Bonefish Flats Revealed

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When we look at a bonefish flat we tend to perceive it as two- dimensional. It’s right there in the name, flat. The truth is, it’s far from flat. The bonefish’s world is as three-dimensional as ours. It’s a landscape full of hills and valleys, mounds and burrows. The crabs, shrimp and such that bonefish feed on use these features to hide or escape from the hungry predator. Knowing this can give us an advantage.

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Information VS Knowledge 

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By Louis Cahill

A wise friend of mine always says, “Information plus experience, equals knowledge.”

It’s a concept as simple as it is brilliant. A teacher can give you information, but until you have the experience and the context to have real understanding, you don’t have the knowledge. True knowledge will always trump information. That’s just common sense.

I see a lot of anglers who get stalled in the gap between information and knowledge. Anglers who catch a lot of fish with the information they have but could catch a lot more if they really understood what they are doing. These folks are stuck at an intermediate level in the sport, and some spend their whole lives there. I’m going to give you some examples of specific ways this happens, but understand, it applies to every aspect of fly fishing…and everything else in life, truth be told. This is a little on the esoteric side for a fly fishing tip, I admit. 


A classic example of this is the subject of leaders. I know lots of anglers who obsess about leader formulas. I think anyone who is advanced in the sport knows that the leader is incredibly important. Arguably the most important piece of tackle in the system. I’d personally rather fish the wrong fly on the right leader than the other way around. That said, I do not believe in leader formulas.

Sure, if you have a leader that works in a familiar fishing situation, you may never need to stray from that formula. As long as you always fish the same way, with the same type of flies, and the conditions never change, and the fish never get any smarter. If, however, you understand how a leader functions and how to

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Joel vs The Shark

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Max Pressure Photo by Louis Cahill

With hair the color of a new penny and bright blue eyes that can be uncomfortably intense at times, the ruddy sun scorched complexion of a Bedouin, the build of a boxer and two gold hoops, one in each ear, Joel looks half Viking, half pirate. Born of a long line of Tennessee moonshiners and snake handlers, he has a great southern brogue that’s so deep you can hear the chicken frying when he talks. He has a heart as big as the Florida sky, and a temper to match. He caught his first rattle snake at age six. Joel has no fear. Fear is an important emotion. As humans, our fight or flight response has served us well, in evolutionary terms. Joel somehow missed out on the flight part of that, as well as the fear. He’s all fight. Any other person finding themselves face to face with a fifteen foot hammerhead shark might back down. Joel on the other hand…

The heat there in the Florida Keys that day had been like penance. So had the fishing. It was a perfect day for tarpon. The weather was hot with just a little wind, not a cloud in sight. It was mid May. The peak of the season. The tarpon that had been everywhere just a few days before had vanished. The few we saw had no interest in a fly. This was exactly what we had been waiting for. There was a huge falling tide in the evening and it had been unseasonably warm. We had been looking at the calendar and the tide apps on our phones for six months thinking that this was the day and now the fish were confirming our theory. All those tarpon that had been high and happy for weeks were lurking reclusively in the deep water. Staging up, preparing, for the worm hatch.

If you’ve been lucky enough to see a palalo worm hatch, you may have pinched yourself to see if you were dreaming. It’s hard to believe that a fish of a hundred pounds or more can get so worked up about a three inch worm, but when there are literally

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Garner’s White Trash Bass Fly

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How about really big bass? Striper fishing rivers in the south during the summer can be off the hook but it can also be challenging. Those big bruisers can get pretty damned selective and you a pattern that will get them moving.

Nobody knows this game better than Garner Reed. Today Garner is going to share a pattern he developed for catching big striped bass and spotted bass on the Etowah River. He calls it Garners White Trash and it gets the job done.

Watch the video and learn to tie this great bass fly.

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Fly Fishing: The Woolly Bugger Isn’t all that, Or is it?

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This isn’t Montana, Your Not Norman Maclean, and the Woolly Bugger isn’t all that.

This was a bumper sticker a guide buddy of mine had printed up a few years back. It was prominently displayed for his clients to read when they pulled up to greet him. That’s one hell of an ice breaker for checking fishing egos at the boat ramp, let me tell you. I give my boy J.E.B. Hall props for his comedic humor and gutsy style. For those of you who don’t know J.E.B., he’s a veteran Western North Carolina guide, Author of Southern Appalachian Fly Guide, and has spent multiple seasons guiding at Alaska West. Meet him one time and you’ll say to yourself, “this guy is the funniest guy I’ve ever met in my life”.

Most anglers fall into one of two categories when it comes to their perception of woolly buggers. They either love them or despise them. I love the fly pattern for two reasons. First, for its impressionistic design that’s capable of mimicking many different trout foods, and second, for its versatility in how the pattern can be fished. It’s rare for me to not break out a woolly bugger at some point during the day. When trout aren’t biting, I almost always can find fish willing to snack on them. The only time I keep woolly buggers out of the game and sitting on the bench, is when I’m fishing water where dry flies are the only thing required.

I believe in the woolly bugger so much, If I only had one pattern that I could take with me fishing, that would be it. Why the woolly bugger, you ask? Because it has probably caught more species of fish on this planet than any other fly pattern created since fly fishing was born. Now if I asked Jim Teeny, he would probably argue with me on this one, but what can I say, 90% of the time Jim strictly fishes his signature Teeny Nymph. And why shouldn’t he, the man has caught everything from steelhead to 100lb. tarpon on that fly. But if the tables were turned, and Jim Teeny would have invented the woolly bugger, I’d lay out a strong bet that’s what he’d be fishing instead. I meant no disrespect towards Jim Teeny, the man is a fish catching machine and a pioneer of the sport. He was just the perfect person to make my point on how effective woolly buggers are at catching fish, and I honestly couldn’t help myself.

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The Streamer Game

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Streamer fishing is addictive. It’s almost become a cliche, but it’s true.

Guys get into it and hardly want to do anything else. I’m kinda one of those guys. I do lots of kinds of fishing, but if I’m out for trout and there’s nothing obvious going on, a streamer is likely what I’m tying on. I can’t say for sure why other folks get hooked on streamers, but I know what it is for me.

Obviously, there is immense skill in fishing dry flies and nymphs. Each is an art unto itself but the very nature of a dead drift is inherently passive. Streamer fishing is active. What I mean by that is, you are directly imparting an action to the fly which fools the fish. For me, it just feels more personal. I am “making” that fish eat. Again, this is totally personal but when I see the fish chase and eat my streamer it’s incredibly rewarding. The really cool thing about this is that it leaves a lot of room for personal expression on the part of the angler. My action is my action, by my hand. It’s different from yours, and every dedicated streamer fisherman I know has their own style. Those styles vary widely, so I thought I would share some of the gear and tactics that are successful for me.

Here’s how I play the game.

I want to get in the fish’s face with a big fly that looks alive but vulnerable. I want that fly to look like a bait fish that’s disoriented and in a panic. I want a lot of room between me and the bank. I want to identify and hit multiple holding zones between me and the bank. I’ll drop my fly a few inches from the bank just upstream of a likely pocket, then as I work it back to the boat, I mend, or pause, or speed up my retrieve to work the fly through as many holding zones as I can identify. Fifty or sixty feet is an ideal distance. It’s a challenging way to fish, but for me, it’s deadly.

Here is the setup I use to overcome some of the challenges.

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Confessions of a Trout Guide

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So this time of year in Colorado, the rivers are blown, there is no one in town and all the guides are hanging around the shop bullshitting about their worst/best days on the water. It got me to thinking that I should tell some stories about the worst possible guide trips/situations that we’ve had on the water. Hopefully this does not reflect poorly on our guide services, but it will shed some light on what happens in the day-to-day life of a fishing guide. I know there are a ton of guides out there who will want to one-up me and please do, I love this stuff. Names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Guide #1 (me) was floating with a mom and her son. We were catching tons of fish and having a great time. The son was maybe 12-13 years old and was a stud fisherman aside from giving me a fantastic Hank Patterson “snap it!” cast. As we floated down the river, mom was snapping pictures left and right as son caught fish after fish. At one point we were back-rowing a riffle when all of a sudden mom jumps out of the boat and starts running through a knee deep run towards an island in the river. My first thought is “wow, she really had to pee,” my second thought is “this woman is trespassing, and we are going to be issued a ticket at the takeout.” Lost in all my jumbled thoughts is a calf elk stranded on the island. This woman took it upon herself to rescue this thing. Next thing I know

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Standing in the River Carrying a Torch

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Standing in the River Carrying a Torch

A different kind of love story.

Men and fish parted ways a long time ago. You couldn’t call it an amiable divorce. The fish got everything. The mountain streams, the lazy winding rivers, the deep blue sea, everything. Men had to pack their bags and crawl, with their heads hanging, out onto the land and they were not happy about it. They learned to breathe air and walk on two legs but they never stopped dreaming of swimming in the dark oceans, nor of the long and lovely fish that had sent them packing. They thought about fish all the time. They made their homes near the water and lurked around the shore, peering into the depths. Men wondered if the fish ever thought about them. Probably not. They saw fish from time to time, sliding gracefully through a pool or leaping a waterfall. They seemed happy. They seemed to have moved on, forgotten about men altogether. Men knew they should be happy for the fish, but they weren’t. They were bitter and moody and often cried at night. Men invented alcohol and that helped. It didn’t take their mind off of fish but liquor is a good listener and it doesn’t judge or mind if you cry.

“Who needs fish, Fuck ’em”, men decided. They turned their back on the water and went to the woods and found animals and for a while it took their mind off of things. They stalked and chased and laid in wait and for a while the pretty little deer were fun, but in time those big black eyes just seemed empty. Men had nothing to talk to deer about. Try to explain to deer about the ocean, about gliding through the waves, your body taut and glistening, one with the current. Deer don’t understand what it feels like to rocket up from the depths and break the surface, breaching in defiance of all things that would have you, only to disappear back into the depths. Deer don’t know anything. Eventually these encounters became bitter and joyless. There was no more stalking and chasing, no more lying in wait, just that vapid look in the headlights and the thud, thud under the wheels. Again, men found themselves staring at the water.

Men decided that if they couldn’t swim, they would fly! “Let’s see fish do that” they thought. They made airplanes and took to the sky. They soared and swooped. They glided through the clouds but when they looked down, there was always water. They built better planes. Planes that would take them higher and farther

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The Persistent Angler

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By Louis Cahill

Is there any point in continuing to pound a fish who just won’t eat?

The cool thing about fly fishing is that it offers such diversity. There is a species or a style of fishing every angler can enjoy. If you don’t like trout fishing, you may like bass or bonefish. If drifting dry flies isn’t your thing, stripping streamers may be. There is no wrong answer to the question, how should I fish? We all get something different out of fly fishing and, as long as you’re having fun and being respectful of the resources and your fellow angler, I say go for it! 

Over the years, what I get from fly fishing has evolved, and it hasn’t evolved in the same way for every kind of fly fishing. I freely admit that, in some ways and for some fish, I’ve gotten lazy. I’m not proud of it but I don’t apologize for it either. Trout fishing specifically has become more of an excuse to hang out with my friends or my dog more than a goal oriented pursuit. I’m admittedly more interested in having fun than I am catching huge fish or a lot of fish. I guess that’s why I often find myself just as happy watching a buddy fish a run. I think it’s also why I’m perfectly happy walking away from a stubborn fish. The thing is, I admire anglers who don’t.

I’ve known a lot of anglers who really enjoy catching the uncatchable fish. A couple of them so focused they could care less about the other fish happily rising in a run and spend the bulk of the day butting heads with the stubborn fish who won’t eat. 

The cool thing is that these guys, the really good ones, usually get that fish.

One of those anglers is Justin Pickett, no stranger to regular readers. Justin is one of those guys who almost always gets that problem fish to eat. I’ve watched him work a single fish for three hours. Like a sniper, dug in and waiting for a shot. When he gets locked in like that you may as well get comfortable. Have some lunch, take a nap, read a book, or just clip a walkie-talkie to his belt and go see the rest of the river. It’s going to take a minute.

You may think that’s cool or you may think it’s crazy but the results are hard to argue with. That fish he spent three hours on, while the rest of us had lunch, was a 32 inch brown trout and, yes, he landed it. There were four of us and no one thought that fish would eat, except Justin. I’ve never seen a more deserved fish.

The thing I think makes the case for persistence is

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Streamer Fishing – Hands on the Line at All Times

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Streamer fishing is a great way to catch both numbers and trophy class fish, but it doesn’t come without some negatives. One of the biggest negatives with streamer fishing is you don’t always get solid hookups every time a fish eats your streamer. One of the biggest contributors to this is when a fish slams your streamer in between strikes and you’re caught off guard. Sometimes, the timing is so bad there’s nothing you can do about it, while other times, it’s 100% the anglers fault due to lolly-gagging around with their stripping hand.

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