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Author: Mike Hodge

The Mayfly Project: Fostering Hope for Kids Who Need It

The next time you fish, take a look around, in the parking lot or on the water. You’ll no doubt see a few men and maybe a woman or two. But rarely will you see a youngster.

Fly fishing, without a doubt, is getting gray behind the ears, which begs the question: When this generation passes, who will replace them?

Many non-profits protect the water and resources, but will there be anyone to enjoy what’s left? Thanks to The Mayfly Project another generation will be ready to enjoy their time on the water. They just don’t take kids fishing. They take kids who need to fish. Kids who need direction and stability.

Foster kids.

TFO blog editor Mike Hodge reached out to Mayfly founder Jess Westbrook and co-founder Kaitlin Barnhart to chat about The Mayfly Project. Both are passionate about their mission. Below are excerpts of last week’s phone interview.

TFO: Obvious question: When did The Mayfly Project start?

KB: “2015, in Arkansas. That’s when Jess started The Mayfly Project. I joined forces with Jess in 2016, when we decided to create a national program together. When we met, I think we talked for about for two hours, what our ideas were, what we were both doing. We had a lot of conversations since I’m in Idaho and he’s in Arkansas.”

TFO: What was the general catalyst for the idea and the mission?

KB: “For me, it was mental health for kids. I have a background in mental health working with foster kids. I used fly fishing to help them cope. I knew it would help with their mental health.”

JW: “The idea for me came from having a lot of anxiety. I had fly fished all of my life. It wasn’t until I used fly fishing to help with my anxiety when one day at church we had someone talk about foster children. I knew I wanted to give back. Once I heard that (in church) about foster kids, I knew that’s how I wanted to give back.”

TFO: Can you elaborate on The Mayfly Project’s mission? I know you all take kids fishing. But I know it’s obviously more than that.

KB: “Our goals are to take the kids fly fishing and to give them a break from a stressful life, to teach them the coping skills that come with fly fishing, to teach them about conservation and how to take care of the rivers. Those are our main goals with the kids. We have a conservation initiative where the kids earn buttons as they go through the programs. Then there’s a mental health part it where we help our mentees build self-confidence through fly-fishing success.

TFO: Where do the kids come from? How do you find them? How does all that work?

KB: “It takes work to find the kids because every state is different. (Foster kids) are a heavily protected population. We usually try to work with group homes. That way we can work with the staff there. Otherwise, we work with individual foster families with support from the Department of Health and Welfare.”

TFO: So, just foster kids. Not other kids?

KB: “Just foster kids. They don’t get out very often. It’s a population that usually doesn’t get these types of experiences. That’s the main reason.  And it’s a group that has had to deal with mental illness. Fly fishing has proven to help with that.”

TFO: If you read on the internet and in magazines, there’s a movement afoot to get women involved in fly fishing. Kids just don’t get the publicity in that regard. Given that, how important is it to get kids involved, not just foster kids, but kids in general?

JW: “We have a motto: Our kids need rivers. Our rivers need kids. So the kids are definitely future stewards of our land. So getting them involved and having then get bit by the bug that we’re all bit by is important, so that they’ll continue to preserve our land. They’re the future. If they love it, they’ll take care of it.”

KB: “For them to connect with nature is our goal. Jess and I have talked about that: The rivers have become our home. For kids we work with, and the next generation, we want the outdoors to be their home, too. Because once you identify with the outdoors as your home, it becomes a place you want to protect.”

TFO: How rewarding is it for you all when you help kids make that connection?

JW: “It’s super rewarding. We find that our kids really buy into this. We’re finding that kids are really taking to it. Fly fishing tends to have people who are very passionate. The support we’ve had from everybody and the stuff we’re been able to outfit our kids with, our kids are set up to fly fish on their own once they leave our program. We’re finding that providing them with gear and knowledge, they fall in love with it just like we do. We see these success stories almost weekly. It’s cool seeing kids actually buying into it.”

TFO: You have sponsors. TFO is one of those? How much has that helped your program?

JW: “We actually had a TFO/Mayfly Project rod that just came out. We’ve been working on that for a little while. I actually got those in hand about three weeks ago. We haven’t released them on our website. But we’re really excited about that. TFO has been great supporting us. You guys have been awesome. Our sponsors are a huge part of why this thing happened.”

Questions, comments about The Mayfly Project, feel free to reach out on one of our social media pages.

Swimbaits 101: How and Why You Should Fish Them

Editor’s Note: This submission comes from TFO amabassador Will Dykstra, who is dialed in swimbaits. Enjoy.

When it comes to targeting large predator fish, few presentations match the subtlety of swimbaits. Technology has benefited this lure category as much as any on the market today. A big reason for the effectiveness of swimbaits is the ability to not only match the forage of large predators perfectly, but to be able to present these lures in a finesse manner that coaxes fish to strike in highly pressured waters.

The Setup

In order to fish swimbaits effectively, it is imperative that you have the proper setup, or equipment. One of the biggest challenges for anglers throwing these heavy lures all day is the toll it can take on the body. For this reason, TFO offers several options that can accommodate just about any swimbait and any angler out there. The GTS Swimbait Rod, for example, is specifically designed to allow the angler to cast larger and heavier baits with ease due to the fact that the rod has a softer tip. This feature results in a better lure launch and provides a higher sensitivity that equips the angler to execute a more precise finesse approach. This means even the most subtle take from a large predator can be detected, leading to greater success. The bottom portion of the rod, however, is built with strength and power in mind. The long stout butt of the rod allows for maximum power for the cast, retrieval, and equally important, the hook-set.

Heavy braided line is essential for large predator swimbaits. In order to handle big baits and large fish, the line weight should be in the 65-80-pound range. The braided line has proven to be more effective than a copolymer in this application because it maximizes sensitivity for lure control and hook-setting power. Often times, muskies, pike, or even a big mackinaw, will bite down so hard on these large soft plastic baits that the lure won’t even move on a hook set without stout gear. This is largely due to the gauntlet of teeth in these predators’ mouths as well as the soft nature of the bait. Therefore, having very little stretch in the line is imperative.

Finally, a reel with a larger line capacity is critical to accommodate the heavier braid. Typically, this will require a 300 series or bigger. The gear ratios can range anywhere from a 5:2:1 to 6:4:1, and will be adequate in any situation for these large fish.

The Presentation

When targeting these large predators, choosing a bait that matches color and profile of the forage is key. In many western waters the trout profile and color is king, while in the midwest and farther north into Canada the forage is much more diverse, ranging from suckers, ciscoes, and walleye, to even small pike.

Typically, swimbaits have “Rate of Fall” (ROF) options that include slow, moderate, or fast-sinking. Simply put, the ROF indicates the sink rates of the lure, allowing accurate target zones for desired depths to fish. The bait packaging normally lists the feet-per-second that the baits will sink. The depth that you run a swimbait is vital to fishing success; most of these targeted predators are ambush feeders. Therefore, fishing adjacent to weed lines, or even through the weeds, is extremely effective. The same goes for other forms of cover like rock ledges and stacked timber. Getting the bait at the right depth and in the right position is absolutely critical and can mean the difference between triggering a strike and missing your target altogether.

The finesse aspect of these swimbaits allows them to be fished extremely slow while still achieving a realistic profile and action that mimics exactly what the forage fish look like in their natural habitat. Fishing these baits slow with occasional pauses followed by very short bursts with the crank of the reel can generate some bone-jarring strikes, while the slow and steady retrieves tend to provoke a lighter, softer take.

Paying attention to the line and rod tip is crucial when it comes to this finesse approach, as often times these large fish will grab the bait and swim with it at the exact speed the bait is being retrieved. Once the take has occurred it is imperative to reel through the hook-set to maximize leverage followed with a second hook-set to drive the hooks home.

Regardless of the time of year, a swimbait can be a producer of some of the largest predators day in and day out. With the right tackle, the right presentation, and a little finesse, your chances of landing that fish of a lifetime can become a knee-knocking, arm-wrenching reality.

Women Are Fishing More Than Ever — And They’re Not Going Anywhere

Women are everywhere on the water. Fishing has long been a male-dominated pastime, but that trend has changed. Fly fishing, and fishing in general, is no longer your father’s sport. It’s your mother’s and your sister’s. It is, in essence, for everyone, male or female.

Few have really studied this phenomenon. Steve Kantner was astute enough write about it in depth with his new book, Fifty Women Who Fish. Published by Wild River Press, the book features lengthy profiles of some of the most famous women anglers, including legendary caster Joan Wulff, television host and guide April Vokey, DUN Magazine editor Jen Ripple, longtime Miami Herald outdoor writer Sue Cocking and world-record holder Meredith McCord among others.

TFO blog editor Mike Hodge reached out to Kantner at his Fort Lauderdale, Fla. home to discuss his book, which is his third. The other two are The Ultimate Guide to Fly Fishing South Florida on Foot and Backcountry Flies: Tying and Fishing Florida Patterns, from Swamp to Surf.

Fifty Women Who Fish is due to be released later this spring. You can order copies here.

Below are excerpts from the phone interview.

TFO: Here’s a simple question: How long did the book take, from start to finish?

SK: “Well, from its actual conception to its actual delivery, I started in January two years ago, and now we’re going into April, so you’d say about 28 months.”

TFO: Was this book more difficult than your first two books?

SK: “The level of depth. … You’ll see.”

TFO: The fly book is somewhat formulaic. But this is a series of in-depth profiles, right?

SK: “It’s a 200-and-something-page book. And you have to try do it right. A lot of the fly book, the problem was that I’m a lousy photographer, and I had to try to get all the photos done. … But here you’re talking about sweeping concepts and people’s lives. One girl was locked inside of her house until she was 9 years old.”

TFO: The profiles, did they take a long time to write and to do the interviewing?

SK: “The thing I worry about is sometimes you get to know these women and you’re talking to them, I wanted them to be comfortable. That’s why I let them see things as the process evolved. I didn’t want them to be afraid because this would have some longevity. It’s not like a Facebook post. No one knew them better than they did. I didn’t want the profiles to be press releases, but I wanted the women to be confident in what was presented.”

TFO: What was the most rewarding aspect of the process?

SK: “I got to know and understand women a lot better. I think the most rewarding thing is I gave these women a voice to their concerns and to their fears and to their aspirations. I tried to let them be all that they could be.”

TFO: What was it like talking to Joan Wulff?

“That was a couple times. (My publisher) Tom Pero knows her pretty well. I talked to her a bunch of times. Her stich is the First Lady of Fly Fishing. I’ve known her for years. She came pretty clean with her life. She’s a lovely lady, 92 years old. She was big not only for women’s fishing, but for everybody. She came from a large family. Her father was Jimmy Salvato. He had a sports store in a suburb of Patterson, N.J. That was back in the day when you sent your sons to college, but not your daughters. She always had a little edge about that. … From the first time she went fishing, she knew it was for her.

“I didn’t know her (late) husband Lee. But the guys that I know that knew him either liked him or they didn’t. Most of them really liked him a lot.”

TFO: Were most of the women pretty receptive to being profiled?

SK: “Yes. Once they realized I was authentic. In the beginning, imagine how it would be when someone calls you up and wants to ask you secrets? I came on slow, deliberately. You look at all the weird stuff we have in our society. I don’t know about you, but I get about 10 crank calls a day — ransom ware and locking up your computer. Imagine what it’s like getting a call where they might not know you.”

TFO: Did you have trouble coming up with 50 names to profile?

“No. The problem I really worried about was there’s one who’s particularly deserving that I would have liked to have added, but you can’t have a title like 51 Women Who Fish. I didn’t know this woman personally, but if there’s a sequel, she’s on my list.

“I’m kind of a sucker. I was sending stuff out and I really had to ride herd on it: ‘Are you interested. If you’re not, say so.’ But you know how it is, it’s not normal thinking. They don’t say, ‘No thanks. Not interested.’ What I was afraid of was getting 51 responses and I would have to tell someone no. That would be devastating. I would then defeat the purpose that I started out to do, which is to give them a fair shake. Fortunately everything fell into place.”

Peacock Bass Are Closer to Home Than You Think

I am not, by nature, a morning person. Give me an evening drake hatch over morning tricos any day.

When I lived in West Palm Beach a few years ago, peacock bass fit into my daily routine just fine. I could never get up early enough for morning largemouth bass, but peacocks were usually waiting for me as the afternoon climbed high in the sky.

Peacock bass, native to tropical South America, are alive and well in Florida, which means you don’t have to schlep to the Amazon to catch one. However, if you have a chance to travel abroad for peacocks, do not hesitate to do so. The fishing can be phenomenal.

Closer to home, we have the Florida Keys, which as we know, offer world-class fishing. If you happen to stop in Miami on the way during a bonefish trip, it’s not a bad idea to try your hand at landing a peacock. You won’t need a boat; you won’t need a guide. Here’s what you need to know:

Where to Find Peacock Bass

In the continental United States, you have one option: South Florida. The farther south you go, the better. For instance, you won’t find many peacocks in Palm Beach, but you might find a few in Lake Worth, which is a few miles south. Fort Lauderdale and Miami afford even more opportunities.

The reason: Water temperature. Peacocks need warm, tropical temperatures. Eighty degrees is their sweet spot. Anything lower than 60 degrees and they struggle to survive.

Peacock bass were first introduced to Florida by the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission in the mid 1980s to combat the burgeoning population of Oscars, which gorge on juvenile bass. So, in essence, one bass helped another.

The best place to find peacocks is the maze of flood-control canals that cover much of southern Florida. Many are no wider than 40 feet. Most are accessible by foot and are home to baby tarpon, snook and many exotic species — Oscars, tilapia and mayans among others.

How to Fish for Peacock Bass

You don’t have to get up at the crack of dawn. In fact, mid day is often the best time to target peacocks. Look for structure and current. Culverts often produce.

You can blind cast, but I prefer to sight fish. Sight fishing requires stealth and accurate casts. Once the fly has been presented, strip fast. If one hand is not fast enough, try two hands.

The Gear for Peacock Bass

For fly, use a 5 or 6-weight Axiom II rod with a floating line. Some anglers use a sink tip, but I’ve found peacocks usually run pretty shallow, so you don’t necessarily need the extra weight. For leaders, I use a 7 to 9-foot leader with a 10, 12-pound tippet.

South Florida peacocks usually run a few pounds, so you don’t need a heavy-duty reel to land one. However, baby tarpon, carp and snook abound. If you happen to hook one these fish, you will have your hands full. I recommend a Power or BVK reel, just in case.

You’ll likely be fishing in un-mowed, long grass and brush. A stripping basket helps manage excess fly line.

For those who like to spin fish, use a light outfit. TFO’s Trout-Panfish series is a good option.

Flies and lures are fairly straight forward. Clouser Minnows,Dalhberg Divers, Gurglers, Top Dogs and Rat-L-Traps serve as the usual standbys.

Safety

It’s hot in Florida. South Florida stays hot year round. Make sure to stay hydrated. Bring water and your sports drink of choice. Wear comfortable, light-weight clothing with a hat. Polarized glasses offer better visibility and eye protection. Use sunscreen to prevent sunburn.

Walk carefully and keep a close eye out for alligators and snakes. Both try to avoid humans, but if you do see one of these critters, walk around — and away —- from them to ensure a stress-free day of angling.

Questions, comments about peacock bass fishing? Feel free to weigh in on one of social media pages.

Tips on How to Fish for Ice-Out Bass

Editor’s Note: This post comes from TFO Ambassador Burnie Haney. Enjoy.

When we talk about ice out bass fishing in the northeast, we’re talking cold water, and believe me, it’s specialty fishing. In short, you must really want to do it, or there’s no point in reading any further. Now, for those of you still with me, we’re going to review what to wear, where to find these fish and review five lures and setups that will help get you bit during this cold-water period.

Dress for the Conditions

First and foremost, remember the acronym C.O.L.D.  Wear Clean clothes, don’t Overheat, dress in Layers and try to stay Dry. Don’t forget you can always take layers off if you get too hot during the trip, but if you don’t have enough on it’s hard to stay warm. Also, nothing will end an ice-out trip faster than wet clothes or cold hands or feet. I prefer to use finger-tip wool gloves that allow me to feel my line, yet they cover 90-percent of the exposed skin, and they still provide warmth if they do get moist or wet from casting. The other required items are a quality set of waterproof boots, a cap with a bill and a nice wool cap to wear over it along to keep your head warm, along with a pair of polarized glasses.

Where to Start

I’ve had my best success starting my search in the northwest corners on most ponds, lakes or reservoirs. This area of water usually warms the fastest after the ice out, and if you can find good hard cover, it’s a big-time bonus. Oftentimes the bass will be relating to deep water structural elements (rock piles, ledges, humps or the ends of secondary points) nearest spawning flats they intend to use in the next 60-90 days. I’ve found using my side-imagining unit I can quickly identify these areas and see if any fish are present. Remember, these fish have had a lid over them for the past 4-6 months and once the water opens, they’re going to feed in anticipation of the annul spawn that’s just around the corner.

As far as the ideal depth, it’s a relative thing depending on how deep your lakes are and where you’re fishing, but I’ve found most often that starting in the 15 to 20-foot zone adjacent to spawning flats is a reliable zone. Once I identify where the fish are holding, I scout around that general area looking for the migration routes out of the deeper water onto the spawning flat. It might be a slight rock vein or old road bed, perhaps a ridge that climbs up onto the flat or maybe a ditch or cut that comes out of the deeper water up onto the flat or one of last year’s submerged weed beds.

Not to over simplify it, but I’ve always treated this cold to warm-water migration much the same as when I go anywhere; I usually have a target destination, and I arrive there by traveling known routes along the path of least resistance. Think of the points, ledges, ditches, cuts or weed beds as sidewalks, not unlike if you or I were going to a store or restaurant. We don’t park our car hop out and then wander around the parking lot; instead, don’t we usually select a route, walk straight to the building open the door and go inside? Well, it’s generally the same thing for the bass; they’re looking to feed up so rather than meander all over the water column they too will take an easily identifiable path to get to the prime areas. In this situation. it’s food and a bit warmer water.

Once you’ve located these migration routes, then it’s just a matter of monitoring them as the water continues to warm, and the fish begin to use them more and more. Once the fish get up onto the flats, horizontal baits will produce the most fish, with the quality fish usually coming on vertical baits that fall and stay right in front of fish’s face.

Five Lures to Consider

For those deep-water fish, it’s hard to beat a blade bait like a Silver Buddy or a Heddon Sonar (3/8 or ½ oz). For this presentation I like to use the TFO GTS Bass C735-1, 7’3 MH rod paired with a 6.3:1 reel spooled with 12 to 15-pound fluorocarbon. It’s a good vertical presentation that allows you to cover water quickly and generate a bite that you can duplicate in similar areas of the lake. I start the presentation with a long cast toward the fish holding area and work it back to the boat hopping it along the bottom with short 12-15-inch pops of the rod tip. On the lift, you’ll feel a violent vibration, and on the fall, just follow the lure back down with your rod tip. Usually the hits occur on the drop, so be a line watcher, but sometimes they strike just as you lift the blade up off the bottom. If that doesn’t generate a strike, then try changing the length of your hop, either go shorter or possibly a tad longer.

Another great deep-water presentation is rigging some Berkley gulp minnow on a VMC Mooneye Jig, position your boat directly over the fish and keep the bait about a foot above where you mark them on the graph. I know this sounds goofy, but don’t work the bait. Instead rely on the natural motion of the boat on the waves to give it the slightest amount of movement. Until I tried this technique, I didn’t believe it, but this do-nothing method will get you bit. For this presentation I use the TFO GTS Bass S734-1, 7’3 M rod paired with a 5.1:1 spinning reel spooled with 8-pound Cortland Master Braid and about a three-foot section of 8-pound fluorocarbon leader. And for the jig I start with a 3/8 oz. head and might drop down to ¼ oz.

As the fish start moving into that 8-10-foot zone, it’s a good bet the Jerkbait will do most of the heavy lifting on any given day. Remember those weed beds we talked about earlier, this is where the suspending jerkbait rules. Baitfish are still in and around those weed beds, and the suspending jerkbait gets right in their face and just sits there daring them to bite it and most often they will. Again, we’re talking cold water, so you’ll need to keep your movements slow and subtle. I start with a long cast, give it about six or seven cranks to get the bait down, then give it a slight twitch and let it sit for an eight count. Reel up any slack line give the bait one or two light twitches and again let it set. If this doesn’t generate a strike, then I’ll increase the pause from the eight count to maybe 15. However if I find I’m generating follows but no strikes, then I usually drop down in lure size, and that seems to work. There are a ton of jerkbaits to choose from, and I happen to like Lucky Craft, so that’s what I use. However, having said that the most important thing is depth control and the lure’s ability to stay where it is in the water column once you stop the retrieve. For this presentation I use the TFO GTS Bass 695-1, 6’9” MH rod paired with a 7.3.1 reel spooled with 10-pound fluorocarbon.

As the fish start to occupy areas shallower than 6 feet, I’ve enjoyed good success with a Boot tail swimbait in the 2.8 – 3.3 sizes. There are a bunch out there to choose, but I prefer the Keitech Swing Impact or Fat Swing Impact. I’ve found keeping it simple works best for me, so I use three basic colors — Silver Flash, Blue Gill Flash and Tennessee Shad. I rig these swimbaits on 1/8 or ¼ oz jig head (size 1 hook) and fish them on a slow, steady retrieve. For this presentation I use the TFO TFG PSC 703-1, 7’ ML rod paired with a 5.1:1 spinning reel spooled with Cortland Master Braid and a 36” section of 8-pound fluorocarbon leader.

Another nice dual-purpose bait this time of year is the Swimjig. I use Strike King 3/8 oz Tour Grade in three colors, white, green pumpkin and black/blue. For the trailer I use a Zoom Twin Tail (Fat Albert) matching the jig colors. This is a great search bait for scouring the flats and if you see following fish, simply let the lure fall to the bottom, and the fish will usually nose down on it. As they go to it just give it a short twitch and they’ll hit it and if not just start a normal retrieve and they’ll usually grab it. The other nice thing about the swim jig is if you come across a weed bed you can pitch or flip it in there and work the cover the same as you would with a standard jig & pig.  For this presentation I use the TFO GTS Bass 736-1, 7’ 3” H rod paired with a 6.3:1 reel spooled with 20-pound Cortland Master Braid with a 48” section of 16-pound fluorocarbon leader.

I think if you dress accordingly and give these lures and setups a try, that you’ll be pleasantly surprised at just how many bites you can generate when chasing ice-out bass.

In closing, remember cold-water conditions are no joke and require a clear head. Take a cell phone with you and let someone know where you’re going and how long you’ll be out and be sure to let them know when you’re safely off the water.

 

Good luck and be sure to post those fish catches on one of our social pages. Questions, comments about ice-out bass, let us know those thoughts as well.

Fifteen Minutes with Junior Ambassador Braden Miller

TFO ambassadors and advisory staffers cover a wide spectrum. Young and old. Amateur and professional. Famous and relatively obscure. Young Braden Miller is in a class by himself. After all, how many junior-high kids represent a major fly-rod company?

Braden recently joined TFO as a junior ambassador. He’s just 13, but talks fishing like a seasoned pro. TFO blog editor Mike Hodge reached out to the young man and his mom, Casey, for a brief interview. Here’s what they had to say while taking a break from a hectic afternoon schedule at their Glen Allen, Va. home.

TFO: How did you get involved with TFO?

BM: “I’ve been going to the Virginia show for the past couple years. I was showing people my flies. I got a booth and then I got asked to tie. Collins Illich stopped by and asked if I wanted to do an interview. I did an interview with Alex. Rick Pope was there talking about BVK rods. I stopped by the Edison Show, and then Lancaster was when I was asked to join the family.”

TFO: When you go to the shows, do you do the same thing that the adult ambassadors and advisory staffers do?

BM: “I go to shows. I go to the TFO booth. I go back and tie a little bit. Then I go back to the TFO booth and promote rods and talk to people.”

TFO: Let’s talk fishing. That’s probably more interesting for you to talk about. … What’s your favorite fish to catch on fly?

BM: “My favorite fish on fly would be the musky.”

TFO: Why so?

BM: “They’re a challenge to catch and they’re super powerful. Once I’ve hooked them, I’ve not be able to move them. They’d make a run and I’d have to let them run. I’d do the same thing, try to move them and let them run, until I could get them up to the boat. It’s like dead weight.”

TFO: And your favorite place to fly fish?

BM: “So far my favorite place to fish would be Alaska. The last time I went to Alaska I wasn’t super into fly fishing. I still had my fly rod there. I was fishing for rainbow trout and dolly varden.”

TFO: Any place locally in Virginia that you’re fond of?

BM: “Probably Atlantic Beach for albacore. That’s exciting.”

TFO: A lot of kids your age might be into basketball, baseball or football. Why invest so much time into fly fishing?

BM: “Early on I had a choice of fly fishing or baseball. Recently I got in car accident and broke my elbow. My shoulder got messed up and all that. Since then, I’ve been enjoying fly fishing. I can’t make any money in baseball. I can make money in fly fishing, with casting, selling flies and all that. Fly fishing, I like it. It’s calming, relaxing. It’s fun. It’s a lot of fun.”

TFO: I understand you got a chance to fish with TFO’s Blane Chocklett. Tell me what that was like.

BM: “That was awesome. I had never done any (musky) fishing like that. It was really cool. He knew exactly where the fish would be holding. The challenge was getting one to eat and hooking one and fighting it right up to the boat. He instructed me exactly how to cast, how to tease the fly. It was amazing.”

TFO: What did you learn from Blane? What’s one thing that you took away from fishing with him, that you maybe didn’t know before?

BM: “Casting. I learned a lot about casting. I was focusing on my casting instead of letting the fly actually go. Too many back casts, then I’d mess up my entire cast. And then letting the fly sink where it needed to be. That one was one of the main things, too.”

TFO: How much have your parents factored into your fly fishing?

BM: “They help with everything. Mom brings me. Dad looks after everyone else, who’s not coming. Sometimes they come to shows when they can. Mom drives me. She’s even willing to tie flies.”

TFO: Casey, what has Braden gotten out of fly fishing? What’s the value of it for him?

CM: “He has always been great in fishing, since he could walk. Fly fishing has been a totally different sport for him. He has learned more patience when it comes to fishing. Between tying his own flies and the fishing, he has really learned patience. Before, he would really be upset if he didn’t catch fish. Now he’s learned that it’s not about going out there and catching fish every time. It’s about being in the outdoors and enjoying himself. He’s really learned a lot from the people who have helped him out.”

TFO: Braden, last question, what is your favorite TFO rod and reel?

“I really like the Axiom II rods, and my favorite reel is the BVK in whatever range. I have I, II and the III. The III with a 7-weight would be my favorite combo. Super light weight. Casts like a dream. Large arbor reel. Picks up line super quick.”

Questions or comments about Braden? Feel free to visit one of our social media pages.

TFO’s Bob Clouser Talks Carp on Fly

I’ve never caught a bonefish. It’s on my bucket list, but the tropics may have to wait a few months. Fortunately, I’ve got a freshwater option close to home.

Carp.

They’re just as wily as a bone. And pound for pound they fight just as hard. And they’re cheaper. Many freshwater ponds, lakes and rivers in the continental U.S. have carp. There’s no need for a week-long trip to the Bahamas.

Once summer arrives and the water warms, it’s easy to take a break from trophy trout for carpin’. To develop a firm game plan, I turned to TFO advisor Bob Clouser, who touched on a few basics during a phone interview after taking a break from shoveling snow at his Pennsylvania home.

Patience

Carp are not easy to catch. They don’t always eat and when they’re willing to eat, they can be super spooky. Even if you make the right cast with the right fly, the stars have to align for an eat. And if you do hook up, landing one is not a given. Be prepared for a lot of trial and error along the way.

Required Skills

You need to make long casts. Forty feet will do. Sixty is better. However, distance is just one factor. Accuracy matters, too. Ideally, you want to put the fly in front of the fish and let your quarry find it, preferably near the bottom since carp like to forage in the muck.

“You don’t need to work the fly at all,” Clouser said. “You have to observe the carp and watch his lips. When they’re mudding, it’s hard to see their face. You can see their lips when they’re open. It has kind of a chartreuse look to it. It’s hard to see. There’s a saying, ‘When the light goes out, you set the hook.’ If you hesitate at all, he’ll spit that fly out. They don’t run off with it. It’s a different type sport to catch that fish.”

Reading the Fish

In trout fishing, you read the water. With carp, you read the fish. The beauty of carp fishing is its reliance on sight fishing. Look at the fish. Decide if it’s interested. Carp will sun. Ignore those. Carp will cruise. Ignore the speedsters. Take a shot at the slower fish. But even that’s a long shot. If you see a tailer, that’s the fish you want. Tailers are active feeders. Ever seen a tailing red? It’s a similar scenario. Once you discern the fish’s path, make your cast count, because chances are, you won’t get a second opportunity.

“’You have to watch them, observe them and see what they’re doing before you even cast,” Clouser said. “They are so spooky. A carp has two lateral lines. Most fish only have one. A carp has two, which makes them so sensitive. I have no idea how far they can see, but they can hear over 200 yards.”

The Gear

You’ll need a fairly sturdy rod — a 9-foot, 6-to-8-weight. Leaders, in general, need to be long. A 12-footer is not too short, but you can get by with a 9-footer, if you’re a good caster.

Try the TFO Power reel to handle those long runs. The TFO Clouser series in an 8-weight is a good complement.

“It’s easy to cast and soft enough for light tippets,” Clouser said. “It won’t break your 6 and 8-pound tippets. And I fish an 8-weight. An 8-weight will handle any size fly you need.”

Carp are primarily subsurface feeders. Crayfish are a big part of their diet. A brown or black woolly booger usually will get the job done.

That said, carp can feed on topwater or just under the surface. I hooked one — briefly —- on a berry fly. South Florida grass carp, I learned, feed on streamside berries from ficus trees. The moral of the story: Fish don’t follow a rule book. They feed on what’s available.

Thoughts on fly fishing for carp? Feel free to comment on one of our social media pages.

It’s Showtime for the 2019 Fly Fishing Film Tour

Cabin fever got you down? If it’s too cold or too windy to fish, there’s another way to beat the winter blues.

If you can’t get on the water, then the next best thing to do is to watch fishing.

The solution: Say hello to the Fly Fishing Film Tour, a series of fly-fishing films that’s sure to quench your thirst to throw a tight loop.

The Film Tour usually gets cranked up in early winter and continues into the spring with stops throughout the continental United States.

To find out more about the FFT, TFO blog editor Mike Hodge chatted with Doug Powell, the FFT’s general manager. Below is an excerpt of the interview:

TFO: When does the Film Tour get cranked up? When does it end?

DP: “There’s a definitive starting point. Then there’s a loose end point. We generally start in late January. The last couple years we’ve been in Bozeman for our premiere. We pretty much end our tour in late April. By then, ninety to ninety-five percent of our shows are done. There are a few stragglers after that.

“We have two types of shows. We have what we call our primary film tour, which are the shows we put on ourselves with our road crew, where we book the venue, we book the promotion, control everything inside the theater and book the show. Those are about 50 cities that we do, which tend to be the Bozeman’s the Missoula’s, Seattle, Portland, Denver. There are the big cities across the country we do; then we have what are our affiliate shows — same films, same posters — for the consumer, but those are put by the local TU chapters, or a fly shop or a Project Healing Waters. Brevard, N.C. might not be one where we’re going to be, but a local fly shop might put it on. To the consumer, it’s the same set of films; it’s just who controls the promotion.”

TFO: With a primary showing (that FFT puts on), how many of you go to the event? How much work is involved in terms of getting everything together?

DP: “We’re traveling the country with two road crews. These are truly just temporarily out-of-work fishing guides. It’s the winter. Three of them guide in Alaska. One guides in Montana. They basically travel across the country. They’re driving two trucks, one towing our drift boat with a cargo trailer with all our gear. They’re fishing between the stops. They’re living the dream, trust me. Right now, they’re fishing for steelhead up in Washington. Later this week, they’ll be in Boise for trout. In a couple weeks, they’ll be in the Midwest.

“What it takes to put on a show. One is a projectionist. We have two dedicated to the sponsors. They’re in the lobby with our Costa, Yeti, Simms booths talking to people about gear. We have all of gear on display to chat up with folks and ambassadors of those brands. Then we have another person who takes care of everything else, taking tickets at the door, greeting people, handling the stage, running the thing from a making-it-happen stand point.”

TFO: Who came up with the idea of the Film Tour and how did it go from being an idea to a reality?

DP: “I would give full credit to the Angling Exploration Group, AEG, back in 2007. There was a group of people out there making really cool fishing films, but there was no way to see them. In 2007, the internet was still relatively new. It wasn’t like there was a YouTube to watch these things. There were VHS tapes and DVDs. The AEG guys decided in 2007 to do a film tour, so they took it around to fly shops and bars and showcased it. It was an amazing idea. We were helping those guys, and then in 2009, we bought the company and took it to where it is now, but they deserve all the credit for starting it.”

TFO: Why do you think it’s become so popular?

DP: “It was bound to. The sport was growing. As you know with the sport, it lends itself well to the big screen. Beautiful locations. One thing with fly fishing is it lends itself to some interesting characters. Then you have to give credit to the film makers who did a great job of showcasing those locations and people. Then when you see it on the big screen, it reminds you how entertaining it is. I think the sport is really growing. It’s kind of the perfect storm.”

TFO: Have the quality of the films improved since you’ve been involved with the tour?

DP: “For sure. The technology has improved. When we first started, there was no such thing as HD. There wasn’t Go Pros. The technology is certainly better for the film makers to get better. The technology is better. The film makers are better. Their budgets are probably better. One thing that’s always been the same: The sense of adventure has always been there. The fun was always there. The gathering of people in each community was always there. All those things were in place from the beginning.”

TFO: Tell me how the submissions work?

DP: “This year I think we got forty. Then we have to go through them. It’s really not fun. It’s fun to watch the footage. It’s not fun to make the decisions. You have the Rubik’s Cube of trying to give everyone something, going across the country in 170 cities and showing 10 trout films. You need some saltwater. You need some Midwest stuff. You need steelhead. You need some exotic stuff. Sometimes it’s hard. We’ll get three films on the Seychelles. We can only take one and they’re all amazing. It’s no fun at times, to make those selections, but usually the cream rises to the top.”

TFO: So ballpark, how many submissions do you get and how many make the cut?

DP: “I’d say 30, 40. This year we have nine films. Usually it’s eight to 10 (that make the tour). Basically, we’re working with two hours to fill (every show).”

TFO: Is there any way to give the viewer an idea of the work it takes to put together a film?

DP: “It really varies. They all take a ton of work and all of these film makers do so out of passion. No one makes fly-fishing films to get rich. They’re doing out of love, out of passion. The work in the field is insane; it’s dawn to dusk. We had one film this year and I think they had 58 hours of footage to make a 12-minute film. Other film makers, they’ll spend two years making a film with travel and research.  … Then there’s editing securing sponsorship, music rights. That could take a couple months.”

 

Comments or questions about the Fly Fishing Film Tour? Feel free to visit one of our social media pages to chime in.

A Few Minutes About Musky On Fly With Blane Chocklett

When the southern mountain trout fishing slows to a crawl in the dead of winter, I hunt grouse. Now my attention has turned to fishing for musky.

The two species are different. One’s a mountain bird, the other a toothy fish, but the two have one thing in common: They are formidable quarry.

Since I used to live in Virginia, I turned to TFO advisor Blane Chocklett. The Roanoke-area resident is one of the country’s premier experts on musky.

We talked for a few minutes by phone on a dreary winter day and cobbled together the following tips for musky on fly.

Be Realistic

Musky are called the fish of 10,000 casts. Hyperbole? Perhaps. Nevertheless, expect to be on the water all day without a lot of action. If a fish follows your fly, that’s a good day. If it eats, that’s even better and if you hook one, you’ve had a great day. And if you land one, it’s time to cross another item off your bucket list.

It’s not unlike southern grouse hunting where one can walk for miles without a peep. If you flush a grouse, that’s good. If you get a shot, that’s even better. If you actually bag one, that’s something to boast about over a beer for season after season.

My ex-wife used to ask me if grouse were extinct. Spouses of musky fishermen probably ask the same question.

“On your own and not knowing where the fish are it’s a huge undertaking,” Chocklett said.  “But, it’s not impossible. Going out with me, we pretty much get fish every day, but I’ve been doing it my whole life, too.”

Stay the Course

Musky will challenge you mentally and physically. Not only will you have to cast until your arm falls off, you have to be disciplined enough to follow the fly to the boat. When the doldrums strike, invariably that’s when a musky will make its move.

Let’s say you’re on your game and hook a big fish. Prepare for a street fight. Musky generally don’t run. They prefer to brawl in a closet. Your biceps will burn, but listen to your guide. Teamwork, at this juncture, is crucial.

“You have to go into it knowing that you’re going to work hard for it,” Chocklett said. “People that get into it enjoy that challenge and they know that when they do connect, that it will be one of the biggest fish they’ve ever seen. It’s mind over matter and knowing that you’re in an uphill battle all day. It’s not easy, but when you have your mind set for that, it’s not that bad.”

The Casting

This ain’t trout fishing. It’s more akin to tarpon fishing. Big rods, big flies with heavy sinking lines. In tarpon fishing, you have to cast far with accuracy. The same is true with musky fishing — with one distinct difference. With tarpon, the name of the game is sight fishing, which means a handful of casts during the course of a day. With musky, you blind cast toward probable spots all day. The key is to make as many casts as you can without excessive false casts. The more efficient the better.

“Most people do struggle,” Chocklett said. “But we’ve made the process easier with TFO and Scientific Anglers, with the rods and the lines. We’ve made it a whole lot easier than it used to be. It comes down from everything, from materials being used and the (water) shedding capability. It’s easier now than it’s ever been.”

The retrieve can vary, but long, slow strips with a few pauses never hurts. Watch the fly all the way to the boat. A figure-8 move or a sweep of the rod can sometimes entice a strike.

Gear You Need

Count on a medium action 12-weight rod with a relatively light, serviceable reel. TFO’s Esox paired with a Power reel are good choices. A balanced rod makes casting easier. You will need a line with a sinking tip to maintain sufficient depth. Leaders are short, which helps with throwing big flies. Four feet of 30 or 40-pound flouro with 18 inches or so of wire tippet from Scientific Anglers suffices.

As for flies, Chocklett’s Game Changer in 2/0-6/0 is a good choice. The bigger the better. A 4-inch fly is small by musky standards. Ten to 12 inches is more the norm.

 

Any questions or suggestions on how to catch musky on fly? Feel free to chime in one of our social media pages.

 

 

 

Pace Rested and Ready for 2019 Pro Bass Season

Cliff Pace had two objectives this offseason:

To rest.

And to get better.

After a few months off from the grind of competitive bass fishing, Pace said he feels somewhat rejuvenated as he prepares for start of 2019.

“It helps me from a relaxation standpoint,” Pace said. “I love to fish. That’s why I ended up doing this for a living. I do a lot of inshore fishing, a lot of speckled trout fishing, red fishing and bass fishing as well. It allows me to be home, spend time with the family.  It allows for more of a routine lifestyle a few months out of the year, stuff I really look forward to.”

Pace said he has a new boat and more, important, new electronics. The TFO advisor said he switched from Raymarine to Garmin.

“I’ve spent the last few weeks trying to use the Garmin electronics to the best of my ability,” Pace said. “There is a learning curve there. It’s like using a computer, things like that, just trying to get ready. I learned how to use them, learned how to use what they’re telling me. Being more efficient with them was probably what I spent most of my offseason doing. I felt I struggled mostly with the smallmouth tournaments up north, which are very much an electronics game. I felt I was kind of behind the 8-ball with the technology that was available. I went ahead with the learning curve and learned how to use them. I have no doubt that there will be some events this year that it will pay dividends.”

The objective, of course is to evaluate what’s going on underneath the surface to find more fish.

“I spent a lot of time this offseason fishing in different types of water, spending time putting in a manual setting from an auto setting, where you can adjust everything independently on your own, to be able to interpret better what you’re seeing more so than anything else,” said Pace, the 2013 Bassmaster Classic champion.

Because professional fishing is so competitive once the season starts, anglers have to develop their skills in the offseason. The collective skill level from event to event is fierce, as are the changing conditions.

“There’s a huge difference between fishing an area you’re comfortable with to an area you’re fishing competitively,” Pace said. “The anglers that fish like I do have to be very, very diverse and effective with different things. If all I did was fish at home, I could use a couple techniques and have what I needed year-round. If you fish in South Florida and then go fish for smallmouth up north, it’s two very, very different situations. But both events count the same. You need to be dialed into the best of your ability in each respect. That’s pretty much competitive fishing in a nutshell, being competitive and diverse in all the situations that we’re put in.”

Pace spent much of his professional fishing career competing in the Bassmaster Elite series but has taken his skills to a new circuit — Major League Fishing’s Bass Pro Tour, which started its first season earlier this month.

The BPT was formed this past October when 80 of the top anglers from the Bassmaster and FLW circuits left for the invitation-only league, which will offer eight-regular season events, a championship, hefty payouts and backing from Bass Pro Shops.

“I’m probably more excited this season than I have been in any season I’ve competed,” Pace said. “I’m grateful to be in a time in this sport when we have people interested in growing the sport and taking advantage of all the technology to grow the sport and show case the sport for truly what it is. I felt like that was something throughout my career that was lacking. I think Major League Fishing is going to step up and fix a lot of those problems. That’s why I’m excited.”

The format differs from Bassmaster, which counts the top five fish. In the BPT, every fish counts.

“It’s definitely going to be more stressful,” Pace said. “I think all that’s positive. I think it will be much more exciting for the fans and a better platform for us to showcase our talents. You’re never in a sense of comfort and you’re never out of it.”

Regardless of the format, the goal is to improve from season to season.

“I had a good year last year,” Pace said. “I didn’t have a perfect year, but I definitely didn’t have a terrible year. Without a doubt, you want to do the best you possibly can. There’s always motivation to be a better and more competitive angler. The day that I can win every event that I got in, I will quit this sport. There’s always motivation. There’s always motivation, even for a guy that wins Angler of the Year. There’s motivation to continue that momentum. Motivation can come from a lot of different directions.”

 

Thoughts on Cliff or his change to Major League Fishing? Let us know on one of our social media pages.