Ryan Shea of Brookdog Fishing Co. sits down with us to talk a little about himself, Buffalo, NY and his latest video series, “Re-Discover your Region.”‘
Tell me a little bit about how Brookdog started
For over 3 decades, my close friend, Nate Carr, and I have fished the waters around WNY. I left for college in ’96 and our paths diverted as I rarely returned home except for holidays. Over 10 years ago, he and I picked up fly fishing (independent of one another) and it quickly consumed us. The angles, the fish, the entomology, the places, and everything wild about being outside. We started doing trips together when I’d come back to Buffalo to visit. Nate, my brother Tim, and I would drive to the trout streams along the NY/PA border where we’d fish dries all day, close the day out with a campfire, and catch some shut eye in the dirt. Back then (and still to this day) we were big hip-hop fans. When we were on these trips, everything had a “dog” added to the name and the fish didn’t avoid our slang. After fishing a small mountain creek and landing numerous brook trout, one of us said something like, “Man, those brookdogs are so beautiful and a lot of fun…I could do this for days.” The name just stuck and we said that if we were ever to start a business involving fishing, we’d call it Brookdog Fishing Company.
Brook Trout have a special place in our heart – they’re native to our waters, they’re beautiful, they aren’t picky, and the pursuit of these little guys brought together two friends that took separate paths after high school. The pursuit of native species in their native drainage is a recurring theme for us and the reason is simple – chances are if you follow this rule, you’ll end up fishing in a primitive or picturesque place that will allow you to lose yourself in the surroundings and connect with nature.
After nearly 2 decades of serving my country in the USMC, the idea of starting up a guide service started to dominate my thoughts. The choice of where to live and start this business boiled down to three things: family, friends, and fishing. Western NY offers all of this and more, the choice was easy.
How long have you been guiding for?
Do you have a favorite species to target?
Anything native to a drainage but if you put a gun to my head and made me pick one, I’d say smallmouth bass.
Tell your prospective customers what they can expect on a guide trip with you or Nate:
They will learn something new, bond with friends, make a new one, and make plans to hit the water again in the future.
What Makes Buffalo such a diverse fishery?
Nate and I have had the privilege of traveling all over the U.S. and Canada in search of fish on the fly. Before setting out on deciding on where the next adventure will take us, we ask some of the following questions: Does the destination fish well year-round? Are there a multitude of game fish are available (we’re all about diversity as we always want to see something new)?
Are the seasons distinct and will we get to see something unique depending on when we go? Can we get completely off the grid AND on the grid to partake in some light eating and drinking of adult beverages as well as immerse ourselves in the local culture? There are a few more but I won’t bore you with those. Although we have many more adventures in us, if we are looking for a place that provides a resounding “yes” to all these questions, all we have to do is look out our windows
This region never ceases to amaze me. Its diversity is unsurpassed. You can wake up in the morning and fish at least one Great Lake AND a massive river that drains nearly a quarter of the worlds freshwater. As you behold the grandiosity of the scene, it is entirely likely that you will catch at least 3 prized gamefish (more if you set out to do so) before breaking for lunch. What’s more amazing is that because there is so much water, this region supports a robust ecosystem of prey species that allows these gamefish to grow huge.
As you travel inland away from the great lakes, numerous lake tributaries are host to spawning runs of anadromous fish like salmon, brown trout, and steelhead. Keep travelling further inland and there are numerous spring and freestone creeks that have robust insect hatches and equally impressive trout populations. Simply put, there is A LOT of water around here and it fishes well year round.
What’s your favorite season to fish in Buffalo?
Another tough question – I have little patience and am always wanting to change things up. The WNY fisheries are perfect for someone like me – every season offers something different. Be it choice of fly, presentation, or species, the fishery offers different options all year. Again, if you put a gun to my head and forced me to pick one, I’d have to say fall. Not so much for the species we target this time of year (mainly muskies, steelhead, and salmon) but for the scenery. Our fall foliage is incredible and provides an awesome backdrop when you’re on the water catching the biggest fish of the year.
In your videos, you talk about “Re-discovering your region,” can you explain what you mean by that?
It always amazes me how many people around here (non-anglers) are shocked when I tell them we fish all year round. They are equally shocked when I show them pictures of the fish we catch. Aside from these regional nuances, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve noticed how so many people are slaves to their daily routines and never open up their eyes to what’s going on around them.
It seems like the many responsibilities/demands of adulthood snuff out the instinct to explore and discover new things around you all of us once had when we were young.
With the vision of expanding this video series to cover the U.S., the goal of Re-Discover Your Region is to expose viewers to the many natural wonders of the U.S. (and eventually the world) from the angle of the artists that frequent the waters that run through them. More than just another fishing show, Re-Discover Your Region will present a compelling look into the fisheries around the country (and eventually the world), the personalities with a passion for exploring them, and the cultural nuances that make the surrounding areas distinct. We hope to help people break from their daily routines, get outside, preserve the natural resources in their region, and always have something to look forward to knowing the bounty of what’s in their backyard.
Buffalo is a pretty awesome town, and from watching your videos I realized I haven’t seen as much of it as I thought. Do you have any favorite places you’d like to give a shoutout to?
Big Ditch Brewing and Woodcock Brewing – for opening up their doors to us, providing a great place to chill, and being genuinely good people and talented artists/craftsmen. Restaurant owners and brewery owners are artists in the truest sense of the word – they tinker, experiment, challenge conventions, and take tremendous pride in their craft. In other words, they are passionate – we can definitely relate to that!
Favorite rod/reel combo?
Lamson Guru with a TFO Impact from 6-8 wts. They are my go-to set ups for big water smalljaw fishing.
I’m a huge craft beer fan (yeah I know – a fly angler likes craft beer? Shocking!) Seriously though, the artists behind the craft beer scene share many things in common with fly anglers. They love to tinker, they respect individualism, they brand themselves extremely well, and they are usually found in regions where there is good fishing. I don’t have a specific beer in mind – I tend to lean toward high octane IPAs. My current favorite is Woodcock Brothers’ “Devils Hole.” It’s named after one of the spots where we filmed our last video.