Small Stream Recon Part I

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By Jason Tucker

Small streams have always held a special place in my heart. 

For one thing, where I lived in the tip Northern Michigan, all we had was small streams, and lots of them. I cut my teeth on small streams. It was a long drive for me to fish bigger rivers like the Au Sable or Manistee, but small streams and creeks were always minutes away. Another reason I loved small streams was the solitude. When I fished even the main trunks of our small streams I often bumped into other anglers, or found bait fisherman camped out on holes. If I went into the headwaters or up the tributaries I found no one. What I also often found was better fishing- more fish and less educated. I often found even big fish feeding in the open in the middle of the day.

Once I started my blog, Fontinalis Rising, I got to know a lot of anglers from down state who often asked me where to go or how I knew about these spots. I began to realize the value of being a local. By living in the same area for thirty years I had amassed quite a catalog of small streams and access points that weren’t apparent to the casual observer. I had spent most of those years hunting, fishing, foraging, and exchanging surreptitious tips with other locals. I didn’t realize how hard it was for someone from outside the area to find any decent water at all to fish. In later years I would have these same frustrations in my own travels to Canada and even Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. But over the years I developed a series of strategies for finding new and excellent water to fish, sight unseen, and having success. Here goes.

State Fisheries Agencies Maps and Websites

Before the internet became practical to use from home, much less from your phone, Michigan’s DNR published a trout fishing guide for the entire state that included color coded maps of all the known trout waters in the state. I found a lot of fishing spots using this. The default color for general regulation streams was green, and often it was the headwaters and small tributaries that were etched out in green. I spent some time on special regulation sections, but it seemed that every time I fished the “green” streams, I caught more fish, saw fewer people, and had more fun.

This map and guide is no longer in print because it is available on the internet. I still have a print copy from fifteen years ago which is very useful when I’m in the many areas of the state that still lack cell service. Georgia has a print map that outlines all the trout streams in the state.

With the advent of advanced mapping applications on the internet and cellphones there are even more powerful tools available.

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The Albright Knot

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The Albright Knot is a great knot for attaching a metal bite tippet to your leader.

It can also be used to attach the leader to the fly line or any time you are attaching materials of very different size or stiffness. Here’s Capt. Joel Dickey, in the last of his three part series on better salt water knots, to teach you the Albright Knot.


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8 Tips For Retrieving The Fly When Bonefishing

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By Louis Cahill

You’ve spotted the bonefish and made the perfect cast, what now?

The retrieve is where the magic happens. It’s your sales pitch to the fish and if you want to seal the deal you have to make that fly act like food. It’s a simple proposition but there are a lot of things to keep in mind. Ultimately, your retrieve is determined by three things: the setup, the conditions and the reaction of the fish.

Every presentation to a bonefish is different. That’s what makes targeting these fish so much fun. To be really successful you need to have a good understanding of the fundamentals of the retrieve and be able to adapt when things change.

With that in mind, here are 8 tips for better bonefish retrieve.

Does the fly matter?

By this I mean, do we retrieve flies differently based on the critter they imitate? To be honest, I think bonefish are pretty forgiving on this one, but I do fish as if it matters. That means I try to swim the fly like the natural would swim. Shrimp patterns get a rhythmic pulsing retrieve, crab patterns scurry and dive, baitfish patters swim more fluidly.

Look scared

Your fly not only needs to imitate the natural, it need to appear to be in distress. Like all predators, bonefish will prey on the weakest. I like for my fly to appear to panic a bit when the fish sees it.

Speed is dictated by the presentation

The speed of your retrieve should vary depending on the setup of your presentation. Bonefish are not accustomed to having shrimp charge toward them. If the setup of your shot means that you have to retrieve the fly towards the fish, your retrieve must be slow, as if your shrimp is clueless. Bonefish like to chase, so quick retrieve can get their attention if the fly is off to their side, moving away. Sometimes you will have to

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The Skwala Carbon Fishing Jacket: Review

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There’s been a lot of buzz about Skwala, the newest brand in fly fishing apparel.  I was pretty excited to get my hands on the Carbon jacket to see if it lives up to the hype. An American brand, located in Bozeman MT, when Squalla introduced a line of fly fishing specific clothing, including waders, the obvious comparisons and speculations were rampant. It was nice to cut through the noise and actually use a piece of their gear. The Carbon jacket is not a disappointment. I took it to Belize, where it proceeded to pour rain for five straight days and night. I sat in a bout in the pouring rain every day so I got the perfect opportunity to see if the jacket delivered, and it did. It’s comfortable, great to fish in, durable, and most importantly, dry in the worst rain I’ve ever fished in. You can’t ask much more out of a fishing jacket. Watch the video for all the details on the Skwala Carbon Jacket.

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Holding Your Bone

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They aren’t trout and nothing will bring that hone for you like trying to tail one. Landing them and handling them is really pretty simple once you know how. Here are a few tips for getting a grip on these slippery little guys without anybody getting hurt, even your pride.

I will not go into the best way to land a bonefish because I’ve done a post and video on the topic with the help of my buddy Bruce Chard. It’ll save you a broken rod so if you haven’t seen it click HERE.

Once you have the bonefish to the boat and the leader in your hand, assuming that you want to hold the fish and are not content to pop the hook out without touching him (the best practice for the fish), you need to get a good grip on the fish that will let you control him without injuring him. The best place to do this is just behind the pectoral fins and gill plates. The bonefish is pretty firm here and not so tapered so you can get a grip without him immediately squirting out of your hand like a bar of soap. Kent is doing a good job in this photo. You don’t need a death grip. Like any fish, the harder you squeeze him the more he will struggle.

If the fish is too green to hold for a quick photo without him leaping out of your hands and flopping around on the deck there are a couple of things you can do to settle him down.

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Rubber, Above & Below

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By Bob Reece

Round rubber and spandex are two members in the vast tide of synthetic materials that have washed over the fly tying world in recent years.

They have both been used to create numerous surface and subsurface patterns. However, I would argue that one is better suited for the world above while the other thrives below.

Round rubber comes in a wide array of colors and sizes. While this material has been used on numerous subsurface patterns, I would argue that it’s most effectively put to use on the water’s surface. In comparison to the structural makeup of spandex, round rubber is a rigid material. Due to this comparatively stiff makeup, its motion is produced at a longer wave length. This trait is beneficial in the creation of appendages for terrestrial patterns both large and small. The legs and antennae of terrestrial insects are typically much longer than those of aquatic insects. As a result, those appendages often extend significant distances away from the body and the rigidity of round rubber is ideal for imitating this trait. Its structure allows for the creation of longer hopper, beetle, spider and other terrestrial appendages that will maintain their dimension while still providing movement. Conveniently, the rounded shape of medium round rubber also results in a more consistent and controllable knot. These knots can be used to imitate prominent leg joints. This consistency eases the process of creating the approximate right angle in these legs, resulting in a bent leg look that more effectively imitates the natural.

Moving below the surface of the water, I

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It’s All in the Heart

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By Louis Cahill

Bill didn’t know anything about fly fishing.

That’s not my judgment; he told me so. In fact, it was the first thing he told me. Standing on the bow of the skiff, staring into a Bahamian flat, looking for a fish he’d only heard of, he was as out of his element as a cat on roller skates. A tire salesman from Wisconsin, he’d walked into the local fly shop and told the guy behind the counter,

“I want to catch a tarpon on a fly. What do I need?”

The shop guy told him you don’t just buy a fly rod and catch a tarpon. He knew about the Gink and Gasoline Bonefish School and said,

“Go on this guy’s trip. He’ll teach you what you need to know to catch a tarpon.”

When Bill told me that story, I thought, hell yes! I’ll fish with this guy any day. I don’t care if he doesn’t know which end of the rod to hold.

The first day Bill and I fished together was not a great day for a beginner. We had some sun but the wind was howling. I’m sure Bill had some thoughts about how much he’d spent on that new eight-weight rod, that must have felt worthless in that wind. When I stepped up and punched my clearing cast into the wind, he moaned,

“Jesus! Right into the wind,” and rested his face in his hands.

I’ve heard folks, mostly folks who know less than Bill about fly fishing say, “It’s all in the wrist.” Of course, it isn’t. It’s no more in the wrist than it is in the rod, the line or the fly. It’s not in a book or a video. It isn’t even in your head. Fly fishing is in your heart, and I didn’t have to spend much time with Bill to see that his was full.

Bill didn’t want to catch a tarpon because it would make him cool, or even because it was a challenge. He didn’t want to do it so he could post the photo on Facebook or brag to his buddies. His buddies wouldn’t even know what a tarpon was. Bill wanted to catch his tarpon for one simple reason. His doctor had told him he was going to die. Soon, and for what ever reason, catching a tarpon on the fly was the one thing he wanted to do first.

When Bill told me that,

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Flynn’s Stonefly Nymph

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Watch the video and learn to tie this fly

My good friend Dan Flynn shares my obsession with the noblest of insects. Dan is a great tyer with an impressive repertoire of classic patterns. I have always admired his meticulous stonefly nymphs. I’ve also spent many days watching him crush trout on them.

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The Scott Wave Fly Rod Has A Secret

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Scott’s new mid-price offering, The Wave, is not what I expected. Jim Bartschi sent me a seven weight wave a couple of months ago, just before I headed to Belize for five days. He didn’t tell me anything about it, which is typical for Jim. I assume he wants me to come to my own conclusions about a rod without his opinion, which I appreciate. I took the rod out and cast it in the from yard for a bit. “It’s a little soon to be replacing the Sector,” I thought, “but OK.” I took the rod to Belize and was into fish on my second cast. The weather was awful and pretty windy for a seven weight but the Wave really delivered. It cut through the wind, delivered flies with remarkable accuracy and and finesse. I was impressed. Not ready to give up my Sector but I immediately loved this little rod. When I got home, I called Jim up to talk about the trip and was shocked to learn that the Wave is not replacing the Sector. It’s replacing the Tidal! I should have guessed from the name but the Wave, in no way, feels like a mid-priced fly rod. The weight, the tracking, the recovery rate all feel like a premium rod. Since the Radian, Scott fly rods have had a unique feel that sets them apart. Not that I didn’t lone my S4s but the contemporary Scott rods are truly next level. I did not get that feel from the Tidal but the Wave has it in spades. Once I got the rod home, frankly, I couldn’t stop fishing it. Since I’m stuck with fresh water here, I started using it for streamers and bass fishing. I was thrilled with hoe it preformed. The Wave is … Continue reading

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A Guideline To Accuracy in Fly Tying

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By Bob Reece

Good fly tying is all about accuracy.

One aspect of fly tying that often creates frustration is tying in materials in the desired location.   As hook size decreases, this task can becomes even more difficult.  While time spent tying helps to conquer this issue, there is a technique that expedites the process.

  From a young age, I’ve had larger than average hands.  While this is great in many aspects of life, it’s not always beneficial in fly tying.   As a young tier I often struggled to secure many materials to the hook in the location where I knew they should be.   My hands either blocked my field of vision or were simply too large to work with the smaller sizes of the hook range. 

One day I wandered into a fly shop on a cold snowy spring day.  There was a man at a tall table tying streamers.  As I watched him tie, he did something that I had never seen before.  He folded several of the materials over or under the thread, to some degree.  Then he simply slid the materials down the thread, using it as a guideline to the exact location of the tie in point.  

While I’m sure that this man did not invent this technique and that it’s undoubtedly been used by tiers the world over, it had a huge impact on my development as a tier.  By using the thread as a guideline to the hook shank, the tier eliminates the possibility of lateral movement by the materials.  This system ensures that the material lands exactly at the base of thread strand.  The location of the bobbin in the three hundred and sixty degrees of one wrap determines which side, top or bottom of the shank the material ends up on. 

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