Reel Balance

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Odds are good you haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about that little button opposite the handle on your fly reel. Some of you may have thought it was just there for decoration. Well, it isn’t. The counterweight is actually a really important piece of your reel’s design and without it you’d be in trouble.

Think of it like the lead counterweights on your car tires. When you buy a new set of tires the guys at the tire shop balance each of them once they’re mounted on the rims. Without those counterweights your car would feel like it was driving a washboarded forest service road all the time. Your reel works the same way.

Without a counterweight every time you hooked into a fish big enough to pull some serious line, your reel would buck and vibrate like that car tire that’s out of balance. That would cause a couple of things and none of them good.

The jerking motion of the rod caused by an out of balance reel would cause you to lose fish, either by breaking them off or dislodging the hook. It would also cause extra wear on the reel shortening its life. It would also be annoying as hell causing you to throw the reel as far as possible.

It’s easy to understand why a reel needs to be balanced. What’s tougher is actually balancing one. It’s a surprisingly tedious process. The slightest change in the length of the handle makes a big change in the counterweight. There are formulas, but reel balance only comes from a process of trial and error.

When I was at the Nautilus factory a few weeks ago my friend Kristen Mustad showed me how they balance Nautilus reels. It’s pretty clever and a great example

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Bruce Chard Ties The Gnarly Bandit

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Our good friend Captain Bruce Chard is back today to prove it. Fishing guides need effective flies that will put their clients on fish but don’t take hours to tie. Bruce calls these kind of flies,”guide flies.” These flies have all of the elements that attract fish in a simple recipe so you can knock out a dozen of them without breaking a sweat. I love guide flies and I fish a lot of them.

The Gnarly Bandit is a classic. I can’t tell you how many bonefish I have caught on this fly. It’s a simple fly but there are a few elements you need to get right. In this video Bruce goes step by step and explains the details that make the difference.

Watch the video and learn to tie The Gnarly Bandit.

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Tie Connor’s Jerk Minnow

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Connor Jones, from Cohutta Fishing Company, ties this versatile baitfish pattern for bass and trout here in the southeast. It’s a simple fly with a clean profile and it’s easy to tie in a variety of colors.

The secret to the jerk minnow is it’s action. Connor builds a hard, hollow head, from Senyo’s Laser dub and Clear Cure Hydro, which captures air and gives the jerk minnow an erratic darting action, when stripped hard. Big predatory fish can’t resist it

It’s a fly that will produce fish on lakes and rivers. Tie it in the colors and size to match the forage species on your local waters. Strip hard and hang on tight!

Watch the video and learn to tie Connor’s Jerk Minnow

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9 Tips for Netting Big Fish on Your Own

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I had the pleasure of seeing a dear friend land his first trophy trout recently and I think that’s a pretty fair description. I think it’s pretty common for anglers landing their first plus-size fish to think, “Oh shit! What do I do now?” To the guy who is used to dangling a fish by the tippet, scooping an angry, hook-jawed behemoth with a trout net is daunting. Once you’ve done it a few times it becomes second nature but for those who are struggling (or yet to struggle) with it, here are a few tips.

Timing is everything
Netting a green fish, a fish who isn’t ready, is a losing proposition. On the other hand, playing a fish too long can kill them. Not to mention give them ample opportunity to unbutton. As long as a fish is holding himself upright in the water and keeping his head down, he is not ready for the net. Once he rolls on his side and comes to the surface, it’s time to net him. The first time this happens he may right himself again and make another run. The second time you should be ready to seal the deal.

Net the fish at the surface
As long as a fish has his head submerged he is in control. If you try to scoop a fish below the surface your odds are very poor. He can turn quickly to make his escape and there’s a good chance that you will catch the line with the net and break him off. Lift your rod tip high as you reach for the fish and keep his nose out of the water. As long as his nose is dry he can’t make a break for it.

Net the head
Don’t try to scoop a big fish from behind. You might

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Understanding Fly Line Tapers and Diagrams

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Buying a fly line doesn’t have to be a leap of faith.

For many anglers, fly lines and their characteristics are a huge mystery. They know that different fly lines cast differently and that some suit their needs or casting styles better than others but they have no idea why. What’s worse, when it’s time to buy a new line they aren’t able to make an informed choice. They just go to the fly shop and ask for the best line. Thank God for knowledgable fly shop guys, but do you really want to rely on someone else’s guess at what you will like?

If this sounds like you, I have good news. There is an easy way to get a sense of how a fly line will cast before you ever take it out of the package, and with a little experience you can quickly choose the line that’s right for the way you fish.

Fly lines have become really complicated in the last five years or so. Specialty lines have multiplied like rabbits and line companies have created lines to match every species, water condition and casting style. If you’re confused, you’re not alone. Fortunately, almost every manufacturer publishes line diagrams which show you, in detail, the taper of each line. If you know how to read the diagram, you’ll know how the line will cast.


There are three basic types of line tapers. Weight forward, double taper and triangle taper. Looking at the diagram, it’s pretty clear how they get their names. The double taper line is a very traditional style of line which has a long level belly and a symmetrical taper on each end. Weight forward lines shift the weight to the front of the line and were developed to match modern fast action carbon fiber rods. Triangle tapers are a kind of hybrid of the two.

Think of the diagram as a picture of the fly line in profile with the thickness of the line exaggerated. The thickness of the line indicates two things. Where the weight is and the relative stiffness of the line. Where the line is thicker, it will be heavier. Different line materials have different stiffness, but within a given fly line, the line will be stiffer where it is thicker. Knowing where the weight is in the line will tell you how it loads the rod and the stiffness, as well as the weight, will tell you how it presents the fly.


To understand the information the diagram gives you, first you have to understand the different parts of the fly line and how they affect the line’s performance. Most modern fly lines have five parts. From front to back they are the tip, front taper, belly, rear taper and running line. Each one performs a specific function and its weight and length determine how the line casts.


The tip is the final word in fly presentation. The longer and lighter the tip, the more delicate the presentation. A long light tip will work to your advantage when

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Be Prepared For Colorado’s Black Canyon

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Colorado’s Black Canyon doesn’t play.

My buddy John is getting even more fidgety than usual. He’s whipped himself into a froth as I go over the pack-list. Sleeping bag, pad, headlamp, tecnu…” “Water?”, he asked. “No, I told you, filter bottle.” “Cliff Bars, peanut butter, whisky…” “So this trail”, he starts again, “eight hundred and some vertical feet and the road, the guy said four wheel drive, I don’t think the Subaru has a skid plate. “What’s your deal?”, I ask. “No, well, ok, it just sounds like a lot, we are fifty you know, my back’s not good.” He knows it’s pointless, there’s no talking me out of it. “You’re right”, I answer, “let’s wait until we’re sixty, it’ll be much easier then.”

All this noise isn’t for nothing. Colorado’s Black Canyon doesn’t play. You’re not exactly taking your life in your hands fishing down there but bad things can happen. You need a plan because the canyon is not forgiving of mistakes. On the other hand, there are few places in the lower forty-eight that offer the scenery, the quality fishing and the natural experience of the Black Canyon and the Gunnison river. It’s not for everybody and it does get more traffic than you would expect. I’m not trying to add to the pressure but if you are going to go, you should be prepared. Here’s what I learned on my trip.


For the record, fifty is not too old. You need to be in good shape for hiking but if your health is good and you don’t have breathing or heart issues don’t let age stop you. I live at sea level and I did fine with a pack, tent, food and fishing gear.

Most folks do it as a day trip but it’s a great trip to camp. You expend a lot of time and energy getting into and out of the canyon. It’s nice to stay at least one night. The extra weight of the camping gear makes it a tough call but I’m glad we did it. Just go light. Seriously light! Eat cold food before you carry a stove and fuel. If you have an ultralite tent that’s great, otherwise you might sleep under the stars. Camp sites are first come first serve. Get an early start.

The elements are brutal. It’s dry and sun baked and you will be too if you’re not careful. You have to be serious about hydration. My buddy Andrew Grillos who has guided the canyon for years told me has drunk two and a half gallons of water in a day and still been dehydrated. A filter pump and a gallon jug is a good idea. Filter bottles work great but you will need plenty of water for the hike in and out when you’re away from the river. An extra filter bottle is a good idea anyway. I fell and broke the filter in mine. We got by ok sharing on the river but the hike out with one bottle was rough. Sun screen and a buff are a must. It’s hot as hell and the black rock heats up like a wood stove. Leave the

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4 Questions You Should Ask Yourself Before Chasing Musky on the Fly

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Today’s guest post was provided by Charlie Murphy, a long time member of Gink & Gasoline and musky devotee.

For those of you who don’t know Charlie, he’s as laid back as they come, he eats, sleeps and breaths fishing 365 days a year, and he’s always got your back when you need him. Another thing we love about Charlie is he’s constantly finding ways to add humor into every situation. All these qualities make Charlie a great travel and fishing partner and if you ever have the chance to fish with him, we highly recommend it. That’s enough introduction, read below Charlie’s humorous but true correlation between the old school movie The Karate Kid, the character Mr. Miyagi, and fly fishing for musky.

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Don’t Be Like This Guy

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I hope this is so obvious it needs no explanation.

There we are staked up waiting for migrating tarpon when this guy rolls up, jig at the ready. I’m sure he thought we were on fish. His kids huddled down in the floor of the boat and he wouldn’t even look at us. His wife at least had the decency to say, “I’m sorry.”

On the bow my buddy Scott offers an enthusiastic thumbs up. One of the reasons I love fishing with that guy. Nothing ruffles his feathers. I’d have likely put a hook in his ear. Scott was paid back karmicly by jumping a 150 pound tarpon that afternoon. It broke him off but it was still awesome. Wish I had a photo. I was on the phone with my mother. If you’re a mother, you call at the wrong time. It’s what you do.

Anyway, a picture is

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Glass and Grass

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Hatch is a misleading term. The shrimp aren’t actually hatching, they’re dying. Suffocating to be exact. Like a trout stream, the water in the ocean must be replenished with fresh oxygen for aquatic life to survive. The ocean however, does not have riffles turning out oxygen around the clock. Aquatic plants provide some oxygen through photosynthesis but not at night, so the ocean relies heavily on wind to oxygenate the water when the sun is down. This becomes even more crucial as water temperature rises. Since warmer water holds less oxygen it must be replenished more often.

On those still hot nights the shrimp are suffocating and leave the safety of the turtle grass to look for oxygen on the surface. There, they are an easy

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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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