go weeks without a trip. Even without tough conditions it’s still a hard job, and on those days where you can’t put clients on to fish it’s seen as failure in my eyes. Failure as a person, failure as a guide and how does one deal with that? I’ll tell you how I use it is as a learning experience to improve upon my skills as a guide, as an angler.

What is the best day guiding you had this season?

A real guide will say there is no one best day, but every day is the best day. Each and every trip is different and a whole different experience. Even the days where you don’t catch fish are sometimes fun because you laugh and joke all day and learn things from that day. The best days in my opinion are the days where you feel you taught the client something whether it’s technique or scientific.

I have a couple of different stories I can share. One day was a float down a river for bass and pike where we must have caught over 40 fish, and we pretty much caught every fish in existence that lives in the river. Largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, northern pike, fallfish, white sucker, rock bass, rainbow trout, and brown trout, I mean everything but the golden shiner. Not many people get to experience or see the fish ecosystem grand slam.

Another day was taking a man with a slight disability and getting him to land his first trout on his own on the fly. Granted it wasn’t a monster but the smile on his face brightened my day. Those are some of the great days, but like I said before, every day is a great day.

What are your 5 favorite aspects of guiding in the Adirondacks?

My 5 favorite aspects on guiding or even just angling in general in the Dacks’:

1. Fish Variety: We have it all within an hours drive, from six-inch brookies to four foot muskies. To be more specific in the Dacks’ we have smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, northern pike, muskie, walleye, brown trout, brook trout, rainbow trout, lake trout, landlocked salmon, steelhead, chinook and coho salmon. I mean what more can you ask for? The only thing missing is carp. Although you could go chase them in Lake Champlain among other species.

2. Water Variety: The Adirondacks are full of different waters to fish from small trout ponds to large lakes with bass and pike. There are rivers and streams that are easily accessible from the road, and backwoods no cell reception brooks, and large rivers where the salmon run. Some of these rivers contain large trout to bass and pike; others are filled with wild brook trout.

3. Scenery: The Mountains in the Adirondacks are some of the largest in the East, some parts of where you get to fish are so remote that you almost feel that have dropped into the middle of nowhere. When fall comes around, the leaf color change is phenomenal, and I sometimes find myself yelling at leafer’s who are taking my picture as I’m fishing a trout stream next to the road.

4. Everyday on the water is always different: What do I mean by that? Well you never know what you’re going to see. I came to the Dacks’ because of college and I took many wildlife and fisheries classes while I was there. I learned to identify many native plants and wildlife in the area and on guiding and angling outings I’ve had the privilege to see many plant and animal species from the smallest weasel to the largest carnivore, the black bear. On a guided float trip there was a man playing a banjo, and he was playing Dueling Banjos from Deliverance. So yeah, you never no what to expect.

5. More than just Fishing…History: The Dacks’ has other things do besides fish with a lot of Olympic history, 46 high peaks to climb, places to camp, historic great camps and so much more. I wish could tell everyone about it but even I don’t know all of it, but that’s why there’s a website for that…VisitAdirondacks.com.

You guide for Wiley’s Flies. What can you tell us about this company and why you like guiding for them?

Why I like Wiley’s Flies is because we are the best and we do it all from a guide service to a motel to a fly shop. We are the best stocked fly shop in the area, carrying flies, tying material, rods, reels, wading gear and spin gear that we know works in the area. For a little shop, everyone that’s never been inside before is always impressed by what we carry. We service all types of fishing and even have a scenic pontoon boat ride for the non-fisherman.

Not to mention, but my boss Vince Wilcox, is signature fly tier for Umpqua Feather Merchants. Vince and the senior guides are experienced and it is a privilege to learn from them. I can make one statement that will either make or break my reputation as a guide and that is we don’t BS. What I mean by that is we are honest to the bitter end. You can call the shop and ask how the fishing is and we will let you know what the conditions are currently in the fisheries unless your trying fish for sensitive guide information that we are not at liberty to speak of.

This year specifically we had a lot people come into our shop disappointed with the current conditions because of lies being told by other businesses saying the fishing is great. We don’t want you to waste your time with poor conditions. We want you here when the fishing is good and we’re looking to protect the fisheries for the future.

Do you guide mostly remote private waters or do you also fish public locations? Can you share with us some of your favorite well known fisheries in the Adirondacks and why you like them?

Most of the waters we guide on are public waters and everyone has access to where we guide. One such fishery I’ll mention is the West Branch of the Ausable River. There are pull offs along the river for easy access. Other than that I’m not at liberty to discuss any of the other public places we guide. We have our favorite spots and frequently check them. The only private water we have access to is Rockefeller Park and that’s only because we are invited by the owners to guide there for their guests.

While I know most people come to the Adirondacks to chase trout and some smallmouth. I want to ask you about Northern Pike. You catch quite a few Northerns. What are your main strategies for catching Adirondack northerns?

Without a boat, it will be difficult to access the fisheries that contain northern pike. The one other tip about the Northern fishery is they don’t live where trout are stocked, so look elsewhere. Northern’s ambush their prey so fish along weed beds and keep casting. They are an aggressive fish and will hit hard. If you manage to get a hit and miss the hook set, keep casting in that same area and they’ll hit again.

On the fly, we make our own custom leaders for pike from 40 lb fluorocarbon. We don’t throw steel leaders unless it’s necessary. On conventional tackle, we throw ten pound test, because it’s light enough to break off bad snags and strong enough to handle big fish, as long as you don’t set the hook late. You don’t need to throw anything a foot long to catch them. Small to medium size Rapala’s, medium size Booyah spinnerbaits, and small soft plastic baits. For flies, no specific pattern is required other than you don’t need to throw any streamer bigger than six inches. They want to eat something they can eat in one bite.

How will you be keeping yourself busy during the off season, if there is an off season?

Unfortunately there is an off-season for guiding in the Dacks and I will be returning to my hometown in Massachusetts. In those few months, I’ll be working at Vedavoo gear, cutting the fabric for the packs to be built by the Vedavoo workshop team and some part time work.

I’ll keep busy tying flies for next guide season. So far I have about 750 flies that I’ll be tying and the list continues to grow still. I will continue fishing; ice fishing that is and fly-fishing the local tailwaters.

Other than that, I’ll be doing other hobbies such as improving upon my guitar playing and making more fishing videos. The last thing on my priority list is to fix my raft that I guide out of, and modify it a little to be more an effective guiding tool. It’s all about being prepared for the next season.

You do some very impressive drawings. When did you start drawing and why do you enjoy it?

You know I can’t really say when I started drawing. Through out middle school, high school, and college I would just doodle as I’m taking notes and not really paying attention to the actual lecture. For me it was effective way to retain information from a lecture. Drawing was a way to study the physiology of the various wildlife species I studied. Now I really just draw for fun.

Thank you Matt for this great interview. All of us can follow Matt throughout the off-season and next fishing season on Instagram. To contact Wiley’s Flies andfish with Matt, check them out at WileysFlies.com.