TEN QUESTIONS WITH YELLOW DOG’S JAKE WELLS
You worked at Henry’s Fork Anglers before coming to Yellow Dog. What’s something about working in a fly shop the average consumer doesn’t know?
Well my experience working at a destination fly shop was that anyone who walked through the door could have realistically known more than me about fly fishing in general, or could have even been a better angler than me. But perhaps it was his or her first time going to fish there. So what they didn’t have was firsthand knowledge about the river, and that’s what I loved sharing with folks whether it was recommended fly patterns or recommended spots to fish on the river.
What got you into fishing?
It’s probably more a question of “who” got me into fishing? Being from Virginia, I grew up fishing with a spinning rod for warm water species like bass and a variety of panfish. It wasn’t really until I came out west in 2005 to go to college that I became a dedicated fly angler. That same year for Christmas, I was given my first fly rod and one my high school basketball coaches became my fly fishing mentor. He still comes out from Virginia once a year to do an annual summer fishing trip throughout Montana. And almost every year since, I’ve tried to meet up with him for a few days to fish together whether it be on the Madison, Bighorn, or in Yellowstone National Park.
You can pick one place to fish for the rest of your life. Where do you go?
Right here in Bozeman, Montana! There’s a reason why Yellow Dog chose this location for their office headquarters. Within driving 30 minutes to 4 hours from here, I can drop my drift boat into over two dozen of the most famous trout rivers in the United States. I’ll admit that there are many places that I still haven’t fished yet both domestically or globally. But if I had to pick just one river to fish the rest of my life, then it’d be the Henry’s Fork of the Snake River in Idaho. It’s like seven rivers in one.
Back to the fly shop days: opening shift or closing shift. Why?
Back when I was cleaning the toilet and mowing the grass at the fly shop…I’d have to say opening shift. If you were opening, then you’d have about an hour or so all to yourself to clean the shop and get everything ready for the day. So I’d crank up the stereo system and rock out to Led Zeppelin whenever that was my duty and no one else was around. Another reason was because you could get off the clock in time to grab some food and then hit the river for the evening hatches. One of my fondest memories is getting off work, and then fishing the Brown Drake hatch on the 4th of July. As I was fishing, I was also able to watch the nearby firework show from the Grub Stake grocery store in the town of Last Chance.
The fly-fishing industry is changing rapidly. What’s one movement or trend you’ve been excited to see emerge?
One movement that I’m always excited to see is more activism in watershed conservation and anglers’ rights. For example, the state of Utah’s recent victory in freeing up access to more than 2,700 miles of streams and rivers. At the core of that movement was really just a handful of dedicated anglers who took matters into their own hands. That’s why I’m also proud to be a part of the Yellow Dog. We have a strong commitment to conservation, and are proud to recognize and support the movements of several organizations that strive to protect and preserve what we value as anglers. If it wasn’t for the resource then the industry wouldn’t even exist…plain and simple.
What’s the one fly you always make sure is in your box?
When it comes to dry fly fishing for trout I’d have to say a cinnamon-colored ant. But I’d be sure to have a black marker with me so that I could color in the thorax and head to turn it into a two-toned colored ant, or color in the entire body to turn it into a black ant. When it comes to saltwater…probably a white & tan Clouser Minnow or anything tied by Doug McKnight who is our Bahamas Program Director.
Favorite species, and why?
Brown trout on the lower Henry’s Fork, or baby tarpon down in the Yucatan. However, the coolest species that I’ve ever caught on a fly rod was a baby roosterfish when I was on my honeymoon down in Cabo this past year. It was only the size of a dinner plate, but was really an amazing looking fish when you held it up close.
You’re getting ready to float with friends. What five things are must-haves in the boat?
My net, forceps, flies, anchor, and oars. You might be thinking that those are all obvious answers. But believe me, it’s such a bad feeling after you’ve put in on a river, and then all of a sudden realize that you forgot something back in the truck. The next time you’re in the Henry’s Fork Anglers fly shop, ask Mike Lawson about the time his brother was guiding and forgot his oars on a guide trip. It’s a good story.
If you could tell a new angler one thing, what would it be?
Fly fishing is a lifetime pursuit and you will never learn everything there is to know. But I think that’s why I love it so much. I learn something new every week just from being around my fellow Yellow Dog teammates here at the office.
So what’s next—what’s on the docket for 2016?
Personally, I have an antique roll top desk that I want to refinish and use for my fly tying desk. It’s been sitting in storage for about two years now. My goal this next summer is to do a lot of camping with my wife and fish a different river in Montana every weekend. As far as Yellow Dog goes, we may add a few new destinations to our US West program, and I’m hoping to get up to Canada and down to Mexico sometime this next year.