Watching Your Fly Line Tells You If You’re Fishing

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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

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Pheasant Tail Nymph Attractor

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I received some really good feedback from the post from G&G followers. One follower even tied some up and landed multiple twenty inch fish with the midge pattern one day on his home waters. It feels good passing on information to our followers, especially when I hear back that they not only appreciate the advice but are actually putting it to work on the water. Since the first post was a success I’ve decided to showcase second cold water nymph pattern of mine.

I’m a firm believer in utilizing a bright attractor nymph in my tandem nymph rigs during the winter months.  A couple years back I thought to myself why not take a proven traditional fly patterns and modify them with bright attractor fly tying materials. This way you can bank on both the proven profile characteristics and the flashy appeal. One of the first fly patterns I came up with for this idea was this pheasant tail attractor nymph above. It’s been very successful for me on the water. I generally use

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Crazy Times, A fly angler’s guide to riding out Covid 19

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I know it’s only April, but dammit I’m calling it…. COVID19 wins the “Biggest Asshole of the Year” award. 

As the latest news headlines roll across the bottoms of tv screens and are perched at the top of social media feeds, our country sits in a semi-paralyzed state as we wait to hear the latest steps to address this pandemic from our local, state, and federal governments (however strict or lax as you may perceive them). There are a number of differing opinions, models, and predictions about where our country is headed given varying levels of response to this bug. Some are confident we are overreacting, while some are certain the world is circling the drain. As a healthcare worker myself, what I can tell you is that this virus is eerily different from many of the outbreaks that I’ve experience in my career in emergency medicine. From the virality and transmissibility to the overall response thus far, it is certainly like nothing we have seen. One of the quickest things many of us can and have done to help quell the spread of this virus is to practice better hygiene and distance ourselves from one another. Taking these steps can help ease the strain on our hospitals and protect those more susceptible to infections, but with that, of course, brings other problems. The closing down of businesses have already caused a huge strain on millions, and even the businesses that remain open will likely experience a drastic decline in revenue. The fly fishing industry is certainly an industry that will be negatively affected by the measures we have taken in an attempt to save lives. During what is typically the beginning of the busiest time of the year for many fly shops and guides across the country, we are instead seeing closed doors and cancelled trips. With the uncertainty that lies ahead for our health and economy, which both need to be taken seriously, the best thing we can do is support each other. I have seen some amazing displays of kindness and gratitude during this trying time. Let’s keep that going. We’re going to need it. The isolation alone can be maddening enough. Add the loss of a job, a failing business, or illness to the pile and things can go dark quick. Below are some things you can do to help pass the time and keep your spirits up during the days ahead.

Brace For Impact

Let’s go ahead and get the bad news out of the way. This is going to change A LOT of the fly fishing landscape as we know it. Fly shops, manufacturers, offices, and distribution centers have had to shutter their doors to comply with executive orders. Unfortunately, some of them may never open back up. This is extremely disheartening considering the growth we have been experiencing in the fly fishing industry as of late. Even the shops and companies that do survive this economic plunge will look much different on the other side of this disaster.  I urge you to help support these companies as best you can during these challenging times so that when the dust settles, they might still be around. 

Support Your Local Fly Shops

Many shops have had to close their doors due to “shelter in place” orders issued by local governments. However, some shops are still able to operate and fulfill online orders. Some shops are offering “curbside” pickup of online and phoned-in orders, as well. I have seen several shops offering incentives and giving generous discounts on gear and apparel. They still want and still need your business. You’re going to have some time to restock those fly boxes, so call them up and order some tying supplies. Re-stock those leader wallets, fly boxes, and gear bags! 

Support Your Guides

I know many guides are probably getting calls to cancel trips due to travel restraints or folks that fear they’ll catch the wrong kind of bug on their trip. Or worse yet, local governments shutting down public lands, making some trips impossible. Many guides charge a deposit up front that helps cover this type of thing, but it’s not meant to live off of and pay bills. If you are thinking about cancelling, consider offering to re-schedule the trip once things ease up. Many guides also tie flies, typically for their guide service, but in a time like this they may be happy to spin up some flies for you. You can also offer to purchase gift certificates or pay up front for a future trip. Every little bit helps.

Practice Your Casting

We can all benefit from a little more casting practice. Many parks and reservoirs around me have closed their gates to everyone, leaving me with very few fishing options without traveling hours away, which isn’t exactly the greatest of plans right now. However, when this mess does pass, I don’t want to be flogging the water with my whippy-stick. So, I’ll be in the yard throwing loops at hula-hoops, dogs, and small children in an attempt to keep my form in check. 

Restock Your Box

A lot of folks have been tying all winter in anticipation of hitting the water this month to chase those first trout of spring. Well, as it turns out, a lot of us are going to have some more time to tie more flies. Spin ‘em up! Tie some new stuff. Try some new patterns. We’re all going to need flies to sling once this blows over. Don’t have the want and fortitude to tie your own? Refer to the above point I made about supporting a local guide, or two, to tie up some flies for you.

Get Organized

This is a great opportunity to get reorganized. My garage is a frickin’ mess! I have fly boxes, and boots, and tippet spools everywhere. And I don’t dare walk into my garage barefoot. There are way too many lost flies hiding amongst the clutter to risk it. My fly tying desk is also in dire need of attention. Sort through those hooks, feathers, and beads. You may also get inspired to tie something new with a once long-lost material. Dive into some hands-on projects and maybe build some fly rod storage. There’s usually plenty of these types of things to help keep us busy.

Get Outside

Staying home doesn’t mean staying inside all day, every day. If you’re like me, you are most happy when you are outdoors. Yes, The Tiger King is an amazingly glorious train wreck that’s hard to look away from, but try not to get pulled into the TV and

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Rosa Parks Fished Streamers

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Stand up with me here streamer guys, you know what I’m talking about!

First of all I am in no way making light of Ms. Parks courageous acts or life of service. She is on my list of personal heroes and that list is pretty damn short. If you don’t know who she is, you should! That said, like Rosa, I’m getting pretty fucking tired of the back of the bus.

Stand up with me here streamer guys, you know what I’m talking about. Every time I get in a drift boat with a streamer rod I get stuck in the back of the boat. (I’m not picking on you here BW, everybody does it.) There’s always one of your buddies who pipes up with, “I sure would like the chance to catch one on a dry before you scare the hell out of ’em with that thing.”

I have a couple of problems with this horse shit. The first being, streamers do not spook fish. If they do, explain to me why fish eat them. Not just big fish, I routinely catch fish barely bigger than my streamer.

The primary reason that streamers do not spook fish is that fish are not afraid of things that are under water. Ask anyone who has snorkeled. If fish don’t spook at the sight of a person under water a fly isn’t going to phase them. I know one guide on the Snake River who, in the fall, prefers to have a streamer fisherman in the bow and a guy throwing hoppers in the back. His theory is that the streamer gets the fish worked up and ready to eat. It works, too.

I’ll say it again, streamers do not spook fish!

Secondly, it’s just a matter of etiquette. I put my time in on the oars like everybody else. When you get off the sticks, you go to the bow. That’s how it works, that’s your reward.

What the dry fly guy in the bow doesn’t get is that I’m making about ten times as many casts as he is. I’m working with a huge amount of line at my feet, getting hung up in the plugs or around the seat, getting grit all over it from the floor that cuts my fingers when I strip. That deck in the front of the boat was made for streamer fisherman. It’s for holding line, not your beer. Don’t even get me started on trying to get the oarsman to position the boat for a streamer guy. That’s never going to happen.

All that aside, here’s what really chaps my ass. Here’s what’s really going on. It’s not about me spooking fish or etiquette. Just like Rosa, I’m being treated like a second class citizen. I’m fishing from the back of the boat because the dry fly guys think they are better than me. They think that God handed down the #20 Elk Hair Caddis to them and my four inch streamer and I are a perversion and should only be allowed in Massachusetts. They think I’m doing it wrong.

If you’ve been reading my ravings for long, you already know that this kind of snobbery makes me crazy. I don’t know what it is about a fly rod that makes some people feel like they have to tell everyone else how to fish but it happens with amazing regularity. I get it, you’ve put a lot of time in learning how to fish and you feel like you have it figured out but here’s the thing, there’s more than one way to fish and none of them is the “right way.”

I love streamers and I make no apologies for it. The visual aspect of streamer fishing can’t be beat. To me, there is nothing better than watching a big trout rocket out of the shadows to chase down my streamer. I love to watch them come up from behind, then veer off and come back to broadside my fly. I like seeing their

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Cuda Up in My Grill

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By Kent Klewein


Louis has been on me a while now to drop some serious LB’s. I’ve really been stacking them on from my wife’s fantastic cooking. He says there’s a reason he doesn’t take photos of me anymore, and I really can’t blame him 🙂

Unfortunately, I’ve not lost the weight in reality. I ran across these two photos from four years ago, fishing down in the Florida Keys with Capt. Joel Dickey. He guided me to this behemoth barracuda on the fly. To this date, it’s probably one of my most memorable saltwater moments I’ve experienced on the flats. The take and battle were epic, particularly since my arms were already complete jello from the prior twenty minutes of stripping hand over fist as fast my arms would go.

Numerous barracuda prior had given us promising chases but as they so often do, they let off the gas and lose interest at the last second. About the time I was ready to yell uncle, Joel shouted in his famous southern accent, “DUDE, look at that giant cuda at two 0’clock”. I some how managed to lay out a good cast, and I was about five strips into my retrieve when this guy hammered the fly and took off faster than I’ve ever witnessed a fish swim. That’s when the “shit hit the fan”. Before I could transition from holding the fly line to the fly rod, that barracuda burnt the hell out of my hands from the fly line shooting across my palms and through the rod guides at fifty miles and hour. I’d wear that fly line brand across both my palms for the next two weeks.

But what really made this fish memorable was

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Light Where You Need It

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The sun has dipped below the horizon and the evening chill is in the air.

You’ve got maybe thirty more minutes to fish if you push it. The hatch is on and you can hear fish rising all around you as you struggle in the waning light to change your fly. The fish keep rising and so does your blood pressure but the eye of the hook continues to evade you.

That sounds familiar doesn’t it? I know my eyes aren’t what they used to be. I’ve used a clip on head lamp for years but it frustrates me. When I lift my head to look through my bifocals the light is shining over my hands and I always feel like I’m spooking fish with that lighthouse on my hat. Then I saw my niece and nephew playing with their Christmas stockings. They had the answer to my problem. Finger lights! They slip right on to your finger with an adjustable elastic band and put ample light right where you need it to tie on flies. Best of all

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High Tech Sunglasses from Costa: Video

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The new Diego fishing glasses from Costa are packed with features anglers will love.

Ventilation, glare protection and sweat control are just a few of the Cool tricks the new Diago glasses have up their sleeves. Learn all obit them and a whole lot about plastic.


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Tarpon On The Clock

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A Photo Essay By Joel Dickey

It’s 5:30 a.m. and my alarm pierces that beautiful thing, called sleep, which all guides miss so much this time of year. I jump out of bed and I’m quickly reminded I’m not 25 anymore.

My joints pop and crack and muscles, that I didn’t know I had, ache. However it’s calm and my adrenaline soothes my body better than Advil ever would.

I jump into my clothes, give my sleeping wife a kiss and head to the fridge for my morning Mountain Dew, hoping that the caffeine will clear the fog, left from only 5 hours sleep.

Off to the dock. I only have another 100 consecutive days left until my next day off. Why do I book so many consecutive days?

I guide for the greatest gamefish in the world. I guide for tarpon and I don’t want to miss a single second of it.

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Kiss the Bank with Your Terrestrials

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One of the best times of the year to catch big brown trout is during the summer months.  

When the terrestrial bite is in full swing, brown trout will often tuck up under overhanging foliage super tight to the banks. Often they’ll be in less than a foot of water waiting patiently for the land born insects to fall to the water for an easy meal. Targeting this habitat on the water will increase your brown trout catch ratio over rainbow trout. Although rainbow trout will utilize overhanging foliage, they still prefer foam lines with current and deeper water for the most part.

Target Overhanging Foliage
This beast above devoured a beetle pattern that was placed perfectly in the strike zone. Kiss the banks with your terrestrials targeting undercut banks and overhanging foliage, and you could land a trophy like this. Just because they’re isn’t current doesn’t mean it won’t hold a good trout. The main factor is

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The Only 6 Things You Need To Know About Fly Casting: Video

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By Louis Cahill

There are just six thing you need to know to be a great fly caster.

If you’ve been fly fishing for a while, you may have heard of the 5 essentials. It’s a great list of the fundamental requirements for a good fly cast. IMHO, there is a sixth. If you know, and practice, these six things you will see your fly cast improve exponentially.

I have written in detail about these before. I recommend that you read that article but today, I’m going to go over the six essentials in this video. Commit these to memory and practice them off the water. This will help you self diagnose casting problems, make tight efficient loops, cast further and make better presentations.


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