Ethan Winchester is the director of operations and a guide at Boyne Outfitters in Northern Michigan. A Sage Elite Pro, Winchester loves his home waters but also enjoys traveling the globe. Winchester recently sat down to interview with The Venturing Angler:
Where in the world have you fly fished?
In the U.S. … I’ve fished from the Bristol Bay region of Alaska to the historic fisheries of the American West – Yellowstone, Madison, Colorado, Snake. From the Rangely Lakes Region in Maine to north Georgia and onto the Florida Everglades & Keys. And don’t forget my home waters of Michigan – home to more miles of streams and public land than any state east of the Mississippi – and regularly included in the top fly fishing states in the country.
Outside of the US – to the north – I’ve fished the Lakes Superior region of Ontario, and swung my way through the iconic steelhead drainages of British Columbia – Bulkely, Morice, Skeena, Babine.
To the south – the Bahamas and Belize are some of my favorite places to visit with rods & flies packed in my luggage.
Michigan – Home
Alaska: Katmai National Park/Bristol Bay Region
Montana: Yellowstone River; Boulder River; Gallatin River; Madison River; Ruby River; Big Hole River
Yellowstone National Park: Soda Butte Creek
Wyoming: Snake River
Colorado: Frying Pan River; Colorado River
Maine: Rangely Lakes Region
New Hamshire: White Mountains
Georgia: Northern Georgia
Florida: Everglades NP; Florida Keys; Indian River/Charlotte Harbor; Ft. Lauderdale area
Ontario: Lake Superior Region
British Columbia: Bulkely River; Morice River; Babine River; Skeena River
St John – USVI
What is your favorite destination and why?
Honestly, I love the salt. We have some tough winters, and it’s nice to get away during the colder months. As is fishing, each saltwater destination offers something different – the Everglades are different than Belize which is different from the Bahamas. However, the flats are likely one of my favorite places on the planet. The clear water, the salt spray, and the blue-green reflection of the flats on passing clouds is something I think every angler should experience at least once. The diversity and biomass of the salt is something that always seems to captivate me and the sheer power of saltwater species is always an adrenaline rush.
What is the most memorable travel experience you have and why?
My most memorable travel experience was traveling to British Columbia and Frontier’s Farwest Lodge in August 2018. A client-friend, Tony, offered to take me as his guest. After I guided in Alaska, one of the things I regretted was not spending time fishing south through British Columbia post guide season – this helped fix that. Either way, Tony offered the spot to me a few days after I got married. So, 11 days after I got married, I went off to fish in British Columbia for another 11. I caught my first BC steelhead within a couple hours of landing, and spent the better part of a week fishing the Bulkley & Morice, and took a heli ride to fish the Babine & upper Skeena. One day, while fishing the Morice, I managed three steelhead on skated dries. When we took the heli ride and arrived at Babine Steelhead Lodge, we were greeted by Tom Derry of the Native Fish Society and spent a few hours on the river with him. My best steelhead of the week came from the lodge pool, with renowned BC guide Stevie Morrow on the assist.
Easily one of the nicest things someone has ever done for me, and too many memories in one trip.
What has been the best trip so far and why?
August/September 2018. Got married August 11th. Left for British Columbia on August 22nd. Fly fish British Columbia. Fly from Smithers to Bozeman on 31st. Three days fishing the Madison, Ruby & Big Hole with a couple buddies.
Those buddies flew out, and I met my wife in Bozeman on September 3rd. Mind you, we had been married 24 days, half of which I had spent fishing elsewhere – it just confirmed that I married the right woman. Met a few friends and spent a few days travelling south through Big Sky, Yellowstone NP & Grand Teton NP. They left to head home, and we continued to Minturn, Colorado, where our best man is head guide at Minturn Anglers. The three of us spent a few days fishing the Colorado, Frying Pan and sightseeing before heading back to Michigan.
Three weeks of fishing. 2 countries. 3 states. 11 rivers. 8 species.
Do you have any travel coming up?
I just traveled to the Exumas – what a wonderful place! Great people, and great bonefishing.
Yellowstone & Montana are easily becoming one of our go to locations for travel – great sightseeing and fishing, and easy to get to.
In 2020, Boyne Outfitters is looking to host a trip to the salt, as well as back up to the lodge I guided at in Alaska – Kulik Lodge.
Is there a species that you are dying to catch? What is it about that fish?
Golden Dorado in Bolivia. Their tenacity, and the ability to sight fish them in clear water streams, is something that truly intrigues me.
When you are not on the water, what do you want the most out of a trip and why?
Culture. To me, many times this refers to getting to know the locals, and eating local cuisine. I like to get out and really experience the culture and lives of the people where I am traveling. I always love trying new food, and am a sucker for Caribbean cuisine. In my opinion, people can make or break a destination – most of the places I’ve traveled, the people have this infectious… larger than life attitude… that is unmatched in most areas of the States.
- What is your dream trip and why?
Patagonia. Hands down. Patagonia has always been on the bucket list, and after guiding in Alaska, it is the place that is often purported as “Alaska, 20 years ago”. The diversity of the fisheries, combined with the scenery…plus the beef and wine of Argentina. Yup, count me in.
What keeps the spark going when it comes to fly fishing travel? What excites you about your work?
To quote John Voelker, “I fish because I love to; because I love the environs where trout are found, which are invariably beautiful, and hate the environs where crowds of people are found, which are invariably ugly…”
Trout don’t live in ugly places, and for the most part, neither do many of the species we chase on the fly. Fly fishing has taken me to some of the most amazing places on the planet, and when I think of traveling somewhere else, the first question is generally “What can we fish for?” and “What gear do I need?”. Most of the places on my bucket list are there because of fly fishing first, and other travel needs second. My wife likes to remind me that our personal vacations even typically revolve around fishing, but I don’t mind kicking back and cracking a cold beer on the beach from time to time either… I just usually do it with a fly rod close by.
What is the one piece of gear you couldn’t bear to leave at home?
My Costas. 580 glass in green mirror. Even if I leave my rod or flies at home, at least I can still look at ‘em!
As you have traveled, what environmental issues have most concerned you?
I would say that single use plastics are one of the top environmental concerns I’ve noticed. Whether it is plastic bottles, plastic bags, small storage containers, etc…. you can generally find single use plastic in most locations – no matter how remote you think you are.