On this week’s episode of Leader of the Pack, a podcast by Duluth Pack, Tom Sega has a Zoom sit-down conversation with Paul Bartlam, an expert fly fisherman and enthusiastic cross-country skier. In this episode of Leader of the Pack, Paul shares his experiences of becoming the fly fisherman he is today and how he got there.
Background on Paul Bartlam
Paul starts by walking us through his childhood and growing up in the northland. Growing up in Proctor, MN, Paul grew up camping, fishing, and spending a lot of time outdoors with his family. He recalls always being the last kid to run to the house for lunch from the dock because he was fascinated by nature. Paul tells Tom jokingly that his passion for fishing and the outdoors could be deemed either a “disease” or a “gene.” Tom responds by saying that to the people who have the passion, it is a “gene,” but to their spouses, it is more of a “disease” or “obsession.”
Paul’s Growth as a Fly Fisherman
Tom asks Paul how he got involved in the fly fishing sport. It was actually because of his dad, explains Paul. His father became interested in fly fishing, and for Christmas one year, Paul was gifted fishing gear which included a fly rod and fly tying kit at the age of 12. Paul learned fly fishing with his dad, and they had to figure it out alone because the internet wasn’t a thing at that time. Paul fished out of lakes for panfish growing up until he drifted from the sport while in university in the Twin Cities. Paul was drawn back into the sport when a Burgur Brother’s shop in the Twin Cities offered free fly tying classes one weekend, and he found a lot of joy in the sport and the people it connected him to.
Tom asks Paul how he started to master fly fishing. Paul immediately credits the Arrowhead Fly Fishers Club. From the beginning, he was mentored and made several great friends. Before really getting involved in the community, Paul talks about how he thought it was an elitist sport and did not know how to get involved, but it was so welcoming. Paul learned a lot about the sport from mentors and this club, but his next step of improving was when he took a casting class that was amazing for growing his skillset. Paul went on to get certified as a casting instructor in 2010 and helped others break down the art of casting. Paul says his favorite part of teaching is, “The beginners are the most fun because they make the biggest leaps.” After Tom and Paul talk about his experience teaching someone these skills themselves, they dive into Paul fly fishing in rivers. Paul was intimidated by rivers when he began fishing them, but he has had some fantastic experiences since then.
Tips for getting started yourself:
– Find a club or mentor to assist your learning.
– Fly Shops have a lot of knowledge on the best spots to go and the species of fish biting at that time.
– Paul recommends classes and workshops.
– Taking a class allows you to try gear and find what you like.
– Think about what you like to fish for. Fly fishing has variety in the sport, and different gear works best for different fish.
Paul gives his wife credit for getting him into the winter sport after she purchased her own skies. He joined her on the trails and truly found an infinity for the sport upon watching her. Tom and Paul also talk about his involvement with the Cross-Country Ski Club and local involvement in Duluth, Minnesota. They also talk about the northland’s incredible and free trail systems for cross-country skiers.
Listening to Tom and Paul talk about his experiences in both fly fishing and cross-country skiing, the parallel you see in both sports are the mentorships and friends that Paul found. While we may not have learned all the secret fishing spots, Paul leaves us excited about fly fishing and knowing more about the sport! Thank you, Paul, for taking the time to share your story with us.