TO FISH IS TO HOPE

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By: Becca K. Powell

PEOPLE SAY THAT THERE IS HEALING IN THE CAST; THAT STANDING IN THE MIDDLE OF A STREAM IS BETTER THAN ANY THERAPY OR SHRINK’S OFFICE OUT THERE.  AS FLY ANGLERS, WE KNOW ALL TOO WELL THE TRUTH IN THIS STATEMENT.  

After a hard week at the office there is nothing like packing up your waders, boots, fly rod, and heading to the mountains to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life. Too many times I’ve seen my husband come home from work and head straight to his fly-tying desk to get his mind off of a stressful day at work.  But this sport touches lives in an even more impactful way than just relief from the stresses of every-day life.  For many, fly-fishing brings HOPE.

I’ve read stories of men returning from war with injuries from combat, finding the sport of fly-fishing and the solace that comes with standing waist deep in the river. I’ve heard first-hand how the art of fly-tying brought one local soldier with PTSD back to his family.  And most recently, the story went viral of how fly-fishing helped young angler Joey Maxim find strength and a new chance at life after a horrific car accident.  

Many of these men (and women!) are introduced to the sport through incredible nonprofits like Project Healing Waters, Reel Recovery, and other organizations which aim to bring a new outlook on life to our nation’s soldiers, cancer patients, and other members of the community.  It is through these NPOs that we are able to witness first hand the life-changing impact fly-fishing can have on a person.  And it is then that we are able to ask ourselves how this sport has changed our lives for the better.

We all have a story – the story of why fly-fishing touched our hearts and souls and what keeps us so passionate about our time on the water.  We all have a story of why we yearn for that tug of the line and the thrill that comes with that next big catch.  For me, the positive impact of fly-fishing has continued to touch my life through my personal struggles with cancer, and my interaction with the nonprofit Casting for Recovery.

Healing in the Cast

My fly-fishing story began in 2016.  That January I had undergone a bi-lateral mastectomy after an invasive breast cancer diagnosis the year prior.  After numerous surgeries – and the emotional roller coaster that went with losing my breasts – I found myself on the Chattahoochee River that summer with a fly-rod in hand.  That hot August day was the beginning of a journey that would forever change my life (not to mention get me through a second cancer diagnosis).

Later that winter I was introduced to Casting for Recovery by a friend who had been a long-time volunteer with the organization.  We were up in the headwaters fishing one afternoon and I casually mentioned the peace I was finding every time I stepped into the water with my fly rod in tow.  “Are you familiar with Casting for Recovery?” he asked me.  I wasn’t – but as a long-time member of the nonprofit community, I was eager to learn more.  Little did I know I was about to find my place within the fly-fishing community, and an opportunity to lend my talents to a cause near and dear to my heart. 

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Learning to Spey Cast

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By Owen Plair

In the world of Fly Fishing there was always one style of casting that I never quite understood. 

It was some sort of foreign language. An art of casting I’d only seen in videos and photos, but it always seemed so magical. Not to mention how far they could throw a fly line. Why do you use two hands? Why are the rods so long? Whats with these crazy motions on the waters surface to make this giant roll cast? Spey Casting was always a mystery to me, because I never found myself in a fishery where it was needed. Still, I was always curios about it. 

That all changed very fast when I stepped off of a helicopter in the middle of the Russian Tundra, in May of 2013. I pursued a once in a lifetime opportunity guiding on the World Renowned Ponoi River, in the Kola Peninsula of Russia. The Ponoi is one of the best Atlantic Salmon Rivers in the entire world and can only be reached via helicopter from the city of Murmansk. What got my attention about the Ponoi was not just the world class fishing but the desire to experience a completely new style of fly fishing. The best way of targeting these Atlantic Salmon on fly is, of course, swinging flies with a two handed rod or Spey Rod. Spey Casting has been very popular in Europe for hundreds of years and has slowly made its way over to the united states, with steel head and salmon anglers using switch rods and spey rods. The rods, lines, leaders, flies, and even reels were all so different than what I was used to. I was stepping into an entirely new world. Thats why I decided to go to Russia. 

Before I left for Russia a friend let me borrow his spey rod to get a feel for spey casting and man was I blown away when I put together his 15’ 9wt. The thing felt like a flag pole in my hand! Waving it around on my pond, false casting, roll casting, and having no Idea what to do with a spey rod made me realize I had a lot to learn. I watched youtube videos, read articles, and even talked to some of my clients about spey casting. It was so much harder than I thought it would be and way more technical. One thing I did learn through fly casting, instructing clients, and teaching the National Orvis Fly Fishing School was that fly casting has so much to do with muscle memory and that if you don’t learn correctly from the beginning you are setting yourself up for failure in the end. So after attempting to teach myself I decided to wait until I got to Russia to really perfect the different spey casting techniques and man was that the right move. 

The first thing I learned was that moving water is key and truly helped set up your line for the cast. My first instruction came from Matt Brewer who was the camp manager at the time and a long time guide. Matt could throw a spey rod beautifully. He made it look effortless shooting 70 to 80ft casts. The sound of the fly line ripping through the water as Matt threw the first cast was something I will never forget. Matt taught me the double spey and man was it a humbling feeling, learning how to fly cast from scratch again. That awkward feeling when your muscles and mind are asked to do something they have never done and you feel almost hopeless. Matt was very patient with me and in between the laughs, and sarcasm, I started from the beginning with how to hold the rod, how much line to start with, and most importantly understanding the D loop. Crossing my arms, folding over the line, and swinging back. It all felt odd compared to what I was used to but it also felt pretty awesome learning something completely new in fly fishing. Matt was a true professional and had me casting in no time which led to my first Atlantic Salmon on fly soon after.

The D loop is the most important part of the spey cast, because that is how

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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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