Madness, Obsession, and the Hunt for the World-Record Tarpon

Madness, Obsession, and the Hunt for the World-Record Tarpon

In Lords of the Fly, Burke takes a deep-dive look into the world of tarpon fishing and the town famous for it. In the 40-plus years since Tom Evans, a New York City stockbroker, first caught a world-record fish in Homosassa, Fla., in 1977, he has returned to the area and landed six more record tarpons in the surrounding waters. His success made this small town the hub of saltwater flyfishing in the 1970s and ’80s, and attracted professional anglers, such as Stu Apte, Lefty Kreh, and Billy Pate, as well as fishing enthusiasts including writers Jim Harrison and Thomas McGuane and landscape painter Russell Chatham. Burke wonderfully captures their stories as well as those of their unsung guides, detailing the alliances and rivalries. Lords of the Fly comes out on Sept. 1, 2020, but is available for preorder now . Till then, enjoy this sneak peek. —The Editors

Tom Evans was one of the few regulars at Homosassa who was not from South Florida, and he was the sole Yankee (at the time, he lived in New York City). He was not a famous angler, as Apte, Williams, Pflueger, Lopez, and Pate were. He was also one of the few who had an actual nine-to-five job. He felt he was viewed as a latter-day carpetbagger, a bit like an outcast, even though he was allied with the Keys-based guide, Steve Huff. And yet, early on, he and Huff—the former collegiate nose tackle paired with the wiry guide—were the team to beat in Homosassa.

They were on the water, idling out of the Homosassa River, every morning at 5:30. Even when other guides and anglers were up earlier, they’d often wait for Huff to leave and follow him out, because he knew how to navigate the tricky river and its mouth. Evans and Huff were nearly always the last boat in, as well, tying up close to eight at night. “It seemed like we never saw the dock in the light of day,” says Evans.

Every day was an endurance test for both angler and guide. “It was an athletic event. We’d kill ourselves, torture ourselves,” says Evans. “Steve never wanted to go back in until we were dead. That made him happy.” They were both on their feet for around eleven hours a day. Huff learned the flat slowly and painstakingly, one plunk of the push pole at a time, pushing into the fifteen- to twenty-mile-per-hour winds that always seemed to arise in the afternoon off the Gulf. He would never start the engine if fish were around, even if he and Evans were leaving for the day. Instead, he’d pole out of the area, which sometimes added another forty-five minutes to the trip home. “The tarpon were lying around, doing their thing. This was their house. It was disrespectful to blow them out,” Huff says.

They stayed out on the water even in the worst of thunderstorms—”some horrible shit,” says Huff—dropping a few anchors, hitting the bilge pumps, and lying down in the bottom of the boat like Egyptian mummies as waves crashed over the bow. The lightning and the thunder would “scare the hell out of us,” says Evans. But then it would inevitably pass, and the sun would come out and the water would go slick, and the tarpon would start pouring in. Evans always waited for his graphite rod to stop humming from the leftover electricity in the air before he picked it up and started fishing again.

Tom Evans fights a tarpon in 2019. CREDIT: Monte Burke

Evans concentrated only on the biggest fish he saw on the flat, the Rocquettas, as he called them. In a string of tarpon, the largest fish were usually found two to three places behind the lead fish, or maybe two or three spots from the back of the line. If the fish were in a daisy chain, he and Huff observed it for a bit and would “look for the fattest face,” says Evans. When that one was identified, Evans cast the fly toward the tail of the fish directly in front of it.

When he hooked a tarpon, Evans immediately fell into a trance of concentration, getting into the flow of the fish, reading its body language. If the fish was leaping or on a blistering run, he did nothing but hold on to the rod. But as soon as the tarpon began to slow down, Evans pounced, trying to “own the head,” as he called it. He never pulled without purpose. Everything was done to keep the fish off balance. “Every fish is different. But they all tell you what to do if you pay attention. If you don’t pay attention, they can easily ruin your day,” says Evans.

That’s because of the second, third, or fourth wind that a big tarpon can get during a fight if an angler relaxes. “If you’re resting, you’re losing,” Evans says. “If you had a fish on for two to three hours, you were wasting the day.” He once had a tarpon landed, exhausted by the side of the boat after a thirty-minute fight, when a fellow Homosassa angler motored up and asked if he could use the tarpon for a film he was making. Evans said sure and handed him his rod with the fish still attached. It was 4:30 in the afternoon. At nine that night, the fellow angler showed up at a local restaurant and ran into Evans. The fish had revived and the man had fought it for another three hours and failed to land it.

In the evenings, during the first weeks of their trips, when they were still fresh, Evans and Huff would go for a four-mile jog after fishing, and then out to dinner. Back at the house, they would make new leaders, using a micrometer to ensure they were legal. One year, they went through six hundred yards of leader material. They tied and re-tied flies, reusing hooks from chewed-up flies.

But as the trips wore on, nerves began to fray, legs and eyelids grew heavy, and things started to go a bit sideways. They skipped the jog. Huff’s hands got stuck in a clench and went totally numb from poling all day. He slept with them over the side of the bed to try to get the blood back in them, and it still took forty-five minutes in the morning to get full feeling back. His fingernails grew at an angle toward the pole, and still do to this day. (Dale Perez, a fellow guide, had to get operations on both of his hands after years of gripping the push pole.) One evening, Evans went out to get a pizza. He came back, put the pizza on a table, and began to tie leaders as Huff tied flies on the couch. Suddenly, Evans got a cramp in his leg and pitched forward, falling onto the pizza and breaking the table in two. “Huff just sat there and didn’t say a word and kept tying flies,” says Evans. “There is no way humans can be civil with each other with no sleep.”

Huff was demanding, on himself and on Evans. He’s often said that if he ever writes an autobiography, it will be called Just Shove It, which works for both the poling he’s done for a livelihood and his lack of patience for bullshit. He has never been a yeller, like Apte was when he was a guide. But this was a team sport. He’d pole for forty-five minutes to get Evans in a position to cast. If Evans missed, Huff would remain quiet for half an hour, and then utter, out of nowhere, “Well, you f—ed that one up.” Sometimes when Evans missed badly on a cast, Huff would say, “That fly was closer to the fish before you cast.” He poled so hard sometimes that Evans fell out of the boat and into the water. They began to call the little casting platform on Huff’s boat “the launching pad.”

And yet, Evans loved it, even craved it. He had found a guide who was very much like a demanding football coach who brought out the best in him. “We were taking it all to the absolute extreme,” says Evans. “I used to get so excited out on the water that I couldn’t breathe.”

By the late 1970s, “the sky was the limit,” says Evans. “We were doing incredible things, hitting our stride, and I was excited because I thought we could do even more incredible things as a team.”

That, as it turned out, would not be the case.

Written by Monte Burke for Field & Stream and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to

How To Buy The Perfect Compound Bow For Hunting

How To Buy The Perfect Compound Bow For Hunting

You can kill big game with an original Allen Speedster or a Dukes-era Martin Wart Hog if you want, but ever since Hollis Wilbur Allen patented that first compound bow in 1969, and since Bo and Luke blew up their first outhouse, modern bow technology has advanced at a breakneck pace. Whereas today’s longbow looks much like those from the late Pleistocene, today’s compounds barely resemble those of just a couple of decades ago. And they shoot much, much better.

Over the last few decades, compound bow efficiencies have soared. A speed bow of yesteryear with hard cams and a demanding raw cycle might have had an IBO rating of 290 fps. Today’s smooth bows routinely go 330 fps IBO, and the flamethrowers threaten 360. That’s a huge difference. Improved materials and components means today’s bows are quieter and smoother-shooting, too.

So, you want a good compound bow? First and foremost, get a new or recent model. You don’t have to drop a grand on this year’s flagship; the latest mid-priced bows are often better than the top models from only five or six years ago. Just get something fairly new, and you’ll be happy you did.

No matter where you shop, bows aren’t cheap. You can buy two sub-MOA-guaranteed rifles for the price of a new flagship compound bow. So, before you reach for your wallet, you want to make sure you’re getting the right bow for you. Here’s everything you need to know and consider to do just that.

Forget the Marketing Hype About Bows

The first thing you need to do, before you even begin shopping, is clear your mind of any marketing nonsense that may have wormed its way into your subconscious. It’s the job of every bow company to convince you to buy their product, and no one blames them for trying. But you need to go into the process knowing that their efforts might involve a certain amount of hype—or even straight-up b.s.

For example, not long ago I read a certain bow company’s ad copy that described one model’s long 8-inch brace height as “extremely forgiving” and another’s short 6½-inch brace height as “offering extreme forgiveness.” What a load. Then there’s the TV hunter schilling for brand X—and hoping you don’t remember that he shot Brand Y last year (when they offered the better sponsorship deal). And sure enough, some brands do win more shooting competitions, but they happen to be the same ones that sponsor the most shooters.

When choosing a bow for yourself, ignore the marketing hype and go shoot as many makes and models as you can. Go to several dealers. Skip stores where you can’t shoot. Try your buddy’s bows if they have similar specs as you. Decide for yourself what you like. Then, and only then, should you plunk down your money.

Don’t Be a Fanboy When Buying a Compound Bow

Brand loyalty makes sense. If you shell out for a chainsaw or a pickup truck and both it and its maker serve you well, you have every reason to buy that brand again. But in archery we have something more than just loyal customers. We have fanboys, so convinced of their pet brand’s superiority that all other bows are “junk” by comparison, never mind that they’ve never seriously shot any of the other bows.

It’s the wrong mindset to have when you’re choosing a new bow.

I know because I’ve shot all the other bows. Every year, F&S editors test all the new flagship models for Field & Stream’s annual bow test and Best of the Best Awards. And what we’ve learned is that (1) pretty much all of the biggest players make a heck of a good bow; (2) the practical differences between the brands’ top models is fairly small; and (3) which brand is at the very top of heap changes regularly. Years back, Mathews and Hoyt dominated. For a while, it was all Bowtech and Elite. Then Obsession, Prime, and Xpedition had a run. Now Mathews and Bowtech are back on top, with Elite nipping at their heels. And it’ll change again, and again.

Your pet brand probably makes a great bow. But that doesn’t mean another company isn’t offering a better bow this year. So shop smart—and don’t be a fanboy.

Understand Compound Bow Speed Vs. Shootability

Bowtech’s Binary Overdrive cam system is one of the most efficient on the market today.

When comparing bows, everyone talks speed vs. shootability. “Speed” is simple: How fast does that sucker fling an arrow? “Shootability” is a ridiculous non-word invented by marketing people that nevertheless popularly refers to the ease with which a bow is drawn and fired: Ooh, that’s smooth.

As a general rule, more speed means less shootablity, and vice versa. It’s a trade-off, and the wild card is you. If you can shoot a hard-to-draw, hard-to-hold blazing-fast bow and still be hell on wheels on the range and in the deer woods, more power to you (literally). On the other hand, a slower, easier-shooting bow can help you keep your form together, especially when your knees are knocking. In other words, there is no perfect bow—only a perfect bow for you.

Now, with all of that said, there is a wild card, and it’s called bow efficiency. A bow is a simple pulley-and-lever system; the energy you get out is proportional to the energy you put it. Some compounds, however, are more efficient at transferring that energy, and therefore give you more power/speed with less effort (all else being equal).

In this year’s F&S annual bow test, the bows that finished near the bottom of our rankings had efficiencies between 78 and 80 percent, while those that finished near the top had efficiencies between 80 and 83 percent. That’s because high-efficiency bows produce the best combination of speed and shootability. And that’s what you want.

Unfortunately, bow companies do not typically advertise bow efficiency. But you will feel its effect when you shoot and compare bows. You want the fastest bow that’s still relatively easy for you to handle and shoot well.

Test Every Compound Bow You Can

When you’re shopping for a bow, it helps to shoot a lot of different brands.

If you’re going to shop for your perfect bow, you need to know what to look for—and how to look for it. Here’s are nine things you should test for with every bow you pick up.

1. Fit and Finish

Grab a bow off the shelf and look closely at the materials and workmanship. Are the limb pockets plastic (okay) or aluminum (better)? Is the riser cast (okay), or extruded, forged, or machined from a single billet (better)? Are the cutouts clean and smooth? Is the finish uniform; does it seem durable? Do you like the way the bow looks?

2. Draw Cycle

Ask the shop owner if you can draw the bow, and then do so several times, slowly. Ideally, the motion will feel even and smooth, with a minimum of grittiness or bumps in the road as the cam turns over. Don’t expect a fast bow to draw like a slow one. The idea is to compare bows of similar specs.

3. Back Wall

Draw the bow again, all the way back until it stops. Now, how does that stop feel? Hard and solid, like you’ve hit a concrete wall? Or a little soft and spongy? Most shooters, especially hunters, prefer the former.

4. Valley

From the back wall, start to ease up a little. Simply put, the valley determines how much you can relax at full draw before the string suddenly let’s down. Speed bows tend to have a “steep” or “narrow” valley, meaning they jerk your arm forward at the slightest relaxation. Slower bows are apt to have “generous” or “wide” valley, meaning they offer more leeway, which many hunters prefer.

5. Shock and Vibration

Now ask to shoot the bow. Step close to the target so you’re sure to hit it. Then close your eyes, shoot, and concentrate on what you feel in your bow hand. Some models, especially light and fast ones, will jump a little and/or vibrate noticeably. The less of both the better. A bow with no noticeable shock or vibration is called “dead in the hand.”

6. Noise

Shoot with your eyes closed again, and this time listen carefully. Some bows are noticeably quieter. Even some very fast bows. For hunting, the quieter the better.

7. Balance, Handling, and Grip

These are pretty simple and somewhat related. Basically, when you shoot the bow, does it feel good in your hand? Does it balance naturally or list a little this way or that? Is it easy to get on target; does it settle there or jump around? Grip is highly personal, but thin ones are in vogue and seem to reduce torque.

8. Speed

For now, just look at the manufacturer’s IBO rating, usually listed on the bow. This number is almost always a little inflated, but it typically makes for a serviceable apples-to-apples comparison.

9. Accuracy and Forgiveness

These are important but difficult to test while shopping, so let’s delve further first.

Understand Bow Accuracy

Bow accuracy is different than rifle accuracy.

Of course you want an accurate bow. Everyone does. But what exactly does that mean? It’s natural to think of bow accuracy as you might rifle accuracy. But it’s a bad idea, because they are very different.

In riflery, you can reasonably discuss inherent accuracy because you can put a rifle on a benchrest, shoot a variety of ammo, and pretty much find out what the thing is capable of. Some will shoot sub-MOA; others won’t, and that’s that.

Although you can test bows with a Hooter Shooter (a machine that fires arrows with perfect consistency, removing the human element), it doesn’t really tell you anything. Because when you do, you learn that almost any bow can be tuned to hit virtually the same hole time and again.

“I won’t let a bow leave here unless it’s absolutely perfect,” says Seth Stevens of, who specializes in “super tuning” bows for both hunting and target archery. “From the Hooter Shooter, I can get any bow to hit in the same hole at 20 yards and be very close to that out to 60 or 70.”

In other words, don’t worry about the bow’s accuracy. Worry about your accuracy with a given bow.

Understand Bow Forgiveness (and Read F&S)

Testing the “forgiveness” of a bow is difficult for the average shooter to do, but we test the latest bows for this every year in our annual bow test.

Bow forgiveness is a marketing department’s dream. It has the benefit of being both unequivocally good—Who doesn’t want forgiveness?—and impossible to quantify. And so, hucksters have flogged the term senseless. Company X’s latest model is not only extremely forgiving but even more extremely forgiving than all their other extremely forgiving models. It’s all baloney.

Instead, let’s look at real-world forgiveness, to the extent that it exists. And let’s start by getting our terms straight: “forgiving” and “easy to shoot” (as in comfortable) do not mean the same thing, even though many bowhunters and bow companies use them interchangeably. What “forgiving” actually means here is “easy to shoot well” (as in accurately). A forgiving bow, by definition, is one that forgives minor mistakes in shooting form in execution.

The best way to test bow forgiveness is to get several different shooters—each with slightly different shooting form and making slightly different shooting errors—to shoot groups at a single distance with all the latest compound bows.

This is pretty much impossible for the average shopper to pull off, but it is exactly what we do every year for Field & Stream’s Best of the Best bow testing. And what we find every year is that not only do some bows shoot better than others; they do so with obvious consistency between the shooters. In other words, they are more forgiving of a variety of shooter screw-ups. And we are not afraid to name names. So, the easiest way to know which of the year’s top bows are most forgiving is to read the annual F&S/OL bow test. But you can also get a rough idea of both accuracy and forgiveness at a good bow shop.

Shoot at the Bow Shop by Looking Past the Peep

Visit your local bow shop when business is slow so you can shoot a variety of bows at your draw length.

It’s far from perfect, but you can get a decent feel for how well you shoot various bows at a shop despite the fact they are not set up specifically for you. The best retailers have a 20-yard or longer shooting range and carry an assortment of models already set up with D-loops, accessories, and a good basic tune. From there, all you need is the correct draw length and peep-sight placement. The former takes only a few minutes in most cases, especially as more and more companies get away from draw-length-specific cams. If you go when the shop is slow (midday, midweek), most pros will do this for you.

Changing the peep height can be a snap, too, if it needs only a slight adjustment. Otherwise, just ignore it. You don’t need a peep to shoot accurately. Simply anchor up as usual, line the top pin with the edge of the string in the same place each time, and start shooting groups. Don’t worry where the arrow hits in relation to the bull; just compare the groups from bow to bow. Again, it isn’t perfect, but this is the best you can do at most shops (and far better than you can do at any big box store), and it will give you a pretty good sense of which bows feel and shoot best for you.

Get What You Pay For in a Bow

Okay, let’s get down to brass tacks. How much should you pay, and what should you get for your money? Well, new bows tend to fall into one of three categories: flagship bows, mid-line bows, and budget bows, plus a subset of budget bows known as high-adjustability bows. Here’s a rundown of each.

Buy a Flagship Bow

Mathew’s new VRX is an example of a flagship bow that is both fast and smooth-shooting.

This is a company’s top-of-the-line model. Today’s flagships run anywhere from around $1,000 to more than $1,500, with the average being around $1,150. For that amount of money, the riser should be machined from a single block of aluminum or made of carbon. The bow should have a roller guard, and besides the strings, cables, dampeners and the like, it should have all metal parts (no plastic). It should sport all of the company’s latest tech, including its highest-performing and most efficient cams. And the fit and finish should be impeccable.

The IBO speed should be around 330 fps or better, and the bow should be a joy to shoot. Consider the last two winners of the annual F&S/OL test. Last year’sBowtech Realm SR6 was the fastest bow in our test (at just shy of 350 fps set to IBO specs) and yet still had the smoothest draw cycle of all the bows tested. This year’s winner, the[Mathews VXR 28|] was likewise among the fastest at just shy of 330 fps, and won the draw cycle portion of the test. In other words, the very best flagship bows—the sort you want—should impress you both in terms of speed and shootability.

Buy a Mid-Line Bow

The Xpedition Mountaineer has near-flagship performance for hundreds less.

Mid-line bows usually run in the $700 to $900 range and provide near-flagship performance. That’s because these bows are very often made of components from recent flagship models. Two perfect examples are the Xpedition Mountaineer and the Obsession Sniper. Both sport previous flagship-model risers and cams, and both offer high-end performance, with 340 fps and 348 fps listed IBO speeds respectively (although Obsession is known to exaggerate the IBO claims, so that may be a tad high).

A mid-line bow is apt to be missing a metal roller guard and other top-end components. The fit and finish may be one step down. But performance can be right near the top, for a significant discount.

Buy a Budget Bow

The Hoty Powermax is a particularly well-built budget bow.

We’ve been testing budget-priced bows for years. Generally, $500 or $600 is our cap (with a few exceptions), and while these bows never quite match the performance of flagship or mid-line bows, we are perennially blown away at how good they are for the price.

Many budget bows have a cast riser and plastic cable guard. Most are slower by at least 10 to 15 fps, often because they have older cam systems. The draw cycle may feel a bit bumpy or gritty, and there may be a little extra buzz after the shot.

For some shoppers, these distinctions are huge. But in most real-world hunting scenarios, they simply don’t make a huge difference. You can kill deer all day with a $500 bow. Two budget model bows that I shot this year and really liked are the Mission MXR, which features the same basic Crosscentric Cam system and Mathews’ flagship bows, as well as the Hoyt Powermax, which has an IBO speed of almost 330 fps, and is built like a tank. If all you can afford is a budget model, there’s no reason to feel handicapped. These bows are absolutely up to the job, and they present a fantastic value.

Get a Bow that Grows

The new Elite Ember is an especially well-built highly-adjustable bow that shoots more like a non-adjustable bow.

If you could buy shoes that grow with your kid you would, right? That’s why bows featuring extreme adjustability are so popular. How popular? The Diamond Infinite Edge—a perfect example of the type, made by Bowtech—is the company’s best-selling bow ever. It’s draw weight can be set anywhere from 5 to 70 pounds and it’s draw length anywhere from 13 to 30 inches, with no need for extra modules or a bow press. In other words, with the turn of a few screws it can be set up for anyone in the family and can grow with any young or new shooter. Like most such bows, it’s also inexpensive at around $400.

Sounds great. And it is. But that doesn’t mean you should rush out and get one.

High-adjustability bows fill an important niche to a tee; they are just about perfect for youngsters coming up, for multiple young shooters in a family, and for some adult newcomers. Generally speaking, they offer more than enough power and accuracy for hunting at modest ranges. But they do have some drawbacks. Priced for beginners, their lower-end materials, as well as all that adjustability (though to a lesser degree), puts limits on performance. And sized for beginners, they tend to be particularly short and light, which isn’t the ideal combination for accuracy. The ones I’ve shot—which is most, if not all—have not been especially forgiving, as a rule.

So be smart. If you don’t need a bow that grows, spend your money on higher-end performance and forgiveness. On the other hand, if you can put all that remarkable adjustability to good use, it can be worth every penny. Two high-adjustability bows that I’ve shot recently and really like—because they have more aluminum and less plastic and because they shoot like quality non-high-adjustability bows—are the Bowtech Convergence and the new Elite Ember.

Get a Used Bow

Believe it or not, many modern bowhunters will routinely offload last year’s top model for today’s latest and greatest. As a result, you can find a lot of killer used bows at bargain prices. You can shop online (eBay has lots of used bows), but your local pro shop is a better option, because you can carefully inspect and shoot the bow before buying it. A pro shop commonly includes set up and tuning costs in the deal, too.

When shopping, give any used bow a careful inspection. Make sure strings and cables are in good shape, as replacement costs can add $100 or more to a seemingly smoking deal. Worn strings look fuzzy, but be especially on the lookout for nicks or cuts. Examine the bottom edge of the lower cam for damage from resting against hard surfaces. Inspect limbs for cracks or splits. Run a cotton ball over each limb surface; snagged white fuzz indicates a problem. If the limbs are compromised at all, you should walk away. Check the draw length and draw-length adjustability. Most recent-model bows are adjustable, but some may require an expensive replacement cam to change this, and the wrong draw length will ruin your accuracy.

Also look for quality accessories. Because dealers rarely give sellers extra money for sights, rests, and other additions, they don’t add much to the price, but they add a lot to the value.

Support Your Local Pro Shop

Whether you’re looking for a used or new bow, it’s a good idea to buy it from your local pro. Sure, if you have bow press at home, plus all the other tools and the technical knowledge, I can see how you might want to buy online. But pro shops provide much-needed expertise and services to local bowhunting communities in general, and they need our support.

If you don’t have all the tools and know-how, then it’s a no-brainer. You might save a few bucks on the bow itself by shopping at a big-box store or online, but then you’ll have to pay a pro to get it set up and tuned. If you buy from the local bow shop, however, the pro will usually throw that in or at least charge much less for it. Add to this the ability to shoot and compare bows and the pro’s expertise in guiding your choice and setting up your bow and accessories, and you can leave the shop ready to hit the field with a bow that is just right for you.

Buying a bow that’s just right for you will lead to confidence in the field. (Elite Archery/) Bowtech’s Binary Overdrive cam system is one of the most efficient on the market today. (Bowtech Archery/) When you’re shopping for a bow, it helps to shoot a lot of different brands. (Elite Archery/) Bow accuracy is different than rifle accuracy. (Matthew Every/) Testing the “forgiveness” of a bow is difficult for the average shooter to do, but we test the latest bows for this every year in our annual bow test. (Elite Archery/) Visit your local bow shop when business is slow so you can shoot a variety of bows at your draw length. (Elite Archery/) Mathew’s new VRX is an example of a flagship bow that is both fast and smooth-shooting. (Mathews Archery/) The Xpedition Mountaineer has near-flagship performance for hundreds less. (Sportsman’s Warehouse/) The Hoty Powermax is a particularly well-built budget bow. (Hoyt Archery/) The new Elite Ember is an especially well-built highly-adjustable bow that shoots more like a non-adjustable bow. (Elite Archery/)

Written by Dave Hurteau for Field & Stream and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to

The Craft Lager That’s Saving Our Rivers

The Craft Lager That’s Saving Our Rivers

Why a brewer of fine beers is fighting to keep our water sparkling, our trout frisky, and our brews crisp.

Way back when, about 11 years ago, long before quality craft beer in a can was much of a thing, Upslope co-founder Henry Wood was catching up with his old NOLS instructor colleague and pal Tom Reed—Trout Unlimited’s Angler Conservation Program Director—over a beer. Reed wanted to take the conservation group’s 1% For Rivers program national. And Wood was gearing up to do the same with their new Colorado born Craft Lager. If you’re envisioning some affirmative head-nodding you have the right idea. The gist of it? Buy a Craft Lager and one percent of the gross sales goes to the Trout Unlimited chapter in the state where you bought it. That’s “gross” not “net,” which translates to no small sum. Since just 2015, Upslope has donated $60,000 to the cause. “Beer and trout have a lot in common,” says Reed. “They both depend on clean water.”

Fishing and Craft Lager, A Great Pairing

What you drink matters. That’s true regardless of your passions, but if you’re into fly fishing, it’s especially relevant. Why wouldn’t you buy a beer that helps restore and protect rivers? Also, Craft Lager comes in cans, which are the perfect vessels for your vessel. Cans are lighter to ship, reducing the carbon footprint, and they’re easier to recycle than glass. There’s almost no waste: If Americans recycled every can, 96 percent of that aluminum would get repurposed. As for pairing, it doesn’t hurt that this crisp, straw-colored lager is sessionable. “It’s an easy drinking, 4.8 percent alcohol, American made all grain lager,” says Wood. “It’s tough to crush higher alcohol IPAs and steer a driftboat.”

The Upslope Crew Walks the Talk

Just as it’s hard to find a mountain biker or hiker that doesn’t see the value of spending an afternoon standing in a cold stream with a rod in hand, it’s hard to find an Upslope employee that isn’t willing to wade into river conservation work. “Beyond our donations to Trout Unlimited, we’ve physically done stream restoration as a company for years,” says Wood. “We coordinate with Rocky Mountain Anglers here in Boulder on Boulder Creek, and on South Boulder Creek in Eldorado Canyon State Park pulling out weeds and rebuilding banks. Our employees get two paid days off a year to donate their time to nonprofit work.”

The Smith River Thanks You

Like the Grand Canyon is to whitewater boaters, the Smith River in Central Montana is to fly fishers—one of the crown jewels. As such, it’s the only float in the nation that requires a permit—which you draw for much like choice elk habitat. To call that float “coveted” would be an understatement. But now a proposed hard rock copper mine on Sheep Creek near the put-in for the Smith is jeopardizing that storied waterway. With money that comes in part from Craft Lager sales, Trout Unlimited is paying lawyers to fight the Australian company pushing the mine and hiring an educator to travel the state singing the virtues of the Smith. “There’s a checkered history of hard rock mining in the state of Montana,” says Reed. “But even though Montana’s mining laws are friendly to international corporations we’ve given them a good fight. We don’t think that’s an appropriate place for a mine. And we aren’t alone. We have good grounds for a lawsuit. I’m hopeful that with continued support t we’ll win.”

Upslope’s Commitment Has Only Grown

Upslope is now one of only two certified B Corp breweries in Colorado, and one of only about 30 worldwide. What’s that mean for the average fly fisher in search of malted beverages? A lot actually. B Corp status depends on a commitment to three overarching promises to take care of employees, the community that the business touches, and the environment. Because Upslope has been committed to such goals since day one, it earned B Corp certification on the first bid. Now the challenge is to constantly improve to meet B Corp’s evermore exacting standards. Much of that challenge falls on Upslope Sustainability Coordinator Elizabeth Waters—who started out at the brewery in the tasting room as a bartender with an environmental degree. “Our biggest blind spot was our supply chain,” says Waters. “Unlike employee benefits and environmental initiatives, we didn’t have any set policy around how we source materials. Now we’re chipping away at it vigorously. It’s the little things that add up. And those little actionable initiatives get identified by our employees. Like when a hops supplier recently switched from non-recyclable paper bags lined with plastic to full paper. That simple move keeps tons of waste from the landfill. We hope to be 85 percent to our zero waste soon.”

Check Out Upslope Brewing

2020 Fly Fishing Film Tour Virtual Event

2020 Fly Fishing Film Tour Virtual Event

How does the 2020 Virtual F3T work?

Go to and find an event closest to your geographic location. Tickets will be available starting August 3rd. The event will start on August 27th at 7:00 PM (EST). After purchasing a ticket you will be able to watch the film for up to one week after purchase. In addition to the 2020 films we will also be announcing some free content that comes along with your purchase around mid-August. You won’t be disappointed.

National Tour Events

There will be over 50 sponsor raffles prizes given away for the national tour shows with a total value exceeding $50,000. If you choose to purchase your ticket to a national tour event, a limited number of F3T hats and buffs will be available for you to pick up from the fly shops listed on the event page. You can also find links on these pages to support raffles or donate to local conservation and non-profit groups.

Independently Promoted Events

The independently promoted events will have separate fundraisers and raffles to support local conservation and non-profit organizations. Each promoter has an opportunity to customize their event page so they will all look different. More than a dozen groups will be raising funds for important fly fishing based non-profit projects. Even if you purchase a ticket to a national tour event, make sure you support their raffles.

The Show

Once you have purchased your ticket you will have access to a special 10 minute waiting room video before the event begins! If you manage to watch the entire video you will have an opportunity to put your name into the raffle twice. This is a special offer. Included in the waiting room is a description of all the sponsor prizes, special giveaways, a digital Stonefly Magazine, and trailers to get your excited for the films. This is the first time ever we are giving audience members an opportunity to put their name into the raffle twice! Don’t miss out.


The show will kick off around 6:30 PM (EST) with a walk-in slide show. Featuring behind the scenes pictures from the film, fun music and fresh content it will keep you entertained. It will be the perfect opportunity to crack a beer and wait for the kick off. Similar to a live event, the show will be cohosted and have an introduction, intermission and conclusion. Our lineup this year is a perfect split between freshwater, saltwater, domestic and international films. We’ve had tremendous feedback on our line-up so far, and we are sure you will enjoy it.


Simms Dry Creek Z Backpack

Hopper Flip 18 YETI Cooler

Costa Sunglasses

Colorado LT, Animas and Gunnison Ross Reels

Amplitude Scientific Angler Fly Lines

Thomas & Thomas Fly Rods

Oskar Blue Bar Lights

A trip to the Seychelles courtesy of Yellow Dog Fly Fishing Adventures & Alphonse fishing lodge.

Special Prizes

Simms Fishing Products

The men’s package includes a pair of G4Z Waders, G4 Pro Jacket, G4 Pro Boots, Extreme Bi-comp Hoody, Solar Flex Plus Hoody, and featured hats. The women’s package includes a pair of G3Z Waders, G3 Jacket, Fly Weight Boots, Mid Current Jacket, Solar Flex Hoody, and featured hats.

YETI Coolers

The package includes the new Trailhead Camp Chair, new Roadie Cooler, new Loadout Go Box, New Day Trip Lunch Box, Stackable 10 oz Mugs, Stackable 12 oz Pint, 25 oz Rambler with a Chug Cap, 1 Gallon Rambler, Custom F3T 12 oz Yeti Rambler with Hot Shot Lid, Yeti Rambler Straw Cap, Tie-Down Kit and featured hats.

Costa Sunglasses

The package includes a pair of sunglasses of your frame and lens choice for a man and woman. Featuring new all the new models! The package also includes a 45 L Duffle, Sunglass Retainers, Cleaning Cloth’s, and featured hats.

Don’t forget those tickets!


Time Tested: YETI Tocayo Backpack

Time Tested: YETI Tocayo Backpack

We’ve always been a fan of YETI products and the first thing you see when this pack arrives is its durability. This pack has been floating around the back of a small Cessna, bottom of a boat, back of a pick-up and quite honestly dragged through the dessert more than once. When all was said and done the “Stand-up Construction” still stood up.

In part because of the shell which includes a water-repellant coating, a PU-backed 1000D nylon face, and 210D ripstop backer. Which means its rugged and will stand up to some of the harshest critics when it comes to durability.

The second standing point for this pack is its functionality. We like simple and the multi-use functionality easily allowed us to go from board room to back woods without skipping a beat. Fly Fishing gear, sunglasses, and even a shelter for your laptop if for some reason work comes calling during the pursuit.

Our one gripe was size, at times it did seem overkill for the short-trip but the side handle is key when needing to carry it more like a brief case or duffle than a pack.

With it all said and done this pack withstood the test of time and its two main features speak loudly, durable and functional. What more could you want in a pack.