People constantly come into the shop and ask us for instructions on how to attach braided loops, well the fine folks over at Rio have decided to make this sweet little video with instructions on how to do just that. Welded and braided loops are becoming an industry standard due to the ease of use associated with them. From Spey to Stillwater and everything in between these little Braided Loops have a use in just about every form of fly fishing.
My copy of The Curtis Creek Manifesto is starting to look a little worn and tattered. Every time one of my friends or family is seriously interested in getting into fly fly fishing or need a bit of help after a rough day on the creek, I let them borrow my “well-loved” copy.
The Curtis Creek Manifesto, written by Sheridan Anderson, is arguably one of the greatest tools for the beginner fly fisher who is overwhelmed by the world of fly fishing. This fully illustrated guide takes a light-hearted and humorous approach to the main tenants of fly fishing. Don’t get me wrong. Even though funny and cartoonish, this book is packed with rock solid information, from tackle and fly selection to Sheridan’s famous “eleven commandments of fly fishing.”
One of the things that I like most about the Curtis Creek Manifesto is that it focuses more on what you as an angler should be doing, rather than gear that you should be buying. Anderson spends a good deal of time talking about stealth, casting, and other tactics that go a long way in improving the success of the angler.
By no means is The Curtis Creek Manifesto a definitive guide to every facet of fly fishing, but it is truly amazing that a 48 page book written in 1978 can so succinctly cover all of the basics of fly fishing. In my first year of fly fishing, I read and reread it’s pages over and over again, and each time I found some new bit of information that I could work on the next time I was fishing.
Whether new to the sport or a veteran fly fisherman, The Curtis Creek Manifesto deserves a spot in your fly fishing library.
As the holidays approach here at Fishwest we tend to see a lot of folks coming in to shop for the pesky fly fisherman in the family. This situation can go one of two ways. On one hand we see people come in who have done the research and know exactly what they need: quick, easy, and painless. However, more often than not we see folks come in that are completely lost in terms of finding a gift for that special fisherman in their lives. This is where we come in and save the day. Follow these guidelines below and the results will be a holiday “home run” of sorts.
I would say that gift from a fly shop fit into three categories. Those three categories would be big ticket items, offseason utems, and the bare essentials. The bare essentials are easy to come by and these are items that a majority of anglers use. I am talking about things spools of tippet, leaders, and flies. All these things are pretty small and would fit perfectly into a stocking or a small box. The nicest part about the essentials is that they are relatively inexpensive, which means a small budget can go a long way. Even though there is nothing exciting about these gifts I will guarantee you that they will be appreciated greatly.
Next on the list would be what I would deem offseason items. By my definition these are items to pass time while your favorite fishing areas are closed for the season or Mother Nature is keeping you away. A great example of this would be the Confluence Films collection. These videos are great for both showcasing the sport of fly fishing to new anglers while also stoking the fires of long time anglers alike. Another example of this is fly tying materials. Winter is the time when a majority of anglers pass the time by tying flies and replenishing their stock of flies for the upcoming adventures. The nice thing is that these materials are also quite inexpensive so a small budget goes along way. The latest and greatest fly tying materials like Clear Cure Goo or EP Fibers are sure to make an angler happy and pass the time till the next fishing outing with relative ease.
Lastly we get to my favorite category in the Fishwest gift giving guide as deemed by me, the “big ticket” item. The Winston Rods and Hatch Reels those once and the big ticket item is a wonderful gift however they require a lot of research beforehand. However doing this research is pretty easy. Knowing where your angler likes to fish can go a long way in determining what type of gift to get them. Also be sure to ask them how they like to fish their favorite waters. Even make sure to ask the staff at the fly shop your angler frequents or even his or her fishing buddies. At that point you should have all the info to make an educated choice when it comes to picking the perfect big ticket item. I know I cannot speak for all fly fishermen but I would be ecstatic if there was a fly rod or reel under the tree for me this year.
There you have it! With this information you should be able to put a smile on the face of the fly fisherman in your life. When it comes time to pick out a gift be sure to ask the staff members here at Fishwest. We are more than happy to help. For me as a shop employee it is always extremely rewarding to help pick out a gift that you know someone will enjoy. Also if all else fails gift certificates are always an option that can be used both in shop and online.
Happy Holidays from the Fishwest staff!
Much has been written – and deservedly so – about Yellowstone National Park and its fisheries. (Take a look at Marc’s articles elsewhere in this blog for some very interesting samples.) What about the Tetons just south of Yellowstone?
Since the Tetons don’t bother with foothills, the view from the road is incredible. Rugged peaks simply erupt from sage-covered flats. And all kinds of trails lead right into these eye-popping mountains. Naturally, what makes it a complete destination – at least for the typical Pisciphilia reader – is the nearby fishing.
It’s all about the cutthroats in this part of the world. Other trout seem to be merely incidental catches. No need for any size 20 Tricos. Large, attractor dries are the usual fly shop recommendation.
I’m no expert; in fact, I’ve merely sampled the rivers around Grand Teton National Park on a couple of different trips. Nevertheless, I hope my impressions might spike your curiosity and even help you plan out a possible trip…
The Snake River: This is the one you’ve probably heard about. It’s a big, wide river with a relentless, pushy current. Don’t even think about wading across! It parallels the Tetons and then runs south. Common wisdom dictates that a drift boat is the best way to fish it. Nevertheless, it is quite possible to walk along and pick at some very juicy-looking pockets along the bank. Better yet, if you find some braids, crossing a side channel or two will lead to enough water to keep you busy all afternoon. You can even feel a little bit smug, knowing you’ll cover those enticing seams more thoroughly than the guy who zipped by in the drift boat.
The Wilson bridge access, just outside the town of Jackson, leads to a path that runs up and down the river in both directions. Locals walk their dogs there and you might have to relinquish your spot to an exuberant black Lab. Despite that, the Tetons form an impressive backdrop and you can definitely find some nice braids. I have to admit that although the numbers were okay; my biggest fish from the area was perhaps eight inches. Maybe my technique wasn’t quite dialed in?
There are other places, like boat ramps and the Moose Bridge, to access the Snake River for wading. Further researching the resources at the end of this article will likely reveal even more. Although wading is thoroughly enjoyable, the Snake offers a lot of river and a lot of scenery. On my next visit I will seriously look into the guided drift boat option.
The Hoback River: The medium-sized Hoback River follows Highway 191 and pours into the Snake south of Jackson. There are many access points along the highway and the river has a little bit of everything – shallow riffles, rocky runs, pocket water, and deep glides. The good water is much more obvious than on the Snake. It is far more wader-friendly as well and you can cross some sections quite easily. Although the holding spots might be a fair hike apart, there are definitely 8 to 14 inch trout to be had.
The Gros Ventre River: This stream is a little smaller than the Hoback and just as easy to read. It seems to follow a well-defined pattern of riffles and runs. Crossing it to optimize your drift is possible in most areas.
Despite all this, my catch rate on the Gros Ventre was almost nil. Nevertheless, I know the fish are in there and I’ll be back. In the meantime, I’ll blame my lack of success on the bull moose that wandered into the stream and forced me to detour around a couple of prime runs.
Speaking of wildlife, the Gros Ventre River runs right by Gros Ventre campground on the road to Kelly. The river is easily reachable from the road and the sage flats in this region are like an American Serengeti. On more than one occasion, bison delayed traffic as they crossed the road.
Granite Creek is a small stream that is paralleled by a good gravel road as it tumbles toward the Hoback River. It alternates between pocket water in forested sections and a classic meadow stream in picturesque valleys. (Think Soda Butte Creek with far fewer fishermen).
The meadow sections were perhaps my favorite places to fish in the entire region. Although the water looked impossibly skinny from high up on the road, there were actually all kinds of places where the bottom slipped out of sight – undercut banks, around boulders, and just below riffles – where the bottom slipped out of sight. It seemed like most of these places held fish that were extremely adept at quickly spitting out a dry fly.
Granite Creek also had a couple of bonus features built into it. One was a spectacular waterfall near the end of the road – a great place to simply admire, or cool off by splashing around. And if you cooled off too much, there were some hot springs right at the end of the road.
Miscellaneous Notes: A standard 9 foot 5 weight worked great on all the above rivers except for Granite Creek, which was more suited to an 8 foot 4 weight. When large attractors like Chernobyl Ants and Turk’s Tarantulas did not get eaten, smaller patterns like Trudes, Humpies, Irresistibles, and Goddard Caddis filled the gap. Drifting the odd nymph or swinging the odd sculpin pattern also worked.
Book: Flyfisher’s Guide to Yellowstone National Park by Ken Retallic. (It includes a chapter on the Tetons!)
Fly Shops in Jackson, Wyoming: High Country Flies and also the Snake River Angler. (Be sure to check out their websites.)
I find myself reflecting on my first international fly fishing adventure. One of my biggest concerns going in was the safe transportation of my gear to my destination. My experiences traveling around the US and internationally playing hockey have taught me to expect the worst with any checked luggage. Countless times (if….and a big if at that) I had received my hockey gear upon arrival, only to find sticks broken, helmets cracked and even things completely gone. These same fears translated to the treatment of my precious saltwater gear while traveling to South Andros in the Bahamas.
Upon doing some research I found the TSA to be more than fair when it comes to the allowance of Fly Fishing Gear. The TSA states that Fly Rods are permitted as carry-on baggage. Ultimately the airlines state that rods must be taken in a padded case or tube and must meet size requirements for checked items. In a nutshell all airlines allow the transportation of fly rods however I would not recommend trying to carry on a two piece rod. I have a feeling that wouldn’t end well. That is what four piece rods are for anyway. If you plan on carrying multiple rods I would suggest duct taping the tubes together or buying a multi rod case to avoid any confusion with gate agents regarding multiple personal items.
The biggest surprise in all of this was the TSA stance on what they consider “Tackle Equipment”. They suggest that Expensive reels or fragile tackle (aka flies) should be packed into your carry-on bag.
The 2nd tip that was brought to my attention was to dress in something that you would find yourself fishing in. In the case of tropical flats fishing a lightweight long sleeve shirt and a pair of lightweight pants are not only comfortable and easy to travel in but if you get into a bind, and your luggage is lost, you have clothes designed to protect you from the elements.
Finally when traveling through the airport it was brought to my attention that when going through security you should print out a copy of these guidelines to take with you through these checkpoints because all TSA agents may not be 100% on all the rules and regulations. For more information please be sure to visit the TSA Link Here (Thanks for the tip Jake)
Overall these rules are probably still more like guidelines for TSA & Airport security personnel to determine so prepare to be flexible, especially when it comes to the transportation of flies in carry-on bags. If these people tell you that you may not bring those items on the plane that is probably the end of the discussion. I personally would not suggest arguing with TSA or security agents. One of two things will happen at that point. Option one is you going back to your airline’s customer service desk and ask them to recall your checked bag. The second option is that you just leave your flies with the TSA and they go off into the TSA abyss. Either way both of these options will have a negative outcome.
Wherever your fly fishing adventures may take you please do not allow getting to your destination to be a hindrance on your trip. Wherever your adventures take you please have a great time, travel safely, and most importantly… Enjoy the experience & Tight Lines!
A recent trick to winter flyfishing depends simply upon the weather. For instance, last winter there was hardly any snow—so little, in fact, that I’ve never seen a winter that dry in the central Rockies in my lifetime. I’d call it a drought. This year’s winter started with parallel results, but finally it began to snow, albeit a couple months later than usual. But once it got going, it snowed every few days—through December & January. By the middle of January, it seemed like the foremost trick to winter flyfishing was simply finding some open, un-frozen water to fish. We did have a dry spell at the end of January through mid-February, but the idea still amounted to finding fishable water.
Does fly selection make a difference? Maybe…research in recent years points out that black, blue, and fluorescents are the most visible colors in deep water; many winter anglers will testify to the effectiveness of patterns in these colors. Biologists do not exactly understand what trout see, but what I find truly interesting is that trout not only see color—they can identify some colors that are beyond human visualization. In particular, trout can sense shades of red and ultra violet that we cannot, and in lower light conditions. I used to think that blue was a nonsensical fly color, since I have not seen blue insects on the streams I fish, other than adult dragonflies/damselflies. However, scientists report that the fish’s capability to distinguish minute pigmentation differences is greatest within the blues.
A lot of experts say that trout seek deep water and become less active in the winter, which may explain (at least in part) why highly visible flies are effective. However, Levi, a buddy of mine who has been ice fishing for years says trout can actually feed aggressively; you just have to hit it at the right time. He also says Pam cooking spray helps de-ice rod guides, and advises to prepare for extreme weather. Cold winter weather might seem like common sense, but as I said—he’s been doing it for years, and hypothermia is a very real danger.
Winter flyfishing can be a great way to discover secrets about your favorite trout stream, and offers a change of pace from the tying bench. Flies tied in outlandish, unnatural colors might be the ticket to get strikes, and may shift your thinking about the appearance of your favorite patterns. Who knows, maybe someday research will show that fishing blue flies will reduce cabin fever!
When I look at a sculpin, I see a bottom dweller with a huge head, big pectoral fins, and a long, skinny body. I always wondered about an easy way to incorporate these characteristics into my sculpin imitations. One day, while looking at a pink Puff bonefish fly, I had my answer…
Use brass or lead eyes to get it near the bottom. Add a long body of bucktail or squirrel tail. Tie in some nice, round hackle tips for the fins. (Hen hackle works great!) Lastly, build up an oversize head with chenille. The pictures below should give you the general idea:
Brown is my “go to” color and the two brown patterns are tied using natural bucktail on #4 and #6 hooks – my “go to” sizes.
The version with the orange head is for high, dirty water. It is tied on a #2 hook with squirrel tail.
The green version gets dunked in spring creeks – or wherever there is an abundance of weeds. Olive bucktail covers its size 8 hook and bead chain eyes help swim it over submerged growth.
I usually cast Puffy sculpins slightly upstream and let them sink a bit; then I give them a bit of action with the rod tip as they drift downstream. I try to keep a tight line and don’t worry too much about drag. Occasionally, I fish them under an indicator like a nymph with a twitch here and there.
Baby tarpon react to a hook like their oversized parents; they try to put as much air as possible between themselves and the water. However, they are far more accommodating. When fishing for adults, a great day is 5 fish jumped and 1 landed. With babies, jumping 15 and landing 5 is definitely not out of the question. And the babies aren’t exactly puny – 5 to 10 pounds is a common size.
I am by no means a seasoned tarpon hunter, but over the last few years I’ve managed to visit some of the Yucatan’s premier baby tarpon fisheries. Although not definitive, my impressions might be helpful if a trip is germinating in your brain.
It should be noted that all my trips took place in July or August. Visiting the Yucatan in the heat of summer sounds a bit twisted but it’s actually prime time for baby tarpon.
The gear for baby tarpon is simple – an 8 or 9 weight rod, a floating line, and a reel with a smooth drag. Most baby tarpon will not take you into your backing. Some veteran baby tarpon fishermen recommend stripping them in without putting them on the reel. A decent fly selection would include baitfish patterns, poppers, and Seaducers – all on 1/0 or 2/0 hooks. A very functional leader looks like this: 5 feet of 50 lb mono for a butt section, 2 feet of 25 lb mono for the tippet, and 2 feet of 40 lb fluorocarbon as a shock tippet.
Now, here’s a look at some baby tarpon destinations…
Tarpon Cay Lodge in San Felipe (Rio Lagartos) www.yucatanflyfishing.com
San Felipe, about 100 miles west of Cancun, is a sleepy, pleasant village where walking around gives your camera a taste of real Mexico.
The baby tarpon fishing starts after a 5 minute boat ride. It’s mostly blind casting the mangroves off points or in the rios, which are saltwater creeks. Oftentimes, rolling fish provide targets.
Once you’ve shaken the jitters when fishing to babies, San Felipe can give you the opportunity to come unglued in front of much larger fish. A boat ride of an hour or so will take you to a spot offshore where migratory adults up to 100 pounds hang out. This is sight casting to rolling fish over deep water.
Isla del Sabalo at Isla Arena www.yucatanflyfishing.com
If San Felipe is sleepy, then Isla Arena is comatose – in a good way. Even though you are only 100 km north of Campeche, it’s like the edge of the world.
The fishing is very similar to San Felipe with the addition of sight fishing on the flats in front of the mangroves. (N.B. Tarpon are much easier to see than a bonefish.) Some of the guides like to go WAY up the tiniest of creeks. Bring a mosquito repellant and don’t forget to duck under that mangrove branch! I found a Sage bass rod a great tool for such close quarters.
You will likely fly into Merida, which is an incredible colonial city. It’s like being in Europe, but the tarpon are much closer.
Paradise Lodge on the Costa Maya Coast www.tarponparadise.net
Between Chetumal Bay and Espiritu Santos Bay, Paradise Lodge has a breathtaking variety of fishing opportunity.
Baby tarpon are the backbone of this fishery; they hang out in cenote lakes, which are land-locked lagoons connected to the ocean via underground channels. Each day starts out with a truck ride as your boat is trailered to one of these lakes. Bring your casting arm – you’ll blind cast the mangroves like crazy. Nevertheless, you’ll probably see enough tarpon to keep your motivation in high gear. One of the lakes has a good population of both snook and barracuda.
During your stay at Paradise, you’ll probably drive south to sprawling Chetumal Bay to chase bonefish and permit. I caught my only permit in Chetumal Bay. I’d like to say I made a 70 foot cast to a tailing fish but I actually flipped a crab pattern about 30 feet into a HUGE mud. The permit that popped out was VERY small. At dinner that night, I downplayed my catch and was promptly chastised by the lodge owner. “A permit is a permit!” he insisted.
If baby tarpon are the backbone of the Paradise Lodge fishery, then Espiritu Santos Bay is the jewel. It’s a long, pre-dawn drive to the north. Punta Huerrero, an obscenely picturesque fishing village, guards the bay’s entrance. Once your skiff ventures into Espiritu Santos Bay, you’re not on the edge of the world, you’ve actually gone over it!
Very few people fish Espiritu Santos. Its flats are beautiful, wild and abundant, just like its bonefish. Chances are you’ll see permit, too. My guide even pointed out a few wily snook underneath the mangroves. I didn’t believe they were there until he chased them out with his push pole.
Isla Blanca by Cancun www.yucatanflyfishing.com
Cancun, as you probably know, is fueled by thousands of beach and bar-seeking tourists.
However, 30 minutes north of the sunscreen-slathered hordes lies Isla Blanca and its tremendous variety of fishing environments – hidden lagoons, picturesque bays, mangrove tunnels, small flats, large flats. Is your boat careening towards a solid wall of mangroves? Relax, the guide knows exactly where the opening to the other side is. Baby tarpon, a few bonefish, and smallish permit roam all over these waters. The permit, although small, are numerous.
If you want a break from fishing, and perhaps Cancun’s frantic pace, there are loads of guided excursions to Mayan ruins, traditional villages, and cenotes.
Isla Holbox www.holboxtarponclub.com
Isla Holbox is comfortably touristed but in a golf-carts-on-funky-sand-streets sort of way. It is about 60 miles northwest of Cancun; the last part of the journey is onboard a ferry.
Although Holbox is noted for big, migratory tarpon in the open ocean, the backcountry flats and channels in the lagoon behind it have excellent populations of babies. Tired of slinging 500 grain heads on a 12 weight? The babies chase poppers and streamers and put on a great show when connected to an 8 weight. I found sight-fishing for the babies to be excellent.
Another attraction at Holbox is the opportunity to snorkel with whale sharks.
Nichupte Lagoon (Cancun) and Campeche
These are a couple places I have yet to visit. The former is the lagoon directly behind the Cancun hotel strip. The latter is a colonial city.
My girlfriend loves the look of a trout stream and flyfishing intrigues her. Although a talented half-marathoner, she freely admits her athletic ability does not extend to false casts and shooting line. She is busy with 4 teenage kids and has no desire to spend a lot of time lawn casting.
Enter the roll cast – a quick and easy way to get someone started in fly fishing. Think about it… If someone can roll cast 10 feet of line with a 9 foot rod and a 9 foot leader, their fishing range is 28 feet. I know I’ve caught a lot of fish within 28 feet.
Get your budding Lefty Kreh into a shallow run with a moderate current. Their rod should be rigged up with an indicator, split shot, and your favourite nymph. The split shot is important because it helps turn over the leader.
Have your student strip off about 6 to 10 feet of line and show them how to roll cast it upstream. (Make sure they forcefully push the rod tip in a horizontal line towards the target; many people rotate the rod around the elbow, moving it in a circular path.) As soon as the fly lands, they should get their hands in the proper stripping position. At this point, don’t worry about actively stripping line or mending. Just get their hands positioned correctly and have them follow the fly with the rod tip.
Once that is mastered, introduce stripping to control slack. With younger kids, it might be time to start some serious trout hunting. Generally, I would recommend a brief lesson on how to avoid drag by mending. Finally, teach feeding line as the fly goes downstream. This last step lengthens the drift and helps set up for the next roll cast. At all times, keep the length of line manageable, perhaps adding a few feet if the pupil can handle it.
Spend about 10 or 15 minutes on each step – first demonstrating and then having the student practice a few repetitions. After 30 to 45 minutes of instruction, it is definitely time to go fishing. Location is key. Someone shouldn’t wade onto a bonefish flat armed with only a roll cast. Or stalk sippers on a spring creek. A roll-casting specialist needs the proper water!
Small, bouncy streams hold many fish within the reach of a roll cast. But don’t overlook larger rivers. Places like the Elk River in B.C. and the Yellowstone River in Paradise Valley have a lot of fish close to their bank.
My girlfriend’s first fish on a fly rod actually came from the St. Mary’s River in B.C. This is a large freestoner but the cutthroats love to hang out in the boulders in thigh deep water – 10 feet from the bank at most.
After some experience with an indicator rig, the new flyfisher can start roll casting dries and streamers, too. High-stick nymphing is another technique they can pick up quite easily. Before you know it, your new partner might not be outcasting you, but they will certainly be outfishing you! The cutthroat in the picture was the biggest we saw from Racehorse Creek, Alberta. I didn’t catch it…
Spring run-off in the west and heavy rain storms in the east cause rivers to rise quickly and often without warning, raising the cubic-feet-per-second by many times, on occasion resulting in water levels reaching that particular river’s flood stage, which is when a river is commonly considered “blown-out.” While many anglers consider fishing high water to be hopeless, in actuality this situation can grant you the opportunity to catch fish you might never have a crack at otherwise. Before reading the following tips, however, remember that fishing high water presents safety risks. Therefore, it’s a good idea to fish with a friend and to not only know your limits as a wader, but to understand how the high water will affect the river’s “wadeability.” For example, if you usually wade a certain spot up to your thighs in normal cfs (cubic feet per second) flows, don’t attempt to wade it in high flows, as the current there will likely be too forceful to safely stand in and cast from. The three tips below will help you turn the tables to your advantage during high water flows.
- Up the diameter of your leader and tippet. When the water is high and off-colored, there is no need to fish 5x or 6x fluorocarbon in most rivers. A general rule of thumb is to downsize by at least 2x. So if you usually fish 6x, try up-sizing to 4x, or even 2x fluorocarbon if the river is dingy (some anglers I know use 12 pound test and higher, which you can often get away with). When the water isn’t clear, the trout can’t see your line well, so you should take advantage and use a heavier pound test, which will help you fight a fish out of a blown out river’s stronger than normal currents.
- Target the banks and secondary currents. When the water is up, the main current is often too strong for the trout to lie in. As a result, they tend to push toward the banks, where the flow isn’t as strong and the water isn’t as deep. Here, they can comfortably face upstream or circulate through the current and pick off food items. Trout often seek refuge in eddies as well, which is another spot to try. In large rivers, try targeting back channels or river braids when the water is up. You’ll be amazed at how many fish will stack in what looks to be just a small riffle along the flooded bank. If the eddy is suitable, you may even see trout facing downstream in the current, waiting for the eddy current to wash food up to them from below. If this is the case, you want to get a high-stick drift in the current, so your flies will be sucked down by the eddy and circulated back upstream.
- Give them the Good Stuff. When the water rises, the proverbial trout buffet opens for business. All kinds of goodies are washed into the water for the trout to eat, not to mention the various hatches that a rise in water will sometimes set off. High water is a classic time to fish a big, nasty-looking streamer (such as a double bunny or sculpzilla), but it is also time to fish heavily weighted nymphs (such as stoneflies and prince nymphs), as well as San Juan worms in a wide array of colors—just think of all the worms and grubs the high water dislodges from the banks and river bottom. For nymphing, be sure to put on a lot of split shot (so much that your cast may look kind of clumsy even) and move your indicator high up on your leader to adjust for the high water. Then try to find an eddy or a smaller offshoot of the main current and fish away. When you see that indicator twitch, give a firm hook-set to the downstream side, then hold tight…big trout are notorious for eating when the water is high and off-color.