Tarpon, It’s All About Letting Go

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ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS LET GO.

The step is about three inches wide by ten inches long. Really only big enough for the ball of one foot. There’s not enough head room to stand straight, not even close. It would be an uncomfortable place to stand if there weren’t an eighty mile per hour wind in my face. As it is, it’s the grip of my hands on the strut, not my foot on the step, that is keeping me here. All I have to do is let go. It would be completely terrifying if I were not forty-five-hundred feet in the air.

The idea that the fancy backpack I’m wearing, the contents of which I have never seen, will magically blossom to save me from the jaws of death is the greatest of abstraction. The thought that, should something go wrong, the bicycle helmet on my head will protect me feels completely insane.

I know I shouldn’t look down but it’s pointless to fight the urge. The ground below seems wholly unreal. Like a child’s train set dotted with little plastic trees and houses. It vanishes and reappears through the milky haze below. All I can hear is the wind. All I can feel is the sky tugging me away from the plane and my heart pounding in my chest. I remember my father, an Air Force fighter pilot, telling me, “Son, never get out of a perfectly good airplane.” The jump master turns to look me in the eye and points his finger at the ground. Time to go.

The time for inner monologue is over. Once the airplane soars off without you, or you without it, there is no time to think, only time to do. Lots of things can happen. Wonderful things. Things like watching a beautiful sunset in fast forward as you plummet from the sunshine to a dark earth where it is already night. Fantastically bad things can happen as well. You will never know which, until you let go.

As it turns out, the parachute did open and something did go wrong. I spun wildly and

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Catch Trophy Brown Trout By Stacking The Odds In Your Favor

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THIS FISH HAS BEEN ALL OVER THE INTERNET. NOW I’M GOING TO TELL YOU EXACTLY HOW TO CATCH ONE LIKE IT FOR YOURSELF.

Once in a while the “perfect storm” really is perfect.

My buddy Dan and I were throwing around some dates for a fishing trip the other day and when those dates started falling in November he said, “As you know, fall will be all about finding big brown trout.”

Brown trout are addictive like almost no other freshwater fish. I can’t tell you how many anglers have told me, “I just want to catch a big brown.” We all want that but if you are serious about turning that want into real-life experience, you’ll need to work for it and you’ll still have to be lucky.

Brown trout are tough customers. Moody, smart and reclusive, they put trout anglers to the test. Especially the big ones. There are two ways to get one. Either you can be lucky and just stumble into it, which is awesome and I highly recommend it, or you can do the leg work and put in the time.

Your best bet is the combination of good timing, the right conditions, the right place and a great presentation. That and persistence will get you what you’re looking for. Here are some guidelines to start with.

LOCATION

You must first be in the presence of big brown trout to catch big brown trout. Finding the right place usually starts with a tip, a fly shop conversation or a photo or article you found on the Internet. Some places are well known for holding big Browns. Reputation alone, however, is not enough to go on.

Once you identify the river where you think you can catch that big boy, you have to start narrowing it down. Brown trout are notorious homebodies, spending most of their lives in one run or even under one rock. There are certain events and times when they will venture out and, to catch them, you either have to know where they are or where they’re going, and when.

I talked to one angler who hunts for big Browns on a local tailwater, and catches them. He has a brilliant, and time consuming, method that works well. He learned from experience that these fish would only eat during high water flows. He goes to the river on low flows with binoculars rather than a rod. He finds big Browns and marks their location on his GPS and returns on high water to catch them.

You can increase your odds by getting after fish in smaller water when they are moving to spawn. Don’t target fish on redds. That’s short sighted and bad for the future populations, but there’s nothing wrong with targeting fish on the move. (Read all about that here.)

My point is, you have to make a plan and do the research.

TIMING AND CONDITIONS

You have to strike when the time is right. By identifying the times and conditions when big brown trout are most likely to be active and aggressive, you raise your odds immensely.

Fall is the peak of brown trout aggression. Browns are fall spawners. The height of their spawning season is around

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Aquamarine, A Permit Tale

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“Now! Now is the time! Hurry!”

I am perched on the bow of a rocking Hell’s Bay Waterman, on the flats of Abaco, squinting through my bifocals and trying in vain to find the opening in a figure 8 knot. I’ve cut off six different crab flies and lucky number seven is waiting for me to finish this damned knot, while a forty-pound permit feeds in front of the boat. Ashron, my guide, is trying to help. I know this, but it’s not working. Sweat is running into my eyes and I’m starting to get tunnel vision.

The permit stops feeding and I’m finally able to finish the knot. Now we have to wait again. This big permit is doing what’s called “riding a ray.” It’s hovering over a manta ray about six feet across and picking up the scraps the ray misses. It’s sort of the Holy Grail of permit shots. As long as they stay together, the permit will focus on the ray and eat happily. We pole along about seventy-five feet behind them waiting for the ray to stir up the mud by feeding. Drop a crab pattern in that little puff of mud and you stand your best possible shot at hooking up on the permit.

Six different crab patterns have failed to get the desired reaction. I’ve had looks, swirls, follows and charges but no eats. Lucky number seven is a tiny Mop Crab no bigger across than my pinky nail. There is no eighth pattern in my box. There was, in fact, no seventh pattern. This fly came from Ashron’s hat. I’m already kicking myself for that. I’m kicking myself for making some bad casts early on, for not having practiced more before I came, for not calling my mother more often and any other shortcoming I can think of. This is what happens in your head when permit fishing and I know full well that the nagging voice in my head must be quieted before that ray muds again. That’s the devil F-ing with you. Permit ride rays and the devil rides permit.

“Now!” Ashron tells me. I see the puff of mud, I let go of my fly and sweep back my rod and tell the devil, “Watch this.”

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Labrador Bound

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By Jason Tucker

It’s no secret that I love brook trout, and thus the name of my blog, Fontinalis Rising.

Size doesn’t matter. From 4-inch little gems to behemoth monsters the size of respectable brown trout, I find them all fascinating and exciting. When I was a boy, my grandfather took me down to the river and showed me two fish in the 24-inch range that had staked out the area as home.

Most of our fish were in the 6- to 8-inch range, and 12 inches was considered a good fish. To see two fish that had doubled that mark was incredible. Ever since then, I’ve wondered what made those two fish get so big.

I spent as much time as possible fishing for brook trout in Northern Michigan and its Upper Peninsula, and after many years I finally caught a 16-inch fish, which was my personal best for some time.

Since then I’ve gone to Nipigon, where a 12-inch fish is considered small. I caught one fish that was 22 inches, and lost several fish that were much bigger. (Brook trout tend to pack on the pounds once they reach about 22 inches. A 20-inch fish may weigh 3 pounds while a 23-incher may weigh 7 pounds.)

A few years later I was invited to go fish with the Sault Gang. We caught 38 fish that averaged 18-20 inches and 1.5 to 3 pounds, and got one big male that was over 4 pounds. I also took a trip to Isle Royale with a distinguished group of gentlemen. The fish there average 3-5 pounds. With research I’ve discovered that

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You went fishing where? 

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By Jesse Lowry

Slovenia! Who the hell goes fishing in Slovenia?

That’s the typical reaction I get when I start talking about my fishing trips to this little gem of a country that most people couldn’t point to on a map. I’ve been fortunate enough to visit Slovenia a handful of times and still am chomping at the bit to go back. It has a ton to offer anyone who makes the journey to this country of roughly 2 million people on the Adriatic Sea, at the cross roads of some very different cultures. Formerly part of the Yugoslavia (and numerous other empires prior) and now part of the EU, Slovenia has been influenced by Slavic, Germanic, and Italian roots. The people there are very proud, friendly and love the outdoors; hiking, rock climbing, white water kayaking, paragliding, and of course fly fishing. Many of the people I met would go fly fishing in the morning and then flying off the side of a mountain by noon once the thermals started to pick up, this worked to my advantage as the rivers were less busy in the afternoon, granted the fishing does slow down with the sun overhead and the gin clear rivers.  

It truly is a spectacular place to visit, even if there were no fish in these rivers they are an absolute pleasure to wade through and hike along. Crystal clear turquoise waters, deep canyons, lush forests, gorgeous water falls, massive boulders sprawled throughout the river almost like they were placed there just for Fly Fishermen, old homesteads that have stood the test of time and blend seamlessly into the background, it’s like stepping back in time. Then add to all of this feisty Rainbows, Adriatic Grayling, Browns and the most sought after, Marble Trout (think bull trout head on a brown trout body, with feeding behaviour similar to browns). All these fish in sizes where you have to give your head a shake, given the water they are occupying. This is the total package, a sight fishing, upstream dry fly fishing mecca, accessible from your car, that seems like it was conjured from some of your fishiest dreams. Obviously, nymphing and streamers work great, but when sight fishing in gin clear water I find it hard to resist throwing a dry (probably to my detriment from a hook up perspective… hrrmmm I seemed to suffer from something similar during university days as well).

 Fly selection wise I felt amply prepared with my usual western freestone go to’s, though some tail water selection would be a welcome addition. Dry Flys: Stimulators in Orange (lots of orange moths or Butterflys in July and August), Goddard Caddis, small tape wing black caddis, purple haze, green drakes, BWOs, ants and terrestrials. Nymphs: Hares ears, pheasant tails, stone flies, cased caddis, guides choice….you get the idea. I’m told streamers early hours in the dark in some of the big holding pools is the way to hook into the big meat eating Marbles, these pools are home to very tight lipped big fish during daylight hours, which people cast endlessly at and are mostly unsuccessfully. You’ll figure out which pools these are pretty quick, easy access to them, big fish stacked up, looks like shooting fish in a barrel, generally it ain’t.  

In terms of finding the spots to fish, it’s pretty easy, a little Google Maps Satellite view and you’ll see most of the roads follow blue lines. Currently it seems the imaging was done in summer when flows are lower which allows you to identify pools and pocket waters quite easily. You will also notice there are lots of access points and turn outs along the road, mostly put ins and take outs for the kayakers and rafts, so bit of care needed when parking in these spots especially the raft access points. Note: satellite images make things look flat and seemingly easy to access, this definitely isn’t the case there are some very steep access points not ideal for the shaky legs, but they get you to some pretty stellar places. Also note all of my fishing in Slovenia has been done during Late June to Late August when flows are low and wading the river is relatively is easy.     

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Eye Surgery #8 Update

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By Louis Cahill

I’m two weeks Post-op and things are going well.

I hate talking about my medical issues, but lots of you are asking for updates, so I’ll keep it short. That should be easy since, as of now, all the news is good. A lot went on in the run up to the surgery but I’ll just hit the high points.

Things were feeling a little sketchy the week before my surgery. The oil in my eye had completely turned to muck. Like spring run-off inside my eye. As a result, I developed glaucoma. Rising eye pressure threatened to damage my optic nerve. There was no choice but to remove the oil, however, the murky oil prevented my doctor from seeing the condition of the retina. He was going in blind and not happy about it. I won’t lie, it was scary.

Fortunately the surgery went well. Dr Alurkar flushed two liters of solution through my eye cleaning it out and the retina stayed attached. Statistically, the majority of folks in my situation, who do experience another detachment, do so during surgery. The vast majority experience it during the first week. I’m two weeks out now and my doctor says the retina looks fantastic! After a couple of truly awful days, my pressure has returned to normal so it appears I dodged the glaucoma bullet with no apparent nerve damage. I will not be in the clear for 60-90 days but things look really promising right now.

It will take at least 90 days to really know what I can expect for vision. It’s a mess right now but the double vision caused by the oil is gone and as of just last night my eyes have started trying to focus again. That’s very encouraging. Whatever I end up with, I’ll be very happy to have it. I’m struggling to keep my expectations in line. I’m just superstitious enough to worry about jinxing myself, but I’m starting to feel truly optimistic. I am sooooooo ready to get on with my life!

Thank you all for your continuing support throughout this nightmare. I can not tell you how good it feels to have so many people in my corner. I can’t imagine how difficult this would have been without that support. Hopefully I’ll be checking in with more good news in a couple of weeks. 

Thanks!

Louis Cahill

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The Geezer Hatch

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Ever heard the phrase, “the geezer hatch is on?”

I’ve used it myself. It’s a common way of saying there are a bunch of old dudes on the water. It’s pretty common to hear younger anglers and guides grousing or making jokes about old guys who can’t see their flies or wade like a mummy in a black and white horror film.

In the past decade, fly fishing has taken on the soundtrack of extreme sport and with it some of the attitude. Too many of us feel compelled to judge our fellow anglers and that comes down pretty hard on the over-seventy set.

Like any cross section of humanity, old guys run the gambit from pompous assholes to salt of the earth. On the whole, the younger guys I know treat them pretty well but once they are out of ear shot, there is often a comment made that reveals the judgment.

Maybe I notice it because I’m at the point in my life where it’s painfully clear that we’re all going down that road. It may also be that I habitually pull for the underdog and have a heightened intolerance to inequity. I’m not saying it’s a major problem, just an underlying prejudice that rubs me wrong sometimes.

This is where my friend Mike Ray comes into the picture. I’ve gotten to know Mike over the last year or so and had the pleasure of fishing with him both on the river and in the salt. Mike is a great angler. A solid caster, in spite of a badly scarred hand, and an all-around fishy guy who’s company I thoroughly enjoy. He’s about seventy, a retired lawyer who’s done well for himself.

If you didn’t know him, if you hadn’t fished with him, you might be tempted to throw him right into the geezer category. (Sorry Mike.) If you spend some time around the man, you see something completely different. That’s how prejudice works.

In fact, what you find is a guy with a youthful spirit, an open mind, and a hell of a nice cast. But there has always been something more to Mike that I just couldn’t put my finger on. There is an air about him when he put on his waders and climbs in the boat that is nothing short of a transformation.

There’s a calmness that comes over Mike when those waders go on. A comfort and a confidence that you don’t see in many anglers. His body language changes. The way he stands and holds his cigar, the way takes a knee on the bank, and I think even the way he sees the world become something completely different. Something old and familiar.

On a recent trip to Patagonia I found out what it is.

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Fly Fishing Tip: Mend Your Strike Indicator to Increase Your Drag-Free Drift

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IS THERE EVER A TIME, WHEN NYMPHING, THAT IT CAN BE BENEFICIAL TO LIFT THE STRIKE INDICATOR OUT OF THE WATER DURING A MEND?

When I first started learning the art of mending fly line, I constantly struggled with keeping my striking indicator and dry fly from moving across the surface of the water. Quite often, I not only moved them during my mends, I even lifted them completely out of the water in the process. Most of the time that wasn’t a good thing, because it usually caused my flies to be pulled off my intended drift line, and that greatly hindered my ability to catch fish, no matter how accurate my initial presentation cast happened to be. I learned quickly, that poor mending, and sloppy line management, were the two main factors in keeping me from getting my rod bent with trout. There was no doubt that my problem with mending fly line laid in the fact that my technique was awful. I thought I was a whole lot maturer than I really was as a fly fisher, failing to realize that I had just begun to skim the surface of learning the intricacies of fly line mending. Such as, determining when or when not a mend was called for during a drift, mend timing and form.

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Technical tips from Southern NZ

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By Chris Dore
Whilst I enjoy chasing big fish in the backcountry here in New Zealand, there isn’t actually much to it: Find a fish. Put your fly in front of him, and strike.

It’s the smaller, hatch-driven streams that offer the challenge for me, the technical presentations their finicky trout require and often ‘outside of the box’ thinking. Straight line presentations rarely succeed and so slack line casts, chosen to beat drag and deliver your fly naturally (or not) are mandatory.

Today, Simon Chu and I visited a rather technical stream in the deep south known for its wary browns. It was a fun day shared with a good mate but we certainly needed to bring our A game. In the end we hooked 2 dozen fish between us on a range of lightweight nymphs and film flies.

HERE ARE A FEW TRICKS WHICH HELPED US TODAY:

– Make every presentation count. Each cast needs to be

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Carp on the Fly – 12 Q&A’s to Get You Ready

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Good friend and fly fishing guide, Ryan Dunne has been capitalizing on the growing carp buzz by fly anglers lately.

Ryan commented, “I’ve seen a significant increase in carp fishing inquiries the last two years, and when the dog days of summer arrive and the trout fishing bite goes south, I now opt for poling my skiff and guiding my clients to carp on my local rivers and lakes”. Thank you Ryan for taking the time to sit down with Gink & Gasoline to answer twelve frequently asked questions about fly fishing for carp.

Have you found certain colors of fly patterns to be more effective than others?
I find that the water conditions and ambient light conditions dictate which color is more effective. I typically stick to four different colors when tying carp flies. They are black, brown, olive, and orange. Although the majority of my flies are tied in the aforementioned colors, I do tie with other colors as well.

Have you found certain fly tying materials (synthetics or natural) that carp seem to dislike?
I haven’t noticed a difference in carp behavior towards either type of material. However, most of my fly patterns contain a combination of both synthetic and natural fly tying materials.

What are a couple of your favorite go-to carp flies?
My two favorite patterns are the Carp Carrot and Carp Dragon.

Is the weight of your fly patterns critical and if yes, when do you prefer heavier flies?
Weight is definitely a key part to my subsurface carp patterns. Feeding carp rarely stay in one place, so you want to get your fly in the feeding zone as quick as possible. Water depth will dictate the weight of my patterns. I find that bead-chain and dumbbell eyes in various sizes are ideal for carp patterns.

When would you say is the most consistent time to go carp fishing?

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