Erik Argotti has spent all of his adult life guiding and chasing trout, salmon and steelhead in far off places around the globe. He spent 15 seasons guiding in Alaska and Kamchatka, Russia, and a few winters guiding in Argentina. When he wasn’t guiding, he spent lots of time traveling and exploring rivers and lakes in New Zealand, Alaska, Argentina, British Columbia and Montana.
Growing up in western Pennsylvania, Erik always felt more at home exploring local waters or being in the woods. As a little kid, he was constantly scouting tiny creeks and catching minnows with his net or searching woodlots with his BB gun. His dad would always take him out to catch trout in the local streams and lakes, and the family would go on an annual trip to Canada to catch northern pike and smallmouth bass on spinning rods. At 4 he knew he wanted to move to Montana because there was so much to hunt and lots of places to fish. So at 17, when a local fly fishing club was heading to Montana on their annual fly fishing trip, Erik learned to fly fish, built his own fly rod, tied lots of flies and headed to Bozeman to fish the surrounding area. That pretty much sealed the deal; the next year he returned to Montana State University (MSU) to attend school, bowhunt and fly fish.
Within a couple years he was headed to Alaska to guide during the summer. He graduated from MSU with a Bachelors of Science in teaching and a minor in earth science. He met his wife, Leaf, in Bozeman, and they both worked at remote destinations guiding and cooking, and spending the off season traveling around the world – which included an 18-day canoe trip in Argentina; floating 40 miles on American Creek in Alaska; buying a car and living out of it for three months while fishing the South Island of New Zealand; and spending a month exploring the rivers around British Columbia, Canada.
Erik is thrilled to be part of The Fly Shop® team, who pride themselves on servicing their travel clientele and finding the next new far-off, unexplored fly fishing destination. It’s a perfect way for him to share his passion and field-gained expertise of fly fishing and travel with anyone interested in going on the trip of a lifetime.
If not out looking for fish, Erik loves bowhunting for bugling bulls, whitetails, and antelope, or taking his two pointers in search of upland birds in the high steppes of the West.
With two children – Augustus (6 years) and Henry (1.5 years) – Erik and Leaf enjoy spending their free time outdoors; along the rivers camping and fishing, hiking to mountain lakes and waterfalls, or taking a dip in the local swimming holes. If they have a chance to be outside, they are in!
Q&A with Erik Argotti:
How did you get started in fly fishing?
When I was 17, my school had a fly fishing club that was going to Montana on a week-long trip. I wanted to live in Montana since I was 4 or 5 years old, so this was a chance to check it out. All I had to do was learn how to fly fish. Although I had fished with a spinning rod since I was very little and was pretty content, I figured I would try it out. A year later I was going to school in Bozeman and riding my bike to the Gallatin to fly fish.
What does fly fishing do for you that keeps you coming back for more?
Going to new places, having new experiences and catching new fish. I love the idea of new unfished destinations. I am the guy who thinks if I go farther up the river, nobody has fished that spot, and it has to be better. Nowadays seeing my boys catch fish and having outdoor experiences with them is pretty key for me.
Favorite fish to pursue?
Anything I can sight fish to. I am a hunter at heart, and sight fishing for any species of fish is like spot and stalk hunting. Sight fishing is the thrill of the hunt, and watching it all take place right in front of you makes it that much better.
What fly fishing destination is on your bucket list?
Mongolia. Just so happens I will be hosting a trip there in 2021, and I happen to have one spot left. The idea of hooking a five-foot-long taimen on a fly rod sounds absolutely splendid!
Favorite fly rod and why?
I am not too picky. I will use whatever. I do like trying different rods to feel the differences. How different casting a bamboo rod versus the latest, light fast action graphite rods. It’s not the arrow, it’s the archer …
Favorite reel and why?
I have a couple of Ross reels I like, but I need to step up my game in the reel department. Working in the travel department of The Fly Shop, I hope to try my hand at saltwater fly fishing, and I will definitely need to purchase some suitable reels.
Favorite fly and why?
Woolly bugger. Not sure it is my favorite, but you can catch anything on it, and it is so effective and versatile. Swing it dead drift it, strip it in. It catches fish. If I had a choice though, I would rather see the fish eat a dry, any day. But since 90% of what fish eat is under the water, I am not opposed to fishing wet flies.
What is your greatest fly fishing extravagance?
I am not an extravagant guy. I have too many hobbies to be extravagant. If I were going to get something extravagant I’d get something for my family that we could all enjoy. But I do have some nice outdoor toys …
Which living or non-living fly fisher would you want to spend a day fly fishing with?
I think John Gierach would be fun to fish with. Having coffee on the stream with him, telling stories and catching fish. Seems like he would be easy going and fun to hang out and fish with.
Who are your favorite writers?
I read a lot of different stuff. I like any outdoor,hunting,bird dogs or conservation books. David James Duncan’s “River Why”, Jim Fergus, Jim Harrison, and of course John Gierach are all great authors I enjoy for easy reading.
What single issue in fly fishing do you feel has the greatest adverse potential?
Access. Access to the sport and access to public places to go and fly fish, hunt, camp, mountain bike and hike. Fly Fishing should always be available to everybody to enjoy. You are less likely to get into the sport if it is hard to find places to go.
What is your most memorable fly fishing trip you’ve taken?
My wife and I got married in Fiji, and after a couple weeks there we flew to Christchurch, New Zealand, and bought a little Subaru hatchback. We drove around the South Island sight fishing for big browns and rainbows every day for three months. I am usually not one to reminisce about the past, but that is one I allow myself to dwell on. It was a magical trip.
Which talent or natural gift would you most like to have?
Who are your heroes in real life?
Parents like mine who did day-to-day, work/life to better their kids’ lives and wanted them to have a better future. Sacrificing their own time and money, and many times didn’t have time for themselves that they really needed, but made the commitment to their children.
What is your fly fishing pet peeve?
Elitism. Everybody is into fly fishing for different reasons, and some people can’t see why others wouldn’t want to do things like they want to do them. If you don’t like nymphing, great, you don’t have to put anybody down who does. I know it says pet peeve, but another would be playing a fish too long and threatening the life of the fish. This is easily fixed with the correct gear and learning the proper techniques for fighting fish.
If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?
A bird dog (pointer) in a house just like mine. Just hunt, sleep and eat. And for my dogs that is usually plenty.