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Summertime Bass Tactics On The Fly with Grant Braudrick

It’s mid summer, and if there’s anything that gets anglers like Grant Braudrick more fired up than anything, its topwater bass bites.

In central Texas, and a lot of places this time of year, it’s not uncommon for temperatures to be in the upper 90s (or higher), with little to no chances of rain for a few days – which makes for tough fishing conditions on lakes, and even rivers and creeks. Knowing the right times to go, what to look for, and what tools to take with you are critical for finding success.

TFO rep Grant Braudrick and Texas native spends a significant amount of time catching large bass on the lakes of central Texas during the spring and summer. We thought we’d check in with him and get some tips on summertime bass on the fly tactics.

Talk about how you plan a trip to fish for bass on the lakes in your area. How do you plan where you going and when to go?

Lakes can be very challenging in the summer. We normally have a morning bite that starts around sunrise or around 6am. By around 9 or 10am at the latest, the bite will die off. During the middle of the day, fish tend to head to the middle of the lake where temps are more stable. I’ll usually focus on deeper water and throw more subsurface baitfish, where as in the morning and evenings, I’m throwing top water this time of year. The evening bite usually starts around an hour and half before sunset and lasts until dark.

What type of boat do you use for bass fishing on lakes.

When I’m on the lakes I’ve got my 17’ Mitzi poling skiff boat. Some people harp on me for using a saltwater flats skiff on fresh water lakes in North Texas, but I’m able to take it on bigger water on the coast if need be, but more importantly, it allows me to get extremely shallow to get where bass boats can’t get to.

Stealth is very important and this skiff helps me get to places quietly. I use spikes on the front of my boat to keep my fly line in one area. There can be a lot of grass and vegetation in some of the areas I’m trolling back into so those spikes really help with keeping the fly line from getting tangled up incase I hook into a fish and that way my fly line and reel stays clear, also having fly lines get caught in vegetation can cause enough disturbances to spook a fish as well.

When people think of bass on the fly, they think 8 weight, but I see a lot of rods on the deck of your boat on your Instagram posts. Looks like you use a few different weight sizes. Can you go over those set ups?

Sure thing. Basically how I structure my set ups is depending on the water that I’m fishing. The smaller the water, the lighter the rod (action) I’ll be going for. The bigger the water, the more elements (wind) you’ll be dealing with likely, so I’ll want something faster.

Not all lakes are the same, so I have a system that works for me according to which lakes I’m on.

For lakes with lots of grass, lillypads, and dingier water – likely lots of subsurface structure and stuff that fish can get caught up on – I actually like to use a 9wt. I get weird feedback sometime about that , but if I’m fighting a 6-8 lb bass with all that subsurface stuff to get caught on, I’d much rather have the extra muscle and leverage with a 9wt to be able to fight that fish out of structure and get it into open water so I can play it out and get it to the boat. Casting larger flies with heavier line all day can wear your arm out, and that 9 weight can be your best friend in the scenario.

For clearer water lakes with more rocky terrain/bottoms, I usually go with an 8wt.

For both scenarios, I absolutely love and cannot say enough good things about the Axiom ll-X. We get a lot of heavy winds in Texas, and especially when fishing on open lakes and that rod absolutely delivers. Recently, I’ve been enjoying using the LK Legacy 8wt. That rod is a cannon as well. Very similar to the classic BVK, but feels a little stronger in the tip section when fighting big fish. I’ve also really enjoyed the upcoming Blue Ribbon series. A little bit more of a medium action. When the bass aren’t as active I’ll throw popper on a 3wt for sunfish and have a blast. Who doesn’t love sunfish on a 3wt? Other TFO favorites of mine are classics like the Mangrove and the Clouser. For reel, I just match the rod with the appropriate BVK-SD reel.

With all those set ups I’m sure you have an assortment of fly lines that accompany each one. Can you go over those?

I have several different types of fly lines for each type of water column or depth I’m going to fish for.

For topwater – a floating line matched to the rod (8 weight rod with a 8WF line). Here recently I’ve been using Monic lines and really enjoyed them. For topwater I use Monic Icicle and 101 floating lines and their Henley clear lines.

For subsurface, I use a variety of intermediate line, heavier intermediate, and a full sink if the situation calls for it. Same deal, been using Monic lines. I tried to have something that covers all water types and columns/depths. You need to be able to deeper if you need to.

When it comes to both topwater and subsurface, you want something that has a shooting head to it, and not a flat line so you can get the fly where you want it to be – which is right next to the structure or bank. As close as possible. You only want to get 2-3 casts, and these lines aren’t meant to fault cast 5+ times and you’ll likely miss an opportunity to a fish or spook it if you are casting more than that.

For someone just starting out and that might not have the budget to buy 3-4 rods with different lines for each, what would you suggest?

For someone who is just starting out, I would start with an 8wt and get an extra spool for the reel so you can have two lines. Have one spool with a floating line, then the spare spool with some sort of an intermediate sinking line. Intermediate will allow you to get to most all depths when you need to do subsurface stuff.

What about leaders? Do you have a preference on material for both topwater and subsurface?

For topwater, I make my own with monofilament, but I usually up the strength a bit.

For warmwater bass fishing on more clearer, rockier lakes, I build a leader starting with 30lb flourocarbon butt section, add on a length of 20lb, then a length of 10lb to the fly.

For dingier water with lots of grass, pads, etc. – I’ll do 30lb fluorocarbon butt section to a section of 20lb fluoro to the fly.

Knots?

Palamar Knot for topwater. Super quick strong knot. Lefty’s Loop Knot for subsurface stuff.

Pro Tip – The knot is your most important thing. When you tie a good knot, don’t do a stress test when you first tie it. You’ll likely break off due to abrasion. Also – constantly check your knots! Got stuck on a tree, just caught a fish, hit the side of your boat – check your knot. There’s NOTHING worse then hooking into a fish then loosing it due to a failed knot or a nick in the line.

I broke off an 8lb bass during a tournament last month that would have hands down been the biggest length and weight fish of the day. Hooked into the fish, saw it, and it took a big run. Line took tension and snapped because of my knot. Talk about nightmare fuel when you lose a fish like that and you know it’s your own fault.

What about flies/poppers?

 For topwater, I like Rainy’s Rattlin Frog. It’s a weedless frog that has a rattle in it. Comes in different colors. Has a great pop with a deep head. Another great one is Rainy’s Air Jet. Both are excellent frog patterns.When it comes to subsurface baitfish and crayfish patterns, you need to observe your body of water and look at the forage, but for me a few of my favorites are Rainy’s Warpath, Gamechangers, Ghetto Craw (crayfish), and Murdoch Minnows.

Clouser Minnows and Lefty’s Deceiver are also two very reliable patterns that can pretty much work anywhere. White and chartreuse is a classic go-to for color for these patterns.

What’s crazy is that lakes are different everywhere. The lake that’s right next to my house is completely different from the lake that’s an hour away. Even though we are in the same region, it’s completely different, and every body of water is a little bit different from each. Its all understanding what the fish are keyed in on. It also can depend on the day (weather).

If it’s a cloudy day, I’ll probably throw something a bit darker, which seem counter-intuitive but it really brings out that shadow a little better. If it’s a clearer day, I’m going to throw something a little bit more realistic to what they’re actually feeding on in color and in size. Size is super important and often overlooked when it comes to pattern selection.

At the end of the day, let the lake speak to you as to what you need to be doing.

I see where you’ve done some fishing with Steve Dally on the White River for some big browns. Have you learned anything from Steve that can cross over to bass fishing – specifically strip/retrieval patterns?

Absolutely. A lot of anglers have this tendency to just retrieve fast. Bigger fish will get triggered by erratic behavior from prey. When a school of fish is just swimming along, a bass or big predatory fish will just let that fish(s) just swim a long. The second that one of those fish acts strange – twitching off in a pattern that’s not normal – that triggers that big fish into a predatory mode.

A lot of times in my mind, I’ll count a “One. One Two. One Two Three. Pause…” rhythm/retrieval pattern and then see how the fish reacts. I’ll switch up my counts, retrieval pattern to figure out what the fish are keyed on for that particular day and use that for the rest of the day.

Any other tips or words of wisdom for anglers out there?

The biggest thing you can do is visit your local fly shop. These guys have a vast collection of knowledge of the waterways around you. Go in there, buy a few things, and ask them some questions. If you support them, they’ll support you.

Another tip is take advantage of social media and even Youtube. I was a on a work trip in Wisconsin a while back and had two hours to fish for musky. I caught 3 musky in the span of two hours just because I did a little research ahead of time.

Also when you get to a new area, don’t just wade in and start casting away. Sit back and observe the area, look for signs of fish, forage, etc. If you hear a bunch of pops in the lilly pads, maybe it’s a good idea to throw on a frog and see what that is. Conversely, if you see a bunch of fish schooling out in the open water, its probably a good idea to throw on a bait fish pattern. Let the conditions guide you into what you need to be doing.

Grant Braudrick is a TFO rep for the Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas area. He’s lived in Texas his whole life and been fishing since he was 10. He is also a rep for Rainy’s flies (hence the fly suggestions). When Grant isn’t fishing, you can find him playing music around Texas. Find out more about Grant through his social media links below.

https://www.instagram.com/goodoleg – fishing

https://www.instagram.com/goodolegmusic – music

Snook On The Fly 101, 201 & 301 – History, Tactics & More by Courtney Marie Martin

When TFO approached me recently about writing a piece on snook, I couldn’t have been more excited. This is a species I have targeted, fought for, and been passionate about my entire life. Everything about this species is absolutely fascinating to me; from their habitat, to their aggressive takes, unique spawning abilities, and their ability to survive in salt or freshwater. These fish are just as intriguing to me now, as they were more than 25 years ago, marking my first encounter with the species. If you have never had a chance to target these amazing creatures, you’ll want to add them to your list after this. However, if you have been as fortunate as myself, and had the joy of experiencing these beauties first hand, I hope you enjoy this read.

A brief back story on my roots; I’m originally from Bethune Beach, FL. If you’re not familiar with that area; It’s the southernmost point of habitable land, on a barrier island. There is no access to the mainland at this point, the rest of the island south is home to an incredible, and protected ecosystem, in the Canaveral National Seashore. The Atlantic side of the island contains one of the most righteous surf breaks on the Florida east coast, while located on the river side of the island, is the world-famous Mosquito Lagoon. Needless to say, I had a pretty well-rounded upbringing between these two bodies of water. My once small hometown changed drastically over the years, something I’m still emotional about to this day. This is a problem that is rampant in Florida, a problem that has many causes and contributing factors. With that change, eight years ago I made the decision to move to the west coast and start over on the Myakka River. This place sucked me in, I became obsessed with learning it, exploring it, and now protecting it. It became apparent within a short time, the same issues the lagoon is struggling with, they were starting to feel the effects of here as well. After 5 years of living here I left my career to focus on conservation, art, and fly fishing full-time. We’ll come back to that though, first we’re going to start this off with one of my favorite subjects; a little bit of History.

Age Before Beauty

Bare with me for a minute while I flood your brain with a little bit of Florida history.

The land we now call Florida began to form, via a combination of volcanic activity, and the deposit of marine sediments. The formation took place along northwest Africa roughly 530 million years ago. If you flash back to your middle school Geography days, you’ll remember a brief, but very important time in history, referred to as Pangea. This occurred due to Florida once being part of Gondwanaland, a super continent, that later divided into Africa and South America. Research shows that Florida then separated from Gondwanaland about 300 million years ago. The state eventually found itself wedged between Gondwanaland and North America, where they then combined, to form; Pangea. When Pangea began to separate, Florida remained behind as part of the continent of North America. Florida then began slipping slowly beneath the surface to become part of North America’s continental shelf. The landmass that is now Florida remained shallowly submerged beneath the ocean. Over time; coral, shellfish, and fish skeletons began accumulating. These mass deposits created a layer of limestone hundreds, and in some places thousands, of feet thick. As the Appalachian Mountains began to erode, sand and clay were then deposited all over Florida’s limestone layer. Much of the quartz sand covering the state today came from the rocks of that mountain chain. One of the many things that captivated me when I first came to this area, was the abundance of limestone formations I’ve located all over the river itself. Rock samples taken from the Myakka in the 1880s date the river to the Pliocene Epoch, 1.8-5.3 million years before the present, when Florida was mostly under water. However, according to University of Florida, Ocala limestone samples from the 1920s suggest that the Florida peninsula dates to the Eocene Epoch, thus dating her to be a whopping 25 to 36 million years ago. Deep grooves in these limestone formations began collecting rainfall in the form of rivers. Though there is a huge conflict in these differing data’s, I personally believe the latter of the two theories. The river and its region became home to; mastodons, mammoths, saber-toothed cats, and even megalodon. With research pointing to megs going extinct atleast 20-million years ago, it personally leads me to believe that the river is much older than some documents lead you to believe.

How Man Found the Myakka

  • 12,000 B.C. Humans from eastern Asia cross the newly, but briefly, dry Bering Strait on foot and enter North America, gathering around its deep springs for fresh water.
  • 10,200 B.C. First evidence of human habitation on the Myakka. Skeletal remains that were found, near Warm Mineral Springs, in 1959 were carbon-dated to roughly that time.
  • 1500 A.D. Florida aboriginals separate into four distinct tribes, including the Calusa tribe on the lower Gulf Coast. The Indians that called this land home believed the area to be sacred. On top of the abundant food source, they believed that storms seemed to disappear or go completely around it.
  • 1513 Juan Ponce de Leon’s search for gold treasure, combined with Florida’s legendary Fountain of Youth, led him to Charlotte Harbor and up the Peace and Myakka rivers. He is said, by many, to have found Warm Mineral Springs.
  • 1521 Ponce de Leon not only enslaved the Calusa and sold them off, but also brought an abundance of disease upon them. He ultimately died from complications caused by arrow wounds received in an altercation with the Calusa Indians. Unable to cohabitate with the Spaniards, the Calusa eventually left the area. Followed by the Spaniards departing, because they couldn’t survive without the Calusa. Over the years the surrounding land and water went through significant high water, drought, and weather events that pushed what little settlers and aboriginals were left, to the brink. Only the strong survived.

Wild and Scenic

Myakka River State Park opened for visitors in 1942. Within this now, 37,000-acre protected woodland, are hundreds of bird and animal species; Including 80 listed as endangered species. In 1985, Florida officially designated the Myakka for special protection, as the state’s first “Wild and Scenic River.” The entire river from the Upper lake, to Charlotte Harbor, is 66 miles. Nearly 8 months out of the year, especially during the winter months, the river is so shallow you can walk across it. Marshes, swamps, and sloughs also make up the 550-square mile Myakka Basin. This basin full of vast, spongy areas that hold water during the wet season, slowly releasing it to feed the river over the long months when there is no rain. This fragile body of water and ecosystem is why the Myakka needs our attention and preservation, now more than ever. Over the past 20 years, the Myakka has been laced with industrial waste, municipal sewage, agricultural runoff and untold gallons of gasoline, motor oil, and brake fluid. These pollutants come rushing across road surfaces in search of the region’s lowest point. This is all despite the passing of the Clean Water Act, in 1972. Which was placed in response to the unchecked dumping of pollution into our waterways. At the time, two-thirds of the country’s lakes, rivers and coastal waters had become unsafe for fishing or swimming. This included untreated sewage that was being dumped into open water. The most damaging additive since, ironically, has been water. An excess of water, pumped from underground wells to feed farms and mines, has saturated miles of the Myakka Basin, disturbing the river’s ancient cycle of long dry seasons and killing native vegetation. It has become an international laboratory for the study of river habitats, both how to keep them in good health and what to do when they are ailing, as rivers these days usually are. Water is traditionally low in the winter, making invasive plants and fish also a particular concern. Less water means more competition for food and oxygen. West Indian marsh grass is also crowding out native species of vegetation, eliminating food sources that the native fish are partial to. Those native fish, meanwhile, also have invasives of their own to contend with.

As you can tell, I’m extremely passionate about this place. When I was originally asked to write this article, I was sent a list of 10 talking points they’d like me to hit, so far, we’ve covered just one (insert laughter) …

Knowledge Is Power – History & Biology of Snook

Snook are thought to have originated in Central America, and due changes in the earth’s climate they migrated north to Florida. This migration goes back to a great warming trend after the Ice Age, that moved snook northward along the Mexico shoreline. They then followed the Gulf of Mexico to Cuba and Florida, splitting the state and running up along the east and west coasts. Florida proved to be the perfect environment, because snook are described as an estuarine-dependent fish species.

There are five species of snook that inhabit Florida waters; common snook, small scale fat snook, large scale fat snook, tarpon snook, and the swordspine snook.

Formerly known as excellent table fare, snook are making a huge comeback in our waters due to strict conservation efforts.

Within Florida’s diverse estuaries, juvenile snook are commonly found inhabiting; Coastal wetland ponds, island networks, and creeks. In their juvenile stages, snook show a tendency to call lower-salinity conditions home. Snook are also able to osmo-regulate, giving them the ability to adapt and thrive in both high/low salinity habitats. This is referred to as habitat plasticity, an evolutionary adaptation, expressed primarily through reversible physiological change. Which leads me to the most fascinating snook fact; Snook are a protandric hermaphroditic fish species. — Males can change to females as they age.

This transition takes place when snook are between 1-7 years of age or between 12-35 inches in length. This happens quickly, both male, and female sex cells are present in the gonads. During transition, female gonads mature directly from male gonads, after spawning. Thus, making it possible for snook, to spawn once as a male, and then again as a female within the same season.

Spawning

Spawning season typically runs the months of April-October, with peak spawn occurring during June-August. Near-shore waters containing higher salinity values is where their spawning traditionally occurs. Female snook may spawn every two days, during a new or full moon cycle, and release roughly 1.5 million eggs during each spawn. The high salinity in these locations is important to egg survival rates. Salinity provides buoyancy to the eggs carrying them to habitats more suited for survival, these eggs begin to hatch within 28hours. This phenomenon occurs on both the east and west coasts of Florida. Mouths of coastal rivers, major inlets, and the beaches of Gulf of Mexico are prime spawning locations.

Post spawn, the juvenile snook then migrate to the brackish waters of surrounding estuary environments. Once mature, they make their trek to the high salinity waters of the open ocean to join the breeding population. Snook are opportunistic ambush predators, whose feeding habits are attributed to their size and the size of their prey. Which leads us to the age-old question; “Does bigger bait equal bigger fish?”

In the snook world, the answer is, yes. As snook continue to grow they feed on larger and larger prey. Even though this behavior is rare, they even engage in cannibalism, predating upon their own. During the winter months, when adult and juvenile common snook are in close proximity to one another sharing habitat, is when this typically occurs. A feeding pattern referred to as intracohort cannibalism. Juvenile snook that find themselves in this setting may wind up becoming the largest available prey on the menu, thus proving to be nutritionally efficient to prey upon.

Come Fly with Me

Winding through the Old Florida wilderness, it’s the type of landscape that puts your vulnerability in check, a constant reminder of how small you really are in this world. The area I live in is fabled and locally labeled as snook haven, frankly, it is just that. The history, age of the land, and the species that call it home are all-encompassing pieces of knowledge to carry with you. The Myakka is a truly wild unforgiving landscape inhabited by gators, feral hogs, sharks, bobcats, bears, coyotes, panthers, venomous snakes, and large swarms of mosquitoes. When I began immersing myself into this environment, the closest thing I could compare it to would be the deepest parts of the Everglades. This is not the beach, these are not pristine sand flats, it’s not the harbor or the bay. This is as backcountry as it gets.

Do I wade fish here? Yes. Would I conscientiously recommend it to others? No.

Always research your surroundings before entering any body of water. Have a plan, triple check your gear, pay attention to your surroundings, and respect the environment. You are a guest.

Most of what we do in the backcountry is out of an aluminum jon-boat or skiff. Jon likes to even up the ante some days and throw me into a canoe. A very effective method for getting to these fish, you just have to remain extra cat-like with every movement you make.

Casting & Presentation

My number one piece of advice in the pursuit of fly fishing is; Practice, practice, practice!

Practice your cast, have a solid, confident, single and double haul going into these fish.

The techniques Jon and I both use for snook, are applicable to high or low water, and any water clarity. This is where practicing your cast is important, making that cast count no matter the conditions.

Water clarity changes daily here, some days its crystal clear, other days it can be muddy, and most days it resembles sweet tea. Some days, we encounter super low water conditions, with good water clarity. This tends to flush these fish out of their mangrove homes making sight fishing on the shore line possible. When these fish are out in the open, they can eat just as aggressively as they would in their protective structure, but they can see you just as well as you can see them.

The stealth factor and making a good cast first shot, are very important in this instance. However, one of my personal favorite fishing techniques is pitching up-under and into mangroves.

This is technical, this takes time, this takes practice. This is, however, extremely rewarding and efficient in high water, cloudy, or windy conditions. You can use a regular or weed-less flies for this technique. If you do happen to aim a little too high or snag a root, just take it easy pulling it off and it should come right out.

 

Fly Patterns & Retrieval Methods

Laser minnows, crab, shrimp, varying bait fish patterns and poppers; I’ve thrown all of these for snook and been successful. Now if you’re going to go for the gold on pitching mangroves, be ready to strip hard. The eat is usually very aggressive sometimes launching the fly airborne as if it were a top water plug. Sometimes they’ll eat as soon as it lands, others will ambush it and come out of nowhere, and then there’s the classic v-wake pushing out of the mangroves that then proceeds to finally crush the fly just inches from the boat with half your leader stripped into your rod. In that scenario I hold my breath and there’s usually a lot of praying involved; Praying the line shoots back out as pretty as it stripped through those guides.

These fish will instinctively try to run right back to where they came from, this is where you better stay alert and put the heat to them. 9 times out of 10, this is not a fish you’ll be attempting to get on the reel, most of the fight will be you gaining ground by stripping them in while keeping counter pressure on their head with the rod. The goal is to keep them out of the mangroves and get them to the boat fast. Like tarpon, snook are known for their acrobatics, be ready to fight them the same way when they go for an airborne head-shake.

Knots & Tippet

Much like a tarpon, snook’s mouths are very rough. If not hooked in the very corner of the mouth, or the top of their nose, they can ware through a leader section pretty quickly. I personally use 25-30lb fluoro as my shock tippet for these fish because of that reason. I don’t like break-offs and I really don’t like fish swimming around with gear stuck in their face. I also prefer a simple loop knot for connecting my fly to the tippet, this provides life like action during the retrieve. I’ve seen snook delicately mouth at flies and I’ve watched them smash flies. Every fish is different, retrieval techniques can vary by the fish. I’ve had fish out run my steady “strip, strip, strip” retrieve and end up on top of the fly, completely missing it. I’ve had fish follow-follow-follow, and then all of a sudden turn off, only for the next fish to inhale it. And then I’ve had encounters sight casting where I cast, I give it a couple pops trying to get their attention, they slowly come over, and I was just a millisecond too slow on beginning to work the fly. This results in a fish completely spooking and blowing out due to being able to get too good of a glance at your fly. It can be a delicate dance sometimes with these fish, but they will always keep you wanting more.

 

Don’t Get Discouraged!

“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” Persistence pays off with these fish, if you happen to totally miff the hook set, pick up your line and fire a cast right back up to the same spot. This technique is extremely effective, this is also why a fast and accurate single haul, is just as important as a clean double haul. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve hooked a fish on the second or third try, just from goofing up the initial hook set. I actually had this happen last week, I was on the bow and had a solid follow out of the mangroves. The fish charged it, ended up being on top of my fly, and completely missed it. I fired a cast right back up to the big boil he left, he ate it again on the second strip, right in the middle of the pause. Resulting in a totally goofed hookset and Jon staring at me from the poling platform like, “Really…??” Stubborn I am, I fired up a third cast, this time Jon speaks up and says, “why would you do that?? That fish isn’t going to eat again, you need to be casting ahead.” As fate would have it, whammy! That fish ate it a third time, this time charging the boat, running under it, and breaking me off. This event lasted all of two seconds, but what a cool fish! We were all high-fives and laughs after that fish.

Fly Lines

Another important tool in your box – selecting the right fly line. Of the many innovations that Lee Wulff has contributed to fly fishing, the Bermuda Triangle Taper fly line is my go-to fly line for anything saltwater. I line all of my saltwater setups with the next weight size up. Which brings us to setups..

 

Fly Rods

A typical saltwater fishing day, 7/8/9wt rods are my go-to. My favorite setup to toss on a daily basis is an 8wt BVK or an 8/9wt Mangrove, 7wt class would also my Mangrove, and then there’s the 8 and 9wt Axiom II and Axiom II-X. These setups are laser focused and perfect for the saltwater pursuit of any species, especially snook!

But don’t forget that 10wt! This is an important tool, that will lead to regret if left behind. Your 38″+ upper class of snook will need A LOT of heat to keep them from running to structure. There are snook that Jon and I have both come across, where we just look back at each other and can’t believe what we’re seeing. I highly recommend a 10wt for those fish, with a large bait pattern, and a heavier tippet class.

The coolest thing about really big snook, they do not spook easily. They know exactly how big they are and their opportunistic feeding patterns revolve around that. If you can get it in front of them, they will most likely inhale it, but you have to bring the right tools to the fight! These fish are smart, they know their territory well, and will run to any structure they can to break you off quickly.

If by chance you are looking to wade fish, I don’t recommend that here. My best advice is to follow their patterns. If you scroll back up to the Knowledge Is Power section, hidden in there is everything you need to know about finding beach snook.

“A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture, is like a tree without roots.” -M.Garvey

Words and photos by TFO Ambassador Courtney Marie Martin. Sunset snook photo (Photo #2) taken by Eric Shaeffer.

Courtney is based out of Charlotte Harbor, Florida.  When not fishing for snook, tarpon and redfish with her partner Jon Lee (TFO Pro Staff) and spending time with her family, Courtney is a fantastic artist, where a lot of her art is inspired by her time on the water. You can find out more about Courtney here.

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TFO Unveils New Products

ICAST is over. We at TFO are back home from the trip to Orlando, but if you missed the world’s largest sportfishing show, do not despair.

We introduced quite a few new items at ICAST this year. On the fly side, we welcomed the Axiom II-X fly rod, the NXT Black Label Kit, and the BVK SD. As for spinning gear, we have the Tactical Bass Elite and Tactical Bass series as well as the Professional Walleye series.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a serious fly fisherman or an angler who prefers traditional spinning gear, TFO offers quality options for everyone —- from new anglers just getting started to seasoned professionals.

Here’s a bit more detail about each item, all of which will become available to consumers in the coming months:

The Axiom II-X: The Axiom impressed. Then came the Axiom II, which drew rave reviews. The Axiom II-X has a tough act to follow, but if you want a rod that will deliver a big-time cast without sacrificing accuracy, this satin-blue stick is for you. Retails for ($349.95-$369.95) in weights 5-12. For more info, check out the video below.

The BVK SD: Need a reel to go with your new Axiom II-X? There’s no better choice than the BVK SD. Those who have the BVK swear by it. But get this: The BVK SD offers everything its predecessor did —- with a sealed drag system —- for the same price. Maintenance is minimal, so there’s no more worrying about the interior components. Now they’re fully protected. The BVK SD runs from $199.95-$229.95 and comes in four sizes I, II, III and III+.

NXT Black Label Kit: Fly fishing doesn’t have to be expensive, nor doesn’t it have to be complicated. In essence, that’s the premise behind the NXT Black Label Kit. You get a rod, reel, backing and fly line, all for a very reasonable price ($219.95-$229.95). Since the rod and reel and line are pre-matched, you don’t have to worry about pairing those components, a process that can be intimidating for inexperienced anglers.

Tactical Bass Rods: So you’re a serious bass fisherman. Like to fish topwater? How about crankbaits? Maybe finesse is more your style? If so, our Tactical Bass series ($149.95-$169.95) is for you, no matter how precise your style of angling is.

Tactical Elite Bass Rods:  Whatever profession you choose, you need tools of the trade that will get the job done day after day. So it is with pro anglers and our Tactical Elite series. If you want to make a living fishing, serious tournament fishermen need a rod that will preform consistently day in and day out. By all accounts, our Tactical Elite series ($199.95) more than holds its own.

Professional Walleye Series: One of the biggest challenges in catching walleye is feeling the bite, but our newest walleye series provides enough sensitivity, from the handle to the tip, to help anglers counter this issue. And there’s the added bonus of versatility:  You can jig, rig, crank and troll with this rod ($99.95).

Comments on our new products? Check out 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.

It’s Back to Basics for Smallmouth

Tis the time of year for freshwater transition. It’s September. It’s still a bit too hot for trout, and the largemouth bass is a morning and evening proposition. However, the most willing sparring partner in early fall is not hard to find. The smallmouth bass is a viable fly-rodding option as summer yields to autumn. Smallies love to take a fly and fight hard, from the hookset to the release.

Even though the bronzeback is a formidable foe, it’s a fish I’ve consistently neglected throughout my 30 years of fly fishing. I’ve always found trout sexier. It’s true that trout, as a species, boast loads of tradition, but if you honestly evaluate the attributes of each species, the smallmouth compares favorably and is well worth pursuing.

And since trout usually need a break, I’ve decided to give smallmouth a fair amount of love from now on during each fishing season.

So, it’s back to basics. Below are a few key components of my strategy.

Time Year for Smallmouth

Geography, of course, plays a role. I live in Western N.C., where the southern smallie season starts in late spring and ends in late fall. My fishing calendar starts in March and April with trout. As soon as the trout start to feel the heat of summer in late May and early June, it’s time for smallmouth. And when the autumn leaves start to turn, it’s about time for trout.

Temperature and Time of Day for Smallmouth

Smallmouth can be caught if the water temperature lingers in the 50s, but cold water is better for trout. Smallmouth like water temps in the high 60s and 70s, about the time trout head for the oxygen of the riffles.

For most of us, fishing revolves around work and family commitments, but the ideal time for smallmouth is early or late in the day. Low light is better than bright sun simply because the fish feel more secure. If you can fish on a cloudy day, take advantage of such conditions. The fish will hold shallower longer.

Where to Find Smallmouth

Smallmouth are not easy to find on your local river. But if you find one smallmouth, you will usually find several. And once you pinpoint a fishy spot, remember it, because chances are, fish will hold there consistently.

Smallmouth are ambush feeders. They use structure — logs, rocks and boulders — to hide and wait for unsuspecting prey, not unlike brown trout. And don’t forget your trout training. The tails of pools usually hold nice fish. Deeper runs are also a good option.

Food for the Smallmouth

If you don’t have a specialty box of smallmouth flies, don’t despair. Trout love dragon flies and crayfish. The venerable woolly bugger works well for both. I like to use bead-head versions of this pattern. When fish are feeding on the surface, I love poppers, and there’s no better smallmouth popper than the Sneaky Pete, which can be fished with a small woolly bugger or similar substitute as a dropper.

For trophy fish, there’s no better option than Blane Chocklett’s Game Changer. The Game Changer’s movement rivals many conventional lures.

The Equipment for Smallmouth

Heavy trout or light saltwater setups work well. A 5 or 6-weight rod is about as light as you would want to go. A 7, 8-weight can be used to throw bigger poppers. If you throw small flies, you can bring your lighter rod. Big flies, obviously, need a bigger stick.  For instance, you would not want to fish a Game Changer on your 5-weight rod. Step up to a 7-weight or bigger.

Temple Fork’s Axiom II series is a good option as is the BVK series. As for reels, our Power or BVK are good choices.

I fish for smallies with standard weight-forward line, but specialty lines and leaders come in handy when you need to throw bigger flies into a headwind or find yourself fishing deeper water, where you need to get the fly down fast.

Most of the time, I keep the leaders simple —- with a 9-foot 2 or 3X approach. Again, the main variable here is the size of the fly. There’s a difference between casting a size 10 woolly bugger and a 5-inch Game Changer.

If you have any other smallmouth suggestions, feel free to leave a comment on one of our social media pages.

A Few Father’s Day Gift Ideas from TFO

Father’s Day is almost here. Temple Fork Outfitters has you covered when it comes to gifts for dad —- rods, reels and accessories that are sure to make him smile on his special day. See below for a handful of options.

Bug Launcher

Suggested retail: $89.95-$159.95

This is the perfect starter rod for father and son. It’s light (3 ounces) and relatively short — it comes in lengths of 7 and 8 feet — so it’s great for short casts for pond fishing or to stay out of the tree limbs on small trout streams. Comes in a candy-apple red hue in weights 4-6. Cork grip is downsized for smaller hands. The NXT LA reel is the perfect companion to this little rod and reasonably priced at $79.95.

NXT Kit

Suggested retail: $199.95-$209.95

The perfect rod-and-reel setup for the novice adult angler, but it can also serve as a backup rod for the veteran angler. This outfit comes with fly line and leader, so you’re ready to hit the water instantly. The NXT Kit comes with an NXT LA reel spooled with weight-forward line, backing and leader. The rod case is a bonus, making it easier to store and travel.

Axiom II

Suggested retail: $339.95-$359.95

Arguably one of the best fly rods that TFO has made. What sets it apart is its versatility and the ability to accommodate a broad range of casting strokes and styles. Usually the angler has to adjust to the rod. Not so with the Axiom II. It tracks well with a nice feel. But fishing is more than just casting, and the A2 delivers with a degree of sturdiness that can withstand the pull of the fiercest fish. As for a reel, there’s no better option for dad than TFO’s Power ($399.95-$499.95) reel, a good-light weight, durable complement to this fine rod.

BVK

Suggested retail: $249.95-$295.95

Designed by the late Lefty Kreh and Flip Pallot, the BVK is light weight, but offers loads of power and strength. Both of TFO’s Advisors got it right in this TFO classic, which features a slick of olive finish and carbon-fiber reel seats. If you need a reel to go with this rod, look no further than the aptly named BVK reel. It’s machined aluminum, highly ported and has a stainless steel drag system, all for a good value ($159.95-$299.95).

New Zealand Strike Indicator Kit

Suggested retail: $16.95

Tis the time for nymph fishing in the heat of summer when the trout are stacked in the riffles. In this situation, you’ll want a strike indicator that rides high in the foam. And the New Zealand Strike Indicator fits that need. It’s easy to rig, adjust and it’s light enough to cast efficiently. And most important, it stays on the leader securely.

These are just a few items that TFO offers for dad. Any suggestions or questions, let us know.

Fly Fishing for Spawning Bass: Part II

Spring has started. It’s time to dust off the fly rod, and there’s no better avenue to break in the new season than by sparring with spawning bass. We caught up with TFO supporter Greg Smith of River Hills Outfitters for a few tips on largemouth on the fly.

Picking the Right Time of Year

“March through May, at least in the (Austin) Texas area. The main thing is the water temperatures, 60-degree plus water. Like all animals, they work off the moon cycles. If the water temp is right and the moon is full, they’ll start the spawn process. If it’s too cold, you’re basically looking at a full month before they decide to do it again. I think they’re looking for the right checklist. If they haven’t reached those parameters, it can be pushed back a month a lot of the time. It’s kind of an interesting thing. They definitely are working on moon cycles.”

What To Look For

“At least in the rivers that I fish, I traditionally look to the sides, with the fallen trees and current on it, the deep edge of the river, but here’s the thing: This is the one time of year to scrap all of that. Don’t cast to the deep structure and deep logs. You want to cast to the shallow gravel, medium shallow, grassy areas. Beds are easy to recognize. They’re clean washed gravel, normally in a perfect circle.”

Understanding the Food Chain and Flies

“If you’re looking to target spawning, or pre spawning fish, it needs to be something that resembles a predator to their eggs — a salamander, a crawfish, a lizard, a leech, anything that looks like that. What they’re doing is killing anything that comes near their eggs. All of those small animals in the river will take advantage and eat those eggs. That’s a whole function of them sitting on that bed and protecting those eggs that they’re so aggressive, they’ll protect their young with their life and put themselves in harm’s way to do so. … Crawfish, lizards, leeches. Even small bluegill and baitfish patterns. Those little things will do the same thing. They will try to eat the eggs. As far as flies, I tie my own stuff. None of it’s named. Everyone has their preference. There’s so much on the market these days. Pat Cohen makes some great crawfish patterns.”

The Right Equipment

“Six to eight weight rod, 10 to 15-pound tippet, 10 to 20-pound really. With the flies, go weedless as possible. By the time of year when you’re fishing, it’s when the grass really starts growing and you’re going to snag on stuff. A heavy trout setup or light redfish setup will work.

“I pretty much use TFO exclusively. I’ve probably got 20 (TFO) rods in my guide quiver. I use the BVKs a lot. I’ve got to spend a lot of quality time with (TFO advisor) Lefty (Kreh) and (I use them) out of homage to him.”

Vary Your Retrieve

“It’s a cat-and-mouse game to get them to eat sometimes. They will chase your fly a lot, but they won’t always eat, hardly ever. There is a reading of the fish and testing things. You definitely have to try a faster retrieve and see if they chase it and show more interest. Try that. If they turn off it, you have to slow it down a little bit. Sometimes you have let it sit still when they’re right up next to it and making it look like it’s going down toward their zone. Sometimes that’s the best thing. You can twitch it instead. Sometimes fishing it slower and giving the fish time to recognize it works. Moving it fast sometimes will get them to chase, but it won’t get a bite.”

 

Any more tips on fly fishing for bass? Feel free to let us know with a comment or two.