Tag Archives: Destination Travel

Flats Fishing 101: Trout Set v. Strip Set

One of the hardest transitions for me to make into saltwater fishing continues to be the art of the strip set. Countless times I have seen the backside of a bonefish travelling 100+ MPH to get away from the shrimp that just bit him in the face. While the guide laughs, the advice coming from the platform is always the same. Whatever you do, don’t trout set!

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This is one of the biggest hurdles to overcome for a beginner saltwater angler who primarily fish for trout. Trout anglers have been trained through countless hours on the water to raise the rod when a trout eats the fly. A slow and steady raise of the rod promotes protecting light tippets that are associated with trout files by turning the rod into a small shock absorber. Trout have very soft mouths and setting the hook with a size 20 dry fly and 6x tippet doesn’t take a lot of effort.

However, a majority of saltwater flats species have extremely hard mouths. For example, when a bonefish eats, they suck up unfortunate critters and smash them with large molar type “crushers”. Raising the rod tip upon hookup with a bonefish will result in the fly getting pulled right out of their mouth. A majority of bonefish flies are designed to ride hook up when retrieved. With that in mind when the bonefish eats the fly, a long and smooth strip will drive the hook into the hard mouth of the fish, leading to more hookups.

Things to keep in mind when learning the strip set:

  • KEEP YOUR ROD TIP in the water pointed straight at the fish, this will help to eliminate slack in the line when retrieving the fly.
  • If you have the fish interested chances are it is following your fly; KEEP YOUR ROD TIP in the water.
  • Once the fish has looked down to eat your fly: KEEP YOUR ROD TIP in the water.
  • Once you feel the pressure or see the fish eat the fly, KEEP YOUR ROD TIP in the water and give your line one long smooth pull.
  • Lastly continue stripping until the line comes tight. Once the line comes tight chances are the fish is off to the races.
  • If you miss the first strip set, keep stripping the fly as long as the fish is still actively chasing the fly. If you miss the initial eat the fly will be in front of the fish as long as you KEEP YOUR ROD TIP in the water.

This technique will take some time to sink in for most of us… New tricks take a while (especially for an old dog). Just remember KEEP YOUR ROD TIP in the water and strip till the line comes tight.

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Stay tuned for more tips & Tricks. Fishwest is excited to offer trips to the island of South Andros as well as other destinations. For more information please click HERE.

Flats Fishing 101: Be Ready!

One of the hardest parts for a beginner saltwater fisherman is being ready to go at a moment’s notice. The window on shots for bonefish and other saltwater species can appear and disappear rather quickly. When fishing from a boat and a guide calls out a fish, keep these tips in mind to be setup properly and to make a quick presentation.

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  • Strip off an amount of line that you can cast & drop it below you on the deck: Know your limits! This will allow you to be prepared to make a shot at cruising fish rather quickly. Keep in mind that if you have too much line out that tangles may occur if you shoot too much line. Don’t just strip your line into the bottom of the boat however. Doing that may cause all the line to coil up unnaturally and that may cause tangles. Make sure to make a few practice casts to prepare yourself and also to remove all the twists that may be in your fly line. If you are fishing with a partner, kindly ask them to help manage your line at the bottom of the boat.
  • Take off your shoes: This is by far the most important tip on this list. The easiest way to blow a shot is to make a beautiful cast only to find out that you have been standing on your line. By the time you recover, the fish are long gone! Barefoot is best, just remembering to apply sunscreen liberally and often, or better yet, wear socks!
  • Keep about 10 feet of line out of your rod tip: This will allow you to have your rod partially loaded when a shot presents itself. Having too much line outside the rod tip can be harder to manage, so be mindful of how much line you have out.
  • Keep your hands off your fly: The best thing to do is to hold on to your leader right above your fly. That way your fly doesn’t get any sunscreen on it, or anything else for that matter. A shrimp or crab with the essence of SPF 50+ isn’t appealing to most flats fish.

Now you are ready to go! Keep in mind that even the best anglers screw up and blow shots… so don’t get discouraged! Just be ready for the next one!

Stay tuned for more tips & tricks. If you are interested in destination travel with Fishwest click HERE.

Fly Fisherman Are Great Story Tellers: Calling All Writers & Photographers

Fly fisherman are great story tellers. Not a day goes by in the shop when we aren’t witness to a fly fishing related tale.  As you all know, fly fishing takes us to some of the most beautiful places in the world and a lot of fly fishers are also great photographers.  Here’s your opportunity to get your thoughts and photos out there – and to a lot of people!

IG Photo1We’re delighted to offer the opportunity to post your thoughts and images.  We’re looking for interesting articles that cover anything and everything fly fishing related.  Write about some of your travels, show how to tie that hot new fly pattern or discuss a technique.  If it is interesting to you, it will be interesting to others, probably lots of others.

Are you interested in sharing your stories, experiences, or product reviews? If so please send your submissions to webteam@fishwest.com . If your article or photos are picked for our blog you will earn valuable Fishwest store credit to use towards new gear. What fly fisherman doesn’t love new gear?

Submitting an Article

  • We look for articles written about anything fly fishing and we don’t want to stifle your creativity.  This can include, but is certainly not limited to, trip reports, fly tying tutorials, product reviews, fishing techniques, illustrations, etc….ANYTHING FLY FISHING.
  • Articles for submission must be previously unpublished and in English.
  • Articles should be in Word, Word Perfect or Text format.
  • Supporting images should be in JPG format and at least 800px in width.
  • Please include a title
  • If this is your first article, be prepared to provide a biography if your article is selected for publication.
  • Do not indent or send in HTML format.

Submitting a Photo

  • We love great fly fishing photography.  Just like an article, we are looking for anything fly fishing related.
  • Images should be in JPG format and at least 800px in width.

Compensation

IMG_0045If your article is chosen for publication on Pisciphilia, we pay as follows:

  • Complete article with supporting images: $50 gift certificate valid at www.fishwest.com
  • Article with no supporting images: $30 gift certificate valid at www.fishwest.com
  • One or two images published with an article or as a photo post: $20 gift certificate valid at www.fishwest.com
  • A series of images (five of more) with captions published as a photo post: $50 gift certificate valid at www.fishwest.com

 

 

Fly Fishing the Chesapeake Region Part I: Spring Creeks

When anglers talk about planning their next fly fishing trip in the U.S. many of the first regions that comes to mind are usually Alaska and the North West for trout and salmon, the Gulf for Redfish and Spotted Sea Trout, and possibly the North East for Atlantic Salmon and Striped Bass. Many overlook the Mid-Atlantic region and I can’t understand why.

I recently took a trip back to Maryland to see family and friends, and while there I took advantage of the great fishing opportunities available in the Chesapeake Bay region. My first stop was to the small creeks around the town I grew up in. Small spring creeks surrounded by lush forest and a variety of wildlife, exposing granite boulders in the stream bed and filled with a variety of fish species. Most of these creeks have been continuously stock with brown and rainbow trout for decades, and although the region is too warm for the rainbows to survive, the brown trout make it through the hot summers and are able to reproduce to a small extent.

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The trout fishing is good but the real reason I brought my gear back this time of year was for the bass fishing opportunities. The smallmouth fishing in the Baltimore/Washington area is world class, with the Susquehanna and the Potomac plus many of the local reservoirs having healthy, reproducing fish populations that produce trophies every year.

I didn’t pull out any trophies nor did I expect to. This trip was just to relax, to go back to the pools and runs where I taught myself to fly fish and look at the water with a new perspective. I headed to a little spring creek in Carrol County called Morgan Run, it starts up around Westminster, Maryland off route 97 and runs into Liberty Reservoir in Finksburg. I took my trusty Ross Essence FC 8’6” 5 weight and when I first got there I tied on a couple of nymphs and threw into a pool with a few trout in it. These fish were stocked about two months back so they weren’t all that difficult to fool. I quickly pulled out a few trout and then headed up stream. I was on a mission to what we call “the honey hole”.

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I approached the hole and I instantly saw a smallmouth sitting behind a pile of sticks, maneuvering left and right, eating anything that floats its way. I was looking for large aggressive fish so I switched over to a white articulated minnow pattern. I threw it about 10 feet above it and started to strip it in. It didn’t budge, so I tossed it again, and again with the same result. I knew there were larger fish in here so I decided to try up around the large bolder laying in the creek. With the first retrieve I saw both trout and bass following it, none of them committed though so I tossed it in again and slowed down the retrieve, “BAM” something came up and slammed it. By the way it was fighting I could tell it was a bass, it was way too aggressive to be any of the trout that I would expect to be in this spot and as I worked it in my assumptions was correct. It was a bass, a decent one for the size of the creek; I reeled it in, took a few shots and quickly released it.

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After being rewarded with that nice bass I decided to start my way back and run that streamer through some of the runs and pools I nymphed earlier. I managed to get a few more follows with some trout in the pools but as I was approaching the trailhead I saw a deep run with two small boulders leaning into it. I threw between the two boulders and as soon as it had become fully submerged “WHAM”, a bass had ran from one boulder to the other and sliced it! Knowing I might have one more chance at it, I waited a minute before I attempted it again, took a breath and tossed it at the back of the run in-between the two boulders. Gave it a few twitches and “BAM” he took it! I noticed that was a good spot for the little guy as I saw two dead minnows, a little larger than my streamer, float out from under the boulder he ran under after eating my fly. I was a little impressed it was still so aggressive even after having a full stomach. I released him back into the run and started my way back down the trail.

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I couldn’t have asked for a better day, an easy hike through a thick forest and got into a variety of fish that were a blast on the old 5 weight. I got back to the car and headed home. This trip out was exactly what I was looking for, back on one of the old creeks where I taught myself how to fly fish, taking what I have learned in the years I have been gone and seeing what I could come up with.

I know I may be a little biased in my love for fishing this area but there are many overlooked fisheries and a variety of species from small to large mouth bass, pickerel and musky, multiple trout species fresh and saltwater variety, the opportunities are almost endless. If you haven’t already, next time you get some free time do a little research on some of the local fisheries around the Chesapeake Region and stay tuned for Part Two where I will write about my first Striped Bass trip on the Susquehanna Flats!

Bonefishing 101: The Packing List Part 2

009With ten days to go until my next Bahamian saltwater adventure, I find myself still compiling all my gear to head down for another wonderful trip. In this post I want to go over some more of the packing essentials for a Bonefishing adventure. In part 1 of my packing list, I went over arguably the three most important parts of a bonefishing setup. In this article we will continue down the list of items I think belong in any angler’s travel gear.

RI31BNFL_lg_535x535RI32SWFT_lg_535x535Next up on my list is leaders and tippet. In the wind you need a leader that is tapered correctly and stiff enough to turn over big flies easily. For the sake of simplicity and ease of prep grabbing a few of the Rio Bonefish Leaders is a must. These leaders are tapered to cope with wind and heavy flies with ease. I would recommend having enough leader and corresponding tippet for the worst case scenario. I like having a few 3 packs of each of the 10ft leaders in 8lb 10lb and 12lb. I like to fish these leaders with fluorocarbon tippet for more abrasion resistance. Those mangrove roots and sand mounds can be bad news for a leader setup.

UM14VEMS_lgFlies are the biggest variable in this whole equation in my personal opinion. Three factors to keep in mind when selecting the right flies to take on your next adventure are size, weight, and color. Size and weight of flies is extremely important when selecting flies for bonefish because of the variances in water depth. Fishing a big fly in skinny (shallow) water will cause the fly to land with a big splash and therefore no fish will be within 50 feet of that fly.  When fishing less weighted flies in deeper water the flies will take longer to sink and get in the “zone” and in a game where timing is everything, a slow sinking fly may be the reason for a blown shot.

The colors of the flies that you take along with you need to match the different bottoms of each flat. This is due to the fact that the shrimp and other food that the bonefish eat tend to take on the color of their surroundings.  This isn’t an exact science but flies need to match the flat pretty closely.

With that being said there are two flies that I would never be without on a Bahamian bonefishing flat.  The Pearl Gotcha and the Ververka’s Mantis shrimp are probably responsible for more than 80% of the bonefish I have hooked into. As far as sizing goes I was told that the bigger bones enjoy the larger meal, so most of the time i fish a size 2 or 4. However it is always nice to have a good selection of flies in the 2-8 size range in various colors. If you are just starting out and you want to get a good base of flies going, don’t hesitate to look any farther than the fly selections put out by Umpqua.  Flies don’t always have to be stored in a fancy box either, there have been times for me that flies have come out of an Altoids tin, however a box like the Umpqua Flats Box was a nice upgrade.

SIF80DCZPCH_lg_535x535Having a place to store your gear is a must when preparing for a day of bonefish.  I would recommend a pack like the Simms Dry Creek Z Backpack (Available Soon) . This nice waterproof pack can serve two purposes when out on the flats for a day. It can serve as a nice small boat bag to keep all your gear in or if you find yourself out wading for a period of time it doubles as a nice pack for that as well.

Items For Your Pack or on you:

  • A Buff – This tube of fabric is a lifesaver for your face and neck. They are a good idea when out in the sun.
  • A Camera – If you meet a large bonefish you may want to snap a shot or two. However please remember keep em wet if you can.
  • Tippet- Who knows this may get overlooked. Say a fish wraps you around a mangrove shoot or you need to lengthen your leader for picky fish, tippet is a good thing to have.
  • Pliers –Another no brainer right? Removing hooks safely and easily is best for both you and the fish in question. Make sure that you get some pliers with scissor blades. My grandpa the dentist would be disappointed to hear of people using their teeth to cut tippets.
  • Sunscreen – The sun in these tropical locations tends to cook things. Keep yourself covered in this stuff.

Please stay tuned for part three of this article. I have plenty of more to talk about. With the first two parts we are almost ready to head out to the flats.

Bonefishing 101: The Packing List pt 1

I find myself here with two weeks to go before the next Fishwest hosted trip to the Andros South Lodge and after a few years I think I finally have figured out how to pack accordingly. Since Bonefish are generally (and unfairly) categorized as one of the easiest fish to catch on the flats they have been they are becoming more and more popular to chase with a fly rod. These fish are a great way to introduce someone to saltwater fly fishing or for the experienced saltwater angler. From time to time we get anglers coming into the shop asking for our insight on how to pack how to pack when going to a bonefish destination. So here is a quick rundown “survival” guide on how to pack for your next trip:

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First and foremost you need a fast action 8 weight fly rod. A rod with a crisp fast action makes all the difference when sight casting to bonefish on the flats. Paired with the right fly line these rods load up easier giving the angler the ability to deliver flies both quickly and accurately which hopefully leads to more hookups.

JC’s choice: The Winston B3-SX or Sage One 890-4

Next up is a stout saltwater safe fly reel. Having a reel with a really good drag is a must when chasing bonefish. Backing capacity definitely comes into play as well with these fish. I would say that anglers should look for a reel with a minimum backing capacity of 200yds. I generally use 20lb backing with bonefish, however an argument can be made for Gel Spun backing or even the new Hatch Outdoors Braided backing. These Bahamian flats residents have a tendency to run all over the place when hooked and you need a reel that can slow them down and bring them to hand as quickly as possible. Reels with disc drags that are completely sealed are my preference due to having less maintenance after a tough day of fishing.

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JC’s Choice: The Hatch 7 Plus Mid Arbor Fly Reel or Orvis Mirage IV

Dialing in your fly line is a must when sight fishing on the flats. I would actually argue that the right fly line is the most important part of any fly rod setup out there. A line that will load up a rod quickly and more importantly pickup for second casts easily is paramount. These lines need to be able to perform accurately at medium and long distances.  Having a line with an aggressive front belly allows anglers to make shots in close with better success.

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JC’s Choice: The Scientific Anglers Sharkwave Saltwater Taper

Stay tuned for part two of my survival guide on how to pack for your saltwater destination trip. Please feel free to contact us at 877.773.5437 with any questions that you may have.

 

 

Fly Fishing Film Tour 2015

The 2015 F3T is right around the corner, and we at Fishwest can’t be more excited. The trailers are out and by the looks of them it will be another great event, here’s the trailer for Those Moments; a film by Kokkaffe Media’s Peter Christensen, supported by Orvis and Deneki Outdoors. The tour will be swinging through Salt Lake City February 19, 2015 at the Depot, tickets will be sold here at Fishwest starting January 2, 2015. If you have never made it to F3T before I highly suggest you do your best to make it to this years. It will be an all ages show, so bring the family!

 

Diary of a Baby Tarpon Addict

I’ve been to a fair number of baby tarpon spots but I finally got a chance to spend three July days chasing them in Campeche, Mexico.  Here’s a sample…

5:35 AM:  The hotel van driver drops me off at the pier in total darkness.  I’m a little worried ‘cause the parking lot is completely empty.  Where is the guide’s vehicle?IMG_0018

5:43 AM:  Ah-ha!  The drone of an outboard answers my question and the guide pulls up in his panga.

5:55 AM: We’re driving through complete blackness at what seems like full throttle.  The only immediate illumination is the guide’s flashlight.  It is my second day fishing and the guide is taking me to the very edge of the usual fishing grounds.

6:09 AM:  The sun begins to peek over the horizon.  With a bit of light, the boat speeds up.  I’m quite relieved that we weren’t going as fast as possible through the dark.

6:50 AM:  The guide pulls up to where a creek pours into the mangrove shoreline.  The channel is about five feet wide.  With the first day jitters behind me, I get a fly tied on and my first cast off reasonably quickly.IMG_0027

6:54 AM:  Fish on!  A tarpon cartwheels to the left into the mangroves.   And it’s gone…

6:57 AM:  Fish on!  A tarpon cartwheels to the right into the mangroves.  And it’s gone…

7:01 AM:  Fish on!  This one  remains cooperatively in the middle of the creek and I land about a 3 pound snook.  I’m pumped!  It’s only the second snook I’ve ever caught.IMG_0046

8:21 AM:  I haven’t seen anything since the snook.  But my casting is dialed in.  I’m actually feeling rather smug.  I haven’t snagged a mangrove in at least half an hour.  I’m dropping my fly in every juicy little pocket that presents itself as we pole down the shoreline.

8:22 AM:  The guide calls out, “Tarpon!  By mangroves! 11 o’clock!”  I see a couple dark shapes in the clear water.   Naturally, my casting ability instantly implodes and the fly ends up in the mangroves about 4 feet above the tarpon. The tarpon simply melt away.

9:15 AM:  A small barracuda grabs my fly.  Luckily he doesn’t bite me off and I unceremoniously strip him in.  When he is ten feet from the boat a gang of three tarpon show up.  They are large for babies – about 20 pounds each – and look like they have mayhem on their minds.  At least as far as the barracuda is concerned…IMG_0050 2

9:20 AM:   The barracuda is unhooked and back in the water.  Somehow, the tarpon don’t notice as it darts away.   They are circling about 30 feet from the boat and they still look like a bunch of thugs.

9:30 AM:  Evidently, the tarpon are shrewd thugs.  They ignore two or three different flies and drift into the mangroves. IMG_0108

10:45 AM: The guide poles us by a large tree that has toppled into the water, extending well beyond the mangrove shoreline.  I crawl a Seaducer along the length of the tree.  Blow up!   A tarpon clears the water three or four times.  He is still hooked; I’m hopeful that this could be my first tarpon to the boat.

10:50 AM:  Yes! It makes it to the boat for a picture and a release.IMG_0045

11:45 AM:  After eating lunch further down the shoreline, we return to the fallen tree.  It’s a good call on the guide’s part because another tarpon inhales the Seaducer and comes to the boat.  But not quietly, of course – thrashing and churning all the way.

1:05 PM:  We’re on a large flat covered in turtle grass.  Every few minutes or so a tarpon comes within range.  It’s like this for about an hour and a half.  These tarpon are pretty cagey and I get mostly refusals.  Nevertheless, three or four end up leaping skward with my fly in their mouth.  But – sigh – all but one fall back down to the water with the fly indignantly tossed aside.  I have to admit I’m used to that.

2:35 PM:  We start the run back to Campeche.

4:00 PM:  I’m in the neighbourhood bar, enjoying a superb Margarita.  Life doesn’t get any better ‘cause I’ve got one more day of fishing left….

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Here’s a few notes about Campeche and the fishing…

Campeche is a great place to take a partner who doesn’t want to spend everyday in the boat.  It is an amazing city with stunning and historical architecture.  There are lots of comfortable hotels and good restaurants. IMG_0021

An 8 weight rod with a floating 9 weight line was perfect for Campeche’s baby tarpon.  I found a leader that was 11 or 12 feet long led to more grabs than the standard 9 footer.  Puglisi patterns, Seaducers, and Mayan Warriors a little better than 3 inches long worked well.   There was a lot of blind casting but a fair bit of sight fishing to both rolling and cruising tarpon.

The tarpon were generally between 5 and 10 pounds.  They were plentiful and grabby.  I never seemed to have to wait very long for my next shot.  Most baby tarpon locations seem to suffer a definite slow down during the heat of the day but the action in Campeche stayed reasonably consistent.  On an average day, I would get at least 10 or 15 strikes.  For the sake of brevity, I left out a few grabs in my diary above.

The diary also left out a couple noteworthy spots that were fished on another day…  Quite close to Campeche, there are some beautiful mangrove islands that seemed to hold rolling tarpon all day.  There are also hidden lagoons tucked into the mangrove shoreline where I literally watched schools of baby tarpon swim laps.  Although my partner never caught a fish, she fished those spots with me and had a great time just soaking up the scenery.

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Although he didn’t speak much English, the guide was great.  As well, he had a good panga with a casting platform.   My outfitter for the trip was Yucatan Fly Fishing Adventures; they also have operations at Isla del Sabalo and Tarpon Cay Lodge.

**Editors Note: Fishwest hosts a yearly trip down to Campeche Mexico with Yucatan Fly Fishing Adventures. Spots on our 2015 trip are still available however they are going fast. For further details please contact us at support@fishwest.com or visit the “Destination Travel” page of Fishwest HERE** -JC

 

 

 

Catch Magazine Season 6 is Almost Here

Get ready for season 6! I am always blown away by the quality of videos Todd Moen and Catch Magazine are able to put together while dealing with varying weather conditions in remote places. It’s the combination of footage and complementary music that set great videos apart from the rest and  by the looks of this season’s trailer he has knocked it out of the park once again. This season they travel to Argentina, British Columbia, and Montana’s backcountry to name a few. Season 6 will be available for purchase after December 10th and the staff here at Fishwest are very excited to watch this video in it’s entirety. Hope you enjoy the trailer as much as we did!

Mongolia: The Land Time Forgot

When folks talk about fishing in remote places for most the first thought that comes to mind  is the Alaskan bush or the back country of the North West. But there’s a place in Asia where human development and time have almost been forgotten. Most of you may have heard of Mongolia and the unique salmonid found in it’s waters. For those who haven’t heard of these creatures, they are the largest in the salmonid family, and fierce predators gorging on everything from bait fish to small mammals and birds. Here is a look at what it takes to have a chance at these incredible fish and what is being done to protect it’s habitat.