Bonefish Beginner

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By Bob Reece

After twenty five years of fly fishing for freshwater species, I recently threw my first casts into salt water. 

As is always the case, hindsight is 20/20.  While I had plenty of success, there are several things that I wish I would have done prior to my first saltwater trip.  

I’ve always been a huge proponent of practicing your casting.  Throughout my time guiding freshwater trips, it is consistently one of the most common elements that holds anglers back from having greater success.    While I did practice a handful of times prior to my trip, I should have practiced more.   I’m a confident caster with lighter weight rods, but never having cast an eight or nine weight left me lacking the muscle memory of working with a heavier rod.  As part of this practice, it cannot be overstated how important it is to have the ability to effectively present the fly with a backhand cast. 

In addition to the casting itself, I wish I would have practiced my footwork.  In the vast majority of freshwater situations, we as anglers target slowly cruising or posted up feeding fish.  The rapid directional change by the bonefish was a drastic difference from any other fly fishing experience that I’ve had.  The need to change the path of my line and body position mid cast challenged me.   Extra practice time with this factor would have helped take advantage of opportunities that I missed. 

As a newby to salt water flies, I had no idea what I was doing in this category.  I phoned a friend.

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Expedition GRAYLING

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By Brian Kozminski

In the not too distant future, there is the real possibility of anglers who wade in Northern Michigan’s cold waters to have the opportunity to catch a once native Arctic Grayling. Imagine the potential. Rewriting history in our lifetime. This is truly Epic.

Walking through a dense fog in early morning, you can feel the dew brush off the ferns as you meander through poplar, birch and cedar fens, the aroma of promise and wet forest floor meet your anticipation of fish rising as you reach the river. As early as 2025, one may have the opportunity to catch brook, brown, rainbow trout and Grayling in the Jordan, Maple, Pigeon or Manistee Rivers.

This Project is one part science, one part fantasy and two parts funding. The research is being conducted at MSU fish rearing facility where Nicole Watson, PhD, is doing what she claims to be her dream job. It is better to see her face in person as it lights up when she talks about how she went to the Chena River, Alaska, to fish and pick up her babies to bring back to Michigan. Small trials as they packed a couple hundred eggs in a small cooler with gels packs thats should have been ‘cool’ to go through TSA, but not once they melted and turned to liquid, jeopardizing the livelihood of a yet future char offspring. She is a very intelligent, bright,  personable scientist, as well as a very fishy chick- you can tell that in a few moments just by chatting with her. We met a  few years ago on the Upper Manistee when her then finance and her were about to embark on a midnight mousing trip and we exchanged benevolent wishes and steelhead migratory research she was working on at the time. This Grayling Project is like a dream come true. Think about it- we are hoping to find a river that can suitably sustain a species that has been extirpated from its once native waters. A few factors made this happen nearly 100 years ago. As the lumber era boomed and white pine stands were toppled and shuttled down the rivers each spring, we eroded naturally protected banks and introduced more sediment to the watershed. Combined with loss of habitat and spawning grounds, the Grayling were reportedly very easy to catch, often, three or four at a time on one line. The last Grayling was reportedly caught in 1936 in the Otter River of the Upper Peninsula. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has attempted to re-introduce Grayling back in the 80’s. Some dozen kettle lakes and small rivers near Pigeon River Country were used to rear 145,000 yearling for control sites, but disease and infection, perhaps predation wiped them out in a couple years. What makes this attempt more valid? Where is the funding coming from? Why is the DNR behind it?

First things first. This began as a collateral research project for Michigan Tech and Little River Band of Ottawa Indians as a re-introduction of Native Species Grant, it has gained attraction and momentum in the passed five years. The DNR is working with LRBOI and money has been set aside from various donors – Petoskey-Harbor Springs Community Foundation, Traverse City Rotary, Oleson Foundation, Michigan Trout Unlimited, Consumers Energy, and Henry E. and Consuelo S. Wenger Foundation have graciously donated to the cause. The biggest hurdle was

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Sunday Classic / 3 Tips For Fly Fishing Kung Fu

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WE ALL KNOW THE CHINESE PHRASE KUNG FU, BUT FEW OF US KNOW IT’S TRANSLATION. KUNG = ENERGY AND FU = TIME. TO PUT ENERGY INTO ANYTHING OVER TIME IS TO DEVELOP KUNG FU.
I love to teach fly fishing. I do it every chance I get and I see folks wrestle time and again with the same three issues. I can remember being there myself and it sucks! Three things that seem so simple to me now just about cost me my sanity. I’d like to spare you that. If you are new to fly fishing for trout following these three suggestions will not only put you on more fish, but it will accelerate your learning curve dramatically.

Here are the three things that come between every new angler and the fish they want to catch.

PRACTICE YOUR CASTING
The first, most basic skill an angler needs is the ability to put the fly in front of the fish. This means, not only distance but accuracy as well. There have been a truck load of books written about fly casting and there will be a truck load more but there is nothing in any of them that can replace time spent with the rod in hand. That really is the trick. Time plus energy. Set aside a time, just ten or fifteen minutes a day, for the next year and spend that time casting in the yard. Every day! In a year you will cast like a Grand Master.

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Saturday Shoutout / Orvis On Demand

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The Orvis Guide To Fly-Fishing is now streaming on demand on Amazon Prime.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more clear and thorough tutorial on fly fishing. Host Tom Rosenbauer strikes an amazing balance of covering both basic and advanced techniques in a way that absolute beginner can understand, while serving up details useful to advanced anglers.  Tom does more than make it look easy. He gives you the tools to make it easy, and fun.

Each episode features casting instructor Pete Kutzer with a segment on casting skills specific to the topic of the episode. Even if you are an advanced caster, there’s plenty to learn from watching pete. He has some of the best technique I’ve ever seen.

Each episode is devoted to a specific topic and, of course, covers every modern technique for catching trout, but doesn’t stop there. Tom covers topics and species from bass to bonefish.

The thirteen part series is free to watch for Amazon Prime users.

CHECK OUT THE ORVIS GUIDE TO FLY FISHING AT HTTPS://WWW.AMAZON.COM

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Blue Hole Fly-Fishing Setup: Video

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Here’s a simple and incredibly effective setup for catching fish in the blue holes of the Bahamas.

I’m not one of those purist who thinks it’s poor form to deviate from my target species. I like to have fun, and for me, catching different kinds of fish in different ways is part of the experience. One of the coolest things about fishing South Andros, in the Bahamas, is the blue holes. These freshwater vents are perfectly round and can be two-thousand feet deep. South Andros has the highest concentration of them in the world and they are full of fish. You never know what will come out of them.

The problem is, blue holes are really difficult to fish effectively with a fly. Anglers often leave thinking there are no fish there. There are always fish there but, in a two-thousand foot hole, showing them a fly can be tough. I’ve been fishing blue holes for a long time and I have an easy solution to the problem. It takes seconds to set up and catches fish like a net.

WATCH THE VIDEO AND LEARN TO FISH BLUE HOLES EFFECTIVELY, EVERY TIME.

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Keeping it Clean

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By Bob Reece

WINTER HAS ARRIVED IN MY HOME STATE OF WYOMING.  FOR ME, THIS SIGNALS THE START OF MY “TYING SEASON”.   AS A FIRST STEP ON THIS FIVE MONTH JOURNEY, I FOCUS ON THE CLEANLINESS OF MY TYING DESK.  

This may be a sore subject for some and emotionally disturbing for others.   I’ve seen the surfaces of enough tying platforms over the years to know that they can quickly turn into a chaotic heap of fluff and debris.  I’m not here to judge, just to offer suggestions on how to prevent chaos and increase the number of flies that you tie. 

I am huge believer in the fact that organization is the foundation of maintaining cleanliness on my tying table.  When those two factors coexist, the number of flies that I am able to tie significantly increases.   That organization starts inside the drawers of my desk. 

In the past I maintained a typical setup of dedicating different storage compartments to different materials.  Over the last couple years I’ve moved away from that focus.  Instead, I now use plastic organizers and Ziploc bags to group the materials that I use for specific patterns.  Every pattern that

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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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