Who’s Your Buddy?

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What makes a good angler a great angler?

Fly fishing is a life long pursuit. That may be what I love the most about it. No matter how good you become, there is always a next level. Around every bend some new revelation. A lifetime of learning. For me, that’s the secret to happiness. Learn something new every day.

I always consider my fishing a work in progress. I never think of it in terms of what I have achieved, rather what’s next. This is in no way false modesty. Life has taught me that I have plenty to learn, whatever the subject. I clearly remember being, what I call, an adolescent angler. Knowing enough to be dangerous and too little to be content. Desperately seeking the next level. But how do you get there? I did it by getting lost.

I was excited about my new Toyota 4 Runner. It had been a while since I’d had four wheel drive and I knew it was going to open up some new water for me. On a crisp winter morning my wife and I hit the road to do some exploring. We followed one Forest Service road after another farther and farther into the North Georgia mountains, snow covering our tire tracks.

In my enthusiasm, I failed to keep up with a few of our turns and at some point had to stop and give the map a good study. Just as I was thinking it would have been smart to have brought food, a green pickup pulled up along side. A friendly fellow in a ball cap bearing the Fish Hawk logo asked if he could help. Dan Flynn would become one of my best friends and we fished together almost every week for years.

Dan is a fly fishing machine. His knowledge of Georgia and North Carolina trout water is endless. Especially the native brook trout streams. I learned more that first year crawling through mountain laurel with Dan than I’d learned in a lifetime of fishing on my own. It was with Dan I caught my first real trophy trout. Twenty-five inches. A great fish for a small Georgia stream. I remember him saying, “fish of a lifetime.”

I owe Dan a great many debts. Not only for what I learned from him and for his friendship but for so many great friends who would follow. It was through him that I met Kent, who continues to school me on a regular basis. And through Kent I met Joel Dickey and Bruce Chard, the guys that taught me the salt. And through Bruce I have met, well, just about everyone in the business. I wouldn’t be where I am without these guys.

So here’s my point. We spend a lot of time selecting our gear, choosing the water, tying the flies, setting up the boat. There’s endless talk about waders and boots and reels and lines. Don’t forget that the most important piece of the puzzle is the guy standing next to you. Choose your fishing buddies

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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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Hellgrammite, The King Kong of Aquatic Insects

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I was on the water trout fishing the other day, when my buddy Erik Ashlin said, “it was just about this time last year, when all the hellgrammites began crawling into the shallows to begin their pupation.

Let me flip over a rock and see if I can find one real quick, these guys are wicked looking”. No joke, the first rock Erik turned over, this freaking giant 3″ Hellgrammite was laying there with its jaws of life (mandibles) snapping. It was very clear it was gesturing, “come on, get closer…, let me get a piece of you”!

If you ever get the opportunity to examine a big Hellgrammite up close, there will be no doubt in your mind that the Hellgrammite is the King Kong of all aquatic insects. Be careful handling them because they can pack one hell of a painful pinch capable of breaking the skin. Hellgrammites are like a five course meal in terms of food value to trout. I’d lay a bet they pack every bit as much caloric worth as sculpins and crayfish do. Great times to fish hellgrammite imitations are during high flows after heavy rains. During these conditions, they often get dislodged from under rocks and swept down stream. Hellgrammites are also very vulnerable during behavioral drifts, when the larva are searching out new feeding grounds or better water conditions.

If you’re trying to tempt a trophy brown trout, rainbow trout, or smallmouth bass into eating, you can’t go wrong with a hellgrammite imitation. That being said, Hellgrammites shouldn’t be used as your everyday searching pattern. Somedays you’ll find

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Casting Distance Does Play A Factor In Success

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Saltwater fly fishing often calls for long accurate casts for the chance of success, and quite often it holds just as true on your favorite trout streams. Of the countless hours I’ve spent guiding my trout clients the past ten years, I’ve witnessed over and over again, how important just a couple more feet of distance can be in getting a trout to eat. You just can’t always approach a hole and make a routine short cast. Often no matter how stealthy you are, you’ll spook the fish if you try getting closer. Occasionally, obstacles such as low hanging trees can make it impossible to get the proper casting angle unless your standing farther away. Other times you may run into a situation where different current speeds between you and your target require a longer cast to get an adequate drag free drift. That’s why it’s so important for fly anglers to get comfortable making above average casts. I’m not saying you have to be able to bomb out eighty feet of line, or that you’ll have to make super long casts all the time either. I’m just saying, there are times when you won’t be fishing that angler friendly pocket water that just calls for short roll casts and quick high-stick drifts. You need to be prepared to make longer casts when the need arises. Believe it or not, quite often trout will follow your flies down stream a good ways before deciding to eat. If your fly gets too close to you the trout will often see you and won’t eat. Making a longer presentation will provide that buffer zone for the trout to inspect and eat without seeing you. Remember that trout don’t have eyes in the back of their head as well. If you don’t get … Continue reading

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Spring Bass Tactics for Southern Appalachian Lakes

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Spring Bass Fishing Tactics for fly anglers interested in Southern Appalachian reservoirs.  There’s tons of lakes readily available for fly fisherman to catch bass throughout the Southern Appalachian region. Unfortunately, these lakes aren’t your two-acre farm pond in your backyard or subdivision that you grew up fishing as a kid—they’re multi-thousand acre reservoirs that can be extremely challenging to learn how to fly fish. Fly Fishing Reservoirs starts with fishing the correct areas. Fly fishing for bass on public reservoirs is much like trying to find a needle in a haystack. If you don’t have a general idea of where the needle is located, your chances of finding it are slim to none. To be successful fly fishing lakes, you’ll have to quickly be able to eliminate areas of the lake where the bass aren’t located and then narrow your focus to small areas of the lake that provide bass what they need. Bass need the following: suitable habitat, satisfactory food and comfortable water conditions (water temperature & water depth). All these change depending on the season. In our case, we’ll be focusing on what bass need during the spring. Just like in trout fishing, bass fishing is all about bypassing unproductive water and spending your time fishing the productive water. Eighty percent of the bass on the lakes will be found in 20 percent of the water. If you want to catch them, you’ll need to maximize your time fly fishing the correct water. A Quality map of the lake is critical Keep in mind, all maps aren’t created equal (and many are total crap). The map you want to buy needs to have enough detail on it that you can get a clear picture of what the lake looks like underwater and what types of cover it has. … Continue reading

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Orvis Pro Waders: Video

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The new Orvis Pro Wader are both tough and feature rich.

The new Pro Wader from Orvis makes some big claims. Test show it to be the most puncture resistant wader o the market. New materials and cut make it a great choice for the athletic angler. Cool new features, like built in knee pads, make it innovative and practical. If you’re in the market for waders, the new Orvis Pro is worth a look,


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Drop-Offs Are Trout Hot-Spots

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Adjacent – just before, after, lying near; neighboring

Drop-offs located adjacent to shallow water are trout magnets.

The slower moving water and cover found downstream of drop-offs are the two main reasons trout are drawn here. If you’re looking for super consistent water where you can almost always find trout, you should be searching out dropoffs on your streams and rivers where shallow water transitions into deeper water. The more significant (larger the area) the stretch of shallow water is, the more appeal the adjacent drop-offs will have over trout, especially when the shallow water upstream or downstream holds very little cover.

I regularly float over a long stretch of shallow unproductive water on my home tailwater. It’s about 200 yards long, calf deep at best, and it’s completely barren of any form of trout cover. The trout hate this section of the river because they’re sitting ducks to predators looking for an easy meal, and there’s nowhere for the trout to find refuge out of the excessive current. I’d say it’s a completely worthless piece of water on the river, but the fact is, it does serve a valuable purpose for us fly anglers. This long stretch of desolate trout water, makes it’s neighboring drop-offs and

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Time To Un-Match The Hatch

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By Johnny Spillane

Now that is a hatch!

Every year around mid April we start to see Blue Wing Olives on the Green River below Flaming Gorge. Most years the hatch is amazing, some years it is truly epic. This was one of those years. The best part about it, there is no chance to “match the hatch.”

When there are too many bugs on the water, yours gets lost in the numbers. Try throwing something 3-4 sizes bigger than what the naturals are and 9 times out of ten it will be more productive than a perfect imitation.

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Bonefish Toe

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By John Byron

Huh? Bonefish toe? Yup, it’s a thing.

Fishing last month at Beyond The Blue, South Caicos. Four companions/new friends from Connecticut, all experienced on bonefish. One-hundred percent wading all day long.

Fifth day one of us, Mark, came up lame mid-day, his big toe bothering him a lot. Swollen. Puffy. A color somewhere between beet red and puce. Toenail gray and iffy. Day six he stayed in port, barely able to hobble around. 

Bonefish toe. 

If you wade fish and wear most any wading boot, the danger is the toenail on your big toe catching the top inside of the boot and pushing it backwards into your toe. Five of us fishing —

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2 Guys, 1 Trout

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I always enjoy fly-fishing more when it’s a team sport.

I think that’s why I enjoy saltwater fly fishing so much. The interaction between guide and angler creates something special. A shared accomplishment and a shared reward. Not unlike some of my best days of trout fishing, when a buddy and I might have figured out a tough fish and worked together to catch him.

When fishing small water, it’s customary for me and my friends to take turns fishing. It’s more effective than having a foot race to the honey hole and a lot more fun. Some days it’s more about the conversation than the fish, and thats fine. Fishing is almost like therapy and fishing friends are often therapist or priests hearing confession.

Some days, and for some fish, it’s about combining your wits to out fox an educated fish. Those are the fish I enjoy the most, whether the rod is in my hands or my buddy’s. I think it ties into the reason I enjoy fishing in the first place. The connection it gives me to my human nature. Practicing the skills that put food on the table for millennia and made our species what it is. I firmly believe that team work is chief among those skills.

Justin and I did this not too long ago. I was the one taking up position in the bushes where I could spy on our target, a big educated brown in shallow water. Justin would have to make a long, pin-point cast upstream to avoid spooking the fish. The fish was shifting position constantly and from his position Justin couldn’t see him. It was up to me to guide his cast.

It was a tough setup. Even putting the fly near the fish without landing it in a tree was a challenge. Several times I had Justin

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