Fly Fishing Is A Journey

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I’ll never forget my first trout on the fly.

It was tiny. A rainbow. Probably wild, but I wouldn’t have known the difference or even cared at the time. It was memorable primarily because it was a long time coming. I’ll always remember my first steelhead, my first tarpon and many others, but none of them were as hard won as that little rainbow.

Although I started fly fishing when I was very young, I spent years fishing warm water for panfish and bass. There was no trout water accessible to me. It was all a good drive away and there was no one interested in driving me. My grandfather took me trout fishing once when I was eight years old. He dumped me on a small overgrown stream and went about his business. I’m not sure my fly even hit the water that day but the trees got plenty of attention. If I did wet a fly, I had no idea what to do with it. The idea of fishing moving water was as foreign as sculpting a fish from stone. I decided that trout fishing was too hard for me and I didn’t go back to it for many years.

Once the code was cracked and that little rainbow landed, trout became a singular obsession. I found myself on a trout stream well over a hundred days a year and many firsts followed. My first brown trout, my first brooke, my first trout over twenty inches, then over thirty. I tied my first fly, built my first bamboo rod, rowed my first drift boat, cast my first spey rod. Each new step requiring me to learn new skills and take new risks. With each new challenge, renewed excitement and focus.

On a family beach trip many years ago, I carried an old seven-weight fiberglass fly rod. I had no idea what to do with it but I’d heard people talk about fly fishing in saltwater so I took it, and a few Clouser Minnows. I wasted a day casting blindly and wondering how the hell I was supposed to find a fish until I saw bait busting the surface. I cast my fly into the disturbance

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Sunday Classic / The Homemade Yeti Cooler

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Don’t get me wrong, your Yeti is a great cooler and, yes, you can use it for a poling platform, sort of, and it does make you look very cool but if you’re like me and you travel a lot to fish it’s just not practical.
What I need is a cheap cooler that I can use for a week or two, then toss in the garbage on the way to the airport. I suffer a little guilt for landfilling a bunch of styrofoam, but the damage to my wallet is minimal.

I’ve used styrofoam coolers from grocery stores for years. On photo shoots I will sometimes have a half dozen of them. The problem is, they don’t hold up. You can buy cheap plastic ones but they are still twenty bucks or so and they’re not as good as the styrofoam at keeping ice. If you pitch six of them, you’re tossing $120. My frugal soul can’t stand that.

Five or six years ago I figured out this cool trick for making your styrofoam cooler bomber. A couple of layers of strategically placed duct tape on the sides, top and bottom make them surprisingly tough. Adding duct tape hinges and a lid helps to keep your ice longer by keeping the lid shut tight.

I’ve been doing this for years and I have

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Saturday Shoutout / Grillos Goodies

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Andrew Grillos is a wealth of fly-fishing knowledge and one of the best tyers on the planet.

Andrew Grillos has been a great friend of mine for over a decade. Aside from being one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet, he’s also one of the fishiest. Whether you find him on a Colorado tailwater, a Washington steelhead river, A small Montana stream or a bonefish flat in Hawaii, you can bet Grillos is running up the score. His iconic fly patterns, like the Hippie Stomper and Bob Gnarly, are staples in most fly boxes.

When I found out that Andrew has been writing for Montana Angler, I knew I had to share some of his work. I was a little shocked to find that some of his articles had been heavily edited when shared by other outlets as well as posted without a by line.


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Watch the Video!

See the island of South Andros through fresh eyes.

In January Ray and Jenna Wolfram, of Wildrums media, joined me for the bonefish school at Bair’s Lodge on South Andros. Although this was their first bonefish trip, they took to it and wasted no time in putting together this great short film. “Boneyard” showcases the people, scenery and stellar bonefishing the island has to offer.

Even if you are not a saltwater angler you’re sure to love the beautiful images and joyful spirt of this film. Take a few minutes and join us on South Andros.


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Slim Shady Baetis

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By Bob Reece

A baetis pattern with a secret.

“Hopper” Juan Ramirez is full time guide on Colorado’s South Platte and Arkansas Rivers. His years of experience on these water have allowed him to build an on-the-water knowledge base that is second to none. One of his recent creations, the Slim Shady Baetis 5.0, is testament to his understanding.

When I asked Juan about his Slim Shady 5.0, he shared the following thoughts with me. “The Slim Shady 5.0 was a pattern that I worked on for several years before I finally found the right material to set it apart from other great patterns that already existed. It took several versions, but I finally settled on a pattern that utilized a “secret” material. “Slim Rib” is a micro stretch material that I use to make a wonderful segmentation on this pattern. No one else is using it and that’s what sets this pattern apart from all the other Mayfly Nymph patterns. The pattern sits on a 200R hook. The 200R is a hook that is 3x long, giving it a wonderful mayfly shape. As the name states, it’s a slim pattern, matching the small mayflies in the Southern Rockies as well as elsewhere. It’s been thoroughly tested on the South Platte, Animas, Piedra, Dolores and Arkansas Rivers and has accounted for some really fine fish for my clients and me. “

While proper presentation is integral on highly pressure water, accuracy of

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Keep Your Hands on the Cork

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By Kent Klewein

Like so many others out there, I’ve broken my fair share of fly rods over the years.

I’ve slammed them in tailgates, stuck them in ceiling fans and I’ve squashed quite a few trying to get in and out of my cataraft to quickly. It took me awhile to figure it out, but I finally realized I was the problem, and I’ve since learned to slow down and not worry about being the first angler on the river all the time. It’s kinda funny how just slowing down a few steps and taking a couple extra minutes to get organized, keeps those negligible acts of snapping fly rods to a minimum.

One overlooked fly rod handling mistake I see all the time by fly anglers, is taking their hands off the cork during the final stages of the fight, and moving one hand high up on the butt section of the rod in the effort to get extra leverage to land the fish. You never want to do this, because when you do, you change the fulcrum point of the fly rod and eliminate the fly rods ability to use the strongest part of the rod, its butt section. This puts extra pressure on

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The Pacu Bead

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By Louis Cahill

If you are a dry-fly purest, you might want to sit this one out.

Bead fishing in the jungles of Argentina is about as far from fishing a dry fly as you could imagine. It’s not much closer to Alaska bead fishing. It’s one of the most unorthodox and effective methods I’ve ever used to catch a fish. It’s also incredibly fun!

We travel to the jungle for golden dorado, but like many predatory fish, the dorado takes a long siesta during the middle of the day. Rather than pound the water pointlessly, we’ll take a couple of hours to catch some of the exotic species found in these rivers.

The most popular is the pacu. These brawny fish are shaped like trashcan lids and put up a serious fight. They are sometimes called freshwater permit, mostly for their shape, but they are also picky eaters. They are omnivores but one of their chief food sources is actually fruit and nuts that fall from trees lining the river. They have teeth like a human for chewing these tough terrestrials.

So how to you target a fish that eats nuts?

Well, not by wading, I can tell you that! (Sorry, that was too much to resist.) Seriously though, the Argentine guides have developed an ingenious way to imitate this unusual food source. They fish giant beads from the craft store. Beads up to three-quarters of an inch in diameter. They taper the hole on one side of the bead with a

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The Perfect Gamefish

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By Justin Pickett

All hype aside, golden dorado may be the perfect gamefish.

Prior to my trip to Parana On The Fly Lodge, I had my own preconceived ideas of what fishing for Golden Dorado might be like. Everyone knows they have teeth. You’ve no doubt seen them in photos, jumping and thrashing in the water. But what you don’t know about them, and what I didn’t know about them, will make them even more badass than you ever thought.

First off, they are some moody little bastards. Chucking hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of casts between fish is common. Not because the fish are scarce. There are plenty of fish living within the Parana’s waters. The Goldens just seem to have a particular set of requirements that must be met before they strike. Even the little guys can get picky and will inspect your fly all the way to the boat before turning away. I remember thinking to myself on the second day that this type of fishing reminded me of fishing for musky. Constantly pounding the banks and structure, over and over, fighting the urge to “zone out” from the repetitive nothingness of empty retrieves. Sometimes the only break in the monotony would be the occasional hang up in the bushes or trees, or maybe the hideous, haunting sound of howler monkeys blasting through the jungle. It took me a day and a half to land my first Golden Dorado. In other words, you have to work for them a little bit. You have to earn your stripes a little, and pay some dues. You’re not just going to step onto a boat, sling some line, and yank one in the boat. It takes a little bit of grit, and I like that.

Another thing that makes these apex river monsters awesome is where and how they hold in the river. Like many of our favorite gamefish here in the states, they are ambush predators. Hiding amongst submerged trees, bushes, rocks, sand banks, and cut-banks, the mean-muggers blend in to the powerful, turbulent waters of the Parana, despite their golden flanks. They hold on the

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Sunday Classic / Fly Fishing with Stealth – 8 Common Mistakes

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How often to you think anglers miss opportunities catching trout because of the lack of stealth? The more educated trout populations are in a stream, river or lake you’re fly fishing, the more important it is for fly anglers to mimic the way a hunter stalks game in the field. I estimate that I give away upwards of 50% of my trout catching opportunities due to my lack of stealth. Below are 8 common mistakes fly anglers make on the water that blow their cover and success.

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Saturday Shoutout / Bob Larko

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Andrea Larko is one of the most recognizable artists in fly-fishing.

Her unique vision is exciting and instantly identifiable. Her artwork has been licensed to the biggest brand names in fly fishing and has long been my personal favorite. If you are not familiar with Andrea’s work, you owe it to yourself to check it out.

Recently she started a new series of whimsical cartoons based on a character she named Bob. These fun, good natured cartoons sum up the wonder, blunder and frustration anyone who has picked up a fly rod will identify with. They are simply wonderful.

You can see more Bob Cartoons, as well as some wonderful art, on Andrea’s Instagram feed.

Visit her Etsy page to find art, apparel and accessories any fly fisher will love.


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