Cobia on the Fly

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By Owen Plair


It seems like every time I wash the skiff, in just a matter of minutes it’s tainted by the yellow crap we call a sign of spring. There is one thing, and one thing only, that I do like about all the damn pollen. It means it’s only a matter of weeks before I start packing the 11 and 12 weights on the skiff for the big brown Cobia as they start to show up here in the Broad River.

I was born and raised on this river and have been fishing it since I was 3 years old. What makes this river special to me is, in addition to being an excellent fishery for Redfish, it hosts other species through out the year including Tarpon, Triple Tail, Sea Trout, Flounder, Jacks, Spanish, Blues, Lady’s, and very well known Cobia.

Around the last week of April, or when the water temperature hits around 68 degrees, the Cobia start to move into the Broad River here in Beaufort, SC. What’s cool about these Cobia is, they come inshore 8-10 miles to spawn. Cobia are an offshore species and can be found on near-shore wrecks or off the beaches from Key West all the way up to the Chesapeake Bay.

IMG_5446_2Most places, you catch Cobia swimming under rays, jigging them up from the bottom, or cruising the surface looking for bait. Here, they offer some really great sight fishing on the fly and put up quite a fight, being between 10-80 lbs on average. They’re also a very popular species for the dinner table.

What makes our Broad River Cobia unique is that they are their own strain of Cobia. The fish that come inshore every year to spawn in the Broad have their own unique genetics, compared to all the other Cobia. This was discovered a few years ago by scientists from the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. So, the Cobia we target on fly in the River are from a long line of fish that have been coming into this river to spawn for who knows how long.

I started Fly Fishing for these fish about 7 years ago and it’s still one of my favorite seasons to guide, because of how special it is targeting this offshore species so far inshore. When the water temperature hits around 68 degrees the Broad River turns into an vibrant estuary filled with various different bait fish, sea turtles, jelly balls, spanish, blues, in blueish/green water similar to the Gulf of Mexico.


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Just Another 20-Inch Rainbow

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My buddy Dan takes photos a lot of fish. Not hoisted hero shots or epic scenes, just a quick shot of fish in the net or in his hand, held gently in the water. They aren’t trophies exactly, just documents. Records of fish from different streams at different times of year. A sort of long term study of trout. A visual history.

He has photo albums, stacked hip deep, stuffed with prints from the days of film. These days they go into meticulously organized folders on the computer. Some go into an endless screen saver, which I’ve never seen repeat.

It might seem a little odd at first but once you get him talking about fish, you quickly see what’s going on. You’ll get to talking about a certain stream or species and how they might be affected by some event and Dan will pull out an old album and turn to the exact page and show you a fish caught twenty years ago. Then he will scroll through the computer and show you a fish from the same stream, caught in the same month last year.

Maybe I’ve seen too many Sci-Fi flicks but it’s easy to imagine a scenario where fish have become extinct and all that’s left is Dan’s visual archive. We may thank him one day.
Louis Cahill PhotographyThere is a period of time, about ten years ago, that Dan and I refer to as, “The good old days.” Dan had bought a piece of land on a trout stream in the mountains and the little creek was loaded with beautiful wild fish. Most of the surrounding land was old farm land, which had been let go and almost no one fished the creek. Dan and another neighbor started throwing a little trout chow in the creek and the next thing you know, it was Jurassic Park.

The farm was sold and it all went to hell, like ‘good old days’ always do but for a while it was a remarkable piece of water. Fishing that little creek made you feel like a rock star. Every time your line came tight, you were tied into a trophy. Dan wore out a couple of cameras down there in the creek.

On one especially epic day, I noticed Dan releasing a toad without shooting a photo.
“What, no photo?” I asked.

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Sunday Classic / The Speed Knot

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Watch the Video!

Little things make a difference.
When you watch a really good fisherman you notice a lot of those little things, the details that add up to kicking ass on the water. My friend Will Sands is like that. One of those super technical fisherman who has thought through the smallest details.

I’ve always liked the way Will ties a clinch knot. The first time I saw him do it, it was so fast it looked like magic. In a day of fishing to picky trout where you change flies a lot I wouldn’t be surprises if it added up to an extra thirty minutes of fishing, and Will can catch a lot of fish in thirty minutes.

Will slows it down for you in this video.

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Saturday Shoutout / SCOF 15

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Some things are just hard to look at.

Luckily Southern Culture on the Fly isn’t one of them. Simply the best online fly fishing magazine in the business. If you don’t read SCOF already, you should. It’s cool, it’s new and best of all it’s FREE.

SCOF Issue #15

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Does Fly Line Color Make A Difference?

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Why do you need a bright colored fly line and does it spook fish? A reader asked for an opinion on this and that’s what you’re going to get. My opinion. This is one of those hotly contested arguments that anglers can’t seem to agree on and my saying one thing or another isn’t going to settle it. I do have strong opinions on the subject, so since you asked, here they are. The color of your fly line doesn’t matter, until it does. For most fly fishing, if you’re doing things well the color of your line doesn’t matter any more than the color of your eyes. There are, however, times when it can make a difference and the difference may not always be what you think. When I make a purposeful choice on line color, it’s usually not to keep the fish from seeing it. What doesn’t matter Assuming for the moment that we are talking about trout fishing, if you are thinking that you are being stealthy by using a dull colored line, you’re coming at things from the wrong angle. If you are putting your line over the fish, it doesn’t matter what color it is. Fish are very attune to shadow and movement. If your fly line passes over them while casting, they will see the shadow of the line, even if it’s clear. The same goes for motion. Color doesn’t matter. If you are floating the line over them, on the surface of the water, things are worse. They now see the depression of the water’s surface as well as shadow and motion. Sure, they can see that a bright orange line is orange and a green line is green but they will find neither acceptable. The bottom line is, if you’re spooking fish … Continue reading

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How Do Hosted Fishing Trips Work And Is It Right For Me?

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  I promise you, this is not going to be a sales pitch but a full disclosure. A good friend of mine suggested I write this article. A good friend who, as it happens, I met on a hosted fishing trip. It’s funny how that works. As I think about it now, there are a whole lot of folks, who I call good friends, who I met on hosted fishing trips. Guys who have turned out to be life long friends and fishing buddies. Some of them are now contributors to G&G. Tim Harris and Johnny Spillane for example. And friends like Scott McKenzie, who I talk to almost every day. Before I ever went on one of these trips, I had a very different idea about what they were. Many of these trips are based around fishing lodges and, like a lot of guys, I thought of lodges as being stuffy, elitist deals where I would have nothing in common with anyone. And I still think lodge fishing can work out that way a lot of times. What I didn’t get at first is that the hosted trips are a way around that. A way to insure that you connect with the guys you’re fishing with. I learned to host trips from my buddy Bruce Chard. Bruce does a great job and I started going along with him to co-host trips in the Bahamas. I don’t know if I was much help at first but it was sure a lot of fun. It always seemed to be such a great crowd. Finally it struck me. The reason the groups of guys who came on those trips were so awesome is because Bruce was awesome, and they were all guys who loved to fish with Bruce. There were guys still … Continue reading

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12 Tiny Nymphs that Always Seem to Get the Job Done

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I used to shy away from fishing tiny nymphs during my rookie years of fly fishing. Particularly those size 20-26 midge patterns. Those intimidated me especially. When I used to look at those flies in the bins at fly shops, I can remember thinking, “how can the fish see these in moving water and is there some special rig you’re supposed to use for fishing them?” I’ve since found out I was nuttier than a fruit cake to assume all of the above about tiny flies, and they’ve become my go-to patterns when fishing gets really tough. Make no mistake, small flies have the ability to catch all trout, trophy fish included. In fact, one of the best times to fish tiny nymphs is when you’re sight fishing on water that holds lots of educated, mature trout. A prime example of this would be the “dream stream” section of the South Platte River in Colorado. I’ve had many days after the sun got up high in the horizon, that sub-twenty size nymph patterns out fished everything else in my fly box. In general, small subsurface

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