It all starts as I strap on my waders, loading the line through the eyes of my fly rod, and looking through my fly box pondering what bug to tie on. I always get the same feeling of pure excitement and a sense of equal tranquility dawning upon me every single time. There’s something truly special about the art of fly fishing that is unlike any other. The mix between the adrenaline surging bite and the calm of spending time out in some of nature’s most beautiful places refreshes your mind, body, and soul as it seems nature intends us to. Miles deep in the Virginia mountains is a place you can truly find yourself as you also seem to lose yourself. Miles deep in the Virginia mountains is a place where you can get lost in truly finding yourself.

Dylan holds up a colorful rainbow trout

  My home is in the Shenandoah Valley. I am nestled between the Blue Ridge mountains and the Appalachian Mountain Range. Both offer me an experience that is almost impossible to beat while chasing wild, beautiful, native Virginia Brookies. Those colorful little trout quickly became my personal favorite fish to target. I remember the first Brook trout I caught on the fly. It was with a used 8wt fly rod. Yes, I had an 8wt chasing little native Brookies. I put on some wet fly, I had no clue what it was at the time, tossed it into a pool…and fish on!  A 6-inch trout smashed the mystery fly, and my excitement was overwhelming! I pulled the little guy in and was almost speechless. The experience of that first fish is almost comical looking back on it considering how lost I was in the world of fly fishing, but that is the fish that started it all.


    Learning the art, that was the hardest part. I picked it up rather quickly though teaching myself with only help from online videos. Spending hours in my yard slinging line trying to hit targets I placed all over. That was one thing but taking what I learned on the water was a whole new task. Trial and error was my method and I learned quickly. My passion for the sport grew and I started to take to social media sharing my adventures and catches. I was starting to travel more to target different fish and explore new areas. The places fly fishing was dragging me were crazy. I’ve always hiked, hunted, and enjoyed nature, but this took me to a whole other level of being an outdoorsman. I found myself walking miles with shoes full of water and dirt, nettle weed piercing my legs, fighting through briars to get to a pool I knew could possibly be holding trout. I loved every second of it! Every experience was made worthwhile as soon as the line was set.

Dylan casts in the sunshine

  Then it happened. I met one of the greatest guys in the business Jonathan Lavezzo, the owner of Moonshine Rod co. He helped me so much the first day we met, and he did something that to this day I am still beyond thankful for. A month or so passed, and I was lucky enough to be asked to join his pro team. I couldn’t have accepted any quicker! I was then in contact with some extremely great guys who all taught me so much. They helped shape me into a much better fisherman. I consider myself truly blessed to be part of such a supportive group to help fuel my passion and help me progress deeper into the world of fly fishing.

There is only one thing I will never get to experience as a fly fisherman, and that is spending a day on the river tossing flies with my grandfather. He was always one of my biggest influences I had in my life. He taught me all about the mountains we live in. I learned so much from that man, and the knowledge he shared is used every day. It is truly one of the most valuable things I have ever had. I have one of his old fly reels sitting above my fly tying station with a few photos of him, and as I sit there late at night tying flies, preparing for my next trip I sometimes look up and wonder what advice he would have for me. He is one of my biggest inspirations every day I’m on the river, and I know he is out there somewhere watching me either cussing up a storm or talking about how proud he is of me.

The most important thing i have started is recently taking a large interest in conservation efforts here in Virginia to keep our forests and rivers clean. As an avid fly fisherman, the health of our rivers is something that I am extremely passionate about. Recently, I organized a group of amazing volunteers to pull over 200 tires from ravine that led down to one of my personal favorite Brookie streams. I have received assistance from forest services, but what I have come to realize is that we are the true conservationist in this country. I started an organization called Virginia Green Team to conduct future clean-up and conservation efforts throughout the state. It is up to us to keep the beautiful areas we enjoy clean and pristine.

A colorful brooke trout in dylans hand


 As I sit here and type this I am also planning many fishing trips for this year. I am looking forward to countless deep wilderness backpacking trips to chase Brookies here in Virginia and multiple trips to West Virginia to chase some big, gnarly browns. But there is one trip I am hoping to bring to life this summer, and that is heading west to Montana. I cannot begin to describe the dream of fishing the waters of Yellowstone or tossing a line in an alpine lake after cutthroat trout. My travels have only just begun, and I have a lot more in store for the future of my career as a fly fisherman.


Feel free to follow my travels on Instagram @traveling_flyguy and add me on Facebook to stay tuned in my conservation efforts here in Virginia.

-Dylan Rakes

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