The Streamer Game

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Streamer fishing is addictive. It’s almost become a cliche, but it’s true.

Guys get into it and hardly want to do anything else. I’m kinda one of those guys. I do lots of kinds of fishing, but if I’m out for trout and there’s nothing obvious going on, a streamer is likely what I’m tying on. I can’t say for sure why other folks get hooked on streamers, but I know what it is for me.

Obviously, there is immense skill in fishing dry flies and nymphs. Each is an art unto itself but the very nature of a dead drift is inherently passive. Streamer fishing is active. What I mean by that is, you are directly imparting an action to the fly which fools the fish. For me, it just feels more personal. I am “making” that fish eat. Again, this is totally personal but when I see the fish chase and eat my streamer it’s incredibly rewarding. The really cool thing about this is that it leaves a lot of room for personal expression on the part of the angler. My action is my action, by my hand. It’s different from yours, and every dedicated streamer fisherman I know has their own style. Those styles vary widely, so I thought I would share some of the gear and tactics that are successful for me.

Here’s how I play the game.

I want to get in the fish’s face with a big fly that looks alive but vulnerable. I want that fly to look like a bait fish that’s disoriented and in a panic. I want a lot of room between me and the bank. I want to identify and hit multiple holding zones between me and the bank. I’ll drop my fly a few inches from the bank just upstream of a likely pocket, then as I work it back to the boat, I mend, or pause, or speed up my retrieve to work the fly through as many holding zones as I can identify. Fifty or sixty feet is an ideal distance. It’s a challenging way to fish, but for me, it’s deadly.

Here is the setup I use to overcome some of the challenges.

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5 Reasons People Don’t Catch As Many Trout As They Should

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By Kyle Wilkenson

These 5 bad habits will keep you from catching the fish you deserve.

Whether I’m guiding or working in the shop, one thing rings true– I talk to a lot of anglers. Living in Denver, a lot of these anglers have made it past the ‘beginner’ stage but still aren’t catching as many fish as they’d like, or with the consistency they’d like. It is not enough in fly-fishing to simply get comfortable with your clinch knot and roll cast and expect the numbers of fish you’re catching to increase dramatically. I guide a lot of our customers who fall into this category– let’s call it ‘intermediate– and over the years it seems we always end up working on the same 5 things.

SO WITHOUT FURTHER ADIEU, HERE ARE MY TOP 5 REASONS PEOPLE DON’T CATCH AS MANY TROUT AS THEY SHOULD:

1. They Cast First and Look Second. I started with this reason because, in my opinion, it is the one thing people have the most trouble wrapping their head around. In reality, the correct order would be Look First. Cast Second. This is particularly true if you fish anywhere that presents itself with sight fishing opportunities. Whenever you approach the river, take a minute (or sometimes literally several minutes) and study the water. You’ll be amazed how many times there will be fish right at your feet, ready to eat your fly. More often than not though, people walk right up to the river and charge on in without ever breaking stride. By doing this, not only did you likely just walk through fish that could have been caught, but you also just sent them darting for the depths in a panic which can put other fish in the area on alert. Spotting fish in the water is not an ‘easy’ skill and is not something you learn to do in one day. Sure, we guides may make it look easy some days to spot fish wherever we walk, but I promise you this skill was hard-earned. Start making it a point to study the water looking for fish and once you have those first few successes, you’ll never look at the river the same way again.

2. They Don’t watch the bubbles. If you’ve never paid attention before to the speed of the bubbles on the surface versus to the speed your indicator,,when nymphing, it’s time to start. Simply put, the indicator NEEDS to be floating slower than the bubbles on the surface and here’s why. When it comes to nymphing, most of the time the fish you’re targeting are going to be sitting very tight to the bottom. The water on the bottom of the river is moving slower than the water on the surface. If your indicator is floating the same speed as the bubbles on the surface then this means your flies are whizzing by the trout at an unnatural rate of speed, if they’re even getting down into the zone at all (which they’re likely not). This problem can easily be fixed by

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Wild Trout, Mushrooms and Perspective

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By Louis Cahill

I’m not sure there is such a thing as being lost in the woods.

I certainly don’t feel lost as I walk the trail, once an old logging road looking down on a beautiful, tumbling trout stream. I feel much more at home than lost, even though my new vision is not good in the confusing visual surroundings. The smells and the sounds are all old friends, as are the feel of the dirt and water and fine layer of sweat forming everywhere on my body. The warm, wet embrace of the forest feels like home. It’s Justin that I’ve lost.

It was so generous of him to drive me up here and take me out fishing, knowing I’d be slow and likely a burden. We were both so excited to fish that we couldn’t help but stop where the trail crosses the first stream and see if anyone was home. I was sure I’d seen him start up the trail and, when my calls got no answer, I figured I’d better get after him. I didn’t want to be the invalid slowing him down. I was too concerned with proving I could keep up to realize I was leaving him behind.

I still can’t get used to the idea that I can no longer trust my eyes. Just yesterday, my wife was telling me about a beautiful humming bird in the garden. I couldn’t see it. After she went inside, and I was about to do the same, I spotted him. He was hovering right in front of me, almost like he was blocking my way, so close I could almost reach out and touch him. I froze and watched him for thirty seconds or so before it dawned on me that it was not a hummingbird four feet away, but a big ass bee four inches away, warning me away from his nest. Perspective. Not as easy as it once was.

A mile and a half up the trail, the idea is just occurring to me that it was likely not Justin I’d seen headed up the trail, or it was Justin and this was not where he was headed. Either way, I’m alone to enjoy my stupidity. That’s the charitable nature of my self examination. Too proud to think of myself as handicapped, just enough self loathing to think of myself as stupid. I started back down the path letting out the occasional “Hootie-Hoo!” and listening for Justin’s response. 

I have to keep a good eye on the trail, lest I walk off the edge. There’d be no stopping the tumbling on that slope. Along the edge of the trail I spot scattered orange trumpet shapes. I know that color, not quite orange but not yellow. Chanterelle mushrooms, I’m pretty sure. Kathy will be excited. Maybe too excited, she’s way more comfortable popping forest treats in her mouth than I am. “Pretty sure,” is not a great place to be with wild mushrooms. Damned sure is almost sure enough. I pick two and put them in my pack for further inspection by the smarter half of the family. I “Hoot” again and this time I hear Justin hoot back.

This stream is one of those you don’t talk about. Maybe, after fishing with a guy for years, seeing how he handles fish, seeing how he treats his family. understanding his religion and politics, maybe seeing him take in a sick stray dog, you might casually drop the name. 

“Hey, you ever heard of…”

Then if he gives you that look, like he isn’t sure he should say yes, like he’s quietly judging you, maybe thinking about that time you had one too many and lost your temper with that idiot in the bar in Jackson, and then he says, “Yeah, I fish up there.”

Then the two of you might plan a trip. You hike up there for a day, not more than once a year, because you know how special it is and you don’t want to screw it up. You catch little wild fish on dry flies out of every pocket, and once, maybe twice in your lifetime a fifteen or sixteen inch fish charges out from a dark undercut bank to eat your fly, in a stream you can jump across, and the two of you never forget it but you never talk about it. That’s the kind of day it was.

It was my first real day of mountain trout fishing in over a year. The first time I’d

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Why I Want to Move to Argentina

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By Justin Pickett

“SO MUCH WATER, NO ONE PERSON WOULD EVER BE ABLE TO COVER ALL OF IT, BUT I’D SURE LIKE TO TRY.”

At the beginning of the year I was afforded the opportunity to travel to Argentina for a week-long fishing adventure in the Patagonia region with Andes Drifters. It was relatively short notice (less than 30 days), and my typical schedule doesn’t really allow for that, but over my dead body was I going to miss out on an opportunity like this. I can still remember the phone call I received from Louis. I was standing in the paint section of Home Depot mulling over my list of needed stuff for household projects when he asked me if I could rearrange my schedule in order to make the trip. I was so consumed with making it work that I completely spaced out and left the store without buying a damn thing on that list. It took some scrambling over a few days, but I was able to work it out. Less than a month later I was on a flight to Buenos Aires, and let me tell you it was one amazing trip.

Let me first say that, yes, the fishing is the reason why I was so excited to come to Argentina, and it did not disappoint. When I stepped off of that plane, it was all I could do to keep myself from stringing up a rod and throwing a double-haul down the terminal. What I didn’t realize was that by the time I left, I would have a huge appreciation for the people and the culture of Argentina, and the endless opportunities for travel and adventure, whether you’re going stag, or traveling with your family. Not to mention the guides’ enthusiasm for wanting to share everything about their world with you.

Once arriving in Buenos Aires, we hopped on a two hour flight west to Bariloche, which is a major hub for those traveling into the Patagonia region. We were met outside the terminal by a few of the guides and tossed our gear into their HiLux’s (which are awesome!) and headed for the lodge. It would be another two hours before we would make it to the lodge, and at first I couldn’t stand the thought of two more hours of travel. However, once we made it out of the airport, the concept of time was lost to me. I couldn’t take my eyes off of the scenery. Everywhere I looked, as far as the eye could see, was unmolested beauty. The bluest skies, snow-capped volcanoes, soaring condors, rivers and streams flowing everywhere, and mountain ranges reaching towards the Pacific filled my view from the passenger seat, and before I knew it we had arrived at the Spring Creek Lodge.

Here, again, the scenery is second to none. The lodge sits in a valley alongside the banks of a small tributary of Rio Chimehuin, with the main flow just 200 meters from the lodge. Surrounding the main lodge are the well-appointed, two-bedroom guest cabins. Looking out the front door of your cabin, you’re greeted with an in-your-face view of the Lanin Volcano, just beyond the rolling hills and towering mountain range. Meandering through the property is a small creek which drains into a small pond full of big Brown and Rainbow trout, which are introduced as pets and are off limits to any hook harassment, but fun to watch nonetheless. The service and the friendliness of the staff at the lodge are amazing. Nothing is out of the question, and they make sure that you have everything you want and need. Gustavo Hiebaum operates the lodge and is a wonderful host. He and the staff make sure to interact with each and every guest on a daily basis, making sure everyone is stress-free and having a great time.

A typical day with Andes Drifters consists of waking up early to find a generous spread of fresh coffee, fruits, cereals, juices, pastries, meats, eggs and anything else you could ever desire for breakfast. I wanted for nothing. Oh, and don’t forget the dolce de leche. It’s present, in some form or fashion, at just about every meal, and you’ll want to bring home a jar of it for yourself! While at the lodge, I made sure to take the time to enjoy a cup of coffee on the porch every morning so I could relax, wake up, and admire the view. By seven-thirty or eight, the guides had arrived and began packing the trucks with our gear and got everybody ready to depart for the river. We were usually on the water by 9am, which is late by my standards, but what you may not know about this region is that summer days here are LONG. The sun rises around 6:30am and doesn’t set until nearly 10:00pm, leaving plenty of light for fishing so there’s no need to rush. Once we arrived at our put-in and got our rods strung up, we hit the water and got to fishing. And fish hard we did.

We would stop at a nice shady spot for lunch every day with enough time afterwards to recharge the batteries with a short nap. Lunch was another great experience. No corners cut. The meals consisted mainly of cold meats, pastas, salads, as well as other local fare, and were outstanding. Once lunch was broken down it was back to the fishing for the rest of the day until it was time for the row-in beer. Once back at the lodge, there was enough downtime to relax and clean up. In the lodge, wine and spirits flowed and hors d’oeuvres were laid out for everyone to enjoy. Dinner was always special. Not only was the food spectacular, but Gustavo arranged some sort of entertainment for every evening, such as tango dancers and musicians, adding to the enjoyment had by all. Truly, a day that could only be described as rewarding and awe inspiring.

Spending a week on the water with the guides from Andes Drifters was a treat in itself. These guys work their butts off to make sure their clients are safe, have fun, and catch fish. They were the first up every morning to make sure we were ready to hit the water, and the last to go to sleep, and they do it all with a smile. I’ve never heard so much fun and laughter come from a group of guides sitting around the lunch table, or a campfire. It’s obvious the Andes Drifters’ guides truly love to be on the water with their clients. And not only do these guides love their job, but they are damn good at it! Our guide that week, Eduardo, could row a damn boat and knew his water like the back of his hand. Open minded, and full of knowledge, tips, and tricks, it was a pleasure being on the boat with him that week.

Ah, the meat and potatoes… The fishing. Andes Drifters offers numerous options when it comes to fishing the waters around the northern Patagonia region. Names like Chimehuin, Melleo, Alumine, and Limay are mainstays in this area, and

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My Most Memorable Bonefish

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sn’t it funny, how certain fish we catch during our fly fishing trips can end up providing us with ten times the satisfaction over all the others.

Sometimes, the size of our catch has little at all to do with the amount of reward it brings. I love catching big fish just as much as the next guy, but for me at least, it’s often more about overcoming the challenges along the way that’s what really makes one catch end up standing out amongst all the rest.

For example, my most memorable bonefish to date, only weighed around four pounds. I’ve landed much larger bones over the years, but what made this particular bonefish so special to me, were the extremely difficult fly fishing conditions I had to work through to hook and land it. Before it all unfolded, and I found myself feeling that special fish tugging on the end of my line, I was holding onto the last remaining tidbits of hope I had left inside me for dear life. I thought success was just about impossible. Never give up when you’re out fly fishing. For when you succeed when everything is stacked up against you, it will be invigorating to your very core.

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First look at the Ibera Wetlands

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By Louis Cahill

Every now and then I have to remind myself that a redfish tail isn’t going to pop up along the edge of the grass.

The scene looks familiar but what lurks below the surface is a bit more sinister. The Ibera Wetlands, in northern Argentina, may look like the Lowcountry marsh of South Carolina but that’s the end of any similarity. The eight-thousand square mile, freshwater marsh is like a vast, grassy inland sea. It filters immeasurable gallons of rainwater headed for the Parana river system and supports a remarkably diverse array of wildlife including prehistoric tapers, capybara, caiman and countless exotic birds. Deep in the marsh live native people so isolated they do not even speak Spanish, and while everything that meets your eye appears like some lost paradise, below the surface of the water things are very different. There in the weed and grass below the water is the most ruthless food chain I have ever witnessed.

We are there to fish for dorado, the king of freshwater sport fish. They are a vicious apex predator and seriously challenging on a fly rod, but they are only one of a cast of toothy players in this place. I honestly can’t remember the names of most of the species I’ve caught. The first morning, eight casts brought in eight different species, including one that looked like a musky and a neon tetra had a baby. There are piranha everywhere. Growing up in the sixties, television led me to believe two thing were going to be a constant threat in life, quicksand and piranha. I’ve still yet to have a life threatening run in with quicksand but, in this place, piranha live up to my childhood expectations. I wasn’t eaten alive, but I lost countless flies. Some spots you just have to fire up the motor and move on.

Moving on is, in it’s self an interesting proposition in the wetlands. The abundance of vegetation gives the impression that there is a lot of land. There isn’t, just huge rafts of floating vegetation. What look like islands move with the flow of the water. If you open a channel through them, it will quickly close. While making navigation tricky, the narrow slips through the vegetation make for some very cool fishing. We pole the boat down channels barely four feet wide, casting huge rat patterns into bends and cuts ahead of the boat. When a strike comes, it’s heart stopping.

Dorado fishing is never easy. No matter where you do it, or how, it will test you. You will certainly have some great fishing days in the wetlands

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Study Shows Salmon Farming Results in 20% Loss of Wild Atlantic Salmon

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By Jason Tucker

Farm raised salmon may represent a serious threat to wild fish populations.

A recently released Scottish study has demonstrated that salmon farming in estuaries used by wild salmon results in a 20% loss in returning wild salmon, mostly as a result of sea lice infestation due to the unnatural conditions fostered by net pen fish farming. It also tracked losses due to genetic introgression from escaped fish.

The study was commissioned by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea, also known as ICES.

The original question presented for study was “Advise on possible effects of salmonid aquaculture on wild Atlantic salmon populations focusing on the effects of sea lice, genetic interactions and the impact on wild salmon production.”

Some important points from the study (copied directly from it so I don’t get them wrong) are:

-The survival of Atlantic salmon during their marine phase has fallen in recent decades. This downturn in survival is evident over a broad geographical area and is associated with large-scale oceanographic changes. Viewed against current marine mortality rates commonly at or above 95%, the ‘additional’ mortality attributable to sea lice has been estimated at around 1%.

– In some studies, the impact of sea lice has also been estimated

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The River… Why?

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By Justin Pickett

A FAINT FOG ESCAPES ME AS I EXHALE A DEEP BREATH OF MOUNTAIN AIR.

I can hear the tumbling waters of my favorite north Georgia stream just off in the distance. They are surely running super low and crystal clear as expected. My angst is fighting with the need to take my time. I simply cannot wait to drown these flies.

When fishing solo, as I am on this day, I like to put my rod together, place the reel in the reel seat, grab the rest of my gear and head straight for the water. I find my favorite starting point and then I sit on the bank as I tie on my rig. As the sun rises over the mountain, and the fog begins to lift from the water’s surface, I stare into the water, scanning its currents for signs of life. Just a flip of a tail is all I need. I take in a deep breath and exhale, watching my breath as it fogs in the cool mountain air. I feel at peace. There’s nothing here to worry me. I’m safe. I’m not under any time constraints, nor under any pressure. There are no expectations here. It’s just the water and the fish, with the surrounding nature and myself in the background. I am completely at ease in this place.

Yes, fishing and catching fish is fun, and that is surely one of the elements that attracts me to this sport, hobby, passion, past time, or whatever else you prefer to call it. However, to me, it’s more than that.

My wife always likes to ask me, “what do you think about when you’re fishing?” I’m not sure if she thinks

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Muddy Water Redfish

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BY OWEN PLAIR

WATER CLARITY IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN SALTWATER FLY FISHING.

No matter what fish you are targeting, simply being able to see the fish, and the fish being able to see your fly is key. Targeting fish on the flats in muddy water is a challenge, but there are ways to get past the dark side my friends!

Many things can cause water to be muddy. Wind, rain, current, temperature, big schools of fish moving, and tides, especially when it comes to shallow water redfish flats. Targeting redfish, on mudflats with poor clarity, can still be productive. The fish are still feeding, they’re shallow enough for you to see them push, and it’s easy to get close enough for a simple cast.

Seeing the fish in muddy water is the first step to having a productive day. You’re not looking for the bodies of the fish but the push of water caused by fish moving or chasing bait. These pushes are shaped like a U and give away the direction the fish is moving, which will help you make the right presentation. You can also look for tails, backs, and other visual signs of redfish without having to see their whole bodies.

The most important thing, when targeting redfish in muddy water

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The Reach Cast: Video

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Watch the Video!

The reach cast can be the difference between catching fish and not.

All too often you find yourself casting across fast water to a rising trout on the far bank. It’s a classic set up and one that can make you crazy. You land your fly in the exact spot, only to have it dragged away as the faster current midstream pulls a belly in your line.

Your best shot at hooking a fish in this scenario is to make a reach cast. The reach cast builds a mend into your line before it touches the water. It can buy you a perfect drift long enough to fool a sipping trout.

Make your normal cast and after you stop your rod tip to form the loop, move the rod tip upstream as the loop unrolls. The movement is perpendicular to the angle of the cast so the tension stays in the line and keeps it energized and on course. Once you know how to make this cast, you’ll wonder how you ever fished without it.

WATCH THIS VIDEO TO SEE HOW IT’S DONE!

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