Fly Fishing: Belly Crawling My Way to Big Beautiful Trout

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I know what you’re probably thinking, “Come on Kent, you wrote another freaking post about the importance of stealth for spooky trout? Yes, I did, but this isn’t your average stealth post. Most of us already know spooky trout require anglers to move slow and quietly. We understand how important it is to pay attention to our shadows, to work fish with our leader and fly only, and that delicate presentations are critical. Last, but not least, we’re smart enough to realize that even when luck is on our side, all we’re probably going to get is a couple good shots before the game is over.

Most of the time, if we maintain our stealth in all of the above areas, catching trout isn’t a problem. But from time to time, we do find ourselves on trout streams, when fly fishing conditions are so damn challenging that our standard everyday stealth tactics aren’t enough to get the job done. In order for us to find success in the toughest of conditions, we have to be willing to push our stealth efforts a step further. And that means going above and beyond what other anglers are too lazy or physically unable to do to catch trout. That’s right, I’m talking about dropping to the ground, and crawling on all fours into position to make a cast.

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Joel vs The Shark

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Max Pressure Photo by Louis Cahill
MY GOOD FRIEND JOEL DICKEY WAS NOT RAISED BY WOLVES, BUT YOU MIGHT NOT BELIEVE IT IF YOU’VE EVER SEEN HIM ANGRY.

With hair the color of a new penny and bright blue eyes that can be uncomfortably intense at times, the ruddy sun scorched complexion of a Bedouin, the build of a boxer and two gold hoops, one in each ear, Joel looks half Viking, half pirate. Born of a long line of Tennessee moonshiners and snake handlers, he has a great southern brogue that’s so deep you can hear the chicken frying when he talks. He has a heart as big as the Florida sky, and a temper to match. He caught his first rattle snake at age six. Joel has no fear. Fear is an important emotion. As humans, our fight or flight response has served us well, in evolutionary terms. Joel somehow missed out on the flight part of that, as well as the fear. He’s all fight. Any other person finding themselves face to face with a fifteen foot hammerhead shark might back down. Joel on the other hand…

The heat there in the Florida Keys that day had been like penance. So had the fishing. It was a perfect day for tarpon. The weather was hot with just a little wind, not a cloud in sight. It was mid May. The peak of the season. The tarpon that had been everywhere just a few days before had vanished. The few we saw had no interest in a fly. This was exactly what we had been waiting for. There was a huge falling tide in the evening and it had been unseasonably warm. We had been looking at the calendar and the tide apps on our phones for six months thinking that this was the day and now the fish were confirming our theory. All those tarpon that had been high and happy for weeks were lurking reclusively in the deep water. Staging up, preparing, for the worm hatch.

If you’ve been lucky enough to see a palalo worm hatch, you may have pinched yourself to see if you were dreaming. It’s hard to believe that a fish of a hundred pounds or more can get so worked up about a three inch worm, but when there are literally

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Hopper Time: 6 Favorite Patterns

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By Louis Cahill

What time is it boys and girls? Time to fish hoppers!

I don’t know if there is any kind of trout fishing more rewarding than fishing hoppers. Big bugs and big splashy takes under sunny summer skies. It doesn’t get much better than that. I’m headed west in a few days and it has me looking over my terrestrial box for the usual suspects. With that in mind, I thought I’d share what I’m thinking.

Here are my current 6 favorite grasshopper patterns

Dave’s Hopper

I’m going old school for my first choice. I’ve been fishing this fly for as long as I can remember and it works as well today as it ever did. No space-age polymers in this baby but it sure gets eaten.

Reeces Beefcake Hopper

Where’s the beef? Right here. This spindly bug rides low in the water like the real thing and is tough as nails. It needs to be, ‘cause it gets chewed on.

Parachute Hopper

Another classic, but I have caught so many fish on this fly I can’t see taking it out of the rotation. It’s an easy pattern to tie as well.

Hog Caller Hopper

If this doesn’t get their attention, nothing will. A bright foam pattern that

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What The Little Fish Are Saying

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This post has a soundtrack. Take a second to start the video below.

This post has a soundtrack. Take a second to start the video below.

MAYBE YOUR STATURE AS A FLY FISHERMAN ISN’T DETERMINED BY HOW BIG A TROUT YOU CAN CATCH, BUT BY HOW SMALL A TROUT YOU CAN CATCH WITHOUT BEING DISAPPOINTED. — JOHN GIERACH

Like it or not, I am in the big fish business.

I hate admitting it, but that’s how it started. I carried a camera to take photos of fish and the small ones were not the fish who got photographed. Eventually folks started to buy the photos I took and I found there was a simple equation. The bigger the fish, the faster the sale. That’s a pretty hard-nosed view of fly fishing and I’m not especially proud of it.

Call it skill or luck or hard work, a lot of big fish have come my way. I’m grateful for each of them. I hope there will be many more but I no longer measure myself in inches or pounds of fish. Not because I’m above it or used to it or jaded about it. I still like to catch big fish but I’ve come to understand my place in the equation.

Sometimes I choose the fish. I plan, I strategize, I stalk and pursue. Often, by force of will, I bring the fish to me. Sometimes I choose the fish, but every time the fish chooses me. I think about this when I am swinging a fly for steelhead. Like a practitioner of tai chi, I mind my swing. Seeking always the perfect presentation. Mindful and empty, dreaming not of what was or what may be, simply present in what is.

It is in that moment that the fish chooses me. I accept that all I have done is to make myself available to him. It is not done without skill or planning. It is not an accident. It is the culmination of years of effort but I recognize that it is a culmination for him as well. It is not a thing I have done alone. I have not brought the fish to me, something larger has brought us together.

In that convergence there is something that defies explanation. Among the thousands of fish that have passed in and out of my hands, some are special. I can not always say why. Once in a while a fish connects with me in a way that is deeper than either of us can grasp. There is a convergence of place and time, of hand and heart the sum of which is greater than the two of us.

One of these fish is worth a year of my life. That is

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Fly Fishing Is A Journey

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I’ll never forget my first trout on the fly.

It was tiny. A rainbow. Probably wild, but I wouldn’t have known the difference or even cared at the time. It was memorable primarily because it was a long time coming. I’ll always remember my first steelhead, my first tarpon and many others, but none of them were as hard won as that little rainbow.

Although I started fly fishing when I was very young, I spent years fishing warm water for panfish and bass. There was no trout water accessible to me. It was all a good drive away and there was no one interested in driving me. My grandfather took me trout fishing once when I was eight years old. He dumped me on a small overgrown stream and went about his business. I’m not sure my fly even hit the water that day but the trees got plenty of attention. If I did wet a fly, I had no idea what to do with it. The idea of fishing moving water was as foreign as sculpting a fish from stone. I decided that trout fishing was too hard for me and I didn’t go back to it for many years.

Once the code was cracked and that little rainbow landed, trout became a singular obsession. I found myself on a trout stream well over a hundred days a year and many firsts followed. My first brown trout, my first brooke, my first trout over twenty inches, then over thirty. I tied my first fly, built my first bamboo rod, rowed my first drift boat, cast my first spey rod. Each new step requiring me to learn new skills and take new risks. With each new challenge, renewed excitement and focus.

On a family beach trip many years ago, I carried an old seven-weight fiberglass fly rod. I had no idea what to do with it but I’d heard people talk about fly fishing in saltwater so I took it, and a few Clouser Minnows. I wasted a day casting blindly and wondering how the hell I was supposed to find a fish until I saw bait busting the surface. I cast my fly into the disturbance

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3 Options For Attaching A Leader To Your Fly Line

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There are a couple of easy ways to attach a leader to a fly line, but which is best?

I know the method I like, but there are pluses and minuses to each. In the end, the best method is the one that works best for you and the way you fish. I’ll go over the three most common ways to attach a leader to a fly line and you can decide which one is for you.

The Nail Knot

The venerable Nail Knot has been attaching fly lines to leaders for as long as there have been fly lines and leaders to attach. If you have been fly fishing for a long time, it’s probably how you learned to doit. It is, for the record, my least favorite and I have not used it for years. Still, it does have its advantages.

The Nail Knot uses friction to hold the leader to the fly line. It’s fairly simple to tie, though some kind of tool helps. You can use a nail or small tube, a Nail Knot tool of course, and I have always used hemostats.

The upside of this knot is that it is the easiest to bring through your guides, especially if you coat it with a little UV resin. That I suppose, is helpful if you are a euro-nympher. I personally have not felt the need to bring my leader into my guides since sometime in the 1980s. It’s just a good way to break off fish, in my opinion. If you like to do it, the Nail Knot may be a good choice.

The downside of the Nail Knot is that it’s the weakest connection you can use. That’s a pretty big drawback, for me. It’s not that there is anything wrong with the knot, but

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Do fish dream?

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AH, THERE’S THE RUB, FOR WHAT DREAMS MAY COME IN THAT SLEEP OF FISH?

Have you ever been sight fishing to a nice fish and not gotten so much as a look at your fly? The fish just sat quietly finning as your fly drifted inches from its nose, like it was asleep. It may have been.

Do fish sleep? Undoubtedly. That’s a scientific fact that is well documented. They don’t sleep like we do and, in fact, different species of fish have very different ways of sleeping. Some sleep at night, some during the day and some are nappers. Some swim while asleep and some sleep so soundly that you can hold them in your hand without waking them.

Tuna, for example, rest motionless at night, suspended in the water. Bass and perch will sleep under or on top of logs. Reef fish seek refuge in crevices. Parrotfish build a cocoon of mucus in which to sleep. That sounds nasty, but maybe that’s the point. I wouldn’t eat something wrapped in mucus. Would you?

Although different fishes have different sleep habits they have a lot in common. Fish don’t have eye lids so they don’t exactly get shut eye. Their muscles relax, their breathing and heart rate slow, they become to some degree immobile and less sensitive to external stimuli. They also, to some extent, lose consciousness.

Fish do not live in as safe a world as we do and sleeping can be a risky proposition. For that reason most fish are never completely unconscious. Their brains sleep in shifts, resting different systems at different times. Shutting down nonessential bodily functions for periods of time. I imagine it’s much like day dreaming. Like when your brain is back on the beach in the Bahamas while your body seems to be looking over spread sheets at your desk. You’re not fully aware of your surroundings but alert enough to figure out that the sound you hear is your boss clearing his throat.

But what about those dreams? I’m not aware of any scientific studies about fish dreams. I do, however, have a case for their likely existence. Bear with me, this requires a huge and very unscientific leap. Let’s assume, for the minute, that a fish’s brain has some similar wiring to our own.

What is going on when we dream?

Dreaming is our brain’s way of filing information. Let’s use the clumsy but common metaphor of the computer. Our short term memory is like the

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Fly Fishing: Float N’ Fly Rig for the Fly Rod

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This past week I wrote a fly fishing tactics post for targeting bass on reservoirs during the fall. At the tail-end of the post, I touched base on how effective a Float N’ Fly Rig (basically a nymphing rig on my fly rod) can be for catching good numbers of bass during the late fall and winter months. From late fall through winter, when water temperatures begin dipping into the mid-50s and lower, catching bass on deep reservoirs with traditional fly fishing setups can become extremely difficult for two reasons. The first reason is because bass start becoming sluggish as their metabolisms plummet from cooling lake water temperatures. With lower metabolisms, bass feed less frequently and they also move shorter distances to forage on food (in an effort to conserve energy). This is bad news for fly anglers because it drastically shrinks the size of the strike zone (the hot zone around a bass that a fly or lure needs to enter, to consistently trigger bites) and it makes it much harder for fly anglers to find, present, and retrieve fly patterns through these small strike zones. The second reason the bass fishing is tough this time of year is because a good portion of the bass on the lakes will move out of the shallow water feeding grounds of the fall and back out into the main lake deep water areas, where they’ll often suspend in the water column in 10-25′ of water.

The main problem with cold water suspended bass is that it’s really hard for fly anglers to keep their fly patterns in the strike zone throughout the entire retrieve. It’s really only in front of the bass for a small percentage of the retrieve. The first half of the retrieve an angler struggles to get the fly down to the level of the bass, and the last half of the retrieve, the fly is coming up and out of the strike zone as it gets closer to the angler and the boat on the surface. With a Float N’ Fly Rig, the suspension/floating device (strike indicator set to a preferred depth) allows you to maintain a consistent depth with your fly pattern during the entire retrieve, even when you’re working it extremely slow to entice cold water bass. That’s critical for triggering lethargic bass that often need to be coaxed into feeding. What you’re trying to do with your float n’ fly rig is make that baitfish jig pattern look injured or dying. It needs to look like an easy meal and the bass will suck it in if you get it close enough to them. The best technique is to make a cast to the bank, let your fly sink, and then slowly bring the entire rig back to you with very subtle rod tip bounces or jiggling. All you want is the strike indicator to barely be moving as you’re bringing the rig back to you. I usually stop the twitching and pause for 20-30 seconds a couple of times during each retrieve. The more windy the day is or the more chop there is on the water, the less you have to twitch the rod tip, because you’ll naturally get action on your jig from the choppy or wavy water on the surface.

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Technical tips from Southern NZ

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By Chris Dore
Whilst I enjoy chasing big fish in the backcountry here in New Zealand, there isn’t actually much to it: Find a fish. Put your fly in front of him, and strike.

It’s the smaller, hatch-driven streams that offer the challenge for me, the technical presentations their finicky trout require and often ‘outside of the box’ thinking. Straight line presentations rarely succeed and so slack line casts, chosen to beat drag and deliver your fly naturally (or not) are mandatory.

Today, Simon Chu and I visited a rather technical stream in the deep south known for its wary browns. It was a fun day shared with a good mate but we certainly needed to bring our A game. In the end we hooked 2 dozen fish between us on a range of lightweight nymphs and film flies.

HERE ARE A FEW TRICKS WHICH HELPED US TODAY:

– Make every presentation count. Each cast needs to be

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Camera grip

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THE WAY YOU HOLD YOUR FLY ROD AFFECTS YOUR CASTING, RIGHT? THE WAY YOU HOLD YOUR CAMERA MATTERS, TOO.

Most people never stop to think about it, but I remember being taught in school the proper grip for a camera. First off, all SLRs are right handed. If you’re left- handed, you will just have to get used to it. To properly support the camera, your left hand should be positioned palm-up and level and the camera — whether oriented horizontally or vertically — rests in your palm. Your left thumb and index finger curl up to the lens to operate zoom and focus features. Most cameras have an ergonomic grip on the right side that leaves your index finger ready for the shutter release, and thumb free for the adjustment wheel. Let the left hand support the weight of the camera. With large telephoto lenses it may be necessary to move your left hand forward under the lens for balance. With a good grip you

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