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Fifteen Minutes with Junior Ambassador Braden Miller

TFO ambassadors and advisory staffers cover a wide spectrum. Young and old. Amateur and professional. Famous and relatively obscure. Young Braden Miller is in a class by himself. After all, how many junior-high kids represent a major fly-rod company?

Braden recently joined TFO as a junior ambassador. He’s just 13, but talks fishing like a seasoned pro. TFO blog editor Mike Hodge reached out to the young man and his mom, Casey, for a brief interview. Here’s what they had to say while taking a break from a hectic afternoon schedule at their Glen Allen, Va. home.

TFO: How did you get involved with TFO?

BM: “I’ve been going to the Virginia show for the past couple years. I was showing people my flies. I got a booth and then I got asked to tie. Collins Illich stopped by and asked if I wanted to do an interview. I did an interview with Alex. Rick Pope was there talking about BVK rods. I stopped by the Edison Show, and then Lancaster was when I was asked to join the family.”

TFO: When you go to the shows, do you do the same thing that the adult ambassadors and advisory staffers do?

BM: “I go to shows. I go to the TFO booth. I go back and tie a little bit. Then I go back to the TFO booth and promote rods and talk to people.”

TFO: Let’s talk fishing. That’s probably more interesting for you to talk about. … What’s your favorite fish to catch on fly?

BM: “My favorite fish on fly would be the musky.”

TFO: Why so?

BM: “They’re a challenge to catch and they’re super powerful. Once I’ve hooked them, I’ve not be able to move them. They’d make a run and I’d have to let them run. I’d do the same thing, try to move them and let them run, until I could get them up to the boat. It’s like dead weight.”

TFO: And your favorite place to fly fish?

BM: “So far my favorite place to fish would be Alaska. The last time I went to Alaska I wasn’t super into fly fishing. I still had my fly rod there. I was fishing for rainbow trout and dolly varden.”

TFO: Any place locally in Virginia that you’re fond of?

BM: “Probably Atlantic Beach for albacore. That’s exciting.”

TFO: A lot of kids your age might be into basketball, baseball or football. Why invest so much time into fly fishing?

BM: “Early on I had a choice of fly fishing or baseball. Recently I got in car accident and broke my elbow. My shoulder got messed up and all that. Since then, I’ve been enjoying fly fishing. I can’t make any money in baseball. I can make money in fly fishing, with casting, selling flies and all that. Fly fishing, I like it. It’s calming, relaxing. It’s fun. It’s a lot of fun.”

TFO: I understand you got a chance to fish with TFO’s Blane Chocklett. Tell me what that was like.

BM: “That was awesome. I had never done any (musky) fishing like that. It was really cool. He knew exactly where the fish would be holding. The challenge was getting one to eat and hooking one and fighting it right up to the boat. He instructed me exactly how to cast, how to tease the fly. It was amazing.”

TFO: What did you learn from Blane? What’s one thing that you took away from fishing with him, that you maybe didn’t know before?

BM: “Casting. I learned a lot about casting. I was focusing on my casting instead of letting the fly actually go. Too many back casts, then I’d mess up my entire cast. And then letting the fly sink where it needed to be. That one was one of the main things, too.”

TFO: How much have your parents factored into your fly fishing?

BM: “They help with everything. Mom brings me. Dad looks after everyone else, who’s not coming. Sometimes they come to shows when they can. Mom drives me. She’s even willing to tie flies.”

TFO: Casey, what has Braden gotten out of fly fishing? What’s the value of it for him?

CM: “He has always been great in fishing, since he could walk. Fly fishing has been a totally different sport for him. He has learned more patience when it comes to fishing. Between tying his own flies and the fishing, he has really learned patience. Before, he would really be upset if he didn’t catch fish. Now he’s learned that it’s not about going out there and catching fish every time. It’s about being in the outdoors and enjoying himself. He’s really learned a lot from the people who have helped him out.”

TFO: Braden, last question, what is your favorite TFO rod and reel?

“I really like the Axiom II rods, and my favorite reel is the BVK in whatever range. I have I, II and the III. The III with a 7-weight would be my favorite combo. Super light weight. Casts like a dream. Large arbor reel. Picks up line super quick.”

Questions or comments about Braden? Feel free to visit one of our social media pages.

A Few Minutes About Musky On Fly With Blane Chocklett

When the southern mountain trout fishing slows to a crawl in the dead of winter, I hunt grouse. Now my attention has turned to fishing for musky.

The two species are different. One’s a mountain bird, the other a toothy fish, but the two have one thing in common: They are formidable quarry.

Since I used to live in Virginia, I turned to TFO advisor Blane Chocklett. The Roanoke-area resident is one of the country’s premier experts on musky.

We talked for a few minutes by phone on a dreary winter day and cobbled together the following tips for musky on fly.

Be Realistic

Musky are called the fish of 10,000 casts. Hyperbole? Perhaps. Nevertheless, expect to be on the water all day without a lot of action. If a fish follows your fly, that’s a good day. If it eats, that’s even better and if you hook one, you’ve had a great day. And if you land one, it’s time to cross another item off your bucket list.

It’s not unlike southern grouse hunting where one can walk for miles without a peep. If you flush a grouse, that’s good. If you get a shot, that’s even better. If you actually bag one, that’s something to boast about over a beer for season after season.

My ex-wife used to ask me if grouse were extinct. Spouses of musky fishermen probably ask the same question.

“On your own and not knowing where the fish are it’s a huge undertaking,” Chocklett said.  “But, it’s not impossible. Going out with me, we pretty much get fish every day, but I’ve been doing it my whole life, too.”

Stay the Course

Musky will challenge you mentally and physically. Not only will you have to cast until your arm falls off, you have to be disciplined enough to follow the fly to the boat. When the doldrums strike, invariably that’s when a musky will make its move.

Let’s say you’re on your game and hook a big fish. Prepare for a street fight. Musky generally don’t run. They prefer to brawl in a closet. Your biceps will burn, but listen to your guide. Teamwork, at this juncture, is crucial.

“You have to go into it knowing that you’re going to work hard for it,” Chocklett said. “People that get into it enjoy that challenge and they know that when they do connect, that it will be one of the biggest fish they’ve ever seen. It’s mind over matter and knowing that you’re in an uphill battle all day. It’s not easy, but when you have your mind set for that, it’s not that bad.”

The Casting

This ain’t trout fishing. It’s more akin to tarpon fishing. Big rods, big flies with heavy sinking lines. In tarpon fishing, you have to cast far with accuracy. The same is true with musky fishing — with one distinct difference. With tarpon, the name of the game is sight fishing, which means a handful of casts during the course of a day. With musky, you blind cast toward probable spots all day. The key is to make as many casts as you can without excessive false casts. The more efficient the better.

“Most people do struggle,” Chocklett said. “But we’ve made the process easier with TFO and Scientific Anglers, with the rods and the lines. We’ve made it a whole lot easier than it used to be. It comes down from everything, from materials being used and the (water) shedding capability. It’s easier now than it’s ever been.”

The retrieve can vary, but long, slow strips with a few pauses never hurts. Watch the fly all the way to the boat. A figure-8 move or a sweep of the rod can sometimes entice a strike.

Gear You Need

Count on a medium action 12-weight rod with a relatively light, serviceable reel. TFO’s Esox paired with a Power reel are good choices. A balanced rod makes casting easier. You will need a line with a sinking tip to maintain sufficient depth. Leaders are short, which helps with throwing big flies. Four feet of 30 or 40-pound flouro with 18 inches or so of wire tippet from Scientific Anglers suffices.

As for flies, Chocklett’s Game Changer in 2/0-6/0 is a good choice. The bigger the better. A 4-inch fly is small by musky standards. Ten to 12 inches is more the norm.

 

Any questions or suggestions on how to catch musky on fly? Feel free to chime in one of our social media pages.