Deep and Slow

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By Alice Tesar

The biggest mistake folks make during spring shoulder season in the Rocky Mountains is heading to the desert to mountain bike. I enjoy biking – just like any angler, it gets me to the fishing hole when my car is in the shop. With that said, fishing during runoff should be embraced and not run (or biked) from.

Not only are the rainbows making moves up your favorite tributaries, but larger trout are more willing to go for your fly, because they feel protected by the murky water. You may observe that the icy water from the snow melt has slowed the midge hatch from your winter fishing days. Even the BWO hatches, while present, aren’t magnificent here in NW CO.

I stick to two setups this time of year:

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The Road To DIY Bonefish

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If I live to be a hundred, I’ll never forget the first bonefish I caught on my own.

I can’t tell you how rewarding it was to wade a flat and feel like I knew where the fish would be and when. To have all the skills I needed to hook and land the fish once I found them. It came together so perfectly, it didn’t seem real. Of course I was very fortunate.

Very fortunate to have good friends who are rock star flats guides. Fortunate to have friends who owned bonefish lodges. It’s ridiculous the situation I stumbled into. Well, maybe I didn’t exactly stumble into it. I made myself useful, but there was still more good fortune involved than I deserve.

Of course, that’s not an option for everyone. I know there are a lot of folks out there who would like to get into the bonefish game and find it pretty damn daunting. That’s why I write so much bonefish content and teach my bonefish schools, to try and give back some of what I’ve been so generously given.

A reader wrote to me about how challenging his first DIY bonefish trip was. It got me thinking. I’ve written a lot of specifics about bonefishing, but I’ve never addressed the long view. The road to becoming a successful DIY bonefish angler. So I thought I’d try.

SOME IDEAS AND SUGGESTIONS ON LEARNING TO CATCH BONEFISH

Acceptance

There are some things about this game you are just going to have to accept. First on that list is that DIY bonefishing will always be a compromise. Unless you are willing to scrap your life and move somewhere there are bonefish, buy a boat and quit your job, there will always be fishing that is unavailable to you. That shouldn’t be a big deal. There is still plenty of great fishing you can do. You may face more educated fish and you may not catch a lot of 10+ pounders but you can catch bonefish on your own and have a great time doing it.

You are also going to have to accept that it’s damned hard and you’re going to suck for a while. You can’t pick up the violin and start playing Beethoven. Don’t get discouraged. If you are dead set on learning on your own, without hiring a guide or going to a lodge, it is going to be a slow and painful process. Don’t beat yourself up. If you can’t find bonefish, catch some snapper or ladyfish and call it a win. Enjoy walking the flats and learning about what lives there.

You will also have to accept that it’s an expensive proposition. Even if you don’t hire a guide, for most of us bonefishing involves travel. The gear is not cheap. Seriously, I have nothing to sell you, but the fact is that cheap rods, reels, lines and clothing are a mistake. You are taking your gear and yourself into the harshest fishing environment possible. Guides will rust and break, drags will lock up, lines will separate, and best of all, you’ll fry your brain or get skin cancer if you go out with the wrong gear. Shop smart, buy second hand, whatever it takes, but quality gear pays for itself.

Educate yourself

Soak up everything you can before you go. You are already at one of the best places on the web to learn bonefishing. I’ll provide some links to suggested reading below, but just Google (Gink Bonefish). There’s a weeks worth of reading and videos right there. I enthusiastically recommend Rod Hamilton’s book, DIY Bonefishing. It’s a great resource for learning to catch bonefish as well as planning a successful trip, including detailed info on productive flats. It’s a must read.

You can’t learn it all by reading. You can get

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Build Your Own Fly Rod: DIY Video 6

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Our DIY fly rod is getting close to finished.

Perfectly fitted reel seat hardware is an absolute must for a quality build. In this weeks video Matt Draft, of Proof Fly Fishing, shows us how the pros fit and secure a reel seat with precision. Follow these simple steps and you’re rod will look and fish perfectly.

There’s only one more video in this series so, if you’re thinking about building your own fly rod, now would be a good time to take advantage of Matt’s special offer of free shipping for G&G readers. Once the series is over, so is the offer, so check our the kits at Proof Fly Fishing.

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Matching the Hatch With Streamers

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By Louis Cahill

Imitation and presentation, even with streamers.

It was a bluebird day and we were launching the boat about 9 AM. No need to get moving any earlier with the chilly morning and the generation schedule. We’d run shuttle and be on the water at quarter to ten and ride the falling water for most of the day. The high pressure was certainly less than ideal but flows were on our side and everyone was just happy to get on the water for a day we might actually end up in shirt sleeves.

I took the first shift on the oars, while Jason Tucker went to work figuring out what would get eaten. We were not getting a lot of encouragement from the fish. Jason tried dries, nymphs and streamers, picking up a couple of fish but not finding anything working consistently. When it was my turn to fish I went to work with a gray and white Double Cougar. I got a few chases right away but no takers.

“What color do you like?” Jason asked, digging through his box.

“I always fish white here on high water,” I replied

I an, of course, aware that my whole approach to the day runs contrary to conventional wisdom. Throwing a big white streamer in bright sun on the front end of a high pressure system is not usually a recipe for success, but

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Light Where You Need It

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The sun has dipped below the horizon and the evening chill is in the air.

You’ve got maybe thirty more minutes to fish if you push it. The hatch is on and you can hear fish rising all around you as you struggle in the waning light to change your fly. The fish keep rising and so does your blood pressure but the eye of the hook continues to evade you.

That sounds familiar doesn’t it? I know my eyes aren’t what they used to be. I’ve used a clip on head lamp for years but it frustrates me. When I lift my head to look through my bifocals the light is shining over my hands and I always feel like I’m spooking fish with that lighthouse on my hat. Then I saw my niece and nephew playing with their Christmas stockings. They had the answer to my problem. Finger lights! They slip right on to your finger with an adjustable elastic band and put ample light right where you need it to tie on flies. Best of all

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Fly Fishing Karma

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The feeling of losing a big trout can be heart breaking, especially when it’s a fish of a life time, but it happens to all of us, some just more than others. Most of the time fish are lost because of angler error during the fight, but every once in a while, there’s really no clear identifiable explanation, and all we can do to move forward with a positive attitude, is believe some fish just aren’t meant to be caught. Recently, I had a day on the water where the fly fishing was absolutely epic but no matter how hard my client and I tried, we kept unbuttoning our best fish right before I could get a net on them. At the end of the day, when all the cards had been laid out, I had an epiphany. Below is a break down of the day and my new theory on why certain fish are lost and others are landed.

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Little Things Matter: On The Water Tippet

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By Bob Reece

Successful anglers are built out of sounds habits. 

Those habits focus not only on the large aspects of fly fishing but also on the small.  Within the realm of those petite practices is being aware of the status of your tippet when you’re on the water. 

Your tippet is often the weakest link between a fly that hooks fish and the line that runs through your rod.  Due to this fact, it is critical to check the state of that material as you move through a day of fly fishing.   A lack of due diligence often results in frustration and sometimes heart breaking experiences.  

On a summer adventure with friends, we had been working through an isolated drainage known for its larger than average brown trout.  While fairly open, the typical stream side vegetation of willow and alder were very much present.  During the morning I watched my friend pop his tippet and fly loose from several different alder bushes.  As we arrived at a large run below a waterfall, I asked him if he wanted to tie on a new section of tippet.  My offer was declined.  

After one round of rock, paper, scissors; he won the first cast into the run.  On his second drift a large brown, over two feet long, happily ate his foam offering.  My friend paused and set the hook perfectly.  Sadness and open mouths followed seconds later when his tippet snapped a few feet up from the fly.  With a little inspection, it was easy to see the abrasion to the material that had built up over the course of the morning.

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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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Fish Streamers in Fast Water and Seal the Deal

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Have you ever had a day of streamer fishing when the fish just wouldn’t commit?

I had the mother of those days recently. I was fishing streamers from the boat and was literally getting follows every other cast. That’s great, but the fish just wouldn’t eat the fly. They would charge, swirl, nip and blow up all over it but never eat it. It was frustrating to say the least.

I changed patterns and got the same result. After the twentieth nice brown took a pass, I added a Wooly Bugger as a dropper. No dice. The fish would swim right past the Bugger to ogle the streamer. I switched up my retrieve, all the stuff you should try, and nothing worked. Until I changed the water I was fishing.

I started targeting the fastest water I thought could hold fish and, sure enough, things turned around. I did not slow down my retrieve and, because

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Fly Fishing: Belly Crawling My Way to Big Beautiful Trout

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I know what you’re probably thinking, “Come on Kent, you wrote another freaking post about the importance of stealth for spooky trout? Yes, I did, but this isn’t your average stealth post. Most of us already know spooky trout require anglers to move slow and quietly. We understand how important it is to pay attention to our shadows, to work fish with our leader and fly only, and that delicate presentations are critical. Last, but not least, we’re smart enough to realize that even when luck is on our side, all we’re probably going to get is a couple good shots before the game is over.

Most of the time, if we maintain our stealth in all of the above areas, catching trout isn’t a problem. But from time to time, we do find ourselves on trout streams, when fly fishing conditions are so damn challenging that our standard everyday stealth tactics aren’t enough to get the job done. In order for us to find success in the toughest of conditions, we have to be willing to push our stealth efforts a step further. And that means going above and beyond what other anglers are too lazy or physically unable to do to catch trout. That’s right, I’m talking about dropping to the ground, and crawling on all fours into position to make a cast.

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