Pay to Play

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Something a little different this morning…

I’d like to have a friendly discussion with you, our readers, about something that I’ve noticed popping up on social media more frequently than I can remember happening in recent past. Over the past few weeks, I’ve caught a handful of posts, either an article or a video, that showcases an angler grinning ear-to-ear while holding a slab of a rainbow or brown trout that he or she just caught on a private, “pay to play” piece of water. Good for them, right? Well, some of the comments that have been posted and shared in response to some of these photos and videos might lead you to think that these anglers have made a deal with the devil and forsaken all that is holy in the world of fly fishing. Now, I can certainly understand some of the negative feelings that some anglers might have towards privately held and stocked sections of water that often require deeper pockets in order to fish their kempt waters, if they allow access to the public at all.

There are all sorts of private, “pay to play” waters that exist across the country. My home state. The Southeast. Throughout the Western states. Everywhere. And it’s not even limited to just trout fishing. There’s a small lake just down the road from my house that’s locally known for producing monster bass. You can fish there too as long as you can pony up $12,000 for the initial membership fee and monthly payments of $150. Places like these have been around for a long, long time, and there is no doubt they’ll be around as long as there is enough water for fish to swim.

I’m not writing this article as a way to call anyone out or “bash” these opinions in any way, nor do I think they are completely wrong. This isn’t about hurt feelings or defending anybody. I’m more curious about the rationale behind the reactions and opinions. The anglers that oppose private water, just like everyone else, are entitled to their own opinions and beliefs. I think we all would agree that there’s nothing

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American Potcake

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They each peer inquisitively through the zippered opening of the black tote and repeat, “Oh my God! She’s adorable.”

I have known for years that I wanted a Bahamian Potcake for my next dog. These bright eyed, slender dogs, common throughout the Bahamas, stole my heart. The Potcake, only recently recognized as a breed, is a kind of super-mutt made up of the working dogs that colonists brought to the islands to work the plantations. They are wicked smart, hardy and, once bonded to a human, fiercely loyal. They, in many ways, exhibit the traits I admire in the Bahamian people. Not surprisingly, as they, without meaning to be insensitive, share a very similar backstory. Each has carved out a life for themselves under harsh circumstances, maintaining strong family structures, and living by their wits. The Bahamians and the Potcakes, not only exist but thrive, against all odds, and in doing so have developed a strength of character which is both admirable and endearing.

I’ve been fishing at the Andros South Bonefish Lodge for many years. The staff and guides there have become friends and the island of South Andros a place of refuge where I feel an uncommon sense of well being. There is a small family of potcakes there, who I have become attached to, the eldest being a female named Brownie. Although these dogs enjoy the adoration of anglers from around the world, they are not exactly domesticated. They are not exactly feral either but some of them, especially the puppies, are untouchable. Brownie, however, is one of the best natured dogs I have ever known and, from each litter, at least a couple of her pups has her sweet disposition. While all potcakes are great dogs, this family line is truly special to me.

South Andros is a poor island. Its people, for the most part, have big hearts and small wallets. There is no veterinarian on the island and few folks have the money to fly a dog to Nassau for medical care. Certainly not for non-essentials like spay and neuter. As a result, a huge population of feral potcakes fight for limited resources. The name potcake comes from the traditional Bahamian dish of peas and rice, which leaves a burned matt in the bottom of the pot, called the potcake. These are thrown out for the dogs and beyond that their diet is random lizards, bugs and whatever washes up on the beach. Many of them starve, or are killed for hunting livestock.

This year, things lined up for me and I decided it was time for a dog. I could adopt a dog easily at home, but what I wanted was one of the Andros potcakes. There are always fresh puppies and I found myself drawn to one in particular. A little black puppy, the runt of the litter, who the guys at the lodge named Permit because she was impossible to catch.

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Sunday Classic / Should You Be Sharpening Your Hooks More?

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Casting all day long, searching for that beast of a brown. I’m giving it everything I’ve got. I know that’s what it’s going to take if I want a decent shot at landing a big mature brown trout. I’m looking for a 20 plus-incher and they never come easy. And where I live, you’re lucky to get a few opportunities at legitimate wild brown trout of this caliber all year long. We’re approaching a bend that’s known for holding butter slabs and I present a perfect cast right against the deep undercut bank. The retrieve begins, strip strip, pause…, strip strip, pause. Without any warning my six-inch articulated sculpin gets slammed and my fly rod just about comes out of my hands. It’s just been devoured by something very big, and I think it’s what I’ve been looking for. I set the hook hard and my rod bends as the fish breaks the surface thrashing violently, shades of butter are spotted. “It’s a brown!” I yell, but two strips and two head shakes later my fly pulls loose and the beast swims away. My prized catch is lost.

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Saturday Shoutout / Diplomatic Immunity

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The Winter 2017 issue of Southern Culture on the Fly is alive and well, With Diplomatic Immunity.

A little love for two-hand rods, and the wife. Some cold water, some saltwater, and some far flung water. Some fly tying and some tying one on. To understand the world, you have to understand a place like S.C.O.F.


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Make Better Backhand Casts: Video

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The average fly fisher struggles with making a backhand presentation.

A good backhand presentation is the mark of an effective angler. Being able to deliver a fly on the backcast makes you more efficient on the water and, simply put, catches fish. If you can make a good forward cast, you already have the skills you need to make a good backhand cast. It’s just a matter of getting your head around it.

The trick is getting your body into a natural casting position, and remember to make a good positive stop. Once you get the feel for it, there’s nothing to it. It will make you a much more effective angler. Especially when streamer fishing.


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10 Tips For Spotting Permit

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Maybe it’s not your thing but if there truly is a fish of ten-thousand casts, it’s the permit. There is enough to catching permit to fill a bookshelf or magazine rack. It’s a complicated game, but where it starts is simple. To catch a permit, you must find a permit. And to find a permit, the angler must know what to look for. With that in mind, here are 10 tips to help you spot a permit.

Have the right glasses
This is stupid simple but it really is the most important piece of equipment for the saltwater angler. There is no replacement for quality polarized sunglasses. Good saltwater glasses have a rosy color to the lenses. Pass on green or grey. Copper, rose or brown will offer better contrast. A lighter tint to the lens is valuable on darker days and a frame that shade your eyes is a plus. Glass lenses offer the sharpest vision and, unless you have a heavy coke-bottle prescription, that’s what I recommend.

The long, graceful forked tail of the permit is its most distinctive feature. It is black in color and stands out when the fish shows its profile. Often the permit’s broad, silver body disappears completely and it is the black double sickle tail that gives him away. This sight is never more exciting than when the tail is held up out of the water. Called ‘”tailing” this happens when the fish feeds off the bottom in shallow water. This means that the fish is actively feeding and the chances of him eating your fly are good.

The permit’s long, sickle-shaped dorsal fin will often give him away. When the fish is

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8 Elements of Fly Design to Follow for Imitating Trout Food Sources

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When tying fly patterns, it’s very important that you try your best to incorporate several different elements of fly design to increase their effectiveness. No one knows with complete certainty what order or priority trout rank each element of a food source or fly pattern, but most anglers agree that the value or ranking of the elements often change depending on how long a trout has been selectively feeding on a specific food source, at what frequency the specific food source is being eaten, and how diverse or consistent a trout’s diet is at the present moment. The order of the elements that I will talk about in know way ranks the importance of the elements. Instead, fly tiers should look at them together as a whole, and try to include as many as possible or as a check list of the features a fly pattern should have when completed. Doing so, they should find there fly patterns more effective on the water for fooling and catching trout. In this post, I will specifically talk about eight different elements of fly design that fly tiers should pay close attention to when tying fly patterns at the vise.

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Bonefish Body Language 

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By Owen Plair

Being able to read the body language of any fish is by far one of the best ways to anticipate the bite, especially when it comes to feeding a bonefish.

Recently I had the opportunity to experience bonefishing on South Andros, Bahamas, and learned a lot during the week about how the body language of a bonefish can visually tell you what’s happening when you can’t see the bite.

From skating flies for Atlantic Salmon in Russia to targeting migrating Tarpon in Islamorada, and countless species in between, watching a fish open their mouth, and eat the fly was something I had always been accustomed to when sight fishing. I had never thought about sight fishing Bonefish and the fact that you can never really see that little white mouth open up and swallow the fly. There was only one fish during the entire week I could see open her mouth and swallow the fly because by chance it was 10ft off the bow on a cloudy day.

The first 4 or 5 fish of the trip I hooked simply by listening for the guide telling me, “Set mon, set!” It’s amazing how fast your brain and muscles work together when pulling the fly line tight to a bonefish’s bottom lip. Hooking those first few fish of the trip was amazing but the feeling I had, as an angler, not being able to anticipate the bite drove me absolutely nuts! I simply just couldn’t figure out what the guide was seeing that I wasn’t and I soon started to ask questions after every fish, learning through experience on the water with my guide.

One of the most important things I learned about reading a bonefish bite was looking for the sudden stop.

Most times in fishing when the fish stops behind your fly they’re stopping for a reason. Either they’re eating your fly or changing their mind and turning off. I found that with bonefish, it was that the best way to anticipate the bite. Every time a fish would stop I was ready for the long strip set. The bite was still invisible to me but I learned the “stop” which helped me anticipate the fish eating and prepare myself for the set. It also took some time to get used to stopping the fly for the fish to eat. Most other species I’ve targeted always like a constant moving fly.

Another key body language

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Here’s something you probably haven’t thought about. If you are a regular G&G reader, it’s likely that your picture of what goes on behind the curtain is more dramatic than it actually is. You might be tempted to think that I am always on the bow of a flats boat or on the sticks floating a river somewhere or knee-deep in a steelhead run, and for an average of one week a month, that’s fairly true. What you probably haven’t pictured is what goes on the other three weeks of every month, which is less exciting.

In most homes there is a room where you don’t take visitors. In our hundred-twenty year old home, which is short on closets, there certainly is. A room full of camping gear, suitcases, fabric remnants, and more than a few cameras and fly rods. In the corner of that room there is a small antique desk with two very large computer monitors and a laptop. That’s the Gink and Gasoline world headquarters. My version of a Bond villain’s secret island with underground fortress.

I don’t mean to take the polish off, but most of what you see online is a result of the days spent here, not the ones spent on the river. It’s an awesome job, but it’s a job. Anyway, my trusty Macbook Pro, which has chugged along like a Timex for over ten years finally became functionally obsolescent this year and has been replaced by a shiny new iMac. I’ve spent much of the week between Christmas and New Years migrating data and getting the new machine up to speed.

Part of that transition has been updating the screensaver. For decades now there has been a folder on my hard drive named Fishsaver. In that folder are hundreds of images of fish, which scroll across my computer screen before it drops off to sleep. I’m sure all of you have something similar, but this one is special. Not because it’s mine but because it has actually taken over my life, and not just because I spend way too much time looking at the images.

I started the Fishsaver back when I

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Sunday Classic / The Finer Points of the Ready Position

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Watch the Video!


A good ready position is vital in making a quick and accurate presentation. It will save you the embarrassment of pulling a fly out of your pants, or worse, while you watch the fish you’d hoped to catch swim away. It’s a simple thing but easy to screw up. Here are a few points that I consider important to the ready position.


The leash is the amount of line outside of your tip top. The length of your leash should be, fly line at least the length of your rod plus your leader, so 9 feet of fly line plus, let’s say, a 12 foot leader to equal 21 feet of leash. This should be enough line to load your rod quickly and start shooting line immediately. It’s also enough line to make a fast short shot at the occasional fish that gets up your skirt.

As important as having a good leash is maintaining it. What I mean by that is keeping up with what your leash is doing. A good leash is no help if it’s stuck under the bow of the boat or dragging a clump of grass. Keep an eye on the current and wind conditions to figure out where you need to hold your rod to keep your leash out of trouble. Sometimes I find it helpful

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