The Flats, Light Bottom vs. Dark Bottom

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Water temperatures and seasons play an important role for fly fishermen fishing the saltwater flats.

Saltwater fish prefer to utilize different types of flats throughout the year to maximize their comfort and food intake. When I was new to the saltwater side of the sport, I never gave it much thought on why my guide was choosing to take me fishing on a light colored sandy flat, versus a grassy or dark bottom flat. It wasn’t my expertise, so I just went along with everything. Quite a few years have past since my rookie fishing days in saltwater. I’ve logged many more trips on the saltwater flats, and I’ve taken the time to pick the brains of the saltwater guides, so I could better understand why they choose one type of flat over the other during the year. Below is a quick recap of information on what I’ve gathered from numerous saltwater guides on this subject.

Fly fishing on saltwater flats is very similar to bass fishing on large reservoirs, in the fact that water temperature is critical in both for consistently locating fish and productive water. Both freshwater and saltwater fish strive to maintain stable underwater enviornments. When water conditions change, so does the habits and behavior of the game fish we’re targeting, as well as, the food sources they prey upon. Fly fisherman that understand this, are quick to match their fishing tactics with the present conditions on the water, because they know it’s critical for staying on top of the fish and in the action.

Light bottomed flats reflect a large portion of the sunlight. When water temperatures are at the extreme end of the comfort zone of saltwater fish, generally during the months of July, August and September, fish will often prefer to frequent light bottomed or sandy coral flats because the water temperatures will be a little cooler. When fly anglers have the option, it can be best to scout and fish these light bottom flats first, over other dark and grassy bottom flats.

On the other hand, when a strong cold front comes through, drastically dropping water temperatures or during the winter months of the year, when water temperatures are consistently colder, saltwater anglers should begin turning their attention more towards scouting and fishing the dark bottomed flats. These dark bottomed, grassy flats,

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Fly Fishing: The Popper-Dropper Rig

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Like a lot of kids, I spent most of my adolescent summers chasing bass and bream on the local creeks and ponds in my area.

Most days, a single rubber-legged popper tied to the end of my leader, was all that I needed to catch fat bream and the occasional lunker bass. On days when the bite slowed, I’d put down my fly rod and head to the neighborhood pool with my best friend Ryan Evans. It didn’t take long for us to get labeled the Huckleberry Finn boys of the neighborhood. We got plenty of strange looks walking through those pool gates, fishing rods in hand, and both wearing cargo shorts with boxers hanging out the tops. Those dirty looks were well worth it, and we learned to shrug them off, because that pool was the perfect place for us to cool down in between our fishing adventures, and it also happened to be one of the best places for us to keep track of the older females. We learned reflective polarized sunglasses weren’t just good for fishing, they also were great for inconspicuously eyeing the older females, walking by in those skimpy bikinis. It was a time in my life when I was relatively stress free, and I had not yet taken on very many responsibilities. Those were the days.

It wasn’t until I started dabbling in trout fishing that I found a way to improve my warm water popper fishing.

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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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Fly Fishing Q&A – What Would Kent Do

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Louis coined the concept WWKD (What Would Kent Do) and it’s been very successful thanks to all of your participation. I picked out three inquiries from the participants and have provided my answers. Let us know how you like this Q&A platform and we’ll continue to use it in the effort to provide you with the content you desire.

Lance Lynch asks:
“You drive a hundred miles to a pristine river. You are so excited to get out and fish but you snap the tip off your rod. No spare rods, a full day ahead of you. WWKD?”

This is a great question because many of us have found ourselves in this situation before. You know how I always talk about carrying extra gear? This is why folks. Stuff like this happens all the time to us. It’s very easy to snap the tip off your rod getting it in or out of your vehicle, or even drop your fly reel on the ground and bend the spool. If you’re a serious fly fisherman, you should always take the time to pack extra gear, especially if you’re going to be traveling long distances to fish. Consider purchasing a inexpensive rod-tip repair kit and keep it in your vehicle and if you have a back up fly rod, pack it as well.

Fuji Rod-Tip Repair Kit
To answer your question, this is what I would do if I didn’t have a rod tip repair kit or a back up fly rod with me. It’s a quick fix, just carefully snip off the broken section as close as possible to your next rod guide with a pair of nippers or pliers. Keep in mind the fly rod won’t cast as nice, and it will catch the fly line some, but you’ll still be able to cast it well enough to make satisfactory presentations and land fish.

Kim Brock asks:
“What is the most important advice that you would give to a new trout angler. WWKD?”

This is a pretty broad question but here are seven tips I stress most with my novice clients.

One, take the time to learn the fundamentals of fly casting so you can learn proper technique. Always watch your backcast when your practicing fly casting and fishing on the water. It will shorten your learning curve, help keep you out of the trees and minimize tangles on the water. You’ll also improve your skill level much quicker overtime by doing this. If you don’t fish all that often, it can be very beneficial for you to practice fly casting a couple of times for 10-15 minutes in the yard before you head out on your fishing trip. Doing so, you’ll feel more comfortable and confident in your fly casting and you’ll have worked out many of your casting flaws.

Two, when you’re trout fishing don’t

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Western Fly Guide for Eastern Anglers

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I get asked all the time by eastern fly anglers heading out west for the first time, what fly patterns they should stock up on before they leave.

What percentage of dry flies to wet flies they should pack, what sizes, and should they pack streamers? The questions go on and on. I get most of the email inquiries from eastern anglers that are fixing to make their summer trip out west during the peak of the terrestrial season. For those that know me, you know that I’m the type of fly fisherman that carries gear for every situation on the water at all times, for the simply fact that I can’t stand being under prepared on the water. Here’s the truth though, if I’m making a trip out west during the terrestrial season, I usually lighten my load significantly and I only carrying the fly patterns that I think I’ll be fishing the most. If I’m going to be making a trip WY, MT, ID or CO I’m going to pack less nymphs, more dry flies and streamers. Colorado is a little more tricky, in which nymphs can play a larger roll than the other western states I mentioned, but if you travel their during the peak terrestrial season, my packing suggestions should work just fine.

Why do I lighten my load this time of year,  you ask? Because the trout generally are easy to convince to rise to the surface and take a dry fly this time of year, and when they don’t want to rise to the surface, they almost always will devour a streamer. It’s not rocket science, the fish are optimistically looking up since a large portion of their food is found floating on or close to the surface during the summer months.

Let’s say I’m traveling to Jackson, WY in August, which is probably the most popular requested area out west that I receive questions about. Below are the fly patterns I will stock up on.

Dry Fly Box (Go Big, Many of these patterns suck up real estate)
Comments: I always pack a extra plano tackle box to hold all my extra flies. Each evening I will replenish the flies out of this box so I’m stocked up for the next day’s fishing. If I’m not witnessing a hatch or fish taking smaller insects on the water, I generally start

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Fishing Mud Lines For Big Fish

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By: Garner Reid


I split my guiding year in half, targeting trout from fall to spring and the rest of the year pursuing summer run striped bass in my local river systems. River run stripers offer their own unique set of challenges for the angler, and definitely for the guide.
When someone gets in my boat for a day of striper fishing, one of the first things I try to explain is where these fish like to hold. I tell them to start out like they are streamer fishing for a big brown trout. When someone is pursuing a new species of fish, like stripers in a river, finding that common thread is the key to angling success.
Just the other week I had the pleasure of guiding a new client who was quite an accomplished angler. Having caught many fish in all the exotic locations that are on my personal bucket list. As we floated down the river it quickly became evident this guy knew how to fish. He was ripping big streamers accurately into all the nasty stuff that a big fish ought to hold in.
This was producing a few nice schoolie sized stripes but nothing huge. Halfway through our float we approached a small feeder creek quartering in at a 45 degree angle to the left of the boat. Heavy rains the night before had the creek dumping chocolate milk into the river. Typically not what a fly fisherman likes to see.
The muddy creek water was thick like oil, being pushed up against the clean water by the current, which carried a defined wall of muddy water down the left side of the river for hundreds of yards.
I rowed the boat into position perpendicular to the creek mouth and dropped anchor, told the guy to make a big cast across the creek mouth and let his fly sink, followed with an aggressive retrieve. A few strips later

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Wade to Win

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Wading is an exciting way to experience saltwater flats fishing for species like bonefish and permit. It offers the angler a more personal, mano y mano, experience with his quarry. There are a few skills you’ll need to master for a quality wading experience. These tips should make walking the flats a breeze.

The Wading Ready Position
While wading the saltwater flats, it’s important to find a good, comfortable ready position. This position will help you be relaxed as you stroll quietly through the shallows. You’ll be ready to make a saltwater quick cast with ease.

Here are some pointers that make up a good wading ready position.

•Have the fly line, coming from the first stripping guide, pinched to the cork with your index finger. This helps to load the rod quickly on your first false cast.

•Hold the fly at the bend of the hook or cradled comfortably in your cupped hand.

•Do not let the fly touch anything, from the start of the cast until you present it to the fish. Some anglers like to drop the fly in the water and then cast. This motion causes all kinds of issues. They usually hook themselves and miss the shot.

•You can tuck the cork handle of the rod under you arm pit with the rod tip sticking out behind you . This is a nice way to relax a little and stretch your hands

Line Management While Wading
Here are a couple of fly line management tips that will help you when wading.

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Tiger Trout

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Wild tiger trout may be the rarest of the trout family.

They are a hybrid of a female brown trout and a male brook trout. They are distinctive, the dark modeled pattern of a brook trout’s back extending down their sides to their belly. This bold pattern won them the name tiger trout. The pattern more closely resembles the coat of an ocelot but I suppose ocelot trout sounds silly.

Browns and brooks are both fall spawners so it’s bound to happen that some big beautiful brown trout catches the eye of an eager brookie but getting a tiger out of the deal is still tricky. A brook trout, being a char, has 84 chromosomes and a brown trout only 80. A fertilized egg will yield a fry only 5% of the time. The resulting tiger trout is sterile so there is no tiger trout to tiger trout reproduction.

The science guys have figured out how to make tiger trout in the lab. They fertilize the brown trout eggs with brook trout milt and then shock them with heat which causes the eggs to mutate adding a chromosome pair and boosting the success rate to 85%. A pretty cool trick but why would you do it?

Well, it turns out that the tiger isn’t just in the stripes. Tiger trout have the attitude to boot. They are aggressive piscivores and grow quickly, eating every smaller fish they can. For that reason they have proven to be an effective tool for controlling invasive species. Since they are sterile, there is

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Fishing Fast

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By Owen Plair

There are a lot of situations where fishing fast is the difference in getting an eat or the fish not seeing your fly.

Either because the fish is very close to the boat, or moving at an angle where you only get one cast. When it comes to sight fishing, we’ve all had that surprise fish. That one fish that seems to come out of the magical hat in a split second, 30ft of the skiff. There isn’t much time to present a fly to those close distance, or magic hat fish, but here are a few things that will have you prepared for fishing fast, and putting more magic hat fish on the fly.


The first, and most important, rule is being ready and aware on the bow. Keep 6-9 ft of fly line out of the tip of your rod while holding your leader or fly in your line hand. This is called the ready position and it’s key to getting a good first cast off. Keeping 6-9 ft of fly line out of the tip of your rod will help your rod load faster on the first casting stroke and allowing you to get that short distance between 20-30ft of fly line out very fast. Sometimes that 6-9ft of fly line along with a 9-12ft leader is all you need for an up close, in your face shot at a fish. Holding your fly or leader keeps the fly ready to fish, instead of dangling in the water getting the chance to hook up on the bottom or on a piece of grass when you go to cast.

Line management is a big part of being ready to fish fast. Make sure you always have enough fly line stripped out from the reel, usually safe with 30-60ft, maybe more or less depending on the fishing scenario. Most shots are between 30-60ft in your average sight fishing situation, so no need to strip out your entire fly line off the reel. That will just cause more heartache with tangles, especially on a windy day.

You want to have your line in a safe area, where there nothing to snag. Whether it’s on the bow, in a stripping bucket, or on the floor of the skiff. Your fishing partner can help with line management while fishing and also going bare foot on the bow will keep you from standing on line. In the colder months wear thick socks!

Understanding how to read the water, and spot fish will help you greatly. The thing I find works best is

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Tom Rosenbauer’s 8 Tips to Becoming a Better Fly Fisher

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Tom is the author of nearly two dozen books on fly fishing and too many articles to count. Add to that his podcast and posts on Orvis News and it’s fair to call him one of the leading educators in the field. Tom’s been an angler his whole life and was tying flies commercially when he was just fourteen. He has fished all over the world, including the English chalk streams, Christmas Island, and Kamchatka. He invented stuff you use every time you fly fish, like the magnetic net keeper and tungsten beads for fly tying.

Tom is now the Marketing Director for Orvis and a driving force in the rejuvenation of that great brand. A few people know that he also makes his own chocolate from the beans, which is incredibly technical not to mention amazingly delicious. He’s a hell of a nice guy and a good friend.

Tom has a lot to share on the subject of fly fishing so we asked him for some broad strokes. Some basic tips that will help you be a better and more satisfied angler. Here’s what he got back to us with.

Tom Rosenbauer’s 8 Tips To Becoming a Better Fly Fisher:

1. Observe everything. Look around every time you catch a fish and figure out why it was there and why it ate at that particular time. Look at the sun angle, the surrounding terrain, current threads in rivers, or highways on the flats.

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