When your fly is there, be aware!

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I’ve touched on this before but it occurs to me that the subject needs more attention.

Quite possibly the most important thing in fly fishing is situational awareness. That is, knowing what your fly is doing in relation to it’s surroundings. Surroundings like current, structure, light, the boat and most importantly, the fish. Trout fishermen are accustomed to thinking about the drift of a dry fly but less at ease with the idea of a nymph’s drift, for example. Lots of guys fish streamers with a simple swing down and across, without considering how the baitfish they are imitating would negotiate the currents, eddies and structure along the way. This idea exists in every type of fly fishing but is never more crucial than in salt water so let’s look at that in more depth.

Right from the first false cast you should be thinking about the environment in which the fish exist. An experienced angler knows that a flat is less like a pond and more like a river. Except for brief periods of tide change the water on the flats is always moving. Like a winding meadow stream it finds it’s way through a maze of channels. Unlike a river those currents are constantly changing direction and speed. Those changes affect how your fly behaves in the water and that determines the strategy of your presentation. It’s key when flats fishing that you always know which way the water is moving and how fast. How quickly will your fly be carried to the fish and from which direction? How fast will it sink? Where will the fish first see it? Which direction will the fly be moving and how fast? You need to know the answer to all of these questions before you cast.

Current also effects your retrieve. The fish is not interested in how the line moves through the guides, but how the fly moves through the water. If the current is carrying the fly away from you, that retrieve has to slow way down. No fish is going to chase a shrimp that can swim thirty miles per hour. If, for example, the current is carrying your fly toward you, your retrieve must be brisk or you’re just dead drifting. Worse, you’re creating slack that will prevent getting a hook set or even prevent you from knowing when the fish has eaten. While we’re on the subject of the all-important hook set, don’t forget that the current is carrying the fish too. Unlike a trout, who must turn and run back to his holding zone as soon as he eats your fly, a salty fish moving with the current will likely eat your fly and keep coasting your direction creating slack that must be taken up quickly to hook up. It’s best to see that one coming before the fish eats.

The most common mistake made in salt water is

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“The Embarrassing State of Modern Fly Fishing” is an embarrassing take on modern fly fishing.

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By Aaron Stiny

Recently my Facebook feed was flooded with folks sharing the aforementioned blog post, each post receiving a flood of comments.

Against my better judgement I browsed what folks had to say before reading it and saw nothing but Amen’s, Spot on’s etc so I gave it a click. I was surprised so many friends, especially industry employees, were adamantly in agreeance with it and I couldn’t help but feel like the article and the ensuing responses were hypocritical and ironic. Let’s dive in… 

The Myth that fly fishing was a “quiet man’s” sport…Foremost, thankfully fly fishing isn’t a total Man’s sport anymore. Fly fishing has never been a quiet person’s sport. I grew up working in fly shops and forever worked for Bill Kiene, who had some of the loosest lips in Nor Cal when it came to promoting fishing. Many fly shop owners were the same way. Pre-social media Bill gained notoriety by pioneering one of the original fly fishing message boards and pushed fishing reports, however dated, to increase people getting after it, and in turn business. He didn’t do this simply to look after his bottom line, in his heart he wanted people on the water. 

Lest we forget the massive consumer fly fishing shows of yesteryear which are currently experiencing a resurgence. The old ISE San Mateo show, Somerset, etc. Denver has been packed with consumers over the last few years, including many of the folks this blogger despises. Lefty Kreh, Chico Fernandez, Bob Clouser, they weren’t/aren’t exactly quiet men when it came to travelling around to shows, fly clubs etc. promoting hosted travel, selling gear, and collecting large speaking fees. Plain and simple, they were influencers before there were influencers, and it greatly benefitted their bottom line. In turn, they introduced how many generations to our sport who in turn spawned how many kids who are anglers in the social media generation. 

Are most of the premier trout rivers really loved to death? The Mo, South Fork and other premiere trout rivers are counting fish by the thousand per mile. Many rivers are seeing more conscience flows by water administrators to protect fish during vulnerable times of year and enhance angler experience due to popularity. Let’s talk about former premiere Steelhead rivers: There is a passionate army of anglers advocating for the removal of the Snake River Dams to improve and in some cases just reopen steelhead fishing in Idaho. The Skagit/Sauk saga has more folks than ever before advocating for them. Steelhead popularity in CA has exploded in (thanks Kiene) and we have the largest Dam removal project in history about to happen on the Klamath. I get it, it sucks that your favorite WY river has a few more skiffs than it used to, but the number of passionate anglers, guides, shops and businesses bettering our fisheries is far greater than this blog will admit. 

The cool factor and zero to hero guides. Where to begin,

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Bonefish The Hard Way, Deep In The Mangroves

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If you are wading or using kayaks to navigate the flats your mobility may be limited and timing the tides becomes crucial. Bonefish will be most accessible on low tides. Late in a falling tide when they are forced out of the mangroves to early rising tide when they work the edges. It’s important that these tides fall during the time of day when the light is good for catching fish.

That said, I did the exact opposite on a recent trip to Cat Island, Bahamas. It was a vacation, not a fishing trip. The distinction is important to my wife. It means I don’t fish all day, every day. You can read my recommendations on how to make that work, (HERE). On this particular week, low tide came very early in the morning and after dark. Most mornings were compromised by rain. It was a tough set up, but I was determined to catch some bonefish, so I tried something crazy. And it worked!

At high tide the bonefish were feeding deep in the mangroves. In some spots, a hundred yards or more from the edge of the flats. So, I went in after them. It wasn’t long before I was catching bonefish and learning a lot about this new way of fishing. It’s not ideal. In fact it’s damned hard to do, but surprisingly fun.


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Fly Fishing with Stealth – 8 Common Mistakes

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How often to you think anglers miss opportunities catching trout because of the lack of stealth? The more educated trout populations are in a stream, river or lake you’re fly fishing, the more important it is for fly anglers to mimic the way a hunter stalks game in the field. I estimate that I give away upwards of 50% of my trout catching opportunities due to my lack of stealth. Below are 8 common mistakes fly anglers make on the water that blow their cover and success.

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Tie the Chard Choker Permit Fly

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Permit fishing is as exacting as it gets.

When asked to list the top ten reasons permit will refuse a fly, Bruce Chard listed, among other things: a butterfly in Indonesia flapped its wings and because that’s what they do.

Getting a shot a a tailing permit is a test of an anglers resolve. Everything must be done perfectly. Even if everything is done perfectly there’s no guarantee of an eat. The first thing the angler must do is choose the right fly.

For tailing permit in shallow water the Chard Choker is a good choice. Check out the video to learn to tie this killer permit fly.

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The New G. Loomis NRX Plus: Video

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It’s been 11 years since G. Loomis introduced the NRX.

In all of that time it has remained one of the most beloved fly rods on the market. Clearly it was not a design that Loomis, or most anglers, felt needed improving. Well, 2020 is the year that changed. I think it’s fair to say that this is one of the most anticipated rod launches in recent memory. What’s all the fuss about?


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Fly Fishing in the Winter – Getting in the Routine

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I’ll be the first to admit, that the first few cold fronts of the year negatively effect my angling morale. Those initial cold fronts are always a sobering reminder that winter is quickly approaching, and the warm days of the summer and fall are long gone. Yes, this is the time of year that I find it harder to get out of bed in the morning. My snooze button gets quite a bit more love from my index finger, and I’m forced to brew my coffee extra stout. As I loosen up in the shower, with my morning stretches, and warm water hitting my back (as us old folks are plenty familiar with), I think about my next objective of the day, which will be to de-thaw my frozen waders and boots. I left them laying in the back of my truck, and yes, I know, I should have brought them inside. I respectfully ask you all to turn your cheek because it always takes me a few weeks before I wise up to the cold season. That’s why, if you peak into the window of my truck this time of year, you’ll probably find me driving around with my waders and boots on the floorboard of my truck, with my heater set to high, and blasting on my feet.

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11 Tips for Correctly Presenting Your Fly To Tarpon

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Anyone who’s fly fished for tarpon has probably experienced how easy it is to present the fly incorrectly.

If you miss your target, even by just a little bit, it can drastically lower your chances for getting a tarpon to eat. Cast the fly too close, and the tarpon will spook. Don’t lead the fish enough, and your fly won’t get down to the tarpon’s depth. Cross the fish at the wrong angle, and your fly will be moving towards the fish and it will spook. The list goes on and on.

Bottom-line, there’s a very small margin of error bestowed to anglers fly fishing for tarpon. You have to execute everything damn near perfect to put the odds in your favor, and even then, you aren’t guaranteed squat. Here’s the problem. The average angler that travels to fly fish for tarpon is not educated on how to read and respond accordingly to different fishing scenarios on the flats. A lot of this has to do with lack of experience and time on the water. If you find yourself falling into this category, prior to fishing, you should take the time to have your guide explain how you should handle common fishing situations that you’re likely to encounter. As a kid the same preparation was used by my Dad to walk me through how to make a clean kill shot on a deer. I can hear him now, “If the deer is faced in this direction, I want you to put the crosshairs here”. He must have gone over a dozen different scenarios during the drive up. By the time he was done talking, I felt like I had been hunting for years. It’s no different fly fishing for tarpon. Taking the time to have your guide walk you through different fishing scenarios will greatly increase your tarpon insight, fishing awareness and get you prepared for the real McCoy.

The second thing anglers should do to increase their success tarpon fishing is have a solid game plan or checklist that they’re willing to stick to on the bow. It must run like clockwork, flawlessly and consistently every time. The game plan should begin at the angler ready position, with fly in hand, and end with a well-calculated presentation cast. Success all boils down to angler aptitude and experience. The more you have of it, the better the chances you’re going to make the right calculations and decisions on the water.

I gave my good friend and Florida Keys flats guide, Captain Joel Dickey a call to look over my checklist and give me some pointers. Below is a checklist we came up with that

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The Perfect Day on the Flats

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By John Byron

You’re after bonefish.

An easy flight and you found all your luggage. The lodge is even more comfortable than you expected. Supper was super. Your new fishing companions seem a really great bunch. You’re excited to get fishing. 

Next morning seems perfect. Sunshine all day. The right tide. Gentle breezes, sufficient to calm the fish but not enough to hamper your casting. The guide knows his business and handles the boat flawlessly, spotting fish early and lining you up for easy casts. When you wade, it’s on hard bottom, a comfy depth and the wind and sun at your back. 

You find fish all day long, big ones in singles and doubles, larger schools all ready to take your fly, which seems to be the perfect weight, size, and color. When one spot slows down, you move to another loaded with bonefish, maybe stopping for some fun fishing alongside a big mud. It’s the perfect day.

And it happens so seldom that you should never never count on it. 

Any putz can catch fish on a day like that. Your challenge … and the great challenge of bonefishing as a sport

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6 Tips for Catching Suspended Trout

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One of the toughest situations I’ve encountered trout fishing over the years, is when trout are suspended in the water column and feeding in a stationary position.

These trout are usually too deep to persuade them to rise to your dry fly on the surface, yet are also holding too far up from the bottom for you to easily dredge your tandem nymph rig in front of them. Most of the time, this is a frustrating sight-fishing scenario for the fly angler, where all you see is the trout occasionally open and close its mouth. You can see the trout you’re trying to catch, but no matter how hard you try, you can’t seem to get your flies to drift in the correct feeding zone of the holding trout and get them to eat. I see this situation a lot on deep clear pools or on long and slow flowing runs, but you can also find this same situation in pocket water where eddies and irregular bottom structure provides slower water holding stations/sanctuaries for trout as well.

Make no excuse, these trout are catchable. It just requires a more technical approach and increased awareness of where your flies are drifting for you to find success. For fly anglers to catch trout in this situation they need to correctly match their fly fishing rig with the water they’re fishing, and slow down and concentrate on making quality presentations not quantity.

Tip 1: Get as close as you can to the sighted trout without spooking it.
I’ve found the trout that are suspended and feeding stationary, usually are also lazy. They don’t want to have to swim out of their position to feed, and that means fly anglers will need to make accurate and precise presentations, since the strike zone is so small. By getting close to your target you’ll find it much easier to keep your flies consistently drifting at the correct depth and in-line with the trout. Often if you’re positioned too far away, you’ll find one presentation will be good, and the next three will be off target. This might not seem like a big deal, but you’re not only trying to get good presentations, you’re also trying to read the fish to see if it likes your pattern or not as well. Getting into proper position and keeping your casting distance to a minimum will allow you to accomplish both much quicker.

Tip 2: Take the time to look for drifting food in the water before you choose your fly patterns
In the last tip, I said, “usually these suspended fish are lazy”. They are in the big spectrum, but it’s important to understand that when trout are suspended and feeding stationary, most of the time it’s because the trout are keyed in on a specific type of aquatic insect, that is drifting at the level the trout is holding. Spend a few minutes watching the feeding trout and look for any drifting bugs. If you see the trout continuing to feed regularly, but you can’t see any drifting food with your naked eye, a light bulb in your head should be going off and telling you to tie on fly patterns that are small. Try using a size 18-22 pheasant-tail nymph or a midge pattern. Don’t expect your size 10 woolly bugger to get the job done in this situation. Sometimes it will work, but most times, these fish are selectively feeding on small micro-invertabrates, and you need to downsize your flies to fool the trout into thinking it’s eating the same stuff it’s been feeding on the last couple hours.

Tip 3: Try a dry fly with two nymph droppers
This won’t work all of the time, but in shallow water situations, I’ve found good success using a dry fly and then tying on a long tandem dropper (two nymphs off the back of the dry fly). Approximate how deep you think the fish is holding, and tie on your lead dropper at that depth. Let’s say the trout you are sight-fishing to, is holding at two feet of depth. Tie on

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