Fly Fishing, Always Have a Plan B

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Just about every fisherman out there is probably familiar with the saying, “never leave fish to find fish”. I live religiously by this common sense fishing advice. It’s saved my butt many days on the water guiding, and keeps me from straying away from productive water when I find myself being drawn away to fish other spots upstream that look great. Always remember that fly fishing is full of hot periods and cold periods of catching. So when fishing it’s hot, you want to capitalize on it as much as you can before it goes cold. Sometimes it can be hot fishing for several hours, while other times you may only have one hour of hot fishing, such as when a hatch is in progress. Quite often anglers can have more success sticking around fishing one area throughly, when it’s producing, than fishing a bunch of spots partially. Every stream is different of course, but it’s generally safe to say that some sections of water always will be fishing better than others througout the course of a day. A fly fishers job is to determine where those hot sections of the water are and fish them.

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Who’s Your Buddy?

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What makes a good angler a great angler?

Fly fishing is a life long pursuit. That may be what I love the most about it. No matter how good you become, there is always a next level. Around every bend some new revelation. A lifetime of learning. For me, that’s the secret to happiness. Learn something new every day.

I always consider my fishing a work in progress. I never think of it in terms of what I have achieved, rather what’s next. This is in no way false modesty. Life has taught me that I have plenty to learn, whatever the subject. I clearly remember being, what I call, an adolescent angler. Knowing enough to be dangerous and too little to be content. Desperately seeking the next level. But how do you get there? I did it by getting lost.

I was excited about my new Toyota 4 Runner. It had been a while since I’d had four wheel drive and I knew it was going to open up some new water for me. On a crisp winter morning my wife and I hit the road to do some exploring. We followed one Forest Service road after another farther and farther into the North Georgia mountains, snow covering our tire tracks.

In my enthusiasm, I failed to keep up with a few of our turns and at some point had to stop and give the map a good study. Just as I was thinking it would have been smart to have brought food, a green pickup pulled up along side. A friendly fellow in a ball cap bearing the Fish Hawk logo asked if he could help. Dan Flynn would become one of my best friends and we fished together almost every week for years.

Dan is a fly fishing machine. His knowledge of Georgia and North Carolina trout water is endless. Especially the native brook trout streams. I learned more that first year crawling through mountain laurel with Dan than I’d learned in a lifetime of fishing on my own. It was with Dan I caught my first real trophy trout. Twenty-five inches. A great fish for a small Georgia stream. I remember him saying, “fish of a lifetime.”

I owe Dan a great many debts. Not only for what I learned from him and for his friendship but for so many great friends who would follow. It was through him that I met Kent, who continues to school me on a regular basis. And through Kent I met Joel Dickey and Bruce Chard, the guys that taught me the salt. And through Bruce I have met, well, just about everyone in the business. I wouldn’t be where I am without these guys.

So here’s my point. We spend a lot of time selecting our gear, choosing the water, tying the flies, setting up the boat. There’s endless talk about waders and boots and reels and lines. Don’t forget that the most important piece of the puzzle is the guy standing next to you. Choose your fishing buddies

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Tiger Trout

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Wild tiger trout may be the rarest of the trout family.

They are a hybrid of a female brown trout and a male brook trout. They are distinctive, the dark modeled pattern of a brook trout’s back extending down their sides to their belly. This bold pattern won them the name tiger trout. The pattern more closely resembles the coat of an ocelot but I suppose ocelot trout sounds silly.

Browns and brooks are both fall spawners so it’s bound to happen that some big beautiful brown trout catches the eye of an eager brookie but getting a tiger out of the deal is still tricky. A brook trout, being a char, has 84 chromosomes and a brown trout only 80. A fertilized egg will yield a fry only 5% of the time. The resulting tiger trout is sterile so there is no tiger trout to tiger trout reproduction.

The science guys have figured out how to make tiger trout in the lab. They fertilize the brown trout eggs with brook trout milt and then shock them with heat which causes the eggs to mutate adding a chromosome pair and boosting the success rate to 85%. A pretty cool trick but why would you do it?

Well, it turns out that the tiger isn’t just in the stripes. Tiger trout have the attitude to boot. They are aggressive piscivores and grow quickly, eating every smaller fish they can. For that reason they have proven to be an effective tool for controlling invasive species. Since they are sterile, there is

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Hellgrammite, The King Kong of Aquatic Insects

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I was on the water trout fishing the other day, when my buddy Erik Ashlin said, “it was just about this time last year, when all the hellgrammites began crawling into the shallows to begin their pupation.

Let me flip over a rock and see if I can find one real quick, these guys are wicked looking”. No joke, the first rock Erik turned over, this freaking giant 3″ Hellgrammite was laying there with its jaws of life (mandibles) snapping. It was very clear it was gesturing, “come on, get closer…, let me get a piece of you”!

If you ever get the opportunity to examine a big Hellgrammite up close, there will be no doubt in your mind that the Hellgrammite is the King Kong of all aquatic insects. Be careful handling them because they can pack one hell of a painful pinch capable of breaking the skin. Hellgrammites are like a five course meal in terms of food value to trout. I’d lay a bet they pack every bit as much caloric worth as sculpins and crayfish do. Great times to fish hellgrammite imitations are during high flows after heavy rains. During these conditions, they often get dislodged from under rocks and swept down stream. Hellgrammites are also very vulnerable during behavioral drifts, when the larva are searching out new feeding grounds or better water conditions.

If you’re trying to tempt a trophy brown trout, rainbow trout, or smallmouth bass into eating, you can’t go wrong with a hellgrammite imitation. That being said, Hellgrammites shouldn’t be used as your everyday searching pattern. Somedays you’ll find

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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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Orvis Pro Waders: Video

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The new Orvis Pro Wader are both tough and feature rich.

The new Pro Wader from Orvis makes some big claims. Test show it to be the most puncture resistant wader o the market. New materials and cut make it a great choice for the athletic angler. Cool new features, like built in knee pads, make it innovative and practical. If you’re in the market for waders, the new Orvis Pro is worth a look,


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Bonefish Toe

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By John Byron

Huh? Bonefish toe? Yup, it’s a thing.

Fishing last month at Beyond The Blue, South Caicos. Four companions/new friends from Connecticut, all experienced on bonefish. One-hundred percent wading all day long.

Fifth day one of us, Mark, came up lame mid-day, his big toe bothering him a lot. Swollen. Puffy. A color somewhere between beet red and puce. Toenail gray and iffy. Day six he stayed in port, barely able to hobble around. 

Bonefish toe. 

If you wade fish and wear most any wading boot, the danger is the toenail on your big toe catching the top inside of the boot and pushing it backwards into your toe. Five of us fishing —

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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 Embarrassing State of Modern Fly Fishing” is an embarrassing take on modern fly fishing.

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By Aaron Stiny

Recently my Facebook feed was flooded with folks sharing the aforementioned blog post, each post receiving a flood of comments.

Against my better judgement I browsed what folks had to say before reading it and saw nothing but Amen’s, Spot on’s etc so I gave it a click. I was surprised so many friends, especially industry employees, were adamantly in agreeance with it and I couldn’t help but feel like the article and the ensuing responses were hypocritical and ironic. Let’s dive in… 

The Myth that fly fishing was a “quiet man’s” sport…Foremost, thankfully fly fishing isn’t a total Man’s sport anymore. Fly fishing has never been a quiet person’s sport. I grew up working in fly shops and forever worked for Bill Kiene, who had some of the loosest lips in Nor Cal when it came to promoting fishing. Many fly shop owners were the same way. Pre-social media Bill gained notoriety by pioneering one of the original fly fishing message boards and pushed fishing reports, however dated, to increase people getting after it, and in turn business. He didn’t do this simply to look after his bottom line, in his heart he wanted people on the water. 

Lest we forget the massive consumer fly fishing shows of yesteryear which are currently experiencing a resurgence. The old ISE San Mateo show, Somerset, etc. Denver has been packed with consumers over the last few years, including many of the folks this blogger despises. Lefty Kreh, Chico Fernandez, Bob Clouser, they weren’t/aren’t exactly quiet men when it came to travelling around to shows, fly clubs etc. promoting hosted travel, selling gear, and collecting large speaking fees. Plain and simple, they were influencers before there were influencers, and it greatly benefitted their bottom line. In turn, they introduced how many generations to our sport who in turn spawned how many kids who are anglers in the social media generation. 

Are most of the premier trout rivers really loved to death? The Mo, South Fork and other premiere trout rivers are counting fish by the thousand per mile. Many rivers are seeing more conscience flows by water administrators to protect fish during vulnerable times of year and enhance angler experience due to popularity. Let’s talk about former premiere Steelhead rivers: There is a passionate army of anglers advocating for the removal of the Snake River Dams to improve and in some cases just reopen steelhead fishing in Idaho. The Skagit/Sauk saga has more folks than ever before advocating for them. Steelhead popularity in CA has exploded in (thanks Kiene) and we have the largest Dam removal project in history about to happen on the Klamath. I get it, it sucks that your favorite WY river has a few more skiffs than it used to, but the number of passionate anglers, guides, shops and businesses bettering our fisheries is far greater than this blog will admit. 

The cool factor and zero to hero guides. Where to begin,

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Bonefish The Hard Way, Deep In The Mangroves

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If you are wading or using kayaks to navigate the flats your mobility may be limited and timing the tides becomes crucial. Bonefish will be most accessible on low tides. Late in a falling tide when they are forced out of the mangroves to early rising tide when they work the edges. It’s important that these tides fall during the time of day when the light is good for catching fish.

That said, I did the exact opposite on a recent trip to Cat Island, Bahamas. It was a vacation, not a fishing trip. The distinction is important to my wife. It means I don’t fish all day, every day. You can read my recommendations on how to make that work, (HERE). On this particular week, low tide came very early in the morning and after dark. Most mornings were compromised by rain. It was a tough set up, but I was determined to catch some bonefish, so I tried something crazy. And it worked!

At high tide the bonefish were feeding deep in the mangroves. In some spots, a hundred yards or more from the edge of the flats. So, I went in after them. It wasn’t long before I was catching bonefish and learning a lot about this new way of fishing. It’s not ideal. In fact it’s damned hard to do, but surprisingly fun.


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