Small Stream Structure- Woody Debris and Other External Features

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By Jason Tucker

Wood is good!

In the two previous installments I’ve discussed fluvial stream structures (holes, runs etc.) and substrate types. If a stream were a house, then the substrate would be the foundation and floors, fluvial structures would be the walls and rooms, and the woody debris and other structure would be the cabinets and furniture. If that helps. Understanding woody debris, and how it relates to the other features is key to your fishing success. The geography of where you’re fishing greatly affects its importance and utility to the fish. In Appalachian mountain streams a lot of woody debris simply gets swept away or pushed to the margins in slack water; in northern trout streams it is very important.

Woody debris. Trout use woody debris for structure and cover. It also provides homes and food for a lot of aquatic insects and is part of the basis for life in a stream. Don’t underestimate the power of woody debris to create fishing situations. Logs lodge across the currents and create pour-overs. Those pour-overs then create holes. Conversely, logs can lodge higher in the water column, forcing the current down and routing out the bottom. That also funnels food into the spot, a double whammy of food and shelter. 

Brush piles and log jams. Brush piles and log jams are trout hotels and provide vital escape cover from predators. As far as fishing goes they are some of the least interesting features in a stream to me. Look for fish to move out from them to feed on hatching insects. You can often tempt hiding fish into striking a streamer around the edges, and look for trout feeding on surface flies right on the leading edge where the current is sweeping insects into the wood. It’s a tricky spot to fish, and even trickier if you hook up. Be ready to put the cork to any fish you hook up on near wood. 

Individual logs. Here I’m talking about logs parallel to the current. Trout love these, especially if it’s slightly undercut or has a deeper channel next to it, whether it is fully submerged or breaks the surface. Try to spot submerged logs far enough away without disturbing fish. They’re great places for picking off individual fish. Often current is funneling food to the fish on and below the surface.

Man-made structures. No discussion of wood would be complete without discussing man-made stream improvements built by state agencies and conservation groups. Some of these are dynamite, some are duds. I’ve caught good fish from structures only to return to find the fish quit using them because the water level dropped. On some of the small streams I fish the nature of structures has changed. Instead of building hotels for the fish they’ve switched to placing trees and brush in the current to deepen the channel or change the current direction. Narrow and deep will hold more fish than wide and shallow. Fish will still associate with the structure, so always fish the features of the structure. They vary enough that you’ll have to decipher that. Some days a hopper placed right next to a structure in the current is just the ticket. 

Other man-made structures such as docks placed in a stream can likewise be dynamite or duds depending where it is placed in relation to the current, how deep the water is and so on. Landowners tend to place a dock where it is convenient for them to launch watercraft, or provide a good view for quiet meditation. Or drinking. A dock placed in shallow slack water won’t hold much; a dock in the current with good depth can work as a good fish holding structure, either to fish a streamer to, or float a dry fly down the outside edge.

Beaver structure. Beaver dams probably merit a whole chapter on their own. Trout tend to stack up on both sides of a dam. Fish the downstream side as you would any plunge pool/riffle area. Look for the deepest channel coming out of the dam to hold the biggest fish, but don’t ignore smaller chutes. Fish any dark moving water below the dam no matter how small the pocket. The upstream “pool” side of the dam will vary depending on water depth, age of the structure and whether there is structure and food above it. If there’s good current at the dam look for fish

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Fly Fishing Q&A – What Would Kent Do

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Louis coined the concept WWKD (What Would Kent Do) and it’s been very successful thanks to all of your participation. I picked out three inquiries from the participants and have provided my answers. Let us know how you like this Q&A platform and we’ll continue to use it in the effort to provide you with the content you desire.

Lance Lynch asks:
“You drive a hundred miles to a pristine river. You are so excited to get out and fish but you snap the tip off your rod. No spare rods, a full day ahead of you. WWKD?”

This is a great question because many of us have found ourselves in this situation before. You know how I always talk about carrying extra gear? This is why folks. Stuff like this happens all the time to us. It’s very easy to snap the tip off your rod getting it in or out of your vehicle, or even drop your fly reel on the ground and bend the spool. If you’re a serious fly fisherman, you should always take the time to pack extra gear, especially if you’re going to be traveling long distances to fish. Consider purchasing a inexpensive rod-tip repair kit and keep it in your vehicle and if you have a back up fly rod, pack it as well.

Fuji Rod-Tip Repair Kit
To answer your question, this is what I would do if I didn’t have a rod tip repair kit or a back up fly rod with me. It’s a quick fix, just carefully snip off the broken section as close as possible to your next rod guide with a pair of nippers or pliers. Keep in mind the fly rod won’t cast as nice, and it will catch the fly line some, but you’ll still be able to cast it well enough to make satisfactory presentations and land fish.

Kim Brock asks:
“What is the most important advice that you would give to a new trout angler. WWKD?”

This is a pretty broad question but here are seven tips I stress most with my novice clients.

One, take the time to learn the fundamentals of fly casting so you can learn proper technique. Always watch your backcast when your practicing fly casting and fishing on the water. It will shorten your learning curve, help keep you out of the trees and minimize tangles on the water. You’ll also improve your skill level much quicker overtime by doing this. If you don’t fish all that often, it can be very beneficial for you to practice fly casting a couple of times for 10-15 minutes in the yard before you head out on your fishing trip. Doing so, you’ll feel more comfortable and confident in your fly casting and you’ll have worked out many of your casting flaws.

Two, when you’re trout fishing don’t

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Use Long Leaders for Flat Water

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In the picture above, take a moment to view the disturbances the fly line and leader create on the water during a presentation.
The saying a picture tells a thousand words is true, particularly in this case, as a tool for me explaining how important it is to use a long leader when fly fishing on flat water.

Notice how little noise and footprint the leader makes when compared to the fly line. I was casting a Scott G2 5 weight rod with a 9′ leader and foam hopper, and I presented the fly as softly as possible. Anglers often don’t realize how much noise they’re creating during their presentations, and why so regularly they’re spooking the fish their casting to on flat water.

The fly line itself, creates the most noise during your presentation and is by far the biggest contributor to spooking fish. Try using a 10-12′ leader or even a specialty George Harvey dry fly leader, that’s designed to dissipate energy and lay out dry flies with slack. This will increase the distance between your fly and the start of your noisy fly line hitting the water, resulting in more hook ups and less spooks.

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Tie Connor’s Jerk Minnow

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Connor Jones, from Cohutta Fishing Company, ties this versatile baitfish pattern for bass and trout here in the southeast. It’s a simple fly with a clean profile and it’s easy to tie in a variety of colors.

The secret to the jerk minnow is it’s action. Connor builds a hard, hollow head, from Senyo’s Laser dub and Clear Cure Hydro, which captures air and gives the jerk minnow an erratic darting action, when stripped hard. Big predatory fish can’t resist it

It’s a fly that will produce fish on lakes and rivers. Tie it in the colors and size to match the forage species on your local waters. Strip hard and hang on tight!

Watch the video and learn to tie Connor’s Jerk Minnow

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Glass and Grass

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Hatch is a misleading term. The shrimp aren’t actually hatching, they’re dying. Suffocating to be exact. Like a trout stream, the water in the ocean must be replenished with fresh oxygen for aquatic life to survive. The ocean however, does not have riffles turning out oxygen around the clock. Aquatic plants provide some oxygen through photosynthesis but not at night, so the ocean relies heavily on wind to oxygenate the water when the sun is down. This becomes even more crucial as water temperature rises. Since warmer water holds less oxygen it must be replenished more often.

On those still hot nights the shrimp are suffocating and leave the safety of the turtle grass to look for oxygen on the surface. There, they are an easy

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Better Down Stream Presentations & Drifts

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How many times have you been trout fishing and spotted a big trout positioned down and across stream of you feeding?

I know I’ve seen it plenty of times on the water, and it always seems like those fish are always positioned just out of reach for me to get a regular cast and drag-free drift over them. Right before my fly reaches the fish, I run out of slack as my fly line comes tight, and I get unwanted drag on my fly. Presenting your flies this way to educated fish can often end up putting them down. If you find yourself in this situation you need to be ready to smoothly and quickly kick out extra fly line out the end of your rod tip during your drift. Executing this properly you’ll be able to maintain enough slack to extend your drag-free drift so your offering can make it to the fish, and have a good chance of being eaten.

I see fly fisherman all the time try to use a shaking motion with their rod tip to kick out extra fly line and extend their drift. Most of the time this doesn’t work very well, because it’s really difficult for you to let out fly line fast enough, and keep your flies from moving all over the place in the process. Watch this video below as I demonstrate how to properly present your fly down and across stream to a feeding trout, and smoothly kick out extra fly line to maintain a drag-free drift. It will take a few minutes for first-timers to get the hang of it, but once you do, you’ll have the technique mastered forever.
Step 1:  Before you make your presentation make sure you have plenty of extra fly line stripped off the reel.

Step 2:  Shortly after your fly/flies hit the water make a nice mend upstream. This will create a buffer between your fly and the fly line, which is

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Buying US-Made Fly fishing Gear Helps US Fisheries

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It’s true. Thanks to the Pittman-Robertson Act of 1937 and the Dingell-Johnson Act of 1950, a 10% excise tax on all hunting and fishing equipment goes into a trust fund to support fish and wildlife management.

The US public lands and the opportunities they offer to hunters and anglers are unmatched in most countries. If you are an American angler, a short conversation with European anglers will leave you thanking you lucky stars you were born in the US of A. Our public lands and National Parks are the finest anywhere but we too often take them for granted.

The hidden engine behind our fish and wildlife management is this 10% tax. It has brought species like white tail deer and turkey back from the brink and puts fish on your fly regularly. I know taxes are a hot button subject and I’m not looking to start a political debate so let me be clear. No one wants this tax to go away. It has been a boon, not only for the sporting public but for sporting manufacturers as well.

The idea is that by creating a quality hunting and fishing experience, more people will hunt and fish and they will spend more money doing it. It’s worked very well. The numbers are better documented for hunting than fishing. Hunters spend between five and ten billion dollars a year, generating as much as $324,000,000 in management funding. Firearm manufacturers see a return on their tax investment of around 1000%! You can read more about this (HERE) (HERE) & (HERE)

It’s pretty clear that Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson have been good to both the economy and the ecology, but there is one place where they come up short. The tax is figured on

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The Flies Of Our Fathers

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Although the occasion was a sad one it was the largest gathering of my family in some time and as you would expect there was a good deal of nostalgia and sharing of family stories. This got me thinking about my Grandfather. W.S. (Pete) Cahill, “Dad” to his Grandchildren, was the man who taught me to fly fish when I was eight years old. He was an icon in our family. In our community really. He was an inventor. Honest to God, that was his job. He held dozens of patents. He was a skilled machinist and, in spite of limited education, the most brilliant and creative person I have ever known. He passed away a long time ago but his home has remained in the family and my brother moved in there a few months back. I knew that he had found a box of Dad’s flies. I couldn’t resist photographing them and like most encounters with my Grandfather, I learned a few things.

I’m not suggesting that Dad was a great tyer. Fishing was a hobby and he was a workaholic. He loved to fish but seldom got the chance. His flies were utilitarian but effective and some great examples of the common wisdom of his time. My guess is that most of these were tied in the 1950s or 1960s. There are some classic wet patterns like the Royal Coachman. There are classical streamers. Maybe most interesting are stone fly nymphs that foreshadow today’s more realistic aesthetic while holding on to the art deco influences of the 1940s with their long sweeping tails and streamline design. Some are so simple you might feel silly fishing them but I feel sure they will still produce.

The materials are very different from what we use today. Hackles are much coarser. Thread is of a heavier weight. The materials all seem stiffer than what I use. There are, of coarse, no synthetics. Swiss straw is fairly common and floss ribs the bodies where you would expect wire. The colors are mostly

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Fish the Amazon with Gink & Gasoline and Nomadic Waters!

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By Justin Pickett

Who’s ready to chuck flies at aggressive Peacock Bass in the Amazon jungle?

We are excited to announce our newest hosted trip with Nomadic Waters! Join us September 10-18, 2021 as we travel to the Brazil interior to chase Peacock Bass throughout some of the Amazon River’s fish-filled tributaries. The Peacock Bass of the Amazon are known as some of the most aggressive, yet beautiful fish on the planet. Found on most anglers’ bucket list, they live within the watersheds of the largest, most biodiverse rainforest on our planet, making this a trip of a lifetime.  

Before we go any further, I know everyone is concerned about COVID-19. You’ve got questions and Nomadic Waters has answers.

Read Nomadic Waters COVID-19 policy here:

Read General terms and conditions here:

Over the past several years, the Nomadic Waters crew has developed a fly fishing experience that offers amenities and hospitality unrivaled by other operations in the Amazon.

Through their dedicated work they have built strong relationships and gained support from the local Amazon communities, helping grow their mothership program to become an increasingly popular fishing program that welcomes many repeat guests, and hosts, yearly. Yes, the fishing in the Amazon is amazing, but it is the attention to the finest details, professionalism, and their hard-working staff that made us choose Nomadic Waters. 

Location: Uatumã River Federal Reserve, Brazil

Trip Dates: September 10-18, 2021

Price: $5500 ($5800 after April 1, 2021). A 50% non-refundable deposit will hold your spot.

Our trip will focus on the prime time of year to fish the waters of the Uatumã River and the surrounding federal reserve. September through October is the sweet spot of time when the water is low enough to bring the fish out of the deep cover, but remain deep enough to navigate our mother ship through the Uatumã’s secret channels.  This area has very limited access to outsiders.  In fact, Nomadic Waters is one of only three outfitters allowed inside this federally protected reserve.  This means that you will be casting in water that has not been fished since the previous year’s trips, literally 365 days before.  Because of this, these fish are less accustomed to being fished to, which only increases your chance of hooking up! 

Being that Nomadic Waters is a mothership program, we will constantly be on the move. Fishing from top-of-the-line Bass Trackers (don’t worry, they’re setup for fly fishing!) during the day, the mothership will motor to a new location overnight. Due to this and the great size of these waters, you will always have short runs to the fishing and never see the same water twice! Throughout the week we will cover some 60 miles of river, while also exploring some of the countless lakes and lagoons along the way. The mothership is rarely more than 20 minutes away from where we are fishing, so this is a great expedition for those who might want to come back early and rest.  Anglers often choose to return to the boat for lunch and a siesta in your air-conditioned suite, or in a hammock on the deck.

This is a great adventure for anglers who are looking for a complete jungle experience. We will have contact with small jungle communities throughout the trip, usually having several opportunities to visit

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DIY Magnetic Fly Box

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Make a fly box and win a Gink and Gasoline sticker!

For any given day on the water I select fly boxes from a stack in my office and cram as many of them as humanly possible into my pack. Not only do all of these fly boxes take up space, they eat into the budget too. This little DIY box helps with both. It’s cheap and tiny.

I love magnet boxes, especially for small flies. Getting a number 24 midge into and out of foam is almost impossible and dumping them lose into a bin is a disaster. The magnet box holds these tiny flies nice and tight and keeps them from tangling up in a ball. It’s easy to find the fly you’re looking for and retrieve it. The foam strips in the lid are great for dries and a few larger patterns.

To make this box I start with an Altoids box. This is basically free because I’m buying the mints anyway. I used a Yellowstone souvenir box for this one. The next step is to apply the magnetic sheet. This is cheap and easy too. These magnets are

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