Leader 911

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When leader emergencies happen, will you be ready?

I know a lot of anglers who only carry enough tippet to change out flies. That’s a great way to get caught with your pants down. I saw it happen just the other day. I was bonefishing with my friend Bob and a nice bonefish took him around some corral. Not only did Bob lose his whole leader but the end of his fly line along with the welded loop.

That’s a great way to ruin a day of fishing, even if you have extra leaders. But not if you’re prepared. I use hand tied leaders and I make a habit of having everything I need to rebuild my leader completely. I usually have a couple of fresh leaders as well but the obsessive-compulsive side of me insists on carrying the spools.


To start you need a good solid connection to your fly line. I prefer to whip a loop in the end of my fly line. You can get the details on how to do that HERE. That a little tricky on the boat or stream so I’ll usually go with a temporary solution and whip a loop that evening.

You can tie in a short butt section of heavy leader material and tie a loop for attaching your leader or for a quick fix you tie the leader directly to the fly line. If you are trout fishing on light tackle, you can use a nail knot for this. Personally I don’t like a nail knot connection. I prefer an Albright knot. Here’s a video.

If you don’t have a fresh leader

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Use Your Map!

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By Justin Pickett


I had only been there two days and I’ve had these men explain to me what good fishing it is, and how they’ve all caught some really nice trout, specifically browns, from it. Now this lake is far from the reasons why I came to Patagonia, but by the first night I had already decided that I was going to find this lake.

The days are long during the summers in Patagonia. Really long. The sun is up well before I have risen (usually around 7am) and the sun just finds its way below the horizon around 10pm. The great thing about it is that this provides plenty of time for fishing and exploring. On the fourth day of our trip, we decided to end our fishing by 2pm. The extra time would be for some good R&R, as well as giving the guides extra time to prepare for our three-day float trip that began the next day. Most of the fellas in our group decided to take a siesta. I, on the other hand, had to find this damn lake!

I strung up my rod, grabbed my chest pack, and headed out.

With the resident lodge dog trotting alongside, I marched down a horse trail that followed a small stream that ran through the middle of the property. Surely all I had to do was follow this stream back to its origin and I would certainly find this lake.

About twenty minutes later I did indeed stumble upon a “lake”, or maybe more like a small koi pond. As I stared at this piece of water, I could see several fishing rising to small mayflies dancing on the water’s surface. Thinking that I must have arrived at my destination, I threw out a few casts and managed to get a refusal out of a five or six inch rainbow trout. I sat for a minute, taking the extra effort to pay attention to what kind of fish I was seeing. After a handful of minutes it was clear that this little pond was the home to nothing but baby rainbows, and this was obviously not the lake that I had heard so much about.

I found that this small stream continued on above the small pond, so naturally I kept following it. Along the way I found an old bridge, some pretty horses, and then I found myself trespassing into someone else’s backyard. Now, this no espanol-speaking gringo certainly doesn’t need to get into any kind of trouble while I’m out by myself. Especially not

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Making the Best of Bad Conditions

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by Johnny Spillane

Saltwater fly fishing is totally dependent on conditions.

Recently I flew down to Orlando for the IFTD/ICAST show and I decided to fly in a day early and spend some time in the saltwater with my good friend Scott Harkins, who works for Simms, and our new friend Captain Scott MacCalla who guides out of Titusville and fishes the Indian River and Mosquito Lagoon. Conditions were not ideal and the following is some advice on how to make the best of a saltwater trip when everything is not going as planned.


Everyone wants to go catch a 100lb tarpon and we all want to do it the first day. I’m going to tell it to you straight, don’t get your hopes up because it can take days or weeks to land one. The wind might be blowing in the wrong direction, clouds might impair your visibility, a decrease or rise in pressure might ruin the bite. Everything can go wrong in the salt. Get used to it.


Even though you might have your heart set on some specific fish you want to target, if you’re there for a day, ask your guide what the options are. The guides know the conditions and know what to expect. Listen to the options and decide what interests you the most. They may tell you there is a small chance to get what you’re after, but keep that in mind when it does not work out, they warned you so you can’t hold it against them.


Everyone wants to catch a permit or a tarpon or a bonefish

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New Treatment for Casters Elbow

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Ok, it tennis elbow but it might as easily be casters elbow.

If you’ve spent much time on the cork end of a fly rod you’ve felt that burning in the elbow. Probably while you were fighting a big fish. That’s when it usually gets me. This came up while fishing with a friend who like me plays guitar pretty regularly. When combined with a couple of days a week fishing it’s a recipe for pain and suffering.

I did some research and came across a new gadget for the treatment of tennis elbow that’s pretty effective. It’s called Flex Bar. It would be tedious to explain how to use it but this video, although goofy as hell, gets it across. It’s pretty simple. You can buy one of these online for $15 or so but I made my own by cutting off a piece of a foam pool noodle from Wal-Mart. You have enough foam

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Bob Heads Downstream

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See more of Bob and the art of Andrea Larko on Etsy.

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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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Beating the Winter Blues

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By Kevin Howell


In reality, some of the best fishing of the year, here in the Southern Appalachians, takes place in the winter. Here are some ideas to help you get through the winter blues.

Fish in the winter. Winter fishing in our part of the country is fabulous. I agree, on days when it is 22 degrees and blowing blue snow, you probably do not want to go fishing. However, we have plenty of days when the air temps will hit the high 40’s to low 50’s and it makes a nice day to get out of the house. Remember a trout has to eat to survive, and you can not catch him if you are sitting on the couch.
Tie Flies. Another great way to pass the time is to tie flies. If you are new to tying or want to learn how to tie, then hang out at your local shop and take some tying classes. A lot of stores like Davidson River Outfitters even offer free or low cost classes or nights you can just come into the shop and hang out and tell fish stories.
Build a rod. Again if your local shop or fly fishing club offers a rod building class you can build your own rod and customize it in any manner you like, except for Tarheel Blue (sorry, I went to NC State).
Take a Trip. If you can afford it, take a trip. It does not have to be a $10,000 around-the-world trip. You could go to south Florida or Louisiana for a day or two and go Redfishing. You could go to south Texas and fly fish for bass. You could go to North Georgia and fish the Toccoa tailwater and camp overnight in a public campground for $2. If you want to go to Argentina or New Zealand, or the tropics like the Bahamas or Christmas Island, you can find a lot of good deals at the moment due to

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Sudden Impact, Fishing A Better Beetle

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By George Daniel

Beetles that Create Impact On Trout Streams

A fly fisher’s job is to gain “positive” attention from the fish they pursue. In this instance, we’re going to focus on trout and terrestrial patterns. Positive attention occurs when a pattern creates enough impact on the water surface to arouse curiosity (not fear) in a feeding trout. Focus on presentation and good technique is always of the top of the list, but sometimes the right patterns can make all the difference. I’m still a firm believer that technique trumps pattern choice, but there’s always exceptions. 

One reason I guide is for the lessons I learn through the power of observation. It’s my job to try to help coach individuals into catching fish, but so often I’m the one taking home the lesson of the day. In the case of this article, I’m referring to the time I spend with longtime fishing guest/client Bob Williams.  First, let me make it clear that Bob “The Beetle” Williams doesn’t need a guide. He’s one of the most well rounded terrestrial fly fishers I’ve met. I am grateful for the fun times we have had on the water and thankful for the lessons I’ve gleaned over the years.

One such lesson is that, not all fly tying foams are created equal. Long story short, the density built into a terrestrial can make the difference between getting no attention or receiving positive attention. Several years ago, Bob showed me a dense foam material manufactured by a local PA guy and it totally changed my opinion on the importance of how a pattern lands on the water.  What I’m getting at is, there are times when your patterns need to create such an intense impact that trout can feel the fly land, even if they cannot see it. Common sense, I know, but sometimes we can all use a refresher course in terrestrial fishing 101. 

Think about deep undercut banks where trout will hold. Trout holding deep under the bank often cannot see what’s going on outside their lair, and a terrestrial pattern that is designed to land softly on the water is not likely to garner a trout’s attention.  For years I only guided with one beetle pattern, tied with the standard foam that all fly shops sell. It worked well enough so I stuck with it until my first trip with Bob. Then Bob introduced a foam beetle material he bought from Bill Skillton years ago. A rigid foam strip coated with a material that drastically increased its density. Watching the effect it had on the local trout forever changed my opinion on fishing undercut banks with terrestrials.

After having little success fishing my foam pattern along a prime section of undercut bank, Bob asked to head back downstream fish back through the same water with his beetle instead.

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DIY Fly Line Loop with Step-by-Step Instructions

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Most fly lines these days already come with welded loops at the ends for the easy attachment of backing and leaders. If you fish as much as I do though, eventually they get worn out and need to be replaced. Most anglers just use a standard albright knot or nail knot to fix this. It works perfectly fine, but I prefer instead to tie my own fly line loops with a fly tying bobbin and thread. Done correctly, it will provide a stronger connection to your leader than the manufacturers welded loops or knots you tie (this is important when fly fishing for big game species). The bright thread that you tie the loop with also works really well as a spotter. It comes in real handy when you’re fly fishing and you have conditions where it’s hard to keep track of your fly in the water. That bright spot on the end of your fly line provides a quick reference that your fly is a leaders length away. Below are step-by-step instructions for tying your own fly line loops.

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Is Your Steelhead Fly fishing Or Just Swinging?

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By Louis Cahill


Many anglers who successfully swing flies for steelhead could be catching even more fish by improving their swing. Steelheading is all about taking advantage of every opportunity and it’s pretty common for anglers to waste as much as half their fishing time with a poorly swung fly. I include myself among them. It’s technical business and requires constant attention.

The key to a good swing is keeping the fly moving at just the right speed and angle. That buttery slow swing that gives the fish time to see the fly and react. The gentle motion that entices the attack. It’s a hard thing to visualize and even harder to describe. Fortunately there’s a reliable visual cue that will help you determine when you fly is swinging well and when it isn’t. The belly of your line.

Before we talk about what the belly of the line tells you, let get some terms straight.
The belly is the part of the line which is swept by the current causing an arch in the path of the line. When swinging flies the belly determines the speed at which the fly moves across the current.

Picture yourself fishing from river left. You cast directly across a swift current, which flows from your left to right. Your line bellies down stream so that the middle of your line is down stream of your fly. We will call this a convex belly.

Now, picture yourself on the same side of the river but casting across a slow moving current with your fly landing in faster current on the far side. Your fly moves down stream and hangs below your line, which curves to follow. We will call this a concave belly.

Picture a swing where your line makes the shape of an L. Your fly and leader point in a direction perpendicular to your rod. We will call this a 90% belly. A 45% belly would have less curve in the line and a 100% belly would have more. A straight line swing or 0% belly would have no curve in the line.

When the fly is swinging at a good pace and angle, we will say it’s fishing. Not fishing means the speed and angle are wrong.

Now that we have our terms, what’s the swing we are looking for?

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