Reel Recovery: Coming Together Through Fishing

Saturday, August 23rd, 2014

Reel Recovery

Chairs scraping the linoleum, gentle murmurs and a hushed undertone of intermittent conversation fill the room. Fourteen fly fishermen and their buddies sit down for the evening meal on the first day. Just two hours ago they were complete strangers, but they have now begun to form a strong positive bond based upon their mutual arch-enemy: cancer. These gentlemen are all participants in a unique program offered to male cancer patients, free of charge, called Reel Recovery.

The initial Reel Recovery began when a group of fly fishing enthusiasts were moved by their friend Stewart Brown’s battle with brain cancer and motivated by the favorable calming influence fly fishing had upon him during his struggle. It has since become a national non-profit organization that plans and carries out fly fishing retreats for men recovering from any kind of cancer. Retreats are currently conducted in 17 states and even one this year in New Zealand.

After dinner they again convene for what retreat organizers call “courageous conversations.”  These conversations are led by a clinical social worker who encourages sometimes difficult conversation with open ended questions. Facilitator, Ted Larrison, who attends and conducts sessions at seven retreats a year, said, “ Most participants really like that they have someone that they can talk to.” He explained that many men don’t have strong family support or find it difficult to express their feelings or fears to family members, even wives. Some just don’t have anyone close to speak with. Their concerns range from dealing with pain, the recurrence and battling their disease, to handling medical costs and finances for their loved ones and facing death.

The second day is devoted mostly to fly fishing. Each participant is given a “buddy” to fish with. Many buddies are former participants and recovering cancer patients themselves. No fly fishing experience is necessary. All the equipment is provided, and each buddy works side by side with the participant to help, guide and instruct. There is no pressure, just enjoyment. Every effort is made to provide opportunities for a quality fishing experience for all, even if a participant has some health issues.

The third day begins with breakfast, includes a morning of fishing, lunch and a closing discussion. The mood is no longer hushed and subdued but excited, enthusiastic and jovial. Each man already has a fishing story to tell. They have formed a common bond besides cancer. Reg Tiball is the Reel Recovery Michigan coordinator. He stated, “ I like it because I am doing something for people who are alive. It is not research, real people directly benefit.”

Future communication is encouraged through e-mail exchange and additional cancer fighting resources are provided. For more information on Reel Recovery, visit their website at You can research and register for a retreat, donate or just share some moments with these courageous men. Be Well! Fish On!

By Leslie Scaletta

“On The Top” Summertime River Smallmouth Tactics

Monday, August 4th, 2014

“On The Top” Summertime River Smallmouth Tactics
Britt Stoudenmire

The late-summer months are an overlooked window to catch big smallmouth bass that have been lazily lying in the middle of the river after a long spawning season. The insect hatches and emergences that occur throughout the day including mayflies, damsel flies and my favorite, the cicada, spur feeding frenzies and create an excellent opportunity to throw topwater lures and flies.

One of my favorite lures to target topwater smallies during this period is the Pop-R. I make long casts with a 6-foot to 6-foot, 6-inch G.Loomis medium-action rod with a Shimano Stradic 2500 C4+ reel spooled with 20/6 Power Pro braided line. On entry into the water, I let the bait dead drift for about five seconds before working it erratically back to the boat. I target current seams, eddies, corner pockets and any type of structure or current break in the middle of fast water. It is important to continue working the bait with the same cadence, even if a fish is crashing behind it. Once you feel the rod load, reel into the fish and swing the rod back. Once hooked up, keep the rod and fish down in the water. Many big fish are lost while trying to pull the fish up to get a look at it.

Another one of my favorite topwater presentations is the buzzbait. I will target the same areas as above using a slightly stouter medium-heavy setup to drive the hook home. The key to the buzzbait is to get the bait up on the surface as soon as it hits the water. I favor a straight, steady retrieve, reeling just fast enough to keep the bait on the surface. When a fish eats it, allow him to load the rod before setting into him with a hard hook set. I favor longer shafted buzzbaits for better hook-ups, as I don’t use trailer hooks because of the damage they can do to smallies. If you have a blow up on your buzzbait and do not touch him with the hook, a quick follow up with a soft plastic will often garner an immediate bite from the same fish.

NROC client John Harrison with a topwater smallmouth caught on the fly.

NROC client John Harrison with a topwater smallmouth caught on the fly.

If you like to fly fish, summer is an excellent time to bust out the 7- or 8-weight and go looking for smallies. My favorite presentation for smallies on the fly is dead-drifting cicada bugs. This technique has produced some of my clients’ and my personal best fly-rod fish. When dead drifting cicada bugs isn’t working, several other presentations can produce explosive strikes. Any popper in the size-4 to size-6 range can attract smallies. When they strike, remember to strip up the slack line and into them before raising the rod tip hard to drive home the hook. If fish aren’t responding to the popper, another option is a slider-style fly. When stripped, the fly will dive slightly beneath the surface giving a darting and diving action. The Sneaky Pete is a good example, and this type of presentation can be deadly.

Britt Stoudenmire owns and operates New River Outdoor Co. with his wife Leigh and has been a full-time guide for the last 11 years on the New River in Southwest Virginia. You can reach him at (540) 921-7438 or

Fly Fishing for Tarpon

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014


By Capt. Pier Milito

Time and accuracy (quick and accurate) are two components that can make it or break it for anglers when fishing for tarpon on the fly.

Time can be broken down by saying, “Get the fly out in front of the tarpon as quickly as possible,” but only after you have spotted the fish and know which direction, speed, and depth the fish is traveling.

Accuracy can be broken down by saying, “Get the fly to the precise location.”  The precise location is the spot in the direct path of the fish you are targeting; you must also take fish depth, fish swim speed, water currents, and wind speeds and direction into consideration.

Other key components to a successful hook up include rigging, fly selection, and stripping speed and rhythm. Rigging is important before and after the hook up. If you have a poorly rigged leader system you can alter the natural swim pattern of the fly and/or cause the leader system to be so visible that the fish will see or notice it causing his/her appetite to shut down and refuse your offering. Poor rigging can also lead to fish break offs once hooked. Keep in mind that rigging also includes the knot that you use to connect the leader system to your fly line. I have tested knot strength(s) for many years and the two knots that are most common in connecting the fly leader system to the fly line are the nail knot and the Albright. In all of the years of knot testing the Albright has always outperformed the nail knot in this particular connection. So much so, that I will not use anything other than the Albright on all of my fly fishing rods above an 8 weight.  Fly selection is a controversial subject. Purposely, not getting into too much detail, most would agree that size and the right color matters. The speed and rhythm at which you strip a tarpon fly, in my humble opinion, once all other criteria has been met, are the two most important reasons why some fish eat and others don’t.

Concentrating on the basics and keeping both timing and accuracy in mind, it is also important I reiterate that the quicker you get the fly fishing in front of the tarpon and, therefore, the further away from your skiff you present the fly, the better your chances are of hooking up. And, of course, the opposite is also true, the longer it takes you to place the fly fishing in front of the tarpon the less likely you are to hook up.

So keep in mind that the longer it takes you to get the fly fishing to a tarpon coming to you, the better the chances the fish will have of seeing, feeling and/or hearing you. When these fish become aware of the skiff and or angler(s) presence the likelihood of feeding drops exponentially.

Choosing Right Fly Fishing Sunglasses

Monday, July 14th, 2014

Choosing The Right Shades
The most important thing when sight fishing to any species of fish is to be able to see the fish clearly. The most valuable piece of equipment in your fishing arsenal is a high-end pair of polarized fly fishing sunglasses, especially on those occasions when you are aligning the position of a fish to which you are casting or looking for good structure or a ball of baitfish.

Even in clear-water conditions fish can be difficult to see. Glare, bottom color, surface texture and wind, and a fish’s uncanny ability to camouflage itself make sight fishing the most challenging aspect of the fly fishing game. Selecting the correct polarized fly fishing glasses can be the difference between seeing and catching fish.

There are so many great polarized eyewear brands in the fishing market today. It was not that long ago when there were just a few companies making quality polarized fly fishing glasses for fishing. Back then, lens technology was limited and anglers had few choices in lens color and frame design. Now these choices seem endless, with companies like Costa, Smith, Kaenon and Spy Optics pushing the polarized eyewear fishing market.

Keeping the light out
Choose a frame that provides good coverage over the eyes as well as in the temple area. Look for frames that do not let in light peripherally (from the side of the head), and choose a frame that will remain comfortable throughout a long fishing day. Lightweight frames with arms that don’t pinch behind the ears are ideal.

Lens color and high contrast
Choosing a lens color is a personal preference. However, it is important to choose a lens that provides a high contrast. This is important when fishing in low-light conditions or with very light bottom conditions paired with bright sunlight.

Here are my recommendations for different light conditions.

  • For shallow flats, beaches and marshes: Amber lenses
  • For deep water, offshore waters and bright sunlight: Gray lenses
  • For softer light, glare and cloudy days: Yellow, light rose or amber lenses

Today the angler has many great choices when selecting polarized eyewear. The key is to find a lens and frame that fit your personal style. With the right combination of lenses that provide both the optimum color and contrast and a frame that blocks out light, you’ll be seeing and catching more fish!

Fly Of The Month: Garners Twisted Whistler

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014


This fly was designed for river stripers but will catch trophy-sized spotted and largemouth bass as well, and probably any species fresh or salt that likes to eat wounded baitfish. Tying it on a jigged hook gives the fly a terrific wounded-baitfish motion that triggers strikes as well as preventing snags.

Hook: Gamakatsu Jig 60 Round Bend
Eyes: Large 1/4 Real-Eyes
Thread: UTC White 140
Weight: .025 Lead wire wrapped on hook shank
Tail: Tip-dyed white/chartreuse bucktail, white Icelandic sheep hair
Body: Hot orange Estaz, Enrico Puglisi Pearl Sparkle Brush
Head: White pearl laser dub

The Line Between Life and Death: Fly Fishing from Kayaks

Friday, May 23rd, 2014

Life and death are one thread, the same line viewed from different sides
—Lao Tzu

Paddle fishing is a term covering a large number of angling styles. Among these styles is the challenge of fly fishing from a kayak. So, why would someone want to fly fish from a kayak? For the same reason many of us get into kayaks in the first place: a greater sense of connection to the natural environment, the world around us and to the sport we are so passionate about. Before you run out and try your hand at flying from a kayak, there is one important thing to consider—the humble fly line.

If you think paddling long distances, fighting the wind and trying to locate fish are tough, you obviously haven’t played with fly line. The biggest challenge facing kayakers with fly rods is line management. Fly line seems to have the uncanny ability to find each and every element on a kayak that it can get caught on, squeezed in, or hung around—sometimes it finds all three of these elements at the same time. Making sure your kayak or canoes’ deck is free of these potential snags is the first line of defense. Some things that can cause problems include rod holders, accessory mounts, knots in bungee cord ends, buckles, loose straps, extra rods and tackle. The smoother the exposed surfaces the better off you will be, especially when you cannot reach the further parts of your vessel.

A well worked out system is needed as a second line of tangle defense and to present your fly from a kayak. This includes a place to set your rod and reel, pile your stripped line and hold your fly. Often, this can all be accomplished with the use of a stripping basket. This is especially handy for keeping your rig at the ready so you can quickly stow your paddle and get your fly on the water without wasting time once you decide to fish. Some baskets can accommodate the line and your rod as well. I prefer a collapsing stripping basket that can be worn on the waist. It’s great for wading as well as use on the kayak and it stores nicely. Sit on top kayaks and open decks seem to do well with the addition of a stripping basket. Sit inside kayaks are their own stripping basket if you keep them free of snags and often a towel over the front of the cockpit makes a nice launch pad for your next cast. Some anglers simply pile the line in front of them and place their rod between their legs. Once you’re ready to fish, you simply put down your paddle and pick up you fly rod.

Standing in a kayak presents special challenges but is a great way to site fish if you have the ability and the right vessel. Casting and line management can also be easier from a standing position. A standing angler can strip off the amount of line they are planning to cast into the kayak or stripping basket, hold the fly, rod and line in one hand and pole along with the other hand or drift with the wind and current. If there are not a lot of weeds it may be easier to leave the fly dragging along behind a bit. This makes for a quick and easy presentation.

As is always true of fly casting, practice your technique and prepare your vessel before you get on the water. If you plan on doing any fishing from a seated position, get a nice low beach chair to practice from. Stow your equipment as you plan to paddle fish it and practice with it so that when you are finally on the water presenting to a fish the struggle is at only one side of the line.

Understanding Fly Lines – Part 1: Nomenclature

Monday, May 12th, 2014

Time to Ditch the Deaddrift

Friday, May 9th, 2014

If you’ve ever tried fly fishing, you’ll know that one concept is pounded into your brain over and over and over. Getting a drag free drift is the holy grail of fly fishing. Whether fishing dry flies or nymphs, we all know that getting that bug to float “naturally” with the current is the key to catching trout. It’s a tru- ism that is the foundation of fly fishing… most of the time. Knowing when to violate this sacred notion can cause your success rate to soar.

May in Georgia brings on a lot of bug activity which, in turn, brings with it some great dry fly fishing. And even the most die-hard nymph angler loves to catch fish on a dry when the switch is on. But even dry flies, we are taught, must be fished on a drag free drift. And that’s true, unless you’re not getting a rise to your fly. Here’s where it becomes perfectly okay to violate the rule; that rule you’ve had pounded into every fiber of your brain.

Notice, on your next trip, how caddis flies as well as mayflies will “dance” across the water as they’re going through the egg laying process. They’ll bob up and down briefly touching the water or, in the case of caddis, they’ll often skitter along the surface. This drives trout crazy and now is the time to bring some drag into your presentation.

Start with a bushy dry fly that floats well but is also close to the size of the naturals. At the end of your drift, let the fly swing across the current as you raise the tip of your rod. You’ll be amazed at how well you can control the fly action with a little practice. Be ready for a hard strike and remember that you’re fishing a tight line so give a little right after the hook is set to avoid breaking the fish off.

Here’s another idea. If you want to try making your fly dance in one place, as is often the case with a natural, tie a heavy dropper fly to a long piece of tippet material anchored on the bend of your dry. This will allow you to swing the dry into position and literally pick it up off the water a few inches then let it drop back down in place as the weighted nymph of soft hackle pulls it back down. The added advantage of this, of course, is that you may also get a strike on the subsurface fly.

So, defy tradition and have the time of your life swinging and dancing. It’s a blast!

LA on the Fly: Pop the Top!

Friday, May 2nd, 2014

Becoming Secure In Your Fly Fishing Skills

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014


Okay, folks, this is it. This is the time of year when you can catch trout on any stream that holds them. You can even catch them in a mud puddle in the parking lot streamside. There is so much going on right now that willing fish are the least of your concerns. Weather conditions are ideal for the angler and trout alike. Aquatic insects are moving around, hatching and laying eggs. The fish are more active than at any other time of the year and it doesn’t get too dark to fish until almost 9 PM.

So with all these great events in the trout world coming together at the same time, why are some anglers still struggling to catch a trout on a fly? I’ll let you in on a secret. It’s your technique. Fly fishing is very similar to sports like archery or even golf in that once you learn the basics, real improvement comes with making minor adjustments. With fly fishing, those minor adjustments come in the form of understanding where the fish are holding and concentrating on those areas rather than shot-gunning the whole stream. They come with knowing how to get a true drag free drift when needed to make that dry fly appear as real as possible.

Minor adjustments can also be made in something as obvious as when you’re setting the hook when a fish rises to your fly. Here’s another secret. Back in the 70’s when I was learning to fly fish, I became a fairly accomplished caster but an awful catcher. I honestly fished the Chattooga River for two seasons, that’s two years, before catching a trout on the fly. Now, I’ve dealt with this and can now confess to you my issues but what I really want to do is help you avoid some of the same trials and tribulations I experienced early on. I’ll also admit that I’m much more hard headed than your average angler as most people would have thrown their fly rod down and walked away after two years of zero catches. Not me, by golly. For better or worse, I’m too hard headed to quit. But you can benefit from my obtuseness so stick with it.


My first recommendation would be to find an experienced mentor to fish with. That’s how I learned that my hookset issues were due to me setting the hook too soon. As the fish rose to my fly, I was jumping the gun and pulling the fly away from the fish. A simple adjustment in my timing totally changed my fly fishing life.

Secondly, through your mentor or at your local fly shop, get someone to help you learn how to read water, identify local hatches, select flies and get drag free drifts. There are Trout Unlimited chapters scattered across north and central Georgia that are ideal for finding someone to help you become a competent fly angler. To find a chapter near you, go to www. . See you on the water!

The Roll Cast

Monday, August 19th, 2013

By Susan Thrasher

As fly fishers, there are so many different areas we can focus on to improve our chances of having a successful day on the river. One of the most important areas is casting and the ability to adapt to different situations. One casting technique, that is a must for your arsenal, is the roll cast. Although this is often the first cast taught to beginners because it is easy to learn, it is a valuable casting method that is consistently used by the most experienced fly fisherman.

To start, it’s important to note that practice should take place on water since it is the tension created between the water and line that loads the rod and gives the results you are looking for. If grass is your only option, you can still practice by stretching the line out in front of you and tying the end of your line to a hula-hoop, brick or anything that will anchor the end of the line. This will provide the tension needed to create the roll. Following the three simple steps outlined below, and with a little practice, you’ll be roll casting before you know it.

Set up

Begin with fifteen or twenty feet of line extended beyond the rod tip. The line is held with the line hand at belt buckle level. Body position should be square to the target with the right foot back. Slowly, with rod extended parallel to the water, drag the line towards you by lifting and tilting the rod slightly to a vertical position. Your rod hand will be at temple level, similar to answering a phone. Shift weight to the back foot. Tilting the rod will move the fly line to your side and away from your shoulder. The fly line will now be slightly behind you forming a belly or a “D” shape. At this point stop to examine your set up. Is your wrist straight? The correct wrist position will result in a 45-degree angle between the rod butt and forearm. Are you tense? If so, relax. Have you selected a target? Where do you want the fly to land? Use your elbow as a line of sight to your desired target. Is there still line on the water? There should be. The surface tension of the water on the line is what creates the smooth turn over of the loop. Is the “D” shaped line behind your shoulder at a complete stop? If so, then you’re ready for step two.


Shift your weight to your front foot and immediately follow with a downward movement of the rod, leading with the elbow and rotating from the shoulder. As your thumb comes into peripheral view, firmly snap your wrist forward keeping your elbow slightly bent. Do not extend to a straight-arm position. The roll can either be in the air or on the water. This depends on the wrist snap position. If the snap is lower, the roll is along the water. After the snap, the rod butt will be against the underside of your forearm and change from 45 degrees to 0 degrees. Pause to allow the rod to pull the line beyond the rod tip and roll out to your target.

Follow through

Continue the cast with the rod tip pointed to the target. Your arm will be extended, however slightly flexed at the elbow. Follow through with the cast until your fly lands on the water.

Adapting to the current

The steps outlined above work well when the current is running from right to left, but what about when the river is running from your left to right? Simply start with your casting hand over your left eye, step back with your left foot and form the “D” loop over your opposite shoulder. Everything else is just the same.

You can use the roll cast in a number of situations, for instance in tight spots where back casts are restricted due to rocks, trees or brush and you can use it to remove slack in the line or lift a sinking line to the surface. So, start practicing! Mastering the roll cast as one of your casting techniques is sure to make you a better fly fisherman.

Susan Thrasher is the owner of Southern Brookies Fly Fishing and is a FFF Certified Casting Instructor. Contact her at

Essential Parts of the Fly Cast

Monday, August 19th, 2013

By Rene Hesse

How did you learn to fly cast? Did you go out and get a rod and start casting? Most of us, myself included, either had a rod around the house or bought one, and then gave it a shot. If you want to become a better fly caster there are a few things you will want to do. The first is decide it is your goal to become a better caster. You can be a good fisherman and not cast great loops, but you can be a better fly fisherman if you can cast with more accuracy and distance, and it’s all about the loops. The following is the start of a series that will help you achieve good loops for that beautiful and effective cast.

“The Essentials of Fly Casting” by Bill Gammel is one of many fly casting books on the Federation of Fly Fishers reading list. He breaks down the cast into five essentials. I had to make an easy method of remembering them, so I’ve given it the acronym of SSSPP; you can make it the sound of your cast. The goal of the essentials is to get the rod tip to go on a straight-line path, thus creating a tight, efficient loop to carry the fly out.

The straight-line path of the rod tip (SLP) is achieved by using the other four essentials together, which are stroke size, slack removal, power application and pause. So there you have it. That’s all you will ever need to know to make a good cast. Wrong! Putting it all together is the key, and people learn in many different ways; watching, listening, doing or a combination of them all. Do you know what your best method is?

If you like to read up on things to get the concept and then try casting, there is a vast library out there for you. When I started my studies of fly casting it took a little while before I realized all the great casters were saying the same thing, but in a different way. They were all trying to get me to make the rod tip travel on the straight-line path for a good overhead cast with a tight loop. Think of trying to get the rod tip to travel down the center of a curtain rod. That’s a straight line on all planes, both vertical and horizontal. The other four essentials will help you do this.

That is our first of the five essentials, and we will talk more about how to achieve that in the following articles. But for now if you are the type to do some reading or watch some video on casting, check out the FFF web site and get the concepts. Then go casting with the intent of making better casts, and you will. I’d recommend only practicing for 10-15 minutes at a time, and watch your loops. Fly casting can be as much fun as fly fishing when you have a goal in mind.

Rene Hesse is a Certified Casting Instructor and Federation of Fly Fishers & Atlanta Fly Fishing and Camping Meetup Organizer.

The Casting Corner

Monday, August 19th, 2013

You don’t need all of the latest gear and fancy equipment to be a successful fly fisherman. It actually takes very little to get started but beware, it’s addictive. Fishing with a fly rod is as easy or as complex as you want it to be. Start easy and buy a simple fly rod and start practicing out in the yard. I recommend taking a lesson or two to get the basics down and cut down on the learning curve, and start taking your fly rod along when you go bass fishing.

If Bass fishing is a redneck sport and fly fishing is a purist sport, I quit. Get over it, it’s just fishing. You don’t need to learn a new language or buy a tweed coat, a pipe and a $2,000 bamboo rod to start fly fishing, just like you don’t need a fancy bass boat and 10 rods to catch bass. Anyone can learn to fish with a fly rod. All you need is one fly rod, a few flies and some water.

If you’ve never tried fly fishing don’t let the image of the complete angler stop you from having the most fun you can have catching fish. Have you ever held the line in your hand while a fish is on the other end of it? That’s one of the unique things about fly fishing; your line hand is in direct contact with the fish. You feel every wiggle of the tail every head shake.

Now, why would a certified casting instructor with the Federation of Fly Fishers tell you to chill out on all the fly fishing mystique and lingo? Because at the end of the day it’s just fishing or at least that is how it starts. Once you try it you tend to get hooked and then it becomes an obsession. You will end up with scores of flies, waders, tools and gadgets and too many rods until one day you do find yourself in one of those fancy stores trying on tweed coats while discussing casting arcs and double spey casts. My point is don’t be intimidated by what is just another way of doing what we all love to do, fish.

There is almost nothing better after a long day at work than to walk down to the lake behind my house with fly rod in hand and cast until dark. Even if I don’t catch a fish I feel the freedom that comes from fishing, the pride of a fly caster making a beautiful cast and the joy of being outdoors at sunset. If you haven’t tried fly fishing, I invite you to join me in the sport that consumes my waking hours and my dreams, fly fishing is fun. Check back in future issues for tips to help you on the way to learning to fish with a fly rod.

Rene Hesse is a Federation of Fly Fishers Certified Casting Instructor

Learning to Fly: An Introduction

Monday, August 19th, 2013


As anglers, we are always looking to challenge ourselves when in search of our finned quarry. With traditional spinning gear, one usually makes the transition from fishing with live bait to challenging themselves by fishing with artificial baits. To challenge themselves further, lighter line tests or lighter leaders can be used. Some people may even get “bored” with fishing many of the new super braids on the market and go back to light monofilament for a change of pace. Many anglers, however, turn to the oldest, simplest and most pure form of angling—fly fishing.

To some anglers, fly fishing is a term that causes a little nervousness. It is a form of fishing many anglers lack confidence in and may find to be a bit too much work. However, with some basic knowledge, a little bit of practice and instruction, and many humbling days on the water, an angler can become just as proficient with a fly rod as they would be with a spinning rod.

The first aspect of fly fishing that all anglers must deal with is the rod. What rod to buy is the first question all potential fly anglers ask. Before you look at brand names, you must decide on the proper weight fly rod. Rods are weighted to coincide with the properly weighted fly line. For example, an 8-weight rod would be fished with an 8-weight fly line, most of the time.

When deciding on a rod, you must examine the areas and the fish you will be fishing. The standard for saltwater fly fishing in Florida, for example, calls for an 8- or 9-weight rod. These rods can tackle just about any inshore species of fish found in Florida. You would not want to tackle tarpon over 50 pounds or large Keys permit with these weight rods. You could, but the fight would be very long and would put the fishes’ recovery in jeopardy. Some anglers prefer 6- or 7-weight rods. These rods are great fun when fishing for reds and trout on the open flats or for backcountry juvenile tarpon. However, if there is any kind of wind or if you like to throw large surface flies, these rods may not work as well. Rods weighted 10, 11 and 12 are usually used for tackling 100-plus-pound tarpon, large Keys permit and large snook around structure. Casting these rods all day to redfish and trout on the flats would not only be tiring but impractical. Finding a happy medium that allows you to do a little of everything is the key to breaking into and enjoying fly fishing.

When you get to your local fly shop, don’t be overwhelmed by the many different brands of fly rods. They are all different, even if they are the same weight rod. Names like G-Loomis, Orvis, Sage, Temple Fork Outfitters and St. Croix are all great rods to buy. They can be a bit pricey, though. The key is to demo cast as many rods as possible. Most fly shops will have demo rods available for you to try. Then, get the best rod that you can afford.

Capt. Jon Bull can be contacted via email at, by phone at (863) 860-7250 and on the many online forums under the handle “Shadowcast.”

2013 Southern Classic Musky Weekend

Tuesday, June 4th, 2013

By Adam Lavigne


Deep through the heart of Middle Tennessee flow numerous rivers that comprise some of the finest bastions of southern muskies. They prowl timber, weed beds, sand bars and ledges, looking to ambush every other species that swims in (and on) the same waters, causing anglers to fumble with their line and turn jittery as their massive silhouettes rise from nowhere behind a well-thrown fly. Last year, Todd Gregory of Towee Boats and Brad Bohen of Musky Country Outfitters realized an idea of gathering far-flung musky fly fishermen in one place; thus, the inaugural Musky Fly Fishing World Championship was born at Rock Island, TN, with much welcomed enthusiasm. This year, the decision was made to hold the Musky Fly Fishing World Championship this fall in Hayward, WI, the epi-center of trophy musky waters, while still putting on a spring tournament in Tennessee to continue musky awareness efforts and provide an opportunity for some great camaraderie.

May 3-4 saw fly fishermen from around North America come together in Rock Island, TN, for the Southern Classic Musky Weekend put on by Towee Boats. To make full use of all the fine musky waters found in Tennessee, anglers had to decide whether to chase this elusive predator on the big waters of Melton Hill Lake or in the rivers and tributaries of the Collins and Caney Fork system on Friday, May 3. It turned out anglers couldn’t go wrong with either choice; several fish in the mid 30-inch range were quickly brought to net in Rock Island while Cody Daniels of Team Smith wrangled his first ever fly-rod musky over on Melton Hill, an enormous 48-incher. The Collins/Caney crew wasn’t finished that first day as Steve Seinberg of Team S.C.O.F. enticed a 42-inch musky to inhale his fly. Many more muskies were seen, hooked up with or lost as they weren’t meant to be caught that day.


All anglers were required to fish the Rock Island waters on Saturday but, to be honest, few were eager to launch their boats. A cold, steady downpour caused teams to stand at the end of boat ramps and think twice about what they were about to do. None the less, the prospect of musky overcame the rain and most strung up their rods and went about slinging big flies into tiny holes. Cast, strip, strip, figure-eight, repeat, was the mantra of that day as folks pushed through. Perseverance paid off as more fish were boated. Team Frazen tangled with, and won, a 41-inch fish while Team Maybush pulled a 42-inch musky out of a smaller tributary. By the end of the weekend, nine muskies were netted and safely released, Cody Daniels and Chuck Smith held onto their lead to win the Southern Musky Classic and an excellent weekend was had by all. Towee boats topped it all off with a Saturday night awards dinner where anglers traded tales of their home waters, missed fish, epic days and phone numbers with the intent of tackling new challenges.

The Musky Fly Fishing World Championship, Oct. 25-27, in Hayward, WI, looks to be nothing less than a great tournament with great sponsors that will support the Jose Wejebe Foundation, Wounded Warriors in Action and the local musky conservation efforts of the Wisconsin DNR.

Adam Lavigne is Co-publisher and Editor of the Middle and Eastern Tennessee editions of The Angler Magazine. For more information, visit or contact Todd Gregory at

Fly Fishing for Brook Trout in the Presidential Range

Sunday, June 2nd, 2013

By Joe Coklin

Presidential Range, brook trout often seem to appear out of nowhere to attack a muddler. Even trout as small as two or three inches have voraciously pounced upon my drifting muddler. Although other flies will catch trout in these frigid waters, nothing, in my experience, works nearly as well. My best guess as to why the muddler minnow is such a great fly to fish in high-elevation streams is because it looks and acts like possibly the trout’s only large prey item, the slimy sculpin. Muddler minnows are truly effective because they can not be fished wrong; they are perfect for the beginning fly fisher. Cast it upstream or down. Float it, sink it, swing it or twitch it. Wherever trout abound, particularly brook trout, a muddler tied to your tippet will usually produce results. It is the muddler’s versatility, which accounts for its deadly effectiveness. If I were restricted in my pursuit of wild brook trout to a single fly pattern, the muddler minnow would be my choice–hands down. If you do not include a few muddlers in sizes 6-10 in your small stream fly box, the trout will thank you!

2. Woolly Bugger:
fly_woolly_buggerWhen I graduated from worm-dunking to fly fishing back in the ’70′s, this most-ubiquitous fly had yet to be invented. Sure, Western fly fishermen often used woolly worms to good effect, primarily as imitations of giant stone fly larvae in the West’s great brawling rivers. However, it was not until an enterprising Eastern angler decided to add a marabou tail to the established woolly worm that the killer fly we all know was born. A woolly bugger loosely imitates many important trout foods: leeches, minnows, crayfish and the larval stages of aquatic insects as exemplified by dragonflies, dobsonflies (hellgramites) and stone flies. Various incarnations of the woolly bugger have caught everything from tarpon to trout; however, for NH upland streams I favor black, olive and white buggers in sizes eight and ten. A tungsten bead helps to sink the fly to the bottom quickly, especially in plunge pools. IMHO, a trout fisher should never be without a selection of easily-tied woolly buggers.

3. Griffith’s Gnat:
Chironomids. Trout consume prodigious quantities of these tiny insects and in some environments they represent the only food upon which a trout may depend. Chironomids, commonly called “midges”, are most available to trout in ponds and beaver impoundments; however, most New Hampshire trout streams, with the possible exception of high-gradient mountain streams, follow a serpentine course along at least part of their length. These “s” bends often contain ideal habitat for midges due to slower flows and sediment deposition. The griffith’s gnat is a simple dry fly which imitates either individual adults or clusters of them. I often add an antron tail as a trailing shuck in hopes of depicting the difficult transition between the pupal and adult stages of development. As is common with most effective fly patterns, the griffith’s gnat is easy to tie. It consists of a peacock herl body with a grizzly hackle palmered throughout. One should tie these in sizes 14-22.

4. Royal Wulff:
fly_royal_wulffSometimes I choose to fish a particular fly pattern for reasons that have little to do with how effective the fly may be. On a broader scale, this can explain why I generally prefer dry fly “fishing” to “catching” trout with nymphs and streamers. As Buddhists like to say, ” it is about the journey”, not the destination. Well maybe not all the time but often enough. When I am in the mood to fish a dry fly in our small waters, there is none better than the royal wulff. It is easy to see on the water and it floats exceptionally well (especially when moose body hair is used for the tail). I think that it is truly a handsome fly, as befitting its name. Most importantly, despite a gaudy appearance, it somehow retains a bugginess that brook trout seem to love.

5. Pheasant Tail Nymph:
Frank Sawyer was a river keeper on the famed chalk streams of southeast England. He was also a keen observer of nature and an innovative fly tyer. The pheasant tail nymph is his creation. The trout of England’s chalk streams grow fat and fast on a rich soup of macro invertebrates. After countless hours watching the interactions of the trout and its prey, Frank devised a fly that mimicked the general profile of the various insects that comprised his trout’s daily diet. He also tied his pheasant tail nymph with brass wire instead of thread. This allowed him to maintain the slim profile of the diminutive insects he was trying to imitate and also sink the nymph quickly to the level of the feeding trout. Today’s version of the pheasant tail nymph usually includes peacock herl for the thorax and perhaps a bead head; otherwise it is very similar to Frank’s original design. My fly box contains pheasant tail nymphs from sizes 14 down to 20.

Joe Conklin is a member Trout Unlimited, a guide and a renowned speaker. Reach him at -mail: