Strip Hard For Musky!

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By Justin Pickett

You can’t strip the fly too hard for a musky.

This past fall I spent several days chasing trout and musky around West Virginia with Esox freak, Murphy Kane. We spent the first day tossing dry/droppers and indicators at some gorgeous, native trout, and the following three days would be devoted to running rivers in search of musky.

The moments leading up to the first few casts were exciting and nerve wracking all at the same time. Would I be dumb lucky enough to call one up on my first cast? Would I see one at all? Would I completely lose my shit on the hook set? Visions of big, gnarly silhouettes emerging from the shadows to follow my fly immediately filled my head. Needless to say, I wasn’t thinking much about what I was actually doing.

However, through my fantastical daydreaming, I hear Murphy, “You’re not stripping hard enough.”

“Huh?” I replied.

He added, sarcastically, that, “You have to strip hard as hell to get that fly to move and push water, or a musky won’t even look at it.”

According to Murphy, I was sissy stripping the fourteen-inch T-bone I had lashed to my wire tippet and I might as well have been fishing in a Koi pond. What he wanted to see me do was strip with force and authority, bringing out the full potential of the fly’s action. Stripping large musky flies with some

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Fly-fishing and the Other Stuff That Gets Us Outside

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By Daniel Galhardo

I believe fly-fishing is first and foremost and excuse for us to spend time outside.

And it is an incredibly good one. But, deep down it is truly nature, the environment where we find ourselves, that keeps us going out for more. Yes, I know a couple of fishing lunatics that can keep going back to the ugliest ditches to catch fish; but I know way more people that wouldn’t go to those places more than once for a fish of any size, yet keep returning to beautiful parks, pristine meadows and picturesque mountains even if the fish are not that big.

In fact, I know many people that keep going back to those places even when fishing is not the main intention. They just want to be there. Sometimes I find myself in that camp.

I could wax poetic about how “many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.” (Thoreau). But I believe you have heard that enough that, by now, you either have come to hate the cliched sentence, or have come to believe it. Regardless, I would imagine you already sense that any excuse to be outside must be grabbed.

At this time of year we experience our infamous runoff season. The snow that has accumulated in the Colorado peaks during the winter melts and inflates our rivers. Although “snow melt” makes for a cool Colorado beer ingredient (Upslope beer is awesome by the way) it also makes it a bit tough to fish near home. So, at this time of year I find other excuses to get me outside.

One of the things that gets me outside at this time of year is foraging. I get outside and roam forests and fields in search of edible mushrooms and mountain vegetables. Foraging is actually not too unlike fishing. It often gets me to beautiful places. And, the process of actively looking for something, just like looking for the spots where the fish may be hiding, fills the parts of my brain that are normally busy thinking about work and life’s challenges.

When I go fishing, I typically notice a lot of things in the stream that I wouldn’t pay that much attention to while on a regular hike. I notice the way a current may form a whirlpool and gather things such as insects and leaves in nooks between rocks. I notice the shadows that betray the location of fish. Likewise, foraging allows me to notice things I wouldn’t pay much attention to while fishing. I notice the way a fern uncurls as it comes out of the ground, or the patterns and texture of a small patch of moss. I even notice the smells are different. While I’m fishing, my nostrils seem to pick up the freshness of water and the scent of fresh pines more than the earthy smells I notice when I’m walking on dry land. It is interesting to notice these differences.

Last week I went on an outing that filled my soul – yeah, I know, cliché… But, it was so true. One morning I woke up with an intense desire to go fishing. The rivers were blown out of proportion here. I had an early morning meeting, but couldn’t stop thinking about hitting the water. Going for a regular hike with the dog was not going to fill the need I had. As I had my morning coffee, I decided I needed a more intimate, and perhaps more adventurous experience with mother nature. A few minutes before leaving for my meeting, I decided I was going packrafting, and foraging, and bring a tenkara rod along just in case.

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The Thrill that Comes From the Unknown

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If you ask me, I think the surprise factor in fly fishing is underrated. Most of us choose to spend our time preparing and planning out every single detail of our fly fishing trips, so we can eliminate it. We spend hours tying recommended flies, we go threw our gear with a fine tooth comb checking for imperfections, and we research everything we can about the water and species we’ll be tackling. We do this because we want to feel in control. Furthermore, we do it because we want to catch fish. Problem is, fly fishing isn’t all about trying to squeeze out every bit of success we can muster out of a day on the water. A big part of fly fishing for me is letting go and

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Fly Fishing Provides Great Health Benefits

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I tell my clients, all the time, that I’m grateful for all the benefits fly fishing provides anglers. It provides us with one of the funnest ways to exercise, and it has the ability to completely wash away the stress of everyday life, from its therapeutic entertainment. We really should be thankful that this passion of ours provides us with so much more than just the reward of catching fish. Each and everyday we fly fish, we should take a minute to sit back and reflect on this fact. What other exercise activity can you think of that allows you to burn tons of calories during the day, and not have the faintest clue your even working out? Most of us aren’t extreme athletes, and even if we were back in the day, many of us have gotten older and are no longer. The great thing about fly fishing is you can tailor it to your own abilities and needs. It’s a great activity for maintaining your long term balance, dexterity and muscle strength, and it does a very good job of keeping your brain sharp.
I really think we could boost the growth of the fly fishing industry if more people were writing about all the great health benefits it provides, both mentally and physically? I’d love to see Yahoo, or one of those other giant headline news websites (that most of us visit daily) post on its home page, a fly fishing picture with the headline, “Lose 15 pounds and have a blast doing it.” We need to start thinking outside the box to promote and attract newcomers to fly fishing, and I think this could be one area most of us have been overlooking.

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Is Our Thinking About Flies All Wrong?

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By Dan Frasier

What if I were to tell you there is no such thing as a trout fly?

A few days ago my good friend and fly designer Steve Martinez posted a link to one of his flies that Orvis carries; his Frankenstein Sculpin. I love this fly, but his comment intrigued me. He wrote; “Although I designed this fly for carp, it has been a killer smallmouth fly this year here on the Great Lakes.” No doubt that’s a true statement. It’s a killer fly. But my first thought was, “Well, duh. It’s a fly that intends to look like a Goby, the major baitfish on his part of the Great Lakes. Of course it works for anything eating them.” And that is when it occurred to me; We’ve been doing it all wrong.

In my book, The Orvis Beginners Guide to Carp Flies, I emphasize repeatedly that there is no such thing as a carp fly. There are flies, designed to look like certain foods, that work where carp eat those things. If you don’t match the pattern with the food in the area that carp are eating, you’re SOL. Carp aren’t special in this way. Trout flies work under the same premise. An Elk-hair Caddis works where trout are eating caddis and doesn’t where they are eating scuds. And, an Elk-hair Caddis works on carp that are eating caddis and doesn’t where they are eating Gobies. So, is the Elk-hair Caddis a trout fly? Or is it a fly that works on fish eating caddis? I think the answer is obvious.

Yet when I look through any fly catalogue from the major manufacturers, the overriding theme seems to be to segregate flies by species. Wanna catch a pike? Better check out the pike flies. Fishing for smallies? Turn to the bass section. We ignore the fact that these species key on certain foods at certain locations just as much as trout do. We also ignore that many different species in that location will be all eating the same food organism; that a hex fly will work on smallies eating hexes just as well as it does for trout eating hexes. That’s why flies created for one species are frequently used by experienced anglers for others.

The experimentation and expansion of the species anglers chase with the fly seems to be increasing at an exponential rate. No longer do you hear talk of certain fish species being lesser than others. People celebrate catching panfish without apology. Carp are the obvious poster child but all species seem to be looked at as something worth chasing. From gar to whitefish to musky, the world of opportunities is evolving within flyfishing, and for that reason we need to change the way we categorize flies. It’s time to

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If You’re Not Looking For Trout, You’re Missing Out

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One of the things I always stress to my clients is the importance of always keeping an eye out for trout on the water. The first thing I do when I walk up to a prime piece of trout water, is take a minute or two to scan the water for dark shapes, shadows and subtle movements. I do it before I wet my fly or even my boots for that matter, because I know, if I can spot a trout, I’ll immediately double my chances at getting my rod bent. I also look for trout when I’m wading from one spot to the next. This is where many anglers mess up and get distracted by all the great looking water upstream of them, and then end up missing opportunities to spot and catch trout in transit. I used to spook a ton of trout myself moving from one fishing spot to the next. It still happens but not nearly as much because these days, when I’m on the move, I’m not in a hurry and I take plenty of time to look for trout as I wade.

You have to look for trout to spot them. They don’t shout, “hey, I’m over here”, or wave a white flag at you.

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5 Reasons Why I use the Uni-Knot for Trout Fishing

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Watch the video!

Why use the Uni-knot?

There’s plenty of other fishing knots out there that have better knot strength than the Uni-Knot, but that shouldn’t be the only factor you look at when you’re choosing what knot to use on the water. Reliability, how quick and easy it is to tie, type of rig your fishing, and functionality should all be weighed into the equation when deciding on knot choice. The decision to employ the Uni-Knot for my personal fishing and guiding has made my life easier on the water because of its versatility and ease of tying.

5 Reasons Why I use the Uni-Knot for Trout Fishing
1. The Uni-Knot is quick and easy to tie with fine tippet and small flies, particularly in low light situations.

2. The Uni-Knot is very reliable, is rated at 90% strength, and won’t slip (fail) like the improved clinch knot will if it’s tightened down incorrectly.

3. I only need a small amount of tippet to tie the Uni-Knot. That lengthens the life of my leaders, cuts back on tippet usage, and saves me money in the long run.

4. The Uni-Knot allows me to quickly change out my lead fly in my tandem nymph rig and also saves me time untangling knots on the water since it can be loosened and re-tightened on the go.

5. The Uni-Knot serves other purposes other than tying your fly onto your leader. It also can be used to join two lines and used to secure your backing to the reel.

The Uni-Knot Can Save You Time Untangling Knots
Untangling knots is a subject that I know far too well being a full-time fly fishing guide. These days I can often spot a tangle in mid-air or by the way the leader lays out on the water. I’ve grown accustom to having clients look at me with a bewildered look when I tell them to stop casting and strip in. Moments later, when they get their fly rig in, the confused look leaves their faces and the question of why is answered. Using the Uni-Knot in my fishing rigs often allows me to untangle a knotted mess and get back to fishing much quicker than with other fishing knots because I don’t always have to retie the knot. I often can

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Elevate Yourself to Increase the Distance You Can High-Stick

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Most of the time when your fly fishing for trout, the last thing you want to do is elevate yourself. In most scenarios, that will usually do more harm than good, by increasing the chances of trout spotting you and spooking. Notice I said “most scenarios”, every once in a while, an angler is forced to go against traditional principles to find success. The other day, I found myself trying to fish an eddy and slow water seam on the far bank. Making the cast wasn’t the problem, it was getting a long enough drag-free drift to get my fly to the fish. Even with my best high-sticking efforts, every cast the super fast water between me and my target water would grab my fly line and suck my flies out prematurely. After a couple minutes of struggling with my drifts and failing to get any bites, I decided to climb up on a boulder next to me. This elevated me three feet, and allowed me to keep 100% of my fly line off the water and get that long drag-free drift. I caught three trout after

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Sunday Classic / Light, Composition and Action

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A technically perfect image is worthless if it doesn’t capture the eye, and the imagination, of the viewer. Unfortunately, most new photographers get so wrapped up in the science of photography that they totally miss the art. There are as many aesthetic choices to be made when shooting a photo as when building a house but a hell of a lot less time to make them. It takes time and experience to master designing a photo on the fly but to help you get started there are three element so crucial to a great photo that they deserve your attention every time you lift the camera. They are: light, composition and action.


Light sets the mood. When you sit down for a romantic dinner do you turn on the overhead fluorescents? No, you light a candle. When the police interrogate a suspect do they do it by candle light? Probably not. Of all the choices you make, light has the biggest impact on the emotional tone of the finished photograph.

You may be thinking, “How is light a choice?” I have been a studio photographer for more years than I like to discuss. In the studio I control my lighting by moving the position of my lights and changing their intensity. Shooting on the river you don’t have that luxury but you do still have choices. You can’t move the sun, but you can

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So Much More Than Brook Trout

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By Jason Tucker


We have parked the boat on a gravel bar where ripping current meets still water. Fish are rising on the soft side of the seam that trails off the tip of the bar. We are so far north that dusk will last for hours. We are fishing in Labrador with Riverkeep Lodge on the Atikonak River.

Dave is after one large fish that keeps working the seam, rising repeatedly about sixty feet out. It’s too far to cast, but they’re taking skated caddis anyway, and so he has dumped a bunch of line, hoping to reach the fish, or get it to hit his Goddard caddis as he retrieves it back up the seam, a tactic that has worked numerous times.

Suddenly the fish rises forty feet away on the right side of the boat. Realizing that Dave doesn’t have time to pick up all that line and cast across the boat in time, I fire a quick cast to the rise form. The fish turns on a dime, and comes up on the surface as I throw a mend to twitch the fly. The fish rises with head, back, dorsal and tail fins all breaking the surface and it closes on my fly, mouth open, like a submarine on the surface. It takes an eternity for my fly to disappear and the mouth to close, but when I finally set the hook, the fish rolls and sounds, swims straight at us, and as I frantically strip line it jumps clear out of the water a few feet away at chest height. I find myself staring it in the eye, like some Warner Brothers cartoon character come to chastise me. Then it takes off on a blazing run that takes most of my fly line with it. It weighed over five pounds

And that was just one evening at Riverkeep Lodge. Don’t worry about Dave, he caught plenty of fish.

As long as I can remember I have been reading about Labrador and its legendary brook trout. As brook trout became an increasing obsession of mine, it became a lifelong dream to go. So when I got an invitation to go to Riverkeep Lodge with Dave Karczynski, it was impossible for me to say no.

We decided to make a road trip out of it, and when the time came I left my home in Northeast Georgia, drove to Ann Arbor, Michigan to pick up Dave, then we turned it east for the long trek across Ontario and Quebec. The drive itself was quite memorable, especially the long bush road from Baie Comeau to Labrador City, about 375 miles of gravel, pavement, and road construction with one gas station in the middle and not much else in the way of civilization. That story will have to wait for later.

The next day we took a float plane 120 miles into the Labrador bush to fish with Riverkeep Lodge on the Atikonak River. It is run by the Murray family, and their guides Keir and Eric were waiting for us, ready to show off what they have up there. Here’s what we found.

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