Is There a Best Fly Fishing Magazine?

Drake MagBeen laying on my back today for all the wrong reasons. Surgery Monday, pain Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Better today, but I’m bored to hell. I don’t sit well and sitting on  my ass is all I’ve done for three days.

Doesn’t help that archery antelope opens tomorrow without me. Oh, I know. Don’t give me any shit, I know. Could be much worse. I get it. But let me moan for just a second, ok. Been laying there glancing at the Drake, and wondering, Are any of the fly-fishing mags worth subscribing to? That’s shouldn’t reflect my personal opinion, but it raised the question of whether any of them are doing a good job and if so, which one is doing it best. And why?

Tight Lines

So that’s the question I put to you today. Do you think any of the fly fishing specific mags—or even the cover-all-bases mags, such as Field & Stream and OL, are worth reading? If not, where are  you getting your fix? Or do you care anymore. Maybe it’s YouTube. Maybe something else. Or maybe you just fish. I’m just curious.

I still like to hold something in my hands and glance through at my own pace. I detest popups and I am sooo leery of the new digital publishing model, that being to garner affiliate advertising dollars by writing about every new product known to man. Integrity? Honest reviews? Not so sure anymore.

Anyway, American Angler is dead, as you know. And maybe AA didn’t ever reach the potential I wanted it to. But it had some good reads in each issue. I don’t know that I was matching Tom Bie at the Drake on the variety of content front (Tom does a good job of that), and I was limited by other influences (including page count), but it still read pretty well. I know Pat Hoglund, who heads Salmon & Steelhead Journal, puts some good where to info together. And there are some interesting associated articles in that one. Fly Fusion? Not so sure. Fly Fisherman? I’m not into how to and personal adventure journals. What about Trout? Kirk Deeter has his mini empire with Angling Trade, Trout and whatever else he’s working on. Trout has TU’s backing and doesn’t need to survive on ad dollars. It has a massive budget—compared to other ff titles—and it has some good names and good reads. But does it do it for you? Or do you get bogged down in issues? Should a print mag be the voice of politics and conservation? Or should that be somewhere else and the print mags should be there to satisfy our fish-porn addictions?

Don’t know. Again, curious. Does a best fly fishing specific magazine exist? And if not, what would it look like? Maybe there’s room for something else. You know, I’m not doing anything these days. Have a little spare time. Give me some ideas and let me mull. But, for sure, let me know which magazine you think is serving our interests best.

Or is it time to bring something like Tight Lines back (does anyone remember Tight Lines?) Pure, hardcore dirt on fly fishing in the West, spoken from the guides, outfitters and biologists who know their waters better than anyone else. An annual. 216 pages. Hmm. Could be fun . . . .

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16 Responses to Is There a Best Fly Fishing Magazine?

  1. Kevin Smith says:

    Fly Rod and Reel was a good read. Always looked forward to John Gierachs column. The Flyfish Journal and The Drake are the top 2 left IMO. I try to support print media titles in my hobbies but expect good content in return, not another how to on deep nymphing. The rivers seem busier than ever yet the print media keeps losing titles.

    • Greg Thomas says:

      Gierach was fun to work with. Key element of Fly Rod & Reel for sure. Other good names, too—Leeson, Hughes, Fernandez, Ted Williams, Seth Norman. Those guys really wrote well and were professionals. Not sure that we have too many like that around anymore. Everyone is strung out on social media and boosting likes. It’s very strange these days. I look at ff content available on the web and it’s like all people are doing is running stuff to keep up with the fast pace that’s required in that arena. I love the fact that you can deliver info/stories to people almost immediately, and I love e-mail newsletters. But I hate all the poaching of little film trailers and 5 Best stories that just serve the Google rank. Would love to do a mag or a book or an annual that really stood out and got people talking and that everyone had to read. What would that look like? What would it be?

  2. Jack Brown says:

    Drake is the best ! Been getting Fly Fisherman forever. Bring back Tight Lines !!!!

    • Greg Thomas says:

      I think it is, too. Good variety. Good images. Lots of pages. It’s nice to get it and sit back and absorb for a few hours. Tight Lines. Definitely served a purpose. Could do it in a digital format and save a lot of $$$. Could sell it as a whole or per downloadable chapter. We’ll see.

  3. Chris Schnepf says:

    Love the Drake (and loved American Angler too). I like Trout, and usually buy Gray’s Sporting Journal when I see their annual flyfishing issue on a stand. I would love to see you bring Tight Lines back again. I liked the annual update quality it had, and if my memory serves, it had a pretty good focus on the northern Rockies and PNW (?) . I think a niche just opened up for that with NW Flyfishing going national and including content from streams back east, etc. I enjoy reading some of that, but I really liked their attention to lesser known waterbodies here. I’m n0t going to renew my subscription to it.

    Good luck with your recovery!

  4. Jim Maxham says:

    The Drake is the best. And I love the Flyfish Journal. Fly Rod and reel while you were the editor was right up there. Loved the content and layout and was very sad to see it go. I was never interested in American Angler until you took over then I wouldn’t miss it. I can’t stand digital format keep print alive.

    • Greg Thomas says:

      Thanks for the kind comments. I may take over a digital mag soon. And I’ll keep plugging away at Tonic. I am having the site redesigned and I’m going to build a team of people to contribute. Who do you like reading?

      • Jim Maxham says:

        John Gierach, Tom McGuane, Tosh Brown, Callen Wink, Dylan Tomine, Nick Price, Charles Gaines, Nathaniel Riverhorse Nakadate, Miles Nolte, Jerry Kustich, Chris Dombrowski Cameron Chambers, David Zoby, Matt Labash, Monte Burke, E. Donnel Thomas, Greg Thomas. I much prefer stories/ good writing not at all interested in how to.

        • Greg Thomas says:

          Quite the list. Good writers all around. Always wanted to work with Monte Burke, but couldn’t get a response. He has a new book out on tarpon that I’m eager to read. The guy does a really good job of weaving in his research and keeping the story highly interesting. Very good writer. Chris Santella is one that you missed. He’s very creative. Thanks for the feedback.

  5. Tim Wolff says:

    Yes! Tight Lines, Tight Lines, Tight Lines!!

  6. Tobin says:

    Just catching up in the posts. yep, Fly Rod and Reel was very good, been a Gray’s subscriber for 25 years (I think, can’t really remember). For me Flyfish Journal is very good and Drake a bit less appealing to me – but that is issue by issue too – they are close. If you did Tight Lines again, that would be good to see.

  7. Joseph Ballarini says:

    As a saltwater nut, I’m partial to Tail Fly Fishing Magazine for the great content and stellar imagery. Theres no other option when it comes to fly fishing in saltwater.

    • Greg Thomas says:

      I agree with your for a variety of reasons, not the least being I want to do some writing for Tail when things open up. Been far too long since I dipped toes in the salt. Fresh is cool and I could stand in a cold steelhead river swinging chrome for the rest of my life . . . and not complain. But the visual aspect of salt, and the size of the beasts we fish for on the flats, makes it almost incomparable.Thanks for the note, bud. Glad to see you checking me ou.

  8. Greggory Seaman says:

    I get “Trout” and that satisfies what is happening with my money from a conversation stand point. But I miss having a fly fishing magazine with “how to” articles, as in how to read different water conditions, how to tie knots, how to tie flies, how to tie dropper rigs and why… tips and tricks from the guides and so on. Also fly recipes, tying with unconventional materials, the latest gear reviews, lots of photos and of course all the stories from authors both established and new. It seems all the fly fishing magazines these days are just destination travel journals, and pardon my french but who f@cking cares? If I ever get flush enough to go fishing in Iceland or Mongolia, I’m probably not going to be referencing an old magazine article for travel arrangements. I feel there is nothing of value in the current publications, no knowledge worth preserving, and I don’t believe I’m alone as I see one magazine after another disappearing year after year.

    • Greg Thomas says:

      Pretty good points. Thanks for taking the time to respond. I’m not a big fan of how-to because I grew up reading every outdoors publication known to man, and grew tired of reading the same thing over and over, and I’ve felt like you can find that information on the web and in books. So I always tried to give people something they couldn’t find online. I agree with you on the travel writing. I let you in on the world of outdoor writing: most of the travel writing you read these days is not written by true, trained professional writers. It’s doctors and lawyer and such who have learned that shooting good images will carry average writing. So they pitch the story to a mag, the mag says ok, the “writer” tell the lodge such and such a magazine will take the story, and the lodge says, “Ok, then you can come here and stay for free. Three thousand to ten thousand dollars saved in an instant. I will take travel stories from the good writers every day, and I’ll take those stories from real photographers too, even if the story portion of the effort isn’t the greatest. It’s crazy because I grew up in a middle class artist’s family where we pinched every dime. Would not trade it for anything in this world. But we didn’t travel round the globe to catch fish. We went to Southeast Alaska each year for a week or two during summer and stayed with great friends and fished a lot. And then we spent the rest of the year dreaming of the day we would make it back to The Great Land. I never expected to travel extensively and never would have if I hadn’t gotten into the business. There’s no way I could afford to pay for lodges. So, I’ve been lucky and I hope that the stories I’ve written about those trips have been entertaining and valuable. I hope they are not, what I would call “beer drinking stories,” which pretty much just follow a timeline about what someone did. I mean, catching a fish, no matter where you are isn’t the biggest deal. But learning something about yourself along the way very much is. Thanks again for reaching out. —GT

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