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A Dog's Life Training Your Fishing Buddy


I had a chance to sit down with Justin Brenner, Angler’s Covey guide, and his dog, Ebony, to get some insights about training your dog to be a fishing companion.  When Justin got called away by a phone call, Ebony really opened up about her experience.

“Yeah, there are some challenges to becoming a good fishing dog.  Owners have to be patient and have a plan,” Ebony said.  She nods her head toward Justin, standing outside the door on the phone. “That dude’s a patient man.”

Ebony and Justin have been fishing together for nearly seven years.

“The key is – start them young,” Justin says when he returns.  “And if you can, train them to be leash-free.”  Of course, that takes some steady training, too, away from the river. Your dog benefits from learning some other basic commands, too, like “sit” and “stay” and to stick around by your side.

Justin says it’s important to spend a lot of time together.  “You want the dog to want to be next to you when you’re fishing.”  That becomes even more important when the angler is working the bank and sight fishing.  “They can’t walk ahead and get to a spot you want to fish.  They need to stick by you.”

A man, his daughter, and his dog.  This is why we fish.

Ebony recalls being at the river in her younger days. “He brought me to the river when I was a young pup.  Sometimes we would just walk the bank.  He wouldn’t even fish.“

I shared with the two of them that I was fishing the Arkansas tailwaters in Pueblo, and a man with his dog were across the river from me.  Every time the man cast, the dog jumped in the river to retrieve his strike indicator.

You want the dog to get used to all that is involved in fly fishing – the casting motion, moving with you as you play the fish, the splashing and excited antics as you net the fish. “Show them lots of fish. Eventually, they’ll get sick of them and not react too much.”

Justin and Ebony have fished a lot of Colorado’s tailwaters together – and in all kinds of weather. They’ve been out on the Dream Stream and the Taylor together plenty of times.  “I don’t let her wade in the colder temps.  If I cross, I’ll carry her across.”

At nearly seven years old, Ebony has fished under Justin’s watchful eye in all kinds of conditions.

Ebony, of course, had to learn to come on command.  “She had to learn to hang by my side even when she’s distracted.  When she goes to the high lakes, she gets distracted a lot — strictly because of the marmots.”

“It’s the way they dash around in those rocks,” Ebony says. “And that dang whistling.”

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