Orvis’ 20 September Days

Kicking off the fall with fishing and photography

A social media Luddite by nature, it was only after starting this Blog in 2020 that I finally tested the waters of social media. An eye-opening experience after two-decades of actively professing the evils of such platforms, I quickly settled into the addiction and found myself connecting with like-minded anglers near and far.

Among those I connected with was a fellow angler from Kansas whom I had previously met through the now defunct Fly Flasher app. We’d exchange likes and comments on the platform from time to time, but his account only truly caught my attention in early September of that year. He was suddenly posting on a daily basis; always including the hashtag #20sepdays.

Curious, I plugged the hashtag into google and a new fall tradition was born.


Officially started in 2015, 20 Days in September was the creation of Phil Monahan of Orvis News. Following a tough summer of fishing, Phil challenged himself to kick off the fall by fishing at least 20 days in the month of September.

As positive feedback grew with each day’s fishing he documented, it became clear that Phil was on to something. And, the following year, Orvis opened the Challenge up to their followers on social media.

The premise was simple, set a personal goal of fishing as many days as possible in the month of September (even if fewer than 20) and share photos of those exploits on social media using the hashtags #20sepdays and #orvisflyfishing. At the end of the month, the team at Orvis selects 10 finalists and lets a popular vote decide the winners.

With prizes including a Helios 3 Fly Rod, Mirage Reel and more, there’s plenty of incentive beyond just the days logged on the water.

September 2020

While it was too late in the month to dream of hitting 20-days that first year, a planned escape to the Smokys still had me excited to join the fray. I hadn’t fished for trout since the prior summer and was chomping at the bit after COVID had kept me close to home the prior six-months. My trusty 2wt in tow, we headed for the a remote cabin where we’d spend a week in the company of my parents.

Rainbow Trout (Smoky Mountains; 2020)

In the days that followed, we did our best to dodge the crowds; selecting less traveled streams and, on occasion, even landing some fish. Along the way, I tagged a few shots, but had no expectation of competing with the content being added by others on a daily basis.

On our final morning, however, (one dampened by the knowledge that the eye of a Cat 2 Hurricane had passed over my parents home the day prior) Maedbh decided to leave her fly rod at home in favor of a morning of photography.

The images she ended up capturing far outweighed the quality of the fishing that day with one in particular standing out above the rest. I told her outright that I thought she had captured the winner, and, when the Final 10 were announced in early October, I wasn’t surpised to see it among the finalists.

In my opinion, the image perfectly captured the feeling of fishing in the Smokys. And, when the voting closed, it appeared the general public agreed. Maedbh’s image had taken 1st Place.

We had won a 5wt Helios 3F fly rod, and, more importantly, had firmly established a new fall tradition.

The Years That Followed
Photo Credit: Maedbh Ryan

In the two-years since that first 20 September Days win, Maedbh and I have made a point of documenting our fishing exploits wherever we may be.

In 2021, that meant a late September escape to San Francisco. Fishing wasn’t necessarily in the plans as we attempted to decompress following a hectic month of hurricane recovery, but, as always, a rod was in tow. And, when time finally allowed on September 30th, Maedbh worked her magic as I worked the Surfperch at Crissy Field. The black-and-white silhouetted shot is one of my all-time favorites and pushed us back into Orvis’s top 10 for a second year. Finishing second in the popular vote, the image won Maedbh a pair of Orvis Pro Waders that she’s since used to capture some beautiful rising trout images in Colorado.

When 2022 finally offered a reprieve from hurricanes along the northern gulf coast, we found ourselves far more relaxed than years past as we headed for upstate New York to celebrate Maedbh’s birthday with family. Camera and fly rod in tow, however, there would be at least a few fishing related detours along the way. One, to Willowemoc Creek in the heart of the Catskills, stood out above all others as I found myself fishing the waters that birthed American Fly Fishing. Maedbh working her magic once again, captured the scene below as I fished upstream of the old covered bridge in Livingston Manor.

Photo Credit: Maedbh Ryan

When the Top 10 was released, this shot made the cut. And, for the second time in three years, one of Maedbh’s images took home top billing.

September 2023

Another September is now upon us, and, while Maedbh and I are intent on finally fishing 20-days, the main intent of this post is to bring the 20-Days contest to everyone’s attention. It has grown each year Orvis has hosted the contest and is a great opportunity to not only challenge ourselves but to share our fishing exploits with the broader fly fishing community.

Better still, you might even walk away with some new gear. Just take a look at some of the recent finalists. Everything from Sunfish to Salmon have made the cut.

Good luck and tight lines! Can’t wait to see how everyone does!


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