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TFO’s Bob Clouser Talks Carp on Fly

I’ve never caught a bonefish. It’s on my bucket list, but the tropics may have to wait a few months. Fortunately, I’ve got a freshwater option close to home.

Carp.

They’re just as wily as a bone. And pound for pound they fight just as hard. And they’re cheaper. Many freshwater ponds, lakes and rivers in the continental U.S. have carp. There’s no need for a week-long trip to the Bahamas.

Once summer arrives and the water warms, it’s easy to take a break from trophy trout for carpin’. To develop a firm game plan, I turned to TFO advisor Bob Clouser, who touched on a few basics during a phone interview after taking a break from shoveling snow at his Pennsylvania home.

Patience

Carp are not easy to catch. They don’t always eat and when they’re willing to eat, they can be super spooky. Even if you make the right cast with the right fly, the stars have to align for an eat. And if you do hook up, landing one is not a given. Be prepared for a lot of trial and error along the way.

Required Skills

You need to make long casts. Forty feet will do. Sixty is better. However, distance is just one factor. Accuracy matters, too. Ideally, you want to put the fly in front of the fish and let your quarry find it, preferably near the bottom since carp like to forage in the muck.

“You don’t need to work the fly at all,” Clouser said. “You have to observe the carp and watch his lips. When they’re mudding, it’s hard to see their face. You can see their lips when they’re open. It has kind of a chartreuse look to it. It’s hard to see. There’s a saying, ‘When the light goes out, you set the hook.’ If you hesitate at all, he’ll spit that fly out. They don’t run off with it. It’s a different type sport to catch that fish.”

Reading the Fish

In trout fishing, you read the water. With carp, you read the fish. The beauty of carp fishing is its reliance on sight fishing. Look at the fish. Decide if it’s interested. Carp will sun. Ignore those. Carp will cruise. Ignore the speedsters. Take a shot at the slower fish. But even that’s a long shot. If you see a tailer, that’s the fish you want. Tailers are active feeders. Ever seen a tailing red? It’s a similar scenario. Once you discern the fish’s path, make your cast count, because chances are, you won’t get a second opportunity.

“’You have to watch them, observe them and see what they’re doing before you even cast,” Clouser said. “They are so spooky. A carp has two lateral lines. Most fish only have one. A carp has two, which makes them so sensitive. I have no idea how far they can see, but they can hear over 200 yards.”

The Gear

You’ll need a fairly sturdy rod — a 9-foot, 6-to-8-weight. Leaders, in general, need to be long. A 12-footer is not too short, but you can get by with a 9-footer, if you’re a good caster.

Try the TFO Power reel to handle those long runs. The TFO Clouser series in an 8-weight is a good complement.

“It’s easy to cast and soft enough for light tippets,” Clouser said. “It won’t break your 6 and 8-pound tippets. And I fish an 8-weight. An 8-weight will handle any size fly you need.”

Carp are primarily subsurface feeders. Crayfish are a big part of their diet. A brown or black woolly booger usually will get the job done.

That said, carp can feed on topwater or just under the surface. I hooked one — briefly —- on a berry fly. South Florida grass carp, I learned, feed on streamside berries from ficus trees. The moral of the story: Fish don’t follow a rule book. They feed on what’s available.

Thoughts on fly fishing for carp? Feel free to comment on one of our social media pages.

Five Tips to Catch Flood Tide Redfish

The sun came up early. After a long drive from the North Carolina mountains to the beaches of north Florida, I was dog tired.

But I got up to go fishing anyway. The allure of tailing redfish on the marsh is intoxicating. Sleep would have to wait.

I arrived at my favorite marsh in time. The sun was up and the tide was trickling in. After 30 minutes of walking, I arrived at my favorite spot and looked for fish. The water was shin deep, and I waited for it to reach the bottom of my knee caps. And I waited and waited and waited.

The projected flood tide never arrived. And neither did the tailing redfish.

The culprit was Hurricane Florence, which was several days away, but close enough to yield a west breeze, which stymied the tidal flow. There just wasn’t enough water for the fish to feel comfortable enough to feed.

So I trudged back home. I knew the west wind might be an issue, but I fished anyway. I have a soft spot for tailing reds. The mere sight of a spotted tail in the grass takes my breath away.

It doesn’t matter if it’s in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina or North Carolina. Where there’s a marsh, there’s usually a tailing redfish. And I will go to just about any extreme to find them.

Below are a few flood-tide tips that I learned along the way.

The Tides For REDFISH

Tidal flow is huge when it comes to flood-tide redfish. You need enough water to reach the dry areas of the marsh, so the big reds can feed on fiddler crabs. Each area has its required tidal flow to entice tailing fish. In Northeast Florida, for instance, you generally need a high tide of at least 5.2, but that designation is a mere guideline. Flats near Jacksonville don’t need as much water to flood; flats near St. Augustine and points south need a tide of 5.4, 5.5. In short, each area, each flat, has different tidal requirements. Local knowledge is key to ferreting out these nuances.

The Wind FOR REDFISH

Wind is a big factor in tidal flow. In north Florida, north or east wind pushes water on to the flat. That means you can fish longer, because you’ll have ample water. By contrast, a south or west wind pushes water off the flat, which means you’ll have less time to fish, or even worse, not enough water to cover the flat.

If you have a big tide, a southwest wind may not ruin your fishing, depending on the strength of the wind. However, if your tide is borderline with a southwest wind, the fish might not have enough water to tail, which is exactly what happened on my most recent trip.

Timing for REDFISH

Once high tide arrives, you generally have about an hour or so of good fishing before the water will recede and the fish will leave. It’s important to prepare the night before. Get up early and be on the flat well before high tide, so you can be in position before the water rises and the fish move in. If you cut it too close, you might miss opportunities. If you’re late, head to the next flat.

Mobility FOR REDFISH

Wading is a possibility and has its benefits. You don’t have to prep a boat or a kayak. All you need is a rod, reel, a sling pack and a pair of flats boots. In a matter of minutes, you can be on the water and fishing — before or after work or on your lunch break.

A boat or kayak/paddleboard requires more preparation, but offers the advantage of mobility. You can cover more ground and potentially reach more fish. Boats need a two-person approach. One fishes; the other poles. Kayaks and paddleboards are solo affairs. Kayaks are more stable; paddleboards have a better casting platform, but require above-average balance and core strength. I’ve used both. For longer trips, I use a kayak. For shorter, quick trips, I use the paddleboard.

The Equipment for REDFISH

An 8-weight Temple Fork Axiom II with a Power reel is the ticket. The Axiom will punch through the wind and the Power will handle any flood-tide red with ease. As for fly lines, I use a weight-forward line. The Rio Redfish or Cortland Liquid Crystal Guide are both good options. Rio’s lines tend to be heavier. Cortland’s lines, in my opinion, are lighter and easier to cast.

With flies, you can’t go wrong with a crab pattern. The primary food source on the marsh are fiddlers. I load up my fly boxes with EP crabs in black and tan, toad style. It doesn’t hurt to have a Gurgler or two. When fish are feeding intensely with their nose in the muck, I will cast a popper in their general vicinity to get their attention. Though counter intuitive, this approach sometimes works.

Any other advice or questions, feel free to comment on one of our social media pages.

TFO NXT Fly Rod Kit

Five Must-Have TFO Stocking Stuffers

It’s less than a week before Christmas. If you’re a little behind on your holiday shopping, Temple Fork Outfitters has you covered. Below are a handful of our newest products sure to please just about any angler.

The NXT Kit

Just getting started in fly fishing? Or maybe you know someone wants to learn? Then the NXT kit is just for you.

Let’s start with the rod. The NXT can be fished in saltwater or fresh. Its medium-fast action is strong enough to push bigger flies through the wind, but offers enough finesse for softer presentations.

Kits include a matching NXT LA I or II reel loaded with weight-forward floating line, backing and leader – all in a handsome rod and reel travel case.

Retail: $199.95-$209.95

The Axiom II     

This fly rod came out in this fall and generated rave reviews. The best thing about the Axiom II is it conforms to the angler’s casting stroke. It’s not too fast. It’s not too slow. It hits that medium sweet spot that can accommodate just about any angler.

Smooth casting is just one attribute of the Axiom II. It’s also durable, meaning you can put a good bend in the rod while fighting a fish without worrying about breakage. Rarely will you test a rod to that degree, but if you do have put the brakes on that fish of a lifetime, you want the security of sturdy, well-designed rod.

Retail: $339.95-$359.95

The Drift

We can hardly keep this fly rod in stock. Designed by TFO advisor Jason Randall, this rod meets every need of the serious nymph fisherman. It’s light, fast dampening, well balanced and has an ultra-sensitive tip that allows anglers to recognize the difference between their fly ticking the bottom and a subtle strike.

Nymph fishing is about line control. And the 9-foot Drift is extends to 10, 11 or 12 feet — perfect for when you have to reach across the stream to prevent dreaded micro drag.

Retail: $399.95

The Power Reel

TFO’s newest fly reel sports good looks and gets the job done on the water. Its drag system incorporates two Belleview washers and two carbon-fiber disc drags, components that help prevent overrun and provide plenty of fish-stopping power.

Weighing just 4.4 ounces, the Power I is surprisingly light yet sturdy, which means you won’t wear yourself out casting after a full day on the water.

Retail: $299.95-$399.95

Trout Panfish Rod

Remember those lazy days as a youngster fishing with the old push-button Zebcos? If you do, you’ll love the Trout Panfish Rod, an ultra-light setup.

Great for kids or for adults who like super-light gear. The Trout-Panfish, (TPS) series features light-weight stainless steel guides, a cutting-edge, weight-saving reel seat and premium cork. The TPS series is offered in one and two-piece spinning rods from 5 1/2’ to 7 feet.

Retail: $79.95-$89.95

Five Tips for Fly Fishing Big Water

Fly fishing is an endless series of learning curves. As soon as I mastered one concept, another emerged. So it was nearly 30 years ago for me in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. I cracked the code of small streams and spring creeks. At the wise old age of 28, I thought I had it all figured out.

Then one spring day, I fished the Jackson River with a friend of mine and long-rod mentor, Billy Kingsley. I remember staring at the rush of water for a good 10 minutes and wondering one single thing:

Where the hell are the fish? As it turned out, Billy caught dozens of fish; I never felt a single tug.

Needless to say, big water can be intimidating. With so much to cover, where do you start?

Decades later, I’m still no expert on fly fishing rivers, but here are a few tips to focus on:

Safety First

You need good boots. Don’t go cheap. Find a comfortable pair that fit with good traction and support. Your ankles and knees will thank you.

Good footwear is a start, but it never hurts to have a wading staff. Depending on the size of the river, the force of the current can be deceivingly strong. I got bowled over the first time I fished out West when I was in charge of cleaning the camp dishes after dinner. All it took was one ill-advised step toward the middle and down I went.

Moral of the story: Go slow and be careful.

Think Small

When many newcomers first fish bigger water, it all looks the same, but it’s not. Rivers are merely a bigger version of small streams with a series of pools, riffles and runs. Identify one of those sections of water, preferably one that you’re comfortable with, and fish it.

Make sure to slow down. Fish each piece of water thoroughly. With small streams, you can cherry pick quickly. Rivers, because of their sheer scope, take more of a commitment. Imagine you’re working on a puzzle. Probe each section of water one by one each trip. After a few outings, you’ll have a much better clearer roadmap to the productive water.

Use a Drift Boat

When I learned to fish in the Southeast in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, drift boats weren’t in vogue. Almost everyone waded. It wasn’t until I spent a summer out West that I learned how to fish out of — and row — a Clackacraft.

I wished I had had one sooner.

Drifting a river allows you to evaluate water from a macro perspective – from start to finish — depending on how much river you cover. And let’s not forget the obvious: You can cover a lot more potential spots drifting than you can on foot.

Expand Your Skills

When I first started on small streams, I was a lousy caster. Of course, I thought I was good. I caught a ton fish with two basic presentations — high-stick nymphing along with a puddle cast. That’s it.

Bigger water demands more. If there’s wind, you might need to double haul. A serviceable reach cast over multiple current seams and a curve cast to get under trees are also beneficial. Obviously, you can catch fish with limited skills, but you won’t catch as many fish. Bigger water offers bigger rewards, but those fish demand more versatility.

The Equipment

You will generally need a bigger trout rod. I used a 3 and 4-weight on mountain streams, but stepped up to a 6-weight on rivers. Why? The fish are bigger. And the flies can be, but certainly that’s not always the case. But the potential for bigger fish means you need a higher quality reel. TFO’s Power series offers a variety of options. And if you catch the fish, you don’t want to lose it because you’re under gunned. As far as tippet, I don’t hesitate to go up a size, unless the fish are feeding in calm, slow-moving water. In that scenario, I downsize accordingly.

Big water is challenging at first, but it doesn’t have to be.  Patience and perseverance will pay off as you ease out of your comfort level.

Introducing the Power Reel

The Axiom II rod is here. Naturally it makes sense to have a reel to complement the arrival of a new fly rod. Say hello to the TFO’s Power reel.

The official debut of the Power is set for later this fall. To give us a sneak peek, Jim Shulin and Nicholas Conklin have volunteered their time to give anglers an idea of what to expect from the new product, which has been in the works for about eight, nine months.

Nick is TFO’s Director of sales and development for two-handed fly fishing; Jim is the Director of Sales/Conventional.

TFO: What do each of you like most about the Power?

JS: “Its light and powerful drag. It’s the best reel we’ve ever done. There’s no doubt about that.

“The big thing is the drag system, which incorporates Belleville washers, which look like cymbals and two carbon-fiber disc drags. It’s a pretty common type of drag system when you look at everything. Most people use coil springs, including us in the past. You get this huge wrap-up towards the end. As the spring coils and gets more and more compressed, each click gives you a ramp up in drag, where these Belleville washers give you a very even long, one smooth turn, from zero drag to max drag in one full turn. And both of those are adjustable, by the way, the max low and the max high. They’re not independently adjustable. You start with the higher low-end drag, and when you make that one full turn, of course it’s higher on the other end, so that you can prevent overrun, things of that nature.”

NC: “Really the biggest thing with fly reels to consumers is the look — the sexiness of it. Yes, there’s a lot of machining and lightweight aluminum and componentry that goes into the Power reel. It looks good. It’s why they make so many different colors of lures and styles — to catch fishermen, not catch fish, right? If you’re looking at this reel, that might be a way to look at it, the sleeker design, the way it’s ported. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the Loop Opti reels. It’s a very similar reel. We ported it a little bit differently. The weight- savings thing is always something that catches people. Although it may be a miniscule amount, ounces, half ounces, that’s something that comes up and is brought up often on the customer-service level. The weight savings is always good. And then you have your drag; it’s sealed, which is something that’s going to catch someone’s eye and be attractive to people.”

TFO: How does it fish? I know it comes in the Power I, II and III.

NC: It has enough drag and fish-stopping power to really handle anything. We really haven’t tested it in bluewater. For the sizes and configurations, it will handle anything in freshwater and most in saltwater. It has enough fish-stopping power to handle anything.”

TFO: Any other TFO reel that you can compare the Power to?

NC: “In terms of the design look, the sexiness factor, the Atoll reel we’ve done is probably going to be the closest.”

JS: “We’ve done a lot of reels, a lot of good reels in the past. What separates this one from the others is it has a more sophisticated drag system.”

TFO: It seems like it’s a pretty good value?

 NC: “We’ve been dipping our toes into that higher-level price point fly reel. It’s getting to be a tight market. That’s a tough price point. You’re getting into some Nautilus’ and some Hatches. For us, it’s pretty high end. In the grand scheme of nicer, heavily manufactured fly reels, when you’re looking at $700, $800 bucks for a fly reel, $499 is not too bad.”

JS: “It’s not a cheap reel, but it’s incredibly capable and in keeping with our value proposition.”

 

Interested in the Power Reel?

Click here to read more about the Power Reel and here to find a dealer nearest you.