I think commercial fly tiers often look at fishing differently than others. Yes, we get jacked up thinking about and chasing big fish, but we also immerse ourselves in figuring out what we can do to improve a fly pattern or come up with something new for a particular situation or species. It keeps us up at night. It clouds our minds at our real jobs and kid’s school events. Sometimes, when the bite is on, we put the fly rod down and just watch what’s going on for a while. It’s kind of like Wayne and Garth (obscure 1992 reference) shooting street puck when a car comes through; you’ve got to stop, adjust and then get back after it.


I’ve known Rich Strolis for a lot of years now. Outside of fly fishing and fly tying we share some common history and similar views on donuts. He is a published author, a signature fly tier for Montana Fly Company and a highly sought after guest fly tier and speaker at shows, shops and club meetings. Many of his patterns have been highlighted in the magazines and twenty-two are produced by MFC. At the winter fly shows there is always a line of folks at his booth and he speaks with everyone, eager to answer questions and share ideas on tying, material selection, fishing and craft brews. He is a colleague, a friend and a steward of fly fishing and its waters.


Welcome aboard.


Game on, brother.


For more information about Rich, his book, patterns and video tutorials, go to www.catchingshadows.com

What were your beginnings in fly fishing like? Who got you into it?

My father was an avid fisherman prior to my coming along. I was always fascinated with his fishing gear in the basement of our house and my Grandmother started taking me to the brook down the street from our house at an early age. I always inquired about his Fenwick glass fly rod and he would never let me use it. For my 10th or 11th birthday my aunt Diane bought me a Cortland complete fly rod kit and the rest was history.

You started in the business end of fly fishing as a guide on the Farmington and the Housatonic, what was the best part of guiding?

There were so many great things that came from guiding, but the best part aside from making better anglers out of my clients was just all the great people that I was fortunate enough to meet. I have made some great friends as a result and some of which keep in touch to this very day.

Do you have plans to return to guiding?

In about 2 years I plan on guiding again full time with a seasonal dependant focus on commercial tying.   Look for my return in the spring of 2020.

Was it a natural progression from guiding and being behind the sticks to designing and tying flies commercially?

For the most part I would say yes, I had already been tying daily for my own fly boxes and those I used regularly with customers. Thankfully I hadn’t developed any really bad tying habits so it went smoothly. Two things that I worked at which helped tremendously are always trying to maintain some sort of organization and preparing everything prior to actually tying the flies.

Rich wades into fast water.

From the past or present, is there one person you would like to spend a day fishing with?

It would have be a toss-up between Joe Brooks or Lee Wulff.

Favorite piece of water and species to fish for?

This is a really tough question for me to answer as I’ve fished all over the place, and every location is unique. I’m a trout fisherman first and foremost so it would have to be either a brown or brook trout as my favorite species for the simple fact that I can target them with a very wide variety of tactics. That being said, I will keep my answer vague; my favorite piece of water is a section of river with a braid or a riffle with a distinct drop off or color change and current seam that would leave a great point for a trout to ambush prey.

In general, grip and grin or let it swim?

I guess you could say I’ve evolved as I have gotten older, it used to be grip n grin but I find I let ‘em swim more often than not these days.

How bad is your albie addiction?

Very bad, it’s all I have on my mind once the end of summer nears and I honestly can’t get these creatures off my mind once they show up. I literally build my work schedule around weather conditions and their migration during the fall so that I can maximize my dates chasing them. It’s real!

Rich has Albie fever and the only prescription is more Albies.

What’s your favorite material to build flies with?

Arctic Fox tail by far is my favorite material to build flies with. It has so many fish catching characteristics for how I like to fish that I would be lost without it.

Is there one pattern you consider your signature fly?

I have dozens of patterns to my name, but I’d have to say that the one I’m known most for is the Headbanger Sculpin

Your first book, Catching Shadows: Tying Flies For The Toughest Fish and Strategies for Fishing Them was released by Stackpole Books in 2016…is there another in the works?

Yes there is, I am currently in the beginning phases of writing a second book on Tying Modern North American Streamers. It is a much larger project that will take up much more of my time to complete.

What is your favorite piece of gear, classic rock band and beverage for relaxation?

My favorite piece of gear is by far any one of my Hatch reels. They’ve never let me down on the water, are super dependable and they look pretty darn sweet too, especially when an Albie is ripping line off the spool. If you had to narrow it down to a classic rock band, well hands down it would be Led Zeppelin; you can never go wrong there. As for beverages, I have really gotten into the craft beer scene in the last couple of years, and if I had one beer to pick it would inevitably be a Doppelganger from Treehouse.

Guiding, tying, The Job and family…is there a formula for managing all of it?

There totally is, but I couldn’t really explain it very well. I think being a Type A personality and having that drive to always get things accomplished fuels my inner fire in everything I do. Remaining transparent through it all and recognizing what is most important at any given moment affords me the ability to juggle it all with any degree of success. Why sit back and let life pass you by, go out there and make something of it.

Is there one moment from either on the water or on the vice that you’ll never forget?

There have been so many memorable moments for me both on and off the water that I could probably write a book solely on that premise. However, if you’re making me pick one, I would have to say that on a fishing trip to Alaska for trophy northern Pike, I watched a pike beach itself and eat a fly that I had casted that landed on the shoreline. I will never forget that experience or that day for that matter as it was the craziest day of fishing that I have ever had.