Last year, TFO introduced three new fly rods, one of which was the Blue Ribbon series. While the series name might seem like this tool is intended for cool water trout streams, its components and moderate fast action have proven to be able an excellent choice for targeting warmwater species as well.
The Blue Ribbon’s precision and ease of casting make this rod a joy to cast and even more fun when fighting a fish. The 11-rod series has something for every freshwater angler.
TFO Fly Fishing Category Manager and designer of the Blue Ribbon series, Nick Conklin, shares a little bit more about this new series.
Briefly describe the Blue Ribbon series. What is it and who is it for?
The Blue Ribbon was designed for the freshwater angler who needs to effectively cover water with repeated casts over the course of the day. Think easy loading, powerful and accurate.
It is an 11-rod series from a 7’6” 2-weight to a 9-foot, 7-weight. We also offer 10-foot models in a three, four and five-weights.
In these situations, the successful angler is the one who has their fly in the water the most and can land that fly accurately and repeatedly.
It is all about efficient use of energy and casting time. We utilized some special components and finish out for the intermediate angler, who fishes for trout and warmwater species. The series spans everything from small dries and nymphs, up to multi fly rigs, (hopper-droppers) and larger articulated streamers.
How did the Blue Ribbon series come about? Is this series based off a pre-existing series? If so, what changes did you want to imply or what did you like about previous series that was carried over?
While not based off anything in the freshwater line-up, we felt the need to offer a well thought-out freshwater/warmwater specific fly rod. Again, a rod with a moderate fast action, but also plenty of power in the butt section to carry longer lines and deliver accurate presentations. We did bring over the TFO Line weight ID system, and our built in hook keepers, (from some saltwater series). We also offer some of the 10-foot models, in a full wells grip for a more comfortable feel.
Any key ambassadors or TFO staffers that helped with the prototype phases?
During the design and development phase, we utilized our vast and experienced network of guides and outfitters. We have some great, hardworking guides that spend hundreds of hours on the water and really put rods to the test. This was exactly where we envisioned the Blue Ribbon series to fit. A well-built, smooth casting tool meant to be fished hard by anglers. A functional tool that anglers of varied casting preferences and experience can pick up, quickly load, and accurately unload to a fish.
Talk about the 10’ options. Aside from having extra length for nymphing, what makes the 10’ option more advantageous compared to a 9’ model?
The ten foot models have always been critical across the TFO line-up and it was important that we offered some “longer levers,” to help aid in line management and fly placement. The longer level makes the process of picking up and repositioning lines much more efficient.
Not only are these tools great for those tightline or high-stick nymphing, but they also enable easier and more efficient casting while in a drift boat, kayak, or while wading deeply. One of the great insights that came out of the development phase was learning about all the drift boat guides that have found many advantages for anglers with the longer rod. It’s all about efficiency and aiding in providing a great fishing experience.
Do you see the Blue Ribbon lineup expanding someday?
There is always an opportunity to expand any fly rod series. It comes down to the needs of the anglers. We take extreme care in selecting the rods we introduce in a series, but, as techniques evolve and anglers find new and fun ways and places to fish, there will be opportunities to improve models and add to a rod family.
Check out the all new Blue Ribbon series at your local TFO dealer today! Find out more about the Blue Ribbon series here.
We can all agree that 2020 was a tough year. Between many places being shut down and inventory issues brought on by unprecedented demand, it was (and in some cases still) a mess. Not being able to attend fishing shows was one of the many aspects that we (and others) missed about 2020. Needless to say, the return of ICAST last week was a blessing and a long overdue meeting of friends and family, ambassadors, pro staff anglers, and more – both new and old.
For those unfamiliar with the changes in ICAST and IFTD (International Fly Tackle Dealer), the shows are now happening at different times of year – ICAST in July, and IFTD now taking place in October. Historically, both shows happened at the same time – which was ALOT to take in, but great for those wanting to get the most of both worlds. Needless to say, even though ICAST is now more focused on the conventional side of fishing, we still had a TON of people stop by the TFO booth to check out our fly gear, and make trips to the casting pond to try out the new Mangrove Coast and BC Big Fly, as well as some familiar favorites like the Axiom ll-X. While the fly stuff was getting plenty of love, there was a lot of attention aimed at the newly redesigned Professional and Tactical Inshore series, as well as the new Tactical Elite Bass swimbait models.
We were able to film a few videos with TFO Ambassadors Rob Fordyce, Joey Nania, and Jonathan Moss going over some of the new stuff, as well as some classics.
Our good friends at Tackle Warehouse stopped by for a bit to interview Joey Nania, and go over some of the new Tactical Elite additions. Check out those videos below.
Temple Fork Outfitters TFO Tactical Elite Swimbait Rods with Joey Nania | First Look 2021
New Temple Fork Outfitters Tactical Elite Spinning Rod 7’6″ Med Lt w Joey Nania | First Look 2021
Temple Fork Outfitters TFO Tactical Bass and Tactical Elite Comparison | First Look 2021
Be on the lookout for more content from ICAST. We had several friends and dealers stop by to shoot some content on the new conventional gear, and we can’t wait to share them on our socials as they become available.
It’s late May in East Tennessee and talk of the highly anticipated seventeen-year Brood X Cicada hatch fills the air (and social media newsfeeds) as loud as the droning buzz created by the large black and orange bugs as they emerge. News stations and local outdoor outfitters have been hyping up the natural phenomenon since January, and fly shops in my area have even made Cicada Mania t-shirts and stickers to commemorate the event.
I remember my sister-in-law was even curious about the event, asking, “What’s the big deal with these cicadas and fishing anyway?” after my brother and I began to look for dates to book a guided trip to get in on the action. My brother responded, “You know how in that 90’s surfer movie, Point Break with Patrick Swayze and Keanu Reaves and they’re searching for that perfect wave — the kind that comes only every 100 years? It’s like that for fishing – but it only happens every seventeen years, instead of 100”
I was skeptical about the whole event a few months ago. Is it really happening? Would my area even get the bugs? Will fish really key in on them like people say they will? Is this just a scheme for shops to sell more gear, flies, and t-shirts? My questions were answered on my latest trip on the river.
I was lucky enough to have a good friend invite me out for a full day float trip on a local river in search of smallmouth and other warm water species. We were instructed from our guide to be prepared to throw a lot of topwater poppers, and to not be surprised if we saw some cicadas on the water. It was a good sign when we saw some right at the boat put in.
I was fortunate enough to get the LK Legacy 6wt with the fighting butt (06 91 4 LK) last summer and put it to the test on some smallmouth a few times before it got too cold. Paired up with the Scientific Anglers Titan Taper floating line, this rod is an absolute cannon for throwing topwater bugs, so I decided to use it again for the cicada patterns. I also brought along my Axiom ll 7wt. I usually use this rod (or the Axiom ll 8wt) paired up with a Rio Outbound Short line to use for crayfish patterns and small-medium sized baitfish patterns. This set up was perfect when we found deeper water, and the fish weren’t as keyed in on the surface. Both of these rods were paired up with my favorite reel – the large arbor BVK SD reel.
With partly cloudy conditions and low water, we started out the morning with cicada patterns, and it wasn’t long before we made contact with fish. Over the course of the morning, we boated several redeye bass, a largemouth, several smallies, and even a rainbow trout on cicada patterns.
The rest of the day had some slower stretches, but even when the cicada action wasn’t as hot, we still found some nice smallmouth on Boogle Bug poppers (black and white colors did best for us). We found a few shoals and deeper runs where the crawfish patterns produced well for us.
Towards the end of the day, we found a stretch of water near a bank with trees that was absolutely roaring with cicadas. Underneath the tree, carp were rising sporadically, along with the occasional smallmouth. Bugs were dropping and the fish were slurping them from the surface. It was a sight I’ll never forget and it wasn’t long before I made a few casts with the 6wt LK Legacy and was hooked up with a nice mirror carp that couldn’t resist a cicada pattern.
We ended up fishing that stretch for about 30 minutes and caught several carp and smallmouth all on the cicada patterns. As much as we didn’t want to leave, we had to call it a day and head home before dusk.
Advice & Takeaways
I haven’t gotten into tying foam patterns yet, so I bought all of mine from a local fly shop. There were a few times during this trip where my cicada pattern would land with the hook facing up. It wasn’t every time, but I definitely missed a few fish because of this. Make sure you know what side is riding up with your cicada pattern lands. There was a small orange piece of yarn to act as an indicator for this, but when making long casts under shaded banks, it can be difficult to see.
I’d recommend grabbing some thin bright colored foam to superglue on the topside of the fly if you are having trouble seeing the fly, or to act as a visual indicator to tell when your fly isn’t floating right. If you notice the pattern is riding upside down (hook up), just give your fly a few strips until you get it riding in the water correctly.
Also, make sure you have backup patterns ready to go. It wasn’t long after 4-5 catches with the first cicada pattern we used that we had to switch up and tie on a new one, as the fish usually hit it pretty hard. Pieces of material started to come loose, eyeballs fell off, and teeth marks in the foam started to make the pattern look like it had been thrown into a tree shredder. This is not a bad problem to have, but make sure you’ve got some reserves for when the bite really does pick up.
Cicadas will hit the water and make a pretty significant “splat” followed by a wave of ripples. While some fish might pick up on this noise, some may miss it and key in on the movement the bugs make after the cicada lands on the water. In other words, don’t be afraid to give the fly some additional movement. Once the cicadas hit the water, they will continue to move their legs in an effort to get back off the water, so replicating this survival twitching can be a great way to draw a fish’s attention. Small, one-inch strips will work. Don’t be afraid to pop the fly too, especially if a fish has decided to look away from your fly. This tactic was very helpful for me more than once when trying to get a carp to change directions when it was feasting on the surface.
Pro Tip – If fishing for carp, be sure to give a little extra time for the fly to get in the fishes mouth. There were definitely a few instances where I got too excited to catch a carp on topwater and pulled the fly right out of the fish’s mouth. I still have nightmares about losing these fish.
Keep Your Eyes & Ears Open.
In my area, the cicadas are definitely out, but they are by no means flying around everywhere like a plague. It’s still early for their cycle, and the fish aren’t 100% keyed in on them yet.
Keep your ears open and listen for the loud drone of the cicadas. Chances are, you’ll hear them in the tree lines near the bank. If this is the case, drift (or wade) over to that area, and be on the lookout on the water for any bugs. Even if you don’t see any bugs on the water, or fish slurping the surface, don’t be afraid to make a few casts near the bank or in these areas. If it looks fishy – fish it!
Be patient, keep your eyes and ears out for bugs, and have fun!
Spring is an excellent time to catch some trophy walleye, and tactics such as precision trolling with TFO’s new Professional Walleye Trolling series is the ideal method and tool for this scenario. This week, we catch up with Ambassador Will Dykstra (who helped with the design and feedback of the new trolling rods), to discuss spring walleye fishing and how he’s rigging and using the Professional Walleye trolling rods.
TFO: Walleye season opener is coming up for some states, but you’ve already had a head start out west in Colorado. Can you talk about how you’ve been/are fishing for walleye this spring?
WD: This time of year, we’re looking at prespawn/spawn/post spawn fish – the post spawn bite is probably your best trophy bite of the whole year. Precision trolling with crankbaits and big stick baits with planer boards is the hot ticket. This method works especially well right now in Colorado, but will also work in just about every walleye fishery in the country. We also do a lot of night trolling during the spring with 4”-6” jerk baits so we can dial in on those plainer boards and get the fish in. My go-to rod is the new 8’6” Medium Professional Walleye Trolling rod.
When you’re precision trolling for fish right above structure or in the actual strike zone of fish – if it’s too high or too low, those fish aren’t going to take your bait. When you have planer boards that are surging because the rods tips can’t absorb the weight of the planer board, you’re going to spend a lot less time fishing the strike zone. For me, having the forgiving action on the 8’6’ trolling rods allows me to stay fishing in the zone the entire time with minimal planer board surge.
TFO: What types of baits or lures do you typically use this time of year on your fisheries? Additionally, what type of line and reel setup are you using for precision trolling?
WD: Here in Colorado, we have mostly gizzard shad in our lakes, so we are primarily focused on trying to find the piles of gizzard shad and setting our baits to the current distance behind the boards to make sure we are fishing the strike zone.
I use 10 lb. monofilament line. Basically, every dive chart created for every lure was based off of 10 lb. monofilament line. I prefer to use the P-Line CXX X-Tra Strong series because of its durability. It’s also really important to have some kind of crosslock snap to get the best action out of the bait., and also the most consistent diving action of out the bait, too.
I use an Okuma Coldwater Line Counter for my trolling reel. It really doesn’t matter which line counter you use, but I’ve had some luck using this one particular one.
TFO: Any other methods besides precision trolling that you like to do in the spring or late spring?
WD: Precision trolling at night is primarily what I am doing in the spring until the fish wrap up their post spawn timeframe. From there, I’m going to be transitioning to a lead core bite. The 10’ lead core rod (PRO WTC 1004-2) and also the 8’6” trolling rod are both of the rods that I’m pulling lead with.
It’s a little unconventional, but we’re pulling small swimbaits with a 3/8 ounce jighead with a 3.5” swim bait – and literally fishing 2-6” off the bottom. Pulling that lead core allows us to dial in on depth that well. We can adjust the line non-stop to where we are just ticking the bottom every 30 seconds to a minute.
If you’re dragging it through the mud or bouncing it off rocks, for whatever reason, it doesn’t trigger fish here like it does in other places like the Canadian Shield where bouncing crankbaits triggers everything – smallmouth, northern, musky, and walleye. For whatever reason, our western fish don’t want it digging up the mud.
Fishing smaller crankbaits and swimbaits 2”-4” off the bottom is the ticket here. Again, the nice think about the Professional Walleye Trolling rods – with the lead and the zero stretch that you have pulling lead core, you have a much more forgiving aspect that allows you to still bury those hooks into the fish.
TFO: Why fish for walleye at night in the spring?
WD: They’re more active. They’re putting on the food bags once they’ve finished spawning, and they’re trying to gain that weight they lost during the spawn and get those calories back on. I’ve noticed that typically in the last full moon in April (April 26) is when the night bite starts to fade off, and our water temperatures start climbing into the high 50s. As soon as we start seeing 60 degree waters, we stop trolling. A lot of it has to do with vegetation growth. At that point, the fish will start setting up on their summer spots and we’ll switch to casting and jigging.
Stay tuned for Part ll for late spring/early summer walleye tactics…
As winter loosen’s its grip (for the most part) and we transition into spring, it’s time to get an inventory check on your fishing gear (we’ll call it Spring Cleaning). If you’ve already got a floating line, but don’t already have an intermediate or sinking line in your lineup, you’ll want to look at investing in these. You’ll be able to target more fish and be able to adjust to almost any type of water depth/scenario.
First and foremost, you’ll need to make sure you have the right rod for the type of water you are fishing, second you need to have the right type of line to deliver flies effectively to these fish. Your reel is important, but only has one purpose – to hold line. You really don’t need a strong drag system unless you are targeting large fish that are known to take you to your backing. If you want to spend $500 on a bright and colorful reel to target trout, bass, and carp – go for it – but you’ll be able to get the same job done with a reel that is half or more than half the cost. Save that money to invest in your next fishing trip or maybe even to get an additional spool with a different type of line.
TFO has three reels (with spare spool options) that cover the bases for any type of species you’re looking to target on the fly. Here’s a break down of each of them.
NXT Black Label Reel-Starting at $79.95, and spare spools starting at $40, the NXT Black Label series of reels set a new benchmark for performance at an affordable price. Machined, cast aluminum frame, ported to reduce weight and featuring a machined handle drag knob and spool release for increased durability during rigorous use. The NXT Black Label series utilizes a stacked, alternating disc drag system that delivers plenty of drag pressure, with no startup inertia. Easy LH/RH conversion (no tools needed) and all reels come packaged in a black neoprene pouch. The three reel series is perfect for trout, warm water species and even light saltwater applications.
BVK SD Reel – A step up from the NXT Black Label reel, both in performance and in componentry, is the popular BVK SD reel. We took the successful BVK series of reels, added a fully sealed drag system and didn’t raise the price one penny! Introducing the BVK SD series of reels: A fully-sealed drag system with super easy LH/RH retrieve changes and minimal maintenance. The drag system is fully sealed Delrin® and stainless-steel to keep the drag clean and functioning in rough and dirty environments. This new drag system provides a noticeably broader range of resistance. The BVK SD series of reels are machined aluminum and anodized for durability and use in fresh or saltwater. The super large arbor design gives these reels huge line capacity and enables the angler to pick up line with incredible efficiency. The four reel series is perfect for everything from rainbow trout and bass all the way to bonefish and baby tarpon. All models of the BVK SD come packaged in a black nylon reel pouch.
POWER REEL– For those looking to target larger species (albies, tuna, salmon, etc) that are notorious for ripping line out and quickly taking you to your backing, the Power Reel is fully anodized and dramatically ported to reduce weight, without sacrificing housing or spool strength. Unlike most drawbar reels that use coil springs for drag plate pressure, the Power reel utilizes a series of conical spring washers. Carbon fiber-stainless steel brakes make a drag system that has a large range resistance with nearly exact “click” values. Even the drag knob is adjustable allowing you to manage the minimum drag resistance. With a clutch bearing for minimizing startup inertia and easy LH/RH conversion, the TFO Power reel is a perfect match to our line-up of single and two-handed rods.
Another tournament season is about to kick off for Bassmaster Classic and MLF Bass Pro Champion Cliff Pace, but before he hits the road, Cliff is doing what he loves the most – winter fishing in the Delta for redfish and bass. Check out some suggestions from TFO Advisor Cliff Pace on how to maximize your time on the water this winter.
TFO:Talk about your fishery back home and why winter fishing is one of your favorite times of year to fish.
CP: Winter fishing back home has always been special to me. To me, home is considered the coastal deltas along Mississippi and Louisiana. It’s where I grew up and learned to fish.
There are several advantages for fishing in the Delta in the winter. First, like many places, there is less boat traffic and fishing pressure in the winter. Unlike other times of year, you can go out and have a day to yourself and just enjoy the solitude that the great outdoors has to offer. Winter is also the easiest time of year to fish (to me), if you understand it well.
During the winter, there’s obviously going to be cold fronts that come through. Cold fronts can be detrimental to the fishing. When it comes to tidal fisheries and cold fronts, some of the Northwest winds that stem from the fronts actually blow the tides out to their lowest points. What that does, essentially, is it bunches up fish from hundreds of thousands of acres of shallow water into whatever deeper water that is nearby by for them. It’s the best time of year to target fish that tend to group up.
Locating Fish in Winter
It can be a little bit difficult to locate fish in the winter. They aren’t as scattered out and you really need to find those precise locations where they group up. Once you get them dialed in, you can essentially have a chance at catching all the fish in that area within a square mile.
So to me – it’s that time of the year where those fish are going to pull to a little bit deeper water. They’re going to be bunched up on really hard spots – anything that’s in the water from a curb standpoint – maybe some grass that’s a little deeper than anything in the area.
When I say “deep” I’m not talking about 20-30 feet deep. I’m referring to water that is 4-7 feet deep. That might be the deepest water in an area.
The other aspect is a lot of our fishes’ food source is actually salt water based. We have shrimp and other food sources that migrate into the marsh in the fall and in the summer. These winter cold fronts push all those food sources back out into the gulf.
You have these fish that have bunched up that don’t have a meal sitting around the corner just waiting for them. It just makes them very susceptible to be caught. It makes it easy for the angler.
There are many situations where areas that contain bass will also have redfish, and will also contain speckled trout, flounder, and lot of varieties of other species. You can catch all these different types of species in the water in an area the size of your truck.
Winter Set Ups
TFO:Talk about the your favorite setups for fishing in the winter.
CP: There are two main techniques for me when fishing during the winter on the Delta: one is a crankbait, and the other is a jig. You can pretty much take those two techniques and get a fish to bite when you find those concentrated locations of fish.
For baits, I usually go with Black Label baits. I also really like the flat sided baits – especially when the water is really clear. If I’m in a situation where I want something that has a little bit more feel or noise to it in dirtier water conditions, I’ll often times use some of the Jackall baits.
Winter Jig Set-Up
As mentioned earlier, water this time of year is really low, so typically your shorelines are mud banks with basically nothing up shallow to target fish. You’re normally fishing little hard spots.
I usually go with one of my V&M jigs – something subtle rather than a jig that has more kick or flap to it. I’ll pair it up with a chunk style trailer. The weight of the jig is usually somewhere between 3/8 oz. and 1/2 oz. depending on the depth I’m fishing and the tidal flow we have that day.
Positioning the Boat For Maximizing Success
TFO: What other tips do you have for making the most of your time on the water in winter?
CP: It’s important to position the boat in a way that you can present the bait to the fish with the tidal flow. I’ve found it definitely makes a difference more so on these lethargic fish than what it might on other times of the year. Presentation anytime of the year can be everything.
Once you learn an area and know where the fish are positioned, it is important to set up (to me) on the downstream side if possible, and fish your way towards the fish upstream. Typically, those fish are going to be facing upstream. These fish are very tough. They’re going to be on something like a hard spot or a piece of cover – it could be anything.
After you catch one, nine times out of ten, there’s more than one there. If you’re fishing with the current and you catch a fish, by the time you unhook that fish and release it and fix your gear – the current is either directing you right on top of or past that location. So, by fishing into the current, you can catch a fish while holding you boat position, and you can make the same cast twenty or thirty more times if you need to in order to fully maximize the potential of that spot without disrupting it.
TFO:When does the winter season typically transition into spring for you? What are signs that you look for or notice on the water?
CF: Every year is different, but there’s always a drop dead date when this stops. I’ve seen it end as early as the first of February, and I’ve seen it as late as March. It just depends on what Mother Nature gives us.
Spring fishing revolves around when these fish decide to move up and spawn. Other factors include the length of the day, as well as weather patterns (temperature, precipitation, etc.). A lot of fish will spawn based on the moon.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of this blog for early Spring tactics!
When not chasing after striped bass and redfish in the Pamlico Sound and estuaries of coastal North Carolina, TFO National Advisor Capt. Gary Dubiel (Spec Fever Guide Service) loves to put his clients on large speckled sea trout. Even during the cold winter months, Gary knows how to find speckled trout and has some excellent tips for both fly and conventional anglers.
The Pamlico Sound & The Migration of Coastal North Carolina Speckled Trout
TFO: Tell us about your fishery briefly and why it’s suitable for speckled trout.
GD: The Pamlico Sound estuary system is fairly giant – 2.1 million surface acres of water. You’re basically looking at a shallow inland sea. It’s very conducive to speckled trout just from an environmental point of view – lots of shallow water, nursery area, and an abundance of food. It will also hold enough ideal water temperatures where the fish are going to be in the area year round.
Speckled trout here in North Carolina are very different then ones you’ll find in Florida, Louisiana, or Texas in that they have a significant migration distance. Many of the fish we have here will migrate out into the ocean and go north into the Chesapeake Bay.
I’ve been involved in a lot of tagging studies and my furthest tag return was 285 miles away from its starting point in Oriental, NC. Another interesting tag return that I was involved in was a fish I recaptured that was tagged in Virginia. The fish was only 13 inches long and was tracked from Northern Virginia to Oriental, NC and was recaptured within 14 days. These fish can move great distances in very short periods of time, which can make it challenging when trying to locate them.
As a rule of thumb in our river systems (Pamlico River and the Neuse River into the Pamlico Sound), typically what you’re going to find is that the cooler the weather, the more the fish move upriver and into the creeks. In other words, the further back into the creeks you go, the warmer the temps get. You’re typically going to see this pattern in late October/November right up into March/early April.
Once the water temperatures warm up into the low 70s and stay there for a short period of time, those fish will move out of the creek systems and back out into the main river systems. At that point, there can be fish that move to North Carolina from Virginia – move back out into the ocean and up into the Chesapeake Bay.
Spawning & Average Size
TFO: What are typical spawning or migrating behaviors across the seasons for speckled trout?
GD: Our fish here will adjust and typically move out into the lower parts of the river in the Sounds – where their first spawning will be around the first full moon at the end of May/early June. The first spawn is also going to be related to water temperature – somewhere in the low-mid 70s.
The fish will stay in those areas through the summer into early fall. There will be some shifting, but they are in those general area. Speckled trout can spawn 3-4 times throughout the course of the year. Smaller fish typically spawn twice, larger fish might spawn up to 3 times in a year.
TFO: How big do they get typically and what’s an average size for you?
GD: You can find a mix of fish (size-wise) throughout the course of a year. Typically in the cooler months, bigger fish are more concentrated and more on the aggressive side. They tend to be more willing to eat much smaller baits as the water temperatures drop. Typically, you can catch more large speckled trout (24”-30”) in the cooler months, however, you can still catch big fish all summer long depending on your tactics.
You’ll see a lot of small fish in my area because of the volume of breeding that occurs here – anywhere from 10”-12” fish, right into 20”-24” fish. You’re looking at a pretty significant distribution of fish from one right up about six years old.
Locating Specked Trout
TFO: How are you typically locating speckled trout in the winter? Where is the best place to target them (river/water location or depth)?
GD: In the cooler months, you’re going to be looking to fish primarily in the creek systems, and the upper parts of the rivers. You basically have two different areas that you’ll find fish during the winter – both are particularly related to water temperatures.
In water less than five feet deep, I can catch speckled sea trout down to about 47.5 degrees (water surface temperature). Typically, in the backs of the creeks (water less than five five deep), the bottoms are dark mud and soft – so they’ll warm up faster in the sunshine. You can get a one to four temperature increase over the course of a sunny day.
In areas that are deeper – around six to twelve feet of water – you can catch speckled trout right down to about 45 degrees (water surface temperature) with your bottom temperature being a few degrees warmer.
The further upriver you go – cities like New Bern or Washington – you’re going to find some of the creeks are much deeper, so you’ll target the fish a bit deeper. Good news for that is that you can fish those with much lower water temperatures in colder conditions – bad news is they don’t warm up. What you have when you start out, over the course of the day is typically what you’re going to have. Those deeper creeks won’t warm up much on sunny days.
Tactics & Set-Ups For Light Tackle
GD: In the winter, you want to fish as light as you possibly can. Allow your baits to sink very slowly and take advantage of a fish that’s pretty lethargic. You’re fishing for them at the lower ends of their tolerance to eat.
Scaling down in weights is helpful. Typically, I will fish down to a 1/16 oz. jig head with soft plastic bodies. I’ll scale down on soft plastic bodies – 2.5-3 inches.
Another bait that works really well for me in the winter is the Storm Shrimp – which is a composite, keel-weighted shrimp pattern. This mean that the weight is in the center of the hook shank, so the baits will fall flat – rather than head first. This results in a decreased fall rate, which can increase the amount of the bites you get.
In order to fish those baits, I want to have the lightest, most sensitive rod I can have. The 6’9” Light Inshore is ideal for that. Typically I’m going to be fishing a 1000-1500 series spinning reel with 8-10 lb. test braid. Everything is really light and scaled down. Even if you catch a striper or a redfish, the water is cold, so those fish aren’t going to peel line off like when its 75 degrees. In the winter, everything is lethargic.
Tactics & Set-Ups For Fly
GD: You pretty much want to copy the same tactics used for light tackle, and apply it to fly. Typically, I’m fishing Type 2 to Type 3 lines depending on the water depth. You’ll want a slow sinking line, or a clear intermediate line, with a lightly weighted fly.
Rods that fish this type of setup well are the Axiom ll-X, the Axiom ll, and the Mangrove. 6wt and 7wt are what I prefer, but you can also fish up to an 8wt.
Smaller weighted flies such as Clousers, Half & Halfs work great. I also use a few of my own craft fur patterns. The Lil’ Hayden is one I tie that produces well for speckled trout. The Pop-N-Shrimp is another good one. Flymen has reproduced one of my mine called the Crafty Deceiver.
Ultimately, you’re looking for something that has some weight in it, but that falls about the same rate as those slow sinking lines do. Click here for a video where Gary breaks down some of his go-to patterns for speckled trout.
For a reel, the BVK-SD is the perfect tool for the job. It’s lightweight and has plenty of drag if you need it, too.
I usually use a 3’-4’ straight leader to the fly. Usually, I scale down to 15lb fluorocarbon in the winter to help maintain that straight contact with the line and fly.
TFO: What retrieval patterns typically work best for you?
GD: Strip and Pause. Strip, Strip, Pause – All your bites are going to be on the pause. Pay attention to your counts on your pauses. If you are getting bites on a certain number (seconds you are counting), take note as it gives you an indication of where the fish are and how they’re reacting.
Anything that feels different – strip strike. Even though it is cold, those fish can spit out that fly pretty quickly.
Make sure that the rod tip is almost in the water and pointed at the fly to maintain as direct contact as possible to help detect any strikes.
TFO: Not many anglers are aware that speckled trout have some pretty sharp teeth. Do you have any advice on handling them?
GD: You’ll want to grab them in the belly right under the gills. Don’t put your fingers in their mouth like you would a bass or other species (laughs). You’ll want to have some plies or hemostats to get the fly out of their mouth once you have them at the both.
Not many people associate fly fishing with the LA River, however for TFO Ambassador Lino Jubilado, catching carp on the fly on the LA River is something he’s been spending almost every weekend doing since he was a teenager. Like many urban fishing locations, the setting may not be the most attractive, however it can give anglers (and inspiring anglers) a chance to catch fish right in their backyard without having to drive miles away to a river, lake, or ocean.
After being fairly active on social media and sharing his LA River carp on the fly adventures with the world, Lino has met many people, including late night show host, Jimmy Kimmel. This week we chat with Lino to find out how he got started fly fishing, how he got into catching carp on the fly specifically, his unique approach to targeting carp, the soon to be famous Green Eggs and Ham carp pattern, and his experiences fishing with Jimmy Kimmel.
How long have you been fly fishing, and what got you specifically interested in fishing for carp on the fly?
I have been fly fishing since the 1980’s. I got my first fly rod when I was 14. I caught my first carp in the late 80s when I was high school, and I remember catching it on a fly that I tied from a fly tying kit that I had. I believe it was on a royal coachman of all things (laughs). Back then, we had to sneak into the river, as it was illegal to access.
I’ve been fly fishing exclusively for about 15 years now. Prior to that, I used to fish bass tournaments professionally with conventional gear. I just got tired of the egos and pressures of fishing competitively and I wanted to try something different, so I got into fly fishing.
Did someone you know fly fish? What made you interested in fly fishing?
I was actually at a fishing show with my Dad when I was 14 and there was a guy on stage demonstrating it. The instructor asked if I wanted to learn and I said “Sure!”. He pulled me up on stage and taught me in front of everyone. After I left there, I was super interested and asked my Dad to get me a fly rod.
Targeting carp on the fly is pretty popular today, but I can’t see that being a common species (no pun intended) for a 14 year old in the 80s to want to go after. Was that on purpose or was it just a fun bycatch for you?
I was not intending to catch carp at all when I first started. I was actually going for bass, bluegill, and sunfish. I didn’t even know carp were in the LA River. I grew up fishing it catching sunfish and bass, but had no idea carp were in there. Over the years, as I met other anglers that fished the LA River, there became a community of carp anglers – specifically fly anglers.
I didn’t get really active on social media until the last 3 years, but I’ve noticed that lately, catching carp on the fly has become a really popular type of fishing everywhere and I’m seeing it all over Instagram. Our group/community has been fishing for carp well before social media, so it’s been fun to see people catching carp in all parts of the world. I’ve met a lot of other carp anglers through Instagram as well.
What types of locations or rivers are you going after carp?
Mostly the LA River, but I try to get out and fish lakes in the outside area. I send my flies to people all over to see how effective they are on other fisheries. The LA River holds a lot of common and mirror carp, so I stay pretty busy fishing it.
As you started focusing more towards carp on the fly, how did you learn to increase your chances of success on the water? Was it from advice from your local community of anglers, or just getting out there and figuring it out.
A little bit of both. Sitting at the vice and just tying bugs that mimic what I would see in the river. One time, I saw some workers cutting the grass near the river and watched these carp gorge on these blades of grass downstream of where the grass trimings were flowing/blown into the water. I went home and tied up a blade of grass imitation and it worked! Through the years, these fish been hard to figure out. They can totally change their diet day by day. That what makes them so challenging!
You fish for carp on the fly a little bit differently that other anglers. Tell us a little bit about that.
I actually utilize a strike indicator when I fish for carp, which isn’t a common method apparently. People will comment on my Instagram posts all the time saying “How do you fish for carp with an indicator?” I realized quickly that most people are sight fishing these fish rather than using an indicator in water that typically holds carp.
I like to use a pattern that I tie called the Green Eggs & Ham. I’ve lost track of how many carp I’ve caught on the LA River with that fly and I use it exclusively with the strike indicator. With that indicator I can detect the slightest vibration or movement.
What kind of indicator do you like to use?
My go-to is a ½ inch airlock – the smaller the better. Orange is my favorite color for visibility, but if I notice they’re getting spooked by the indicator, I will switch over to white to mimic the bubbles.
Carp can be very finicky. How much does stealth play when you’re fishing for carp in your fisheries? Do you have a specific technique or tips for how to approach carp?
The nice thing about a strike indicator is I can pretty much stay away, and like trout fishing, let the fly drift as naturally as possible. I’m not constantly on my feet trying to get into casting/drop & drag range. Carp are super spooky, so keeping my distance with the indicator really helps me increase my chances of not spooking a fish.
It is very important to approach the water very quietly. Carp have a lateral line that make them super sensitive to vibrations in the water. You put your foot in the water, and they know you’re there already. It takes a lot of patience because when you do walk in the water they’ll know you’re there and spook off, but if you’re patient and stand your ground, they’ll come back and you can get another shot at them.
Also be sure to work areas that you know are holding fish thoroughly. Especially as we transition into cooler weather. With colder water, the fish will get super lethargic. They’ll still eat, but you really have to get the fly right in their face.
I see where you’re using the Axiom ll-X a lot. What size/weight do you like to use?
I love using the 5wt Axiom ll-X. Even in the more open water, the back bone is what’s important, and the Axiom ll-X has backbone for days! Just put that side pressure on that fish and you’ll tame that thing very quickly.
The Axiom ll-X is probably the first 5wt weight I’ve ever had that has a fighting butt and I love it, especially when fighting carp.
Any specific lines, leaders, tippet you like to use?
I like to use a floating line. From the fly line, I’ll do a 5’ leader of a colored mono (bright green) to a tippet ring. From there I’ll put on a 4 to 5 foot piece of 10lb fluorocarbon. My indicator usually goes right above the tippet ring so it doesn’t slide down.
Recently you fished with Jimmy Kimmel. Can you talk about that experience?
Definitely – So I mentioned earlier that I only really got into Instagram about three years ago. A few years back Jimmy Kimmel started following my account. I figured it was a spam account or something random, but I had also heard through the grapevine that he was a big time fly fisherman. I started looking at his site and sure enough I came across some hints that he fly fished!
Earlier this summer, he actually reached out to me on Instagram! He had a buddy, Chef Adam Perry Lang, that had a birthday coming up and he wanted to help him catch a carp on the fly. He asked if I’d be willing to help make that happen. I was like “Absolutely!”
We met up and I took them down to the river and within the first ten minutes his buddy Adam caught one!
Very cool! How did Jimmy do?
Jimmy hooked up six times, but unfortunately, he lost all six! He was doing great, and doing nothing wrong, but sometimes you have those days where fish break off before you have a chance to net or land them. He was so upset he said he wanted to come back. We haven’t had a chance to meet up again for that but as a thank you, he invited me and my family out to his lodge in Idaho to do some fishing.
I had the best trip of my life there. I’ve never caught so many trout in my life. I took one morning to go fish the Blackfoot Reservoir because I heard they had monster mirror carp there. I went out and caught my biggest carp ever on a 6wt!
That’s awesome! Do you and him still keep up?
We do! He’s a lot busier now, but he emailed me and asked me how the fishing was at his lodge. He still comments and likes my posts all the time. Hopefully we’ll get back on the water again soon!
Sounds and looks like you take a lot of people fishing with you. That’s great that you are able to introduce new people to your fishery and the experience of catching carp on the fly.
That’s the beauty of Instagram. I’m taking people all over the world down to the river now. It’s like a hobby of mine to get people on carp. Every weekend I’m taking someone new, sometimes people who don’t even fish because they’re fascinated by catching carp on the fly.
Any tips or suggestions for people looking to try fishing for carp on the fly. Where they might be looking for carp opportunities in there area?
That’s what’s great about carp is that they aren’t exclusive to certain areas of the world. No matter where you live, you can probably find carp in a body of water near you. Take your time and remember to be patient. These fish can spook very easily so remember that patience goes a long way! Don’t be afraid to throw an indicator on when fishing bodies of water with moving water.
Not many 19 year olds can say they’ve won three Bassmaster High School National Championships, but TFO Ambassador Tucker Smith can proudly say he has. Last weekend, Tucker and his teammate Hayden Marbut won the Mossy Oak Fishing Bassmaster High School National Championship presented by Academy Sports + Outdoors on Kentucky Lake with a final three-day total of 47-5. It was Tucker’s third-straight title win, and the first for his teammate Hayden.
The tournament was not a cakewalk by any means for Tucker and Hayden. Originally scheduled to be in August, the tournament was rescheduled due to COVID to late October. Although Tucker had fished Kentucky Lake before, fishing it at a very different time of year brought many challenges – including cooler water and air temperatures, heavier winds, different holding spots for fish, and a change in eating patterns/behaviors. Tucker and his teammate were able to have very productive practices to adjust to these changes, but also had the right tools to get the job done.
This week we caught up with Tucker while he took a break from his virtual freshman year classes at Auburn University to get the scoop on the Championship win, the TFO rods that helped him bring home the gold, but also to get some backstory on Tucker on how he got into competitive fishing, and how he became a part of the TFO family.
Where did you grow up and how long have you been fishing?
I grew up in Birmingham, Alabama fishing around the Coosa River. I’ve been fishing for as long as I could remember. My Dad, Uncle, and my grandfather really got me into fishing. Eventually, I met local competitive angler, guide, and TFO Ambassador Joey Nania. Joey was kind of a mentor to me growing up.
How did you and Joey meet?
Mutual friends. My Dad had a friend that recommended we fish with Joey for a guided trip when I was 14 or 15 years old. We did a trip with Joey and caught a ton of fish and had a great time. I started fishing with Joey a lot more after that. We became buddies and he started taking me out fishing just for fun outside of guide trips. He kind of showed me the ropes. We’re still good friends today.
When did you start fishing competitively?
I started fishing competitively in high school when I was a freshman. I did a few tournaments in middle school, but didn’t really start fishing the “bigger” tournaments until I got on the high school fishing team.
How long have you been fishing TFO?
I’ve been fishing with TFO as long as I’ve been fishing with Joey. He was a huge supporter of TFO rods when I started fishing with him. I got comfortable using the rods competitively in my high school tournaments. I wanted to get more involved with TFO, and thankfully not long after I won my first championship my sophomore year, I became a Youth Ambassador for TFO.
Let’s talk about the tournament. When was it originally supposed to happen?
It was supposed to be in August at the same location the tournament has been the last two years – Kentucky Lake. When it got postponed due to COVID, it was definitely a challenge because we were fishing this lake at a totally different time of year. The fish were focused on completely different baits and holding in different spots as well. We had to adapt and catch them outside of what we had done historically there.
What were conditions like throughout the tournament in late October, compared to what they would have likely been in August? How did you adjust and adapt to this change?
Typically in August, its 95 degrees and you’re having to take your sunglasses off every five minutes because they’re getting fogged up with sweat. Late October, the first couple of days were nice in the high 60s/70s, but the last day it really dropped – mid 30s with high winds. It was pretty miserable that last day.
For the most part we were throwing topwater the whole tournament, but on the last day when it was windy and got down in the 30s, we had to get a little deeper.
What TFO rods were you using? Why did you choose that rod and stick with it versus using others?
I was using the 6’10” Medium Tactical Elite Bass almost the entire time. I was throwing topwater most of the tournament. That 6’10” is perfect for working a spook. I was using that most of the tournament. For this type of topwater fishing, you really want a shorter rod so you can work the bait not hit the water with your rod every time you jerk it. The Medium Action has enough to give to load up with those treble hooks, so they don’t sling it when they jump.
We were catching 3-7 pound fish. When they have a big topwater in their mouth jumping with treble hooks, you need that rod to bend and give them some space to jump. That’s why I went with the 6’10 Medium Tactical Elite Bass. For the rest of my setup, I was using 40 lb. braid to a Shimano Curado K (7:1).
Would you have used this same setup (topwater) in August?
In August, we were throwing a lot of chatterbaits and I was using the 7’3” Medium HeavyTactical Elite Bass. That’s actually my favorite rod because of the versatility of it – you can throw so many things on it. It’s a great chatterbait rod.
Give us a breakdown of the days of the tournament. Sounds like you guys had a pretty successful first day out.
A few weeks prior to the tournament, we were fortunate enough to get some practice time on the lake. We fished five days, daylight to dark before we got cut off to practicing. When it came to be the official tournament practice days, we went back and checked all the baits that worked for us during those five days of scouting practice, and cut the hooks off so that we wouldn’t catch the tournament fish, but we could see where they were.
We were throwing topwater, so you could easily see when they’d come up and eat. We’d work down these long main river flats and bars until we’d get bit. Whenever we’d get a bite, there’d be a few others as the fish were usually schooled up. Once we’d find these spots, we mark it down for actual tournament days.
On Day 1, the conditions were perfect – calm, no wind. We hit up a few of the spots that we had marked during practice, but we weren’t getting into any big numbers. We eventually moved to another spot we had marked. After a few casts of no bites, I noticed an indention in the flat that looked really good about a hundred yards down the flat. After I got on the trolling motor and got close enough, I made a cast and caught a 4 lb. smallmouth. My buddy picked up his rod, made a cast in there, and caught a 7.5 largemouth (which was the biggest fish of the tournament). I threw back in there again and caught another 4lb smallmouth, he threw in after me and caught a 4lb smallmouth, then I followed up again and caught a 3 lb smallmouth. So after all that, we had 22 pounds in five casts in five minutes. It was the craziest five minutes of fishing in my life. We ended up getting biggest bag and biggest bass of the tournament on that first day.
Day 2 – We started with the spot where we caught the big bag from the day before. The wind had picked up making the water really choppy and they just weren’t hitting topwater. We were able to get eight 3+ lb bites, but they just wouldn’t eat it. My buddy snagged a 4lb smallmouth with a spook in the back of the head cause they were just basically slapping at our bait at that point.
We decided to switch up our tactics. I grabbed a 7’3” Medium Heavy Tactical Elite Bass with a rattle trap and caught a 4lb smallmouth, and then the next cast I caught one over three pounds – so at that point we had three good ones in the box.
We tried another spot later in the day where I caught another bass pushing 4 pounds on the 6’10” Medium Tactical Elite Bass. We ended up getting two more at that spot and filled our limit for the day. We ended up with a bag of 17.5 for that second day.
Day 3 – This was a super rough day with 20-degree temperature drop and very strong winds. They actually almost didn’t let us go out, but after a 45-minute delay, they ended up letting us go. Right out of the marina we were hitting 4-foot waves. It was rough.
We knew we had a good lead amongst the other teams from our previous two days, but still needed to get fish in the boat. We ended up getting two 4 lb. fish, but it was really tough.
We ended up winning by 10 pounds, but it was funny the way we found out. We were the last ones to pull up to the weigh in because the judges typically put the people they think are going to win in the back. When it came to be our turn, they called out “Alright boys, you want to come on up here and weigh your fish, or do you want to just come get your trophy because you’ve already won without weighing in your fish.” We would have won by 3 pounds if we haven’t weighed our fish in from that last day, but after we did weigh in, we ended up winning by 10 pounds.
Now that the tournament is over, you’re back at school for your freshman semester at Auburn now. What’s next for you in terms of fishing and life?
I’m on the Auburn Bass Fishing team right now, and I’m currently majoring in Business. My goal is to fish all these college tournaments and make it to the National Championship. If you make it to that and get in the top four, you can make it to the Classic Bracket. If you win in the Classic Bracket, then you get to fish in the Bassmaster Classic – which is the biggest tournament in bass fishing. That’s my dream.
Other than that, I’ll fish some Opens, and maybe fish some Toyota events as well. Try to qualify for the Bassmaster Classic through that as well.
Have you thought about guiding some? I’m sure you’ll want to focus on your competitive fishing first, but have you thought about doing some guiding down the road?
I’ve definitely thought about it, but you’re right – mainly focusing on fishing competitively right now. I might pick up some guiding in the summer when I’m back home. We’ll see..
If you could only take one TFO rod with you – doesn’t matter what time of year or the conditions – what TFO rod would you take and why?
If I could take one, I’d probably take the 7’3” Heavy Tactical Elite Bass. I think it’s the most versatile. I like the Medium Heavy too, but if you have that Heavy, you can do flipping, frogging, throw a jig, chatterbaits, big swimbaits, A-rig. You can throw most of what you need to make it work.
Next Monday marks the release of four new rods to the TFO family of fly rods: the Stealth – TFO’s first ever true Euro-nymphing rod; the Blue Ribbon – a medium-fast action western style of rod designed to handle heavy indicator rigs, hopper-droppers and streamers in harsh, windy conditions; and the LK Legacy and LK Legacy TH– a tribute to Lefty Kreh’s most popular rod he helped design and TFO’s best-selling rod, the BVK.
Over the year, we sent several prototypes of the LK to our advisors and ambassadors to help us dial in what Lefty would be pleased to be the evolution of the BVK. If there’s any angler on our team that has been raving about it more than others – it’s Blane Chocklett. Here’s what he has to say about it.
What do you notice right away when fishing with the LK Legacy?
BC: It’s a true fly caster’s rod. You can immediately feel that and appreciate it. Anybody that likes a faster rod and technical casting tool – this is it.
As a tribute to Lefty Kreh (LK Legacy), and evolution of the BVK series, how do you feel he might have felt about the outcome of this rod?
BC: I think he’d be very proud of it. I think it’s a continuation of what he built in the BVK series. It has some similarities to it, but it’s a definite improvement in one of TFO’s best selling rods ever.
He would be absolutely pleased. It’s everything you’d want in a rod, and everything he’d want in one as well – especially someone that can appreciate casting like Lefty did.
What species have you been targeting with the LK?
BC: I’ve been playing around with the prototypes for about a year now I’ve caught a variety of stuff on them from stripers to redfish, speckled trout, spanish mackerel, albies, largemouth, smallmouth, snakehead, bowfin, pickerel – pretty much everything but musky and trout.
The LK has done extremely well with handling floating and intermediate lines, which is pretty much what I have been using.
What has been your Go-To size/model?
BC: I’ve been fishing specifically with the 6, 7, and 8 weight models. I really like all of them. They all fish and cast like the lines are supposed to. I haven’t noticed any change in line sizes – like the rod just doesn’t feel the same in the 6wt as it does in a 7wt. It’s a continuation of each, so it reflects each line weight appropriately.
I’ve been using a 7wt probably the most with it being smallmouth season lately and all the cicada stuff that’s been happening this summer. I’ve definitely been using the 8wt quite a bit, too. I use those two more so than the 6wt.
Have your clients been using them? If so, what has been their reaction?
BC: Oh yeah. Everybody that I’ve had in the boat is going to buy one.
I’ve been fishing the Axiom ll-Xa lot. It’s a great casting tool, but it’s also more of a fish-fighting tool. When my clients pick up the LK Legacy, they notice how light it is and they notice how accurate and easy to cast it is -even though it’s a faster rod. A lot of the times it has to do with them throwing a floating line so they don’t have to feel the weight of a heavier sinking line and can feel and appreciate the cast of the rod better.
The LK Legacy an be used in many different scenarios. It could be used by the guy chasing bonefish on flats, the sight fishing red fish angler, and the trout angler that likes to fish larger dry flies. It does fine fighting fish, too. It’s much stronger than the BVK. It’s an extremely versatile rod, but it’s more of a casting tool for sure.