Tag Archives: How To

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.

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!

Essentials for Pike Part 1 – The Packing List


IMG_7936Spring is right around the corner, and we at Fishwest are prepping for the upcoming pike season. With more fly anglers targeting these incredibly powerful fish, we have gotten many emails and customers coming in to the shop with questions on the proper gear they will need to catch them. So here is a rundown of some of the essential equipment we use when targeting Pike:

First you need the right fly rod. Typically we use 8 weight fly rods when targeting pike. The action of your rod may vary depending on how you are fishing. When blind casting, whether it’s from a boat or from shore, we have found a medium or medium/fast action rod works best. Pike flies can get relatively large; the slower action in a medium or medium/fast rod will allow the rod to load properly with less line and effort, thus cutting down on fatigue throughout the day.

ORF21HE2R4_lg_800x800If you are sight fishing for pike, a fast action rod will do the job best, this will allow you to present the fly quickly and more accurately than a medium action fly rod, plus it will help throw those large flies when the wind picks up. Also the fast action will help you cast further when sight fishing.

Richard’s choice: Helios 2 890-4 or Ross Essence FS 890-4

The next item to consider is your fly reel. Pike are not known for making long powerful runs after hook-up, but this doesn’t mean you want the cheapest reel on the market. They get big, so you will still want a solid drag and a reel that can hold a good amount of backing. Like I said before they are powerful so you will want a drag strong enough to stop them and have enough backing just in-case you do hook into that monster fish, 150 yards of 20lb backing should be more than enough for these fish. When it comes to the construction of the reel I look for machined reels with a sealed or easily maintained drag system. It isn’t out of the question to hook into a 40 inch fish when targeting this species and the last thing you want is for you drag to fail or for your spool to pop off midway through the fight.

Richard’s Choice: Orvis Mirage IV or Waterworks-Lamson Speedster HD 3.5

Once you have figured out your rod and reel setup, the next item to consider will be your line. First thing to consider is how you will be fishing for these guys; pike take top water flies just as much as they take streamers. For top water flies you will want a floating line of course, and for streamers you would want anything from a full intermediate line to a slow sinking line, around 1.5- 4 inches per second. We are usually targeting pike in the shallow marshes, water between 18 inches to 10 feet, so heavy sinking lines are not used as often and can cause headaches in this shallow water. A heavier sinking line may be appropriate if you are fishing in a swift moving river.

A lot of pike flies are large and sometimes not very aerodynamic, so you will want a line that will be able to turn them over and carry them through the wind. We suggest one with an aggressive front taper, this will help turn over the large flies as well as help load your rod. An aggressive taper will also allow you to make short quick cast when sight fishing. No matter on the type of line it helps to do a little research in your area on how anglers there are catching Pike, this may help narrow down the options to find the best line for the type of fishing in your area.Screenshot_2015-03-16-15-24-25-1

Richard’s Choice: Scientific Anglers Titan Taper (Intermediate) or Rio’s Outbound Short (Freshwater Intermediate)

Stay tuned for part two of Pike fishing Essentials where I go in depth into leaders, tools, and flies. Please feel free to contact us at 877.773.5437 with any questions that you may have.

 

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.

 

 

Orvis Tuesday Tip: The Ready Position

** This video is brought to us by the wonderful staff over at The Orvis Company. Mastering the “ready position” can make all the difference in the world when fishing the flats from a boat.  From my personal experience I can tell you that this was pretty difficult at first to conceptualize. However I had never come across this before but it can truly make all the difference between success and failure out on the flats. Enjoy!

Catch & Release

L1150291Every 4 or 5 years the tropical moisture of El Nino creates monsoons in the Rocky Mountains from late July through August and possibly September during enhanced cycles. This is a good thing. Typically August is the hottest month in the northern hemisphere and daily rain cools the air temperate, increases river flows and consequently also lowers water temperate. Cold water fish species endure less stress. The downside is the rivers tend to be more turbid from muddy runoff upstream. In times of plenty, anglers should continue using good techniques for catch and release. Fish mortality increases with stress and injury.

P1090376Stress factors that will kill fish are lack of oxygen in warm water, fighting a fish to exhaustion, poor landing and keeping them too long out of water. In addition, bringing fish, such as, grayling or lake trout from deep water too quickly to the surface can be fatal. Anglers need a balance of experience and good sense. Don’t fish in low water on hot days. A fish shouldn’t be out of the water longer than anglers can hold their breath. Higher test-strength line shortens the battle. Keeping the fish in the net and in the water helps insure a long life. Wet your hands before handling fish. A dry hand can wipe the mucus or slime from the skin and increase the possibility of infection.

P1060925Injury is reduced with artificial flies and lures. A fish will suck bait in deeply. By chance if your fly is hooked deep, simply cut the line close to the hook. It will typically deteriorate. Don’t worry about losing fish with barbless hooks, just keep the line tight. They are easier to remove from the lips, mouths and cheeks. Avoid handling your catch over hard surfaces such as boats and rocks. Fish wiggle a lot and are slippery. So, keep them in the net and if possible release them from the net. Neoprene nets are better than twine and bigger baskets hold the all of the fish. With wet hands, gently place your catch in slower water, facing upstream in a river, pushing them forward and pulling back until they swim from your hands. Practice good conservation in your piscaphilia purses. All anglers want to photograph their trophy, so just hold your breath and smile.

How To Video: Attaching a Braided Loop

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.

One For The Library: The Curtis Creek Manifesto

The Curtis Creek ManifestoMy 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.

Simple (Puffy?) Sculpins

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.