5 Reasons People Don’t Catch As Many Trout As They Should

6 comments / Posted on / by

By Kyle Wilkenson

These 5 bad habits will keep you from catching the fish you deserve.

Whether I’m guiding or working in the shop, one thing rings true– I talk to a lot of anglers. Living in Denver, a lot of these anglers have made it past the ‘beginner’ stage but still aren’t catching as many fish as they’d like, or with the consistency they’d like. It is not enough in fly-fishing to simply get comfortable with your clinch knot and roll cast and expect the numbers of fish you’re catching to increase dramatically. I guide a lot of our customers who fall into this category– let’s call it ‘intermediate– and over the years it seems we always end up working on the same 5 things.


1. They Cast First and Look Second. I started with this reason because, in my opinion, it is the one thing people have the most trouble wrapping their head around. In reality, the correct order would be Look First. Cast Second. This is particularly true if you fish anywhere that presents itself with sight fishing opportunities. Whenever you approach the river, take a minute (or sometimes literally several minutes) and study the water. You’ll be amazed how many times there will be fish right at your feet, ready to eat your fly. More often than not though, people walk right up to the river and charge on in without ever breaking stride. By doing this, not only did you likely just walk through fish that could have been caught, but you also just sent them darting for the depths in a panic which can put other fish in the area on alert. Spotting fish in the water is not an ‘easy’ skill and is not something you learn to do in one day. Sure, we guides may make it look easy some days to spot fish wherever we walk, but I promise you this skill was hard-earned. Start making it a point to study the water looking for fish and once you have those first few successes, you’ll never look at the river the same way again.

2. They Don’t watch the bubbles. If you’ve never paid attention before to the speed of the bubbles on the surface versus to the speed your indicator,,when nymphing, it’s time to start. Simply put, the indicator NEEDS to be floating slower than the bubbles on the surface and here’s why. When it comes to nymphing, most of the time the fish you’re targeting are going to be sitting very tight to the bottom. The water on the bottom of the river is moving slower than the water on the surface. If your indicator is floating the same speed as the bubbles on the surface then this means your flies are whizzing by the trout at an unnatural rate of speed, if they’re even getting down into the zone at all (which they’re likely not). This problem can easily be fixed by

Read More »

Facebook, A Matter of Life and Death

8 comments / Posted on / by

“Gone Fishing! Great way to start the New Year with a little father / son outing.”

That’s what Harry Murray’s Facebook status read on New Year’s day. I was thrilled, and confused. You see, I had heard through the fly fishing grapevine the Harry had passed away. For those of you who do not know, Harry is the Dean of Virginia fly fishing. Although I don’t know Harry personally we have a lot of connections. His fly shop in Edinburg, VA opened in 1962, the year I was born. My grandfather knew Harry and frequented his shop back when it was a pharmacy. (Harry is a pharmacist who ended up in the fly fishing business.) I still have some of Harry’s flies in the old pill bottles he used to pack them in. It was Harry who introduced my good friend Gary Lacey to bamboo rod making. Gary is now one of the best rod makers in the world and taught me to make rods fifteen years or so ago. When I heard that he had passed I couldn’t believe it. I just wasn’t ready for a world without Harry Murray.

It made me think of the morning last year when I answered my phone at eight a.m. To hear my good friend Andrew Bennett, breathless on the other end. He wasn’t really talking and it was clear something was wrong. It spooked me because Andrew is as tough a guy as you are likely to meet. Not easily shaken up. “Are you alright?”

Read More »

The Magic of Soft Hackles

14 comments / Posted on / by


Like the shark, the soft hackle is one of the oldest of its ilk, and like those ancient predators, it has evolved very little from its inception. Like the shark, it is a deadly design that could not be improved upon. Take, for example, the Kebari flies used by tenkara anglers for hundreds of years. Basically Soft Hackles with a reverse hackle. So effective, that traditional tenkara anglers only fish one pattern. Many modern fly anglers overlook traditional Soft Hackle patterns that are as effective today as ever.

There are two primary reasons for the effectiveness of the soft hackle. For starters, it’s the ultimate impressionistic pattern. It looks like almost everything on the aquatic menu. A fish who is looking for something specific is very likely to see it in a soft hackle. The second reason is, there’s just no wrong way to fish one. If you struggle with getting a drag free drift, a soft hackle is a very forgiving pattern. As long as it is in the water, it will produce fish.


As I said, there is no wrong way to fish these flies, but there are some proven tactics you can employ. For starters, dead drifting the fly as a nymph is never a bad plan. The Soft Hackle is as effective in this role as any pattern. That said, the dead drift does not take advantage of some of the pattern’s unique properties.

Perhaps the most common and most productive presentation for a Soft Hackle is the swing. The hackle has a tendency to trap an air bubble making the fly a natural emerger pattern. There are tying techniques, which I will go into, that enhance this effect. When fished deep and swung to the surface, the glowing air bubble inside the hackle is more than any trout can resist. One of my favorite ways to rig this pattern is to drop it about sixteen inches behind a Wooly Bugger with some weight in front of the Bugger. Drift the team deep through a run then lift them to the surface or quarter them down and across and let then swing and hold on.

When fishing from a boat, it’s very effective to cast a Soft Hackle straight across the current and retrieve it slowly, about four inches at strip. A hand-twist retrieve works well. This is also effective when teamed with a Bugger. Even more fun,

Read More »

Hook Sets Are Free

5 comments / Posted on / by

By Justin Pickett


Surprised, I look back at my buddy. “What was that?”

To which he replies, “What?”

“Why didn’t you set the hook?”

He came back at me with what many anglers often do in this situation, “I thought it was bottom.”

He THOUGHT he had just been momentarily stuck on the bottom of the streambed, so he didn’t feel the need in ruining his drift by setting the hook, when, in reality, he likely just missed out on hooking up with a trout.

Thinking and knowing are two very different things. Unless you can physically see your fly/flies drifting through the column, you certainly can’t assume that your fly is snagged on the bottom each time your indicator bobs under the water. So what should you do?

Set the hook!

Read More »

Don’t Ride the Brakes During Your Fly Casting

4 comments / Posted on / by

Are you finding that you’re lacking distance and falling short of your target with your fly casting?

Is your power and line speed insufficient? If the answer is yes, I bet you’re also getting a fair amount of tailing loops or dreaded wind knots aren’t you? Come on, be honest. There’s absolutely nothing to be ashamed of if you’re periodically falling into this category with your fly casting. Believe me when I say, you’re not at all alone. I see it regularly on the water guiding, and most of the time anglers struggling with these problems usually are only doing one thing wrong with their fly casting. Nine times out of ten, in this scenario, anglers are decelerating their fly rod during their forward cast, back cast, or even both, in some cases. What you need to be doing to fix this problem is smoothly accelerating your fly rod during your casting stroke, making sure you’re stopping the rod at it’s fastest point. This will allow your fly rod to distribute the energy loaded during your cast efficiently, and you’ll have plenty of power (line speed) to reach your targets.


This past fall I was fishing big attractor dry flies with a client of mine. There were plenty of big fish willing to rise to our offerings, but to get them to eat, we had to stay far back and make long casts to them. Otherwise they’d spot us and spook. My client, a capable fly fisherman with strengths in short presentations and roll casts, developed a weakness for distance, when a head wind picked up. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t get the distance needed to present his dry fly ahead of the fish. Several minutes we worked a prime piece of water that I knew had some eager fish looking up, but we got no takes. My client turned to me and said, “They must not like this fly pattern”. I replied, “You may be right man”, and I handed him the nymph rig and pointed upstream to our next fishing spot. But what I really wanting to say is, “No, the fly pattern is good, you’re just not getting the fly anywhere close to your target”.

There are times when the best thing you can do

Read More »

You went fishing where? 

5 comments / Posted on / by

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.     

Read More »

Fly Fishing Runoff Can Mean Fish On

4 comments / Posted on / by

by Johnny Spillane


Here in the Rocky Mountain this is a relatively common experience. It can happen for a number of reasons, huge rainstorms, someone doing river work above you or just your normal spring runoff. Don’t fret; while it might not be ideal, here are a few tips that can help you find some fish.

If the water is only slightly off color, you can basically use the same flies that you would if it was clear, just make everything a size or two larger. Instead of a size 18, put on a 16 or a 14. If that is not working, try adding a little bit more flash to your rig. We typically use flies with very little flash, but if the water is off color it can make a big difference in the amount of fish you stick just by changing to something that will reflect a little more light. If you were using a pheasant tail, try tying on a flash back pheasant tail and sometimes that is the only thing you will need to change.

If the water looks like chocolate milk, go big and go flashy. Those size 22 zebra midges that you planned on tying to 6x, that aint gonna work. I like to tie on a large white zonker and dead drift it with some sort of big buggy stonefly like a Pats Rubber leg. In off color water, fish will lose some of their inhibitions and hit anything that they can see. You just have to make sure that they see it. This is also a great time to experiment with different streamers that make noise, anything that will help draw a fish towards you fly.

Fishing runoff can also be one of the best times to hit a river. If it is fully blown, it might be better to explore other options but if a river is on the downside of its peak flows and it is starting to clear up, fishing can be phenomenal. Fish that are spread out all over the river during normal flows will congregate in areas of softer water during runoff and usually if you find one fish, you find 20. When the river is really high

Read More »

Tim Rajeff’s Abstract Hyper- Distance Theory of Fly Casting

15 comments / Posted on / by

Watch the Video!


The name Rajeff rings out in the world of competitive fly casting. Brothers Tim and Steve have been a force of nature for decades, holding a slew of records between them. Like any siblings, there’s been a little competition too.

“In order to beat my brother, I had to learn a whole new way of casting,” Tim told me.

Tim did eventually best his brother with a style of casting he playfully refers to as “Abstract Hyper-Distance Theory”

“It’s abstract because you would never fish that way,” he explains.

Still, much of this casting technique has made it into real fly fishing. Some of the best casters I know use Tim’s technique very effectively in their fly fishing. It’s not for the faint of heart but if you are looking to throw long casts, even in heavy wind, this will help you do it.


Read More »

Trailer Tires And Dog Logic

11 comments / Posted on / by

What could be better than a beach vacation with my wife and my dog?

I can barely remember the last time Kathy and I took a beach vacation. We are both far more comfortable with the idea of work than relaxing on the beach. It was certainly long before we had Josie, our little potcake dog I brought home from the Bahamas. This would be Josie’s first trip to the beach since I scooped her out of the sand of South Andros. It’s hard for me to picture this trip getting any better, then my buddy Scott offers his flats skiff.

“You should take the Silver King.”

Generosity is Scott’s defining character trait, and although I am reluctant, it’s an offer I can’t refuse. I know he needs hours on the boat to keep it in shape and the idea of spending a couple of half days casting to redfish is just too good to pass up. I don’t protest too much before accepting his offer.

As usual, the day of our departure sneaks up on us. We respond to being unprepared by over preparing. A last minute Costco run yields more food, wine, and liquor than a Mardi Gras Krewe could use. We pack my Sequoia to the gills. I lube the bearings on the trailer, do a little last minute work on the trailer lights and we are on the road by lunch time. Everything is smooth sailing until we get nearly to the Alabama state line and I feel a vibration coming from the trailer.

Ten seconds of vibration, then nothing for another ten and the tire explodes. Not a flat, a total explosion. I’ve never seen a tire go off like that. Josie nearly comes out of her skin. I ease over to the shoulder and start digging through the food, liquor, snorkel gear and fishing tackle for a jack. I always carry a handful of tools on the road, so I’m pretty set for the job. A bottle jack under the axle and a quick tire change. Thank God Scott has a spare. We’re back on the road pretty quickly. I stop at the first gas station to check the air in the spare and top it off. A minor hiccup and everything seems fine until a few minutes later the trailer starts to shimmy side to side. I call Scott on the phone.

“Have you had any issues with the trailer? We blew a tire and now I have a weird shimmy going on.”

“Yeah, those tires are only good for about a year and they are four years old.”

Read More »

Arrogant. Selfish. Proud. A Wyoming Fisherman in the American South

7 comments / Posted on / by

I spend a lot of time fishing with my buddies out west. Frankly, I’m spoiled. My western friends show me some pretty outstanding fishing when I’m out their way. It’s very seldom that I get the chance to reciprocate. Few of my friends from the west find their way to my neck of the woods. When I made the acquaintance of Jackson Engels, a talented fly anger from Wyoming, and he mentioned he was visiting North Carolina, I was excited to show off some of my water for a change.

Jackson and I had a great day on the water and he brought some Wyoming whiskey that helped. Later I got to thinking. What does a North Carolina trout stream look like to a guy from Wyoming? I emailed Jackson and asked for his thoughts. I told him I was thinking of writing a piece for G&G. His reply was so well written I decided to share it with you as he wrote it. In his words, from his heart.

For the record, Jackson did not strike me as arrogant, selfish or proud. Thanks Jackson, for a great day on the water, for the whiskey and for sharing your thoughts on our day.



Arrogantly, I don’t like fishing anywhere but Wyoming. Selfishly, I don’t want anyone else fishing my Wyoming streams. Proudly, I KNOW the people of Wyoming are the most genuine and generous in the country.

Weeks prior to my trip, sarcastic farewells actually started to scare me. Maybe my friends were right, maybe a trip to Georgia/North Carolina to meet a fishing HERO…ahem “fishing guide”…ahem “fishing bum” was a a bad idea. Surely jokes about canoes and banjos weren’t really starting to concern me? And holy hell, squealing like a pig! What am I doing? Where am I going? Trout fishing in the South? Does that even exist? There’s no such thing! This Louis Cahill is going to kill me and bury me next to some backwoods moonshine shed!! HELP!!!

Read More »