Familiar Waters, New Predators

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“The last thing I expected to see was this big male brown trout becoming food.”

By this time, in any normal year, I am done with trout fishing. Not that I don’t enjoy it but water temperatures here in the South reach near-lethal levels in the summer and it doesn’t feel responsible to target trout under those conditions. Fortunately, a couple of my local rivers offer me a stellar alternative.

As local lakes heat up, striped bass move into the rivers for cooler water and, I suppose, to satisfy their anadromous instincts. These fish are big, strong fighters, and difficult to target with a fly. Pretty much everything I like in a fish. Once June rolls around, I spend most of my local fishing time focusing on them.

The problem is, this has been anything but a normal year. My local river, the Chattahoochee, has been a raging torrent of mud since early spring. Heavy rains, nearly every day, have kept the river un-fishable for almost the entire season. By last week, I desperately needed some time in my drift boat so I planned a quick trip to a favorite Tennessee tailwater. My buddies Geoff Murphy and S.C.O.F. editor Dave Grossman joined me for a two-day float.

Repair work on the downstream dam have the river on a low flow and rain has colored the water. Conditions are far from perfect but I’m excited to target some of the big brown trout that inhabit these waters. I showed up with a pretty anemic selection of dry flies and nymphs and two boxes full of big streamers. I’m ready for a challenge.

Geoff and Dave have been picking up some fish on beetle patterns and suffers but I haven’t had so much as a look at my streamer. Geoff gets a rainbow in the head of a big deep pool and quickly releases it. As soon as the fish hits the water a commotion starts.

A large dark form comes up out of the deep hole and runs the little rainbow down.

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Making The Connection- Saltwater

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Watch the Video!

By Louis Cahill

How do you connect your leader to fly line when the pressure is really on?

This is sure to be a lively topic. I wasn’t aware this was such a hot button topic until I published an article by Devin Olsen titled, “Making The Connection,” and watched the comment section light up. Unfortunately a couple of readers missed the point completely. All too often, anglers are more interested in talking about how they do things than they are in learning something new.

Well, talking about how I do things is my job so here we go, I guess. I got to thinking about this after I made the mistake of responding to a post on Facebook. I know, what was I thinking? An angler was puzzling about the coating of his fly line separating from the core. He was using a nail knot to connect his leader to the fly line for bonefishing, and I made the comment that a nail knot was not a good choice for saltwater.

He responded, “I’ve been using a nail Knot for 20 years and never had a problem before now!”

Well, now he’s having a problem. Sure you can get away with lots of choices that aren’t the best choices, but when do you think the problem is going to happen? When you hook a half-pound schoolie or when you stick a 10-pound bruiser? I don’t know about you, but I want everything working in my favor, every cast.

Your fly line is a composite of two materials. A coating formed over some kind of core. The material of each varies depending on the line and the manufacturer. Think of your fly line as an electrical wire with a copper core and plastic insulation. A nail knot pinches the coating to the core. When you apply pressure to the leader, you’ve made a wire stripper. Pressure from the fish stretches the coating and not the core. You’re asking for a failure.

A nail knot is fine for species like trout.

Your tippet will generally fail long before your nail knot. Regardless, I believe in always making the best choice when it come to rigging. For my money, there are two good options for attaching line to leader in saltwater, where your connection is really going to get tested.

One good choice is

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Stocked Brook Trout – Strip it, Skate it, Swing it

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I’M VERY FORTUNATE TO HAVE A GREAT TROUT STREAM NEAR BY THAT OPERATES A DELAYED HARVEST PROGRAM (CATCH AND RELEASE FISHING BY ARTIFICIAL FLIES ONLY) THAT STARTS IN THE FALL EVERY YEAR, AND RUNS INTO THE EARLY SUMMER.

I love visiting this trout stream because the DNR stocks big male and female brook trout, some of which, can push well over twenty inches. To consistently catch these beautiful brookies, I usually have to experiment with different types of flies and presentation methods to find out what’s the best option for the day’s fishing. Sometimes all I need is a simple drag free drift with a dry fly or nymph to catch them. Other times, the brook trout will completely ignore my dead drifted flies and I’m forced to impart extra action and movement on my flies to trigger bites. When I can’t get stocked brook trout to rise to my dry fly or take my nymphs dead drifted, I’ll then try fishing tactics like stripping a streamer, skating a dry fly or swinging a tandem nymph rig. For some reason, the added action and movement, often will trigger reaction strikes from stocked brook trout that have lock jaw. Moving your fly upstream, and causing it to make a wake, be it a dry fly or wet fly is another technique that can work wonders. Everyday can be different, so it’s important that you figure out what kind of presentation and type of fly the brook trout want to help you find success. Now that I’ve gone over how movement can trigger bites with the stocked brook trout, let’s talk about each in a little more detail.

TECHNIQUE #1 – TRY STRIPPING STREAMERS WHERE THE BROOKIES ARE LOCATED

I’ll never forget a day on the water with my good friend Joel Dickey several years ago, where he landed two brook trout well over 22 inches with a streamer. They were the biggest stocked brook trout I had ever laid my eyes on in the Southeast, and the only thing that proved effective for catching them that day, was retrieving a streamer across their noses erratically. Try fishing brightly colored streamers that incorporate flash for stocked brook trout. Multi-colored streamer patterns with yellow, orange and blue have served me well over the years. Take an attractor approach when tying or purchasing your streamers, you don’t need to fish natural looking streamers that resemble the local sculpins, crayfish or baitfish.  These can work also, but I’ve found streamers that are colored loudly get the most attention. Your streamers don’t need to be very big either. A two to three-inch streamer is all you need to get the job done. Just keep in mind that the brook trout will not always be fooled by your streamers. I provided this technique first, because right after brook trout are stocked, they usually are suckers for streamers. After being caught with them a few times though, they start to wise up, and will chase but not always eat streamers. Try streamers where you can locate brook trout or know it’s good water for brook trout (usually slow moving runs or tails of pools), and if you don’t have any luck, be ready to try other types of flies and techniques.

TECHNIQUE #2 – TRY SKATING A BIG ATTRACTOR DRY FLY

Skating big dry flies across the surface of the water can be highly effective for stocked brook trout. I like to fish large dry flies that float well and have enough bulk that they’ll create a nice V-wake when I’m skating and twitching them. A bright foam body with rubber legs, stacked deer hair and a palmered grizzly hackle feather works well. If you don’t tie flies, a

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15 Tips For Effective Fly-Fishing From A Drift Boat

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It’s easy to become spoiled to fly-fishing from a drift boat.

A good drift boat is a perfect fly fishing machine. It offers anglers a tactical advantage over the fish in just about every situation. I’ve owned a drift boat for some time. Every time I hook my Adipose up behind the truck, I get a warm feeling. I might love that boat too much.

Still, I remember when all of my trout fishing was done on foot and I remember how alien the drift boat felt the first time I stepped aboard. I see it even now, when I invite new anglers out on the boat. I figured it was past time for me to do something about it.

HERE’S MY 15 TIPS FOR MORE EFFECTIVE FLY-FISHING FROM A DRIFT BOAT.

Know your right from left

If you are not familiar with the terms, river-right and river-left, you may struggle with your guide’s instruction. River right and left are always oriented from the perspective of looking downstream. If you are looking downstream, river-right is to your right. If you are looking upstream, river-right is on your left.

Don’t cast over the boat

This seems obvious but I see anglers struggle with it all the time. There are times when you just have to adapt your casting to boat position and conditions. If you’re a right hand caster fishing from the front of the boat, to river right, you are going to have to make some accommodations. I prefer to present my fly with a back cast in this situation but there are other options, like a comb cast.

Whatever you do, resist the urge to cast over the boat. You will inevitably end up hooking someone. You might pull it off for a couple of casts, but soon you’ll get lazy or throw a bad loop or catch a gust of wind and there will be blood. Practice your back cast presentation. It will pay off.

Your water is downstream

Probably the most common mistake I see is anglers fishing

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The Good Old Days Are Back

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By Louis Cahill

I thought maybe you could use a little good news for Christmas.

Fly anglers have become pretty used to bad news where fisheries and conservation are concerned. It seems everywhere you look fisheries are in decline. From steelhead rivers in the Pacific North West to the Florida Everglades and a host of great water in-between, as well as many fisheries around the globe. It’s easy to believe we are watching the inevitable decline of fishing as we know it.

I’m not always so positive about it myself. I have said many times that I feel fortunate to experience the outdoors in a way that future generations will likely not. I don’t know if you can call that pessimistic. It’s a glass half full outlook, but it’s still only half a glass. At any rate, the last year has given me cause for hope. I am actually watching a fishery get better and I couldn’t be more thrilled.

I’m speaking specifically of South Andros in the Bahamas. South Andros is kind of my home water. I’ll fish there five weeks this season and I can’t say I spend that many days a year on the river that runs by my house. It has been my favorite place to fish for over a decade and in the last twelve months I’ve seen a change.

It has been an incredible big fish season for bonefish. I can’t remember a time in ten years when I have seen as many seven to ten pound fish on the flats. I was there with a group just this month and it seemed that someone landed a fish in that range every day. Even me. In fact, earlier in the year, I hooked the biggest bonefish I’ve ever seen. We got a good look at it, even though I didn’t land it. My guide estimated it at fifteen pounds. 

Permit sighting are up as well. South Andros is not thought of as a permit fishery but

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Reece’s Big Bandit

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By Bob Reece

THE COMBINATION OF SIMPLICITY AND EFFECTIVENESS ARE APPRECIATED BY MANY FLY TIERS.

Constructed from three major body materials, the Big Bandit epitomizes this concept. Its simple construction eases the time invested in the tying process while its effectiveness on the water justifies a place in your streamer box.

In the world of double articulated streamers, the Big Bandit is a mid-sized model. Its profile effectively imamates creek chubs, young sucker fish, shiners and more. The ingredients of rabbit strips, MFC Sexi-Floss and Hareline Ripple Ice Fiber; create a realistic and reflective pattern. Capped off with a Fly Men Fish Mask, this streamer has the capability to match numerous bait fish species and subsequently draw large fish.

Long shanked hooks have frequently been used in the creation of streamer patterns. While they may not impact the effectiveness of the fly in in terms of takes, they do reduce the likelihood of fish-to-net success. The foundation at the heart of this pattern helps to turn the odds in the angler’s favor. Owner Mosquito hooks are designed with a short shank and offset hook point. The short shank reduces the leverage that the fish can apply during the fight. This reduction in leverage also reduces the chance of the hook coming lose. In addition to this, the offset point increases the likelihood of connecting with the fish on the set.

I’ve never spoken to a fly fisher that is opposed to bringing more large fish to net. As long as you as you fall into that category, the Big Bandit should find its way to the foam lining of your streamer box. Mix and match the material colors of this pattern to the norms of your local waters and begin reaping the rewards.

WATCH THE VIDEO AND LEARN TO TIE REECE’S BIG BANDIT.

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The cutthroat and the sweet sixteen

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“HE IS OUR LEGACY. HE WAS LEFT HERE FOR US BY A LOVING FATHER, IF YOU BELIEVE IN THAT SORT OF THING, AND ONCE HE IS GONE WE WILL NEVER BE ABLE TO REPLACE HIM.”

My friend Gary Lacey did me a disservice while shooting clays one day. I fell one shell short for the round and he handed me his beautiful Beretta SO3 EELL to finish the round. I wish I had never touched that gun.

What a beautiful sensation it was when that elegant little side lock fell into place against my shoulder and the bright orange disk disappeared in a puff of black powder. How could I not covet this gun that I would never be able to afford? As pleasant to look at as to shoot the Beretta, with its lavish engraving and gold inlayed pheasant and duck, was a far cry from my clunky old Browning automatic.

Square jawed and utilitarian, it’s a poor gun for the job. The Browning A-5 Sweet Sixteen was never made for shooting clays, not that it matters, I’m not very good at it. Still, I enjoy shooting my Sweet Sixteen. Of all the guns I own, it is the most dear to me.

The gun belonged to my maternal Grandfather. He wasn’t, I suppose, what you would call a sportsman. He fished and hunted but when he did it was for food, not for sport. He taught me to shoot squirrels and catch sunfish. He taught me to

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The Single-Hand Snap T Cast: Video

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Here’s a powerful spey cast you can make with your single-hand fly rod.

The snap T is a familiar cast to any two-hand angler. It’s one of the essential spey casts, but its not just for the long rod. In fact, once you start using this cast with your single-hand rods, you’ll be shocked how often you use it.

The beautiful thing about the snap T is that it requires virtually no room for a backcast and is remarkably powerful. It will have you fishing water you’d never reach with a roll cast.

WATCH THIS VIDEO AND LEARN TO MAKE THE SNAP T CAST WITH A SINGLE-HAND FLY ROD.

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Last Cast Bonefish

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Bonefishing, for me, is the purest form of the drug.

I’m just returning from the first of three G&G Bonefish Schools in the Bahamas. This trip was more of a reunion than a school, with better than half of the anglers returning for the second or third time. I’m feeling pretty spoiled having spent a week in my favorite place, doing what I love with great friends. It’s incredibly rewarding to see these guys grow from complete beginners to really accomplished anglers.

We had a great week on South Andros. The island was spared any serious damage from hurricane Mathew and the fishery was invigorated after the storm. November is a great time for bonefishing in the Bahamas. The rains and the cooling weather bring big fish up from deep water and it’s a great time to land a trophy. This year we also had the super moon. The big tides make wade fishing scarcer but they bring out the big fish as well. We had one day of tough weather but the rest of the week was wonderful.

My friend, and G&G contributor, Owen Plair joined us on this week. A rockstar redfish guide from Beaufort, SC, this was Owen’s first time fishing the Bahamas. He was like a kid in a candy store and put his keen eyes and casting skills to work right away, landing a nice bonefish on the first cast of the trip. Several mornings, in fact, it seemed like we were on fish as quickly as we could strip our line off the reel.

Owen managed a one-in-a-million hookup on a big barracuda with his bonefish rod, while wading. The fly lodged perfectly in the corner of the cuda’s mouth and, after an aggressive fish on an eight weight, he tailed the fish expertly and, after a few photos, released it. That’s a second chance Bahamian cuda seldom see, as they are favorite table fare in spite of the risk of fish poisoning.

I love the art of targeting a hunting fish with a fly.

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Catch-and-Release Practices for Small Fish

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Handle the little guys with care if you want to catch them when they are big.

Catch-and-release practices among fly anglers are probably the best they have ever been. In part due to social media and the popularity of ideas like, “Keep ‘Em Wet.” More times than not, when you see a photo of someone holding a trophy size fish they have it cradled gently in the water. That’s great, but what about the little guys?

All of those trophy fish were small once and in order to get big they had to run a gauntlet of anglers and predators. Although there has certainly been improvement in the way the average angler handles fish, when I see one taking a beating, it’s usually a little guy. The thing is, these are the fish which are most vulnerable.

There are several common ways these small fish are mishandled.

The most common is time out of the water. While most anglers will net a big fish and let it rest in the net while they remove the hook, a net isn’t usually required for a small fish. Often they are simply snatched up to chest level by the leader. They are usually still pretty green so they squirm and make removing the hook a challenge and often spend way too much time out of the water.

There are a couple of other things that can go wrong when

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