Cool Enough For You?

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For some reason, this morning I’m thinking of losing a fish. A big fish and, worst of all, someone else’s fish. That’s the worst kind to lose.

A hundred years ago, when I was still pretty much a Gomer, my wife bought me a guided day of fishing on a private trout stream. That’s a pretty common experience here in Georgia. I’d been catching pretty average trout on my own for some time and, like most novice fly fisherman, I had been sucked into lusting after the monster trout I saw on the covers of fly fishing magazines. In the same way that young girls get the idea that they are supposed to look like Barbie, I was dying to see a photo of myself holding some massive drooling piscivore. This obsession was just as healthy as a case of bulimia and pulling it off seemed just as likely as my looking like Barbie. My darling wife had clearly heard enough about it and sought professional help.

I’d never been guided before and was wholly uncomfortable with the idea. I’ve never been comfortable asking for help and still feel a little guilty about being waited on in restaurants. Having a guide tie my flies on was excruciating. The guide, who’s name has long faded from my memory, was great and I learned a lot from him but I was so nervous about fishing in front of a professional that I was a shit show for most of the morning.

By lunch time I was fishing like I had a brain and, with me more relaxed, my guide able to put me on some nice fish and actually enjoy the afternoon himself. He expressed an interest in my bamboo rods and I insisted he take one and fish with me the rest of the day. I’m sure that made him nervous as hell but I felt a whole lot better. For the minute.

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The Woman Behind The Feel

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The kind of quiet, earnest character Gary Cooper played in his old westerns. Raised on a Montana ranch with five brothers, she stands as if she were always ready to get to work. You wouldn’t be the least surprised to see her saddle a horse or mend a fence. She is serious, thoughtful, and when she speaks she gets straight to the point. And you’d better believe people listen.

Soft spoken, humble, completely unassuming and a bit on the quiet side, with short silver hair and perfect posture, Annette McClean doesn’t immediately stand out in a crowd. If you saw her at the grocery store you might think of her as someone’s mom, or grandmom, and you’d be right. She is those things, as well as being a great angler, a good friend and civicly involved neighbor. As it happens, Annette is also one of the most brilliant minds in fly rod design.

There’s no point in writing around it, Annette is unique in that she is the only woman to design fly rods for a major manufacturer. As far as I know, she is the only woman rod designer period. Not that it matters and it certainly doesn’t to Annette. There is a rich history of women in the fly fishing industry and though she is the first to hold this position, I’m sure she will not be the last.

“I never felt devalued at Winston because I was a woman,” she tells me.

Annette was working for a local conservation organization in the 1980s when she walked through the front door of the R.L.Winston Fly Rod Company. She wasn’t looking for a job, or even a fly rod. She was there to ask then owner, Tom Morgan, if he’d sell a piece of land.

“No,” Tom replied, “But I’ve got a job for you if you’re interested.”

The job was polishing reel seat hardware, and she took it. Not a glamorous position but she didn’t care. She enjoyed the work and before long Annette was doing a couple of other jobs around the plant, including working on bamboo rods with Glen Bracket.

Winston is the kind of place where employees take pride in their work and feel an ownership in it. Any employee can, at any time, take any part out of production if they find it to be anything other than perfect. They are expected to do it, and what’s more they are expected to take it back to the person responsible for the imperfection. It’s the kind of place where if you do your job well, you get more responsibility. The kind of place where your work ethic matters more than your resume and before long Annette McClean found herself in charge of operations, and then design.

Winston is one of the oldest and most storied brands in fly fishing, so it’s fitting that when you walk through the front door you find yourself in a museum. Glass cases hold old bamboo rods, many with world records attached to them. Old machinery and hand tools from the company’s early days line the walls. Black and white photos cover the walls. Photos of men who shaped fly fishing as we know it and most recently a photo of Annette McClean. None of them are

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Be Stealthy Like Czech Nymphers

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I’m not afraid to admit I’m not a big fan of Czech nymphing.

I’m not an aficionado of the popular three-fly nymph rig either. It’s not the right rig for fly anglers that lack discipline or are daydreaming fly casters. Furthermore, a freshly tied rig can become a birds nest instantly, simply by a landed fish, rolling in the net. That being said, I’m not saying Czech nymphing doesn’t work, it undoubtedly has it’s place in trout fishing, and can be highly effective at times, it’s just not my first choice.

Here’s what I’ll admit and also highly respect about the die hard Czech nymph fisherman out there. Most are very good at approaching fishing holes with complete stealth so they don’t spook fish. They take the time to think out their approach before casting, making sure they’re positioned perfectly so they can execute the best presentation and drift with their flies. Why do they do this you ask? Because success in czech nymphing demands it. Fly anglers fishing this rig are limited to short distance casts and drifts. This ensures they’ll stay in constant contact with their flies for strike detection and will also be able to maintain proper fly depth during their drifts.

You’ll never see a veteran czech nympher fishing out of his/her boundaries, and that’s why we should be paying more attention and adopting some of their techniques into our everyday fly fishing practices. It doesn’t matter one bit whether you’re a dry fly purist or prefer to nymph fish with an indicator, like I do. Far too often, I see anglers

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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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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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Traditional Old-School Nymphs Catch Trout, Don’t Forget It

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Every year, I spend quite a bit of time scouring the interweb and flipping through numerous fly company catalogs, all in the effort to stay up to date with the latest new fly pattern creations.

Many are just variations of already existing fly patterns, but quite often it’s a new fly tying material that’s created, manipulated, or that’s managed to stay under the radar and discovered, that’s used to develop these new fly patterns. I usually spend my time reviewing the new flies and their recipes, and hear my inner-voice chattering over and over, “why didn’t you come up with that fly pattern, dumby”. But even after purchasing and tying several dozen of the new fly patterns, many of them ultimately fall short on the water of producing trout numbers like my traditional old-school standby nymphs do. Why is that?

I think the the fly tying world is very similar to the rod manufacturing world, where a company builds a great fly rod that 90% of fly anglers love, and then a couple years down the road they discontinue the rod line, to make room for the introduction of the next innovative fly rod. Quite often, in my opinion though, that new rod design’s performance falls short of its predecessor. I know this process is called product life cycle, and it will continue to happen again and again, but it sure seems like we’re in way too much of a hurry to move on, and should instead be more content with sticking with a great product longer. It’s the notion that great isn’t great enough, and that we should retire the greats, in the hopes we can find something, for lack of a better word, that’s perfect. The problem is, there’s no such thing. No one product will work perfect for the infinite number of situations it will encounter on the water. My point being, in the target zone and scope of fly patterns at least, it may benefit many of us if we stop getting lost in creating and searching for the next best fly pattern, and instead spend more time just fishing the fly patterns that have proven to catch fish for us consistently for the past century.

Not long ago, I spent a day floating a very popular tailwater in the Southeast. It has an extraordinary trout population, supporting something like 6,000+ trout per mile. Fly fisherman travel from all over the country to fish it, and many of them go-in thinking presentation aside, that success is going to be determined by fishing the latest hot fly patterns that the fish haven’t seen. They run to

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Trout Deformities

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While not common exactly, deformities like this are not unusual in either hatcheries or in the wild but you seldom see a ‘special’ fish like this in a wild stream. Nature deals with this sort of thing in short order. In a hatchery, however, a fish like this will do fine and grow to maturity.

This brook trout would have been a solid 16 inches if he were normal. A buddy suggested I bank him. There was no need. This kind of deformity stems from injury to the fish’s spine early in life. There are no defective genes or disease to pass along so I released him. After all, he plays an important role in the ecosystem, at least from the otter’s perspective.

There can certainly be problems with hatchery raised fish. Disease and poor genetics can wreak havoc on wild populations. On the whole, I think North Carolina does a good job and it’s important to remember that this is a regional issue that is best evaluated by region. What’s right for a trout stream in North Carolina is not right for a steelhead river in Oregon. That’s another topic worth some considerable ink, but not just now.

It did get me thinking about some more troubling fish deformities. Specifically Idaho’s two-headed trout. There was a little bit of excitement about it when the New York Times published photos, in February of 2012, of the deformed fish which were

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RIO Slick Cast Coating and Technical Trout Fly Line: Video

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By Louis Cahill

Here’s an unboxing and video review of the new RIO Slick Cast Coating and Technical Trout fly line.

When I do product reviews, I generally test a product for months before writing the review. That insures that the review is thorough and thoughtful, but it takes a while and often, by the time it’s done, a lot of folks have just bought the thing, So, today I’m trying something different. I’m testing the RIO Technical Trout fly line with the new Slick Cast coating live on camera. You’ll get to see me take it out of the box and cast it for the first time. You’ll get a frank and spontaneous opinion of it’s performance. Let me know what you think of the format and maybe I’ll do it more often.


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Clean Your Rod Right, After Fishing The Salt

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By Bruce Chard


Most anglers know to soak their reels after fly fishing in saltwater but too many guys forget to wash their rod. When heading home from a saltwater fishing adventure it is important to properly clean your rod. Leaving any salty residue on your rods can create corrosion on the guides and reel seats.
Proper cleaning insures that, the next time you pull your rod out of its sock, you don’t have corrosion dust all over, a locked up reel seat or a broken or weakened stripping guide.
Make sure to wash your rod with soap and fresh water. Many saltwater destinations in the Bahamas, Belize or Mexico don’t have the best tap water. It can be somewhat brackish. This will leave salt on your rods during storage. Use soap, then wash with fresh water to remove all the salt.
Make sure to wash your rod sock as well before

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3 Tips For Netting Trophy Trout From a Drift Boat

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So you’re floating the river in a drift boat and your buddy just hooked into a trophy trout. What should you do next to ensure you land that trophy? Below are three tips for increasing your chances at netting that fish of a lifetime.


After you’ve set the hook, made a few strips to keep tension, and your jaw has dropped to the ground after seeing the giant beast at the end of your line, your next objective will be to find a good time to get all that excess fly line onto the reel. The last thing you want is the trophy fish making a blistering run, and your excess fly line catching on your boot, thigh brace, or rod butt resulting in a break off. When the trophy settles down and holds in a stationary position during the fight, this is when you should take the opportunity to reel in and get all of your fly line on the reel. Doing so you can let that $300 fly reel with a butter smooth drag to do its job.


Don’t keep your boat anchored up during a battle with a trophy fish expecting the angler to do all the work. Often the trophy will make a big run downstream or upstream, which will drastically lower the ability of the angler to control the fish. If you’re on the oars

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