The Two-Rod Bonefish Solution

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By Louis Cahill

Saltwater fly-fishing is condition dependent, and conditions often change without warning. That’s why I carry two fly rods.

Your strategy for presenting a fly to bonefish can change radically depending on conditions. Bonefishing is always challenging, but not always for the same reasons. That’s what keeps it fun. Having the right setup for the conditions really helps you overcome the challenges, so let’s look at those challenges and how to be prepared for whatever mother nature throws at you.

The most decisive factor in any flats fishing is wind. Most anglers dread fishing on a windy day, but they miss that wind when it’s gone. Making a good cast and turning your leader over in wind can be a real challenge, but the wind gives you an advantage, too. Wind disturbs the surface of the water, making it less likely that your presentation will spook the fish. This allows you to drive a powerful cast into the wind, if you have a fly rod and line that are up to the task.

On days when there is no wind, bonefish can be unbelievably spooky, leaving anglers frustrated as fish run for cover at their false casting. On days like that, your ultra-fast fly rod and front loaded line are a liability, not an asset. So what is the bonefish angler to do? Well, my answer is carry two rods.

My common quiver consists of two 8-weights. One for windy conditions and one for calm. Each of these rods is paired with a fly line which will perform in these given conditions. That way, no mater what happens, I’m ready. These two rods look very similar under casual observation but they perform very differently.

Windy day setups

Your windy day rod needs to be firm and fast. It’s totally ok for this rod to be a little heavier. We aren’t looking for the kind of recovery rate that comes

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Small Wonder, Middle Georgia’s Shoal Bass

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By Justin Pickett
I slip on my guard socks and wrench down on my boots until I’m happy with the fit. No need for waders today. The deep south humidity is smothering as I place my Buff around my neck. I dig through the mess that is my gear bag, and pull out my reel and place it on my six weight rod. I’m anxious as I slip the fly line through the guides, but I know that haste often does not lead to happiness. “Slow it down, take your time,” I remind myself.
I peer into my fly box, looking at all of its different inhabitants. Flies I’ve either bought, tied, found, or that have been gifted to me. The colors, the variety of materials. The unique purpose each pattern serves. There are several flies that have not so much as kissed the water, and a select few that have some serious frequent flyer miles. I don’t know why I stare for so long. It’s almost comical. I knew what fly I was going to fish with before I left the house.

I smirk and shake my head as I grab and inspect my go-to fly. It’s a simple fly, but a deadly one. It is a variant of an old, tried and true pattern. The materials reside around a size #4 streamer hook and are dark olive in color. The free flowing, marabou tail has just a bit of flash added to aide in piquing the interest of the fish that I seek. The body is wound with hackled feathers, and within the body are several rubbery legs, protruding from each side just before the nickel conehead. Ah, that’s where the life of this fly exists. The long, webby schlappen and the speckled tentacles breathes this fly to life. It is not prey. It is a seeker, and find, it does. My quarry just can’t seem to resist it once it is swung through their space. Add a little dash of confidence and a pinch of mojo, and how could one go wrong? 

As I look over the bridge I can see fish rising, splashing at the surface each time they take a mayfly that has perilously drifted into their feeding lanes. Topwater isn’t my game plan though. The river is running at the perfect flow, just a touch high, and that’s just how I like it. I know this is going to be a great evening. The “magic hour” is approaching as I cinch down on my loop knot and hang my fly on the hook keeper. I set my drag. I grab my sling pack and clip my hemostats to the shoulder strap. I check again to make sure that I have my fly box and the few tippet spools that I need.

For those that fish within its banks, this location is endearingly known as “The Promised Land.” It is a

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Lighting The Way

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By Bob Reece

I leaned forward to check the UV coat that I had just applied to my finished fly.

The quick searing pain in my fore head reminded me that I had come too far. This was the last straw for me, the desk lamp that I had owned since college was on its way out. Along with its propensity to heat up, I had no idea how much my favorite lamp was adversely impacting the quality of my tying.

Having quality lighting at your fly tying station is essential for making the most of your time. Since my sentimental departure with my first tying light, I’ve embraced the use of natural spectrum lights. The two lights that I currently tie with are produced by the Ott Light company. The larger desk top model uses a bulb. Conversely the smaller and more portable model uses LED lighting. Both lights produce almost no heat.

More importantly than the reduction of heat is what these lights do for the eyes of tier. Fly tying is one of the most strenuous activities with regard to eye strain. Tying lights that produce light within the natural spectrum greatly reduce this stress. This helps to create a more positive tying experience and also allows for longer tying sessions.

In addition to a lack ocular discomfort, this genre of lights helps the tier to more accurately see the colors of the materials that they are using. That accuracy can

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Two Streamers Alaskan Guides Always Carry

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No Alaska angler should be without these two fly patterns.

If you ever plan on visiting one of those famous Alaskan fishing operations like Alaska West or if you’re more the angler who rather prefers to do it yourself, I highly recommend tying up several of these two articulated streamer patterns before your trip. These guys never failed me on the Bristol Bay watersheds of Alaska, and you’ll be set no matter what time of the season you fish. We called the black and chartreuse head streamer the “The Green Headed Monster” and it would knock them dead early to mid-season. When you found the fish it would produce every cast with a steady swing downstream and across. What a big fish magnet this guy was.

The second fly is a Flesh/Attractor streamer we dead drifted most of the time under a indicator but also we would swing it at the end of our drifts. It would produce big fish damn near anywhere mid-season on. There are lots of variations of this fly out there, this pattern was shown to me by retired alaskan guide, Sam Cornelius of Mission Creek Lodge. I nicknamed it the “Cornelius Special” out of respect. Sam was an exceptional guide and fly fisherman.

Both of these flies are very easy to tie as long as you

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Yellowhammers and Specks

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“I thought you might like these,” my brother Tom holds out an old yellowed envelope. “I found them going through some of Pete’s things.”

William Starling Cahill, who preferred to be called Pete, was my Grandfather and the man who taught me to fly fish. He’s been gone for many years now but from time to time little gems that he left behind will turn up. My brother now lives in Pete’s old house which puts him in a good position to uncover relics.

I open the envelope and into my hand spill two feathers, dark down one edge and bright yellow along the other. “Ooooohh,” I exclaim and catch Tom’s eye, “Unobtainium.”

Yellowhammer is what we call them here in the south. The Yellow Shafted Flicker, a delicate little woodpecker who’s hammering used to echo off the hills of the Southern Appalachians. He’s almost completely silent now, shotgunned to the brink of extinction. Just having those two little feathers now could land me in jail. The Yellowhammer is heavily protected, now that it’s pretty much too late.

Yellowhammer is what we call the fly too. The one that’s tied from those feathers. It’s a wild, buggy looking thing. You wouldn’t expect a trout to eat it, but they do, like there’s no tomorrow. It’s a pattern as old as the little abandoned country church I pass on the gravel mountain road that leads to the stream I don’t tell anyone about. It’s as old as the graves there in the church yard and just as forgotten, but I still fish it.

It’s the perfect fly to catch Southern Appalachian Brook Trout. The Brookie, or Speck as they used to call them, is our only native trout. Forced south from New England by the ice age long before there was an England, new or old. When the ice retreated, like lots of folks who visit the south, the brookies stayed. They evolved, adapted to their new home and, like the Scotts and Irishmen who came to these mountains, they ended up just a little different from their northern cousins.

They are as scarce as the yellowhammer now, but with none

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Keep a Backup Nymph Rig Ready

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Changing out flies on the water takes time but is often necessary to catch trout consistently all day.

Keeping a pre-rigged tandem nymph rig ready to go, will allow you to quickly change out your flies from one hole to the next and save you critical time when your fishing time is limited. They’re great to have when you find your hot fly has turned cold, when you break your rig off on a snag or find yourself with a nasty tangled mess. Let’s face it, we often find ourselves in question on the water, particularly in the first hour after we’ve wet our line. It can take some time to figure out what the trout want for the day, and by having a couple different pre-rigged tandem nymph rigs on hand, you’ll find it much more efficient to try multiple fly patterns and rigs out, and that should help you dial-in quicker and start catching trout.

Sometimes the tandem nymph rig you just caught trout with in the hole downstream, may fail to get the attention of the trout in the next hole you fish. This isn’t always the case, but sometimes for sure. In fact, this happened to me just the other day. My client had landed a fish out of the first three holes we fished in the morning with a woolly bugger lead fly and a micro san juan worm dropper. As my client worked the fourth hole of the day, the bites abruptly stopped, despite him making several great presentations and drifts. Knowing there were fish in the hole, I snipped off the rig and tied on one of my different pre-rigged nymph rigs. First cast, my client landed a trout, and he went on to catch another fish after that. If I would have stuck with the first rig, thinking the flies were fine because they worked in the previous holes, we probably wouldn’t have landed those two fish. There is no doubt there are times when trout will key in on a specific aquatic insect and become selective feeders. However, some days,

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Black and White Bahamas

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The Bahamas are beautiful, even without the stunning colors.

One of the things I love the most about fly fishing in the Bahamas are the stunning colors of the flats. I never grow tired of scanning that beautiful horizon. Still, over the years I have taken a lot of black and white photos, many of them infrared, that I love. I thought I’d share a few here. I hope you enjoy them as well.

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Fly Tying Tip: Use Contrast Colors For Your Tying Desk

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It doesn’t matter if you have been tying flies for one week or thirty years.

Chances are, right now, your tying desk is a chaotic mess of thread, feathers, furs, hooks, and beads. It’s just a fact of the tying life. Despite all of the drawers, containers, and custom pieces that are made to organize all of your tying materials, there will just about always be the scattered remnants of last night’s bourbon-fueled tying session still fluttering around the table top. And, inevitably, that one thing you always need when that new “it fly” idea hits is always missing amongst the piles of marabou trimmings and bucktail clippings. Do I have the end all solution to always keeping your desk spic and span? Nope! That’s all on you. However, I do have a great little tip to help you find the things that you need when cleaning up that tangled mess just doesn’t jive with your mood.

I own a cool roll top desk that is no doubt circa 1983. I purposely purchased a roll top desk because A) they have a ton of drawers to keep stuff in and B) I can close it up and hide the mass destruction that even a taxidermist might gawk at. However, one of the things about my roll top, as well as many others I’ve seen, are that they are often stained with dark tones to accentuate the wood. This makes for a pretty desk, but when it comes to finding a #20 hook amongst the clutter, it’s a damn nightmare.

An easy fix for this is to grab a

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Don’t Underestimate The Little Guys

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It’s bluegill time again.

Warmer temps, blooming flowers, and the buzzing sound of lawn mowers. Crazy, diehard bass anglers are trailering their $30,000 boats with their $50,000 trucks, and running 70mph across every lake in the country in order to chase after their favorite little green fish. Hell, the amount of money a bass angler may spend on gasoline this summer could probably fund a bachelor’s degree. As fishermen, we do some crazy things. Well worth it in my opinion, however, today I am standing on the bank of a local pond, three weight in hand, casting little poppers and #8 RLD’s.

This time of year is the height of the bluegill spawning season, and the best time to target the larger bluegill.
That first full moon of May is typically when most bluegill anglers mark their calendars, though you can find them on the bed as early as March and April, and as late as June. These little guys are crazy aggressive and will sometimes make you think a 5lb bass has struck when they take your fly. They’re one of my favorite species of fish to catch on the fly. Their bright colors and never-give-up attitude makes them a treat for anglers looking for some fun. I swear if these things grew to ten or fifteen pounds, they’d be the largemouth bass of the world. If only they jumped.

Much of my childhood was spent on the banks of Lake Sinclair near Milledgeville, Ga. I would spend many of my summer weekends running around in my little jon boat, chucking little Bettes poppers along the banks and submerged timber. It was where I really learned how to cast a fly rod, and where I fell in love with fly fishing. On most days, there were always bluegill willing to strike at my fly, providing the positive feedback to keep me going no matter how frustrated I may have been with my casting abilities. These little guys are certainly one of the main reasons why I kept picking up my fly rod.

The learning curve in fly fishing is sharp for most. Put a beginner on

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Persistence Pays In Silver and Brown

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By Justin Pickett

Pulling up to today’s lunch spot was a little more eventful than usual.

A morning filled with hopping from spot to spot on a panga-style boat, named Ms. Suzy, had left us starving for a solid meal and a cold beer. The day’s program was a streamer junkie’s dream. Hunting down prime water and ripping floating minnow patterns across the ripples of the Limay had already made for an exciting morning on the water. The explosive takes and hyper aggressive trout left many of us with jaws on the water, as well as frayed, tattered tippet. The first part of the day had certainly lived up to the hype, and with the hot sun beating down on us, a seat in the shade sounded amazing.

As we cruised up to grassy shore along the right bank of the river, we all took immediate notice of a large, dark, shadowy figure lying just off the bank where we had planned our dine and dash. The four of us must have seen it all at once, as we all pointed to this large creature and gawked at its size. There was no doubt that this was one of the big, migratory brown trout that begin to make their way up the river, following schools of baitfish. I thought for sure that the sound of the outboard would spook it as we idled toward the bank, but, to our surprise, this trout stayed chill as we floated by as quietly as a seventeen foot boat possibly could. Anchoring the boat quietly, we all jumped off the boat and immediately began scheming up ways that we might entice this large brown to play our game.

After surveying the trout’s lie and attitude, we decided that nymphing might be the best initial method, so we quickly strung up the only rod that wasn’t currently set up for streamer fishing: an Orvis H3D 905-4. The setup wasn’t perfect, as we weren’t exactly prepared to be doing any type of nymphing, but the rig would work. We collectively picked out a single #12 PT tied on a barbless jig hook with a brightly dubbed collar and affixed it to the end of the 3x leader that had just been hastily tied up moments prior. No indicator. This would be a very crude tight-line attempt. After checking and re-checking each knot, it was game time.

Trudging through the brush along the bank as quietly as someone being barraged with rose bush thorns (seriously… really big damn thorns) could, we found a nice spot along the bank that overlooked this brown’s current position, which made things a little tricky. Looking over to my right, I could see Willy chuckling as he tried to piece together the sleeve of his shirt after following me through the thorns.

With the commotion of a couple gringos tap dancing along the bank with anticipation, this seasoned trout had pushed a little further upstream, sliding its nose just underneath an overhanging bush. While this gave me a little more cover to move around and get situated, it also made it nearly impossible to drift a fly anywhere near him. But that wasn’t going to stop me.

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