Search Month: November 2018

The shakes, and why we love big trout

. . When I hooked him, I felt a tremendous release of emotion. Satisfaction merged with adrenaline. My yearning for such a moment finally came to a close as the big wild brown trout slid onto the bank. I killed the trout with a sharp rap at the top of its skull, because that’s what I did back then. I knelt by the river to wet my creel, and when I placed the dead trout in the nylon bag, the full length of its tail stuck out from the top.

. . . Then I began to shake. The closing of anticipation washed over me. The fruition of learning and wondering for so many years left me in awe of the moment I’d waited for. I trembled as I sat back on my heels. With two knees in the mud of a favorite trout stream, I watched the water pass before me. I breathed. I thought about nothing and everything all at once. I felt calm inside even as I stared down at my wet, shaking hands.

. . .When a gust of wind pushed through the forest, I stirred. Finally my lengthy revery was passed, and I stood tall with my lungs full of a strong wind. Then I walked back to camp . . .

Quick Tips — Put More Juice in the Cast

Keep it tight and crisp. Cast with speed. Be more aggressive. Build more momentum with the rod tip. The casting stroke should be snappy, energetic and sharp with abrupt and forceful stops between two points. I’ve used all of these descriptions and more to communicate the correction for the most troublesome fly fishing flaw out there — lazy casting.

By the end of December, I will log over sixty guide trips this year. On these trips I meet a lot of good anglers from all over the country who want to take the next step and turn a corner with their fly fishing game. I also meet anglers relatively new to fly fishing who are looking to build on the basics. And on the majority of my trips, at the end of the day, the number one thing I leave with my new friends is this: put more juice in the cast. Cast with more power.

Here’s why . . .

Fly Fishing in the Winter — Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes

Yesterday afternoon topped off at thirty-eight degrees. That’s warm for a winter fisherman. I had five hours until dark, and I knew the temp would drop a bit at the end. There wasn’t much wind, no sun, and I had a long walk upstream to start my day. I thought about all those factors when I lifted the hatch of my SUV. Staring at the big bag of winter gear that goes everywhere with me, I knew exactly what to wear.

What follows here is my own system for staying comfortable (enough) while fishing the winter months. Soft, snowy days in the silent forest, with the solitary song of flowing water passing through are my favorite. I prefer January over July. I welcome the first crisp days of fall and the wool gloves that come with me.

Streamer Presentations — The Speed Lead

“Cast it upstream!” I hollered over the clamoring currents. Standing behind and slightly to the side of Joey, I watched his next cast land the streamer inches from the opposite bank and directly across from him. It was a good spot, but it wasn’t upstream.

“Look at that!” He said. My ten year old son turned around and smiled with pride. We’d been talking about fishing streamers next to structure for weeks.

I nodded with approval, trying to be supportive. Then I leaned in close to his ear, bending down so he could hear me over the competing current. We stood on a gravel bar, just to the side of a wide and rough section of whitewater — not an ideal place to race a streamer broadside across the river.

Joey launched and retrieved two more casts as I explained the speed lead . . .

Quick Tips — Put More Juice in the Cast

Quick Tips — Put More Juice in the Cast

Keep it tight and crisp. Cast with speed. Be more aggressive. Build more momentum with the rod tip. The casting stroke should be snappy, energetic and sharp with abrupt and forceful stops between two points. I’ve used all of these descriptions and more to communicate the correction for the most troublesome fly fishing flaw out there — lazy casting.

By the end of December, I will log over sixty guide trips this year. On these trips I meet a lot of good anglers from all over the country who want to take the next step and turn a corner with their fly fishing game. I also meet anglers relatively new to fly fishing who are looking to build on the basics. And on the majority of my trips, at the end of the day, the number one thing I leave with my new friends is this: put more juice in the cast. Cast with more power.

Here’s why . . .

Fly Fishing in the Winter — Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes

Fly Fishing in the Winter — Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes

Yesterday afternoon topped off at thirty-eight degrees. That’s warm for a winter fisherman. I had five hours until dark, and I knew the temp would drop a bit at the end. There wasn’t much wind, no sun, and I had a long walk upstream to start my day. I thought about all those factors when I lifted the hatch of my SUV. Staring at the big bag of winter gear that goes everywhere with me, I knew exactly what to wear.

What follows here is my own system for staying comfortable (enough) while fishing the winter months. Soft, snowy days in the silent forest, with the solitary song of flowing water passing through are my favorite. I prefer January over July. I welcome the first crisp days of fall and the wool gloves that come with me.

Streamer Presentations — The Speed Lead

Streamer Presentations — The Speed Lead

“Cast it upstream!” I hollered over the clamoring currents. Standing behind and slightly to the side of Joey, I watched his next cast land the streamer inches from the opposite bank and directly across from him. It was a good spot, but it wasn’t upstream.

“Look at that!” He said. My ten year old son turned around and smiled with pride. We’d been talking about fishing streamers next to structure for weeks.

I nodded with approval, trying to be supportive. Then I leaned in close to his ear, bending down so he could hear me over the competing current. We stood on a gravel bar, just to the side of a wide and rough section of whitewater — not an ideal place to race a streamer broadside across the river.

Joey launched and retrieved two more casts as I explained the speed lead . . .

You’re in too Far Now

You’re in too Far Now

That large tail waved goodbye, and a sturdy wild brown trout slid back into the flow. It was a good fish for this river, and I texted a couple pictures to Burke — just to remind him that I was fishing and he wasn’t. This is what we do to each other.

I must’ve been a little too gleeful and gloating — chuckled with a little too much gusto when I hit send, maybe — because on the next cast, instant karma sent my leader and flies into the sycamores. And so began the twenty minutes of foolishness that followed . . .

Quick Tips — Thumb on Top | Finger on Top

Quick Tips — Thumb on Top | Finger on Top

There’s a reason for everything, right? It’s a truism of life. And that goes double for your fly fishing game. Most of us will never get the hours we really need to learn everything we’d like about the river. Trout fishing runs deep. Questions we ask of ourselves on the walk back after dark linger in our minds until the next time we hit the stream. Until then, we research — we read, watch and talk about trout on a fly rod, filling in the hours, days and weeks until our boots are wet again.

Sometimes, things like these quick tips might answer that nagging question in your mind. Other times, one of these tips might create a new question to chew on. Both are significant. Both are valuable.

When we hold the fly rod, should the thumb or the forefinger be on top?

I use both. There are good reasons for each hold, so let’s get to that . . .

Fly Fishing in the Winter — Your Hands

Fly Fishing in the Winter — Your Hands

I fish with some very tough, die hard trout fishermen. But cold wind and colder water gets the best of everyone who isn’t prepared. And when we get temps down into the low twenties and teens, that’s when the guy who stubbornly wants to wear a ball cap and no gloves simply doesn’t make it.

The toughest thing facing a winter angler is not picky trout. It’s the weather.

There’s a good solution to every winter situation we encounter. And all of those solutions require your hands to operate.

Good winter fishing starts and ends with warm fingers . . .

read more
Penns Creek Catch-and-Release Miles Doubled — Yes, You Did It

Penns Creek Catch-and-Release Miles Doubled — Yes, You Did It

You probably voted this past Tuesday, right? You walked into the booth and cast a ballot in this midterm election cycle for your state and local representatives. Or maybe you voted early. Maybe you mailed in a ballot. However you voted, it’s pretty easy to think that your one, single vote didn’t matter much, because even close state elections are often determined by thousands of votes. It’s understandable to feel like your vote doesn’t make a difference. It does, but that’s another discussion . . .

By contrast, you can personally have a direct influence on the way wild trout policy is directed in Pennsylvania. And many of you have.

On October 16, 2018, the Pennsylvania Fish Commission voted to add 3.8 miles of Catch-and-Release regulated water on Penns Creek. This
“Section 5” water now doubles the miles of C&R river available to anglers, and it protects the Class A wild trout population within. This is an enormous success, and many of you are part of it . . .

read more
Redd Fish — Should we fish for trout through the spawn or stay home?

Redd Fish — Should we fish for trout through the spawn or stay home?

We don’t target spawning trout, but is it okay to fish during the spawn? And if you choose to stay off the water, do you know what to look for when you return?

Here’s an in-depth look at trout spawning habits and some opinion about fishing around the spawning season. If you plan to fish during or after the spawn, there’s a key point to understand . . .

read more
Fly Fishing with Streamers on the Mono Rig — More Control and more Contact

Fly Fishing with Streamers on the Mono Rig — More Control and more Contact

So why would we use a Mono Rig over fly line? What’s the advantage?

Just like a tight line nymph rig, we gain more control over the presentation of the flies, and we have better contact throughout the cast and the drift. With fly line in the game, we cast and manage the fly line itself. With the Mono Rig, we cast and manage the streamers more directly.

With the Mono Rig, we can stay tight to the streamer after the cast, we can dead drift it with precision for the first five feet, keeping all the leader off the water. Then we might activate the streamer with some jigs and pops for the next ten feet of the drift. And for the last twenty feet, as the streamer finishes out below and across from us, we may employ long strips. All these options are open.

read more
The Secret

The Secret

I poked through the dense brush, shed my pack and dropped it in the clearing. In a yellow patch of sunlight, I knelt to catch my breath and watched the wind detach leaves from their parent branches, pushing them into a wild collage across the morning sky and traveling faster downwind to find a place of rest for the coming winter.   

This place is rough. It’s the kind of spot that doesn’t get much traffic from anyone — home only to the squirrels and birds. The best method of navigating through the thick stuff is to find a deer trail. I did that, but when I crested the hillside and started my descent, the path closed in with newly fallen trees, and I was forced to make my way through a maze of dead branches and briers which had quickly sprouted, taking advantage of the sun after the tree fell. I moved forward slowly, but the branches grabbed at my coat to hold me back, as if protecting the river below.

There are two kinds of secret places, I suppose: one that’s truly tucked away somewhere unknown, and one that lies right underneath the fishermen’s noses. This place harbors a little of both . . .

read more

Pin It on Pinterest