Is Pay-To-Play Fly Fishing Good For Anybody?

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By Louis Cahill

If you pay hundreds of dollars for the chance to catch a really big trout on someones private water, are you doing the right thing?

Pay-to-play fishing is a hot button issue. It came up in conversation the other day so I thought I’d put my two cents in. I don’t have any data to back this up, but my guess is that a pretty small percentage of anglers regularly pay to fish private water. I’d guess that a fare number of us do it a time or two and move on and a very small number do little else. On the other hand there are an equally small number who would never consider it.

What you figure out pretty quickly is, whenever pay-to-play comes up, there’s going to be an argument. The fur usually starts to fly when fish size becomes the topic. If you are boasting about catching a trophy size trout on your local pay-to-play water you’re very likely going to hear how, “That fish doesn’t count,” or how, “That’s bullshit.” 

It’s true that there is no comparing a hand fed pet to a wild fish of the same size. Perhaps there is no comparing the effort or skill that went into catching those fish, but there is certainly no comparing how unique, special or important those two fish are. Wild trophy size trout are a treasure and should be treated as such. All of that said, if you are boasting about the size of your fish to establish yourself as a superior angler, you’re probably a douche bag. If you’re trying to spoil someone else’s excitement by calling their fish bullshit, you’re just as bad. That’s my opinion.

Focusing on numbers or size takes the fun out of fishing for me. I don’t count fish and when I do measure a fish it’s about appreciating what a special fish it is and how fortunate I was to catch it. Not for one instant do I hold to the idea that it makes me special as an angler. I’ve been at this long enough to know that humility is waiting in the next run. I like to hear anglers talk about special fish and I like to talk about them too. I think that’s something we all share, I just think it sucks when it ends in an argument.


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Keep your thirst quenched without the baggage

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It’s late spring and everyday we’re moving one step closer to summer.

Air temperatures are climbing into the 70s and 80s on most days and will soon be even higher. These conditions make it extremely important that anglers are staying properly hydrated while they’re on the water fly fishing. I really enjoy hiking into remote locations to fly fish for trout. The only problem with me doing this, is I’m constantly fighting to quench my thirst and stay hydrated. I used to utilize packs with internal bladders for storing my drinking liquids, but there were quite a few disadvantages that came along with using them. First, when filled to full capacity, they become quite heavy and take a tole on your body lugging them around all day. Secondly, if you’re using them during the warm seasons and you’re doing some aggressive hiking and fishing, eventually that cold liquid you filled the bladder with in the morning will eventually warm up and end up tasting like bath water. Thirdly, internal bladder systems require maintenance and cleaning to keep them from building up bacteria and mold. Five years ago, I decided to ditch the internal bladder systems in exchange for a light weight water filtration bottle, and I’ve never looked back. Doing so, I eliminated the three negatives I mentioned above with using internal water bladders, and I no longer have to ration my water intake during the day. This product will keep you fresh during your time on the water and you’ll have far less

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The Water Haul Cast – Slow Your Roll

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Check out the Instructional Fly Casting Video

The water haul cast is phenomenal for fly fishing small trout streams.

I love it for a few reasons. First, because it allows you to make a presentation without false casting over the fish. This is done by you using the water and fly line to load your fly rod and present your fly/flies in one cast. On highly technical water, where you have spooky fish, this niche cast can significantly increase your catch rates. Second, the water haul works great for tight quarters where you don’t have a lot of room to cast. The biggest mistake I see fly anglers make when they’re water hauling, is rushing the cast. You want to slow your roll when you’re performing this fly cast on the water. The water haul cast takes about twice as long to make a presentation with your fly than a traditional fly cast, and that is because you combine the pick up and the water haul together. If you’re having problems getting the distance or straightening out your leader and fly when your water hauling, try slowing down and you should see your cast improve. A proper setup is key before you begin a water haul cast. I like to roll cast my flies down stream so I can get them straight below me and get the necessary amount of fly line out to reach my target. I then drop my rod tip to the water and smoothly accelerate my rod through the casting stroke to a quick stop. Anglers wanting to increase their line speed and get extra distance with this cast can also apply a smooth single haul with their stripping hand as the rod begins to load during the water haul. It takes a while to get used to it, but after you get the hang of it, you’ll be surprised how effortless it makes your water haul cast. I use this cast myself and with my clients all the time. It’s perfect for beginners who are not yet comfortable casting traditionally in tight quarters or who have problems with getting tangles. Less false casting,

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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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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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