What The Little Fish Are Saying

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This post has a soundtrack. Take a second to start the video below.

This post has a soundtrack. Take a second to start the video below.

MAYBE YOUR STATURE AS A FLY FISHERMAN ISN’T DETERMINED BY HOW BIG A TROUT YOU CAN CATCH, BUT BY HOW SMALL A TROUT YOU CAN CATCH WITHOUT BEING DISAPPOINTED. — JOHN GIERACH

Like it or not, I am in the big fish business.

I hate admitting it, but that’s how it started. I carried a camera to take photos of fish and the small ones were not the fish who got photographed. Eventually folks started to buy the photos I took and I found there was a simple equation. The bigger the fish, the faster the sale. That’s a pretty hard-nosed view of fly fishing and I’m not especially proud of it.

Call it skill or luck or hard work, a lot of big fish have come my way. I’m grateful for each of them. I hope there will be many more but I no longer measure myself in inches or pounds of fish. Not because I’m above it or used to it or jaded about it. I still like to catch big fish but I’ve come to understand my place in the equation.

Sometimes I choose the fish. I plan, I strategize, I stalk and pursue. Often, by force of will, I bring the fish to me. Sometimes I choose the fish, but every time the fish chooses me. I think about this when I am swinging a fly for steelhead. Like a practitioner of tai chi, I mind my swing. Seeking always the perfect presentation. Mindful and empty, dreaming not of what was or what may be, simply present in what is.

It is in that moment that the fish chooses me. I accept that all I have done is to make myself available to him. It is not done without skill or planning. It is not an accident. It is the culmination of years of effort but I recognize that it is a culmination for him as well. It is not a thing I have done alone. I have not brought the fish to me, something larger has brought us together.

In that convergence there is something that defies explanation. Among the thousands of fish that have passed in and out of my hands, some are special. I can not always say why. Once in a while a fish connects with me in a way that is deeper than either of us can grasp. There is a convergence of place and time, of hand and heart the sum of which is greater than the two of us.

One of these fish is worth a year of my life. That is

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8 Common Mistakes Anglers Make Fighting Trout

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If I looked backed on my early fly fishing days and had to grade my fish fighting skills, it would yield a discouraging report card.

I lost way more fish than I actually landed during those first few years after picking up a fly rod. I’ll never forget how tense and anxious I was every time I’d find myself hooked up with a nice trout. It seemed like every second of the battle I was terrified that I was going to lose my trophy. In turn, I constantly second guessed my fighting instincts, I wouldn’t follow after my fish if it swam upstream or downstream of me, and I knew very little about the correlation between rod position and applying fighting pressure. Furthermore, I was really clumsy when it came to clearing my excess fly line and reeling in the fish. I always had a hard time figuring out when it was a good time to do that. When all said and done, I bet I only landed one or two fish out of every five fish I hooked during my rookie days. That’s not so hot, probably a D average if I was grading myself extremely leniently. We’ve all been there at some point during our fly fishing career, some of us may even find ourselves with that D average right now. Here’s the positive outlook though, most trout that are hooked and lost during the fight can be linked back to a handful of common mistakes. Yet, most of the time, they all can be easily avoided if you pay close attention to what you’re doing when you’re fighting a trout.

Mistake #1 – Not being in the hook set ready position
I know it sounds elementary, but during my early days, I would often find myself fumbling around with my fly line during my drifts. I didn’t always have my fly line secure in my rod hand, and that usually put me with too much slack in my fly line to pull off a solid hook set. I see anglers all the time during their drifts holding their fly line in their stripping hand only. Bites often come when we least expect them. To increase your chances of getting a good hook set and landing the trout, always make sure you’re in the hook set ready position. Get in the habit of putting the fly line in your index and middle finger on your rod hand immediately after you present your fly. This will have you ready to set the hook the instant you get a bite, and you’ll find your line management will improve.

Mistake #2 – Anglers fail to keep tension after the hook set
Not all the time, but more times than not, trout will swim towards you after being hooked, and it’s critical that you keep your rod tip up and immediately begin stripping in your fly line after the hook set. Doing so, you’ll have a good chance at eliminating the slack and maintaining tension on the fish. Instead of stripping, some fly anglers feel compelled to swing their body around and begin moving away from the fish after setting the hook. This puts the angler out of position, shuffling their feet awkwardly and also doesn’t allow them

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The New Ross San Miguel Fly Reel

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The new San Miguel fly reel from Ross is an update of a classic design.

Sometimes you can’t beat the classics. While the look and feel of the new San Miguel is all classic, there are some definite performance upgrades, like the hidden large arbor.

CHECK OUT THE VIDEO FOR ALL THE DETAILS ON THE NEW SAN MIGUEL.

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Bruce Chard’s A.M. Express, A Great Fly For Baby Tarpon

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Watch the tying video

CATCHING BABY TARPON IS ABOUT AS FUN AS THE LAW ALLOWS.
Even a baby tarpon is a hell of a fish. These little guys are all fight and haven’t learned all the tricks of the grown ups. A thirty pound tarpon offers all the excitement of a hundred pounder with a good bit less humility.

On calm mornings you’ll find them cruising the edges of islands or nosing around rafts of floating grass or rolling in the glass calm water. If your going to catch them you’ll need the right fly. Our buddy Captain Bruce Chard is here to help.

Watch the video and learn to tie Bruce’s A.M. Express.

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The River Is Full Of Want

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By Louis Cahill

“I DON’T DESERVE THAT FISH. I DON’T DESERVE THIS DAY ON THIS BEAUTIFUL RIVER. I DON’T DESERVE TO FISH WITH THESE GOOD MEN.”

I wade out into the rushing water of the Dean, farther than I should. The cold of the water grabs me around the waist. The current tugs at my footing. I feel the pebbles washing out from under my feet as they slide softly downstream against my will, looking for a home. I gather my running line and tuck it under my index finger, then I lift my thirteen-foot rod high into the air, anchoring my fly in the swift current in front of me. The wind blows and a cold mist creeps around my glasses and down my neck. I sweep the rod round, making a big D loop, watching the rod, keeping it loaded, then draw the butt back hard to my chest. I roll the grip clockwise so that the guides face upstream and watch the bright green running line draw shapes in the air against a backdrop of dark clouds, like a kid writing his name with a sparkler on a summer night.

The line disappears through the guides and nearly a hundred feet away I see the splash as my weighted fly meets the river. I mend the line and tell myself that my feet will find something solid as I step with the rush of water, once, twice, three times. On the horizon, just over the big log jam, I can see the silver band of salt, the Pacific. Below the next run and the next, maybe four-hundred yards. The river hasn’t far to go and it’s impatient, running like children to the tree on Christmas morning. They call this run Instant Backing and I know that if my fly finds its mark, I’ll see why. I carry my rod tip upstream until I feel the weight of the river on my line. Slowly I swing the fly, I feel the strength of the water, I wait for the pull, I stare into the river and I want.

***

The Atlantis Restaurant, in Cherry Grove, South Carolina, between Myrtle Beach and Cape Fear, is a stark little beach town pancake house. It is completely unremarkable. Shabby, in fact, but it has always been special to me. Every year, on my family’s Labor Day beach trip, my father and I would slip out to the Atlantis while everyone else was asleep for breakfast. He would have eggs, over easy and bacon and I would have pancakes. Since I was little I loved having breakfast out with my father. Just the two of us in the quiet of the morning. Our complicated relationship worked well, within the simple framework of breakfast.

My father has been gone a long time now but I still find walking into that pancake house comforting. For that reason and to share my memories, I took my wife there a few years back. I got more than pancakes.

The Atlantis is an odd place at best. It doesn’t suffer from any sort of interior decoration, let alone design. The walls are glossy white with blue trim. There are a few photos from some foreign country, maybe Greece, and an aquarium next to the register containing nothing but water and a few turtles. There are some hand drawn signs with a vaguely religious theme. My favorite is a dolphin with a voice bubble that says, “I love Jesus!”

The employees seem to be from somewhere far away too, but I don’t think it’s Greece. There is a young girl, sixteen maybe, who seems particularly distant. Thin and strawberry blond with freckles she has, what combat veterans call, a thousand yard stare. Not vapid exactly but not entirely present. She waits on my wife and me that morning. After my wife orders the girl turns to me. “I want pancakes,” I say smiling. “Really?” she replies as if truly puzzled. After a long pause in which she stares at me as if I were a painting in a museum, she asks,

“What’s it like to want?”

I was completely unprepared for such an existential question before I’d even had my coffee. Not that coffee would help me find the answer, but it does make me a nicer person. I consider the question briefly, on several levels ranging from, “is this the meaning of life” to “are you out of your fucking mind” before deciding on my answer.

“You know, it’s like when you want a tip.”

The pancakes are tasty, in spite of having surely been spit on and I want to think that I’ve put that question to bed, but I haven’t. Far from it. That annoying little teenager had done something to me. I couldn’t get it out of my mind. “What’s it like to want?” For the next few years I carry that question around in my head as a litmus test. I conjure up every blown decision in my life, every misstep that lead to unhappiness and asked myself, “why did I do that?” The answer is always the same. Want.

I look around me and suddenly I see it everywhere. Want. It’s like the air we breath. We are all consumed by want. It’s like the strings on a marionette, once you see them you can’t blot them out. They’re all you see. That little red-headed waif in the apron had looked right through me and knowing only that I like pancakes had said, more or less,

“Here’s your problem, stupid.”

***

The Dean River is moody, the kind of river that kills fisherman, at least one that I know of. It’s fickle and has a temper, not like the elder rivers where I’m from, that found their channels long ago. The Dean is young and impulsive. This week it has leapt from its banks, coming up six feet the day my group arrived. It has decided

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Why All Fly Anglers Should Be Watching Their Back Cast

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No fly angler should ever feel ashamed to watch his/her backcast when fly fishing. In fact, if you make a habit of consistently watching your back cast, you’ll become a much better fly caster overtime and catch a good deal more fish when you’re on the water. Just because Brad Pitt in the movie, A River Runs Through It, didn’t watch his back cast in most of the fly fishing scenes throughout the film, doesn’t mean fly anglers should follow his lead. The best fly casters in the world watch their back cast when presentations call for it. They might not do it all of the time, but they sure as heck don’t think twice about doing so, when a specific presentation calls for it.

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Better Casting for Bonefish

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By John Byron, The Bonefish Beginner 

Tons of great advice out there on how to cast a fly rod. Tons more on how to catch bonefish. 

These two streams of good information come together in the universal charge you read over and over again: hey dummy, practice your casting! 

These days, travel dead, lodges closed, bonefishing a hope for the future, practicing is good therapy and a great opportunity to be a lot more ready when things do open up again. 

Yes it’s true, sometimes you need all the range you can get, heroic throws to the edge of your best abilities. Sometimes too it’s not a cast at all, just a quick flick to put the fly 15 feet from the boat where a fish snuck up on you. 

But what should be the goal of your casting practice to tune you best for the majority of shots? 

I say it’s fifty feet. An honest fifty feet from the reel to the fly where it lands on the water. 

Mark your flyline with a Sharpie at fifty feet, leader included, and leave the rest of the line on the reel when you’re practicing. Hone your casting and aim your practicing to reliably cast fifty feet — all conditions, all directions, all winds. Get good at fifty feet and you’ll catch more bonefish. 

Yes, there are guides who’ll say you’ve gotta be good at everything. The answer is … give me as much time on the water as you get and I will be. 

The rest of us? Let’s work on what gives us the best shot without all those years’ experience. That’s skill at fifty feet.

If you keep the practice range to fifty feet and ease off the long throws, you’ll gain the abilities you need most of your time on the water. Tighten the loops, land the fly softer, end the wind knots, get really comfortable with your gear. 

Probably better at…

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Jesus Built My CCFX2

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Watch the badass video!

WELL, JESUS AND KRISTEN…AND THE REST OF THE CREW AT NAUTILUS.

Last month I while I was down in Miami I stopped in to see my friends Kristen Mustad and Jesus Marmol. My timing couldn’t have been better. In addition to doing a little fishing, I got to see the very first CCFX2 reel to come off the floor. To say it was impressive would be an understatement.

It was cool to get a first hand look at what goes into the making of a quality fly reel. The attention to detail was mind blowing at every level. The guys and gals a Nautilus have their heads in the game. But you don’t have to take it from me, because I shot video of the whole thing. Watch and see for yourself.

Watch, “Jesus Built My CCFX2”

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Flies That Catch Big Trout, The Truth Might Surprise You

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I HAVE DEFINITE IDEAS ABOUT HOW TO CATCH BIG TROUT. APPARENTLY THEY ARE ALL WRONG.

Like every other guy or gal with a fly rod, I have some pretty strong opinions about the kind of flies that catch big fish. These opinions are based on years of experience and experimentation. I have theories about the behavior of big predatory trout and they influence my tying and my fishing. These ideas are proven out by countless hours on the water. At least that’s what I thought.

Regular G&G readers will know that I am a confirmed streamer junkie. I make no apologies for it. I love fishing streamers and I believe wholeheartedly that big flies catch big fish. Here’s the problem: without knowing it, for the last eight or ten years I’ve been proving myself wrong.

I am not a fish counter. I’m not a trophy hunter. I like catching big fish but I do not possess a single mount or even a catch-and-release painting. Not surprisingly, I don’t even have a lot of photos of myself with fish. Most of the fish I catch, if they are photographed, are in someone else’s hands. The truth is that I am just fundamentally more interested in the next fish than I am the last fish.

What I do, on very rare occasions, is keep a fly. Once in a while I’ll catch a fish that’s special. It’s always a big fish but there’s usually something extra that makes it special. The color or fins, or maybe where I caught it or who I was with. It happened the other day in Alaska. I was fishing with my good buddy Bruce Chard and guide Jeff Forsee on the Kanektok river at Alaska West. On literally the last cast of the day I hooked and landed a rainbow in the ten- to twelve-pound range. A beautiful and perfect Alaska rainbow.

It was a great fish by any standard but

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Top 10 Redfish Flies

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THERE ARE HUNDREDS OF REDFISH PATTERNS FLOATING AROUND OUT THERE.

All the way from Florida to Texas anglers and tyers are hard at work designing patterns to fool redfish. Most of them imitate the crabs, shrimp, and baitfish that make up the majority of the redfish diet. The great thing about redfish patterns is, for the most part, they are pretty darn simple fly and easy to tie. It’s one saltwater fish that isn’t very picky. Redfish are aggressive enough to take just about anything that’s swimming in front of them. The key to choosing a fly for redfish, like most fish, is knowing what they’re eating that time of year, as well as water clarity, and how active the fish are in their current situation on the flats. There are tons of awesome redfish patterns and it’s not easy to pick a top 10 but here are 10 of my favorite commercial Redfish Patterns.

#10 Kinky Muddler

Big bait, big fly. This is a go to pattern during the warmer months when Redfish are feeding on finger mullet. The low tide flats seem to fill up with mullet and the redfish take full advantage of the buffet. This is one of the best all around finger mullet flies and it works well when the fish are focused on the bigger baits. The Kinky Fiber and Angel Hair provide a big head followed by bucktail, and long stripes of saddle hackle give it the mullet movement.

#9 Fools Gold

An excellent small crab pattern for tailers. Gold body, raccoon tail, and dumbbell eyes to get it down. Works along the bottom like a crab and also gives a soft presentation with its light weight, and small size. Lots of movement and flash to get the full attention of a redfish looking for food.

#8 Fishalicious

Funky but effective on not only redfish but baby tarpon, and snook. The deer hair head gives it almost a subsurface presentation and works great for those actively feeding redfish. Not a very heavy fly but creates a lot of movement when fishing shallow water redfish. The darker Olive/Black color works very well in muddy water situations too.

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