American Potcake

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A GROUP OF UNIFORMED US CUSTOMS OFFICIALS HAS ASSEMBLED TO INSPECT THE CONTENTS OF MY CARRY-ON LUGGAGE BEFORE I AM ALLOWED TO LEAVE THE BAHAMAS FOR HOME.

They each peer inquisitively through the zippered opening of the black tote and repeat, “Oh my God! She’s adorable.”

I have known for years that I wanted a Bahamian Potcake for my next dog. These bright eyed, slender dogs, common throughout the Bahamas, stole my heart. The Potcake, only recently recognized as a breed, is a kind of super-mutt made up of the working dogs that colonists brought to the islands to work the plantations. They are wicked smart, hardy and, once bonded to a human, fiercely loyal. They, in many ways, exhibit the traits I admire in the Bahamian people. Not surprisingly, as they, without meaning to be insensitive, share a very similar backstory. Each has carved out a life for themselves under harsh circumstances, maintaining strong family structures, and living by their wits. The Bahamians and the Potcakes, not only exist but thrive, against all odds, and in doing so have developed a strength of character which is both admirable and endearing.

I’ve been fishing at the Andros South Bonefish Lodge for many years. The staff and guides there have become friends and the island of South Andros a place of refuge where I feel an uncommon sense of well being. There is a small family of potcakes there, who I have become attached to, the eldest being a female named Brownie. Although these dogs enjoy the adoration of anglers from around the world, they are not exactly domesticated. They are not exactly feral either but some of them, especially the puppies, are untouchable. Brownie, however, is one of the best natured dogs I have ever known and, from each litter, at least a couple of her pups has her sweet disposition. While all potcakes are great dogs, this family line is truly special to me.

South Andros is a poor island. Its people, for the most part, have big hearts and small wallets. There is no veterinarian on the island and few folks have the money to fly a dog to Nassau for medical care. Certainly not for non-essentials like spay and neuter. As a result, a huge population of feral potcakes fight for limited resources. The name potcake comes from the traditional Bahamian dish of peas and rice, which leaves a burned matt in the bottom of the pot, called the potcake. These are thrown out for the dogs and beyond that their diet is random lizards, bugs and whatever washes up on the beach. Many of them starve, or are killed for hunting livestock.

This year, things lined up for me and I decided it was time for a dog. I could adopt a dog easily at home, but what I wanted was one of the Andros potcakes. There are always fresh puppies and I found myself drawn to one in particular. A little black puppy, the runt of the litter, who the guys at the lodge named Permit because she was impossible to catch.

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The Fusion Warrior

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If Lance Egan’s Rainbow Warrior and my Fusion hooked up and had a beautiful baby, what would it look like?  

Wyoming winters are long, really long.  These conditions can be challenging to endure, yet they provide ample time for creation behind the tying vise.  After posting a tying video for Lance Egan’s Rainbow Warrior I couldn’t help but wonder.  I was curious what a combination of my Fusion and his Warrior would look like.  

I’m a huge believer in the combination of a little flash and a lot buggy when it comes to nymph.  The combination of these two patterns fills that niche wonderfully.  The use of grey ostrich herl in the abdomen provides ample movement and a subtle veil to the flash of the underlying tinsel.  The application of the Rainbow Sow Scud dubbing provides mottled coloration and a soft hackle like movement when applied with a dubbing loop.  Tied on the Tiemco 2499BL in black, the pattern supports a significant gap that helps to increase the odds of hooking and holding fish.  

When fishing this pattern I use it as

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Spring Bass Tactics for Southern Appalachian Lakes

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Spring Bass Fishing Tactics for fly anglers interested in Southern Appalachian reservoirs.  There’s tons of lakes readily available for fly fisherman to catch bass throughout the Southern Appalachian region. Unfortunately, these lakes aren’t your two-acre farm pond in your backyard or subdivision that you grew up fishing as a kid—they’re multi-thousand acre reservoirs that can be extremely challenging to learn how to fly fish. Fly Fishing Reservoirs starts with fishing the correct areas. Fly fishing for bass on public reservoirs is much like trying to find a needle in a haystack. If you don’t have a general idea of where the needle is located, your chances of finding it are slim to none. To be successful fly fishing lakes, you’ll have to quickly be able to eliminate areas of the lake where the bass aren’t located and then narrow your focus to small areas of the lake that provide bass what they need. Bass need the following: suitable habitat, satisfactory food and comfortable water conditions (water temperature & water depth). All these change depending on the season. In our case, we’ll be focusing on what bass need during the spring. Just like in trout fishing, bass fishing is all about bypassing unproductive water and spending your time fishing the productive water. Eighty percent of the bass on the lakes will be found in 20 percent of the water. If you want to catch them, you’ll need to maximize your time fly fishing the correct water. A Quality map of the lake is critical Keep in mind, all maps aren’t created equal (and many are total crap). The map you want to buy needs to have enough detail on it that you can get a clear picture of what the lake looks like underwater and what types of cover it has. … Continue reading

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The Fight Isn’t Over When You Get a Tarpon Boat-Side

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Catching a tarpon on the fly is a feat most fly fishers dream about but never experience. Some fly anglers get lucky right out the gates, but for most of us, catching one of these beasts on the fly often takes several trips to accomplish. My good friend Capt. Bruce Chard is one of the most competent tarpon guides I know and has taught me a great deal about chasing the silverking. When he put me on my first 125 pound plus tarpon he made a point to let me know that the fight isn’t over when you get a tarpon boat-side.

Bruce Chard explained to me that many tarpon

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Tarpon, It’s All About Letting Go

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ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS LET GO.

The step is about three inches wide by ten inches long. Really only big enough for the ball of one foot. There’s not enough head room to stand straight, not even close. It would be an uncomfortable place to stand if there weren’t an eighty mile per hour wind in my face. As it is, it’s the grip of my hands on the strut, not my foot on the step, that is keeping me here. All I have to do is let go. It would be completely terrifying if I were not forty-five-hundred feet in the air.

The idea that the fancy backpack I’m wearing, the contents of which I have never seen, will magically blossom to save me from the jaws of death is the greatest of abstraction. The thought that, should something go wrong, the bicycle helmet on my head will protect me feels completely insane.

I know I shouldn’t look down but it’s pointless to fight the urge. The ground below seems wholly unreal. Like a child’s train set dotted with little plastic trees and houses. It vanishes and reappears through the milky haze below. All I can hear is the wind. All I can feel is the sky tugging me away from the plane and my heart pounding in my chest. I remember my father, an Air Force fighter pilot, telling me, “Son, never get out of a perfectly good airplane.” The jump master turns to look me in the eye and points his finger at the ground. Time to go.

The time for inner monologue is over. Once the airplane soars off without you, or you without it, there is no time to think, only time to do. Lots of things can happen. Wonderful things. Things like watching a beautiful sunset in fast forward as you plummet from the sunshine to a dark earth where it is already night. Fantastically bad things can happen as well. You will never know which, until you let go.

As it turns out, the parachute did open and something did go wrong. I spun wildly and

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Catch Trophy Brown Trout By Stacking The Odds In Your Favor

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THIS FISH HAS BEEN ALL OVER THE INTERNET. NOW I’M GOING TO TELL YOU EXACTLY HOW TO CATCH ONE LIKE IT FOR YOURSELF.

Once in a while the “perfect storm” really is perfect.

My buddy Dan and I were throwing around some dates for a fishing trip the other day and when those dates started falling in November he said, “As you know, fall will be all about finding big brown trout.”

Brown trout are addictive like almost no other freshwater fish. I can’t tell you how many anglers have told me, “I just want to catch a big brown.” We all want that but if you are serious about turning that want into real-life experience, you’ll need to work for it and you’ll still have to be lucky.

Brown trout are tough customers. Moody, smart and reclusive, they put trout anglers to the test. Especially the big ones. There are two ways to get one. Either you can be lucky and just stumble into it, which is awesome and I highly recommend it, or you can do the leg work and put in the time.

Your best bet is the combination of good timing, the right conditions, the right place and a great presentation. That and persistence will get you what you’re looking for. Here are some guidelines to start with.

LOCATION

You must first be in the presence of big brown trout to catch big brown trout. Finding the right place usually starts with a tip, a fly shop conversation or a photo or article you found on the Internet. Some places are well known for holding big Browns. Reputation alone, however, is not enough to go on.

Once you identify the river where you think you can catch that big boy, you have to start narrowing it down. Brown trout are notorious homebodies, spending most of their lives in one run or even under one rock. There are certain events and times when they will venture out and, to catch them, you either have to know where they are or where they’re going, and when.

I talked to one angler who hunts for big Browns on a local tailwater, and catches them. He has a brilliant, and time consuming, method that works well. He learned from experience that these fish would only eat during high water flows. He goes to the river on low flows with binoculars rather than a rod. He finds big Browns and marks their location on his GPS and returns on high water to catch them.

You can increase your odds by getting after fish in smaller water when they are moving to spawn. Don’t target fish on redds. That’s short sighted and bad for the future populations, but there’s nothing wrong with targeting fish on the move. (Read all about that here.)

My point is, you have to make a plan and do the research.

TIMING AND CONDITIONS

You have to strike when the time is right. By identifying the times and conditions when big brown trout are most likely to be active and aggressive, you raise your odds immensely.

Fall is the peak of brown trout aggression. Browns are fall spawners. The height of their spawning season is around

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Aquamarine, A Permit Tale

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“Now! Now is the time! Hurry!”

I am perched on the bow of a rocking Hell’s Bay Waterman, on the flats of Abaco, squinting through my bifocals and trying in vain to find the opening in a figure 8 knot. I’ve cut off six different crab flies and lucky number seven is waiting for me to finish this damned knot, while a forty-pound permit feeds in front of the boat. Ashron, my guide, is trying to help. I know this, but it’s not working. Sweat is running into my eyes and I’m starting to get tunnel vision.

The permit stops feeding and I’m finally able to finish the knot. Now we have to wait again. This big permit is doing what’s called “riding a ray.” It’s hovering over a manta ray about six feet across and picking up the scraps the ray misses. It’s sort of the Holy Grail of permit shots. As long as they stay together, the permit will focus on the ray and eat happily. We pole along about seventy-five feet behind them waiting for the ray to stir up the mud by feeding. Drop a crab pattern in that little puff of mud and you stand your best possible shot at hooking up on the permit.

Six different crab patterns have failed to get the desired reaction. I’ve had looks, swirls, follows and charges but no eats. Lucky number seven is a tiny Mop Crab no bigger across than my pinky nail. There is no eighth pattern in my box. There was, in fact, no seventh pattern. This fly came from Ashron’s hat. I’m already kicking myself for that. I’m kicking myself for making some bad casts early on, for not having practiced more before I came, for not calling my mother more often and any other shortcoming I can think of. This is what happens in your head when permit fishing and I know full well that the nagging voice in my head must be quieted before that ray muds again. That’s the devil F-ing with you. Permit ride rays and the devil rides permit.

“Now!” Ashron tells me. I see the puff of mud, I let go of my fly and sweep back my rod and tell the devil, “Watch this.”

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Labrador Bound

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By Jason Tucker

It’s no secret that I love brook trout, and thus the name of my blog, Fontinalis Rising.

Size doesn’t matter. From 4-inch little gems to behemoth monsters the size of respectable brown trout, I find them all fascinating and exciting. When I was a boy, my grandfather took me down to the river and showed me two fish in the 24-inch range that had staked out the area as home.

Most of our fish were in the 6- to 8-inch range, and 12 inches was considered a good fish. To see two fish that had doubled that mark was incredible. Ever since then, I’ve wondered what made those two fish get so big.

I spent as much time as possible fishing for brook trout in Northern Michigan and its Upper Peninsula, and after many years I finally caught a 16-inch fish, which was my personal best for some time.

Since then I’ve gone to Nipigon, where a 12-inch fish is considered small. I caught one fish that was 22 inches, and lost several fish that were much bigger. (Brook trout tend to pack on the pounds once they reach about 22 inches. A 20-inch fish may weigh 3 pounds while a 23-incher may weigh 7 pounds.)

A few years later I was invited to go fish with the Sault Gang. We caught 38 fish that averaged 18-20 inches and 1.5 to 3 pounds, and got one big male that was over 4 pounds. I also took a trip to Isle Royale with a distinguished group of gentlemen. The fish there average 3-5 pounds. With research I’ve discovered that

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Eye Surgery #8 Update

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By Louis Cahill

I’m two weeks Post-op and things are going well.

I hate talking about my medical issues, but lots of you are asking for updates, so I’ll keep it short. That should be easy since, as of now, all the news is good. A lot went on in the run up to the surgery but I’ll just hit the high points.

Things were feeling a little sketchy the week before my surgery. The oil in my eye had completely turned to muck. Like spring run-off inside my eye. As a result, I developed glaucoma. Rising eye pressure threatened to damage my optic nerve. There was no choice but to remove the oil, however, the murky oil prevented my doctor from seeing the condition of the retina. He was going in blind and not happy about it. I won’t lie, it was scary.

Fortunately the surgery went well. Dr Alurkar flushed two liters of solution through my eye cleaning it out and the retina stayed attached. Statistically, the majority of folks in my situation, who do experience another detachment, do so during surgery. The vast majority experience it during the first week. I’m two weeks out now and my doctor says the retina looks fantastic! After a couple of truly awful days, my pressure has returned to normal so it appears I dodged the glaucoma bullet with no apparent nerve damage. I will not be in the clear for 60-90 days but things look really promising right now.

It will take at least 90 days to really know what I can expect for vision. It’s a mess right now but the double vision caused by the oil is gone and as of just last night my eyes have started trying to focus again. That’s very encouraging. Whatever I end up with, I’ll be very happy to have it. I’m struggling to keep my expectations in line. I’m just superstitious enough to worry about jinxing myself, but I’m starting to feel truly optimistic. I am sooooooo ready to get on with my life!

Thank you all for your continuing support throughout this nightmare. I can not tell you how good it feels to have so many people in my corner. I can’t imagine how difficult this would have been without that support. Hopefully I’ll be checking in with more good news in a couple of weeks. 

Thanks!

Louis Cahill

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Fly Fishing Tip: Mend Your Strike Indicator to Increase Your Drag-Free Drift

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IS THERE EVER A TIME, WHEN NYMPHING, THAT IT CAN BE BENEFICIAL TO LIFT THE STRIKE INDICATOR OUT OF THE WATER DURING A MEND?

When I first started learning the art of mending fly line, I constantly struggled with keeping my striking indicator and dry fly from moving across the surface of the water. Quite often, I not only moved them during my mends, I even lifted them completely out of the water in the process. Most of the time that wasn’t a good thing, because it usually caused my flies to be pulled off my intended drift line, and that greatly hindered my ability to catch fish, no matter how accurate my initial presentation cast happened to be. I learned quickly, that poor mending, and sloppy line management, were the two main factors in keeping me from getting my rod bent with trout. There was no doubt that my problem with mending fly line laid in the fact that my technique was awful. I thought I was a whole lot maturer than I really was as a fly fisher, failing to realize that I had just begun to skim the surface of learning the intricacies of fly line mending. Such as, determining when or when not a mend was called for during a drift, mend timing and form.

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