Dual Interview: Patrick Barone and Anthony Lombardo of Early Rise Outfitters

Patrick and Anthony are two of MA’s newest guides, specializing in everything from trout to stripers with an emphasis on conservation and teaching the next generation of anglers. Both are hardcore, fishing many times a week regardless of the conditions, and have a lot of experience on Massachusetts waters. Additionally, Patrick and Anthony are Swift River experts, always fooling those spooky trout, even when some locals are left puzzled. So check out this interview with the two of them, and then check out their business (contact info at the bottom)!

Patrick and Anthony, first of all, thanks for taking the time to do this!

Patrick: You’re very welcome, and thank you for reaching out to us. 

If you would, tell us a little about yourself. Are you a Massachusetts native? 

Patrick: I am. I live in South Hadley, Massachusetts right now with my wife Danielle, and three children Peter, Addison, and Teddy.  I’ve lived in Massachusetts for all but 4 years while my wife and I lived in Columbus, Ohio, where I studied at Ohio State and worked at the state’s oldest bait & tackle store, R&R Sports. 

Anthony: No I grew up in Cranston, RI. About an hour south of where I currently live in Mansfield MA. As a kid I was always at the beach and always spin fishing. 
How did you get into fly fishing?

Patrick: When I was around 10 years old, my father was looking for a new challenge, and had friends that had switched to exclusively fly fishing. He went out and bought two 5wt, and two 8wt Orvis rod and reel set ups with all the necessary gear. We started small, learning to cast while catching sunfish and small bass, and grew to stripers, bluefish, bonito, and false albacore.

Anthony: Actually the World Fishing Network got me into fly fishing. There are so many fly fishing shows on that channel it became very intriguing to me. Those guys looked like they were having so much fun, and it looked liked no matter the size or species of fish, the fish always had a fighting chance. It also seemed like they were more respectful of the fish, and concerned with conservation. Two things that are very important to me. I fish a lot. Living on a lake, almost every day. I just got to the point where it didn’t seem right to use giant hooks and 60lb braid mounted on a 20:1 retrieve reels all to drag a 1 pound largemouth across the water. The fly fisherman with their mystical flies and super light line on a 1:1 reel seemed to upset the balance of the river or lake much less. 

Some happy clients!

What’s been your favorite fly fishing moment?

Patrick: That is a really hard question to answer. For most of my life it would have been a memory of my biggest fish of whatever species was my current obsession. As I have gotten older I have made so many important memories fishing that  it’s hard to choose. But, if I have to narrow it down to just one, it was watching my 6 year-old son Peter catch his first trout on the fly rod; from cast to reeling it in, he did it all. 

Anthony: Seeing my at the time 8 year old son get his first Rainbow on the fly. I’ll never forget it, it was in the Charles River of all places. We were fishing for the mixed bag of warm water species and a 16 inch rainbow came out of nowhere and slammed his size 14 copper John. That was it, from that moment on we’ve been obsessed with salmonids. 

What’s your favorite species to target on the fly? 

Patrick: This one is easy to answer; Steelhead. I haven’t found a fish that can so routinely evade being caught the way a steelhead can. Whether it’s not biting anything that you throw at them, or being able to break the line with drag-screeching runs, they are one tough customer that is always worth the hard work of hiking spot-to-spot, making hundreds of casts hoping for one hook-up.

Anthony: Trout. It’s really fun to catch stripers when they are on and they pull incredibly well for their size, but, in the end as long as you can find them and put a fly infront of them they will slam it 9 times out of ten. With trout it’s a different ballgame. You have to figure them out, watch their body language and see if they are interested in what your throwing at them. Then you have figure in the river, make the right cast and get a nice drift at the right depth. You have to hope your tippet is thin enough. Once you do all that perfectly, there is still a pretty good chance the fish won’t eat it, and if they do there are a host of other things that can go wrong playing and netting the fish. Lol

If you could fish anywhere in the world for any species, where would you be and what would you be casting at? 

Patrick: Jeremy Wade’s TV show River Monsters has certainly made this a harder choice by showing me fish like the Tigerfish and Taimen. However, a dream trip that is within reason for me is going out to the west coast of Canada chasing big, wild steelhead. Battling a 20+ pound steelhead is just something that I have to experience. 

Anthony: Skeena River, BC. No question about it for me. In August and September you have the chance at Coho, steelhead, pinks, chum salmon, sockeye etc. you never know what you are going to pull up.   Dale and Don Freschi who do the TV show, Sport Fishing On The Fly have gotten me obsessed with that place.

You spend a lot of time in the Swift, fooling those picky trout… without giving out too much of your strategy, do you have any tips for your average angler who only fishes there a handful of times a year? 

Patrick: I think the biggest tip that I can give is to fish to your strengths. We all have an aspect of fly fishing that we are best at. By finding ways to make the water you are fishing fit to your strengths, you will undoubtedly see more success. Break down the water, find the areas that will be high percentage for the technique you are fishing, then attack it.
My second piece of advice is to not grow roots into the river bottom. Many times anglers get tunnel-vision when they see a pod of fish, and spend all morning unsuccessfully casting every fly they own. Read the fish, if they do not look interested in your offering after a few drifts, and you’ve tried a few flies, try moving around to find active fish. I typically cover a few miles of river every time I fish looking for the active fish in a group, and moving on early to not waste time on fish that may have recently been caught.

Anthony: Don’t blind cast there. Take the time to observe the river and find the fish.  Figure out what you are going to do before you go in and slam your fly line everywhere. The water clarity there can either be your best friend or worst nightmare. 

A nice Swift River ‘bow

 What’s your go to rig? Rod, reel, leader set-up? 

Patrick: When I am guiding for trout, my clients are using 8-9ft 5wt Orvis Clearwater rods with the new Hydros SL reels, and a minimum 9ft 5x leader with 1’ of 6x tippet on the end. Nice light combos that do a great job for a wide skill range of angler.

Anthony:  I’m a little different then Patrick on this one. I use a 10ft 3wt euro nymph rod. I like this rod for its tippet protection. Most of the time I’m using 6 and 7x for 18 inch fish. I will use a leader made up of 20ft of dyed 1x flouro joined to a 1 foot piece of sighter tippet at 2x, on the end of the sighter I’ll tie a perfection loop which I will clinch not 2 feet of 6x to my first fly then add 8 inches of 7x tied off the bend to my 2nd fly. Sometimes I’ll put an indicator some where on the line when I can’t see the fish because of rain or wind or highly riffled water.

Let’s talk about your guiding business… how did Early Rise Outfitters start?

Patrick: For longer than I can remember I have wanted to be a fishing guide. I went on my first guided fishing trip when I was 12 and I remember being in awe that someone could get paid to take people fishing. Fast forward 20 years, and things started to fall into place. 
I met Anthony while he was fishing with his young son on the Swift. I wanted to make sure that he was able to catch something. We began talking and I shared some of the ‘secrets’ that I had figured out. After that, we continued to fish together and over time came to realize that we were consistently out-fishing anyone else we saw on the river. 
Late summer 2015, I took a few friends that work in the fishing industry out for a day on the Swift. One had hired a local guide twice previously and been unable to catch anything. He got a fish to the net on his third cast, and finished the day with over 30 great trout caught. He asked me why I wasn’t guiding, and I honestly didn’t have a good answer. After many long conversations with my wife, I decided it was time to move forward. Anthony and I had thrown the idea around before, and he was a natural choice for me to have as a partner so that we could offer full 7-day availability to our clients. 

Anthony: Patrick and I were talking about forming it for some time. We met each other on the river one day and Pat helped my son and I out on one of our first outings at the Swift. We stayed in contact and after a while it seemed like the only people who were catching fish all the time were he and I. People would post in social media about how there were no fish at the Swift and  how everyone that was there was getting skunked. Here’s Patrick and I sharing our pictures to each other of the dozens of fish we were catching. Lol. We would bounce new fly ideas and techniques off each other. We were there all the time. It became an obsession to figure that river out. I mean we were up there in the middle of winter in 10° weather at least 3 days a week. We developed a pretty good sense of what worked and what didn’t.  After a while it just made sense, we were obviously on to something and decided to help other people enjoy the same success we were finding.

Anthony’s son with a big striper!

 You do trips for striped bass as well. What makes  these fish so fun to target?

Patrick: No matter the size, they hit flies hard, and fight to escape right until you let them go. Another thing that I like about them is that they travel in schools, and very rarely will you catch only one. During the spring migration we can catch upwards of 50 fish in a half-day trip, and often have fish up to 30” mixed in with the smaller schoolies. Even in late summer, we are able to find striped bass and get our clients over 30 fish in a morning. Being able to get clients on this many fish in a day is always fun for those involved. The sheer number of casts and retrieves that an angler will make during that time allows for numerous opportunities for direct feedback on casting and retrieve skills that help make our clients into better anglers in the future. 

Anthony: I like their aggressiveness. The little ones are great, the fight a 16 inch striper has in it would put any similar sized trout to shame.

One thing I thought was great about your business was the emphasis you put on getting kids out fishing. Could you talk about that?

Patrick: None of us would be able to catch anything if the generation of anglers that came before us did not share their knowledge. I was lucky to have a father that is both obsessed with fishing, and very good at it. His skills are the bedrock of my own. Some of my favorite memories are times when I was out fishing with my dad and brother; something we still do today. 
As I have had children of my own, I see how infrequently today’s children are being taught outdoor skills and activities and needed to do whatever I can to help change that. Many guides are unwilling to spend the time needed teaching a few important skills to young anglers, like mending or proper depth control, and don’t offer trips to those younger than 16. In my eyes, those missed years from 10-16 are some of the most important in generating interest in fly fishing, and being able to help a young angler catch their first fish on a fly rod is an awesome feeling. The smiles are always ear-to-ear, and always contagious.  

Anthony: I’ve had my son on the river since he was seven. I fish 150-200 days a year and in all that time over the last 3 years I can count on one hand the number times my son has been on the river with another child his age. That needs to change. It’s such an awesome sport. It’s so rewarding to see the enjoyment and wonder on a kids face when they are releasing a fish back into the wild. You know it’s something that will stay with them for life. Let’s give kids another alternative to phones and video games. Teach them to make flies, get them outside and let them catch a fish with something they’ve made. Unless we get them out there and show them how beautiful some of these places are, they won’t care about it enough to fight to protect it when they are older.

Patrick and Anthony’s sons with some impressive fish!
How should someone interested in a trip contact you?

Patrick: We can be reached by email at [email protected] or [email protected], by phone at (339) 987-0496, on our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/EarlyRiseOutfitters/ , on Instagram @EarlyRiseOutfitters, and of course on our website http://earlyriseoutfitters.com/

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