May 28th, 2007

The Premiere OnLine Magazine for the Fly Fishing Enthusiast.
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The Ultimate Fishing Pal,My Lab
By Tradd Duggan, Colorado

It's 6am with an overanxious dog awaiting to escape the tent for another day of fishing, time to get moving. I've had my fishing companion for eight years and he has never complained, has always allowed me to fish without reprimand, has helped point to rising trout with his modest bark and has never wanted to leave a fishing trip early due to boredom or plans back home.

Statistics show that one out of three families in the U.S. owns one or more dogs. Here in olorado the stats jump to every other household. If you fish, hunt, or spend much time around water, odds are you probably own a Labrador retriever. The pros of owning a Lab are that these dogs are non-aggressive, affable, athletic, and loyal. They are great fishing partners and love water. Did I mention they love water?

The Lab's intelligence is well known in the dog community and keeping your puppy stimulated with a training regime of fetch drills will pay dividends once he is allowed to hit the water or field.  Providing games in a mnemonic way that utilize their natural instincts such as a simple game of stick throwing will keep your Labrador happy day in and day out, and when you loose that fly box on the river you'll be glad you did.

Obviously, most Labrador Retrievers are water dogs, their coats are designed specifically to repel and insulate them from the chilly waters.  A Lab's "otter" tail is shaped to be used as a rudder, to steer and help balance them in the water.  Therefore, I recommend introducing your pup to water and trout at a young age, so he can adapt to your weekend fishing trips. It is not out of the norm for some Labs not to like water, so don't be too surprised if this is the case with your dog.

My dog, Zeke, is acutely aware each time that I begin packing for an outing and I always have to reassure him by saying, "You're going." If he is not welcomed on a particular trip then he must be distracted to prevent him being too disappointed. Even though he is still a pup at heart, Zeke has developed into a great fly fishing dog. He avoids jumping into a massive Caddis hatches on the Madison or a mayfly malay on the South Platte River. His temperament allows him to get along with every four-legged creature that he meets, and only the downtime between fishing trips keeps him from constantly wagging his tail. I started taking Zeke fishing when he was only a couple months old and it's still exciting to see him shake uncontrollably as he anticipates saying hello to the trout dangling on my hook.


Many of my closest fishing buddies take great care in deciding what they will name their four legged "nets" early in life and it's so funny to be on the river and listen to, "Come here Bear, Sage, Madison, Drake, Winston, Hopper," all popular trout fishing dog names.

In the past when I wasn't fishing every weekend, I was usually kayaking, not by choice but due to the influence by my Lab. Zeke had no restrictions when I kayaked and he had total freedom to swim and frolic. Many other kayakers have dogs, mostly to help fetch their lost paddles; in fact dogs are encouraged to go to the Golden Whitewater Park to swim in the Class III rapids with the kayakers.

One of the joys of having an eight-year-old trained Lab (okay half-trained Lab) is to be able to walk him without a leash around areas like the Cherry Creek district in Denver. On one such occasion, we passed a restaurant and Zeke became distracted by a patron on the patio. The man who called him over for a quick hello and a taste of some food was none other than Jake Plummer, the quarterback for the Denver Bronco's. Talk about someone who loves Labs.

Another reason I am happy I trained Zeke early are the rewards that I see now. He is only one of a handful of dogs allowed to attend the annual International Sportsmen Exposition, and he is definitely one of the main attractions at our Trout Unlimited booth each year. You could say that he has helped our fundraising efforts increase by 200% since he started attending. Nothing like a 125lb Labrador retriever with a loving smile and alligator tail to attract half of the few thousand attendees to our booth for a photo op with their children.

If you have a dog you know what it is like to have a friend who totally loves you and asks for nothing in return. If you don't have a dog, you are missing out on one of the greatest pleasures of life. My Lab truly is a very special friend to me and I couldn't imagine traveling, fishing or hunting without him.

Tips for your dog when out in the field:

  • Make sure your dog is getting enough exercise before any lengthy trip or outing. and consider the effect of that activity. 

  • Be aware of how weather conditions affect your dog--heat, cold, rain etc.

  • For unexpected situations, pack first aid items for your dog and also a towel.

  • Check with your destination to be sure whether dogs are permitted.

  • Bring important dog license and ID tags for your dog.

  • After each trip examine them for any abnormal behavior, cuts and ticks.

  • Very important to keep your Lab hydrated after activity.

  • Most important, be responsible with your pet when out near others in the outdoors and when on the water be mindful of them. ~ Tradd Duncan, Georgia

    Zeke and Tradd

    About Tradd:

    Tradd Duggan is a Georgia native who has been fly-fishing since his days of living in the Yellowstone Region some 15 years ago. He can often be found fly fishing on a weekly basis, taking groups of eager fisherman to some of Colorado's best water or flying to new saltwater. ~ DLB

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