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Dwight Landis Interview -

Published by Dave Kile [davekile] on 03/21/2009 (11883 reads)
Dwight is the author of the highly acclaimed book, Trout Streams of Pennsylvania: An Angler's Guide. He currently resides in Bellefonte, in Centre County, near Spring Creek.

Dave interviewed Dwight in March, 2009.

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1 - Dave: Please tell me how and when you got started into flyfishing.

Dwight: My parents took us kids pond fishing for bluegills, beginning at a very early age. We fished with with no reels, just black nylon line wrapped around a bamboo pole, a big red & white bobber, hook and worms. I loved it, and still enjoy bluegill fishing today.

When I was about 14, two friends in the same grade in school were getting into flyfishing, and introduced me to it, and showed me the basics. They told me to buy a Fenwick fiberglass rod (this was before graphite rods). The rod cost $26, which I thought was very expensive.

The first fly I tied was a muskrat nymph, at a TU meeting where members helped beginners tie flies. A teacher at our high school started a fly fishing club, which was great. Having friends and mentors is a big plus when learning flyfishing. It’s not so easy to learn on your own.

2 - Dave: Tell me what inspired you to write Trout Streams of Pennsylvania: An Angler's Guide.

Dwight: For me, exploring the streams and their surrounding landscapes was always very interesting. When I was quite young, even before I had ever trout fished, I would just walk along streams, follow them up to their spring sources, and follow them downstream for miles. I don’t even know why. I was just fascinated with exploring streams, seeing where they originated, and how they changed as they flowed along.

When I began flyfishing, I always liked covering long distances, seeing what is up around the bend. And when my buddies and I turned 16 and could drive, we began fishing stream-hopping all over the place.

At that time, there were no stream guidebooks in print. My friend had a copy of “100 Pennsylvania Trout Streams and How to Fish Them”, which was published around 1963, but which had already gone out of print. Copies of that book can still be found today, and it’s an interesting read. But it was not really a thorough guidebook. I remember wishing a better book was available, because our stream explorations were pretty hit or miss.

For younger flyfishers, it’s probably hard to imagine how little information was available at that time. There were no flyfishing magazines then. Flyfisherman was the first, and it began a little bit later. Magazines like Outdoor Life published very brief mentions of about a dozen PA streams every spring. There were no DeLorme Atlases then, and of course no Internet.

What triggered the idea to actually write a PA guidebook was that by the mid-1980s, there were numerous guidebooks for western streams, but none for PA. I had already fished many PA streams, and I enjoy researching and writing, so I thought, “I could do that.” At the time I was working on my book, I didn’t realize it, but both Mike Sajna and Charlie Meck were also working on guidebooks. Their books came out earlier, but mine was already well underway, so I completed it. The various PA guidebooks have significant differences, and all are interesting and informative in their own ways.

3 - Dave: When did you first publish the book? Who is the publisher?

Dwight: The first edition came out in March 1991, and it’s now in its third edition. I self-published it. I wrote the book and did the layout on a primitive Macintosh computer of that period, and did the maps with engineering pens on Mylar, and in more recent editions have been doing the maps on the computer.

4 - Dave: What was one of the most interesting or surprising things that you learned when writing the book?

Dwight: I learned many interesting things, but probably the main thing was just getting a better understanding of the immensity of the mileage of PA trout streams. I already knew that there was a whole lot of trout water out there from fishing over the years, but the more I worked on the book, the more mind-boggling it became. And the more miles I put on my car! The mileage of streams in PA is so large that no one could possibly fish it all. But some of us are trying!

Another thing that was interesting, surprising, and thrilling, was finding trout in unexpected places, in waters people thought were too warm, too polluted, or too affected by urbanization or mining to support trout.

5 - Dave: Everyone will ask me why I didn’t ask this question if I don’t - so here goes – Is there a particular stream to fish and why?

Dwight: No. That question was easy! Focusing on one stream is opposite to my own approach to fishing, and opposite of the intent of my book. I think you will learn a lot more, and have more fun, if you choose to explore a wide variety of waters, than if you concentrate on fishing one or a few streams. There is something special about having a “home stream” and learning it very thoroughly. But many flyfishers become creatures of habit, and get comfortable fishing just one or a very few streams, and even just the same stretch of stream, and become reluctant to try new waters. I’m encouraging people to go beyond fishing only the famous streams and the special regulations waters, and go out and roam around. Be adventurous! If you don’t get skunked sometimes, you aren’t really exploring.

6 - Dave: Tell me about your favorite fly and why.

Dwight: Like most other flyfishers, I use many different flies in different circumstances, and fly selection is a large topic. I use many standard, well-known patterns, as well as a few “specials.”

I don’t have a single favorite fly, but here’s one that is very good, that I call the Evening Rise. It is a variation of the famous Rusty Spinner pattern.

Evening Rise
Hook: #14, #16, #18
Tails: light dun hackle fibers
Body: reddish tan dubbing
Wing: light dun hackle, wound in standard dry fly fashion, cut flat on bottom

Wings on spinner patterns are usually tied with poly yarn. But I think the hackle wing is more realistic. And it’s very simple to tie. You just wrap hackle as you would for a standard dry fly, then cut the hackle off flush on the bottom. You can also trim the hackle on top, but I prefer to leave the hackle untrimmed on top. This makes the fly easier to see in low light, and it doesn’t seem to bother the trout.

I call it the Evening Rise because when you see trout sipping at dusk, it’s often hard to spot exactly what insect they are taking, but they are often taking mayfly spinners, and this is my go-to fly in that situation.

7 - Dave: What keeps your interests outside of flyfishing.

Dwight: In the previous version of, I used the screen name Streamnerd on the message board, and I guess that is pretty accurate, because most of my interests are related to streams and fish. Working on the book got me deeper into photography, and making the maps for it got me into cartography.

And I’ve always enjoyed reading scientific literature related to streams and fisheries. I’m particularly interested in fluvial geomorphology, which deals with the physical aspects of streams. I have been reading that literature from the mid-1970s to the present, and have enjoy relating what I see out on the streams to what I’ve read. I’ve also been reading PA historical documents, to learn about the physical changes to streams that occurred in the early logging and settlement days, that have affected trout habitat.

8 - Dave: Tell me what you think has been the biggest positive change for flyfishing in Pennsylvania over the past five to ten years.

Dwight: In the last 5 or 10 years, I can’t think of many changes. But over a longer period of time, there have been significant positive changes in fisheries management. Prior to about the late 1970s, there was little management specifically oriented to maintaining or improving wild trout populations. There was not even much measurement of trout populations prior to that time.

But in PA and in other states, there has been progress, both in ending stocking of hatchery trout and limiting harvest in some wild trout waters. In addition, the idea of limiting your kill has become more widely accepted among anglers. As a result, in some streams, the number of trout found year around is now much higher than in the past.

Acid mine drainage cleanup efforts have also been a big plus. Some streams that were previously dead zones now support fish. I’d like to see more progress in these areas, but significant progress has been made.

9 - Dave: Tell me where you think more energy and efforts need to be focused to help improve fly-fishing in Pennsylvania going forward.

Dwight: Land should be the focus. Conserving and improving streams and trout means conserving the land they flow through. So purchases of stream corridor land and easements, and restoring the natural vegetation of those riparian lands, is the probably the most important thing.

Another important task will be to understand the historical changes to the physical structure of stream systems, and using that knowledge to restore the physical structure of the streams to something closer to normal. At present, even though many of the streams on public lands have excellent water quality and forested watersheds, their trout populations are severely limited in many places by habitat problems caused by past alterations. Many of these changes occurred around 100 years ago and they have not “self-restored” and will not do so, at least not for centuries, without some help. I think the potential to improve trout populations in these places is very great, through habitat restoration.

10 - Dave: What do you say to people who will argue that kiss and tell books and websites hurt the sport by over crowding certain streams?

Dwight: It’s the websites that are the problem, not the books. That was a joke, Dave!

More seriously, which condition is more likely to concentrate anglers in crowded conditions, and which is more likely to spread them out? When information available to anglers is only about a limited number of famous and special regulation waters? Or when information is available on many hundreds of streams?

When an angler buys a license and a trout stamp he is going to fish somewhere for trout. So, if he’s not fishing stream A, he’s going to fish stream B. License sales in PA and elsewhere have declined, so the overall number of anglers is down, but the number of people flyfishing is way up, as the sport has grown in popularity. So, it’s all about distribution. Concentration of anglers is bad, and spreading out is good.

It has always been the special regulation waters that have been crowded with flyfishers during the major hatch periods. As long as “general” regulations means a high bag limit, and “special” regulations means low or no harvest, applied to a limited stream mileage, then special regulation waters will attract a high density of flyfishers hoping to find good numbers of trout.

Regarding the idea of protecting the populations of wild trout streams through “secrecy,” that has never been effective, because these streams were never really secret. People who live near the streams, or who have camps nearby, have known about these streams for years, even generations, and they catch the trout and eat them. The present rules allow harvesting 5 fish per day. If the harvest on these streams is too high, then the harvest limits need to be reduced. That is just basic fisheries management, and it applies to any fishery in the world, whether it’s on the open oceans, or in lakes, rivers, or small streams.

11 - Dave: What final advice or tips do you have for those just getting started into the sport?

Dwight: Explore lots of streams, and experience the thrill of discovery, rather than just fishing the famous waters. My advice, particularly for young fishermen and anyone in reasonably good physical condition, is to go fish the forested freestone streams, out in the state forests, gamelands and other public lands. This “mountain stream” type of fishing is very enjoyable if you enjoy wild landscapes and colorful wild trout, but it is physically demanding, and it becomes more difficult to hike for miles in rough terrain as you get older. So do that type of fishing while you are able. You can always fish the more easily accessible waters when you are older.
Join Trout Unlimited or other group of your choice, and contribute to the conservation and restoration of our streams and fisheries. And you’ll learn a lot and meet some good people, too.

The competitive instinct when fishing with other people is normal, but my advice is to de-emphasize that aspect of flyfishing. I think that allows you to relax, enjoy fishing more, and notice more about the streams and the surrounding landscape.

Thanks Dave. And a great fishing season to all.

Dwight Landis

You can find out more about Dwight's book at Amazon.

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The comments are owned by the author. We aren't responsible for their content.
Author Thread
Published: 2009/3/21 22:36  Updated: 2009/3/21 22:36
Joined: 10/02/2006
From: Greensburg, Westmoreland Co.
Comments: 297
 Re: Dwight Landis Interview -
Nice interview. Thanks Dave and Dwight!
Published: 2014/2/2 7:16  Updated: 2014/2/2 7:16
Joined: 02/01/2014
From: Hollidaysburg, Pa
Comments: 5
 Re: Dwight Landis Interview -
Nice . Hoping to get into fly fishing this year . Grew up beside spring creek near Bellefonte , Pa . Any pointers ?

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