Interview: Muskie Hunter Joe Goodspeed, Thomas & Thomas

A bit ago, I reached out to the folks at Thomas & Thomas to get a demo rod. I loved their new Contact nymphing rod so much that I bought it (review here)!

In that process, I connected with Joe Goodspeed, the company’s sales executive. I started following him on Instagram and could see that he had incredible angling talent and passion. He has a gift for finding huge browns and muskies. So, I’m grateful that he agreed to this interview!


(Joe’s first trophy muskie)

Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where were you born and raised?

Grew up along the Southern border of the Adirondack Park in upstate NY in the rural town of Broadalbin.

How did you get into fly fishing?

My father helped to facilitate a love for the outdoors and for fishing most specifically from a young age.  My grandfather was into fly tying and fly fishing, and I started to create crude flies well before graduating to any real fly fishing.  There was a medium-sized trout stream behind our home growing up that provided the perfect venue to explore different concepts while left to my own devices. 

A pile of old Fly Fisherman magazines from the late ’70s and ’80s that my grandfather owned contained useful knowledge about concepts like leader building and strike detection, which I absorbed like a sponge.

I hear you fish for trout, but, also, large pike and muskies. What are​ the latter like, as many of us don’t (yet) target them?

Muskies are a fantastic mental and physical challenge to target with flies.  They require a totally different mindset.  Each fish has a unique personality, so finding consistent behavior patterns can seem impossible at times with musky.

Tell us a bit about Thomas & Thomas. The company seems to be on a new uptick.

T&T is a dynamic and exciting company lately! We have so much new technology, machinery, and materials to build and design around.  Our goal is to develop products that are the ultimate functional fishing tools.  We know that there’s more to fly fishing than having great parking lot casting rods!  The Contact nymph rods and the new Exocett SS 8’8” sinking line rods with grain weight ratings instead of line weight ratings reflect that philosophy.

It’s cool that the company is local, in Greenfield, MA.

(A 24″ male freestone brown with a crayfish in its mouth)

The new T&T Contact tightline-nymphing rod is getting tremendous reviews. What makes it special?

The Contact rods are special because each of the three models is precisely designed to perform a nymphing niche, and these are the first nymphing rods designed to fish by feel, as opposed to fishing by visual detection.  My background having years of nymph fishing primarily by feel helped define to target the unique rod lengths and actions.

Your favorite fly-fishing moment?

My favorite fishing moments all involve landing trophy-size wild fish on public water.  A measured 30” wild freestone brown trout that I caught during the day near a public access parking area in NY is really etched in my memory.  I hooked that female twice, about 6 weeks apart.  The first time I hooked her, she straightened out my size 10 hook.  The first trophy purebred river musky I landed, alone in my 12’ boat, is also a vivid memory.

What is your go-to rig for trout? Rod/reel, fly line, leader, tippet, etc.?

I fish tightline presentations at least 80% of the time for trout.  It would be a Contact 10’8” 4wt with a Hatch 4+, Cortland mono core competition nymph line, and a long complex hand-tied stiff mono tapered leader with a white colored straight sighter built in.  My tippet depends on what size fish and flies I’m throwing.

​For pike and muskies?

T&T just came out with a pair of products this summer that I have been developing and fishing for muskies this season.  There is the 8’8” Exocett SS 350gn rod, which has been in my hands all summer and landed eight muskies for me so far this season.

Then, there is the 9’4” Exocett Predator, designed to handle the biggest flies and largest muskies.  That rod will be in my hands all fall as I target fish approaching 50 lbs.  I often fish the Cortland Compact Sink 350gn lines, or Cortland Clear Camo intermediate lines in 11 or 12wt, with long stiff mono leaders in the 50-60 lb. range, attached to at least 2’ of bite guard material.

Who has the greatest impact on you as an angler?

Dave Whitlock is my biggest inspiration in the fly fishing world.  I love how Dave created so many imitative patterns to solve fly fishing challenges, at a time when the materials available were very limiting.  His understanding of the range of food items that fish eat and the need to imitate them was decades ahead of the general fly fishing community.

Joe, thank you very much for making the time. Tight lines!

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