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Author: Mike Hodge

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.

How To Get Started in Bass Fishing

I caught my first bass more than 40 years ago, on a farm pond a pitch and a flip from my current house in the Western North Carolina mountains.

I remember the 4-pounder got away after I stuck the stringer in the mud, and the big green fish simply swam away with two panfish in tow.

I was 12. I was devastated.

Soon after college, I fell in love with trout on the long rod. I never really seriously pursued bass on spinning gear, but this season I’ve vowed to change that trend.

Here’s a few tips for those who wish to brush up on bass basics. Obviously, there are several types of bass. For simplicity’s sake, we’ll focus on the largemouth.

Fish Early or Late

I caught my first decent bass in late afternoon, but most of the time bass feed at sunrise and sunset. My rule of thumb is to fish when the sun is below the trees. Once the sun passes the tree line, the bite slows considerably.

In the evening, wait until the sun dips below the trees and fish until dark. Dusk is a great time to fish.

Because bass are light sensitive, your optimum windows are fairly tight. Nevertheless, take advantage of them.

Obviously, work and family commitments dictate when you can fish. If you can only go in the middle of the day, you can still fish, but fish deeper than you would if you were on the water early or late, when the fish are running shallow.

Tis the Season for Bass

A year or so after I caught my first big bass, I thought I was on a roll and would ride that momentum to fish after fish. One bitterly cold Thanksgiving I charged out on to Georgia’s Lake Burton with a carton of nightcrawlers. I caught a cold, but nary a fish.

What I didn’t know is that water temperature dictates when bass — and other fish feed — and success is largely seasonal. So if you’re a beginner, it’s best to fish in the spring or fall, when water temperatures are more conducive to success. This is not to say you can’t fish during winter’s chill or summer’s swelter, because you can, but your odds of catching fish are better in the spring and fall. Plus, the weather is more pleasant.

Where to Find Bass

Structure. Structure. Structure. Find the structure —- logs, brush, rocks, lily pads, hydrilla, or grass — and you will generally find the bass. The bass’ primary objective is to survive and they use structure as protection and as an avenue to ambush prey. This means you need to identify the structure where you fish. Learn it. Learn where it is and you’ll certainly find fish.

The Equipment You Need

You can probably get by with an initial investment of $100, maybe half that, to get your rod, reel, line and lures.

To get started, it’s best to buy a closed-face, push-button spinning outfit — with the line. If you have to spool your own line, go with 8-pound clear mono. Use an arbor knot to attach the mono to the reel and a clinch knot to attach the lure to your line.

For your second rod, I recommend a 7-footer, medium action TFG Professional Series from TFO, not too soft, not too stiff. Ideally, you want to feel your lure on the bottom as you make your presentation. Once you’re comfortable with a rod, a simple open-face spinning reel is a reasonable step up from the push-button combo.

Lures/Baits

When I first started fishing, I used shiners, nightcrawlers and crayfish. As I got more skilled, I graduated to artificial offerings. Some anglers thumb their noses at using bait, but there’s little doubt that can you can catch more fish and build confidence with it. If you choose bait, it helps to use a bobber. When the bobber moves, lift the rod to set the hook. Adjust the bobber according to the depth of the water.

My first lures were stickbaits/soft plastics —- mainly purple and black worms rigged weedless. My biggest mistake was chucking the offering as far as I could and reeling like a madman. What I should have done was cast toward structure and let the worm fall to the bottom before retrieving. A bass will often take a worm on the drop. My other lures were the venerable Snagless Sally and the Beetle Spin. These spinner baits helped me cover a lot of water and they were fun to cast. It also doesn’t hurt to have a crankbait or two in your tackle box as well, but plastic worms and spinner baits are a good start.

 

Thoughts on getting started in bass fishing? Let us know on one of our social media pages.

 

 

Part VI: The Basics of Flies for the Beginner

If you read our Getting Started in Fly Fishing Series, you should have a rod, reel, backing, line and a leader, all of which were covered in parts I, II, III, and IV. We went over fly casting in part V.

So what’s left for the beginning fly angler? Flies.

No blog post can begin to cover flies, fly tying and what to use when, but for simplicity’s sake, we’ll go over a few basics.

Types of Flies

Nymphs are your basic subsurface trout flies. Ever been in a stream, turned over a rock and looked at all the critters? Those are nymphs. Examples of famous nymph imitations are the Hare’s Ear and Pheasant tail.

Streamers imitate the baitfish and minnows in a stream, lake or river. Lefty’s Deceiver and the Clouser Minnow are good examples. Both patterns were invented by TFO advisors, the late Lefty Kreh and Bob Clouser.

Dry flies are imitations of the insects above the water from aquatic hatches. Caddis, blue wing olive, sulphur and drake hatches are traditional troutfare in much of the United States.

Another example of the dry fly is terrestrials — grass hoppers, crickets, ants and beetles, land-based insects. It’s best to use these in the summer, once the traditional hatches have faded.

Attractor flies don’t necessarily imitate a specific insect, but, for some reason, they catch fish after fish. The Royal Wulff and Adams fall into this category. I use these types of flies when there’s no obvious insect activity.

Sizes of Flies

Flies are sized numerically by hook size. The smaller the hook size, the bigger the fly. A size 2 Deceiver, obviously, is much bigger than a size 16 pheasant tail.

Ideally, you want the size of your chosen pattern to match the size of the food the fish are feeding upon. A size 10 Adams, for example, probably won’t work during a blue-wing olive hatch. A size 20 or 22 might.

What flies to Use

This, of course, depends on what you’re fishing for. If you’re fishing for bass, try a woolly bugger to imitate crayfish. Trout like woolly buggers, too.  The point is, whatever species of fish you’re angling for, try to collect an assortment of flies — subsurface and dry —- of various sizes and colors.

You will probably start out with one fly box. But as you start to pursue different species of fish at different seasons —- saltwater and freshwater — you will quickly acquire boxes of flies.

As you progress, try to whittle your fly selection to a handful of proven patterns you trust — but to a point. Much of what motivates a fish to eat is in the angler’s presentation and accuracy of the cast as much as the selection of the fly.

Your first season of trying to figure what fly to fish with when will be frustrating.  But stick with it. Information from your local fly shop or from a fellow angler can be a big, big help. For more information on getting started with flies, check out this video from Mad River Outfitters.

Comments or questions about fly selection for the beginner? Feel free to reach out to us one of our social media pages.

It’s Show Time 2019

It’s early 2019, and it’s show time! The fishing show circuit has started and TFO has plans for many of them. Stop by our booth and say hello to our staffers, national advisors and ambassadors. Likewise, stop by and visit the booths of our participating dealers.

Along with our scheduled shows we’re offering visitors to our booth the chance to win a Rod of Choice Certificate by participating in our #flyfishingduck promotion. See the graphic at the bottom of this page for details!

Comments? Questions? Feel free to weigh in on one of our social media pages.

 

January

Jan. 18-20

The Fly Fishing Show

Marlborough, Mass.

Participating Dealers: Green Top, Bear’s Den, Badger Creek, Deerfield Fly Shop, The Fly Rod Shop, Fly Shack, Inc., Whitewater Flies

 

Jan. 25-27

The Fly Fishing Show

Edison, N.J.

Participating Dealers: Tightlines, Bear’s Den, Badger Creek, Classic Fly Fisherman

 

Jan. 27

Kentuckiana Fly Fishing Show

Shepherdsville, Ky.

Participating dealers: TBD

 

February

Feb. 1-2

The Fly Fishing Show

Atlanta

Participating Dealers: Alpharetta Outfitters, FishHawk, Classic Fly Fisherman, Badger Creek Fly Tying.

 

Feb. 2

Greater Cincinnati Fly Fishing Show

Loveland, Ohio

Participating Dealers: Mad River Outfitters, GLFFC, The Northern Angler.

 

Feb. 8-10

Columbus Fishing Expo

Columbus, Ohio

Participating Dealers: Mad River Outfitters, Thorne Bros.

 

Feb. 16-17

Troutfest/GRTU

New Braunfels, Texas

Participating Dealers: TBD

 

The Fly Fishing Show

Lynnwood, Wash.

Participating Dealers: Red’s Fly Shop, Avid Angler, Sport Co. Gig Harbor Fly Shop.

 

Feb. 22-24

The Fly Fishing Show

Pleasanton, Calif.

Participating Dealers: Fly Fishing Specialties, Kiene’s American, Lost Coast Outfitters, Redding Fly Shop.

 

March

March 9-10

Midwest Fly Fishing Expo

Warren, Mich.

Participating Dealers: Ron’s Fly Shop, Schultz, Outfitters, Great Lakes Fly Fishing Co., Red Fox Outfitters, The Northern Angler, Uncle Jake’s Fly Shop, Badger Creek Fly Tying, D Loop Outfitters.

 

March 15-17

Great Waters Fly Fishing Expo

St. Paul, Minn.

Participating Dealers: The Fly Angler, Swanson’s Bait and Tackle, Bob Mitchell’s.

 

March 16

Long Island Fly Fishing Expo

Monahan, N.Y.

Participating Dealers: River Bay Outfitters.

 

March 23-25

Texas Fly Fishing & Brewfest

Plano, Texas

Participating Dealers: Tailwaters, Sportsman’s Finest, Gordy and Son’s.

 

April

 April 26-28

Spey O’Rama

San Francisco, Calif.

Participating Dealers: Lost Coast Outfitters, FishFirst.

 

May

May 3-4

Sandy River Spey Clave

Portland, Oregon

Participating Dealers: Fly Fishing Shop Welches.

 

May 17-19

Celtic Spey Challenge

Belfast, Ireland

Participating Dealers: TBD

 

June

June 6-9

Skeeter Boat Owner’s Tournament

Lake Fork, Texas

Participating Dealers: TBD

 

June 13-15

European Tackle Trade Show

Belfast, Ireland

Participating Dealers: TBD

 

June 21-22

Spey Nation

Salmon River, N.Y.

Participating Dealers: All Season’s Sports, Malinda’s Fly Shop.

 

July

July 10-12

ICAST

Orlando, Fla.

Participating Dealers: NA

 

August

Aug. 11-13

Sports Inc./August Outdoor Sporting Goods Show

Indianapolis

Participating Dealers: NA

 

Aug. 26-29

Worldwide Show

Reno, Nev.

Participating Dealers: NA

 

October

Oct. 16-18

International FTD

Denver

Participating Dealers: NA

Part V: How to Get Started in Fly Casting

If you’ve followed TFO’s How to Get Started in Fly Fishing series, you have a rod, reel, fly line and leader from parts I, II, III and IV. Now you need to be able to cast.

You don’t need to be Lefty Kreh or Flip Pallot to catch fish, but you do need to be able to cast effectively. Freshwater is more forgiving. If you can cast 20 or 30 feet and maintain good line control, you can catch freshwater species consistently, particularly if you are willing to fish subsurface.

In saltwater, the game is more demanding because of wind and moving fish. The rule of thumb is 50 feet with only a couple false casts. You can catch fish on shorter casts than that, but you’ll also need to be cast farther.

Distance is just one factor. There’s speed, your ability to get the fly to the fish before the window of opportunity closes — and there is accuracy —- the ability to put the fly where it needs to be. Could be on the fish’s nose. Could be a few feet in front. It all depends on the angles involved and the speed of the fish in relation to the angler.

Since I’m not a casting instructor, I won’t go into the mechanics of learning to fly cast. Instead, I’ll wade into a few insights I learned along the way. And I’m still learning. Casting is akin to a good golf swing. It’s never perfect. It’s something that can be honed during a lifetime. You can always make it better. Below are a couple ideas that should help you do that.

Get Some Instruction

You don’t necessarily have to find a certified instructor. The important thing is to find someone you’re comfortable with who can teach. A lot of people can cast. Not everyone can teach. Teaching is a skill. Not everyone has the knowledge and patience to communicate. You don’t need to find the best caster. You need to find the best teacher —- for your needs and personality.

Lefty, who passed away last spring, was a fabulous teacher. So is Ed Jaworowski. Both TFO advisors produced The Complete Cast, an outstanding DVD. However at some point, you might need in-person, one-on-one instruction.

How do you find that? Go to seminars. Go to YouTube. Ask around at the fly shop. Then assess your personality and needs. Not everyone can teach beginners. Not everyone can teach intermediates or advanced casters. So assess yourself and abilities and try to find an instructor to match. It takes time, but it’s worth it.

Use Video

Ten, 15 years ago video was cost prohibitive for any type of instruction. Now, thanks to technology, it’s not. Grab your cell phone or your point-and-shoot camera. Both devices should have decent video. Get someone to take footage of your casting. Then watch it. You’re probably not doing some things you should be and you’re probably making some mistakes you’re not aware of. The tape won’t lie. And after you look at, get your instructor to do so as well. Now you’ll have an idea of what to correct because you have a visual roadmap.

Casting hinges on timing. Ideally you will be able to feel the rod bend on the back cast, but in the beginning it’s difficult. TFO’s Accelerator can expedite the learning curve. It’s an auditory tool, which allows you to hear when to actually stop on your back cast and forward cast.

Practice

You can’t get better without it, and if you don’t practice, your skills will erode. Let’s assume you can’t get out on the water as regularly as you would like. In that case, your yard will do. Set up targets for accuracy. Crosswinds, tailwinds and headwinds are all available. Most back yards are not compatible for distance casting, but work with your available space. You can work on delivering a good back cast or go across your body. And if you’re really ambitious, cast with your non-dominant hand. The main thing is to develop repetition. After you’re done, it’s smart to clean your line. Grass can gunk it up easily, which is why I often use a retired fly line, although I still clean that to make it cast better.

The Low Elbow

I’m assuming you know the basics of the grip and have picked up a fly rod once or twice. If you’ve haven’t, that’s OK, here’s the bare-bones version. Grip the rod with the thumb on top of the cork and aligned with the guides. Your back cast should start low near the ground or water and end abruptly near your ear. Pause. Let the line straighten. Start the forward cast ending at roughly eye level before coming to a quick, complete stop, at least to start out.

If you can’t see your rod in your peripheral vision on the back cast, you might need to shorten your stroke. The easiest way to make sure you lock into these positions is to maintain a low elbow. As Lefty says, keep your elbow on a shelf. You keep your right elbow (if you’re right handed) at your side. Don’t raise it. Don’t let it flare. Pretend you can only use your forearm, hand and a bit of wrist. Essentially, you have a short lever. A short lever gives you more control. Why? It’s easier to maintain a straight line for the path of the rod and it’s easier to stop the rod.

Many anglers, once they reach the intermediate level, lengthen their cast for more distance. But, the longer the stroke the more that can go wrong. Think about it. It’s akin to a hitter in baseball. Big cuts can lead to home runs, but they also yield a lot of strikeouts. It’s the same thing with fly casting. You don’t need a big stroke for the majority of your fishing. If you want to win casting competitions, you need a big stroke with hard stops and a straight-line path, which is easier said than done.

None of the above information is rooted in absolutes. There are a lot of ways to cast. There are a lot of ways to learn. Find what works for you.

Keep it simple. It solves a lot of problems.

For more info on fly casting, check out this video from Mad River Outfitters.

 

Thoughts on fly casting? Struggling with you cast? Feel free to weigh on one of our social media pages.

Part IV: Everything You Need To Know About Fly Lines and Leaders

So you have a rod and a reel. It’s time to add a fly line and a leader. Be patient. Pretty soon, you’ll be ready to go fishing. Note: Parts I, II and III of our Getting Started in Fly Fishing are helpful in providing context, but not necessary.

The Fly Line

First things first. Before you think about a fly line, you’ll need backing. Backing is a supple polyester material that connects to the reel. The fly line connects to the backing, usually with a loop-to-loop connection.

Most freshwater setups will call for approximately 75, 100 yards of backing. The backing gives the angler extra protection after a big fish runs through 90, 100 feet of fly line. Chances are, though, most freshwater fish — trout and bass — are not going to test your backing. Saltwater species —- redfish, snook, bonefish and tarpon — will do so regularly, which is why you will want more backing in the brine. Each reel has a designation for the amount of backing. If you’re not sure, ask your local fly shop.

Now that you have an overview of the lines and connections, it’s time to pick a fly line. Your first fly line likely needs to be weight-forward floating, which will allow you to fish dry flies, poppers as well as most streamers and nymphs, which are subsurface offerings.  As you get more advanced, you can buy sinking-tip setups, which allows you to the fly to the bottom faster. But for now, it’s best to keep things simple with a weight-forward line.

The benefit of the weight-forward line — at least for the beginner or intermediate angler — is that the bulk of the weight of the line is in the first 30 feet or so, which makes it easier for the newcomer to feel the rod bend and straighten, load and unload, when casting.

Lines are designated by weight and designed to match the weight of the rod. These designations are often found on the butt of the fly rod, aka WF5, which means weight-forward 5 weight. Most of the time, the fly line matches the rod, but not always. If you’re technically inclined and curious, this post explains why some fly lines don’t always match up properly.

The Leader

Your leader serves as the connection from the fly line to the fly. It’s comprised of three sections — the butt, the mid-section and the tippet. Leaders are measured by the diameter of the tippet, from 0X to 8X, with 0X being the biggest and 8X the smallest. The standard freshwater leader lengths are 7.5, 9 and 12 feet.

A 4X, 7.5 or 9-foot leader will work for most trout and bass situations. If you are fishing for spooky fish, you’ll need a longer leader, perhaps 12 or 13 feet. Longer leaders provide stealth, but are generally more difficult to cast.

A medium-size freshwater leader such as 4X will suffice in most situations, but ideally the diameter of the tippet matches the size of the fly. For instance, you wouldn’t want to toss a tiny size 22 trico pattern with a 3x or 4x leader. A 5X, 6X or 7X leader is a much better choice. However with a bass popper, you might want a 2X or 3X leader, something stiff enough to propel a bigger offering.

Dry-fly leaders are made from nylon. If you decide to go subsurface, use a fluorocarbon leader/tippet. These sink faster.

You can buy various types of leaders. For simplicity, we’ll stick with these two: knotted leaders and tapered leaders. The difference is self-explanatory: If a leader uses knots to fuse its sections together, it’s a knotted leader. Tapered leaders are knotless.

If you’re a serious dry-fly fisherman, you might try a braided leader. However, the majority of fly anglers use tapered leaders. They cast well and you don’t have to worry about knots.

The Knots

There are several knots you should learn how to tie when dealing with backing, fly line and leaders. The arbor knot attaches the backing to the reel. The double surgeon’s or perfection loop is used to make a loop-to-loop connection. The backing will have one loop, the back of the fly line another.

To attach the leader to the fly line, another loop-to-loop connection usually is required. Your leader should have a pre-made loop. But if it doesn’t, a perfection loop works fine.

If you’re tippet needs replacing, the standard knot of choice is the blood knot. If you tie your own leaders, you will need to master this knot. Once you’ve secured the tippet, use a clinch or Lefty Kreh’s non-slip mono loop to attach your fly of choice.

Any advice on fly lines or leaders? Feel free to check in with a comment or two on one of our social media pages.

Part III: The Basics of Fly Reels

So you have a basic understanding of fly fishing and a fly rod from Part I and II of our how to get started in fly fishing series. Now you need a reel.

Fly-fishing reels come in all shapes, sizes and styles. No blog post can begin to summarize all of these components. For now, we’ll focus on the basics for the novice fly angler.

Reels have two primary purposes. They store the backing and fly line, and they provide resistance when you hook a fish. The bigger the fish, the more important your reel is in terms of performance.

Reels, like fly rods, are designated by weights. A 5-weight reel, for instance, should be matched with a 5-weight rod. Of course, this numerical system has a little wiggle room, depending on the actual weight of the rod and reel and the angler preference as he or she attempts to balance the rod with the reel.

Chances are your first rod will be a trout or panfish setup, maybe a TFO NXT or Bug Launcher. Most trout or small bass or brim will not test your drag system. You can simply strip in the line — and fish — by hand.

Since you not need a complicated drag system on your first fly reel, there’s no need to break the bank. The NXT LA I reel ($79.95-$84.95) offers exceptional value and will get the job done in most fishing situations the beginner will encounter.

If you anticipate bigger trout, bass or even a few of the common saltwater, fly-rod targets such as redfish, snook or seatrout, you will a higher-end reel. The BVK series ($159.95-$299.95) or Power series ($399.95-$499.95) are good options. Both feature light, durable, high-end materials and a sealed, disc drag system.

You will not need a high-quality reel in most freshwater situations. Big bass and trout are the exception, not the rule. In saltwater, you will need a good reel that can prevent corrosion and handle bigger, stronger, faster fish.

Bottom line: In freshwater, the reel is probably the least important part of your setup. In saltwater, the reel is THE most important part of your tackle. Adjust accordingly.

TFO’s large-arbor spools can help combat the feistiest of fish. The wide-diameter spool allows the angler to retrieve more line with a single turn of the handle, important when a hot fish makes a screaming run. And if you like to bomb long casts while blind-casting, the large arbor design allows you pick up line much faster than a regular spool.

Higher-end reels are sturdier and can perform at a higher level than the less expensive models. However, all reels require maintenance. Here’s a few tips on what you can do to prolong the life of your high-end reel.

 

Do you have stories about your fly-fishing setup, or suggestions for beginners and their first reel? If so, let us know on one of our social media pages.

Part II: How to Buy Your First Fly Rod

So you want to learn to fly fish? First things first. You will need a fly rod.

Don’t be intimidated. There are a lot of rods out there to choose from — saltwater, freshwater, two-hand and single hand, all in different heights and sizes. Where to start?

Welcome to Part II of our learning-to-fly-fish series. Part I was the overview. Now it’s time to start assembling your equipment — and that starts with purchasing your first rod. Here are a handful of things to consider:

What do you want to fish for?

Are you interested in freshwater or salt? Big rivers or small streams? Bass or trout? Redfish or tarpon? Where you fish and what you fish for dictates the type of rod you’ll need. Although some fly rods are more versatile than others, there is no all-purpose, do-everything fly rod.

I, for instance, started with one fly rod; I ended up with more than a dozen after making the transition from trout to bass and freshwater to saltwater. However, the weekend trout/bass fisherman can get easily get by with one, maybe two rods.

What’s your budget?

Fly fishing is not a cheap sport. Although TFO offers reasonably priced rods compared to other fly rod manufacturers, our single-hand rods start at $89.95 (Bug Launcher series) and run as high as $399.95 (Drift series) with lots of options in between those price points. If you buy a rod, reel and line separately, you’re looking at investing two, three-hundred dollars, cheaper if you buy one of our NXT Kits, which includes a rod, reel and line.

Let your interest in fly fishing dictate your initial purchases. If you’ve taken a lesson or two and you’re in love with fly fishing, buy the best single-hand rod you can afford. It will perform better and last longer.

If you’re dabbling, it’s best to take a wait-and-see approach. Buy a rod at a reasonable price point —- the Axiom II (suggested retail: $339.95-$359.95) is a good option — and then decide how much you’ll actually fish. That way, if you fish only a handful of times a year, you haven’t invested a chunk of change in a rod that’s collecting dust.

What do you like?

Fly rods are categorized by length and weight. Length is self-explanatory. A 9-footer is your standard freshwater rod. You can buy longer rods, but they’re mainly for specialty types of fishing.

Rod weights are assigned to define the types of flies you can throw. The lighter the rod, the lower the number, the smaller fly you can cast and vice versa. For instance, if you were fishing for tarpon, you would want a 10 or 11-weight rod, which is sturdy enough to propel a fly the size of your hand 60 or 70 feet. For the record, the standard trout fly rod is a 5-weight.

Armed with the basics of this terminology and an idea of what you want to fish for, it’s best to go to your local fly shop and try out several different rods. What feels good to you?

Some fly rods are stiff, some are soft. Each angler usually has a preference and that’s largely defined by how they cast. It’s a decision each newcomer has to make. I recommend a slighter softer rod, which should help you feel the butt of the rod bend, very important as you learn to cast.

Are you prepared for the unexpected?

My first fly rod was handmade, gorgeous and casted like a dream. Unfortunately, it was made by local rod maker. The one drawback? It had no warranty.

You may not think you’ll break a rod, but chances are you will. I’ve broken three in a 30 years. The latest was a TFO Professional Series. It was my fault. I left it unattended in the back of my SUV and my dog’s crate rolled over on it. We all have our moments of carelessness that can cost us.

You will want a good warranty and trust me, even with the best intentions, you will use it. TFO’s no-fault, lifetime warranty covers breakage for any reason. My TFO rod was fixed and back in my hands in about a week or so. That type of customer service is hard to beat.

Suggestions on buying your first fly rod? Stories about your first fly rod? Feel free let us know about these experiences on one of our social media pages.

How Beginners Can Get Started in Fly Fishing, Part 1: Simplify

Welcome to part one of TFO’s fly fishing for beginners. Starting today, our series will be divided into five weekly segments — an introduction followed by singular posts on rods, reels, lines/leaders and casting.

Let’s be honest. Fly Fishing, at least at its advanced levels, is not easy. It can be difficult for the beginner, but it doesn’t have to be. You can fish for tailing bonefish and permit on the gin-clear flats of the Bahamas, or, you can try your hand at bluegill on a farm pond with nothing more than a simple out-of-the box setup and a fistful of poppers.

The choice is entirely up to the angler.

A few thoughts on how the beginner can streamline the process:

Buy a Kit

When a beginner first goes into a fly shop, the array of lines, rods and leaders can be daunting. If you’re patient and persistent, you can go through the tedium of putting together a matching outfit. But why endure that stress?

Better yet, a buy a kit — with a rod, reel, line and leader already assembled. TFO has NXT kits (suggested retail: $199.95-$209.95), which are perfect for a youngster or adult beginner. You get a quality, affordable setup that’s ready to fish.

It’s a low-risk proposition. If you eventually fall in love with the sport, you can upgrade to a better rod and reel. On the other hand, if you simply want to dabble in fly fishing, the NXT kit will serve you well for years — and you won’t blow through a monthly mortgage payment, which is easily doable at your local fly shop.

Take a Class

Most fly shops offer classes. Mad River Outfitters in Columbus, Ohio offers outstanding instruction. Most shops offer free weekend casting lessons, and it’s worth your time to invest a few hours with a knowledgeable teacher.

Internet instruction is an option. The only problem with that approach is that the quality of the information varies. Some is good. Most of it is bad and there’s no gatekeeper to sort through the volume of misguided info.

The next best option is to buy a DVD from a reputable source. TFO’s Lefty Kreh and Ed Jaworowski teamed for The Complete Cast, which is a comprehensive look at fly casting. It’s a little advanced for the pure novice, but a good investment for the intermediate angler.

Hire a Guide

One of the hardest things about learning to fly fish is knowing where the fish are, when they’re going to be there and why. And then you have to be skilled enough to put the fly where it needs to be. A good guide can help you sort through the obstacles. And trust me, there will be plenty.

When I first started fly fishing 30-something years ago, I was immediately hooked. I went out and bought a handmade fly rod for $350, which translates to nearly $800 in today’s economic climate. And, I had no idea how to cast or how to find fish.

Sheer perseverance yielded a few trout, but fortunately I found a friend who was not only skilled but helpful. In retrospect, I should have spent less money on my first rod and invested in a guide. You, as a beginner, should do the same.

 Set Realistic Expectations

I learned to fly fish on a spring creek. Of course, I was seduced by the visions of big brown trout sipping sulphurs at dusk. I eventually bagged my share of browns, but not before I honed my skills on a more forgiving species — the brook trout of the Blue Ridge Mountains. I should have simplified even further — with bass and bluegill on the local farm ponds. You don’t need a guide. You don’t need waders. If you can toss a popper a few feet, you have a good chance of landing a fish or two. From there, your confidence will grow — along with your skill level.

 Enjoy the Journey

When I first started fishing, I used to take a few fish home, not because I was against catch-and-release — actually I was in favor of it —- but because I needed proof. I needed validation that I could actually catch something with a limber rod, a rubbery line and a tuft of fur and feathers. I’m not sure if I was insecure or trying to prove to my wife at the time that I was being productive. Beats doing yardwork, right?

As I’ve grown older, I no longer measure fishing or hunting success by empirical output. If I’m still learning, that’s good enough for me. Fly fishing offers infinite possibilities — saltwater, freshwater, big fish, little fish, stocked fish, wild fish. All can be sampled close to home or abroad. You can tie your own world-class flies ala TFO’s Blane Chocklett. You can row a drift boat or pole a skiff. Or you can simply fish from the bank.

That’s the beauty of fly fishing. It can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be. The choice is yours.

Below is a video from Mad River Outfitters that provides additional insight on the simplicity of fly fishing. Additional thoughts or comments on how to make fly fishing more user-friendly for beginners? Feel free to comment on one of our social media pages.