Friday, August 5, 2011

Friday Angler Interview: Barry Reynolds

The name Barry Reynolds is well known in warm water fly fishing circles, some might even go as far as legendary. His books Beyond Trout, Pike on the Fly, Carp on the Fly, and Mastering Pike on the Fly are go to books for those venturing beyond the traditional freshwater fly targets. I have been talking/emailing with Barry for several years now and I have found him to be really open and approachable and more than willing to help, even if he does have a sick sense of humor. Hey, I like that about him! Ken Capsey and I have been trying to get him out here to Vermont for a couple of years now... until that happens (and I will keep you posted about when it does happen) the best I can offer is a Friday Angler Interview... so here it is!

How did you get into fly fishing?
Barry Reynolds with a buddy...

My first experience with a fly rod was back in the early 70’s while growing up in San Antonio Texas…. We had several small creeks and a small lake all within walking distance of my home. One of our neighbors at the time was fly fishing for small bass and bluegills and he would take us and let us mess around trying to catch panfish on small poppers…… while I did not know what the hell I was doing it was a lot of fun and set the stage for my fly fishing future when my family relocated to Colorado…

You were definitely one of the first guys to write about the other fish in your first book “Beyond Trout”. What got you looking beyond the traditional fly rod targets?
Gorgeous tiger there Mr. Reynolds!

Much of my of my first years spent fly fishing on a everyday basis came after our move to Colorado and those early times were spent pursuing Trout! Having pursued warm water species for so long though I tired of chasing trout everyday and soon found myself wanting to pursue other fish such as pike, tiger muskie, carp, bass, crappie and other “alternative” species…. Problem was there was very little information for these fish in regards to flyfishing for them! So I read everything I could about taking these fish on conventional gear and then began to apply it to fly fishing for them. Many times I would go out with my baitcaster or spinning rod and throw lures at them just to learn as much I could first there and then slowly introduce fly fishing applications…. The one thing that I quickly noticed was at the time very few if any other anglers in the area were pursuing these fish with a fly rod…. Success came slowly for some of these species such as carp and tigers but once I began to unlock the secrets it became addictive and I could not get enough of chasing these other fish around and trout became secondary!

So how often do you chase trout these days (and do you still enjoy it)?

Barry needs some help identifying this fish from the So Platte...

Trout? What’s a trout? We have trout in Colorado? Seriously though, yes I do still pursue trout on the rare occasion. I guided trout for 8 plus years and really enjoyed it but as the world opened up to me and I began experiencing other species it became a hard choice on should I drive 130 miles to fish pristine rivers full of trout with 100 other people or drive 3 miles to the dinge of the South Platte River where flows through downtown Denver and try and present the fly to 20lb to 30lb fish tailing in 18” of water all by myself? I chose solitude!

At this point pike have become a fly fishing staple and your book “Pike on the Fly” was one of the reasons. How does it feel to lead a trend like that?
Now that is a pike!

All the books I have written were done so for two reasons….. the first was because there were no books available to me when I started pursuing these species with a fly rod and the learning curve without at the least basic knowledge can be long, tedious, and even discouraging at times. My books I hoped would be a simple way of helping to shorten the curve. The one thing I still swear by today though is this one simple fact… “nothing beats time on the water” , books, DVD’s, guides, these will all help shorten the curve but if you are not willing to put in time to learn and experience these fish at different times of the year and get up close and personal with them. Learn their habits, tendencies, and food availability throughout the season and you will become a very successful angler on a consistent basis.

Are you still chasing pike as often as you used to?

I still fish pike but not as much the last few years….. work has dictated otherwise and as such found myself sticking closer to home these days which has worked out just fine allowing me more time to pursue carp on regular basis. Before that though I was travelling to Alaska and Canada every year for weeks at a time and in many cases I would make multiple trips to each area, usually once in the spring and again in the fall. All total I was spending anywhere from 50 to 100 days a year chasing pike in some of the world’s best pike waters! I got spoiled to say the least!

How many pike over 50 inches have you hit at this point?
Think this one breaks 50"?

My current count of pike over 50” stands at 34! My largest pike to date came from the Innoko River in Alaska and that fish was 54” x 28” and was estimated at close to 40lbs! My largest from Canada was 51” and my largest from Colorado sits right 48”….. all total 32 of my 50” pike came from Alaska and 2 from Canada… I have seen 50” class pike in Colorado, not many but there are a few and as such I am still trying to break the 50” mark in Colorado!

There is this crazy pike nut named Ken Capsey around these parts. Do you know this redneck and what do you think of him?

Ken Capsey? Oh you mean numb nutz? LOL! Ken is pure angler and has an unbridled passion for fly fishing and like me and yourself Drew, he loves to chase everything! My kind of guy!

Speaking of leading trends, another "new" classic fly fishing title is “Carp on the Fly”. It seems like that had a reprinting since I remember copies going for big bucks on Ebay a couple of years back. Do you know how many copies have sold and what do you think of the popularity of it?
A face only a mother could love... I mean Barry....

Carp on the Fly has sold about 40,000 copies and when in print still selling like hotcakes! It sells better today than it ever did so it looks like people are starting to catch on! I don’t want to tip my hand to much but look for a new carp book from me sometime late next year!

What do you think it is about carp that makes them so addictive to fly anglers?

One of the most exciting aspects of fly fishing is sight fishing! That is spotting a fish and making a presentation to it…. A lot of salt water fly fishing is done this way, bonefish, permit, tarpon, redfish, and the list goes on. It is a very exciting way to fish! Carp have become wildly popular with fly anglers as of late because of their ability to sight cast to them and to me there is no better feeling than watching a fish suck the fly in! The other reason is that they are so readily available but yet can so damn difficult at times to entice them to eat a fly, plus they get really big as well! What other fish can you find right down the street, tails and feeds in skinny water, can reach weights in excess of 30lbs and will smoke your reel and show you why we use backing behind the fly line! What’s not to love?

How often are you chasing carp these days? Are they the fish that you target most at this point?

Right now I am fishing carp 2-3 times a week! This year has been very good for carp! I have dedicated so much time to them the last few years because of the ongoing book project and a few new patterns we have been developing for them plus I just really love chasing them around!

Besides reading your book, what is the best piece of advice that you can give to a beginning carp fly rodder? 

Want to get a fish like this? Check out Barry's advice!
Time on the water! Read Carp on the Fly! Hire a guide! All of the above! Really and truly the three items listed above will help shorten the learning curve but time on the water and paying your dues will lead to success. There are so many little things you must learn along the way before you can truly be successful chasing carp on a regular basis! Carp display a lot different behaviors or body postures that will tip their hand on what they are doing and whether they will be receptive to your fly! Tailing, rooting, mudding are all modes of feeding carp that you will quickly learn and recognize. Then you must learn where and how to present the fly to them so they don’t spook on your presentation. Once you get all that figured out then you have to figure out what they are eating! Is it crayfish, aquatic worms, nymphs, or perhaps it is vegetation today… these fish will challenge even the most skilled anglers because there are so many factors to play into it…. Got to love it!

I saw a picture of you with a huge grass carp last year… was that a new state record or something? That thing was a pig!  Tell me about it…

That thing is a PIGGIE!!!!

Last year I was lucky enough to hook into something special… while fishing one my local carp hangouts I was casting to a group of mudding carp! The water was pretty dirty and the mud clouds being stirred up from the carp feeding on the bottom only allowed me to see the odd tail here and there just below the surface. On my first cast I hooked up and the fish took off for the other side of the lake! My first thought was I had foul hooked a fish while crawling my fly through the group… it happens when there are a large number of fish in a small area like that as you crawl your fly along the bottom! Normally I would break the fish off because trying to land a 20lb carp that has been ass hooked is a futile effort! But the way the fish fought told me it was not foul hooked so I proceeded fight the fish, glad I did! After a long drawn out fight I got the fish close enough to see it for the first time. Turned out I had hooked a 45” x 33” grass carp on 4x tippet! I chose to release the fish as I do with any fish I catch. Colorado keeps records for kept and also for released fish. My grass carp now stands as the state release record! Funny thing was this vegetarian took a crayfish pattern and inhaled it!

What is the difference between targeting common carp and grass carp?
Definitely the Colorado state record....

I only target grass carp a few times a year when they are fairly predictable and that is usually during seed falls like the cottonwood seeds and Elmwood seeds both trigger predictable feeding that can be easily matched with flies making success a lot easier! Grass Carp typically feed on both aquatic and terrestrial vegetation. They feed on aquatic weeds, overhanging leaves, grass and so on… but in lakes where they have exhausted their food supply they will also gladly feed upon insects and obviously crayfish as well!

Have you had the opportunity to get after the Asian carp (silver and bighead) that have gotten into the Mississippi?  It is a huge disaster, but being a resourceful fly angler I am curious if they are worth catching on flies (to be made into cat food later)?

Asian Carp…. Only 2 cases of them been reported in Colorado waters so far! I know a small lake that as them but as of yet I have not targeted them.

I hear a rumor that you might have another carp book in the works… care to share anything about that?

The new carp book is coming … look for late next year! Lots of new patterns, tips, techniques….. it will be similar to the follow up book I did on pike, very in depth and detailed!

I am completely jealous of the trips you have had to the Amazon- it is by far my #1 dream destination. Is it worth every penny to get to those big peacocks?
Cichla ocellaris...

The Amazon is an amazing place but the fishing is just as amazing! Peacock bass on a fly is unlike anything I have experienced…. The first thing you notice is their amazing colors and the next is their pure power! They hit flies hard and with bad intentions….. I don’t have enough space here to tell how great these fish and that trip is….. all I can tell you is this, I have made multiple trips and I am not done going yet!

Those big peacock bass are tackle busters I hear… is that true? What kind of rods/gear do you need to use to get them in the boat?

I have had peacock bass go through 40lb tippet like its sewing thread! They are that strong! My choice for gear down there was a 9ft 9wt rod, reels should have a good drag system and ample room for backing because you never know what they hell you are going to hook down there! My leaders are simple, 7ft of 40lb hard mono! Flies, Gen X Bunnies, Flashtail Whistlers, Skok’s Mushouth or other baitfish patterns work best!

Have you had a chance to get into an arapaima down there?  That is an amazing fish!

Arapaima ….. not as numerous as they once were but we were lucky enough to fish a river one year there that had a fair population of them and we did get shots to present the fly to them! I had one around 100lbs chase the fly to the boat on 4 different occasions but never did manage to hookup! The hunt continues!

What other critters have you tangled with down there?

…. Other species we have caught down there reads like a laundry list at a tropical fish store! I have caught a variety of Oscars, Jacunda, Triara, Bicuda, Catfish, Piranhas, just to name a few!

Ok, time to bring up unpleasant memories… what fish(es) that you got into haunt your dreams? Tell me their stories…
One that didn't get away! I want to see the pic of the one that did!

The fish that haunts my dreams? I have a couple but probably the worst was a monster pike I lost in Alaska! First day out on my last trip there I was messing around with fluoro!!! About that time I saw the biggest pike of my life…. The big pike hammered the fly and after a quick fight we had the big fish boatside. The owner of the lodge was with me and looked down at the fish and quickly stated I think we are going to need a bigger boat! Funny shit! About that time the pike rolled and made one quick run and head jerk and was gone….. we guessed that fish to be around 57” and was much larger than the 54” pike I had caught there the year before!

What North American fish have you not tussled with yet that you would love to get into?

Bull Trout!

I love asking this one: if you could go anywhere in the world to fish for anything, price is no object, where would you go and what would you target?

Mongolia for Taimen or Egypt for Nile Perch, one more would be Australia for Barramundi!

Barry, this is a big one… when are you going to get out of the mountains and come out to Vermont to wet a line with me and the redneck pike freak?  Just a tease here, but big unpressured carp in clear water…  you know the drill, I have told you about it…

I’m coming, I’m coming, I’m coming! LOL!

Thanks a million Barry! I will hit you up again for sure!  For more information about Barry or to order one of his DVD's, or just see what he has been up to lately, head over to his website: 


  1. Great interview! 34 pike over 50 inches? Incredible! I need to schedule myself some trips to Canada.

  2. Great interview Drew. Not sure how I have been missing your blog, found it through Super-Fly. I am so glad, it is great!