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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.

 

 

 

Part VI: The Basics of Flies for the Beginner

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

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

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

Types of Flies

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

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

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

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

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

Sizes of Flies

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

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

What flies to Use

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

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

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

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

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

It’s Show Time 2019

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

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

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

 

January

Jan. 18-20

The Fly Fishing Show

Marlborough, Mass.

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

 

Jan. 25-27

The Fly Fishing Show

Edison, N.J.

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

 

Jan. 27

Kentuckiana Fly Fishing Show

Shepherdsville, Ky.

Participating dealers: TBD

 

February

Feb. 1-2

The Fly Fishing Show

Atlanta

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

 

Feb. 2

Greater Cincinnati Fly Fishing Show

Loveland, Ohio

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

 

Feb. 8-10

Columbus Fishing Expo

Columbus, Ohio

Participating Dealers: Mad River Outfitters, Thorne Bros.

 

Feb. 16-17

Troutfest/GRTU

New Braunfels, Texas

Participating Dealers: TBD

 

The Fly Fishing Show

Lynnwood, Wash.

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

 

Feb. 22-24

The Fly Fishing Show

Pleasanton, Calif.

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

 

March

March 9-10

Midwest Fly Fishing Expo

Warren, Mich.

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

 

March 15-17

Great Waters Fly Fishing Expo

St. Paul, Minn.

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

 

March 16

Long Island Fly Fishing Expo

Monahan, N.Y.

Participating Dealers: River Bay Outfitters.

 

March 23-25

Texas Fly Fishing & Brewfest

Plano, Texas

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

 

April

 April 26-28

Spey O’Rama

San Francisco, Calif.

Participating Dealers: Lost Coast Outfitters, FishFirst.

 

May

May 3-4

Sandy River Spey Clave

Portland, Oregon

Participating Dealers: Fly Fishing Shop Welches.

 

May 17-19

Celtic Spey Challenge

Belfast, Ireland

Participating Dealers: TBD

 

June

June 6-9

Skeeter Boat Owner’s Tournament

Lake Fork, Texas

Participating Dealers: TBD

 

June 13-15

European Tackle Trade Show

Belfast, Ireland

Participating Dealers: TBD

 

June 21-22

Spey Nation

Salmon River, N.Y.

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

 

July

July 10-12

ICAST

Orlando, Fla.

Participating Dealers: NA

 

August

Aug. 11-13

Sports Inc./August Outdoor Sporting Goods Show

Indianapolis

Participating Dealers: NA

 

Aug. 26-29

Worldwide Show

Reno, Nev.

Participating Dealers: NA

 

October

Oct. 16-18

International FTD

Denver

Participating Dealers: NA

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.

Practice

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

The Low Elbow

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

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

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

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

Keep it simple. It solves a lot of problems.

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

 

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

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

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

The Fly Line

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

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

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

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

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

The Leader

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Knots

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

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

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

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

Part III: The Basics of Fly Reels

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Part II: How to Buy Your First Fly Rod

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

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

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

What do you want to fish for?

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

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

What’s your budget?

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

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

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

What do you like?

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

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

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

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

Are you prepared for the unexpected?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The choice is entirely up to the angler.

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

Buy a Kit

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

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

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

Take a Class

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

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

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

Hire a Guide

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

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

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

 Set Realistic Expectations

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

 Enjoy the Journey

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

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

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

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

 

 

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.