Tight Quarters Trout Fishing

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Check Out This Helpful Video!


If you’ve been fly fishing for a while, you’ve probably become pretty proficient at dropping your dry flies in tight quarters to catch trout that are either tucked in under foliage or holding tight to an undercut bank. What If I asked you to make that same presentation, however, with a tandem nymph rig on a small stream with a strike indicator and split-shot? Could you pull it off with the same percentage of success? If you answered yes, hands off to you, because you are not the norm. I’ve found that most of my clients in this situation lack the confidence and know how to make consistently accurate fly presentations with a heavy tandem wet fly rig.

Below is a video Louis and I shot a while back, explaining how I pull off tight quarter casting on small trout streams. I had my rod rigged with a tandem nymph rig to show you  the most important things I focus on when casting to targets in these tight quarters.


Tip 1: Position yourself where you can get the correct casting angle to your target and also get a nice drift.

Tip 2: Strip off plenty of fly line but only start out with a foot or two of fly line when you begin your cast.

Tip 3: Cast smoothly and watch your

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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 Ultimate Cold Stopping Fleece Buff

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That became all too clear to me when the temperature plunged into the single digits and I realized I had misplaced my fleece buff. It’s my winter fly fishing equivalent of Tony Stark’s iron suit. With it, I’m impervious to cold, with out it…uhhhh, I don’t like to think about it. It’s a recipe for winter misery.

My fleece buff is homemade. My wife made it for me years ago and it was almost free. The secret is the fabric. It’s not just fleece, but 300 GSM (grams / square meter) wind-stopper fleece. Even a gale doesn’t penetrate it. It seals up the top of my jacket and puts up over my face and head, covering exposed skin and stopping heat loss where it’s the worst.

Best of all it’s

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You buy your portfolio every morning

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In the old days I ran a hedge fund.

That’s right. Half a billion dollars doing whatever I told it. Big trades, big profits (and losses) and big pressure. I learned a lot from a decade in that role that has helped me on the stream. (I know, it sounds like a stretch… but it’s true!) One of the prevalent sayings in Investment Management is “You buy your portfolio every morning.” What it means is, the decision to do nothing, to keep the investments you made yesterday, is still an active decision. It’s CHOOSING to go into the battle of that day with your current positions, rather than something else.

The truth in this idea hit me harder than ever on Sunday on a carp flat. I waded out of thigh-deep sand bottomed water to find maybe 150 carp cruising and feeding. They were working 12 to 18 inches of water over super soft mud-bottomed lake and eating like mad. I was so jacked up you could see the end of my 8wt vibrating in my trembling hands.

The fly I had on was too heavy for that shallow water. It was designed to get down with accuracy to fish at three feet deep. Remember… I was coming out of thigh-deep water. But I was stoked and the fish were there and they’re just stupid carp and I can be gentle and what if the wind picks up while I’m changing flies and maybe it would start to rain and what if they saw me and spooked before I got a cast… You get the picture. So I went into battle with the fly I had on because not changing didn’t feel like choosing that fly. It felt like

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Flies That Catch Big Trout, The Truth Might Surprise You

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Like every other guy or gal with a fly rod, I have some pretty strong opinions about the kind of flies that catch big fish. These opinions are based on years of experience and experimentation. I have theories about the behavior of big predatory trout and they influence my tying and my fishing. These ideas are proven out by countless hours on the water. At least that’s what I thought.

Regular G&G readers will know that I am a confirmed streamer junkie. I make no apologies for it. I love fishing streamers and I believe wholeheartedly that big flies catch big fish. Here’s the problem: without knowing it, for the last eight or ten years I’ve been proving myself wrong.

I am not a fish counter. I’m not a trophy hunter. I like catching big fish but I do not possess a single mount or even a catch-and-release painting. Not surprisingly, I don’t even have a lot of photos of myself with fish. Most of the fish I catch, if they are photographed, are in someone else’s hands. The truth is that I am just fundamentally more interested in the next fish than I am the last fish.

What I do, on very rare occasions, is keep a fly. Once in a while I’ll catch a fish that’s special. It’s always a big fish but there’s usually something extra that makes it special. The color or fins, or maybe where I caught it or who I was with. It happened the other day in Alaska. I was fishing with my good buddy Bruce Chard and guide Jeff Forsee on the Kanektok river at Alaska West. On literally the last cast of the day I hooked and landed a rainbow in the ten- to twelve-pound range. A beautiful and perfect Alaska rainbow.

It was a great fish by any standard but

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Gender Clarity in Fly Fishing

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By: Alice Tesar

It’s not a secret that women fly fish. They’ve been fishing for as long as men. If you’re shocked by this, you may need to fish more.

With this said, there are many campaigns and organizations encouraging more women to get into the sport. From increased visibility in fishing publications to women specific gear (not just pink and shrink) companies are pumping more funds into making women feel included in the fishing industry.

One of these campaigns is Orvis 50/50 on the Water: Creating Gender Parity in Fly Fishing. What seems to be Orvis’s primary ad for the campaign is a montage of some baller female anglers with voiceover of a man who hates women. He says things such as, “women should learn that they are not so spectacular.” While part of me wants to strangle this piece of sexist, insecure shit a much stronger part of me just wants to fish. This has always been the stronger voice in my head. I don’t have time for the haters and I think Orvis shouldn’t give them their time either. If you look at comments below the video on YouTube and other message boards, you will see a similar sentiment.

Why does this video feel like a war cry? Why is Orvis stooping to the level of this aggressive man in the video? Why does this commercial vilify men? Vilify anyone? Is Orvis fueling this man’s anger and those that are like him and is that constructive to the larger community?

If Orvis wants us to “lead more fulfilling lives through a deep personal connection to the adventure and wonders of the natural world,” as their mission statement reads, why do I feel like I need to be afraid of this “guy” when I’m on the river now?

As I was sucked into the vortex of comments below the video I stumbled upon a response from Orvis. It was the Orvis messaging I wanted from the beginning of the campaign:

“We did a lot of listening, and many women described barriers to entry that we weren’t fully aware of. Not all such barriers are aggressive or obvious: No one was telling women that they couldn’t fish. Instead we heard about a lack of peer groups, about how intimidating it can be to join a male-dominated community as a novice angler, and about how many women felt they would learn better in an atmosphere where they didn’t feel under scrutiny.”

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The Fish In-Between 

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By Louis Cahill

Are you walking past the fish of the day?

From where I’m standing, in water that barely covers my boots, I can see the next pool. A beautiful bend, dark green and lazy, with a big submerged log on the outside edge. A little riffle at the head, pouring into a deep pool. It’s the perfect picture of the old fishing hole. I know there is a big brown in that dark green water. I literally know. In fact, everyone who fishes here knows. He’s not a secret and yet, to my knowledge, he’s never been caught. Hooked, for sure, but never landed. Still, you have to try with a fish like that.

There’s another beautiful run below with a handful of nice fish in it. I fished it without reward. Those fish, as well as the big brown, see plenty of flies. For all I know I’m the third angler through here today, but where I’m standing, a shallow, straight run with no obvious fish holding features, I’m pretty sure is virgin water. I’ve watched plenty of guys fish through here, and with the exception of the one standing to my left, they all fish the lower hole, then walk straight up the bank to the big bend, ignoring this littler piece of water.

Directly across from me is a clump of stream-side rhododendron, it’s leaves nearly brushing the water. It’s as un assuming a spot as you might find on a trout stream but I know from experience not to disregard stream-side cover, no matter how humble. There’s a spot under those leaves, about the size of a shoe box, you can’t see into. If I were a trot, in such a well trafficked piece of water, I’d like to be where no one could see me. I make a roll cast just upstream and let my fly slide under the branches.

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Fly Fishing: Be a Big Brother

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How many times have you stood by watching a rookie fly fisherman struggling to catch fish, and instead of helping them out, you turned your cheek, simply because you were in too much of a hurry to wet your own line? I know I’ve been there many times. Heck, I’ve been the guy joking around with my buddy saying, “Look at that guy. He’s standing right where the fish are and casting his fly where he should be standing.” It’s easy to forget that we’ve all been that newcomer at some point in our fly fishing past. Make no mistake, even the anglers currently with mad fly fishing skills, the ones that often carry overly inflated egos both on and off the water, knew absolutely jack squat about fly fishing much more recently than they’d care to admit. Take a minute or two to reflect on your own past, and chances are, it probably hasn’t been all that long since you were that angler that you just finished making fun of for being clueless. I can clearly remember making long drives on the weekends to chase trout up in the mountains, only to drive home discouraged with the smell of skunk all over me. It was never a good feeling, and in most cases, it could have been avoided if someone would have stepped up as a big brother/sister and helped me out for a few minutes.

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Merican Nymphing

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By Johnny Spillane


There are many different types of nymph fishing, Czech nymphing, French nymphing etc, but I’d like to think that what we do in Colorado and most of the west could be classified as ‘Merican Nymphing. Might as well give it a name. There are many different options and many more opinions on this style of fly fishing but we will keep it simple in this post and address it’s applications.

First off, how do you choose your indicator? They all serve their own purpose, I use Thingamabobber or Fish Pimp products but there is something to be said for old school yarn or pinch on indicators. Whatever product you choose, keep in mind its application because that will play a big role in what will work the best for you. If you’re moving around and changing depth frequently, something that doesn’t destroy your leader and is easy to adjust might be best. If you’re constantly fishing the same depth with minimal weight, a pinch on indicator might be better.

There are many different ways to nymph fish with an indicator, but the number one thing you need to keep in mind is that the goal is to put the fly where the fish are. Setting your depth, in my opinion, is far more important then fly selection. How well does a fly work if it is 2 feet above or below where a fish is feeding? You can change patterns until you are numb but unless you are putting the fly in the fishes feeding column, more often then not you will not get a strike. This holds especially true on

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Chug a Coke, Save a Bleeding Fish.

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There’s nothing worse than watching a big beautiful wild fish bleed out from a damaged gill.

I found myself in just that situation with a big brown trout one day. Watching helplessly as the water turned red. Thank God Kent was with me. Thinking fast he said, “hey, did you finish that Coke?” I had not and he showed me a great trick. He opened the fish’s mouth and poured the Coke down her throat. As soon as it hit the injured gill the bleeding stopped. It was like magic. I’m not sure if it’s the carbonation or the acid but something in the Coke cauterized the wound. It saved that fish’s life. I know it for a fact because I saw her in that same pool several weeks later, although she was wise to me by then. I’m certain it was

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