Young angler Madeline Brenneman is spending this summer at a guest ranch in Colorado, where world-class fly-fishing spots abound. "I'm taking the next few months to guide in Colorado and possibly travel and explore the world with a fly rod," she says.
Before Brenneman landed in the mountains, she deepened her passion for fly-fishing in a rather unexpected locale: Santa Fe, New Mexico. While it's an outdoor playground well suited to her other pursuits—skiing, horses, photography, hiking — this area of New Mexico is not exactly well known for its fishing haunts.
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What Brenneman found in the Southwest was the solitude she craved — and the kind of backcountry rivers that made her fly-fishing adventures that much more extraordinary. We caught up with Brenneman to learn a little more about how she gears up for snagging her next big backcountry catch.
When it comes to fly-fishing in the backcountry, packing light is essential. Summer trips are easy because you can wet-wade to avoid lugging heavy waders. Be sure to invest in a sturdy pair of fishing boots that can double as hiking shoes. Chaco sandals (with wading socks) also work great for both hiking and fishing.
Bring a Sawyer Squeeze water filter, too. I have found these to be the most convenient and lightweight water filters. You can keep these guys right in your pocket and drink straight from the river.
When fishing off the beaten path, I prefer to find a central spot that can serve as a home base for several days. Plan ahead with a map and mark where you will fish and how far each spot is from camp. If you're backcountry fishing alone, like I prefer, make sure to anchor your camp in an open and visible spot that can be seen from above — just in case.
Always keep couple headlamps on hand; you can never have too many. I keep one on me in case it gets dark before I make it back to camp, and then the rest can double as lanterns if you wrap them around a Nalgene.
Hopefully your remote location will allow you to fish some different water each day, so bring a selection of flies. You could encounter headwaters and mountain streams as well as high-alpine lakes if you plan to spend several days beyond typical roadside rivers.
Redington rod tubes are great for the backcountry because they are lightweight and can hold up to three rods. Be sure to bring a few rods with you; I like to bring a 5wt for larger water and then switch it up with a 3wt when I hike up to smaller streams to fish for little browns and brook trout. Four-piece rods are easiest to carry in the backcountry.
I try to keep meals easy and light when hiking in somewhere to fish. I keep a stash of healthy protein bars, granola, apples, cheese, and beef jerky on hand — simple snacks that keep me full. For drinks: JetBoil! There are two things you will be very thankful for after a couple nights outside: coffee and hot water. Extra tip: Store your boiling water in a Hydroflask at night and it will still be extremely hot when you wake up.
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