Take The Right Fish

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AS I’VE SAID PLENTY OF TIMES I’M A DEDICATED CATCH AND RELEASE ANGLER. THAT SAID, I RECOGNIZE THAT IT’S A PERSONAL CHOICE THAT I HAVE COME TO IN MY OWN TIME.

There are a lot of good ethical anglers out there who keep a fish once in a while and although it’s not for me, there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with it. The reason I say necessarily is this: fish are not all created equal and while killing a fish can be ok, killing the wrong fish is a tragedy.

Where trout are concerned, in most places a great many of the fish we catch are hatchery raised stockers. There are a couple of things about these fish that are worth mentioning. The breeding of fish for stocking is a pragmatic endeavor. It is done with a clear cut goal in mind. To raise fish in the fastest, cheapest, easiest way possible and get them in the river. There is very little, if any, thought given to the quality of these fish.

Well, what does that mean, quality? Several things. For one, the fish are raised on a diet of high protean fish food that promotes fast growth. This yields fish that have little of the natural color found in wild fish. There are other factors that contribute to this but food plays a role. It also yields fish with unnatural proportions. Small mouths and fins but big bellies. A trout that’s shaped like a football is a poor example of it’s kind.

Hatchery fish are generally raised in concrete runs. They rub against the rough concrete and wear down their fins to nubs. Not very attractive. The runs also contribute to the lack of color. Trout, like most fish, have natural camouflage. They take on the color of their surroundings. What color is concrete? Makes sense right?

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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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IT’S IMPORTANT TO KNOW YOUR OPPONENT, AND TO THAT END IT’S GOOD TO KNOW HIS NEIGHBORHOOD.
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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Garner’s White Trash Bass Fly

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WANT TO CATCH BIG BASS?

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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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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The Persistent Angler

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By Louis Cahill

Is there any point in continuing to pound a fish who just won’t eat?

The cool thing about fly fishing is that it offers such diversity. There is a species or a style of fishing every angler can enjoy. If you don’t like trout fishing, you may like bass or bonefish. If drifting dry flies isn’t your thing, stripping streamers may be. There is no wrong answer to the question, how should I fish? We all get something different out of fly fishing and, as long as you’re having fun and being respectful of the resources and your fellow angler, I say go for it! 

Over the years, what I get from fly fishing has evolved, and it hasn’t evolved in the same way for every kind of fly fishing. I freely admit that, in some ways and for some fish, I’ve gotten lazy. I’m not proud of it but I don’t apologize for it either. Trout fishing specifically has become more of an excuse to hang out with my friends or my dog more than a goal oriented pursuit. I’m admittedly more interested in having fun than I am catching huge fish or a lot of fish. I guess that’s why I often find myself just as happy watching a buddy fish a run. I think it’s also why I’m perfectly happy walking away from a stubborn fish. The thing is, I admire anglers who don’t.

I’ve known a lot of anglers who really enjoy catching the uncatchable fish. A couple of them so focused they could care less about the other fish happily rising in a run and spend the bulk of the day butting heads with the stubborn fish who won’t eat. 

The cool thing is that these guys, the really good ones, usually get that fish.

One of those anglers is Justin Pickett, no stranger to regular readers. Justin is one of those guys who almost always gets that problem fish to eat. I’ve watched him work a single fish for three hours. Like a sniper, dug in and waiting for a shot. When he gets locked in like that you may as well get comfortable. Have some lunch, take a nap, read a book, or just clip a walkie-talkie to his belt and go see the rest of the river. It’s going to take a minute.

You may think that’s cool or you may think it’s crazy but the results are hard to argue with. That fish he spent three hours on, while the rest of us had lunch, was a 32 inch brown trout and, yes, he landed it. There were four of us and no one thought that fish would eat, except Justin. I’ve never seen a more deserved fish.

The thing I think makes the case for persistence is

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Streamer Fishing – Hands on the Line at All Times

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Streamer fishing is a great way to catch both numbers and trophy class fish, but it doesn’t come without some negatives. One of the biggest negatives with streamer fishing is you don’t always get solid hookups every time a fish eats your streamer. One of the biggest contributors to this is when a fish slams your streamer in between strikes and you’re caught off guard. Sometimes, the timing is so bad there’s nothing you can do about it, while other times, it’s 100% the anglers fault due to lolly-gagging around with their stripping hand.

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