Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Bow and Arrow Cast 30'

Here's a simple but cool tip I found from Ken Hanley at Pacific Extremes. It's so neat I feel silly for not having figured this out myself. Check it out:

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Fly Fishing Troofs Revealed

Well, the title's a bit tongue-in-cheek inflammatory, but I wrote this post to dispel some of the myths about how fly fishing is really done most days, versus the highlights that you see in photos, books, and vids. I've learned a few things in my fly fishing journey that I don't see discussed or written about much. Many of these are probably apparent to old hands but most beginning fly fishers have never heard about them.

1. Learn to roll or spey cast

In most fly fishing situations you won't have room to make a majestic cast like the ones in "A River Runs Through It" or that you see in photos or at the casting pond. There is usually too much brush, trees, or other obstacles behind you to allow a big backcast. You're going to have to get creative and learn to roll cast or spey cast on your single hand rod. Spey casting is just a higher powered variation of roll casting. It's not something just for experts. And it's no harder than a regular overhead cast to learn well. In most rivers less than 50' wide you'll be doing as much spey/roll casting as overhead. You won't have to wade out into the middle of the river to cast (spooking untold numbers of fish) and can fish closer to cover. And maybe you'll spend more time with your fly in the water rather than in tree branches.

This great video taught me the basics of single handed spey casting for trout. Jeff Putnam's single handed spey casting video:

Here's an excellent book I used to learn to single hand spey cast: Single-Handed Spey Casting: Solutions to Casts, Obstructions, Tight Spots, and Other Casting Challenges of Real-Life Fishing

2. Tight loops and pretty casts are bad

Ok, this is true only sometimes. But in many situations you will be casting a heavy fly, multiple flies, a sink tip, sinkers, and/or an indicator. These implements will cause tangles if you cast tight, snappy loops with them. Widen up your loops in order to avoid that. Practice casting with these items on your line because it's a different feel and stroke than just casting a single light fly. Also, learn to water haul. It's an ugly but effective lob cast that gets the job done when fishing heavy rigs.

3. Accuracy is much more important distance

You will cast to many more fish at close range of 10-30' than anything else. This is one that is not discussed much in fly casting instructionals. This is an easy cast distance for even a beginner. However, if you can't put your fly into a hula hoop size target (as a baseline), you're going to have a hard time. Putting in your casting practice time learning to hit dinner-plate size targets at close range will put more fish on your line than learning to bomb casts 80'.

4. The fish are usually not near the surface

The dry fly gets all the glory but most of the time the fish are feeding in the bottom half of the water column. Get deep. Learn to fish and tie nymphs and streamers. This applies to rivers as well as lakes. Rig your gear so that you can get deep. Use sinkers, sink tips, weighted flies, and learn to mend and present your fly so that it sinks quickly. One of the reason gear anglers are so successful is because their lures are heavy and lines are thin, so that most of the time they are fishing near the bottom.

5. Sinkers are a necessary evil

This combines with #4 but one of the biggest things I had to learn when I started fly fishing was that sinkers are a quite prominent part of fly fishing. Without them you can't get deep. You of course can weight your fly but I believe that detracts from your fly realism and motion.

6. The smaller the river, the better suited it is to fly fishing

This one's pretty basic. Small creeks and streams are shallow and the fish can be spooky. This makes it hard to use gear or bait, since that stuff makes more of a splash, and also snags bottom more. Flies, on the other hand, are light so they float or suspend nicely in the current. On a creek or a larger river during low water, this is a marked advantage. Conversely, fishing larger, deeper, swifter rivers demands more weight and requires less stealth. This provides more advantage to the gear/bait fishermen. Obviously you can still do well fly fishing, but the bigger water conditions tend to favor the gear guys.

7. Presentation is more important than the fly

Most of us are seeking that magic fish magnet fly, and of course fly selection matters. However, in most cases, if that fly isn't fished in a way that looks like the natural, the fish aren't going to go near it. Don't try to seek the "magic bullet" fly. Often, a fly that approximates the size and silhouette of the natural is enough. The magic bullet is your presentation. Learn to present your fly naturally in different situations to get fish to buy what you're selling.

8. Don't skip the fast water

Resident trout, especially rainbows, hold in much faster and shallower water than you think. This was made clear to me in Wendell Ozefovich's videos, "The Underwater World of Trout."  He shows large trout holding in 6-12 inch deep riffles picking off nymphs. The riffled water provides cover, making it more attractive for a trout to be there. His videos show how trout actually expend less energy holding in faster currents than slower ones. The lesson is, don't ignore the crappy looking water that everyone walks by.
A corollary to this is that the riffles are where much of the bug life in the rivers calls home. The shallow water allows sunlight to penetrate and promote plant life while the whitewater provides oxygenation. Bugs need this, so a riffle has many times higher bug density than those fishy-looking deep pools that many anglers pound.

9. Find feeding fish

When fishing you may see fish in deep pools, or you may just be blind fishing those pools, but in many cases the fish there are resting. Sure, some of them, especially browns, are willing to chase a large meal should it present itself, but if you're looking for numbers of fish, they are in the riffles or runs below the riffles. Also, if you see fish tight to the bottom it's possible they're feeding on bottom nymphs but they may also be resting. Same for fish sitting back in eddies. Most of the players are suspended slightly and are in or very close to a strong current that transports food in front of their noses. Find these fish for action.

10. Small flies catch more fish

If you're looking for numbers of fish, use smaller flies. The reason for this is that most of us do not "match the hatch" accurately. We may see what looks like size 14 caddis crawling around. However, if you put that caddis next to your flies, you will usually see that you'll need a size 16 or 18 to match the natural. This part of the tip is more about sizing your flies accurately than using small flies. But most of us oversize our fly.
The corollary tip is not to fear that fish won't see your small fly. If they are keying in on this size prey, you will get more grabs with this than a larger fly. If you want fish to see your little fly a little bit better than the natural you have a few options: use a little flash in the fly, use long wavy materials in it for more motion, or use a larger flashy attractor fly in tandem with your little fly. I've found that the small flies will outfish larger, showier flies at least 5 to 1. The only caveat here is that the murkier the water, the less this applies.

Anyone have any more things they've learned that no one really talks about? Agree or disagree with what I've written? Please post it to the comments. Would love to hear from others about their experience.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Stop the agribusiness water grab from fish in CA - you can help

I avoid politics on this blog except fish and water politics. If you care about anadromous fish - Salmon, Steelhead, Stripers, Shad, etc. - please send an email to . The details are below, but letters are needed by Nov. 16 to enter comments into a suspiciously short comment period on the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) described below. This MOA gives excessive control of Sacramento-San Joaquin water to agribusiness and Southern California water contractors and minimizes control of water reserved for fish. Even if you are not a Californian, please add your voice by sending an email to Interior Secretary Salazar opposing the MOA. You can use this letter as an email template: . These letter writing campaigns have helped immensely in the past, so please add your voice. It will make a difference. The details can further be found in the newsletter below.

Newsletter of
November, 2011
The Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) Now Poses Great Danger to Fisheries
A government Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) has recently given the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California water contractors near complete control of the BDCP process.  Salmon and other fisheries are now at great risk unless the plan can be put back on track.  The peripheral canal has been put on fast track and fishery concerns are being ignored.  The action also excludes the fishery agencies from key decisions.  We need to fight back with letters of protest.  Please go to and use the model to write to Interior Secretary Salazar opposing the MOA.  Send the letter as an email to  The salmon industry and the fisheries and environmental groups are all writing letters but individual letters can be a huge help.     

Salmon Industry Targets the BDCP Habitat Conservation Plan as “No Help”
In testimony before the Assembly Water Parks and Wildlife Committee, the Golden Gate Salmon Association charged that the BDCP Habitat Conservation Plan will fail to rebuild the Central Valley salmon runs as required by law.  The BDCP plan is restricted to eight habitat restoration projects that take place only in the Delta.  The plan’s $3.7 billion cost is unfunded and most of the projects take forty years to complete.  The salmon can’t wait that long. The plan also ignores the impact the peripheral canal project would have on upriver salmon losses.  Approximately half of the salmon problems occur in the upper river as a result of the excessive pumping from the Delta and its impact on reservoir releases, temperatures and flows that destroy the upriver spawning and rearing habitat.  You can read the GGSA testimony at .

Bureau of Reclamation Provides a Major Boost to Mokelumne River Salmon Production
On October 4th 2011 history was made in the Delta and in the Mokelumne River.  The Bureau of Reclamation closed the Delta cross channel gates for ten days starting the 4th.  This allowed the adult salmon attempting to return to the Mokelumne to locate the river by smell.  When the cross channel gates are open, the flow through the gates is so heavy that the salmon miss the smell and swim through the gates.  They end up as strays in the Sacramento system.  The result of the closure was dramatic.  Return records were broken.  The Mokelumne hatchery will run at capacity this year and there will be a huge natural spawn in the river.  The result will be over 100,000 additional adults in the ocean when they mature in three years.  You can read the report on the success of the closure at . The photo on the left shows GGSA thanking Don Glaser and Dave Gore of the Bureau for their leadership.

Thanks for your continuing support.  80,000 supporters have now signed our petitions demanding better water policies for fish.
Dick Pool –Editor  P.O. Box 5788, Concord, CA 94524  email:

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Line handling for long casts - loops vs. coils

This is just a lazy-ass re-post of Deneki Outdoors' tip, but it's helped me so much that I wanted to post it. I've been using this a bunch and for me, it has made my distance casting much more enjoyable and of course, distance-ier. What they show is a way to hold your running line in your line hand when casting. If you create loops of line looping in opposite directions instead of coils around your hand, you have fewer tangles. They demo it for spey casting but I use it just to shoot my WF line off my single hand rods.

What this means for me is that on most casts I can hold 3 loops of line in my hand, each one slightly smaller than the previous one. For the first loop I strip off about 8 feet of line, so doubled over it hangs down 4 feet. The next loop is about 7 feet and the one after contains 6 feet of line. Each loop exits my hand opposite the previous one. (I know, this sounds confusing. Watch the video, it explains it much better). This allows me to shoot 15-20 feet of line as needed with less resistance and much fewer tangles. Make sure you actually just open your hand to shoot the line but don't drop the line when you go for the shoot. Just let it pull out of your open hand. I had this bad habit of dropping the line as soon as it started shooting, and fixing it helped add 5 feet to my line shooting distance.

The video below demonstrates it better. The idea is to avoid coils and to create loops of line going in opposite directions out of your hand. Thanks for the tip, Deneki!