Dave Barron – In The Driftless

David Barron began fly-fishing in 1960 on the spring creeks of the Missouri and began tying flies a few years later. He began teaching fly-fishing in 1985 and has conducted classes, schools and seminars throughout the US. In 1993 he became one of the first Federations of Fly Fishers certified casting instructors and became a Master certified casting instructor in 1998. Dave has been teaching fly casting clinics for many years and has helped to introduce many people to the joy of fishing with the fly rod, through his workshops and seminars. In 1991 he was awarded the Southern Council FFF Teacher of the Year. In 1999 he received the FFF President’s Award. In 2000 he was awarded the Southern Council FFF Man of the Year. Dave is the past VP of Education for the Federation of Fly Fishers (1996-1999) and has held many other positions with local and national organizations.  IN 2010, Dave was elected to the FFI Casting Board of Governors.
Dave is a member of TU and the FFF. He is also a member of the FFI casting board of govenors and the guide association board of govenors. 
Dave has been guiding for the past 20 years, and in 1999 through 2003, he guided for Iliaska Lodge in Alaska. In 2004, Dave guided for Alaska West. From 2005 – 2007, Dave guided for Alaska’s Rainbow River Lodge (July-September). During the 2008 season, Dave began guiding full time in the Wisconsin Driftless Area from Early Spring through the Fall season.

Interview With Dave – Right Here In The Driftless Area

What was the first fish you can remember catching?

The first fish I remember catching was on a Sunday morning when I was about 6 years old. My dad and I were fishing a farm pond. My dad was out in the boat, and I was on shore. I saw my pole go down and I set her hook. I reeled as hard as I could, but the fish would not come in. I finally won the battle and put a 6 pound cat fish on the bank. I was afraid of the fish, so I did not unhook it. My dad came to shore, and we unhooked it together.

What’s your favorite Driftless Area river to fish? What makes it so special?
My favorite Driftless Area spring creek is the one I am fishing at the time. Our area creeks are just breath taking! The water is clear, and the fields and woods are so green in the spring and summer. Trout do not live in ugly places.

What’s your favorite species to target on the fly in the Driftless?

That is a hard question because I have two favorite fish. I love to fish for Brook trout! For one, they are native to the area, and they love to eat dry fly’s. The second is the small mouth bass. They are very aggressive, and they fight very hard. On some days, they are very easy to catch.

What’s your favorite piece of gear at the moment?

My favorite piece of fishing gear is my new G3 boat. It is a river boat that can go in very shallow water, allowing me to fish more of the Wisconsin River for small mouth bass.

If you could fish anywhere in the world, where would it be & Why?

That is another hard one. The first would be Alaska. It is wild and untamed! You can catch five different pacific salmon, very large rainbow trout, Northern Pike, arctic Grayling, Dolly Varden and Arctic Char. And, you get to fish with the brown bears! The other place would be the Driftless Area. We have more spring creeks than anywhere in the world! And most of it is available for anyone to fish!
Everyone has the “one that got away”. Some of us have many. Tell us about yours. This might be your fish, or one of your clients.

I guess it would be a big Rainbow that just missed my wife’s fly when I was guiding her in Alaska. We were fishing on an island in the middle of the Kvichak river. The Kvichak river runs out of lake Ilimana, (lake Iliama is the 8th  largest lake in North America) so the Kvichak is a very large river. She cast her streamer and started to retrieved it, when this large rainbow started to follow her fly. I saw the fish open his mouth, and just as she set the hook, the fish just turned off.

What about the ones that didn’t get away. What’s the best fish you’ve ever brought to hand? Again, yours’ or your clients’. It’s the fish we care about.

Are we talking about the largest or the most memorable? If it is the largest, it would be a 7 ft. tarpon when I fished a river in Costa Rica. If it is the most memorable, it would be a Brown trout that I caught while fishing in Argentina.

It was our, Nancy and I, last day fishing in Patagonia. We each had our own raft and guide that day. I was being guided by the lodge owner when we saw Nancy and her guide pulled over on a gravel bar. We pulled over on the gravel bar with them and had a beer to celebrate our great fishing, and our last day on the river.

I looked across the river and saw a large trout rise to a fly. The river was very fast in this area, and I did not see away to get to the fish. Poncho told me to get in the raft and he would row me over there. The fish was rising under a tree branch. I was going to have only one chance to catch this fish. I made the cast under the branch and saw the fish coming in for the fly through 10 feet of clear water. I set the hook, and the fight was on! I landed the 23 inch Brown trout! As soon as we released the fish, I rolled up my line and told Poncho I was all done fishing. Nothing could top that fish.

What led you to your current, rarefied profession?

I worked 30 years as an engineer for McDonnell Douglas aircraft. When I was about 30 years old I knew what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I wanted to own a fishing lodge and be a fly fishing guide. I studied all I could about fly fishing staring that day. In 1998 Nancy and I bought our property and in 1999 started our house. That summer I headed to Alaska to guide for one of the primer fly fishing lodges in Alaska, I when back for 9 more summers. Nancy always said she was sending me to summer camp.

What’s the worst/craziest thing that’s ever happened to you during a day of fishing, guiding or otherwise?

I guess the worst day I have had was my first summer in Alaska. One morning we were getting ready to fly out fishing. To make a long story short the plane crashed on takeoff. Lucky no one was hurt just a little logged. I did offer to take my clients fishing that afternoon but they did not want too so I had the rest of the day off

What makes a terrible client? Also, what makes an ideal client?

What makes a terrible client? That would be the guy that knows it all and will not take any advice. I often wonder why they hire me. The ideal client is the one that wants to learn something new or different   from how they fish, they may be very good but they listen and are open to new ideas.

What is the most common mistake you see otherwise skilled fly fishermen make?

They are not willing to try new techniques, and they do not try to improve their casting. If you can not get the fly to the fish you cannot catch them.

What about you? Everyone has a weak spot in their fishing skill set. What’s yours?

I need to sometimes to back to the thing that worked in the pasted I sometimes get in a rut and keep fishing the way that worked in the last few days.

What’s the biggest negative change you’ve noticed in fly fishing in the last 10 years?

The new younger fly fisher want instance gratification, they feel that if they buy the best equipment instead of working on their skills they will be as good as someone that works hard on their skills. The younger fly fishers do not respect the environment or other people that are fishing.

What’s the biggest positive change you’ve noticed in fly fishing in the last 10 years?

People do not respect the environment as they should. We now have a generation that believe that they entitled to our resources and believe they do not have to work to make them better.
The equipment has gotten better, there are more classes, books and clubs willing to help people learn the sport to fly fishing. We also have a great DNR in Wisconsin along with Trout unlimited clubs and sportsman clubs that are improving our streams and adding more fishing opportunity for the people.

We’re assuming that you having something else in your life besides fishing. What’s your M.O. when you’re not on the water?

I have a lovely wife that I enjoy traveling with along with our two springers; I enjoy bow hunting and bird hunting. I have just restarted in the shooting sports. One of the biggest things I enjoy is teaching  fly casting and sharing the sport of fly fishing. I give programs and seminars throughout the country. So I guess I do not get to far from Fly fishing.