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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.

Life Beyond Walls: Andros, Bahamas

Our friends over at Smith Optics put out a real cool video showcasing one of our favorite fly fishing destinations. The islands of the Bahamas, and Andros in particular, boasts some of the best Bonefishing in the world.  Check it out below:

For those who are interested, Fishwest Outfitters hosts a series of trips to the island of Andros and the Andros South Lodge. Check out the details for our trips HERE.

Moving to Carpizona

The black canvas of my shoes so hot that it hurts my toes and I’m wondering how hot it needs to be for the glue that holds these waffled soles together to start melting into a chemical swirl of sticky syrup. The temperature is around 106 degrees right now and it should get a little hotter as the day goes on, but right now it’s close to 11:00 AM and I am trying not to get skunked before I have to go to work.

image1On a day like today it’s clear to me that I would rather freeze to death than burn to death. In the past I had waded out into the deep cool waters of half frozen lakes for this fishing addiction and felt that soothing numbness as my limbs disappear into the oblivion of icy cool water, but on my new home waters there’s no such relief. Still, on a day like today it’s tempting to wade into this murky mess of grass clippings and unidentifiable scum to try and get some relief from the sweltering sun, but my better judgement is telling me it’s a sure way to blow any chance I have left at slipping a hook into the gaping mouth of one of these saurian scaled creatures.

When I lived in Utah, I’d been a big fan of the Provo and Weber rivers and caught my fair share of handsome trout in them, but my favorite thing was dry fly fishing the small creek systems that run through the canyons of the Salt Lake City area. Now in Arizona, I was spending my days in a cubicle solving Identity and Access Management mysteries. I was haunted in day dreams by mountain streams filled with brightly speckled “Brookies” and Rainbow Trout with bands of pink glinting on their flanks in the summer sunshine.

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What I’m chasing now, well, I thought these were the kind of fish that you hit with oars at Lake Powell. They were the kind of aquatic game you should take up bowfishing for. I thought these garbage sucker fish should be killed on sight because they were ruining quality fisheries around the nation. Now that I am here I’m seeing them with different eyes, their ancient mailed backs glowing gold in the sunshine as they feed in the shallows of a small pond. Seeing them like this has made me think I’d formed some hasty opinions.

It was sometime in late April that I first cast a fly at a carp with any real intent. I approached the water’s edge to see tailfins swishing lazily back and forth above the water line, their visages rooting deeply in the sediment scored banks, making small sepia clouds that drifted out into the deeper water. I cast a tiny crimson bugger on a tailing fish’s dinner plate and gave it a couple slight strips. When the fish darted toward, it my heart started to race. When its mouth hovered over the fly, my nerves caused me to rip up a “trout set” that sent the fly up to tightly wrap an overhanging branch of a bank-lining tree. I was baffled. When I looked back toward the spot where the carp had been there was a welt rippling on the surface of the water and a foul brown mud cloud sweeping through the area. I untangled my line from the branch and made a few more casts to other carp I found feeding along the bank. I had another take…this time I tried to set the hook even harder and faster and I felt a little something snag the hook. I saw the fish erupt in horror and swim away snapping my 4x tippet with ease. I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t hooking these fish. These fish were playing a joke on me. I went home thinking about buying a bait caster and some corn feed to chum the water with so I could catch one and be done with them forever.
11330784_680451085431910_1768738429_nA week later I was back in Utah for a quick visit with friends and family. I set myself up for some serious time on the water since Arizona aquatic life was not yielding to my fly fishing prowess and I needed to catch a fish. I landed some handsome bows on one of my beloved small streams… but I found my mind drifting back to the challenge of the elusive “golden ghost” that I had yet to catch. I’d been out sight fishing them at least 6 times now and had only really hooked into 2. I hadn’t even fought one yet, let alone land one. I wanted to catch a carp so badly but my repeated failure had left me feeling like I couldn’t do it.

When I got home from Utah I went back to the carp pond. I could see carp feeding in a shoulder section of the pond. A floating green fascia separating their world from mine lent me the stealth I needed to approach them.  I crept up a few feet from the bank and took cover behind a tree. I slowly stripped out some line trying to limit the reel’s squeal and took a cast that plopped my fly down into the path of the feeding carp. When they were right on top of my fly I felt nothing, not even a twitch, so against every ounce of intuition I made a light strip set. The water exploded! It was like someone had heaved a bowling ball into it. The fish ripped line off of my reel as it bolted for the depths of the pond. It was powerful, but nimble too as it darted back and forth trying to free itself. The fight was a flurry of pure terror. I thought at any moment I might lose this fish. I managed to retrieve a small trout net that was strapped to my back and got the front half of the fish into the net. I put myself between the fish and the water and snapped a quick pic, then put the fish back in the water and watched it speed off into the green murk. When I looked at the picture, I was shocked. With all the excitement and adrenaline I hadn’t taken a moment to appreciate the fish or examine the quality of my photo. Just like the battle, my picture was a blur, it was dark with a poor angle. I couldn’t even tell it was me holding the fish! I was disappointed that I didn’t prepare for a better shot. I also didn’t expect the subsequent rush of adrenaline that accompanied my first carp on the fly and now I had ruined the evidence of my catch.

image4Since then I have been chasing those spooky creatures in every body of water I can find, from canals and local ponds to large bass fisheries around the state. I have been reading articles, watching videos, tying flies, and observing the behavior of the fish, trying to understand them with that same pedantic fervor of any novice angler. So maybe now it’s clear why I’m standing in this blazing summer sun watching the fish feed and waiting for them to sip down a fly. I didn’t expect that moving to the desert would make me a better angler. It’s only now that I realize I didn’t pick up my first fly rod because I thought it was the best way to catch a trout. In fact, I wasn’t even really thinking of trout. It was the art of the sport and the creativity it required that appealed to me.  It was the mystery of the water and the forms that live therein and not their definite species that first intrigued me. It was the belief that what lurks below in an alien world could be understood if one put in the time to understand. So I’m putting in the time, on the water and off the water, to understand an under-appreciated gamefish that is worth picking up a fly rod for.

2015 Fishwest Wader Showdown

As fly fishermen, we know (and have experienced firsthand) the parity that exists between fly rods. By and large, you get what you pay for when it comes to rods. Given the parity that exists between rods, we here at Fishwest were curious to see if the same parity exists between waders.

So we decided to do a mini-shootout of waders. We took a pair of Orvis Silver Sonic Convertible waders ($279), Redington SonicDry Waders ($399.95), and Simms G3 Waders ($499.95) to see how they compared at their respective price points.

We rated the waders on a scale of 1-10 in 3 categories: breathability, durability, and aesthetics. After all, waders are meant to be worn and we all want to look good out on the water.

Photo Credit: Preston
Photo Credit: Preston Lange

Obviously, these ratings are subjective and they’re just our opinion. However, we’re not just shop guys or writers – we’re fishermen too. I spend around 250 days a year on the water, while JC works the Fishwest shop in Sandy and spends plenty of time out on the water himself. We know what anglers look for in a pair of waders and think that we made some objective judgements.

So, without further ado, let’s take a look at how the waders fared in their respective categories.

Orvis Silver Sonic Convertible (Spencer’s Review)

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Breathability – 10/10

The SS waders are very light and they breathe exceptionally well. I wore them for 10 straight hours, hiking over 3 miles in 70 degree heat, and they didn’t get me nearly as sweaty as I’d imagined they would have.

I did notice that water tends to bead off these waders, meaning they’re water repellent as well as water resistant.

I wore the waders in pretty cold runoff water, hiking around at high elevation, and they did a good job of letting my legs breathe so I didn’t freeze too badly.

Durability – 9/10

I’ve had these waders for a solid month, and they look brand-new. The neoprene booties have a thick rubber lining along the seams, which is absolutely brilliant engineering on Orvis’ part. The rubber lining will reduce wear along the neoprene seams, the most common place for neoprene to leak.

The only knock I have in terms of durability relates to how thin the material is. While I’m sure it’s a material that will stand the test of time (if these waders last two seasons that’s a win in my book – I’m pretty rough on my gear) it’s thin enough that a well-placed branch could tear a nice hole.

Aesthetics – 9/10

These waders look great. They’re colored in the classic Orvis green and gray, and the waders match the blank color of the Superfine Glass rods, for the fashionably astute angler.

The waders come with “anatomically correct” neoprene booties (and attached gravel guards, of course) according to the Orvis website. I do have to say, I’ve noticed a HUGE difference in fit and comfort in these neoprene booties compared to the Redington SonicDry Waders.

I do enjoy the green Sonic logo on the left leg, and the large Orvis logo across the front. I do think Orvis could get a bit more creative, though, which is why I knocked off one point.

Average Score: 9.3/10

Redington SonicDry (Spencer’s Review)

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Breathability – 9/10

These waders are made from Redington’s patented 37.5 active particle technology. It’s supposed to dry up to five times faster than similar materials, as well as breathe better and be lighter.

Truth be told, these waders do dry quickly, but the Silver Sonic waders dry faster. However, the SonicDry waders fit a bit more snug along the leg, and it seems to me that they breathe a bit better when walking longer distances than the Silver Sonic waders.

Durability – 4/10

This is the big knock I have against the SonicDry wader. The material is a rouger nylon than most waders – it’s almost abrasive. In theory, that’s a great thing because it reduces the likelihood of the waders tearing on a stray branch. However, the welded seams on these waders (the same as on the Silver Sonics) started splitting after only 7 months of moderate-to-heavy use. While I know that waders aren’t supposed to last forever, having the seams split after less than one full season on them isn’t good.

To make matters worse, because of the abrasive fabric, the traditional Aquaseal doesn’t hold to the fabric as well as it should, and I’ve had to apply it three times before getting a seal on the seams that holds water.

All in all, Redington should have some way to fix this issue, and until they do, I’d stay away from the SonicDry waders if you walk longer distances in them, as I tend to do.

Aesthetics – 10/10

These waders do look nice. The two-tone coloration has a certain flair to it, they fit very tightly, and I like the look of the thicker wading belt. If you were to buy waders purely based on how they look (let’s be honest, fly fishermen are more vain than we’ll ever admit) then these would be the ones.

Total: 7.6/10

Simms G3 Guide Stockingfoot (JC’s Review)

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Breathability: 9.5 / 10

All I need to say is Gore-Tex. The Gore-Tex Pro Shell material is both lightweight breathable. The G3 waders use a combination of both 5 layer and 3 layer fabrics to make up the body of the wader. I (JC) have found this combination keeps me dry and comfortable no matter the season.  The 5 layer from the thighs down can get a little hot during the summer months depending on the situation, otherwise it is pretty close to perfect.

Durability: 9.5 / 10

People who come into the shop always ask me if these waders are worth the $499.95 that Simms is asking for these waders. My answer is always the same. These waders are worth every penny based on how long they will last. I put my waders through the angling ringer of thorns, sticker bushes, and drift boats and sure, they do spring a leak from time to time but that is nothing a little Aquaseal can’t fix. I retired my last pair of Simms guide waders with 7 seasons of heavy wear and tear on them and they could have lasted longer. Bottom line is that Simms built these puppies to last, and they most certainly do.

Aesthetics: 10/10

Simms hit a homerun with these in the looks department. Features like the left and right articulated feet as well as built in gravel guards are just two of the things that set these apart from other waders in our test. The fleece lined hand warmer pocket is also perfect for those days when the temp drops.

Total: 9.7 / 10

The Simms G3 Stockingfoot won this shootout, but narrowly over Orvis. For the budget conscious angler, the Orvis Silver Sonic Convertible Waders are a great buy, and in all reality they should last a solid 2-3 seasons, at the very least.

Either of these waders would be a great pair – it’s just up to you to decide which one you like better.

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!

Forgotten Florida – A Fly Fishing Adventure

If northwest Florida isn’t forgotten by many fly fishers, you could make a strong argument that it is certainly overlooked…

The Everglades, the Keys, Mosquito Lagoon… These places always seem to come up in any Florida fishing discussion.  Jacksonville and St. Augustine rarely get mentioned.  Nevertheless, at the end of March, I experienced the flyfishing these northwest Forida locations have to offer.  It was definitely well worth the visit.

IMG_0181I must admit that the primary purpose of the trip wasn’t fishing – it was a vacation with my eighteen year-old daughter, Kerri.  She heard about the great beach and historic sites in St. Augustine and suggested it as a possible destination.  Naturally, the first thing I did was Google the fishing possibilities.  Eureka!  Bingo!  There were definitely redfish to be caught and saltwater marshes to be explored.

We actually stayed in St. Augustine Beach, which is just outside of St. Augustine proper and about an hour south of Jacksonville.  There are lots of reasonably-priced beach side restaurants and reasonably-priced beach side accommodations. It’s nice because in so places today, the words “reasonably-priced” and “beach side” just don’t seem to go together.  Nevertheless, the beach is gorgeous and it stretches for miles.

We got up early on our first morning and made the 1 hour drive to Jacksonville.  Jacksonville doesn’t conjure up wilderness images like the Everglades, but its satellite view on Google maps reveals a lot of uninhabited coastal backcountry.  We met our guide, Rich Santos, on the edge of the Timucuan Nature Preserve, which is actually within city limits.  A front had moved through a couple days before and it was downright cold – even through several layers – as his skiff sped us up a creek into the saltwater marsh.

IMG_0174He stopped at a little hole just downstream of a bridge.  My daughter was rigged up with a spinning rod and a jig.  Rich had me using a floating line with a 15 foot intermediate tip.  He tied on a black over white Clouser with a good amount of gold flash and big red eyes.  It was the first Clouser I’d ever seen with a spiky hairdo, since the deer hair butts just behind the hook eye were left sticking up. Instead of the typical slender profile, the fly took on the more tubular shape of a mullet.  The idea was to cast upstream and scratch the fly along the bottom back to the boat.

Given the post-front temperatures and bright skies, I truthfully wasn’t expecting much.  Nevertheless, within an hour, both Kerri and I had connected with a couple of redfish and a couple of seatrout.   One trout measured 15 inches; the reds were about 18 inches each.  The remaining trout was pushing gator status and stretched out to 21 inches.  All of them hit hard and fought strong and deep.   I was actually surprised at how hard the big trout pulled.  I didn’t think they were noted for their fighting ability but this one pulled off a fair bit of line against the drag.

IMG_0168As the action slowed, Rich had the skiff nosing up the creek, deeper into the marsh.  Beyond the creek, there were expanses of marsh grass.  Beyond the vast expanses of marsh grass, there were big beautiful trees.  Jacksonville had seemingly vanished behind us.  Our next stop was where the creek widened out into a shallow flat about the size of football field.  The wind was really starting to pick up and the water was quite discoloured; nevertheless, Rich hoped we might see some reds pushing water.  He had me change my line to a full floater.

There were definitely a school or two of redfish working that flat.  Every 10 minutes or so, they’d create a good bow wave and show themselves. If a school of bonefish makes nervous water, a school of redfish makes terrified water! The water surface doesn’t merely dance around a little bit, it looks like a motorboat wake. Sometimes, I got off an intercepting cast and sometimes we just watched them in the distance.  My daughter even threw a live shrimp at them but none wanted to eat at all.

Eventually, Rich piloted the skiff down the creek and we tried another couple flats.  The word creek is a bit deceiving because it was more like a maze of channels surrounded by marsh grass.  We also worked a couple of juicy looking outside bends. No matter where we stopped, fish activity had apparently ceased and desisted.  With whitecaps starting to form on the bigger flats, we called it a day.  Although not stellar, it had definitely been fun.

IMG_0294The next day saw us poking around the historic sites of St. Augustine.  The temperatures were starting to climb and even though St. Augustine has the charm of old world Europe, all I could think about was redfish getting active in skinny water.

The next morning was pleasantly warm and I woke up early.  Kerri, as teenagers are prone to do, was going to sleep in and hit the beach.  I met guide Tommy Derringer at a local marina for a half day fishing. We started with his skiff idling through the picturesque St. Augustine harbor past sailboats and sportfishers.   Soon, he opened the throttle and we roared north down the Intracoastal Waterway, leaving civilization behind us.  Once more, there was nothing to see but marsh grass, the odd boat, and big trees.

IMG_0198 After a 20 minute run, he eased the boat onto a flat covered with clumps of marsh grass.  He took the poling platform and I was on the bow.  The water was still discolored but Tommy was quite sure we’d see some tails.  Eventually, Tommy poled us up a narrow creek that fed the flat as the tide fell.  It reminded me of a Montana spring creek.  There were slight riffles on the surface and banks of marsh grass instead of pasture.  On Tommy’s advice, I cast my fly upstream and let it drift down through some of the more prominent riffles.

“There’s an oyster bar up ahead,” said Tommy.  “There’s always a fish or two on top of it.  Right where the creek widens.”  When we got to the broad spot  – it was like a big pool – Tommy staked out the boat.  I could see the oyster bar underneath about 6 inches of water about 50 feet away on the far side of the pool.  And I could see 3 or 4 redfish patrolling the bar.  They were a good size – maybe 6 pounds or so.  Unfortunately, the geometry of the situation forced me to throw backhanded.  And the wind from a couple days ago was still persisting slightly. So my casting wasn’t up to snuff and I didn’t draw any interest.

IMG_0314I only had about 3 shots before it was time to go.  The water was draining out of the creek pretty quickly and we didn’t want to be stranded. The rest of the day saw us poling along oyster bars that lined the Intracoastal Waterway and also plumbing the deep water rocks along the inlet to the St. Augustine harbor. Other than a very small, very enthusiastic bluefish, my daydreams from the day before didn’t come to fruition.  Nevertheless, the sight of those redfish picking their way across the oyster bar made the day worthwhile.

Before I said good-bye to Tommy, he pointed out a couple of nearby opportunities for some DIY wading.  He said if he wanted to get me into a fish somehow, if not in person.  I appreciate that kind of enthusiasm in a guide and promised to give it a shot.

The next day was a non-fishing day.  Kerri and I drove out to Okefenokee Swamp for some guided kayaking.  It was spectacular.  We got some close-up views of alligators – sometimes maybe even too close-up – and watched the sunset from the heart of the swamp.  It made for a late night.

IMG_0253The late night was OK by me since Kerri was looking to sleep in again the next day.  I made a beeline for a spot Tommy told me about.  It was almost like a roadside version of where the redfish were on the oyster bar.  There was lots of marsh grass and even a little creek flowing through it.  Regardless, I did connect with a redfish – only about 15 inches long – but, for some reason, very satisfying…  And just in time to meet Kerri for an afternoon at the local outlet mall.

There are definitely some good flyfishing opportunities in northwest Florida.  It might not be the place for a hard-core fishing trip, but if you are looking to combine fly fishing with a family vacation, it really fits the bill.

A Look at the Glass: The Orvis Superfine Glass

I’ve been fishing a less-expensive glass rod pretty heavily for the past six months (a Redington Butter Stick, 7’6” 4wt) and I wanted to get my hands on some top-of-the-line glass to see if I’d enjoy the best glass the industry has to offer. A pretty big gap exists between low-end and high-end fly rods, and I was curious whether or not that parity exists with fiberglass.

orvis_logoOrvis was kind enough to send me the 7’ 3wt and 7’6” 4wt versions of their Superfine Glass rods. I’d heard nothing but good things about the Superfine Glass line of rods, and with Orvis being a leader in the fly fishing world, it made sense to see what they had to offer.

I played with the rods for a solid weekend, fishing Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, putting the rods through as many situations as I could find out here in Utah.

I fished the rods with the help of a few friends on the Provo River, Huntington Creek, and Thistle Creek. The Provo is a large, wide river with big, picky fish. Huntington is a medium-sized tailwater fishery, and Thistle is a tiny spring creek buried in mountains of willows. I tried to find three different types of water to really put the Superfine Glass through its paces.

I’ve also decided to break this review up into two sections – one for each rod I was able to fish. But before we delve into how each rod performed and my thoughts, I’ll just give a quick few suggestions here:

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  • I fish mainly a dry-dropper rig on 11-12-foot long leaders. I didn’t nymph with these rods, because nymphing with anything under 9 feet long isn’t practical.
  • The weekend I fished the rods was very windy, which played into my final thoughts on the rods.
  • One buddy of mine, a superb fly fisherman whose skill outpaces my own, had never fished glass before he tossed the 7’6” 4wt Superfine Glass. His thoughts are included.
  • The action on these rods was amazing. The rods flexed deep into the bottom third section of the rod, and when a fish was hooked, bent nearly to the cork in some instances. Some folks don’t like that much play in a rod, but I adore it. You could easily feel every head shake and roll of the hooked trout. Surprisingly, for being so bendy, these rods also threw exceptionally tight loops at distances up to about 40 feet. For those of you who revel in casting, and enjoy feeling every bit of your line load, the Superfine Glass is a great rod.
  • If I were Orvis, I’d think of going with a different color for the blank. Olive-green looks great for the Army, but fiberglass lends itself to being A deep red, blue, or green would look fabulous. Just a suggestion.

Now, let’s get started.

7’ 3wt.

superfine_1Any 7-foot rod is, in my opinion, a dry-fly instrument. And that’s exactly what the 7’ 3wt Superfine Glass rod is. On Thistle Creek, a small spring creek with mostly smaller brown trout, it threw very tight loops, powered line out well, turned over my longer leaders, and played fish the way a rod should. I was impressed with how the 7’ rod was able to punch line – just a slight flick of the wrist and the line would shoot out straight and flat.

However, if any breeze showed up at all, the 7’ 3wt buckled under the pressure. Wind seems to be fiberglass’s biggest enemy,  as the 7’6” 4wt rod didn’t do well in wind either.

I wouldn’t take the 7’ 3wt Superfine Glass out on streams wider than say, 10-15 feet. It just doesn’t have the backbone to throw an accurate, 40 foot cast. On the Provo River, this rod really struggled to throw flies to rising fish that were beyond 40-50 feet.

I did really enjoy this rod. Small, short, light rods have their place in most anglers’ quiver, and if you enjoy the classic slow action that glass provides, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better performing rod than the Superfine Glass in the 7’ 3wt model.

7’6” 4wt

When it’s all said and done, I prefer this rod to the 7’ one. The 7’6” 4wt had the spine to turn over leaders well at longer distances, and to push the line through breezy conditions. The loops were tight, the rod was responsive, and it was just a pleasure to fish. The extra 6” on this model as opposed to the 3wt makes a huge difference in the rod’s capabilities.

On Thistle Creek, this rod performed just as well throwing small dries to fish in close. On Huntington Creek, where we battled some wind on Saturday, it was a lot of work to throw line, but the job got done. On the Provo River, it handled dry-dropper combos well and threw casts accurately out to 50-ish feet.

superfine_2My friend Chris fish glass for the first time with this rod. He said it reminded him a lot of his Orvis Battenkill bamboo rod, and that he loved the way it set the line on the water. The longer length and stiffer blank of this rod made picking up larger amounts of line to re-cast much easier than with the 7’ model.

If I had to choose, I’d definitely go with the 7’6” 4wt. It’s just a more versatile, complete rod.

When all is said and done, Fishing fiberglass fly rods reminds me of when I try to fix my truck on my own – it ends up being a lot more work than it should be.

With that being said, it’s also a lot more satisfying to fix your truck on your own instead of taking it to a shop, and the same can be said about fishing fiberglass fly rods. Although I’m not great at fixing trucks and I’m just an average flinger of flies, so take my opinions with a grain of salt.

Essentials For Pike Part 2 – The Packing List

Spring is fast approaching and the pike are staging for their spawn; the females are full of eggs and are aggressively taking streamers and the males are battling off competitors willing to bite anything that may pass in front of them. With the fishing turning on I want to go over more of my packing essentials for these apex predators. I went over rods, reels, and lines in part one of my packing list, part two will focus towards leaders, tools, and the flies to use.

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After I have put together my rod outfit, the next item to think about is your leader. There are two ways to go about finding a leader. First and the easiest way would be to buy a tapered leader specified for pike. Both Rio and Umpqua have pike specific leaders, they look like your traditional tapered leader you would use for trout but have a piece of wire tied to the end to keep the fish from slicing your fly off. This is a great way to get started, simple and fast, just a loop to loop connection and you’re ready to go.RI31PKML_lg

Using wire isn’t always the best way to go; sometimes pike can become leader shy, depending on the fishing pressure and water quality, wire leaders can spook fish at times. For locations or times when wire is not ideal we switch over to custom hand tied fluorocarbon leaders. I know what some of you are going to think when I say “hand tied leaders”: sounds complicated, but it’s not. We start with about a five foot section of 20 pound nylon tippet; we tie a barrel swivel onto one end of the 20 pound and tie a perfection loop on the other side. This will allow you to make a loop to loop connection like you would from any other manufactured leader. Next you will want to tie on a section of 60 pound fluorocarbon onto the other side of the swivel, usually anywhere from two to four feet, this is the section that will really help your fly turn over and the stronger, thicker section will help avoid pike from cutting off your fly but it may still happen.

Next on the agenda would be a good selection of flies, you want to have multiple colors for varying conditions. I still stick to the old saying when it comes to my fly selection: “Light days, light colors. Dark days, dark colors”. When I buy or tie flies the main components I really look for in a pike fly are flash and water pushing ability. It doesn’t necessarily have to be both, but at least one of those attributes is a must for myself. The flash does a great job enticing the fish and coercing a strike, where the flies mass helps push water towards a target’s lateral lines, once again enticing and coercing a fish to eat. A few of my favorite flies to use in our area are the Gen-X Bunny, Umpqua Pike Snake, Umpqua Pike Fly, and Barry’s Pike Fly.  Although these are my go-to, I have also had some luck with a few saltwater baitfish patterns, such as clousers and deceivers.

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You will also need some essential tools when out chasing pike. The first and foremost are a pair of pliers, the longer the better in this case. You want to keep your hands as far away from the business end of the pike as you can, so the shortest pair of pliers I would use would be 8 inches. If the fish gets hooked down deep you may have to cut the fly off, which is why I use a long pair of Rancher pliers, in the 12 inch size.  If my fly goes any deeper than that I will just cut the leader in order to avoid unnecessary stress and damage to the fish.

Next item would be a large net or pike cradle.  Both have their benefits but I have found if you are fishing by yourself a net is the better way to go (Brodin Excalibur Ghost Net in my case), because typically you need an extra person to hold the cradle while you steer the fish into it. The cradle makes for a quick and easy release with as little stress on the fish as possible. You are able to work on removing the hook while the fish rest in the cradle, allowing it to remain in the water and not adding pressure to the swim bladder.

You always should have a place to store the equipment, a large sling or day pack works best for storing your gear while out on the water. The Orvis Safe Passage Guide Sling is a solid choice if you are looking for the convenience of a sling pack, large enough to fit your Bugger Beast or Fishwest Bulkhead Box, tools and a water bottle. The sling feature is great when you’re wading around a lake and need to grab something out of your bag quickly, being able to swing the bag around your body instead of completely removing it helps when standing in the middle of a lake.

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Here are a few more items I like to carry with me when I’m out on the water:

  • Buff – These are lifesavers when it comes to blocking out unwanted weather. Great for both winter and summer fishing, blocks UV rays, protects against wind, keeps you warm in the winter and cool in the summer, and quick drying.
  • Lippa 4 Life – I like having these for the smaller fish, allows you to grab the fish by the mouth with minimal stress and damage done to the fish. They also allow for a solid grip on the fish mouth when removing the hook out of any toothy critter.
  • Stripping Guard – Hours upon hours of casting and stripping can cause havoc on your fingers, having a few of these helps avoid the cuts and burns one can get from consistent rubbing of the line against your finger.
  • Camera – To take a picture of anything of note throughout the day, hopefully it’s something fishy.
  • Big Nippa – I have used my trout nippers to cut the tippet for my pike leaders and it works the first couple of times, dulls the blades quickly, and getting the pliers out every time you need them is a pain. The new Big Nippa from Rising is killer for cutting your big game and saltwater leaders and tippets.

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Attention local customers: Fishwest will be having our annual fair on April 25, 2015. This years theme is Troutside the Box, focusing on Pike and Musky fishing in Utah. We will be going over fly patterns, techniques, equipment, and conservation. There will be food, drinks, demos, a casting competition, and plenty of great giveaways so stop on by. For everyone who can’t make it out stay tuned for part III!