Fly Fishing With Tom Stafford

I got an email this past week from a Minnesota fellow, Tom Stafford. He was interested in my fly fishing and mostly in learning how to fly cast. While he owned a couple of rods he hadn’t yet had much time on the water and needed some “tweeking’; we talked via the phone and arrived at a time for him to meet me at our property here in NW Wisconsin.

Our plan was to take a couple of hours and travel down the Totagatic River; cast, catch some fish, etc. … the water was so low that it quickly became evident that we wouldn’t make our pick up time a few miles downstream. I audibled and called Vickie, told her to pick us up at the same point that we had put in … but the same time we were supposed to be picked up a few miles downstream.
Tom casting in river
I knew there was a perfect spot in the river to beach the boats and just concentrate on fly casting and learning how to fish for … and land fish. Tom was a newbie at the sport … but had the perfect mentality to learn and quickly started seeing results as we spoke about simple things like line hand, rod hand and probably the biggest killer of all … keeping your line hand (left hand) away from the rod during the cast, creating a single or first haul off the water.

It was evident to me that I had both a good person and a great student who was willing to take direction and then put it into practice. After 30 minutes or so of casting and talking we created a pattern that allowed Tom to cast about 25 feet in front of him.

I hadn’t yet came to the ‘landing’ portion of the lesson when low and behold…a smallmouth took Tom’s popper. The fish was lost … but lesson two was how to land and lip a smallmouth. Two casts later another smallie cooperated and Tom did just as the teacher directed … and landed a nice, plump, 12 inch fish.
Tom with Fish he caught
In the next 45 minutes we discussed fly casting, fly fishing … and Tom ended up landing another 5 nice smallmouth and lost a fish of real trophy size. Sacre’Bleu … or so it goes!

What a fun day; fun for both student and teacher. Tom and I are friends and will be from here forward … I expect to see him back up here in the land of plenty. I expect that the next time he will have practiced more and be ready for a full day on the water. God is good and blesses people (all of us) with days like these.

You have probably figured out that I have a pet scripture; Gal 6:9. Today was a perfect example of these wise words; let us not get tired in doing what is right for after a while we will reap a harvest of blessings … if we don’t get discouraged and give up! Do something good for another … take someone fishing; you might just end up meeting one of those really nice humans … like I did today!

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    • Jeff Carmichael
    • July 17, 2021

    Hey folks…. Tom was a fantastic person and had a special afternoon; but you can as well. If you are someone wanting to learn to fly fish or know someone wanting to fly fish, get in touch with me via my email at and we can make this happen. I plan on being in NW Wisconsin (near the St. Croix) from May through October of each year … and then ‘back home again in Indiana’ November through to May. We can meet and discuss not only how to be a better fly caster, but how to fish for and land a wide variety of fish. I’d love to meet and help you fall in love with fly fishing.

    • Tom
    • July 19, 2021

    Hello folks, I want to say first off that Jeff and his wife Vicki are great people. Jeff is a very knowledgeable fisherman, outdoorsman, and has a natural gift and passion for teaching. If your considering lessons or just some time on the water fishing with a knowledgeable fishing guide, and great person… GO FOR IT with Jeff!

    Jeff mentioned above that I was new to fly fishing and had very little experience with fly rod casting and the gear. I had just enough experience to develop some bad habits. The rod and reel set up I used that day had never been used before. Jeff took me out to a fantastic location on a River he knows very well and in a very short period of time had me casting and fishing. Was it instant good caster, no. I am still a newbie caster and needed reps and practice, but Jeff coached me on the fundamentals of technique and a pattern that I could build a cast on. I now had the basics from which to make corrections and continue to improve good techniques and extinguish bad ones. He encourage me to go fishing and practice casts on the river. It was an extraordinary experience for me to make a cast and present a bug and actually catch a fish or 7. Several beautiful small mouth bass blessed me with taking a popper I had tied on. The combination of Jeff’s passion, encouraging instruction, a beautiful river, and actually catching and landing those feisty small mouth solidified my commitment to continue my journey as a fly fisherman. I am going to leave the bait cast and spinning rods home for awhile and chase that perfect anglers fish (small mouth bass) with a fly rod and flies. For some reason there seems to be something just a little bit more magically catching fish with a fly rod. I am not sure exactly why…?

    Another new experience for me was trying to row a small kick boat in a river. Lets just say it was a source of amusement and my use the whole river to navigate took more time then expected and was the reason we couldn’t do the whole float we had planned. Didn’t phase Jeff one bit, he just altered the plan and made the best of what was in hand.

    The day was one of those days I will have with me for the rest of my days and I can honestly say it likely altered my journey. I don’t think you can have those days without the sharing of time with good people. Time with good people adds the secret ingredient to experiences. Jeff and Vicki are good people to share time with and I hope to be able to spend more time with them.

    Tight Lines to all, Tom

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