Fly Fishing: Don’t Turn Your Cheek, Pay it Forward

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The other day I had the opportunity to guide a client who previously had put down his fly rod for many years.

As he put on his waders and boots, and I began rigging the rods, he told me that many of his good friends were avid fly fisherman. Problem was, they had made it clear to him that they preferred he didn’t tag along with them, because they didn’t want to waste their precious fly fishing time teaching a beginner. I felt bad for the guy. He had been painted an outcast by his own buddies, and every year that went by, it made it harder and harder for him to pick up his fly rod. With a comforting grin on my face, I replied, “Man, I really wish you would have called me sooner. We could have nipped this in the butt a long time ago.”

During our hike in to the river, I decided my mission for the day was

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Don’t Put Off Your Bucket List

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On more occasions than I care to count I have found myself the subject of judgment if not out right scorn from strangers, colleagues and even family over the amount of time I spend fishing. Sound familiar? Chances are, if you fish as much as I do you’ve run into the odd individual who, for what ever reason, feels that you owe them an explanation for what you’ve chosen to do with your life. I’ve seen people galled that I am “wasting my life”. Folks, sometimes visibly angry with me when I tell them I spend well over a hundred days a year on the water, demanding an explanation. As if they were a disappointed parent. This used to irritate me but I have come to see this jealousy as an opportunity to have some fun at their expense. I taunt them a little. I draw them in and let them get really comfortable with the idea that I am a worthless fool and they are setting me straight before I explain it. And because I don’t like being judged I enjoy watching their faces drop when they hear the answer.

My father was a pilot. He had his pilot’s license at fourteen but he had already been flying for years. He flew the F86 for the Air Force. He could do things with a plane that scared the pants off of experienced pilots. He was truly gifted and he loved it. It was his purpose for living. When he got out of the service he could have flown for a living but his father had started a business and asked him to come to work for him. He would have done anything for his Dad so he did and he hated it every day.

He chain smoked and after suffering a heart attack in his forties, reluctantly, he gave up his pilot’s license. He put his energy into golf. He was always athletic and competitive. He loved to gamble and always won. Gambling, it seems is only a problem if you lose. My brother tells the story of seeing my father win fifteen-hundred dollars on a single hand of cards then give the money to the local girl scout leader to take the girls to camp. That’s how he was. When he passed away about all he owned were his clothes, an old Chevy and his golf clubs. His family and friends never wanted.

At fifty-nine my father had all he could take and

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Fly Fishing: Respect Thy Tarpon Guide

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I respect tarpon guides a great deal. As a trout guide, I run into many of the same struggles they do on the water, but tarpon guides have to deal with managing them at the extreme level. They spend their days on the water guiding in some of the most demanding and technical fly fishing conditions on the planet, and to make things worse, many of their clients have never experienced the saltwater fishing conditions before in their life. Getting the job done, day in and day out, is rarely easy for a tarpon guide. I imagine there’s plenty of silent prayers being made on those poling platforms, begging for a starving fish to show itself at just the right angle, and that a good presentation follows.

Friends that guide for tarpon tell me of occasional periods where the skunk doesn’t leave the boat for days at a time. Hookups that are short lived, are the only thing that keep them sane and focused on the prize. It’s not that they aren’t spotting fish and getting plenty of opportunities during the day. Most of the time, their hands are clean and the skunk falls on the operators standing on the bow. It’s hard to hit your targets if you haven’t taken the time to sight-in your fly rod before you begin the hunt (pre-trip casting preparation). Consequently, a large percentage of the fish catching opportunities witnessed by tarpon guides fizzle out before they can materialize, from presentations missing their intended targets. And don’t get me started on the unstable emotions that plague newcomers to chasing tarpon on the fly. That’s a whole-nother can of worms. I’ve been on the bow many times, where I completely fell apart after locking eyes with a 100+ pound poon.

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Restore an Old Bamboo Fly Rod #2: Video Series

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Matt Draft is back for part two of our video series on how to restore an old bamboo fly rod.

Today Matt will cover two approaches to restoring a rod and show you hoe to map out the rod and mark important features so everything goes back together like it should. Whether you choose to do a faithful restoration or a modern update, these important steps will ensure that your project goes smoothly.

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Concentration, Relaxation and Communication Equal Better Bonefishing

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By Louis Cahill

Concentration, Relaxation and Communication. I wish I could claim those words.

I’m quoting Jose Sands, bonefish guide at Andros South Bonefish Lodge. That was his answer when I asked what he thought was the key to successful bonefishing. As usual, he nailed it.

Plenty of anglers are frustrated or intimidated by bonefish. Bonefishing is a complex game with a lot of moving parts and all too often what should be a simple formula breaks down completely. When that happens it’s usually because one or more elements in Jose’s recipe are missing. It’s easier said than done but if you can accomplish these three things, the pieces start to fall into place.


Most saltwater fishing is a team sport. Whether fishing with friends or a guide, you are generally depending on someone else to help you find fish and make a good presentation. Things happen quickly and everyone needs to be on the same page and communicating efficiently to make it work.

There are some universal ideas that everyone needs to understand in order to have good communication. Understanding the bow clock, for instance. When your guide tells you there is a fish at eleven o’clock, forty feet, moving right, it should be a simple thing to find that fish. You learn pretty quickly however, that everyone’s forty feet is not the same and even your guide will occasionally lose track of where eleven o’clock is.

It pays to take a minute at the start of the day to pick an object like a mangrove sprout and decide how far away it is. That helps you calibrate for the day. I find that guides often call out distances that seem much farther than I think is realistic. Not because they don’t know how far away the fish is, but because we are looking at it from very different perspectives. Mine on the bow, and there’s, from the platform at the back of the boat. It’s also worth the time it takes to look at the bow of the boat and confirm where twelve o’clock actually is before you waste a lot of time looking for fish in the wrong spot.

Guides will also use terms like “drop the fly” and “shoot the fly,” to indicate how it should be presented. Drop means you are already carrying enough line for a good presentation, while shoot indicates that you need to let some line go on your delivery. These kinds of directions vary from guide to guide, so take the time to ask early on. It’s impossible to over emphasize the importance of good communication.

I have about a 40% hearing loss and it’s a huge challenge for me. I remind my guide several times during the start of the day that I am deaf as a post. No guide likes to shout in the presence of bonefish but if I can’t hear their direction we both wind up frustrated.


The thing I enjoy the most about bonefishing is the same thing that makes it so difficult.

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Facebook, A Matter of Life and Death

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“Gone Fishing! Great way to start the New Year with a little father / son outing.”

That’s what Harry Murray’s Facebook status read on New Year’s day. I was thrilled, and confused. You see, I had heard through the fly fishing grapevine the Harry had passed away. For those of you who do not know, Harry is the Dean of Virginia fly fishing. Although I don’t know Harry personally we have a lot of connections. His fly shop in Edinburg, VA opened in 1962, the year I was born. My grandfather knew Harry and frequented his shop back when it was a pharmacy. (Harry is a pharmacist who ended up in the fly fishing business.) I still have some of Harry’s flies in the old pill bottles he used to pack them in. It was Harry who introduced my good friend Gary Lacey to bamboo rod making. Gary is now one of the best rod makers in the world and taught me to make rods fifteen years or so ago. When I heard that he had passed I couldn’t believe it. I just wasn’t ready for a world without Harry Murray.

It made me think of the morning last year when I answered my phone at eight a.m. To hear my good friend Andrew Bennett, breathless on the other end. He wasn’t really talking and it was clear something was wrong. It spooked me because Andrew is as tough a guy as you are likely to meet. Not easily shaken up. “Are you alright?”

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Get Your Strip Set Right Every Time: Video

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Remembering to strip set is the hardest thing for anglers new to saltwater fly fishing.

It’s absolutely crucial in saltwater angling to use a strip set. If you lift the tip of your rod at all, known as trout setting, you will not get the hook into the hard mouth of any saltwater fish. It’s hard for beginners though. When the fish eats, muscle memory takes over and the body does what it’s used to doing. If you’re a trout angler, that’s a trout set.

More saltwater fish are lost as a result of weak hook sets than anything else. When I teach my bonefish schools I work with students to be sure they have the pressure right. I hold the line and have them set the hook several times, telling them when they are using the right amount of force. It’s like a firm handshake. Enough to say your serious but not enough to start a fight.

Even with this practice it’s hard to fight the muscle memory and put it all together when the fish eats. I tell my students to say “strip set” out loud every time they strip the fly. It feels silly but I have never seen it fail. If you say “strip set” you will strip set. It’s a great device to keep your head in the game.

Watch this video to see me make a good strip set and get some pointers on getting it right.

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My Favorite Bonefish Reel

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Best of all it only cost $285

I remember standing on the beach at Andros South watching my buddy Bruce Chard teaching his annual bonefish school. Bruce was illustrating for a first timer what he should expect when he encountered a bonefish. He held the line and let the student feel how hard he should strip set, then he took off running down the beach a fast as he could. The student did a good job of clearing the line and getting Bruce on the reel but I’ll never forget the look on his face when Bruce turned and ran straight back toward him. He stood slack jawed, line piled up at his feet while Bruce and I laughed.

That’s exactly what a bonefish will do to you. They can swim thirty miles per hour and at some point, as they go ballistic and criss cross the flat they’ll head straight for you. You had better be ready to pick up some line in a hurry. The first time it happened to me I struggled. My reel wouldn’t pick up the line and I resorted to stripping it in by hand. My guide told me to, “get rid of that trout reel.” Of course, it wasn’t a trout reel but it clearly wasn’t a bonefish reel either.

The next time I went bonefishing I had to be better prepared. I knew I needed a reel with a really large arbor but didn’t relish the idea of dropping the cash on another new bonefish reel. Fortunately there was another solution. I had a Nautilus NV Ten-Eleven, a great salt water reel. I bought the Nautilus G-8 spool for it. The G stands for Giga. This spool turned my Ten-Eleven into a super large arbor eight.

It’s a brilliant product. The spool is fast and easy to change and really gives the reel some power to pick up line with it’s 4.25″ arbor. It’s highly vented so the line dries quickly, which cuts way down on the chance that you spool will corrode from holding wet line. It’s light (7.2 oz) and holds 225 yards of 30 lb backing with an eight weight line. It lets me take

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Scientific Anglers Amplitude Bonefish Line: Review

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By John Byron

Looking for the perfect bonefish line? Good luck. Ain’t no such thing. But a really good line for bonefish, those are out there in growing numbers. 

With COVID kicking trips into next year and restricted access to the flats, the driven bonefish chaser then turns to gear. I did. In good shape on rods and reels, I set out to find the best flyline for my eight-weight. 

I’ve found one I really like, Scientific Anglers Amplitude Bonefish with AST-Plus. 

I have been fishing Rio lines and good they are. 

Early days I fished the Bonefish Quickshooter — one weight heavy out of the box and with a short, compact head, it’s ideal for the beginner to fight the wind and learn the short shots. Caught a lot of bonefish with the Quickshooter and it’s still my choice for big winds.
I then moved up (as I saw it) to a Rio DirectCore Flats Pro with the six-foot Stealth Tip. A bit overweight and front-end loaded like the Quickshooter but not as much. Caught a bunch of bonefish with that line too. But … both these excellent lines are a bit splashy when they hit the water, not the perfect presentation. 
So I then moved on to the Rio DirectCore Bonefish line and I really like it. Haven’t fished it on the flats yet, but did spend a ton of time practice casting as I describe below. Verdict? It is a splendid line. Lays out nicely and I’d be happy using it in all but heavy wind.
But then my new penpal Ákos Szmutni in Hungary (he’s building a Stickman T7 for me) suggested I try other lines, including one from Scientific Anglers. I looked at the SA profiles and though I didn’t order the specific one Ákos recommended, I did find one that looked even better. It’s the line that’s subject of this review and I think it’s super. Thank you Ákos.

My test runs were not those fancy shootouts with expert casters measuring all of a line’s esoteric dimensions under perfect conditions. No, I just went out on my dock and tried these lines over and over until I felt I knew what I had. 


Venue: small dock on an east-west canal off the Banana River, open water for about seventy feet to my neighbor’s dock.
Rod: Scott Sector eight-weight.
Leader: twelve-foot with typical weighted bonefish fly.
Casting: right-hand caster, to the east into the wind.
Wind: sometimes flat calm, sometimes into the coastal sea breeze maybe 15/20 MPH wind (gets much higher, I’d use my nine-weight with faithful old Rio Quickshooter line).

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Don’t Tread on my Redd

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Brown trout and brook trout spawn in the fall and rainbow and cutthroats in the spring. Exact spawning times vary a bit from region to region and year to year but that’s the gist of it. Chubs, suckers, shiners, sculpins and other baitfish that make up an important part of the trouts diet are spawning all through the cooler months as well.

Trout lay their eggs in gravel. This gravel is key to the fry’s survival. They will find a spot where there is a consistent flow of well oxygenated water with a consistent depth of a foot or so, out of direct sun. The female will use her tail to clean the silt from a patch of gravel creating a redd where she will lay her eggs.

Fish do not hatch like birds or reptiles. They sort of pop out on top of the egg which stays attached to their belly and serves as a source of nutrition until the fry is big enough to forage for food. These sack fry are quite vulnerable. They hover over the redd and when predators approach they disappear into the gravel for protection.

Trout will generally move to the headwaters of streams to spawn but redds can be found anywhere the conditions are right. They appear as bright spots of clean gravel from one to three feet in diameter. Some are pronounced when surrounded by silt. In places where the gravel is clean they can be subtile depressions in the stream bed.

As anglers we must be aware of the presents of redds and wade with care. Stepping in redds can spoil eggs or crush sack fry hiding in the gravel and seriously effect trout reproduction. Even baitfish redds should be

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