Getting a Grip on Spey Casting

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I love casting mono running line on my Spey rods.

At present, I’m using Rio Slick Shooter. It lives up to the name. I saw a big improvement in my distance when I made the switch. It casts like a dream and fishes well but the down side of any mono running line is that it gets slick and hard to hold when you’re casting.

There’s nothing more disappointing than losing your handle on a cast. That’s when the running line slips from between your fingers and the cork just as you make your forward casting stroke. The rod unloads and your cast piles up in a useless heap. Fortunately my buddy Andrew Bennett showed me a cool trick to solve this problem.

Simply wrap the end of your grip with

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Choosing a line for your switch rod Part 3 the RIO Switch and Skagit Short reviewed.

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On a couple of steelhead trips last year I wound up fishing with borrowed rods. They were switch rods, a Winston and a Ross, and I had the chance to fish them for both summer and winter steelhead. I really liked the feel of these short Spey rods and decided that I needed one. I have no use for my long Spey rods when fishing at home in the southeast and I liked the idea of a two hander I could use for trout here at home.

I chose the Scott L2h 1106/4, an 11 foot 6 wt. It’s a great rod and I’ve been very happy with it. It’s light and well balanced with plenty of power and a nice feel. The rod really talks to you when you cast it, so you know when it’s loaded.

I chose to set it up with 2 reels. A Nautilus FW7 which I loaded with the Rio Switch line in a 5/6 wt and a Bauer CFX-5 Spey that I set up with Rio slick shooter and a 425 grain Skagit Short head, also from Rio. This set up gives me the flexibility of

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Chug a Coke, Save a Bleeding Fish.

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There’s nothing worse than watching a big beautiful wild fish bleed out from a damaged gill.

I found myself in just that situation with a big brown trout one day. Watching helplessly as the water turned red. Thank God Kent was with me. Thinking fast he said, “hey, did you finish that Coke?” I had not and he showed me a great trick. He opened the fish’s mouth and poured the Coke down her throat. As soon as it hit the injured gill the bleeding stopped. It was like magic. I’m not sure if it’s the carbonation or the acid but something in the Coke cauterized the wound. It saved that fish’s life. I know it for a fact because I saw her in that same pool several weeks later, although she was wise to me by then. I’m certain it was

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Getting the Hero Shot When You’re fishing Solo

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I get this question all the time and I wince every time because I know there are many guys doing great harm to fish in an effort to capture the moment. I know because I was once one of them. Before I took photos of fish for a living, I took them for the same reason everyone else does. To have a memento of the experience. There’s not a thing wrong with that, but there was plenty wrong with the way I went about it.

With that in mind, and from a place of total humility and a little bit of shame, I’ve decided to try and help by laying out some strategies for getting a good solo photo of a fish without doing it any harm. It may require a little more work or some compromise but in the end you and the fish will both feel better.

Let’s start with what not to do. The mortal sin is to beach the fish. Never, ever take a fish out of the water and lay it on the bank for a photo. This kills fish three ways. It removes their protective slime and exposes them to harmful bacteria. It deprives them of oxygen for too long when they are already stressed and it puts them at risk for head trauma if they panic and start to flop around. What’s worse is to lay the fish on the snow in the winter. The risk are the same with the added chance that the cold will damage the delicate gill tissue. (Read more on that here) don’t try to juggle the fish and the camera for a reach-out-shot. You’ll most likely drop both.

Now let’s look at some options that can make for a good photo with out anyone getting hurt.

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Top 10 Trout Flies For The American West

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He was planning on traveling around Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, and Montana this summer and his goal was to put together a selection of flies that would allow him to catch fish on every river. After setting him up with a fairly comprehensive selection of dries, terrestrials, nymphs and streamers, we started debating what the 10 best patterns are to cover all types of western trout water. We assumed you could fish the same pattern in different colors and sizes which I guess makes it a lot more then 10 patterns, but anyway this is what we came up with. Let us know what you think and send us your top 10!

#10- The Hair Sculpin
The Hair Sculpin is an awesome streamer. It moves, it can be tied in all different colors and sizes and most importantly it catches fish. You can throw it on a sink tip and fish it deep in lakes or my favorite, bounce it off the shore from a boat. It’s good liven.

#9- The Panty Dropper Hopper
The name alone makes this fly awesome. It comes in various colors and sizes and its got very realistic looking legs. If you fish anywhere that has hoppers, the Panty Dropper will get the job done.

#8- Zebra Midge
Go to any tailwater and generally on the “Hot Flies” list in the local fly shop is a Zebra Midges. They are super simple to tie and best of all they work. You can tie them in any color and size you want from a miniscule #28 to a #12.

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A Goodbye To Winter

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By Johnny Spillane


I have been standing in 38 degree water for almost 4 hours, the temperature is 15 degrees and the wind-chill is brutal. My fingers stopped working a while ago; the upper legs on my waders are frozen solid and I’m struggling hard to tie on a size 26 midge. Why the hell am I still out here? I’m here because fish are rising. Everywhere.

Here in Steamboat Springs CO, we fish year round, rain or shine and some of the best fishing can be during the winter, especially in March and April. While countless people are buckling into their skis, the few hardy folks that brave the elements are having the time of their lives with a fly rod. Fishing during the winter is a different experience then what we are generally used to. During the summers, we get away with 3x and big stoneflies, but the winter is a whole different ball game. Midges and fine tippet are on the menu, with the tippet size sometimes being more important than the actual fly.

During the winter, we get folks that call in looking for a guided trip based on the weather. I often get asked to check the weather report and look for the warmest, sunniest day of that week. High sun+winter conditions=tough fishing. As soon as the sun comes out, the fishing gets tough. We want those overcast days when it’s slightly snowing because the fish are much less spooky and more prone to rise. If it is sunny, the fish might move onto the sandy spots and you can sight fish for them fairly easily, but you generally will be

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The Original Eyewear For The Flats

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Bonefish are just cool. They never cease to amaze me.

Like all fish, they are perfectly adapted to their environment and in their environment you need a competitive edge. Right in the middle of the food chain, the bonefish has to get in, get fed, and get out in a hurry, before he becomes somebody else’s lunch. To do that, he needs keen eyesight, a hard nose, a turbo charged tail stroke and some high-tech eye wear. I handled hundreds of bones before I ever noticed the eye glass, and a few more before I captured a good photo of it. It’s so clear and flawless that the light and the angle you look at the fish need to be just right to see it. It is a slick outer lens that covers a good portion of the bonefishes face and encapsulates it’s eye. If you study it’s profile you will see that it turns the bonefish’s already sleek profile into a perfectly hydrodynamic projectile. The equivalent of cycle racers shaving their legs.

No doubt, this aids in the bone’s remarkable speed, but that’s just part of the story. The eyeglass serves a much larger purpose. The bonefish has a fairly unique style of feeding. When he spots a crab or a shrimp and makes his charge his prey seeks cover in the coral, or deep in the mud or sand bottom. The bonefish gives chase by

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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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How hard is your guide working for you?

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Jeff Hickman ran into a little problem while guiding Nate DeVol on the Deschutes River in Oregon. Jeff put Nate on a sweet run where he’d been finding steelhead. A great run for Jeff (6’4″) but a good swim for Nate (5’3″). Rather than give up on a good run Jeff went “Master Blaster” putting Nate on his shoulders and waded the run for him.

It was the damnedest thing I’ve ever seen a guide do and I can’t believe no one took a bath. The Deschutes can be a tough wade without a guy on your shoulders. According to Jeff it wasn’t too bad, except for that angry Chap Stick Nate was carrying in his pocket.

I wish Nate had gotten a fish because that would be an awesome hero shot. Can somebody please nominate this man for guide of the year?

If you’ve got a good story about something crazy a guide did for you, or you did for a client, please post a comment. We’d love to hear it.

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The Borg Don’t Fish

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But my childhood in a small Virginia town in the 1960s was not the long haired, free love, groovey sixties that phrase brings to mind. Mine was the nerdy, plastic rim glasses, popular science sixties. In 1966 when Star Trek warped onto national TV I knew my people had arrived. I spent hours forcing my young hand into a Vulcan salute and cemented my outsider status by showing up at school wearing pointy ears cut from flesh colored peel-and-stick Dr Shoals felt shoe inserts. Yep, that was me.

When Captain Kirk and Mr Spock hung up their phasers I grudgingly followed along with Picard and Richer but it was never the same. Data never went into a homicidal mating rage and Worf was a sad excuse for a Klingon but it was the Star Trek of the day. My grousing stopped however, the day I encountered the Borg. Star Trek T.N.G. Reached into the bag of old school Star Trek tricks and came out with the greatest outer space boogie man of all time.

If you recently escaped from North Korea and the iron hand of communism I’ll excuse you for not knowing about the Borg. You can read about them (HERE).

This terrifying new enemy wipes out entire species, not by destroying them but by assimilating them. Making them into Borg. The Borg exist as cybernetic organisms. Half alive, half machine. Their neural implants connect them all in a hive like consciousness. This makes them a handful in a fight.

The creepy gray skin and tubes are very Gigeresk and the loosing ones individuality is a classic Star Trek threat, but none of that is what makes The Borg frightening. What’s scary is Star Treks amazingly consistent record of predicting the actual future. They’ve gotten enough right (talking computers, smart phones and 3D printers for a few) that I’m afraid they might be right again. We may be the Borg.

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