Watching Your Fly Line Tells You If You’re Fishing

No comments yet / Posted on / by

When fly-fishing in saltwater, if your fly isn’t moving, you’re not fishing.

This is one of those ideas that’s dead simple in principal and damned complicated in practice. For a fish to see your fly as food, it must have the right action, but there are factors at work that the angler may not perceive. Have you ever wondered why many saltwater fly lines are so brightly colored? It’s not a fashion statement, it’s a tool and often the key to catching fish.

Too many anglers making the transition from freshwater to salt think of the ocean like a big pond. In truth, it has more in common with a river. The water in the ocean is always moving and it’s often not readily apparent in which direction or how quickly. If you are fishing from a boat, the boat may also be in motion and not necessarily with the flow of the water. On top of all that the wind can influence the motion of the water, the boat and the fly line. It’s a lot to keep up with, but if you don’t you’ll pay the price in missed opportunities.

I’ve seen a lot of good casts fail to produce fish because the angler was not aware that their fly was dead in the water. Picture for a moment that you are on the bow of a flats boat. Your guide is poling against the current when he calls out a fish at 11 o’clock. You make a nice cast but because the boat was moving toward 12 o’clock you failed to notice that the current is coming toward you. If you strip as though you were in still water, you’ll never come tight to the fly. You will only take up the slack as the fly sits dead on the bottom and the fish will swim on by.

The opposite can be just as deadly. Suppose your guide

Read More »

Fly-fishing and the Other Stuff That Gets Us Outside

4 comments / Posted on / by

By Daniel Galhardo

I believe fly-fishing is first and foremost and excuse for us to spend time outside.

And it is an incredibly good one. But, deep down it is truly nature, the environment where we find ourselves, that keeps us going out for more. Yes, I know a couple of fishing lunatics that can keep going back to the ugliest ditches to catch fish; but I know way more people that wouldn’t go to those places more than once for a fish of any size, yet keep returning to beautiful parks, pristine meadows and picturesque mountains even if the fish are not that big.

In fact, I know many people that keep going back to those places even when fishing is not the main intention. They just want to be there. Sometimes I find myself in that camp.

I could wax poetic about how “many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.” (Thoreau). But I believe you have heard that enough that, by now, you either have come to hate the cliched sentence, or have come to believe it. Regardless, I would imagine you already sense that any excuse to be outside must be grabbed.

At this time of year we experience our infamous runoff season. The snow that has accumulated in the Colorado peaks during the winter melts and inflates our rivers. Although “snow melt” makes for a cool Colorado beer ingredient (Upslope beer is awesome by the way) it also makes it a bit tough to fish near home. So, at this time of year I find other excuses to get me outside.

One of the things that gets me outside at this time of year is foraging. I get outside and roam forests and fields in search of edible mushrooms and mountain vegetables. Foraging is actually not too unlike fishing. It often gets me to beautiful places. And, the process of actively looking for something, just like looking for the spots where the fish may be hiding, fills the parts of my brain that are normally busy thinking about work and life’s challenges.

When I go fishing, I typically notice a lot of things in the stream that I wouldn’t pay that much attention to while on a regular hike. I notice the way a current may form a whirlpool and gather things such as insects and leaves in nooks between rocks. I notice the shadows that betray the location of fish. Likewise, foraging allows me to notice things I wouldn’t pay much attention to while fishing. I notice the way a fern uncurls as it comes out of the ground, or the patterns and texture of a small patch of moss. I even notice the smells are different. While I’m fishing, my nostrils seem to pick up the freshness of water and the scent of fresh pines more than the earthy smells I notice when I’m walking on dry land. It is interesting to notice these differences.

Last week I went on an outing that filled my soul – yeah, I know, cliché… But, it was so true. One morning I woke up with an intense desire to go fishing. The rivers were blown out of proportion here. I had an early morning meeting, but couldn’t stop thinking about hitting the water. Going for a regular hike with the dog was not going to fill the need I had. As I had my morning coffee, I decided I needed a more intimate, and perhaps more adventurous experience with mother nature. A few minutes before leaving for my meeting, I decided I was going packrafting, and foraging, and bring a tenkara rod along just in case.

Read More »

DIY Emergency Boat Anchor: Video

1 comment / Posted on / by

Have you ever lost your boat anchor during a day on the river?

If you haven’t, you probably will. Or at least you’ll forget to bring it one day. It can make for a pretty frustrating day of fishing but it doesn’t have to be. There’s and easy and inexpensive way to make an emergency boat anchor.

Keep a basketball net in the boat. It cost $6 and takes up no space. In a pinch it makes a great boat anchor. It could be the best $6 you ever spent.


Read More »

Why Did I Lose That Fish?

11 comments / Posted on / by

By Kyle Wilkinson

Nobody likes to lose a fish.

’Tis the season that I’m spending a lot of time on the water guiding, and so far it’s been a great year. Whether it be the manageable flows through runoff, good customers, happy fish, good daily bug activity, good weather… everything has been shaping up very nicely and I can’t wait for these next few months with (hopefully) more of the same.

That said, one thing that never gets easier to swallow is when a customer loses a fish, particularly a big one you’ve been working hard to hook. I feel very confident in my ability to calmly coach people through fighting a fish, but the ultimate reality of this sport is that some of them are still just going to get away. This past week dealt me some of the tougher fishing conditions of the season and on top of it, we lost a couple of big fish. Not fun.

Just as most fly anglers seem to make many of the same mistakes when learning to cast a fly rod, the same is true when learning to fight fish. We’ve all heard the same old adages, “Don’t horse him in!”, “Let him run!”, “Just take your time!” (I could go one) but what happens when you’re doing those things and the fish still comes off?


Don’t Touch The Reel Handle. This is easily the number one reason I see customers lose fish. It is always a goal of mine to get any fish of size on the reel when fighting it. That said, (and perhaps many of you can relate) having your hand on the reel at the time a fish decides to make a run is a recipe for disaster. When fighting a fish you must always anticipate another run is likely to happen, especially with the first attempt to net it. I see many customers get so caught up in the moment with the fact that they’re bringing the fish closer to the net that –even with my verbal reminding – they seem to forget this. My suggestion if you’ve ever found yourself in the above situation is to practice taking 3-5 quick turns of the reel and then take your hand off. If the fish still seems willing to come closer, grab a few more quick turns and then again… hand off. Work on gaining line back in shorter, more controlled bursts and you’ll be in business!
Use Your Rod Angles. Have you ever watched someone

Read More »

The Thrill that Comes From the Unknown

2 comments / Posted on / by

If you ask me, I think the surprise factor in fly fishing is underrated. Most of us choose to spend our time preparing and planning out every single detail of our fly fishing trips, so we can eliminate it. We spend hours tying recommended flies, we go threw our gear with a fine tooth comb checking for imperfections, and we research everything we can about the water and species we’ll be tackling. We do this because we want to feel in control. Furthermore, we do it because we want to catch fish. Problem is, fly fishing isn’t all about trying to squeeze out every bit of success we can muster out of a day on the water. A big part of fly fishing for me is letting go and

Read More »

Fly Fishing Provides Great Health Benefits

15 comments / Posted on / by

I tell my clients, all the time, that I’m grateful for all the benefits fly fishing provides anglers. It provides us with one of the funnest ways to exercise, and it has the ability to completely wash away the stress of everyday life, from its therapeutic entertainment. We really should be thankful that this passion of ours provides us with so much more than just the reward of catching fish. Each and everyday we fly fish, we should take a minute to sit back and reflect on this fact. What other exercise activity can you think of that allows you to burn tons of calories during the day, and not have the faintest clue your even working out? Most of us aren’t extreme athletes, and even if we were back in the day, many of us have gotten older and are no longer. The great thing about fly fishing is you can tailor it to your own abilities and needs. It’s a great activity for maintaining your long term balance, dexterity and muscle strength, and it does a very good job of keeping your brain sharp.
I really think we could boost the growth of the fly fishing industry if more people were writing about all the great health benefits it provides, both mentally and physically? I’d love to see Yahoo, or one of those other giant headline news websites (that most of us visit daily) post on its home page, a fly fishing picture with the headline, “Lose 15 pounds and have a blast doing it.” We need to start thinking outside the box to promote and attract newcomers to fly fishing, and I think this could be one area most of us have been overlooking.

Read More »

Is Our Thinking About Flies All Wrong?

18 comments / Posted on / by

By Dan Frasier

What if I were to tell you there is no such thing as a trout fly?

A few days ago my good friend and fly designer Steve Martinez posted a link to one of his flies that Orvis carries; his Frankenstein Sculpin. I love this fly, but his comment intrigued me. He wrote; “Although I designed this fly for carp, it has been a killer smallmouth fly this year here on the Great Lakes.” No doubt that’s a true statement. It’s a killer fly. But my first thought was, “Well, duh. It’s a fly that intends to look like a Goby, the major baitfish on his part of the Great Lakes. Of course it works for anything eating them.” And that is when it occurred to me; We’ve been doing it all wrong.

In my book, The Orvis Beginners Guide to Carp Flies, I emphasize repeatedly that there is no such thing as a carp fly. There are flies, designed to look like certain foods, that work where carp eat those things. If you don’t match the pattern with the food in the area that carp are eating, you’re SOL. Carp aren’t special in this way. Trout flies work under the same premise. An Elk-hair Caddis works where trout are eating caddis and doesn’t where they are eating scuds. And, an Elk-hair Caddis works on carp that are eating caddis and doesn’t where they are eating Gobies. So, is the Elk-hair Caddis a trout fly? Or is it a fly that works on fish eating caddis? I think the answer is obvious.

Yet when I look through any fly catalogue from the major manufacturers, the overriding theme seems to be to segregate flies by species. Wanna catch a pike? Better check out the pike flies. Fishing for smallies? Turn to the bass section. We ignore the fact that these species key on certain foods at certain locations just as much as trout do. We also ignore that many different species in that location will be all eating the same food organism; that a hex fly will work on smallies eating hexes just as well as it does for trout eating hexes. That’s why flies created for one species are frequently used by experienced anglers for others.

The experimentation and expansion of the species anglers chase with the fly seems to be increasing at an exponential rate. No longer do you hear talk of certain fish species being lesser than others. People celebrate catching panfish without apology. Carp are the obvious poster child but all species seem to be looked at as something worth chasing. From gar to whitefish to musky, the world of opportunities is evolving within flyfishing, and for that reason we need to change the way we categorize flies. It’s time to

Read More »

The Woman Behind The Feel

16 comments / Posted on / by


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

Read More »

Reece’s Fusion Nymph

3 comments / Posted on / by

Watch the Video!

Bob Reece

Wire body nymphs sink quickly but their rigid structure produces no added movement.

Dubbed nymph bodies provide excellent movement but do not sink quickly and lack durability. Reece’s Fusion nymph combines these elements, allowing it to sink quickly, display enhanced movement and sport excellent durability.

Versatility of application and ease of creation are appealing payoffs for the investment of time at the vise. The process and materials used to create this pattern, check both of the above mentioned boxes. With the variety of available colors of Ultra Wire, Ostrich Herl and Ice Dub, the color combinations for this fly are nearly endless. The size range is also highly flexible. By adjusting the wire diameter and portion of the herl used, this nymph can be tied from a size twenty up to a size six. A size twenty, for example, would be tied using extra small Ultra Wire and the fine tip portion of the herl. Conversely, a size six would incorporate large Ultra Wire and the widest portion of the herl, found from mid stem down to the base. The optional inclusion of various sizes of MFC Sexi-Floss for rubber legs, can be used to increase the already present element of movement. Over the past three years this pattern in its plethora of sizes and color combinations has brought fish to net on numerous still waters, freestones and even the highly pressured tailwaters of Cheesman canyon, Gray’s Reef and the Miracle mile. Its applications are not limited to trout. It has proved itself as an effective pattern for other species ranging from grayling to pan fish.

With regard to process, the simplicity of this patterns makes for an easy creation for tiers at all skill levels. Its fundamental steps of construction are frequently used in the creation of other patterns and should become part of the repertoire of any aspiring tiers. Due to the small number of steps, the overall time for creation is minimal. This serves as another benefit in a world of constant busyness and demands for our free time.

There are several rigging options for this pattern depending on the type of water that is being fished. When using the Fusion on still waters, I rig it as the bottom fly on a suspended nymph rig under an indicator. This same set up is also applicable on moving water. Additionally the Fusion nymph makes for a great dropper in the widely used dry dropper rigging. It’s important to note that the high density of its construction requires a large foam terrestrial to float it in its larger sizes. If used as a dropper below a traditional dry fly, the Fusion nymph size should fall into the sixteen to twenty range. Moving beyond more traditional setups, this patterns serves as a solid foundation at the bottom of a tight line rig. In an even more atypical setup, I’ve had great success trailing this bug two feet behind a small streamer pattern in clear water conditions.

Watch this video and learn to tie Reece’s Fusion Nymph

Read More »

If You’re Not Looking For Trout, You’re Missing Out

5 comments / Posted on / by

One of the things I always stress to my clients is the importance of always keeping an eye out for trout on the water. The first thing I do when I walk up to a prime piece of trout water, is take a minute or two to scan the water for dark shapes, shadows and subtle movements. I do it before I wet my fly or even my boots for that matter, because I know, if I can spot a trout, I’ll immediately double my chances at getting my rod bent. I also look for trout when I’m wading from one spot to the next. This is where many anglers mess up and get distracted by all the great looking water upstream of them, and then end up missing opportunities to spot and catch trout in transit. I used to spook a ton of trout myself moving from one fishing spot to the next. It still happens but not nearly as much because these days, when I’m on the move, I’m not in a hurry and I take plenty of time to look for trout as I wade.

You have to look for trout to spot them. They don’t shout, “hey, I’m over here”, or wave a white flag at you.

Read More »