The cutthroat and the sweet sixteen

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“HE IS OUR LEGACY. HE WAS LEFT HERE FOR US BY A LOVING FATHER, IF YOU BELIEVE IN THAT SORT OF THING, AND ONCE HE IS GONE WE WILL NEVER BE ABLE TO REPLACE HIM.”

My friend Gary Lacey did me a disservice while shooting clays one day. I fell one shell short for the round and he handed me his beautiful Beretta SO3 EELL to finish the round. I wish I had never touched that gun.

What a beautiful sensation it was when that elegant little side lock fell into place against my shoulder and the bright orange disk disappeared in a puff of black powder. How could I not covet this gun that I would never be able to afford? As pleasant to look at as to shoot the Beretta, with its lavish engraving and gold inlayed pheasant and duck, was a far cry from my clunky old Browning automatic.

Square jawed and utilitarian, it’s a poor gun for the job. The Browning A-5 Sweet Sixteen was never made for shooting clays, not that it matters, I’m not very good at it. Still, I enjoy shooting my Sweet Sixteen. Of all the guns I own, it is the most dear to me.

The gun belonged to my maternal Grandfather. He wasn’t, I suppose, what you would call a sportsman. He fished and hunted but when he did it was for food, not for sport. He taught me to shoot squirrels and catch sunfish. He taught me to

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The Single-Hand Snap T Cast: Video

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Here’s a powerful spey cast you can make with your single-hand fly rod.

The snap T is a familiar cast to any two-hand angler. It’s one of the essential spey casts, but its not just for the long rod. In fact, once you start using this cast with your single-hand rods, you’ll be shocked how often you use it.

The beautiful thing about the snap T is that it requires virtually no room for a backcast and is remarkably powerful. It will have you fishing water you’d never reach with a roll cast.

WATCH THIS VIDEO AND LEARN TO MAKE THE SNAP T CAST WITH A SINGLE-HAND FLY ROD.

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Last Cast Bonefish

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Bonefishing, for me, is the purest form of the drug.

I’m just returning from the first of three G&G Bonefish Schools in the Bahamas. This trip was more of a reunion than a school, with better than half of the anglers returning for the second or third time. I’m feeling pretty spoiled having spent a week in my favorite place, doing what I love with great friends. It’s incredibly rewarding to see these guys grow from complete beginners to really accomplished anglers.

We had a great week on South Andros. The island was spared any serious damage from hurricane Mathew and the fishery was invigorated after the storm. November is a great time for bonefishing in the Bahamas. The rains and the cooling weather bring big fish up from deep water and it’s a great time to land a trophy. This year we also had the super moon. The big tides make wade fishing scarcer but they bring out the big fish as well. We had one day of tough weather but the rest of the week was wonderful.

My friend, and G&G contributor, Owen Plair joined us on this week. A rockstar redfish guide from Beaufort, SC, this was Owen’s first time fishing the Bahamas. He was like a kid in a candy store and put his keen eyes and casting skills to work right away, landing a nice bonefish on the first cast of the trip. Several mornings, in fact, it seemed like we were on fish as quickly as we could strip our line off the reel.

Owen managed a one-in-a-million hookup on a big barracuda with his bonefish rod, while wading. The fly lodged perfectly in the corner of the cuda’s mouth and, after an aggressive fish on an eight weight, he tailed the fish expertly and, after a few photos, released it. That’s a second chance Bahamian cuda seldom see, as they are favorite table fare in spite of the risk of fish poisoning.

I love the art of targeting a hunting fish with a fly.

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Catch-and-Release Practices for Small Fish

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Handle the little guys with care if you want to catch them when they are big.

Catch-and-release practices among fly anglers are probably the best they have ever been. In part due to social media and the popularity of ideas like, “Keep ‘Em Wet.” More times than not, when you see a photo of someone holding a trophy size fish they have it cradled gently in the water. That’s great, but what about the little guys?

All of those trophy fish were small once and in order to get big they had to run a gauntlet of anglers and predators. Although there has certainly been improvement in the way the average angler handles fish, when I see one taking a beating, it’s usually a little guy. The thing is, these are the fish which are most vulnerable.

There are several common ways these small fish are mishandled.

The most common is time out of the water. While most anglers will net a big fish and let it rest in the net while they remove the hook, a net isn’t usually required for a small fish. Often they are simply snatched up to chest level by the leader. They are usually still pretty green so they squirm and make removing the hook a challenge and often spend way too much time out of the water.

There are a couple of other things that can go wrong when

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The River Is Full Of Want

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By Louis Cahill

“I DON’T DESERVE THAT FISH. I DON’T DESERVE THIS DAY ON THIS BEAUTIFUL RIVER. I DON’T DESERVE TO FISH WITH THESE GOOD MEN.”

I wade out into the rushing water of the Dean, farther than I should. The cold of the water grabs me around the waist. The current tugs at my footing. I feel the pebbles washing out from under my feet as they slide softly downstream against my will, looking for a home. I gather my running line and tuck it under my index finger, then I lift my thirteen-foot rod high into the air, anchoring my fly in the swift current in front of me. The wind blows and a cold mist creeps around my glasses and down my neck. I sweep the rod round, making a big D loop, watching the rod, keeping it loaded, then draw the butt back hard to my chest. I roll the grip clockwise so that the guides face upstream and watch the bright green running line draw shapes in the air against a backdrop of dark clouds, like a kid writing his name with a sparkler on a summer night.

The line disappears through the guides and nearly a hundred feet away I see the splash as my weighted fly meets the river. I mend the line and tell myself that my feet will find something solid as I step with the rush of water, once, twice, three times. On the horizon, just over the big log jam, I can see the silver band of salt, the Pacific. Below the next run and the next, maybe four-hundred yards. The river hasn’t far to go and it’s impatient, running like children to the tree on Christmas morning. They call this run Instant Backing and I know that if my fly finds its mark, I’ll see why. I carry my rod tip upstream until I feel the weight of the river on my line. Slowly I swing the fly, I feel the strength of the water, I wait for the pull, I stare into the river and I want.

***

The Atlantis Restaurant, in Cherry Grove, South Carolina, between Myrtle Beach and Cape Fear, is a stark little beach town pancake house. It is completely unremarkable. Shabby, in fact, but it has always been special to me. Every year, on my family’s Labor Day beach trip, my father and I would slip out to the Atlantis while everyone else was asleep for breakfast. He would have eggs, over easy and bacon and I would have pancakes. Since I was little I loved having breakfast out with my father. Just the two of us in the quiet of the morning. Our complicated relationship worked well, within the simple framework of breakfast.

My father has been gone a long time now but I still find walking into that pancake house comforting. For that reason and to share my memories, I took my wife there a few years back. I got more than pancakes.

The Atlantis is an odd place at best. It doesn’t suffer from any sort of interior decoration, let alone design. The walls are glossy white with blue trim. There are a few photos from some foreign country, maybe Greece, and an aquarium next to the register containing nothing but water and a few turtles. There are some hand drawn signs with a vaguely religious theme. My favorite is a dolphin with a voice bubble that says, “I love Jesus!”

The employees seem to be from somewhere far away too, but I don’t think it’s Greece. There is a young girl, sixteen maybe, who seems particularly distant. Thin and strawberry blond with freckles she has, what combat veterans call, a thousand yard stare. Not vapid exactly but not entirely present. She waits on my wife and me that morning. After my wife orders the girl turns to me. “I want pancakes,” I say smiling. “Really?” she replies as if truly puzzled. After a long pause in which she stares at me as if I were a painting in a museum, she asks,

“What’s it like to want?”

I was completely unprepared for such an existential question before I’d even had my coffee. Not that coffee would help me find the answer, but it does make me a nicer person. I consider the question briefly, on several levels ranging from, “is this the meaning of life” to “are you out of your fucking mind” before deciding on my answer.

“You know, it’s like when you want a tip.”

The pancakes are tasty, in spite of having surely been spit on and I want to think that I’ve put that question to bed, but I haven’t. Far from it. That annoying little teenager had done something to me. I couldn’t get it out of my mind. “What’s it like to want?” For the next few years I carry that question around in my head as a litmus test. I conjure up every blown decision in my life, every misstep that lead to unhappiness and asked myself, “why did I do that?” The answer is always the same. Want.

I look around me and suddenly I see it everywhere. Want. It’s like the air we breath. We are all consumed by want. It’s like the strings on a marionette, once you see them you can’t blot them out. They’re all you see. That little red-headed waif in the apron had looked right through me and knowing only that I like pancakes had said, more or less,

“Here’s your problem, stupid.”

***

The Dean River is moody, the kind of river that kills fisherman, at least one that I know of. It’s fickle and has a temper, not like the elder rivers where I’m from, that found their channels long ago. The Dean is young and impulsive. This week it has leapt from its banks, coming up six feet the day my group arrived. It has decided

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Women Are Here To Fish

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By Justin Pickett

I read a post on social media the other day that got me feeling all kinds of frustrated.

I literally wanted to pull my hair out after reading the remarks of the ignoramus who decided to peck this stupidity from the safety of his keyboard. This ding dong’s remark was in response to a photo of a nice rainbow trout caught by a female angler, which was posted to her Facebook page. The original post appears to have been taken down by the page administrator, but it went something like this:

-Now let’s see a video of your cast, drift, and you landing that fish-

Now, like I said, there is likely some variance to the actual quote, but those are the “items” that this guy wanted filmed to verify to him that this female angler was competent enough to catch a trout all by herself. Seriously? He went on to defend his request, which just made things worse.

The majority of the social media world attacked this guy, and rightfully so. Who is he to play “river police” from the comfort of his desk chair, assuring that everyone’s cast and drift are up to his standards? Oh wait… Not EVERYONE on the river. Nah, this guy probably would not have had the balls to do the same thing to another male angler, but a gal holding up a trout….I guess that sounded like easy pickings to this Facebook Casanova.

Certainly a girl doesn’t have the mental and physical attributes to complete a cast, mend some line, set the hook, and land a fish that possesses a brain the size of a pea. I’m not trying to downplay the sometimes technical aspects of fly fishing for trout, but this guy was definitely calling into question the ability of this female angler to catch a fish. However, I bet if the same were expected of him every time he posted a fish, he would be the first one to cry about it on his social media page.

News Flash: women fish!

Women fly fish. There have been women in fly fishing for a long time. Long before many of you reading this, and myself, were even conceived. There are some amazing women who have done, and continue to do, amazing things in many areas of the sport of fly fishing. Conservation. Guiding. Travel. Product development. Instruction. Casting for Recovery. Dun Magazine. Abel Women. 50/50 On The Water. I could go on. Women play a major role in many aspects of our sport. I could give numerous examples, but here’s a couple:

Ever heard of R.L. Winston Fly Rods?

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Reece’s North Park Nasty

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Watch the video!

By Bob Reece

Terrestrial season is a high point in my angling year.

Some of the fisheries that I frequent require highly accurate imitations to achieve ultimate success. Others do not. For those bodies of water I created my North Park Nasty.

The marriage of buggy and buoyant always brings a smile to my face. This pattern has both. The simple use of a grizzly hackle and Sexi Floss legs create the underwater profile of this pattern. 2mm tying foam forms the top surface, greatly bolstering the ability of this bug to float.

With the chaos that forms the schedules of most tiers everyday lives, free time is a valuable commodity. The North Park Nasty compliments this fact by requiring a very minimal amount of time to create. In addition to this, the techniques used in its creation lend themselves to tiers of all skill levels.

When fishing this bugified creation, I keep it tight to the bank or available structure. While I sometimes run a small dropper off it, I prefer to fish it solo. Despite its larger profile

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Improve Your Casting With A Dog

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A good dog can help you catch more fish.

Most anglers never pick up a fly rod, other than to fish, but making time for consistent and effective casting practice makes a huge difference in your performance on the water. Even anglers who understand this, struggle to make it happen. We don’t get the same pleasure from practice as we do from fishing. None of us started fly fishing because we liked hanging out in the yard.

So here’s an idea to make your practice time more enjoyable and more productive. Take a dog. I’ve been doing this lately and discovered something I didn’t expect. Bear, the Great Pyrenees pictured above, has been living with us while his real mon is having cancer treatment. Like all dogs, Bear needs plenty of time outside. There’s a great park just down the street so I take Bear on regular missions.

So immediately I’ve cleared the biggest hurdle on the road to regular practice.

Making the time. Bear makes sure that I make the time. Like most dogs he wants to sniff every blade of grass in the park. I started taking a rod and some targets to pass the time. Bear gets some relaxed play time and I get my practice in. Everybody wins.

Casting to targets is OK practice for some fishing situations. It does give you the chance to focus on the fundamentals of the cast and improve loop control and accuracy. But as I’ve written before, it does not help you develop good target picture, an important skill in any sight fishing scenario. As I was practicing one afternoon, I noticed something about Bear. His sniffing reminded me of something. He’d get on a scent and root around following it, a lot like a bonefish will do when hunting on a flat.

I started making presentations to Bear. He’d

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Don’t Lead Me On: Tippet Length For Dry Flies

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By: Alice Tesar

Dry fly season is upon us and the shop is filled with folks wondering why the fish aren’t interested in their dry flies. 

Yes, it is important to get the correct flies but equally as important is your leader and tippet. The biggest mistake these people are making, one I made for years, is just switching out their nymph for a dry fly without addressing their tippet length. 

Without giving you too much to work with, recognize that the evolution of tapered leaders has revolved around nymphing and streamer fishing. Engineered with a more aggressive taper to cut wind and cast greater distances. Most factory made tapered leaders ignore the long tippet section required for a dry fly presentation. 

Adding one to three feet of tippet (*gasp* yes, your leader and tippet will now be close to 13’ long) will allow you to mend easier (if you need to mend at all) and will give you a more natural drift without the added weight of a tapered leader. Instead of fretting about turning over your fly in a long cast think about

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Spotting Big Trout in all the Wrong Places

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One of my home waters that I spend 500 plus hours a year guiding on is notorious for big fish holding in water that most people would consider horrible trout water. I’m talking about water that is less than a foot deep that even veteran anglers would regularly walk by without fishing. The other day guiding I spotted a huge hooked jaw male rainbow pushing 30 inches. It was sitting in plain view on a gravel bar in six inches of water hugged up against the edge of a rhododendron. My partner and I watched the fish feeding regularly for about five minutes, while we planned out our spot and stock. I had seen big fish laying in this shallow gravel bar in the past many times, but nothing this size. Here’s the ironic part, right before we had approached the spot I had just explained how important it was to scan the water, even ridiculous looking shallow water before making a cast in the chances we might spot a big fish.

Heavily pressured fish are smart and often sneaky. I truly believe big trout will

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