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Tools of the Trade for Catching Walleye

Sensitivity, stealth and pin-point bait placement are some of the cornerstones of effectively targeting walleye.

To be an effective walleye angler, you need to start with the appropriate rod. Below are some of the features of the TFO line-up of walleye specific spinning and casting rods.

GTS Walleye rods incorporate beautiful, translucent green blanks with proprietary, braid safe Tactical Series guides with black anodized foots and chrome inserts. These rods feature premium-grade cork grips and cleverly placed hook keepers.

GTS WJS 663-1 and WJS 664-1

Walleyes can be finicky biters known to suck the blood from a leech without ever alerting an angler to its presence.

The 6’6” medium light model is a superb tool for the subtle presentation of light jigs tipped with leeches or crawlers.

While the 6’6” medium power model has a slightly beefier backbone for a solid hook-set when working larger, meatier baits and fighting larger fish. Both rods feature split-cork grips for additional weight savings.

GTS WRS 703-1 and WRS 763-1

The Lindy Rig® has been, without a doubt, one of the most productive walleye-catching techniques in recent history.

Despite a relatively simple premise, not just any rod will allow this technique to succeed.

A rigging rod needs the subtle nuances of a faster, stiffer tip to bring to life the often ultra-subtle presentation.

The WRS 703-1 and 763-1 can also double as rods for pulling bottom bouncers, crawler harness rigs or crankbaits. Both the 7’0” and 7’6” medium-light models come in a split-grip handle.

GTS WBC 704-1 and WBC 764-1

A staple presentation for locating schools of fish has been to run bait along drops offs and weed lines.  The Spinner Rig/bait trolling rods brings to the table a smorgasbord of leeches, crawlers and minnows. For those running single and two-hook harnesses, the WBC family is the ticket. Both rods come in a full-cork grip to snuggly fit in rod holders.

It’s been said that the bigger the blade, the bigger the bump and thump.

The 7’6” model is perfect for when the water gets cloudy and anglers need to turn to larger, flashier blades to elicit strikes.

GTS WTC 703-1 and 863-1T

Peek into any walleye anglers tackle trays and you’re likely to find a healthy supply of long-bodied, tear-drop billed lures.

From Walleye Divers® to Hot N’ Tots® and Long A’s® to Shad Rap’s® walleye anglers have the trolling lure approach dialed in.

The WTC models load progressively from butt to tip, with a more forgiving action necessary for effective hook-sets when working cranks with treble hooks. These rods feature a full-cork grip and forward mounted hook keeper.

The 7’0” model is great for the close-in rod, in the holder and cranks that dive less than 10-feet.

The 8’6” model is ideal for deeper diving lures or running baits through a planer board. This model is telescopic to accommodate rod lockers.

Suggestions on walleye rods and comments about our rods, feel free to comment on one of our social media pages.

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.


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.



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



Feb. 1-2

The Fly Fishing Show


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


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 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


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 26-28

Spey O’Rama

San Francisco, Calif.

Participating Dealers: Lost Coast Outfitters, FishFirst.



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 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 10-12


Orlando, Fla.

Participating Dealers: NA



Aug. 11-13

Sports Inc./August Outdoor Sporting Goods Show


Participating Dealers: NA


Aug. 26-29

Worldwide Show

Reno, Nev.

Participating Dealers: NA



Oct. 16-18

International FTD


Participating Dealers: NA

TFO Ambassador Joel Stewart by Rick Pope

In my 50 plus years of fly fishing and 25 years in the industry, I’ve met all sorts of incredibly interesting people, made some lasting friendships and heard stories from all sorts of fly fishing luminaries. Get ready for a really good life story on Joel Stewart, Captain (USN).

Back in early 2005, my first introduction to Joel was through a mutual friend and frequent fly fishing bulletin board contributor, Ed Laine. I found out through Ed that he knew of a Naval LT transferred to Baghdad’s Camp Victory surrounded by several of Sadam’s palaces … and lakes, which Joel soon discovered had various warm/hot water fish swimming around. On a whim, he had brought along a fly rod and soon found out that the carp and various carp like species would, in fact, take a fly. As soldiers rotated in and out of the facilities, Joel’s fly rod attracted a ton of attention and interest.

Ed let me know that Joel wanted to start the Baghdad Angler’s Club and School of Fly Fishing so that he could share fly casting and fishing techniques with soldiers during their down time at the camp. “They need some rods and reels” per Ed and TFO was perfectly positioned to help them out with 5 weight outfits. Several months later, Joel sent me a very prized photograph of a group of soldiers in battle dress with M4s … and fly rods … standing on the bank of one of the palace lakes. Take some time and check out the Baghdad Angler’s Club and School of Fly Fishing as I know you’ll find the pictures and stories entertaining.

After Joel’s tour ended in Iraq, he served as Navigator on the USS Makin Island (LHD 8), a Wasp Class amphibious assault ship. Through a couple of years circling the globe, Joel kept me entertained with all sorts of saltwater fly fishing adventures that of course, requited the use of an arsenal of rods and reels beyond the 5 weight class. Joel reminded me that when he first met Lefty Kreh and Flip Pallot at an event in New Orleans, Lefty peppered him with questions about the various locations, species and opportunities Joel had experienced. I doubt very much that Lefty even mentioned his time in WWII and the Battle of the Bulge. They became good friends – once again drawn together by their passion for fly fishing and desire to share knowledge with others.

At that same New Orleans event, Joel also met Captain Ed Nicholson (USN Retired) who concurrent with Joel’s fly fishing efforts in Baghdad, Ed started Project Healing Waters for wounded veterans in recovery at Walther Reed Army Medical Center. Once again a close friendship ensued and Joel continues to support PHWFF at every opportunity. In fact, Joel’s book written about his fly fishing opportunities – A Fly Rod in My Sea Bag – is full of great stories plus, all profits go to support PHWFF and their over 50 active chapters throughout the US and internationally.

But let’s first go back to Joel Stewart’s origins in Great Falls, MT where he was raised as the oldest of four – one brother and two sisters. Joel’s father worked at the Great Falls Sporting Goods Co. which sadly closed around 1980. This was the genesis of his Christmas gift when he was twelve … an early seventies vintage 3 piece South Bend glass rod and an automatic Perrine fly reel. He worked hard at casting and managed to attain great distances (at the time) of up to fifty feet. Through high school, Joes worked part time at the Mountain Bait & Tackle where he “sold everything from night crawlers to dry flies”. As fly fishing began to consume him, Joel’s epiphany moment was catching an 18 inch native cutthroat trout. Although a bit ridiculed for targeting carp with his fly rod on the fabled Missouri River, he loved the challenge and the fight, little did he know that these experiences would serve him well in the Baghdad palace lakes. Years later, Lefty Kreh’s 101 Fish book, published in 2012, validated Joel’s enjoyment of “a fish is a fish” approach to what would become his exotic and global fly fishing adventures. For Joel, this closed the circle he started by targeting carp in the Missouri River as a teenager.

Upon his 1985 graduation from High School in Great Falls, Joel enlisted in the Navy so that he would eventually be able to apply college benefits and hopefully become the first member of his family to get a college degree. After his enlisted duty ended, he and his wife Barbara agreed that a career in the Navy held great promise and this proved to be the case. Although less than one in a hundred Navy enlistees are ultimately promoted to the rank of Captain, Joel’s dedication and interpersonal skills allowed him to do just that. His progression has been as impressive as any I’ve ever known.

Just this past year, Joel returned from an assignment in Bahrain where once again, he found opportunity to bend his favorite TFO A2 fly rods. You’ll enjoy this article Joel wrote for the Amberjack Fishing Journal on fly fishing for queenfish in Dubai. He is currently stationed at the Army War College in Carlisle, PA. Upon completion, he anticipates assignment to amphibious operations in San Diego where he expects to ultimately retire. With 33 years of service in the US Navy, 19 of those at sea, he deserves some time off as well as a big THANK YOU from all of us for his service. He plans to return to his favorite fishery in Montana’s fabled Bob Marshall Wilderness in order to chase his favorite wild west-slope cutthroat once retired and who knows … he just might find carp out there too!

Joel will join TFO in our booth at the Virginia Fly Fishing and Wine Festival in Doswell, VA January 12 & 13 – then he will join us again in Edison, NJ January 25, 26 & 27th. If you have a chance to attend either of these great fly fishing shows, please be sure to stop by and meet one of what Lefty called “a truly great American”.

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.


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.