Why ask why? Try dry flies for Steelhead

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By Jeff Hickman


I always have said that one fish on the dry is worth ten on wet flies…but why? It’s not like it’s impossible to catch them on dries. It can actually be quite productive at times but people are often just too afraid to try. If you only have one day to fish there’s a lot of pressure to catch fish, so why opt for the most challenging method? Well, there is, in fact, only one way to catch a steelhead on a dry fly and it start with tying it on your line!

Is a steelhead eating a fly off of the surface that much more unbelievable than a fish eating a fly swung just under the surface, or for that matter, a fly swung deep with a sink tip? It’s not. In fact, I think that there are times when a dry fly can work better. The disturbance and wake it cuts through the water’s surface can excite fish and elicit savage grabs.

The visual display you get when watching the fly skate across the surface is super fun and you can learn a lot by seeing where your fly actually is. Watching a fish come airborne for it, slap it, thrash at it, boil on it or just gently suck the fly down is one of, if not the single, most exciting experiences there is in fishing. Seeing them come for the fly is super exciting even if you don’t hook them. It is that extra element of playing with the fish that is the coolest for me!

photo2But what is even better

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Sudden Impact, Fishing A Better Beetle

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By George Daniel

Beetles that Create Impact On Trout Streams

A fly fisher’s job is to gain “positive” attention from the fish they pursue. In this instance, we’re going to focus on trout and terrestrial patterns. Positive attention occurs when a pattern creates enough impact on the water surface to arouse curiosity (not fear) in a feeding trout. Focus on presentation and good technique is always of the top of the list, but sometimes the right patterns can make all the difference. I’m still a firm believer that technique trumps pattern choice, but there’s always exceptions. 

One reason I guide is for the lessons I learn through the power of observation. It’s my job to try to help coach individuals into catching fish, but so often I’m the one taking home the lesson of the day. In the case of this article, I’m referring to the time I spend with longtime fishing guest/client Bob Williams.  First, let me make it clear that Bob “The Beetle” Williams doesn’t need a guide. He’s one of the most well rounded terrestrial fly fishers I’ve met. I am grateful for the fun times we have had on the water and thankful for the lessons I’ve gleaned over the years.

One such lesson is that, not all fly tying foams are created equal. Long story short, the density built into a terrestrial can make the difference between getting no attention or receiving positive attention. Several years ago, Bob showed me a dense foam material manufactured by a local PA guy and it totally changed my opinion on the importance of how a pattern lands on the water.  What I’m getting at is, there are times when your patterns need to create such an intense impact that trout can feel the fly land, even if they cannot see it. Common sense, I know, but sometimes we can all use a refresher course in terrestrial fishing 101. 

Think about deep undercut banks where trout will hold. Trout holding deep under the bank often cannot see what’s going on outside their lair, and a terrestrial pattern that is designed to land softly on the water is not likely to garner a trout’s attention.  For years I only guided with one beetle pattern, tied with the standard foam that all fly shops sell. It worked well enough so I stuck with it until my first trip with Bob. Then Bob introduced a foam beetle material he bought from Bill Skillton years ago. A rigid foam strip coated with a material that drastically increased its density. Watching the effect it had on the local trout forever changed my opinion on fishing undercut banks with terrestrials.

After having little success fishing my foam pattern along a prime section of undercut bank, Bob asked to head back downstream fish back through the same water with his beetle instead.

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The G Loomis IMX Pro Short Spey: Review

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By Louis Cahill

The IMX Pro Short Spey may be the best bargain in fly-fishing.

Every one of the IMX Pro fly rods I’ve cast has been a joy, but the 11-foot 11-inch two-handers really stand out. I cast the 3 weight on the pond at IFTD last year. I was immediately impressed but I’ve learned not to judge a rod solely on the casting pond. I got my hands on a 5 weight short spey and did some trout fishing with it. Last month I took the 5 weight to the Deschutes for steelhead and I’m blown away by the performance and versatility of this rod.

Before we go any further, let’s talk about the price. Too many times I find myself reviewing great fly rods that I know are out of reach of a lot of anglers. The truly amazing thing about the IMX Pro Short Spey is the price. At $575 it’s literally half the price of much of the competition and with no compromise that I can find. Speaking specifically about the 5 weight, a quality rod that covers the gambit from trout spey to summer steelhead, is astounding at that price.

The second thing you should know about the IMX Pro is that it is not a switch rod. Although it is just under 12 feet in length, which would classify it as a switch rod, it was never intended for overhead casting. It’s a classic, medium-fast spey action. It has a softer midsection than a typical switch rod which means it loads like a dream and casts effortlessly, as a spey rod should.

The rod is light and crisp in the hand. This means that it is not only a joy to cast but to swing. Holding line off the water and leading the fly into the swing is effortless. I have bad shoulders and this kills me with a 13-foot 7-weight. The light weight and easy casting of the IMX Pro Short Spey reduces fatigue and makes the whole fishing experience relaxed and enjoyable, as it should be.

When I carried the 5 weight out for steelhead, I expected to be under gunned. Typically, a 6 weight is my choice for summer steelhead. I was pleasantly surprised by the IMX Pro in both casting and fish fighting. Set up with an Airflo

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Sunday Classic / Six Cutties in a Hot Tub

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Are you fixing to head out west for an exciting trout fishing trip? If yes, and you plan to do some wade fishing, pay close attention to water levels before you decide on where to start your days fishing. Recently, Louis and I visited the Grey’s River in Wyoming for the opportunity to enjoy catching beautiful Snake River cutthroats on dries. Water levels were very high on the Grey’s and the lower sections of the river were too high to wade safely or fish effectively. We found out very quickly if we were going to get into some good fishing we’d have to focus our efforts on the upper sections of the watershed. That meant targeting the water above most of the tributaries dumping into the Grey’s, and driving 25 miles further up the forest service access road.

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Saturday Shoutout / Don’t Loose That Fish

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Some stunning video of tenkara fishing across Europe.

This video follows the guys from Tenkara Rod Company on a european fishing tour through Switzerland, Italy and Slovenia with the Tenkara rod. They visit some beautiful places and catch some amazing fish, including some larger than you might expect. Even if you don’t fish tenkara rods, you’ll love this video.


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New Orvis Pro Boots: Video

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A new wading boot from Orvis offers performance features to athletic anglers.

“We are starting to look at some anglers as athletes,” Tom Rosenbauer tells me.

That’s reflected in design and materials in the new Orvis Pro Boot. The rubber sole, developed in cooperation with Michelin, have a self cleaning tread that’s 40% stickier than the competition, and the insole is borrowed from cross-fit technology. The upper is a bombproof, cast panel and proprietary hardware is designed to take a beating.

The new Pro Boot from Orvis is built to take some punishment, but also to give the angler a stable wading experience that doesn’t involve thinking about their feet. Comfort, durability and performance for the serious angler.


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Little Things Matter: Tippet Spools

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By Bob Reece

I’m a huge believer in the fact that little things matter. 

I believe this holds true in all aspects of life, including the world of fly fishing.  In the tackle setups that we as fly fishers use, our tippet is often one of those petite items of importance.

Spools of tippet in various sizes are an essential part of a successful day on the water.   Their material allows fly fishers to create the connections needed for effective presentations and bringing fish to our nets.  While this is widely understood, we often overlook the small aspects of maintaining and using these supportive spools.  

Many tippet spools have built in cutters that are imbedded in their plastic rims.  During the bustle of a day on the water, the free end of tippet often works its way free from the metal eyelet and elastic band that hold it in place.  If the tippet ends up on the same side of the band as the cutter, it is often nicked when peeled off the spool.  These unintended abrasions weaken the tippet material and create the possibility of breaking off larger fish.  To avoid this occurrence, check your spools throughout the day and leave a slightly longer than normal tag end when cutting off lengths of new tippet.  

The same elastic bands that hold the tippet in place, can also blind us to the amount of material that we have left.  I spend a significant amount of time fly fishing waters off the beaten path.  It’s more than frustrating to reach for your first round of tippet and realize that there are a few inches left of the size that you needed most.  I’ve made a habit of

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Trout Deformities

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Some creepy trout for Halloween.

I spotted this little guy in a hatchery supported stream in North Carolina and fished to him until I caught him so I could get a photo. While not common exactly, deformities like this are not unusual in either hatcheries or in the wild but you seldom see a ‘special’ fish like this in a wild stream. Nature deals with this sort of thing in short order. In a hatchery, however, a fish like this will do fine and grow to maturity.

This brook trout would have been a solid 16 inches if he were normal. A buddy suggested I bank him. There was no need. This kind of deformity stems from injury to the fish’s spine early in life. There are no defective genes or disease to pass along so I released him. After all, he plays an important role in the ecosystem, at least from the otter’s perspective.

There can certainly be problems with hatchery raised fish. Disease and poor genetics can wreak havoc on wild populations. On the whole, I think North Carolina does a good job and it’s important to remember that this is a regional issue that is best evaluated by region. What’s right for a trout stream in North Carolina is not right for a steelhead river in Oregon. That’s another topic worth some considerable ink, but not just now.

It did get me thinking about some more troubling fish deformities. Specifically Idaho’s two-headed trout. There was a little bit of excitement about it when the New York Times published photos, in February of 2012, of the deformed fish which were spawned in a laboratory from fish caught wild in streams surrounding the Simplot Smokey Canyon mine.

The photos were from a report Simplot filed with the government for the purpose of asking the EPA to raise the allowed levels of selenium caused in local streams by phosphate mining. I’m going to repeat that for the sake of clarity.

Simplot raised two-headed trout spawned from wild fish poisoned with selenium run off from their mine, showed the results to the government and said, “see, nothing wrong here, I think we can safely say a dramatic increase in poisoning is in order.”

If this seems surreal to you, you are not alone. What is even more insane is that the EPA seems to be buying it. This made my head hurt so badly that I picked up the phone and started calling friends in Idaho. After talking to several folks who are active in TU and other groups in Idaho, I was referred to some folks with the local fisheries department. The answers I got were, again, surreal. They amounted to this:

“Yeah, it’s pretty bad…it’s getting worse…there’s not really anything we can do about it…Simplot owns Idaho.”

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Alice’s Angle: November

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By:Alice Tesar

A couple of tips for successful fishing in November.

A frequent customer stopped into the fly shop early September announcing that he had been greatly enjoying “Adult Summer.” Adult Summer is more commonly referred to as the nation’s fall season. Children are back in school for 6-8 hours a day and parents, in this man’s case, can have a bit of flexibility over their lunch breaks. So sip your coffee slowly, eat a hearty hash breakfast, drop the kiddos at school, and continue to take advantage of Adult Summer into the winter months. 

The most wonderful part of November fishing is that the fish don’t begin eating until later in the morning. I like to get on the water just after the sun has danced across the water. Air temperature should be 45-55 degrees Fahrenheit before you get on the river. Freezing nights push the fish into deep pools and slow water to conserve energy. It’s only as things warm up in the day that they become more active and hungry.  Streamers, with various actions stripped through deep pools require a clean presentation but can effectively get the aggressive Brown Trout riled up. Please, avoid harassing them around redds. As for fall mayfly hatches, you should be looking for Blue Winged Olives and Mahogany Duns. 

The Mahogany is one of my favorite hatches to fish, if not for its sporadic occurrence then for how the Trout eat them. Trout feast on Mahogany Duns the same way you might approach Thanksgiving Dinner, hungrily but not aggressive or snappy. After all, it is a holiday of gratitude.  The slow water of a dry summer causes the Duns to drift long distances, so Trout analyze their eats and don’t snap at every surface twitch. Hit the river an hour

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The Tao of Permit

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By Louis Cahill

What does it take to be a good permit angler?

At the park it was a beautiful day. Three days in a row I had taken my nine weight Helios 3, my snow saucer and my dog down the hill to the long promenade lined with oak trees and carefully stepped off my casting distance. Starting off at forty feet, I’d drop the bright pink yarn into the saucer again and again, then step off ten more feet. I’d cast at fifty, sixty, seventy feet, each step hitting the saucer a little less frequently. At eighty and ninety feet I’d be happy just hitting it a few times. I would have liked to had a few more days to practice before heading to the Keys, but my casting tuned up quickly and I was feeling pretty confident. I focused all of my energy on accuracy. I’d be spending three days with my buddy Bruce Chard looking for permit, and in permit fishing, accuracy is everything.

At the park it had been a beautiful day. Hurricane Michael had blown through just a few days before and we were enjoying the sunny, crisp, bluebird days on the back side of the storm. On the bow of the skiff, in the Keys, things were slightly different. The wind howled thirty miles per hour. It was a challenge just standing on the skiff, must less casting, and poling was a nightmare. Controlling the boat and making a well planed and executed shot was impossible. Every time a fish showed itself felt like a frenzied hail Mary. I’d never take off on a trip without practicing my casting, but those days in the park had nothing to do with this.

I don’t get to do a lot of permit fishing. I enjoy it, I think. It’s a love-hate relationship for sure, but for a handful of reasons it’s just very hard for me to devote the time and money it requires. Like no other type of fishing I know, permit fishing requires time. Permit just don’t eat the fly very often. Even if the angler does absolutely everything right, the vast majority of shots will end in refusal, or more often the fish fleeing in terror. 

Although permit anglers will spend incredible amounts of energy analyzing and debating the meaning of every twitch, dart, and fin flick of every permit they have ever cast to, most experienced anglers will admit they have way more questions about permit than they have answers. It may be those answers we are looking for when we pursue them, or maybe we just love abuse, but if you are going to chase permit, and keep your sanity, you have to accept that you are simply not in control.

Standing on the bow with a thirty mile per hour wind driving into my casting shoulder, I certainly have no illusion of control. I make some good shots, I make some epically bad shots, I stick the fly in my ass. My line blows off the boat and is swept under the hull, once it wraps around the plug. About half the time I manage a decent presentation and am actually in the game, but it’s a struggle every second, and the seconds go quickly. The wind pushes the boat across the flat at a clip and the fish are coming at us in a hurry. We spot a fish, turn the boat, make the shot, maybe the fish follows and then refuses. The whole process is over in five seconds. 

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