Keeping a Buffer Between You and the Fish

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Most fly anglers would agree that success in fly fishing is often determined by how well they can stay out of sight from the astute fish their trying to catch.

If your finned adversaries are able to put a bead on you (identify you as a threat), there’s a good chance they’re going to ignore your flies or even worse, run for cover. Your ability to maintain a small signature on the fish’s radar should always be high on your objective list when you’re on the water fishing. Failing to do so, you’re going to be setting yourself up for defeat before you even make your first cast. So make a point to keep a sufficient buffer between you and the fish when you’re working water, and it usually will yield you higher catch rates.

There’s several variables anglers should look at and weigh-in to determine the size of the buffer they should maintain. Fast moving riffles (choppy water), freshly stocked fish, dingy water, overcast skies or fish positioned deep in the water column, are all variables that generally shrink the size of the buffer needed by anglers. Trout in these conditions usually feel relatively comfortable and safe, and therefore you can get away with moving in order to make precise presentations. On the other hand, if you’re dealing with flat water (slow moving or calm water), crystal clear water, wild educated fish or fish holding closer to the surface, anglers should keep as large of a buffer as they can, without losing their ability to execute a good presentation and drift.

It’s important to note that I think presentation trumps the importance of a buffer altogether though. If you can’t get a good cast and presentation because you’re positioned too far away from the fish and or target zone, that will seriously decrease your ability in getting fish to eat your flies. Skill level and experience gained over time will eventually get you where you can quickly analyze the conditions on the water, and determine the correct

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Save Your Fingers Fly Fishing – Use Lycra Finger Sleeves

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Today’s the day for a big fish.

It’s perfect streamer fishing conditions with overcast skies and there’s been lots of aggressive fish. I’m pounding the banks with my favorite streamer for thirty minutes when I notice the grit on my fly line is starting to agitate my fingers. The fly line feels like it’s coated in fine sandpaper from the silt and grit it’s picking up from the floorboard of the drift boat. I tough it out for another half hour, telling myself, be a man dude, but every fast paced jerk-strip retrieve has my fingers getting beat up even more. The fact that I’ve yet to land a fish only magnifies my discomfort. I’m willing to put up with the sore fingers if there’s a reward every once in a while but that’s not happening today, and I’m seriously considering yelling uncle and manning the oars.

Then there was my last saltwater fly fishing trip where I had botched two strip sets on tarpon back to back failing to get satisfactory hook penetration. My guide and partner both sighed in total disappointment, as I missed two perfect fish opportunities. I asked for forgiveness and promised them that my next eat would end in a perfect execution. An hour later my shot arrives. I present my fly, initiate my long slow strips, and my line comes tight as a big tarpon eats and turns away. I set the hook hard and hold on tight to my fly line. The hook buries but as the tarpon realizes it’s hooked, it screams off into the distance at full speed and rakes the fly line across my bare skin fingers. Instantly, I know I’m going to pay for holding onto the fly line too long, but I land the silverking beast, and it’s all worth it. After the victory cry, high fives, and adrenaline rush wears off, the throbbing sensation of chard fly line fingers begins. That’s when I silently ask myself the question, why didn’t you consider wearing finger protection dumbass?

Have you been in this situation before on the water? I’m thankful to admit it happens to me only on rare occasions these days. After scouring the web looking for a solution and talking with other fly anglers, I’m glad to inform everyone, I’ve found the perfect product that significantly eliminates finger chaffing. Ever heard of the fabric material Lycra? It’s basically a tight woven stretchy spandex material that can be sewn into finger sleeves that you can slide on and off with ease. They provide fantastic

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Realistic Flies Are Worthless Without Movement

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Worthless may be a little overboard, but there is some truth behind it.
Every year new fly tying products burst onto the scene that are specifically designed for making our fly patterns look extra realistic. I’ll be the first to admit many of them are amazingly cool and innovative. I mean, who wouldn’t want black eyes on their tungsten beads, or a perfect set of pre-molded wing pads or stonefly legs you can plop on a hook to make your nymphs look ultra life-like, right? Seeing these new innovative materials for the first time always gets me giddy, like a fat guy spotting a 5 for 5 deal at Arby’s. But here’s the real question I think we should be asking ourselves. When it comes to purchasing and tying our fly patterns, should we only be focused on how realistic they look?

I say hell no, but you’d be surprised how many fly fishermen out there believe “a realistic look” trumps all other attributes in a fly. Ask a fly shop owner why they carry them if they don’t catch fish, and they’ll quickly tell you, because they sell like hot cakes, that’s why. I think a fly being realistic is great, but there needs to be more working elements in a pattern than just a flashy realistic look. I’ve personally found,

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Warm Weather Can = Early Hatches

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I almost got caught with my pants down fishing a spring creek the other day.

Without even giving it a second thought, I had left the cabin without one of my dry fly boxes, that’s loaded with all my favorite Sulphur and Light Cahill patterns. It was after all late March, and those two species of Mayflies usually don’t even begin making an appearance on my home waters until late April and May. Furthermore, in my defense, I wasn’t even planning on doing much dry fly fishing that day. Generally, March has our tributaries running really high from heavy rainfall, and dredging big nymphs almost always guarantees you good numbers of fish, sometimes even lunkers. This day wasn’t your average March day though. It was 80 plus degrees and sunny, which was well above the norm for this time of year.

Before I knew it, I was completely blind sided by an early afternoon Light Cahill hatch in progress. As I stood there in total amazement with my jaw wide open, my inner voice began chattering loudly, “This hatch shouldn’t be happening for at least another month”. Sure enough though, as the hatch gained momentum, fish began steadily rising to the freshly hatched duns. I immediately snipped off my nymphs and began frantically digging through my pack for my dry fly box, but as I mentioned earlier, it wasn’t there. Lucky for me though, my pack has a giant fly drying patch, and it’s always loaded up year round with random fly patterns. As I scanned the unorganized collage of flies, I managed to spot a lone Light Cahill parachute hiding in the clutter from last season. With a sigh of relieve, feeling like I had just found a needle in a hay stack, I quickly snatched it from the foam patch and tied it on.

For the next two hours, with a grin from ear to ear, I soaked up the intoxicating atmosphere of bliss, as I picked off risers one by one, with my freshly silicone basted parachute dry fly. Somehow by the grace of God that day I managed to avoid a catastrophe of ignorance and poor planning. I’ll never again wrongly judge the importance of

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Crazy Water on the Dean

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You will be reading more in the coming weeks about my trip to British Columbia to fish the Dean River.

In every post I will likely mention the tough fishing conditions. In order for you to really understand what I mean by “tough fishing conditions” I put together this little video.

I have never seen a river so crazy high. The fact that we fished the very next day and the fact that we caught fish that week is a testament to what a truly remarkable river the Dean is. I can’t wait to go back but I hope I have better conditions.

Check out the video!

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Fly Fishing Fast Water Chutes for Trout

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Be sure to watch the video!


Fast water chutes are great habitat for trout to set up residence around. Most of them provide everything a trout needs to survive, and fly fisherman should take the time to fish them because they almost always hold fish. Fast water chutes provide overhead cover that trout can quickly utilize by swimming into the chute if they feel threatened. The well defined current from the chute also acts as a food conveyor belt, supplying trout with a constant trickle of food 24/7. Furthermore, the turbulent waters created by chutes increase oxygen levels in the surrounding waters, and this is an added bonus and reason for trout to set up shop in and around chutes in streams and rivers. Lastly, chutes generally offer feeding lanes on each side that trout can take advantage of to feed effortlessly. These are the edges of the chute, where the fast and slow water come together and meet. Trout often gravitate towards the edges because it requires less energy to hold there, it’s very close to the conveyor belt of food and extremely close to their fast water overhead cover. Focus on drifting your flies along the edges of the chute first. After you’ve fish the edges, then work your flies through the main current of the chute.

There are multiple ways for anglers to fly fish fast water chutes, but most of the time, I find it most effective to wade to the sides of the chutes, and fly fish perpendicular to them. Doing so, it gives me better control of my drifting flies and improves my line management. Positioning to the side of a chute also improves my stealth, because I’m able to present my flies in front of the trout with just my leader, keeping my fly line out of sight. It also allows me to work with the current when drifting my flies, instead of fighting against it.

Check out the video below that demonstrates how I prefer to fish fast water chutes.

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Rosa Parks Fished Streamers

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Stand up with me here streamer guys, you know what I’m talking about!

First of all I am in no way making light of Ms. Parks courageous acts or life of service. She is on my list of personal heroes and that list is pretty damn short. If you don’t know who she is, you should! That said, like Rosa, I’m getting pretty fucking tired of the back of the bus.

Stand up with me here streamer guys, you know what I’m talking about. Every time I get in a drift boat with a streamer rod I get stuck in the back of the boat. (I’m not picking on you here BW, everybody does it.) There’s always one of your buddies who pipes up with, “I sure would like the chance to catch one on a dry before you scare the hell out of ’em with that thing.”

I have a couple of problems with this horse shit. The first being, streamers do not spook fish. If they do, explain to me why fish eat them. Not just big fish, I routinely catch fish barely bigger than my streamer.

The primary reason that streamers do not spook fish is that fish are not afraid of things that are under water. Ask anyone who has snorkeled. If fish don’t spook at the sight of a person under water a fly isn’t going to phase them. I know one guide on the Snake River who, in the fall, prefers to have a streamer fisherman in the bow and a guy throwing hoppers in the back. His theory is that the streamer gets the fish worked up and ready to eat. It works, too.

I’ll say it again, streamers do not spook fish!

Secondly, it’s just a matter of etiquette. I put my time in on the oars like everybody else. When you get off the sticks, you go to the bow. That’s how it works, that’s your reward.

What the dry fly guy in the bow doesn’t get is that I’m making about ten times as many casts as he is. I’m working with a huge amount of line at my feet, getting hung up in the plugs or around the seat, getting grit all over it from the floor that cuts my fingers when I strip. That deck in the front of the boat was made for streamer fisherman. It’s for holding line, not your beer. Don’t even get me started on trying to get the oarsman to position the boat for a streamer guy. That’s never going to happen.

All that aside, here’s what really chaps my ass. Here’s what’s really going on. It’s not about me spooking fish or etiquette. Just like Rosa, I’m being treated like a second class citizen. I’m fishing from the back of the boat because the dry fly guys think they are better than me. They think that God handed down the #20 Elk Hair Caddis to them and my four inch streamer and I are a perversion and should only be allowed in Massachusetts. They think I’m doing it wrong.

If you’ve been reading my ravings for long, you already know that this kind of snobbery makes me crazy. I don’t know what it is about a fly rod that makes some people feel like they have to tell everyone else how to fish but it happens with amazing regularity. I get it, you’ve put a lot of time in learning how to fish and you feel like you have it figured out but here’s the thing, there’s more than one way to fish and none of them is the “right way.”

I love streamers and I make no apologies for it. The visual aspect of streamer fishing can’t be beat. To me, there is nothing better than watching a big trout rocket out of the shadows to chase down my streamer. I love to watch them come up from behind, then veer off and come back to broadside my fly. I like seeing their

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High Point

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Tim looks like he has swallowed his tongue.

He’s pale, eyes dilated, the corners of his mouth twitching. He’s soaked in sea water, eyes burning and red. His fingers digging into his seat bottom, he squints and stiffens like a corpse preparing for the next wave which drops the little skiff hard. It sounds like a car crash and sends another five gallons of water into our faces. Nothing, it appears will stop the next navy blue, six foot wave from hurdling over the bow. It’s a fraction of an inch from doing just that when the bow lifts. The wave seems to ride the bow up, hovering literally an eight of an inch from crashing over into the cockpit for a few seconds. And then the whole thing starts again. Norman Rolle, our guide stands stoic in the back of the boat, a buff bearing the Rio logo pulled up over his face all the way to his Smith wraparound sunglasses. His left hand is on the back of Tim’s seat, his right gently twisting the throttle of the outboard, accelerating up the waves then coasting down, steering us carefully through the cross currents and surf crashing into, and back from the wall of jagged rock that the Bahamians call High Point. High Point is one of the most inhospitable places I’ve ever seen. It juts into the Atlantic like a knife blade for a quarter mile, huge rough hewn boulders guarding it’s coast. It separates the inhabited northeast coast of South Andros Island from the wild and isolated south. It can only be passed on a fairly calm day, and today is not so calm.

Tim leans over to me and says nervously, “Jesus, this is bad”. I’m suddenly aware that I’m grinning and quite possibly looking a bit out of my mind. “Oh no” I tell him, “I’ve seen it much worse”. “I did this once when the whole boat came out of the water on every wave, no shit, the whole boat dry every wave, you could hear the prop singing in the air”. He didn’t seem at all consoled so I quickly decided to have some fun with him. “Do you know how a flats boat sinks?” I asked. He shook his head. “Well, you see”, I continued, “when the first wave comes over the bow, it scares the hell out of you, but you think you’re going to be ok…you’re not, once that first wave comes over you’re fucked. The boat can’t climb the next wave with all that water in it, so the next wave fills it, then the third wave flips it over and if you’re still in it you’re dead, so what you want to do is, when that first wave comes over, pitch the cooler, then get out after it. That way you have something to hang on to.” For a minute I honestly thought he might puke, mulling over the idea of fighting me and Norman for a place on the floating cooler, but by then we were through the worst of it and Tim was clearly relieved to not be staring at a wall of water every ten seconds. I didn’t see any need in telling him I was messing with him, nor did I see any profit in telling him I knew a guy who’s boat had gone down exactly like that.

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Fish Boy Is Sorry

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A quick heads up, this story contains some adult language and ideas.

I was fishing a little mountain lake with my buddy Dan when he told me, “the last time I fished this place I was on a date”. “Why the hell did you bring a date up here”, I asked. “Well”, he said, “things were getting kind of serious and I thought I should show her what she was signing up for”. “So you took her fishing”? I laughed, “you should have locked her in your apartment and disappeared for three days, then showed back up stinking and drunk, that’s what she’s signing up for”!

Fly fishing has developed it’s own culture and it’s own code of misconduct. It reorients priorities and skews a person’s perspective of what “normal people” will tolerate. For some guys it’s like Mardi Gras. A fishing trip is an excuse to blow off the steam they build up at work or home and then they’re back to normal. For others it becomes a life style choice. For some an occupation. Living with a fisherman has got to be tough. I know my wife puts up with a lot from me and, to her credit, does it cheerfully. However, if you talk to any hard core angler it’s not uncommon to find a long list of ex-wives and girlfriends who just couldn’t, or wouldn’t take it anymore. Fishing, like any other addiction, complicates relationships.

Many of my best friends have made big life decisions base purely on fishing. Uprooted their families and moved across country without jobs or left their families alone for months at a time to guide in some far flung location. I have a friend who commutes over fifteen-hundred miles between his family and the water he guides year round. I know guys who have walked away from homes and given them up to foreclosure to be on the water they feel called to fish.

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You Can’t Go Home

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William S. Burroughs, in his essay “Dinosaurs” wrote, “biologically speaking the one direction you can’t go is back”.

He was, of course, making a social comment but I was reminded of that idea while fishing the other day with a good friend. Joel Dickey was up visiting family over the holidays and was excited to do some trout fishing. For weeks he had been telling me that he was going to take me to the best trout stream he’d ever fished. The little creek in Tennessee that he grew up on. A stretch of private water owned by his aunt. I was excited to see the water and to spend a day wetting my boots with Joel.

I knew this was either going to be really good, or really bad. Joel has been living and guiding in the Keys for a long time now and things change. Things always change and where trout streams in the southeast are concerned, usually not for the better. In Joel’s memory this little creek was gin clear and full of big wild trout. When we arrived we found a different stream altogether. There were no fish of any kind. Only old tires and garbage, including a battery acid bottle. A sad sign of an unloved stream.

We moved on to a local tailwater and got into some nice fish and even some surface action, which is great for December, but Joel was heartbroken. It’s tough to see a stream

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