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Hook & Barrel
A Lifestyle Magazine for Modern Outdoorsmen

Maddie Brenneman on Family, Fly Fishing, and Losing a Big One in French Polynesia

Maddie Brenneman 

  • Age – 28
  • Hometown – Denver, Colorado
  • Current Residence – Salida, Colorado
  • Instagram – @maddiebrenneman

Maddie Brenneman has loved fishing since she was a little girl fishing on the lakes of her parents’ native Canada. Growing up in Colorado, she learned to love the outdoors and fly fishing. Now she’s a professional guide and world traveler who loves to share the “Zen” of fly fishing with others. 

How did you get in to fishing, and who got you in to fishing? When did you start fly fishing?

My parents are both from Ontario, Canada, and as a kid we spent all summer on lakes in Canada. My parents bought us cheap little spin rods, and I remember having an obsession with fishing.  I had three older sisters who would do it for 30 minutes and get bored. I would spend the entire day on the dock catching fish over and over. I would fill up a bucket with fish and then dump it out and fill it up again. I have very vivid memories of fishing as a kid.  

I met my boyfriend Nick when we were 15, and his family loved to fly fish. He taught me how to fly fish. It was really hard for me to learn in the beginning, but it became something I love to do. 

Where is your favorite place to fish and what is your favorite thing to fish for?

My favorite place in the world is New Zealand. Nick and I have been to New Zealand for the past three years. It had always been a dream of ours to go there, and it was so fun to experience it together. We fish for big brown trout down there. They are difficult to fish for. It tests my patience and skills. Our trips there have been a really special part of my life. I also love saltwater fly fishing for tarpon, bonefish, and redfish as well. 

You love to travel—you’ve been to New Zealand, Argentina, and French Polynesia. Where’s somewhere you haven’t been that you’re dying to go?

I love traveling to new places because it’s the thing in my life that makes me feel the most alive. I love meeting people. When you travel to fly fish, you see things from a very different perspective. There’s a long list of places I want to go. I’d love to go to Mongolia, Iceland, a number of places in Africa, and the Seychelles. There are also a lot of places here in the U.S. I’d like to visit. 

Colorado is home—what do you love about it?

I grew up in Denver, went away to Washington State for college, and then I moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, for a few years. Fishing is what brought me back to Colorado. As I get older, I have a lot more appreciation for Colorado. There’s amazing fishing. And I’ve done a lot of exploring and seen beautiful little towns with amazing art and culture, and I realize how rich Colorado is. 

When you’re guiding a trip for fly fishing newbies, what do you want them to take away from the experience? What do you want to teach them?

I guide on the North Fork of the South Platte River with North Fork Ranch Guide Service. The majority of people I take out are novices, and I have a short window to show them what I love about the sport of fly fishing. I want them to experience the focus, the peace, and the Zen of it. I want them to have an amazing day on the river. I go in to every trip with a plan. For me, fly fishing is routine, so I try to remind myself how special it is for my clients and try to create a very special experience for them.

People are sometimes intimidated by fly fishing—how do you convince people to give it a try?

I totally understand how it can be intimidating. I say take one thing at a time. Just start by learning to cast. Taking it a step at a time is the best way to get into fly fishing. Don’t go overboard spending money on gear at the beginning. Take a guided tour so you can learn from someone who knows how to do it, but just having the courage to do it in the first place is important.

How can you get women and girls to try fly fishing?

Starting early is great. Parents should take their kids on little camping trips and introduce them to fishing and hiking. And if they enjoy it, foster the interest. Outdoor activities for children are so important. To give kids the experience of being outdoors benefits the planet because it creates people who care about these wild, amazing places.

What’s your best “one that got away” story?

I have a LOT of them! On my first saltwater fly fishing trip, we were fishing on a beautiful white sandy flat on an atoll in French Polynesia. I saw a gigantic shadow coming at me. I threw my fly at it—it was probably a terrible cast—but the fish saw it and came straight for it. It grabbed my line and just took off. Turned out it was a Bluefin trevally, and I got it on the line. I kept it on for a long time, and I felt very much alone with this giant fish on my line. The other people in our group had spread out. It finally shook its head and broke the line and swam away. No one believed me when I told them. It was by far the biggest fish I’d ever had on my line.

If you’re not fishing, where would we find you?

I love to do yoga. I love mountain biking. I really enjoy cooking. Working in my garden has been a fun pastime for me, and I love to camp.

Tell me about the business you started, Las Truces Outfitters.

A few years ago, I started making hats for my guide clients. I realized people were obsessed with these hats so I started making them and selling them online. Las Truces is the name of a town in New Mexico that we would drive through when we were going fly fishing. There’s this beautiful mural painted on a wall outside the town. Las Truces means the trout in Spanish. Now I have expanded the online store to include handmade artisanal items like leather goods and ceramics.

Have you ever seen A River Runs Through It? Best fly fishing movie ever?

I actually like a lot of small documentary-style films, but I did watch it about a year ago. The thing I loved about it was how beautiful the river looked.

What’s your life motto?

Live now! Experience your life as it is. Nothing is guaranteed—you only have this point in your life so enjoy it! I will always evolve and change, and I have dreams of having a farm with lots of animals. But fishing will always be a huge part of my life.

If you could pick one person dead or alive to fish with, who would it be?  

I would choose my grandfather. He died when I was young, so I never got to fish with him that I remember. I think my love of fishing comes from him. He was my dad’s dad, and he was the sweetest man in the world. I’d like one day to fish with him and learn from him.

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