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Part II: How to Buy Your First Fly Rod

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

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

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

What do you want to fish for?

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

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

What’s your budget?

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

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

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

What do you like?

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

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

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

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

Are you prepared for the unexpected?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The choice is entirely up to the angler.

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

Buy a Kit

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

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

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

Take a Class

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

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

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

Hire a Guide

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

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

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

 Set Realistic Expectations

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

 Enjoy the Journey

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

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

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

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

 

 

TFO Pro Portal Now Available

TFO Pro Staffers are key contributors to our sales and marketing efforts. Their influence within the fishing industry has merit. Our goal is to foster and expand relationships we’ve built with professionals who believe in the same values we do. For this reason, we are excited to announce the launch of our online Pro Portal.

As for the first step of the process, our sales and marketing staff and regional sales reps will review your application. In general, our pro program is designed for licensed guides and shop employees, but there are other avenues to join our team.

For more information, check out the Pro Portal, which can be accessed through a link in the bottom footer of our website. From the portal page, you’ll find instructions alongside our pro application.

Joining is a two-part process:

  1. Once you’ve filled out an application, we’ll receive a notification on our end and begin the process of reviewing your status. This process usually takes less than a day, but can occasionally take up to two-to-three business days. We appreciate your patience.
  2. Once you’ve been confirmed, you’ll receive a welcome message via email. Within the email, you’ll find a link to our Pro Portal Shop page, which you can access with your user login.

As a TFO Pro Staff member, please respect the program and the discounts that it offers. Abuse will not be tolerated.

If you have questions about the pro-staff review process, we encourage you to talk to your regional sales representative or to contact our Dallas office at: 214-638-9052.

Vision Quest: Fly-Rodding Phenom Maxine McCormick Wins Big

She collects rubber-band bracelets, likes sporty, checkered tennis shoes and the thrill of a springy trampoline. One more thing: She just happens to be the best female fly caster in the world.

Her name is Maxine McCormick. And she is 15. That’s right, f-i-f-t-e-e-n.

She’s not old enough to drive, yet she has beaten Steve Rajeff and her 11-time world champion coach, all while piling up a slew of hardware at the national and world-championship levels the past three years.

At this summer’s world fly-casting championships on the blustery coast of England, the then 14-year-old Portland, Oregon resident won the trout accuracy competition with 52 points, 21 points ahead of the second-place finisher and took home top honors in Salmon (two-handed) distance with a toss of 189 feet. She also placed second in the Sea Trout (one-handed) distance, launching a world-record cast of 161 feet in the prelims.

At the 2016 worlds, at age 12, she won the trout accuracy competition. To put all of this in context, Rajeff, long considered the top fly caster in the world, won his first world title in 1972 at age 16.

What do they both have in common? Extraordinary vision.

“Maxine is a super healthy outdoor kid that happens to have phenomenal eye sight,” Chris Korich, McComick’s coach, said. “Early on I noticed with the steps that I gave her she was able to sight and measure target distances. She was able to make her decisions and pick out the fly, make her measurements and then lay down the fly faster than anyone I’ve seen since Steve Rajeff. Steve had just eagle vision as a kid and still has really good vision.”

McComick’s vision, Korich said, has been measured at 20/10, which gives her the uncanny ability to process the intricate relationships between distance, target and loop trajectory.

“It’s like target shooting,” Korich said. “You see your fly in the air, you measure your target. From an accuracy target shooting standpoint, what people don’t realize is that distance casting is extreme accuracy casting.  When I’m going to cast beyond a normal fishing distance, bomb something over 150, 200 feet, the precision it takes to do that is like any other sport at the highest level, a lot of precision, like when you steer an Indy 500 car, so you don’t hit the guy next to you. Eyesight and reflexes are important at 200 miles an hour. When Rajeff and I are making a distance cast, we’re aiming, figuring out where the wind is going and where to throw this cast. We’re picking a reference mark.  It’s not just side to-side-alignment. It’s a trajectory based on the wind, higher, lower.

“We’re constantly aiming.  It’s like fishing casts. What percentage of your fishing casts are you not aiming?”

McCormick not only aims, she focuses. Her practice sessions are usually short, but rarely does her concentration stray.

“She is like Michael Jordan focused on that task,” Korich said. “I don’t say that lightly. She has that focus. She has that intensity. She can’t stand losing. She can’t stand getting beat.”

The Golden Gate Angling & Casting Club alumna does not lack perseverance. Perhaps that explains her affection for fly casting.

“At first it was a challenge and I like a challenge,” McCormick said. “Competition is also really fun. And every time I go fly cast, I know it’s going to improve my fishing, which also motivates me. That’s something I Iike about it as well.”

McCormick’s training started with the fundamentals, the length of stroke, the grip and the stance — albeit with down-sized tools of the trade — an old Fenwick Eagle. Korich sanded the handle for proper sizing.

“I’m like the Soup Nazi (from Seinfeld) on how you grip the handle,” he said. ”It’s not an option for me. If the grip doesn’t fit, I’m going to get it right.”

Korich chose the Fenwick because of its slow action. He wants his new students to feel the bend in the rod. He now recommends the 7 and 8-foot TFO Bug Launcher for younger beginners to simulate the ebb and flow of the rod load.

“The handle is smaller, for smaller hands with compressed cork,” Korich said. “That’s important, just like if you don’t have the appropriate size with a tennis racquet, baseball bat or golf clubs. It’s ridiculous we don’t have handle options in fly fishing. (The Bug Launcher) has standard graphite and fuller action. It bends deeper down to your hand. You can feel what you’re doing.”

Each of Korich’s Bug Launchers are balanced with a ultra-light reel — for a reason.

“They’re balanced in such a way you can keep a relaxed grip,” Korich said. “When you get everything right, you barely have to hold on to the rod to rotate the rod correctly. And it’s easy to stop the rod. You don’t have to grip the handle tight, so you can throw smoother loops.”

Meanwhile, McCormick’s skinny loops continue to pierce the competition. With the 2018 World Championships now fully in the rearview mirror, the fly-casting community now turns its attention to the 2020 Worlds in Sweden, and all indications are McCormick probably will return to defend her titles.

“My goal for the longest time was to become the World Champion,” she said. “That continues to be my goal.”

Long-term expectations, however, have yet to be defined and likely will be dictated by how long McCormick wants to compete.

“Assuming fair conditions, no one’s going to beat Maxine,” Korich said. “The foundation we’ve laid, the mechanics, her loops, are so superior to 95 percent of the competition — men, too — it’s just a question of whether she wants to put the work in with all the things that will be going on later on.”

Thoughts on Maxine and her success on the competitive fly-casting circuit? Ever tried the Bug Launcher? Feel free to share your comments on one of our social media pages.

Two-handed Techniques for Fall Salmon, Steelhead

While swinging flies with two-handed rods the typical approach is a consistent, level swing through a long run. Repetitively sweeping the fly across the nose of a salmon or steelhead and pushing them farther back into the tail-out of the pool is usually the best chance to elicit an anger strike.

However, there are times that taking a more active approach, similar to that of stripping streamers, can bring success.

Never more is this the case when fishing around the Great Lakes, where steelhead, salmon and brown trout can tend to hunker down in shorter runs. Due to smaller, deeper pools, which drop off and rise in more dramatic distances than the broader rivers in the West, anglers in the Great Lakes, need to be a bit more creative with their swung-fly approach.

Here are a few methods worth a try next time a traditional slow-and-steady swing doesn’t garner attention, (or you have already worked through the run with a traditional cast, step, and swing pattern).

The Pop

After a downstream cast, subtly pop, (or jig down) the tip of a rod, forcing the fly to sink and pop up again.

This can mimic an injured or disoriented baitfish. This can also help keep the fly from snagging on downed trees common during this time of your on GL rivers.

This technique can be fished at varying depths, (more reason to buy extra sink-tips!) and also various sections of the run. Similar to a nymphing approach, start close and shallow, and work it farther out as you make your way down river. This can also be productive in slower portions of the river where you can’t rely upon the current to make the fly move.

The Drop In

As mentioned above, early fall storms can cause some log jams great for holding big fish. This can make it tricky to work a fly through in a straight-line swing.

Make an upstream cast, when the fly lands, throw an upstream mend to give the fly time to sink under the jam. Due to the different current speeds in the water column, you can really play around with different fly speeds and may be the key to hooking a fish in a ‘logged’ up run. This will take some practice in more congested water, but likely will be something most anglers avoid because they are scared to lose flies.

Rip and Runs

When all else fails when working through a run, I like to walk down to the end of the pool, line-up almost 180 degrees from the head of it and make a cast straight ahead. Traditionalists may cry blasphemy, but making a straight-line cast forward and stripping a fly right through the middle of the run can present a view of the fly fish rarely see. This also presents a very active, aggressive fly that would be hard for a fish not to attack. Imagine sitting in your living room and someone drags a 20-ounce rib-eye right through the middle of it? Would be hard to not have a reaction. right?

Ideally best to save this approach till the end of your time in the pool, and “run,” on to the next one as if nothing strikes from the above techniques, there are probably no interested players. Time to move on to the next section of the river.

Looking for a quality two-handed rod? One of the top two-handers on the market is the Axiom II Switch, TFO’s award-winning stick that has drawn rave reviews from Deneki.

Thoughts on our two-handed techniques for fall steelhead and salmon? Do you have other suggestions? Let us known on one of our social media pages.

A Few Tips for the Hearty Smallmouth Bass Angler

Editor’s Note: This week, we turn to TFO Ambassador Burnie Haney for a few tips on fishing for late-fall smallmouth bass. Enjoy.

When the water drops below 50 degrees, it’s the best time to down-size your presentation for consistent rod action throughout the day. In central and northern New York, our waters are running 46, 47 degrees, and when other power presentations fail to produce, light line and small baits will get you bit day in and day out.

This past Friday my bass tournament teammate (Mike Cusano) and I fished Oneida Lake with the TFO Professional Series TFG PSS 703-1 paired with 5.1:1 spinning reels loaded with 4 or 6-pound test to present 2.8 and 3-inch Keitech swimbaits on 1/8 or 3/16-ounce jig heads.

Our best presentation was a long-distance cast with a slow steady retrieve. We wanted our baits to imitate the small size forage base of perch and shad, and these little swimbaits baits work perfectly for this application.

Often times in tournament fishing we hear anglers talk about employing a stop-and-go retrieve to help generate strikes. However, when it comes to cold water bassin’ I believe a slow steady retrieve works best especially for smallmouth. My theory: Since the water is colder, the fish usually react a bit slower. If they can find forage in open water that’s slowing passing by, they’re going to hit it nine times out of ten rather than let it go.

We employed this presentation with good results on a recent Friday and knew we could duplicate it on Sunday in the 2018 Brian Rayle Go Anywhere Tournament on Oneida Lake. During the tournament we landed 35 bass and 20 perch, with our five best bass weighing 21.31 pounds, which beat the second-place team by more than a 2-pound margin.

A lot of anglers put their boats away once the late fall hunting starts, and when they do, they leave behind some of the best smallmouth bass fishing of the season.

So the moral of this story is the next time you find yourself surrounded by cold-water smallmouth bass, in gin clear water, make sure you have a TFO Professional Series TFG PSS 703-1 rod paired with a 5.1:1 reel loaded with 4-6 lb. test and a handful of small swimbaits with 1/8 or 3/16th oz. jig heads.

Trust me on this one, you’ll be glad you’re properly geared up to enjoy all-day rod action.

Additional thoughts on smallmouth tactics? Let us know on one of our social media pages.

Lefty Kreh Honored for a Lifetime of Influence

Lefty is No. 1.

So says the editorial staff of Fly Fisherman Magazine, which compiled a list of the 50 most influential anglers of the past five decades and placed TFO’s Bernard ‘Lefty’ Kreh at the top of the heap.

“Absolutely, he deserves to be No. 1 on that list,” fellow TFO advisor Rob Fordyce said. “I never saw Lefty seek (that type of attention). He was a very humble guy. He was Lefty being Lefty enjoying teaching women and children to fly fish for the most part as well as tens of thousands of others. I think it was deserving, but I don’t think he would have (cared) about it.”

Kreh, a long-time TFO advisor until his passing last spring, was followed by Joe Brooks, John Voelker, Tom Rosenbauer, Lee and Joan Wulff, Dave Whitlock, Cathy & Barry Beck,  John Randolph, Nick Lyons and Ernest Schwiebert to round out the top ten. However, fly-fishing’s premier ambassador would have bristled at the notion of such a pecking order.

“I think Lefty would have, first of all, resented the list,” said TFO advisor Flip Pallot, who was a close friend of Kreh’s. “It was a silly endeavor. All you had to do was look at that list to know how silly it was. Lefty was the guy who didn’t want to be in the IGFA Hall of Fame, who didn’t want anyone to do anything special for him. I think that list would have gotten a laugh and chuckle out of him, and he would have kept right on going.”

Pallot, for what it’s worth, cracked the list at No. 16. The popular host of Walker’s Cay Chronicles said he found out about the honor from a congratulatory text message.

“I had no idea, so I forgot about it,” Pallot said. “Then someone else said something. I knew there had to be a list somewhere. I proudly followed in Lefty’s footsteps and ignored the list. Lefty was very fond of saying that a piece of paper will sit there and let you write anything you want to on it. It was someone who made a list, and that was that.”

For the record, TFO placed two other anglers on the top 50, fly tyer/guide Blane Chocklett (27), who invented the Game Changer fly; and noted fly-casting author/instructor Ed Jaworowski (39), who teamed up with Kreh to produce The Complete Cast, now available through TFO. Chocklett and Jaworowski are members of TFO’s national advisory staff.

“I think it’s cool,” TFO chairman Rick Pope said. “But, I didn’t need that list to tell me the (TFO) people on the list are more than worthy. All our Advisory Staff share certain personality qualities — humility, a desire to teach and, needless to say, pride in their knowledge and ability with a fly rod.  Lefty exhibited the best of these traits, and I’m sure that most all named would feel the same as Flip and Rob.”

Anytime a list is compiled that honors the elite of any profession, someone will be slighted. The most obvious omission: TFO’s Bob Clouser, the inventor of the Clouser Minnow.

“For them to miss Bob Clouser tells you how well vetted (the list) was,” Pope said. “I think the Clouser Minnow is the most widely fished fly in the universe.”

Best-of lists are not always journalistically bulletproof, but one thing’s for sure, they create controversy and, in turn, attention.

Thoughts on Fly Fisherman’s list? Let us know what your opinions on one of our social media pages.

Casting Carolinas Gives Cancer Survivors Hope

Cancer.

It’s everywhere. And it affects everyone.

In 2018, 1.7 million Americans will contract some form of cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute, more than 600,000 will die from it.

“Cancer is evil,” TFO advisor Wanda Taylor said. “We detest it.”

Science can help prevent cancer. Compassion can help those who are fortunate enough to survive it.

It’s the main reason Taylor helped start Casting Carolinas, an organization in North and South Carolina that helps women’s cancer survivors cope. Taylor and other anglers gathered in the Western North Carolina Mountains last weekend to host the Tie-One-On Challenge, a fly-fishing team tournament and CC fund-raiser. Also on hand at the Cherokee, N.C. affair was Starr Nolan, CC’s executive director, who was assisted by a slew of volunteers, who braved high water and a wave of cold rain to pitch in during the two-day event.

“My father died from lung cancer,” Taylor said. “Starr had a close friend die from cancer. We wanted a way to fight back. This is our way to fight back. When you find out you have cancer, your world stops. We wanted a way to stop that. That’s basically it. It’s not just one cancer. We have 17 different kinds on our retreats. When it all comes together, it’s like a posse. Everyone says, ‘thanks for giving your time. You’re so patient.’ They have no idea how much it helps us. It helps me to know my dad didn’t die in vain. There are people out there surviving. Each year we have earlier detection. That’s key for the healing of cancer.”

Nolan and Taylor were both involved in Casting for Recovery, a non profit that provides fly-fishing therapy for breast cancer survivors, but decided several years ago to start Casting Carolinas, which is independent of any national oversight and welcomes women who have faced all forms of cancer.

“We wanted every dime donated, every dollar, every hundred-thousand dollars donated to stay in state,” Taylor said.

The goal of Casting Carolinas is to provide education and support for women who have survived cancer. Part of the weekend retreats is fly fishing. Taylor, a member of Southern Appalachians Fly Fishing Hall of Fame, has served as one of the instructors.

“You can’t think about anything else when you’re fly fishing,” Taylor said. “When you’re casting toward fish, your world is focused on that. You can’t think about chemo. You can’t think about dying or radiation. The brain needs a vacation, a huge vacation. They’re so giddy, whether they hook a fish or not, just from being in the water, they’re so refreshed. When they come in, they’re so beaten down. When they leave, they’re so refreshed. It’s a beautiful thing to watch.”

Nolan stressed that CC’s mission is much more than fly fishing, but nevertheless its impact is undeniable, particularly when it comes to creating confidence.

“They get to the end of the retreat and it’s like, ‘Wow. Success,’ which is a big rush,” Nolan said. “Part of healing from anything is having successful experiences, maybe doing something that you never thought you could do.”

Taylor has assisted with cancer-survival retreats since the early 2000s. She sees no reason to curb her commitment.

“For me, it’s a passion I have bringing other people into the sport of fly fishing,” she said. “I love fly fishing. I dream of fly fishing. I just think I get a joy of bringing new people into the sport. What we teach our staff is, this is never about you. It’s always about someone else. In any volunteer organization, that’s the bottom line. If you’re doing it for any other reason, for fame, for notoriety, you’re doing it for the wrong reasons.”

And CC would not have thrived without Taylor’s expertise and enthusiasm.

“Her heart is in it,” Nolan said. “That’s what moves non-profit organizations along is having people who are so devoted in terms of understanding the vision from a heart place. That’s been Wanda all along. She’s always been there. She’s always been there and supportive, available and part of the vision. We could not replace her.”

Every non profit needs resources, and TFO, through Taylor, has donated rods and reels for retreat participants to use. Taylor and other TFO advisors developed several series of rods as a tribute to various charitable organizations, including Casting for Recovery, Project Healing Waters and Reel Recovery.

“People have such big hearts,” Taylor said. “(TFO) loves creating new anglers, whether they’re missing their arm or leg or part of a breast. If they have a passion for it, (TFO) will find a way to help.”

Thoughts on Casting Carolinas or other fly-fishing related charities? Feel free to chime in on one of TFO’s social media pages.

Lessons Learned While Learning to Row

Nearly 25 years ago, I had visions of being a fly-fishing guide. I went to the Western Rivers Guide School and did well. I could cast. I could read the water. I knew the bugs. I thought I had the curriculum wired.

Until I tried to row a drift boat.

And it was brutal. I could not stay out of the rocks or the bushes. Bow? Stern? Left? Right? Backward? Forward? I was lost.

In retrospect, my struggles were entirely understandable. I learned how to fly fish in the mountains of Virginia in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Very few, if any southerners, used a raft or drift boat back in those days. Freshwater fly fishing by boat was a Western trend.

I never got back on the sticks after guide school. What little guiding I did was on foot.

Fast forward to this past summer. I made the move from the Florida salt to the North Carolina mountains, where drift boats and rafts are now common.

So I decided to buy a Flycraft, a small, portable two-man raft that arrived on the fly-fishing landscape a few years ago. I had the hot new toy, but could I steer it?

I took the new raft for a spin for the first time yesterday. It was far from smooth, but I felt comfortable for stretches of water. Here’s what I learned.  

Take it Slow

Baby steps. We all need them. The first time I took my raft out I rowed on a lake. The main thing you want do early on is trouble shoot potential problems and I, for one, am glad I did. My oar locks weren’t set up correctly. It wasn’t a big problem on a calm pond. On a crowded river, such a misstep would have been disastrous.

While you’re evaluating your boat, get used to its mechanics and how it moves, rowing backwards and forwards with a small pull and push. Watch how the bow relates to the stern.

Some of the boat’s movements are subtle. If possible, find a friend who knows a little bit about rowing. If you can’t find an experienced rower, go with someone who’s got a sense of humor. You’ll both make mistakes, but you’ll learn together.

Experience matters. Towards the end of the first trip, I faced a decent riffle. I got the raft where I wanted in a nice current seam that swept near a bank. There was plenty of depth. There was also a submerged rock. I should have gone to the shallow water to the left. Other rafts behind me didn’t get stuck. Why? Because they knew that rock was there. I did not.

Prepare for the Worst

Even the best plans yield problems. I checked everything I possibly could beforehand and still got blindsided. At the put-in on my maiden voyage, there is a respectable rapid, so there’s no time to get your bearings. Once you launch, it’s game on.

Unfortunately for me and my fishing partner, the rower’s seat slid off its tracking, not once, but twice. Eventually, we were able to pull off to the side and diagnose the issue: There’s a latch that secures the seat. Merely sliding the seat on to the tracking doesn’t ensure security. You have to use a bit of elbow grease to make sure the latch catches.

Thinking in Reverse

Remember when you learned to back up a trailer? Or how you learned to parallel park?

Both tasks are counter-intuitive and can be difficult to master. Learning to row falls into that category. Simply put, you row backwards to avoid obstacles while using the current to propel your watercraft. Easy enough, right? Not exactly. You have to be able to have a sense of current flow, your strokes and the positioning of your bow and stern. Every stroke affects both. Focus on the bow too much and then your stern can unexpectedly be swept into an unfavorable position. It’s difficult to have a feel for what you can’t necessarily see. It’s easier to look ahead, but the back of the boat is equally important.

Smaller is Better

When I first wanted to row, I had visions of rowing a boat across a lake with big sweeping strokes. Naturally, when faced with the stress of a swirling whitewater, my strokes were longer and faster. That’s the wrong approach. I should have slowed down and tried for smaller, more precise strokes.

My Flycraft, is small and physically easy to paddle, but my mistakes were magnified. It’s akin to learning to back up a small trailer and overcorrecting. The same principle applies.

Wear your Waders

Back to the counter-intuitive nature of this task. Logic would suggest you wouldn’t need waders to row a raft or a drift boat. After all, you row a drift boat to avoid wading and cover more water. Here’s what most newcomers don’t realize: Inevitably you will get stuck on rocks or other shallow-water obstacles. You’ll need waders (with boots) to get out and push the bow or stern off the obstruction. Is it cumbersome? Yes. Unfortunately, it’s necessary.

Any good tips on learning to row, let us know on one of TFO’s social media pages.

Things to Know Before Your Guided Fishing Trip

I’ve taken dozens of guided fishing trips – from as far west as Montana to as far south as the Virgin Islands. Most of the trips have been good. A few, have not.

I have guided and been guided, so I’ve been on both sides of the skiff. I’ve worked in a fly shop. I’ve been a customer. There hasn’t been much I haven’t seen in more than 30-plus years of fly fishing.

There’s no way to ensure a great fishing trip. There are simply too many variables to control. However, there are a handful of things you, as an angler, can do to help avoid those forgettable guided fishing trips.

Practice Makes Perfect

Fishing requires different skill sets. It doesn’t matter if it’s fly or spin.

Bonefishing requires a double haul. Freshwater trout require precision and line control. Smallmouth bass require long casts with big poppers.

Very few anglers have every skill mastered, so the key is to focus on the type of fishing you will most likely encounter and master that scenario, over and over. In your backyard, or on your local stream or pond.

Failure to Prepare Is Preparing to Fail

Pack early. Not the night before. Start packing at least a week out. Of course, you can’t have everything packed, but at least start organizing your tackle, clothes and gear. Chip away, so when the night before the trip arrives, you’re merely tying up loose ends — and not starting from scratch.

If you wait until the night before, you’ll be stressed. You’ll either run late or forget a key piece of gear, which leads to even more stress, which means you won’t enjoy your trip.

One last thing: Be on time. Timing is everything, fishing. I know a saltwater guide, whose clients arrived an hour and a half late without rigged rods and reels. Fortunately, a breeze sustained an incoming tide that saved the day, but it’s best not to rely on mother nature for a bailout.

Honesty is the Best Policy

Tell your guide what you want — from the type of fish you want to catch, and how you want to catch them. Part of that equation is a realistic assessment of your skill level. It’s best to low-ball your ability. Double hauling 70 feet of line in your yard on a windless weekend afternoon is not the same as being able to duplicate that feat while trying to maintain your balance on the bow of a skiff with a swell. If your guide knows your skill level ahead of time, he or she should be able to put your in situations where you can be successful.

Do Your Homework

You and the guide, to some extent, are a team. It’s a working relationship. To fortify that relationship, personalities have to mesh. No one can change their personality. That’s why it’s important to find a guide that matches your personality and needs.

If you want a guide who’s patient with beginners, state that goal before you agree to a trip. If you want a high-octane guide who can put you on big fish, that’s different. Ask for references. Check at the local fly shop. More often than not, you’ll be glad you did.

Be Realistic ON YOUR GUIDED TRIp

Many clients assume that hiring a guide ensures success. It does not. There’s no question that hiring a good guide can increase the likelihood of catching fish. Good guides know where the fish are and how to catch them, but typically that’s under standard conditions. Sometimes conditions change. Weather patterns can be tough to predict. Tailwater releases can be random. Sometimes the fish don’t want to eat, even when conditions are favorable.

I don’t evaluate a guide on the quality of fishing. I evaluate on the quality of effort and professionalism. Guides can’t control the former. They can control the latter, and I tip accordingly, usually 20 percent.

One last thing: Bring cash for the tip. It’s much easier than a check or debit card at the end of a long day on the water.

 

Any other suggestions for getting ready for a guided trip, let us know on one of TFO’s social media pages.