If you are fishing a river and no one else is catching except for one angler, who is fishing small dry flies, that likely is Dan Trela.
If you are fishing the Swift River and someone is catching fish, chances are that someone is fishing a fly purchased from Dan. He also makes custom fly rods that are highly-crafted and priced fairly.
Dan, thank you very much for making the time!
Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where were you born and raised? Your family?
I was born in Ware and lived there all my life. After high school, I attended the Hampden College of Pharmacy, graduated and worked as pharmacist in the town of Ware for 40 years. I was the pharmacy manager for 35 years. I’m married and have two children.
How did you get into fly fishing?
When I was a young lad, my father would take me fishing. We fished with worms or shiners and we would catch a few fish. However every night we fished, a fly fisherman would come in and fish and catch his limit of trout every time. I would watch him every time he fished. He turned out to be my high school principal.
I was 14 and working at a hardware store and the former owner, Karl, was still working part time after selling the business. I happened to say I would love to learn how to fly fish, but my father or uncles didn’t fly fish. He said ” Meet me up at the Ware River tonight and I will teach you to fly fish”. Even though my father didn’t fly fish, he did have a Shakespeare fiberglass rod, reel and line. My father drove me up to the Ware River to meet Karl. He told me to tie on a fly. I said I didn’t have any. He tied a leader and fly to my line and said wade into the river at the top of the riffle. Now let out some line and jiggle the rod tip. After about 5 minutes, I caught a trout. He said that’s all there is to fly fishing – just keep doing that and he left.
When I was 13, I tried to fly fish myself. I went down to the local sporting goods store and bought 4 flies for one dollar. I took my father’s fly rod went to a small stream and within 5 minutes lost the 4 flies in trees along the bank. I was devastated. I said to myself, I can’t afford fly fishing. I saved up by birthday money and sent to Herters for a fly tying kit. For twenty dollars I had a vise, tools, feathers, hooks and a book on how to tie flies. I learned everything from that book. In those days, fly fishing was a secret and the men that fly fished in the town of Ware didn’t share their knowledge, especially with a 13 year old.
Your favorite fly-fishing moment?
My favorite fly fishing moment happened when I caught my first trout on a fly that I tied. My mother dropped me off at the Swift River and I walked up toward the Y pool. I stepped in at the high tension line, tied on a fly, a soft hackle with a kelly green body and black hackle. First cast I caught a 10 inch brook trout. I hooked him and he hooked me for life.
How did you get into the custom fly rod and fly tying business?
After tying flies for several years, I started to sell a few flies to some local fly fishermen. After graduating from pharmacy school, I started tying flies for three sport shops in the Worcester area. I found fly tying to be very relaxing.
Instead of working extra hours in the pharmacy to fund college tuitions, I tied flies. Over the years I built all my own fly rods. I also built many for others, charging only the cost of the components. I just wanted to gain experience.
However when I had 2 children in college at the same time, I started a business in 1990, selling custom made fly rods. I did this so I didn’t have to work extra hours in the pharmacy.
What is the best way to improve as a fly fisherman?
To me, the best way to improve is to read books on fly fishing and try to implement what you read. When you first start, it might be best to hire a teaching guide for a few lessons. Back when I started 56 years ago, there weren’t many books on fly fishing or guides like we have today. In 1969, I was in a sporting goods store buying some fly tying supplies and on the counter was a Fly Fisherman magazine Vol 1 #1. I immediately subscribed to the magazine and learned a lot on fly tying and fly fishing from that magazine. I have every copy of Fly Fisherman magazine back to 1969.
What is your go-to rig? Rod/reel, fly line, tippet?
I like to use ultra lite fly rods. Either the SAGE TXL-F 000 or the SAGE Little ONE 0 weight. Even on bigger rivers I use 2 or 3 weight rods. I fish the Swift River close to 275 days a year. It is a tailwater with good midge fishing and 90 percent of the time, I’m fishing size 30 flies on 8 and 9 x tippets. The first 30 years I fly fished, I fished nymphs, streamers and dries, but catching fish down under became easier and I wanted more of a challenge. Then the next 20 years, it was dry fly only, match the hatch fishing. I would rather catch one fish on a dry fly than 20 on a nymph or streamer. If you fish long enough, it may happen to you.
Your Top 3 must-have flies?
My three go to flies on the Swift River is a Wicked Pissah CDC dun size 30, Wicked Pissah floating nymph size 30 and a fly I call a Stick Midge size 24. The Wicked Pissahs work 12 months of the year on the Swift and Farmington Rivers.