Spey Casting With The Non-Dominant Hand on Top

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By Jeff Hickman

Last Summer I was on the phone with a good friend and regular client catching up. He was bummed to not be able to fish during his favorite Fall season due to a major shoulder surgery he had on his dominant right shoulder a few months previous. Extensive physical therapy was helping but he still had a lot of pain and his doctor suggested he hold off on fishing for several more months. Being the steelhead addict that he is, I knew that taking the season off would not be good for his mental health. So I told him to come out for a three day Deschutes camp trip and I would teach him to cast left handed which would give his right shoulder a much easier job.

He, like many guys that I fish with, had learned to Spey cast back in the days of the 14ft 9weight and Windcutter with unnecessary cheaters. This era of Spey fishing engrained many with a fast, erratic and borderline violent muscle memory. He had always struggled to sweep and cast slow enough for the modern short Scandinavian and Skagit heads to work properly. With his right hand on top, his fly needed frequent removal from the bushes behind him despite my nearly constant pleas for him to slow down.

So when he showed up for his trip he remained skeptical that he could learn to fish left handed or effectively fish without hurting his shoulder. But I made it very clear that he was to only fish left handed and he was not allowed to risk further injury by putting his right hand on top while casting. For backup, I claimed that his doctor had called me to make sure of this.

With no muscle memory with his left hand on top, I started my instruction from the ground up, walking him through the most important casting steps

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Flats Fishing is not All Sunshine

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I was in The Fish Hawk picking up a few things before heading to the Florida Keys for my first ever week of flats fishing.

My friend Gary Mariman asked me where I was going. When I told him he gave me a piece of advice that saved my trip.

“Take a fleece,” were the first words out of his mouth.

“Really?” I thought. It was already warm enough in Atlanta that I wasn’t carrying a fleece. “You’ll freeze your ass off,” he insisted. Gary, the creator of the Tarpon Toad, knows a thing or two about flats fishing so I took his advice and he was right. I’d have died without that fleece.

It’s tempting to think that it never gets cold in the tropics but I have fished in the Bahamas in two layers of fleece. That was highly unusual but I’ll never go down there without one. I’ve fished in the Keys in April when the temperature never made it to seventy. Even if it’s not uncomfortable to fish in shirt sleeves, running in the boat can get chilly.

The big couplet is water. If you get caught in the rain or splashed by spray you can get hypothermic on a chilly run. You never want to be on a flats boat without rain gear no matter what the weatherman says. The spray from the ocean is just as wet as the rain. Carry a good

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Bring Enough Line Holder

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By Louis Cahill

I got to feeling nostalgic the other day and it bit me in the ass.

Last week Jason Tucker and I slipped out for a little small stream fly fishing. Our destination was a little mountain gem I have fished for more than twenty years. As pretty a stream as you’ll find anywhere and full of wild trout. Like most streams this size, it offers an average fish size of eight to ten inches. While those little guys are beautiful, fun, and no pushovers, anyone who has devoted serious time to this stream knows there are much bigger fish lurking there. Every now and then a skilled angler will tangle with fish over twenty inches. You have to be good and lucky but they’re there.

Those of you who follow closely know that I am still recovering from multiple surgeries and am really just getting my boots wet for the first time in well over a year. I’m still not too sure on my feet and have just been enjoying getting out with friends and not putting much pressure on myself to perform, which is honestly pretty awesome. I had a new line I wanted to try out and, not being sure how I’d like it, I scrounged around for an empty reel to put it on, rather than strip off my trusted four weight line. 

I came across an old classic click and pawl reel I haven’t fished in decades. I got to thinking about all the fish I’d put on that reel in the years I fished it hard. Back when I was fishing exclusively homemade bamboo rods, I used old classic reels like this one, many of them handed down. This was the first one I bought for myself. Maybe my first significant fly gear purchase. It’s a great old reel. An Orvis Battenkill from the old days, with plenty of life left in it. A simple trout reel with click and pawl drag. Plenty of reel for eight to ten inch fish, right? I’m guessing you can see where this is headed.


I’m sure you’ve heard that plenty of times. Maybe you’ve even said it.

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Wiggle Bug For Silver Salmon

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Who doesn’t love watching a big silver salmon rushing towards a fly and crushing it?

I’ll tell you who, an Alaskan guide who’s already unhooked three dozen of them for the day.

I used to really enjoy guiding first time silver clients in Alaska. You wouldn’t believe the praises you’d get as a guide after they landed twenty or so. It was sometimes hard keeping a straight face, smiling and saying, thanks man! But in my head I’m thinking, it’s not brain surgery, this is about as easy as Alaska fishing gets. Seriously though, I really did enjoy the high fives and genuine remarks I received during those trips. Silver fishing did get a little monotonous at times but it was always an easy day of guiding, something guides cherish after months in the bush. Silver salmon are super territorial and aggressive during the spawn, making them eager to chase and attack flies that enter their field of vision. It’s not technical fly fishing by any means but a lot of fun for fly anglers wanting action all day long. The only thing I truly hated about silver salmon fishing was the beating my hands took from trying to handle them death rolling in the net. If you ever get a chance take a good hard look at an alaskan guides hands. It’s not a pretty sight. I never thought my hands would look the same after that season in Alaska. Thank God for utter cream.

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The Other Water Haul

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By Louis Cahill

Here’s an unusual, and highly effective, way to use the water haul cast.

Most anglers are familiar with the water haul. If you are not, check out the video and links I have shared below. The basic idea is that you use the surface tension of the water to load your rod for the cast. In stream fishing, this is usually done by letting the current take your fly line downstream until it is tight, then coming forward with your casting stroke. The tension of the line on the water loads the rod and the current serves as a backcast. This is a super effective way to make a stealthy presentation on small streams, but there is another way to use the water haul that’s just as effective on big water.

I most often use this technique in saltwater, but there are times when it’s really handy when fishing rivers or lakes. When the wind is howling off your casting shoulder, it’s tough to make a cast without the fly passing dangerously close to you, or worse, not passing at all. Using a water haul can help.

The problem with wind pushing the fly into the angler is born of slack. Even strong winds don’t have much effect on a fly that is under the tension of an energized line, but when you pause to let your line straighten before the next casting stroke, the wind has its way with your fly and line both. You can minimize the effect by using a Belgian cast. (See video and link below.) That usually works well, at least for a couple of false casts, but when the wind is really moving it’s not enough. It will work on your first backcast, but when you come back for the second, look out.

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The Two-Rod Bonefish Solution

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By Louis Cahill

Saltwater fly-fishing is condition dependent, and conditions often change without warning. That’s why I carry two fly rods.

Your strategy for presenting a fly to bonefish can change radically depending on conditions. Bonefishing is always challenging, but not always for the same reasons. That’s what keeps it fun. Having the right setup for the conditions really helps you overcome the challenges, so let’s look at those challenges and how to be prepared for whatever mother nature throws at you.

The most decisive factor in any flats fishing is wind. Most anglers dread fishing on a windy day, but they miss that wind when it’s gone. Making a good cast and turning your leader over in wind can be a real challenge, but the wind gives you an advantage, too. Wind disturbs the surface of the water, making it less likely that your presentation will spook the fish. This allows you to drive a powerful cast into the wind, if you have a fly rod and line that are up to the task.

On days when there is no wind, bonefish can be unbelievably spooky, leaving anglers frustrated as fish run for cover at their false casting. On days like that, your ultra-fast fly rod and front loaded line are a liability, not an asset. So what is the bonefish angler to do? Well, my answer is carry two rods.

My common quiver consists of two 8-weights. One for windy conditions and one for calm. Each of these rods is paired with a fly line which will perform in these given conditions. That way, no mater what happens, I’m ready. These two rods look very similar under casual observation but they perform very differently.

Windy day setups

Your windy day rod needs to be firm and fast. It’s totally ok for this rod to be a little heavier. We aren’t looking for the kind of recovery rate that comes

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10 Tips For Spotting Permit

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Maybe it’s not your thing but if there truly is a fish of ten-thousand casts, it’s the permit. There is enough to catching permit to fill a bookshelf or magazine rack. It’s a complicated game, but where it starts is simple. To catch a permit, you must find a permit. And to find a permit, the angler must know what to look for. With that in mind, here are 10 tips to help you spot a permit.

Have the right glasses
This is stupid simple but it really is the most important piece of equipment for the saltwater angler. There is no replacement for quality polarized sunglasses. Good saltwater glasses have a rosy color to the lenses. Pass on green or grey. Copper, rose or brown will offer better contrast. A lighter tint to the lens is valuable on darker days and a frame that shade your eyes is a plus. Glass lenses offer the sharpest vision and, unless you have a heavy coke-bottle prescription, that’s what I recommend.

The long, graceful forked tail of the permit is its most distinctive feature. It is black in color and stands out when the fish shows its profile. Often the permit’s broad, silver body disappears completely and it is the black double sickle tail that gives him away. This sight is never more exciting than when the tail is held up out of the water. Called ‘”tailing” this happens when the fish feeds off the bottom in shallow water. This means that the fish is actively feeding and the chances of him eating your fly are good.

The permit’s long, sickle-shaped dorsal fin will often give him away. When the fish is

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How To Fish A Mouse Pattern: Video

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There’s no more exciting way to catch trout than on a mouse pattern.

Mousing is exciting and incredibly visual. The only thing cooler than watching a fish charge your mouse pattern is the explosive eat. It’s a productive way to target big trout, and it works more often than you might think.

Lots of anglers are intimidated by the idea of fishing mouse flies. It’s really not difficult. It just requires that you learn a couple of techniques and have some faith. Give it a try and I’ll bet you’ll be hooked.


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DIY Magnetic Fly Box

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Make a fly box and win a Gink and Gasoline sticker!

For any given day on the water I select fly boxes from a stack in my office and cram as many of them as humanly possible into my pack. Not only do all of these fly boxes take up space, they eat into the budget too. This little DIY box helps with both. It’s cheap and tiny.

I love magnet boxes, especially for small flies. Getting a number 24 midge into and out of foam is almost impossible and dumping them lose into a bin is a disaster. The magnet box holds these tiny flies nice and tight and keeps them from tangling up in a ball. It’s easy to find the fly you’re looking for and retrieve it. The foam strips in the lid are great for dries and a few larger patterns.

To make this box I start with an Altoids box. This is basically free because I’m buying the mints anyway. I used a Yellowstone souvenir box for this one. The next step is to apply the magnetic sheet. This is cheap and easy too. These magnets are

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Listen to the Fish

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Sometimes all fly fisherman need to do to find success when their not having luck is slow down, and take the time to listen to the fish.

Trout can’t speak to us in words, but they do often provide us with subtle clues from their behavior that can help us catch them. That is, if we’re paying close enough attention to pick up on them. Not long ago, I was on the water guiding one of my favorite clients during an unusually cold early fall overcast day. A cold front had rolled in the night before and it had completely shut down all bug activity on the surface. There wasn’t so much as a single midge in the air, so we opted for drifting nymphs below the surface and began catching trout. As we broke for lunch, I noticed the clouds beginning to break up and the sun starting to find its way down to the ground in spots. Refueled, we headed up to a productive bend in the river to resume our fishing. As we crept down to the waters edge, I saw a large slurp from a big fish on the surface. It came at the tail-end of the bend, from a bath tub sized spot where the sun was shining down on the water. Both of us froze in total shock and amazement. It was the first surface activity we had seen all day and we waited with anticipation to see if the big fish would rise again. A few minutes went by with nothing. I scanned the water to see if I could see what the big fish had taken on the surface, but I saw no signs of food drifting in the current.

Convinced, the big fish rise was an omen, I snipped off the nymphs, added a couple feet of tippet and tied on a big black foam beetle. I handed the rod to my client and instructed him to quietly get into position and present the beetle slightly upstream of where the big fish rose. He obliged with a perfect cast and we watched the beetle intently as it began slowly drifting through the big fish’s kitchen. Nothing happened at first, but just when both of us were about to give up on the drift, we saw a large wake heading downstream towards the beetle. Next, a huge head broke the surface with jaws wide open and the beetle was devoured. God save the queen, the hook was set and we battled the fish up and down the river for several minutes before bringing that vibrant red-striped 24″ rainbow trout to the net. That fish was absolutely beautiful but the take was even more. I’ll never forget being abel to stare down the mouth of the fish just before it chomped down on the beetle. It was a front row seat to an amazing rise that you don’t see very often.

Here’s the funny part. We worked our way upstream fishing that beetle in several more spots just like the one that produced the big rainbow, but it produced no take, not even a single follow. We eventually snipped off the dry and were forced to fish subsurface again to resume catching fish. Next time you see a random rise on the river and you’re rigged up with nymphs, I don’t care how horrible the dry fly conditions are, listen to what the fish is trying to tell you and tie on a dry fly. Doing so, you may experience the same success we did. It doesn’t work all the time, but more times than not.

Examples of fish language

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