Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Good Takes- Eric Stroup

Walt Young photo
I have a confession to make.  Before doing this interview, I didn't know who Eric Stroup was.  I had decided to conduct five interviews at the Midwest Fly Fishing Expo this year (I did eight), and the first four people- Cameron Mortenson, April Vokey, Mike Schmidt, and Kelly Neuman- were either people I knew personally or at least had had some contact with and was aware of their work.  For the fifth interview I decided to pick someone at random, someone I knew nothing about.

In looking through the list of vendors I decided on Eric Stroup.  I recognized his name, but I didn't know why.  I sent him an email requesting this interview and then started my research.  This is when the anxiety set in.

You see, it turns out that Eric Stroup is a giant in the world of fly fishing.  He's worked almost his entire adult life as a commercial tyer, a fly shop owner, outfitter and guide.  He has fly tying videos out on various outlets, he has two books out with a third on its way, has been published in all of the relevant magazines, and he gave a ton of seminars and demonstrations at the Expo.  This was perhaps the most intimidating interview I have conducted- this guy knows his crap, and I had better not screw it up.

Eric is a tall guy with piercing blue eyes and a outdoorsman's beard that says everything from 1880's lumberjack to modern guide.  It's a little jarring for me to hear him talk- he sounds a lot like me.  Not his voice, but his word choice and phrasing, and in transcribing this interview and reading his book "River Pimp" I keep thinking "that's exactly what I would have said".  In the brief exchange that we had I came to understand Eric as a serious person, a professional, and someone to be reckoned with in the world of fly fishing.  Without further ado I give you Eric Stroup

Eric has given me a signed copy of his book "River Pimp" to give away to one of my readers.  Be sure and fill out the form at the bottom of this post to enter to win it.

FR:  What do you do?

ES:  I’m a fly fishing guide in Central Pennsylvania, and a writer, with a couple of books out- “Common Sense Fly Fishing” and "River Pimp".  I’m working on another book with Stackpole books called “Catching Trout in Tough Conditions”.

FR:  Do you have tough conditions where you live?

ES:  Yeah we do.  Our fishery is very technical.  It’s got hatch fishing basically twelve months out of the year, so you have to know what you’re imitating, it really helps.  Our streams are all limestone, so we have tremendous bug life.

FR:  So you’re located in Central Pennsylvania- what’s your sales pitch?  Here in Michigan we have a great fishery, but I still always hear people say “Yeah, this is pretty good, but it’s not Colorado”, so how do you get people to fish in Central Pennsylvania?

Eric demonstrates rod flex at the Expo

ES:  We’re like Montana, except we’ve got twelve months out of the year.  Our streams are all wild, our best streams are wild, they’re wild fisheries that are open year-round.  You don’t have to drive forty miles to get a gallon of milk.  It’s good technical tough fishing, wild trout, and open year-round.

FR: Fantastic.  You’ve been guiding for some time, have you had any memorable disasters on the river?

ES:  Well yeah, I had a guy have a seizure, and I had to do CPR on him, get the water out of his lungs…

FR:  Oh, he fell into the river?

ES:  He fell in.   I had two sports, I was with the other guy.  He fell in and never got up.  By the time I got down to him he was in a real heavy riffle.  He was under water and I had to drag him out, broke a couple of fingers dragging him out, got him to the bank, performed CPR on him.  Fortunately we were on one of the only places on the stream that had houses close by, and I sent the other guy to call 9-1-1.  We live in a pretty rural area, and it took about 35 minutes for them to get there.  The guy got back to me, said they were on their way.  Come to find out he’s a doctor.  Anyway, the guy lived.  He made it, and I ended up fishing the rest of the day with the doctor since the other fella was in good hands.  It was memorable.

FR:  We hear a lot about fracking here, is that a concern in your area?

ES:  Not in my immediate area.  It’s a concern north of us.  We don’t have the conditions for that right where I live thank god.  I think the hardest thing for me is to find good accurate information on it.  It’s so politically charged, in both directions.  I don’t know a whole lot about it; so far in my area we’ve been safe with it, but we’ve had disasters already in Pennsylvania, where the fluid gets released into a stream and it just kills everything.

FR:  It’s kind of a farming community where you’re at right?  So you’re probably more concerned with run-off issues right?

ES: Yeah.  For the most part where I live, our water has never been cleaner than it is now.  Our trouble now is with some of the development.  We’re drawing a lot of water out of the system, and we’re starting to see the effects of thermal pollution.

FR: From clearing the land?

ES:  Yeah.  Some of our streams are having those effects.  By and large our area is pretty immune to the major issues of the day.  For another sales pitch, that’s what it is.

FR:  You called your fishing technical and it sounds like you have good fishing.  What would you say to an angler that wants to come out and fish with you?  What do they need to do to prepare?

ES:  You’ve got to fish well.  You really do.  Take your game to the next level.  Most of what we do is a nymphing game, our fish ar wild.  We’ll put a dry fly on when they start rising, but it’s not a good way to just go out and fish.  You’ve got to nymph well, you’ve got to be deep, you’ve got to get good drifts.  You’ve got to have a stealth factor to you.  I think a lot of guys that we guide, they come in, they’re used to fishing stocked fisheries, where you can go in like the guy who did ten minutes before you and catch a couple of fish.  Our fish, if you spook them, you’re not going to catch those fish, so you’ve got to move.  You’ve got to be at the peak of your game.  Which I like, I think that makes it very appealing to me.

Eric tying up what works

FR:  You’ve been successful in this business- you’re a successful guide and author.  What do you say to a young person who wants to build a life in the outdoor world?

ES:  Work hard.  It just takes a lot of work.  Show up every day, do something productive every day that will take you to the places you want to go.  It’s the same in any business- be honest and work hard.  I think that eliminates about 60% of your competition.  Not that this business is dishonest.  By working hard you beat about half of your competition, just because it’s their hobby.  If you want to make it your life’s passion you’ve got to bust your nuts and work hard.  There’s always going to be this guy who does this on the weekends and charges half of what you charge.  You’ve got to take it to the next level; you’ve got to do something that separates you from those guys.  There’s nothing wrong with those guys, we’re all ambassadors to the sport, but if you want to make a living out of it, you’ve got to really be a little bit creative and work hard.

FR:  One last question- I just read an article in which Yvon Chouinard referred to the dying fly fishing industry- is the sport dying, or is the industry just over-bloated?

ES:  I don’t think it’s dying at all, I really don’t, in fact I think that the people that are in it today are far more serious than they were twenty years ago.  You had the group that came in from the movie (A River Run’s Through It- Ed.), they enjoyed it, they loved it, but they weren’t as serious.  The guys that stuck around after that…

FR:  A lot of that was fashion wasn’t it?

ES:  Yeah, I think it was.  Today lots of people tie flies.  If you want to do this there’s a million resources to find out how to do it.  When I started doing it I went to a hardware store in town.  There was one guy there who tied flies and he could get materials for you.  If you didn’t know someone who did it, it was really hard to learn.  Today we don’t have that problem.  There’s a lot of young kids today who are unbelievably good.  I think that’s good for the sport, because you don’t have that long learning curve anymore.  People that get into it, they get decent at it, they get proficient fairly quickly, and they enjoy it a lot more, so they stay into it more.  I really reject the notion that the sport is dying.  I don’t think it is at all.  I think we’ve got some issues with the buying public and where they’re buying.  That’s what I based my book “River Pimp” off of.  The real ambassadors to the sport are us in the shops, and if you eliminate the shops then I think we may have an issue.

FR:  Well, I know we have to get you back to the authors table, but I really appreciate you spending a few minutes to talk.

Eric and Tracey Stroup
They look so good together I had to share this

I want to thank Eric for participating in this interview.  I hope you enjoyed getting to know him a little better.  If you want more information or to contact Eric about booking a trip, or to buy one of his books, visit his website-

or you can call (814) 632-6129

Eric has kindly given me a signed copy of his latest book "River Pimp" to give away to you, my readers.  Just fill out the form below and I'll use the Random Number Generator to draw a winner next week.  Entry deadline is Wednesday April 4 at midnight.  I bought a copy and have been reading it and can say that it is thoroughly enjoyable, an inside look into the life of a guide and shop owner, but also a glimpse into the beauty and peace of the area where the Stroup's live and fish.  It makes me want to go.


  1. Great interview. I really enjoy listening to Eric at the Fly Fishing Shows and getting to watch him tie. Maybe I'll book a trip with him to complete the experience.

    1. I would love to fish a day with him- I think my game would improve exponentially.

  2. LOVED River Pimp! And I knew nothing about fly fishing! If you want to gain an understanding about the fly fisherman(woman) in your life, be inspired to follow your passion and help preserve an industry, or just get to know Eric better, this book is for you. I have known Eric my entire life, but I feel like I understand him so much better after reading River Pimp. His book reminded me what life is all about ... passion.

    1. Eric's book is very interesting. It gives you an inside look into his world, that's for sure. Thanks for dropping by.

  3. He guides only 200 miles from me and I was contemplating looking into him as a guide until he said you have to fish well. I guess that counts me out!

    1. Me too. I'd be the guy spazzing out and needing CPR...Stealth, hopefully you're fast enough to call for a doctor!

    2. Yeah, I'd have to disguise myself and tell him I've never fly fished just to endure the shame. Let's all book him together and pretend we don't know how to tie our knots.

    3. I was kind of thinking the same thing..."What is this "nymphing" you speak of?"

  4. Okay...I'm putting my name in for this giveaway since I'd really like to read River Pimp. Great interview.

    1. Thanks Cameron- with all the stuff you give away you should enter. It's a great read.

  5. Really good interview buddy and I'd love to read Eric's book.

  6. Dude, what an outstanding interview. I fish for trout about 100 miles south of Eric (granite, not limestone) so it was really fascinating to read about the differences and similarities. I also LOVE his quote, "Show up every day. Do something productive every day." I plan to reuse it, in fact, and I will credit you and Eric for the quote! Great job.

    1. Hey, thanks River Mud. Coming from you- definitely a complement. I'll take all the credit I can get. I'd love to get down there and experience both of your fisheries.