Small Stream Casting

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By Jason Tucker

Of all the challenges to small stream fishing (access, obstacles, wary fish, biting insects, hillbillies) casting must rank as the most frustrating aspect of small-stream fishing.

I have coined several swear words you have never heard casting in small streams. It is that frustrating. When you go to small streams you need to bring a double dose of patience. Some days and some places I have simply turned around and walked out rather than suffer a stroke due to the frustration of casting in tight quarters.

Picture this. You have already had a frustrating day. You’ve caught some fish, but also lost some flies to the bushes. You have tied on the last ‘hot fly’ from your box. Quietly you wade up around the bend, moving slowly so as not to push water, because upstream you can hear a good fish feeding. Sure enough, when you round the bend you can see a fifteen-inch trout noisily slurping flies off the surface completely unaware of your presence. It is the biggest fish you’ve seen all day. Problem is, the fish is twenty feet away and you only have an eighteen-inch space between the tag alders to land the fly. You also don’t have much of a backcast due to the brush behind you, so you’re going to have to steeple cast the fly above you but still get it to lay out quietly just in front of the fish.

“You’ve got this” you whisper. You make that steeple cast by flipping the fly out in a tight  arc, then pop the rod tip up to the sky, feel the glass rod load, start your forward motion and change the direction of your arm movement forward toward the fish, shoot just a little line for the distance, then just as your loop extends toward the fish, the slightest breeze puffs it into the tag alders high overhead. Seeing this, you yank your rod back in an effort to stop it, only to pop your fly off in the top of the tree. The fish, seeing the commotion, scoots for cover. This is the challenge of casting on small streams. Some days you will spend more time untangling line and flies from the brush than you will fishing.

I can and do make that cast successfully from time to time. A steeple cast in tight quarters is just one skill that is helpful to have on a small stream. My disclaimer that I will now make is that I am no casting instructor. I’ll do my best to describe some of the skills you should cultivate.

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Fly Fishing in Gloves Gets Better with Time

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DO YOU EVER FLY FISH IN GLOVES?

If you answered no, don’t make the mistake of thinking just because you tried fly fishing in gloves a couple times and couldn’t stand them, that you’ll always feel that way. Believe me, I been there, I used to be one of the haters myself. I’d rather have my fingers ice cold all day long than try to fly fish in gloves and feel awkward, clumsy and terrified I’m going to lose the fish of a lifetime. These things kept me from learning to fly fish comfortably in gloves for a very long time. It wasn’t until the last couple years that I’ve finally become comfortable fly fishing in gloves. In fact, it was my first steelhead trip to New York

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RS2 – One of My Favorite Picky Trout Fly Patterns

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There’s days when trout fishing is so slow, it seems like conditions couldn’t possibly get any worse.

You may find yourself questioning if any trout in the stream are willing to feed at all. At other times, you’ll have no problem locating pods of steady risers, but everything you throw at them is rejected. My buddy Brad in this situation usually volunteers to row the boat, opting for cold beer within arms distance and gazing at picturesque landscapes. The dude always has a Plan B ready to be put into action, ensuring he always has a good time on the water whether he catches fish or just a buzz, and I respect that.

The RS2 fly pattern time and time again never fails to produce for me during tough fishing situations. And it really has the ability to catch fish just about any way you fish it. Fish it solo on fine tippet to wary sippers and you’ll fool a couple guaranteed. Drop it off the back of a larger and more visible dry fly if you’re having problems seeing it, and it will ride in the film, usually fooling fish on even the most technical trout water. I even have great luck fishing an RS2 as my dropper fly in a

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The New G4 Pro Jacket

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The New G4 Pro Jacket from Simms features new materials and design.

New Gore-Tex material gives this performance driven jacket a light, lived-in feel without sacrificing a warm, dry fishing experience. The storage layout makes it easy fish without a vest or pack. Thoughtful design and performance materials make the new G4 Pro the best jacket Simms has ever made.

CHECK OUT THIS VIDEO FOR ALL THE DETAILS ON THE NEW G4 PRO JACKET.

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Fly Fishing: Float N’ Fly Rig for the Fly Rod

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This past week I wrote a fly fishing tactics post for targeting bass on reservoirs during the fall. At the tail-end of the post, I touched base on how effective a Float N’ Fly Rig (basically a nymphing rig on my fly rod) can be for catching good numbers of bass during the late fall and winter months. From late fall through winter, when water temperatures begin dipping into the mid-50s and lower, catching bass on deep reservoirs with traditional fly fishing setups can become extremely difficult for two reasons. The first reason is because bass start becoming sluggish as their metabolisms plummet from cooling lake water temperatures. With lower metabolisms, bass feed less frequently and they also move shorter distances to forage on food (in an effort to conserve energy). This is bad news for fly anglers because it drastically shrinks the size of the strike zone (the hot zone around a bass that a fly or lure needs to enter, to consistently trigger bites) and it makes it much harder for fly anglers to find, present, and retrieve fly patterns through these small strike zones. The second reason the bass fishing is tough this time of year is because a good portion of the bass on the lakes will move out of the shallow water feeding grounds of the fall and back out into the main lake deep water areas, where they’ll often suspend in the water column in 10-25′ of water.

The main problem with cold water suspended bass is that it’s really hard for fly anglers to keep their fly patterns in the strike zone throughout the entire retrieve. It’s really only in front of the bass for a small percentage of the retrieve. The first half of the retrieve an angler struggles to get the fly down to the level of the bass, and the last half of the retrieve, the fly is coming up and out of the strike zone as it gets closer to the angler and the boat on the surface. With a Float N’ Fly Rig, the suspension/floating device (strike indicator set to a preferred depth) allows you to maintain a consistent depth with your fly pattern during the entire retrieve, even when you’re working it extremely slow to entice cold water bass. That’s critical for triggering lethargic bass that often need to be coaxed into feeding. What you’re trying to do with your float n’ fly rig is make that baitfish jig pattern look injured or dying. It needs to look like an easy meal and the bass will suck it in if you get it close enough to them. The best technique is to make a cast to the bank, let your fly sink, and then slowly bring the entire rig back to you with very subtle rod tip bounces or jiggling. All you want is the strike indicator to barely be moving as you’re bringing the rig back to you. I usually stop the twitching and pause for 20-30 seconds a couple of times during each retrieve. The more windy the day is or the more chop there is on the water, the less you have to twitch the rod tip, because you’ll naturally get action on your jig from the choppy or wavy water on the surface.

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The Secret Spot

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Dirty little secrets. We all have them.

Well, maybe they’re not so dirty, and if they are, I guess we have ourselves to blame. But everyone who ever owned a fishing rod has one. The spot that we think of as ours. It’s human nature I suppose, to want to own something, especially a place. I’ve heard that Native American cultures did not believe in the idea of people owning the land. I guess it’s clear how that played out. As for the rest of us, the ones with the fishing rods, we hold that idea firmly to our chests. The idea that we have a secret spot. A place that that we, through our skill, wisdom, charm and good looks, what-have-you, have found and laid claim to. A place so good that we dare not tell a soul about it.

Generally there is some impediment involved. Our place is hidden, hard to reach, you have to know that turn or trail or pull off. Otherwise it wouldn’t be a secret, right? Everyone would know about it. We get satisfaction from knowing something others don’t. We judge ourselves as somehow better than the masses for having and keeping our little secret. We go there and enjoy the great fishing and the solitude, and for a time we enjoy the illusion that we are alone. That we have been magically transported back to those “good old days” before every tree had been cut and every pool had a trail to it. We enjoy the idea that we are casting to fish who have never seen a fly, until the inevitable happens. Until we find that beer can or bright blue worm container, the ones my buddy Dan calls Indian pottery. Then we wake up for a spell, to the realization that there are no secret spots, no good old days. We rant a bit about how the whole thing has gone to hell. We blame the bait fisherman and talk about giving up. Eventually we move on to the business of finding the next secret spot.

Eventually we will find it. It will be farther in, longer to walk, harder to find and we will be that much more clever for having found it. It will be the good old days again. Then we will do what we do with all secrets. The thing that makes a secret worth having,

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The Beginner’s Advice on Casting for Bonefish

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John Byron, The Bonefish Beginner

Just finished three week in the Bahamas chasing big bonefish with Louis Cahill, proprietor of this blog. 

Great trip, hampered only by my inability to cast well to good shots. I got slightly better, learned a few things, but frustrated myself far too often to enjoy the shots I missed. I also paid close attention to my boat mates, most of them also beginners or at least casual bonefishers. 

The problem we all seemed to share? Buck fever. Stage fright. Cranial-anal inversion on the bow of the flats boat. We knew what to do. We steadfastly refused do it. 

I’ve no cure. But there’s an approach that helps me and so I pass it along to anyone else who’s blown a close shot downwind at a tailing bonefish waving a sign that says ‘feed me’ and you can’t get the fly into the same zip code. 

In the Notes app on my iPhone I have a list of do-this-dummy guidelines I read every morning before I go out. And then try to remember and use on the water. As follows… 

“Fish coming, twelve o’clock, sixty feet going left”

Take your time
Don’t rush it
Curb your enthusiasm
Relax a bit and take charge of the situation
Control the cast

Slow! Smooth! Deliberate!
Let the fish get closer before you cast
Load the rod
Snap your wrist
Use the wind
Double haul
Line speed Line speed Line speed
One less false cast
Important! Keep your rhythm — do not over-drive the final cast to the fish
Control the fly

Rod tip in the water pointing down the line
No slack! No slack in the line!

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Putting Your Rod Tip In The Water Can Be A Game Changer

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EVERYONE WANTS TO CATCH BIG FISH BUT LEARNING TO OUTSMART THEM TAKES SOME DOING.

Big fish often hold a PhD in fly selection and presentation, but any experienced angler can tell you that getting them to eat your fly is only half the battle. Getting them to the net is another thing. Most anglers do not land the first really big fish they hook. Often they don’t land the first several. Much is written about feeding big fish and far too little about what comes next. Generally speaking anglers learn to land big, strong fish the way I did, by losing a few.

Fighting a tough fish is not just a show of force. It’s a game of strategy, but also of tactics. It’s problem solving. The fish creates problems and you have to solve them. There are two such fish problems that can be solved by the simple tactic of putting your rod tip in the water.

The big downstream run
When a strong fish runs hard downstream too quickly for you to follow, you find yourself at a disadvantage. With the fish directly downstream, the angle of the hook in the fish’s mouth is perilous. Any thrashing or head shaking on the part of the fish can easily result in a long distance release. If you are unable to get downstream and establish a better angle to the fish you are left with only one choice, bring the fish to you. But how?

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#Flies4Friends

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Focusing on the positive has changed the course of my life. 

Regardless of how small or large positive moments are, they perpetuate the existence of hope and joy in the lives of people.  In an effort to help keep this optimistic momentum moving, I’ve started “Flies4Friends”.  

During the month of February, I’ll be tying flies and sending them to my friends.  My hope is that when they receive them in the mail, it will bring a smile to their face and joy to their hearts.  On Instagram, I’ll be taking pictures of those flies and using the hashtag #Flies4Friends to encourage other people to do the same.  If you’re a tier or a buyer, I would urge you to join me by sending or giving at least one dozen flies to a friend this month.   Give them with no expectations of reciprocation, only with the knowledge that you’ll be bringing joy to another person.  

Regardless of where we exist in this world, we always have the ability to make a positive difference in the lives of others.  As fly fishers, we have a wonderful means to connect with people who love what we do.  This month, let’s use that connection to give to them instead of ourselves and in the process, make the world a more positive place.  

SEE YOU AT #FLIES4FRIENDS

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4 Questions You Should Ask Yourself Before Chasing Musky on the Fly

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Today’s guest post was provided by Charlie Murphy, a long time member of Gink & Gasoline and musky devotee.

For those of you who don’t know Charlie, he’s as laid back as they come, he eats, sleeps and breaths fishing 365 days a year, and he’s always got your back when you need him. Another thing we love about Charlie is he’s constantly finding ways to add humor into every situation. All these qualities make Charlie a great travel and fishing partner and if you ever have the chance to fish with him, we highly recommend it. That’s enough introduction, read below Charlie’s humorous but true correlation between the old school movie The Karate Kid, the character Mr. Miyagi, and fly fishing for musky.

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