Keeping Your Head Straight Catches Steelhead

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I just got back from hosting two groups of anglers on this year’s Deschutes River Steelhead Camp.

This trip is always a highlight of my year. Because it’s just so much fun and because there is nothing I love more than swinging flies for steelhead. Camping on a beautiful river and sharing some water and whisky with like-minded anglers would be awesome even if it didn’t involve one of my favorite fish species.

Steelheading is a unique fly fishing experience, especially when done with a two-hand rod and a swung fly. It offers plenty of challenge and technique, even when the fishing is stellar. It’s definitely about quality over quantity and if you are the kind of angler who needs constant feedback, the biggest challenge can be in your head.

I’ve always said the reason steelheaders are so cranky is because they spend so much time staring at the water thinking about all the bad things they’ve done. It’s funny but all too true. We all know the voice in our head that, when denied a pull for a while, starts to chant, “You Suck! You Suck! Yes You Do!”

For some anglers, and especially for beginners, this can be a real problem. Not just because it will melt your spey cast down but because it’s no fun. The best way I know to catch fish is to fish with confidence and if you lose your confidence you’re on a slippery slope to skunk town. Trust me, I’ve been there.

One of the coolest things about the Steelhead Camp is that I get to see a lot of anglers catch their first steelhead. The Deschutes is a great place for that because the fishing is so good. While the fishing this year was good by almost any standards, it was off for the Deschutes.

The generation of steelhead which are returning to the river for the first time this year faced some rough conditions. These fish, known as “single salt” fish, usually make up the largest part of the run but this year they returned in smaller numbers. It’s kind of a good news / bad news situation. While numbers are lower than normal, average size is larger. Again, quality over quantity.

I’m really proud of all of my anglers, who kept their attitudes straight, fished hard and had fun. In the end, all but one caught fish, but several paid their dues getting it done. That, of course, makes it that much sweeter. The other good thing about the camp is that anglers have great support, both technical advice and communal encouragement. It makes a big difference.


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Sunday Classic / 14 Ways To Prevent Fish Mortality

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The years we spend learning to cast and drift a fly or the thousands of dollars we spend on gear and travel are all wasted if we don’t have fish. With more anglers entering the sport every day, sport fish are heavily pressured and in grave danger. There are a lot of common mistakes that anglers make which contribute to fish mortality. Most are innocent and many don’t show an immediate risk. With that in mind here are fourteen tips to help keep our little friends happy and healthy. The 10 second rule A fish’s gills are remarkably efficient at collecting oxygen but the delicate membranes that extract the oxygen molecules rely on their buoyancy to keep the collecting surfaces exposed. Out of the water they collapse and are useless. This is to say the obvious, fish can’t breathe out of water. It’s easy to over estimate how long a fish can hold its breath. The fact is, a fish can’t hold its breath at all because it doesn’t have lungs. He is out of air as soon as you lift him from the water. Add to this that his metabolism is raging because he’s been fighting for his life and you have a pretty desperate situation. While you are trying to get that hero shot, he’s dying. Use the 10 second rule and never keep his head out of the water for more than 10 seconds and give him a good 30 seconds before you lift him again. Hold on loosely I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen guys squeeze a fish until its eyes pop out. Some guys just get so rattled holding a fish you’d think they never saw one. This death grip can cause serious internal injury especially to the heart. The trick is … Continue reading

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Saturday Shoutout / Pat Cohen Tying Videos

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Pat Cohen’s flies are as creative as they are deadly.

I was fortunate to co-host a tying event with Pat a while back and it was a real pleasure spending some time with this master tyer and watch him work his magic. I learned quite a bit. Pat’s background as a sculptor really shows in his signature deer hair creations. No one creates exotic presentation patterns like Pat, but there is another side of his tying.

Pat ties some unorthodox flies which leave a lot of anglers scratching their heads. I can tell you from spending a couple of days on the water with Pat that these flies wreck fish. That’s what you get when an artist puts his mind to something. Pure genius.

Pat was kind enough to tie a couple of flies for me to video. You’ll be seeing those before too long, but or now here he is tying 3 flies I’ve seen catch fish. You can check out more of Pat’s videos and get all the materials he uses, or just buy his flies at


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New fly rods and reels from Sage

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It’s a big year for Sage.

The folks on Bainbridge Island have been hard at work this year. The X rod is a huge product launch for Sage and deserving of the hype surrounding it. The line of X rods is pretty deep and there are some new reels from Sage this year as well. I spent some time with Peter Knox, of Sage, at the IFTD show to go over some of the X models and the new 6200 reel.

Watch this video for more details on the new Sage X fly rod and 6200 reel.

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You buy your portfolio every morning

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In the old days I ran a hedge fund.

That’s right. Half a billion dollars doing whatever I told it. Big trades, big profits (and losses) and big pressure. I learned a lot from a decade in that role that has helped me on the stream. (I know, it sounds like a stretch… but it’s true!) One of the prevalent sayings in Investment Management is “You buy your portfolio every morning.” What it means is, the decision to do nothing, to keep the investments you made yesterday, is still an active decision. It’s CHOOSING to go into the battle of that day with your current positions, rather than something else.

The truth in this idea hit me harder than ever on Sunday on a carp flat. I waded out of thigh-deep sand bottomed water to find maybe 150 carp cruising and feeding. They were working 12 to 18 inches of water over super soft mud-bottomed lake and eating like mad. I was so jacked up you could see the end of my 8wt vibrating in my trembling hands.

The fly I had on was too heavy for that shallow water. It was designed to get down with accuracy to fish at three feet deep. Remember… I was coming out of thigh-deep water. But I was stoked and the fish were there and they’re just stupid carp and I can be gentle and what if the wind picks up while I’m changing flies and maybe it would start to rain and what if they saw me and spooked before I got a cast… You get the picture. So I went into battle with the fly I had on because not changing didn’t feel like choosing that fly. It felt like

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Fly Fishing: Too Much Mending Can Ruin Your Drift

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One of the most critical techniques of fly fishing that anglers often lack knowledge in, is understanding how to properly mend fly line during the drift. If I tallied up all the time I spend each day instructing clients on various fly fishing techniques, teaching the art of mending fly line would easily rank number one on the list. I bet I say the word “mend” a thousand times a day. It’s not that difficult to mend fly line, all it takes is a little practice and time on the water to get the hang of it. In my opinion, it’s much easier to learn how to mend than the art of fly casting. The main reason mending takes so long for fly anglers to master is because the timing of the mend, the direction of the mend and the size of the mend can change from one presentation to the next. Two of the biggest mending problems I see on the water is bad technique and mending fly line too much during the drift. When mending is done correctly, you usually only need one or two mends per drift to get the job done.

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The meaning of Fly Shop 

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By Owen Plair

The local fly shop is a place where lives are changed forever.

It’s a place where you can feel at home and a place that exists solely to help you as an angler. That feeling you get as the door opens and you look around is something that cannot be replaced. Being surrounded by everything you love, and the people who love it as much as you, is what life is all about. Its a place where new adventures start and countless memories are created.

So why would you drive to the local fly shop when you can just buy it online and have it shipped to your house for the same price? Why not just google what flies to buy or what fly line to use? This rod looks cool online, why not just order it? Don’t get me wrong, the internet is a great tool. You can learn a lot and most of the time find what product you’re looking for. Fly fishing is a very small industry and there are few actual fly shop locations. Those few locations are shops which are born from a passion for fly fishing and created for you as an angler to further that obsession. It’s a place that not everyone wants to shop and a place that needs your support as much as you need theirs. Think about a handshake and a smile next time, instead of clicking a check-out button.

Just about 10 years ago I started working at the local fly shop. I was a 16-year old kid trying to make a few dollars to put gas in my car. I knew very little about fly fishing, hell, I didn’t even know what an 8wt was at the time. The door opened and the first customer of the day walked in. I greeted him good morning and asked if I could help him with something. “Do you have any bonefish tippet?,” he asked. In my head I was thinking tip-what?!? “Let me get someone who can help you,” I replied.

I went to the back and got my boss to come help the customer find his “tippet”. As I watched Tony help this customer with tippet and then flies, and then wading boots, and then a new shirt for his trip, I soon learned he wasn’t just selling the customer, he was truly helping him, and creating a friendship by doing it. “You never want to wear Nike tennis shoes wade fishing in the bahamas. These are a few of the flies I used at that lodge a few years ago, tell the ole Pinder Brothers I said hello and have a great trip! ” said Tony.

The customer thanked him with a big smile and handshake of excitement that he was now ready for his upcoming trip after taking the advice from Tony. About two weeks later that customer came back

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Which Fly Rod Action Is Best For You?

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By Kyle Wilkinson

How does the angler know what fly rod action will best suite their needs and casting style?

If you’re an experienced angler reading this you may already know the answer to the topic of today’s discussion. However, I have a strong feeling many people reading this don’t fall into that category and have on more than one occasion heard the term “fast action” or “medium action” and thought to themselves, ‘What in the hell? All I want is a fly rod I can take to the river and catch a fish with!’

If you’ve ever found yourself in that situation — or if you’re in the market for a new fly rod but don’t know what makes the most sense to add to your line up — then I highly encourage you to read on!

It’s no secret that fly rods come in all shapes and sizes these days and with the continued advancements we’re seeing in rod building technologies, the corresponding actions are getting more and more refined. This can be confusing to interpret for any angler out there, regardless of skill.

But back to the question of which action is right for you? In my opinion, the short answer to this is simply going to depend on the type of fishing conditions you’re going to be facing. Now I’m sure some of you are already thinking that both angler skill and angler preference are major factors as well and you’re correct — I’ll be sure to touch on this as well.

For the sake of keeping things simple though, let’s take a 10,000-foot view of this topic and break fly rods down into the three most dominant categories (slow, medium, fast) and where I find their most useful applications to be.

Slow Action. It seems most rod companies tend to shy away from the phrase ‘slow action’ these days and use terms such as ‘full flex’ or ‘presentation taper’ to categorize these type of rods. Additionally, you’re usually going to see these rods predominantly offered in sub 9’ lengths, with rods down to 6’ long not out of the question. To the newer angler, the first thing you’ll likely notice when picking up a slow/full flex rod is that

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Sunday Classic / Fly Fishing Fast Water Chutes for Trout

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There are multiple ways for anglers to fly fish fast water chutes, but most of the time, I find it most effective to wade to the sides of the chutes, and fly fish perpendicular to them. Doing so, it gives me better control of my drifting flies and improves my line management. Positioning to the side of a chute also improves my stealth, because I’m able to present my flies in front of the trout with just my leader, keeping my fly line out of site. Check out the video below that demonstrates how I prefer to fish fast water chutes.

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Saturday Shoutout / So Many Octobers

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“It is easy to forget that in the main we die only seven times more slowly than our dogs,”

October has long been my favorite month. I’ve frequently thought it odd that a time which feels like a beginning to me, is really the beginning of the end. This year especially, as I say a long goodbye the best dog I’ve ever known,

This piece by Greg McReynolds, on Mouth Full Of Feathers, really hit home. If you love dogs, and brown trout and bird hunting, I’m sure it will for you too. Enjoy your October. We only get so many.

“We Only Get So Many Octobers”

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