Small Wonder, Middle Georgia’s Shoal Bass

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By Justin Pickett
THE SETTING SUN IS WARM AT MY BACK AS I STAND AT THE REAR OF MY JEEP.
I slip on my guard socks and wrench down on my boots until I’m happy with the fit. No need for waders today. The deep south humidity is smothering as I place my Buff around my neck. I dig through the mess that is my gear bag, and pull out my reel and place it on my six weight rod. I’m anxious as I slip the fly line through the guides, but I know that haste often does not lead to happiness. “Slow it down, take your time,” I remind myself.
I peer into my fly box, looking at all of its different inhabitants. Flies I’ve either bought, tied, found, or that have been gifted to me. The colors, the variety of materials. The unique purpose each pattern serves. There are several flies that have not so much as kissed the water, and a select few that have some serious frequent flyer miles. I don’t know why I stare for so long. It’s almost comical. I knew what fly I was going to fish with before I left the house.

I smirk and shake my head as I grab and inspect my go-to fly. It’s a simple fly, but a deadly one. It is a variant of an old, tried and true pattern. The materials reside around a size #4 streamer hook and are dark olive in color. The free flowing, marabou tail has just a bit of flash added to aide in piquing the interest of the fish that I seek. The body is wound with hackled feathers, and within the body are several rubbery legs, protruding from each side just before the nickel conehead. Ah, that’s where the life of this fly exists. The long, webby schlappen and the speckled tentacles breathes this fly to life. It is not prey. It is a seeker, and find, it does. My quarry just can’t seem to resist it once it is swung through their space. Add a little dash of confidence and a pinch of mojo, and how could one go wrong? 

As I look over the bridge I can see fish rising, splashing at the surface each time they take a mayfly that has perilously drifted into their feeding lanes. Topwater isn’t my game plan though. The river is running at the perfect flow, just a touch high, and that’s just how I like it. I know this is going to be a great evening. The “magic hour” is approaching as I cinch down on my loop knot and hang my fly on the hook keeper. I set my drag. I grab my sling pack and clip my hemostats to the shoulder strap. I check again to make sure that I have my fly box and the few tippet spools that I need.

For those that fish within its banks, this location is endearingly known as “The Promised Land.” It is a

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Redbands, 9X9

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By Dan Frasier

“HE WANTS TO TALK TO YOU.” MIKE, THE OWNER OF ORVIS NORTHWEST OUTFITTERS, SAID FLATLY AS HE HANDED ME HIS CELL.

My guide. Colby, was on the phone and he had this idea. “Dude, I just had this thought that made me drop my toothbrush into the sink. We could go fish cutties on the CD, or… I’ve got this thing I’ve been trying to work out. We won’t see anyone and we may not catch anything, but if we do they’ll be big. Most I’ve ever gotten was 7. What do you think?” 

A guide asking you for your opinion on fishing a certain waterbody isn’t what it appears. He knows the water best, you’re paying him to know the right answer to that question and you’re effectively guessing. Him asking you your opinion doesn’t make sense. Of course, that’s because both of you know he isn’t asking your opinion. He doesn’t think you have any special insight into where the right place to fish is, and he certainly isn’t at a loss for where there may be some trout. Instead, a subtle communication is taking place. A dance, usually understood by both guide and sport. There is a risk to be taken here and a choice to be made. The guide is telegraphing to you that you have two choices, the sure thing that will be good and an uncertain thing that may be great. He isn’t asking if you think that particular stretch of river will be any good to fish. Your opinion on that is worthless. He is asking you how much risk do you want to take. Are you willing to gamble a full day on the water for the possibility of something special?

The answer isn’t as easy as it may appear. If you spend 100 days a year on the water, or are on some kind of headhunting mission, then yeah, you take the risk. But if you only get out on family vacations the risk of a fishless day may be too much. Or perhaps you’re looking for a nice wade over cobble surrounded by mountains more than you’re want to hang a hog. We talk about flyfishing like it is a spiritual experience catalyzed by convening with nature in beautiful places. Believe it or not, some people actually feel that way about it to. Of course, despite the poetry flyfishing puts in your soul, I’d put dollars to donuts I could catch most of you fishing a golf course if it held 22 inch browns; passing up the 9 inchers in the babbling brook 3000 feet higher up in elevation. 

I could tell by the tenor of Colby’s voice he was excited and I learned long ago that when a guide has something they’ve “been working on” you go. 

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Tying Extra-Long Fly Leaders That Actually Turn Over

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There are some big advantages to fly-fishing with a long leader, if you can turn it over.

Long leaders, up to eighteen feet in some cases, can be a huge help when targeting spooky trout or species like carp and bonefish. There’s a definite advantage to having some extra stealth, but only if you can turn that leader over. If you can’t, you loose the ability to deliver the fly accurately and with a clean presentation.

Most anglers struggle to turn over long leaders. Sometimes that’s a casting problem, but often it’s just an issue with the leader. Understanding how a leader works, and how to build one properly can really take your fly fishing to the next level, letting you catch fish you may have considered above your pay-grade.

Generally anglers will start off with a fairly standard nine foot leader, and lengthen it when they feel they need to. There’s nothing wrong with that, if you do it right. But if you know you are going to be using a long leader all day, I recommend you start from scratch and build a leader that’s right for the conditions. I change my leaders like I change my socks and I’ll take things like wind and light into consideration when I build them. I like having every advantage.

If you want to learn more about building custom leaders, read my article about Understanding Leaders.

Today, I’m going to talk about how to make an effective long leader starting with a standard leader, whether it’s one you tied or bought at the shop. I will suggest that you tie your own leaders. If you do it right, they will always perform better.

Most anglers will lengthen their leader by adding a long section of tippet. Unless you are doing some kind of technical nymphing, where you want thin tippet that cuts quickly through the water column and gets your flies deep in a hurry, lengthening your tippet is the worst possible way to add to your leader. It is the easiest method, and like most shortcuts, yields the worst results.

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Sunday Classic / 3 Fly Fishing Situations When I Will Stop My Streamer During the Retrieve

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Warning: The fly fishing advice you’re about to read may go against your present beliefs. There’s a good chance you’ll feel inclined to tell me I’m nuts for recommending it. That’s totally cool, I just ask that you read what I’ve written, before you make the decision to set me straight.

IT HAS LONG BEEN DRILLED INTO OUR HEADS, THAT THE WORST THING A FLY FISHERMAN CAN DO WHEN A FISH IS TRACKING HIS/HER STREAMER, IS STOP THE RETRIEVE.

I agree with this advice 95% of the time because most prey when threatened by a predator, will swim as hard and fast as possible to escape being eaten. That being said, I’ve been on the water many times when the constant-strip retrieve, or even the speed-up retrieve with my streamer, has failed to get me the hook up from a following fish. It was only when I thought outside the box, and found the courage to go against the popular view that streamers should always be kept moving when a fish is tracking, that I found myself with a bent rod.

With most things in fly fishing, there’s always exceptions to the rule. No matter how rare the exception may come up, a fly fisherman should always be willing to experiment when traditional tactics aren’t producing. If I told you that you were going to be streamer fishing a river where there were lots of injured and dying baitfish, would you still believe that a constant retrieve with a streamer would be your best tactic? What about if you were fly fishing trout water that had huge populations of sculpins or I said you were going to be fly fishing on a lake for largemouth bass, with water temperatures in the high forties? These are just a few fly fishing situations when I’ve found that a stop-and-go retrieve with a streamer can produce better than a constant retrieve, when fish are tracking but not eating. Below are three situations when killing your streamer retrieve, could prove to be your golden ticket.

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Saturday Shoutout / Somewhere Else

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Ever get that feeling you should be somewhere else?

Rolf Nylinder does. Even if only to watch his, so called, friends catch big brown trout, while enduring mosquito bites and the seeds of envy.

ENJOY: “MOSQUITOES & MAYFLIES | EP1 | SOMEWHERE ELSE”

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How To Tie The Billfish Knot: Video

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The Billfish Knot is a simple knot for wire leader that will not break.

I use a Billfish Knot almost every time I use wire leader. It’s super simple to tie, taking only a few seconds, it has a small profile and it simple will not break. I use this knot for barracuda, shark, musky, golden dorado and any other species that requires a braided wire leader. 

The only time I use a different knot for wire is when I use single strand wire, which requires a Haywire Twist, or when attaching the hook for a pacu bead. If you are going to catch toothy species, this is a knot you need to know.

WATCH THE VIDEO AND LEARN TO TIE THE BILLFISH KNOT.

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Don’t Go Fishing Without Your Bullets

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By Louis Cahill

Air rifle pellets make cheap and effective weights for fly-fishing.

The thing I love about fly fishing is, there is always something to learn. I would have never thought of this simple fly fishing life-hack if I hadn’t fished in Argentina. Imported fishing gear is crazy expensive in many places overseas. The idea, that started as a money saver, actually has some performance benefits as well.

The idea is simple. Use the needle on your nippers to punch a hole in the nose of an air rifle pellet, then slip your leader through and retie. There is no chance of the weight falling off, or damaging your leader, like split shot can. Lots of anglers do this with cone heads, made for fly tying, but pellets are a fraction of the cost and work just as well. Personally, I like the idea of using lead and knowing it isn’t going to fall off in the river.

You can use the weight directly on the nose of the fly, with streamers for example, or place it above a blood knot anywhere on your leader. You can even use several at different points on your leader to sink the heavy butt section, which is effective for deep-water nymphing. You can use .22 cal for heavy weight or .177 cal for lighter weight. 

Pellets have gotten fancy since I was a kid. There are a lot of different types on the market now. I feel like the closer you

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Strategies For DIY Bonefishing

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By Rod Hamilton

I RECEIVE EMAILS EVERY DAY FROM ANGLERS LOOKING FOR ADVICE ON HOW TO CATCH BONEFISH ON THOSE DAYS WHEN THEY ARE NOT WITH A GUIDE.

The email usually goes something like this: “I do fine when I’m guided, but can’t seem to either find fish or get them to eat when I am on my own.”

“What am I doing wrong?”

DIY-6I’ve been bonefishing for twenty years and like most of us, spent the first five years fishing exclusively with guides. I thought I was getting pretty good and put my bonefish I.Q. at around 120. So, I tried it on my own, only to find out that it was actually my guide who was smart and my bonefish I.Q. was more like 35.

So game on, challenge accepted, and I have spent the last fifteen years learning everything I could about how to DIY for bonefish.
DIY-1There is a lot to learn to be successful on your own. After all, now you have to know where the fish are, how they react to tides, what they eat, see them before they see you and make a presentation that won’t send them into deep water. There is no boat to run you out three miles, instead a car, bicycle or kayak is your chariot to the flats.

Nothing replaces time on the water and most of the early lessons are going to result in fishless days, but let me see if I can ease the pain and help shorten the learning curve with some basic strategies for the DIY fisherman.

1. Learn to use Google Earth
Instead of spending those hours at home dreaming about your upcoming trip, spend that time scouring satellite images to find places others might not easily discover. The hardest bonefish in the world to catch are those that have been trained by the few hundred anglers before you.

2. The DIY Fly Box is different then the Guide Fly Box.

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Through A Lens Darkly

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What is an angler without his eyes?

All of my life I have defined myself by my eyes. Certainly as a photographer, and as I developed in the sport, more and more as an angler. My vision has been at the center of my life, in both my work and my play. It was just over a year ago that I was on the bow of a flats boat in the Bahamas, on a cloudy day with tough visibility. I had explained to my guide several times that I have a 40% loss of hearing. It takes a long time for guides to adjust to the idea that they have to yell at their clients when they’re not F-ing up. Fortunately I’d done pretty well at finding fish for myself. About the fourth time I spotted, and hooked, a bonefish before my guide saw it, my guide mumbled something and my boat-mate started to laugh.

“What’d he say?” I asked.

“He said, you may not can hear but there’s not a damn thing wrong with your eyes.”

I didn’t know it yet, but he was wrong. In fact, I had already started to lose my sight. The change was slow and I didn’t notice it at first. Oddly enough, my first clue was not that I couldn’t see but that I couldn’t hear. For years I’ve gotten by in conversation by reading lips. I only started to realize I had a problem with my eyes when I could no longer see well enough to know what people were saying.

It wasn’t long before the truth was painfully obvious. Driving became difficult, and impossible at night. Horns would blare when I changed lanes and I missed turns because I could no longer read signs. Not even the big ones over the interstate. I started walking into door casings. When I closed my left eye, the world looked like a Monet painting. In the space of a year any usable vision in my right eye was gone and much in my left. Forget about seeing bonefish.

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10 Successful Subsurface Trout Flies for the Dead of Winter

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By Bob Reece

As winter provides its deepest chills, most surface activity fades. 

Food items for trout become almost strictly subsurface and the size of those offerings in the drift typically decreases.  There are currently a plethora of subsurface patterns available in the world of fly fishing for trout.  This list is not intended to look down on or exclude any in particular.   It is however, made up of patterns that have consistently brought fish-to-net during the winter months and beyond.

Pat Dorsey’s Top Secret Midge:
The Top Secret Midge is Pat’s go to small midge for tough trout. The slim profile, realistic segmented body and emerging wing produce a life-like midge emerger. It is tied on a Tiemco 2488 which increases its hook-ability especially in small sizes. He ties the Top Secret down to a size 26 and it’s my go-to bug in the winter months. The Glamour Madeira wing adds a dash of flash which attracts nearby fish.

Landon Mayer’s Mini Leech:
Landon designed the Mayer’s Mini Leech to match the small freshwater leeches that trout feed on in freestone rivers, tail waters, and still waters. With the micro pine squirrel attached only near the eye of the hook, the extending material will constantly move in addition to the ostrich herl collar. This fly is also versatile in different disciplines; you can dead drift it as a nymph, swing it as a nymph, trail it behind a larger streamer using a strip retrieve.

Casey Dunnigan’s Clearwater Emerger:
Dunnigan’s Clear Water Emerger was designed for the spring and fall transitional phases from baetis to midges and vice versa. With that in mind, the glass bead on this fly was designed to cover the other transitional phase of emergence in both mayflies and midges. This fly is tied in a size range of 18-22. Casey most commonly fishes the size 22 as midges are very small and that broadens the chances of catching more fish. It is a very effective pattern throughout the year.

Pat Dorsey’s Mercury Midge:
The Mercury Black Beauty is a variation of Pat’s original Black Beauty that surfaced in the early 1990’s. The Mercury version incorporates a glass bead that simulates the gas bubble affect in emerging midges. The bead becomes a trigger and entices fish to eat it as a result of the luster in the thorax area, which imitates the trapped air in the thorax. It fishes well in a wide range of sizes from size 18-24.

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