Skinny Water Charters Blog
We Are Getting Closer- Early Spring Hotspots!
By Capt. Jim Barr- 2/11/18
By my calculations from mid-February, we should be seeing the first wave of migrating schools of striped bass in Rhode Island waters in about seven weeks. Those first fish typically show in the Pawcatuck River near Westerly, RI so if you feel like braving what will still be very cool waters and air temperatures, boat and shore anglers should be catching by the second week in April. (For the Pawcatuck River a good place to get access is the cemetery off Beach St (RT1A) between Watch Hill and Westerly).
Where else should you explore? Man, the list goes on but the second most likely spot to hit early stripers is on the West Wall near East Matunuck State Beach. Be prepared to share the jetty with everybody and their brother, but if you can get to the end of the jetty, it is without question the optimal spot. If the West Wall is packed with early (or late) birds, then try the East Wall which is accessed from the Narragansett side of the Pt. Judith Pond breachway. If you know how to get to the Pt. Judith lighthouse, on your way there look for a sign marking Camp Cronin. Not as great a place as the West Wall, but definitely less crowded and the bass should be within reach. (Bring a spinning rod in case they are beyond fly casting range). Two other reliable spots to check out are the east and west corners of Sachuest Beach aka Second Beach in Middletown.
The best times to go are typically the early morning and late afternoon. Be prepared to be cold and of course wet if there is any kind of shore break. Use small patterns on Intermediate lines (also bring a spinner to make life easier if you are facing a head-wind.) For any of these early season striper spots I would suggest Clouser Minnows and Lefty's Deceivers... no magic here, the fish will be small but after this prolonged and cold weather...a good tug on the end of your line will be welcomed.
That's nice Jim, but where are your other secret spring spots? Well, here 'ya go Mate- but they really aren't so secret, after all, native Americans fished many of them hundreds of years ago!
Newport-- The ledge at Collins Beach casting towards Butterball Rock/ The jetty at Brenton Point State Park
Middletown-- Easton Point-Sachuest Point and east along the walking path/shoreline to the observation platform
Jamestown-- Beavertail Point shoreline/ Taylor Point/ Hull Cove at Short Point
Narragansett-- Bonnet Point at east end of Bonnet Shore Beach, Narrow River from the mouth of the ocean all the way to Gilbert Stuart brook
North Kingstown-- Greene Point toward the Old Sargeant just up from the west end of the Jamestown Bridge/ Rome Point towards the seal rocks and back inside in the narrows of Bissell Cove (on the drop)- Sauga Point- north towards sewer entrance/ Calf Pasture Point at high tide just north of Allen Harbor- the entire beach/ Tibbetts Creek outflow in front of Quidnessett Country Club in East Greenwich- on the drop
East Greenwich-- Marsh Point and just inside the Green or Potowomut River, near pond outflow- high tide dropping
Warwick ~ Sally Rock Point- access thru Goddard Park/ Long Point just north of Greenwich Cove- access thru Goddard/ Shoreline from Long Point to the boat ramp at Goddard/ Conimicut Point bar- be careful of dropping tide/ Greene Island structure- access via kayak from bad ramp at Occupessatuxet Cove/ Gaspee Point on moving water- either tide. The Greene Islands are HOT!
East Providence-- Sabin Point- but lock and alarm your car/ Bullock Point on the drop
Barrington-- entire Barrington River and Hundred Acre estuary via kayak/ Little Island at the junction of the Barrington River and the Palmer River moving water/ Grinnel Point in the Palmer River on the drop
Bristol-- Mill Gut inside Colt State Park- fish on the drop. At the high tide explore the pond on the inside/ Bristol Narrows on the drop/ Cole River where it squeezes through the narrows near Ocean Grove- on the drop and at the Rt 103 bridge
Swansea-- Lee River where is passes beneath the Rt 103 bridge and the narrows- South Swansea
Portsmouth--Common Fence Point- catch the drop of the small pond as you face Roger Williams College/ McCorrie and Sandy Points
Tiverton-- Sapowet Marsh and Sapowet Point- also Jack's Island
Fly Rod Grip Repairs
By Captain Jim Barr- 2/11/18
Following years of aggressive casting and exposure of your fly and spinning rods to the ravaging effects of sun, rain, salt spray, scrapes, drops- etc, the cork grip of your favorite rod is generally the first to show aging and even what may appear at first to be irreplaceable damage. Before you think about replacing those rods outright, or having the grip replaced which is rather labor and craft intensive process and which may take that rod out of service for longer than you'd like, there is another alternative, restoring the grip.
Typically what happens to a cork grip over time is that the cork gets “slimed” from oil on the angler’s hand, slime from fish, sometimes mold if the rod is not completely dried before returning it to it’s protective sleeve and case. In these cases, simply put the rod in bright sun for a day to completely dry the grip. Then with fine grit sandpaper or emery cloth gently sand the grip from top to bottom, evenly rotating it so that you remove the same amount of surface dirt and cork material from all sides. If the cork is mostly free from divots and checks where the cork has degraded or filler material has been knocked out or worn thin, this gentle sanding process will lighten the cork and basically restore it to an acceptable state.
In other cases after you have sanded the cork in order to do a closer evaluation of it’s condition, you may find cavities in varying sizes where the cork surface has lost chunks of material. You can very easily and quickly restore the grip with a few materials and 30 minutes of labor.
1. Elmer’s Carpenter’s Wood glue
2. A wine bottle cork (real cork, not the synthetic material variety)
3. A “fine” steel file (wire brush it first to remove any metal filings in the grooves and then degrease it so it’s clean)
4. A popsicle stick or a cheap plastic knife (readily available at most fast foot joints)
5. Fine sandpaper with open grit
1. Lightly sand the cork grip to remove surface gunk and make sure the grip is perfectly dry
2. Use a needle, bodkin or paper clip to remove any loose cork material inside and adjacent the gaps and checks in the grip.
3. Create an adequate supply of “cork dust” by filing the wine cork. Save the cork dust into a small container like a 35 mm plastic film can (that show’s you my age), or a tiny jar, to keep it dry.
4. Squeeze an appropriate amount of Elmer’s Wood Glue onto a sheet of wax paper, tin foil or cardboard.
5. Sprinkle the cork dust into the pool of glue and thoroughly mix it so it has an even consistency. Too much dust will make too thick a paste, too little and the glue will be runny. Experiment by adding more glue and more dust until you get a nice slurry of material that you can pick up with the popsicle stick or plastic knife.
6. Push the cork/glue slurry into each of the cracks, checks, holes etc until you have filled all of them. Squeegee these imperfections carefully to remove extra material.
7. Set the rod aside to dry for the day.
8. Once the material is thoroughly dry, very gently sand the entire cork grip with your fine sand paper and/or emery cloth.
9. Voila… a nicely restored grip
Largemouth in heavy cover
As a kid we always lived near water and my family would "maintain" a small fleet of leaky wooden boats complete with cantankerous small outboard engines that were always breaking down. I got pretty handy with a wrench and screwdriver just enough to keep them running most of the time, however a strong set of oars, a supply of shear pins, and a bailing can were oftentimes vital in returning home after a day or evening on the water. So, after scouting prime largemouth bass water as a "Navy Seal in training", I would return and catch those fish with my cheapo spinning rod and black plastic rubber worms and hula poppers. Summertime was dreamy for this country boy.
One of my first boats
My father was a businessman, an inventor of sorts, a family man for sure, and of course, a fisherman. He was a pattern maker in the Navy during WW2 and no doubt it was this experience that gave rise to him becoming one of the original MacGyver's, the products and processes he would come up with were amazing. He also had a very keen wit and was a big practical joker.
So the following story stars Jim Sr., Jim Jr. (me) and one of my dad's best friends, Johnny Haren. We lived in upstate New York, Schuylerville to be exact. My dad was the operations manager at a paper company in town and Johnny Haren was one of his production supervisors. Johnny was dad's best friend, also a Navy alum, a short guy, kinda pudgy, a bit nervous, quick witted and very talkative, mostly about stupid shit as I recall, and best of all, Johnny was a good fisherman. Anyway, they were quite the pair and when they could find the time, fished together and exaggerated about most everything fishy.
We lived in the country, half way between Schuylerville and Saratoga Springs and behind the house were open fields full of woodchucks and arrowheads. Fish Creek (how appropo) bordered these fields. It was a muddy creek full of walleyed pike, pickerel, bass, carp and a variety of panfish... and huge snapping turtles. I was about 10 years old at the time and while fishing from my rowboat (by myself) in a sheltered and shallow mucky cove, I encountered a snapping turtle that must have been damn near two feet across. I had hooked a small bass and the turtle chased it to the boat. Upon returning to the house I told my father the story. After a minute or so, he asked me if I thought I could find that turtle again, and I told him I thought I could.
"Let's go get that turtle... get a rope from the garage and the big net".
"Dad, there's no way that turtle will fit in the net, why don't we just leave it alone or maybe kill it, after all it's eating all the fish and probably the ducks too, besides it gives me the creeps!"
"Nope" he said, "we're going to catch it!"
"Catch it!... Dad the thing is huge, it bites, it hisses, it's covered in moss and it stinks!"
"Don't argue with me, go get the big net and a rope in the garage and throw them in the station wagon, and don't tell your mother anything... got it?"
"Yes sir", I said.
Holy shit, I thought to myself, I should have kept my mouth shut.
Dad drove the station wagon through the back yard, across the field to the dirt landing where the rowboat was tied up. "Let's go",he said, as he threw the net and rope into the boat and untied it from the tree , "you row!"
After ten minutes of rowing the boat and thinking to myself the whole time where this caper was going, we drifted into the cove where the turtle lived.
"Pole the boat with an oar to where you last saw that turtle", he directed me. In short order we saw some lily pads moving with the characteristic trail of bubbles coming from the bottom as the turtle was clawing its way through the muck trying to get away from us.
As I got closer to the lead bubbles my father rigged a noose with the rope and readied the net. "Get up on top of him and pin him to the bottom with the oar", he commanded.
This was about to get real serious, I was convinced my father really didn't appreciate how big this thing was! I was thoroughly confused, my heart raced, I gulped for air, WTF dad! (I thought). But he was all business, determined, kinda crazy. Is this gonna be a turtle soup venture?... no freakin' way I thought.
I pushed up on the turtle in about two feet of water, I attempted to pin it to the bottom but missed and hit it on the rear of it's massive shell. Up it came head first, mouth open and hissing. As the boat rocked Dad pushed the net over it's head and one of it's claws. It's jaws crunched into the aluminum net hoop, it's claw became instantly entangled, and now we were fast to this massive, strong, prehistoric and pissed off carnivorous predator.
"Here, you take the net, I'm gonna get a line on a rear claw", my father shouted. The thrashing turtle damn near pulled me out of the boat, while my father deftly lassoed a leg as if he were a cowboy roping a steer. We had him!... or he had us.
Now what? I thought.
Back to the landing I rowed, with turtle in tow as my father somehow managed to keep it from capsizing our fragile craft. "You take the rope, I'll take the head, and we'll load it into the wagon.
"Just do it!!"
The look on my mother's face was incredulous, if she had a gun~ dad would have been a gonner for sure as we proceeded to unload the turtle into the garage.
Dismissing my mother's protests, he ordered me to the shed to get a shovel and the push broom.
"Stop it, don't worry- we're not going to kill it", he said, "I'm gonna play a joke on Haren!"
Upon returning to the now stinking and muddy garage, I discovered that my father had the turtle tied spread-eagle fashion so that it could not move. With the shovel and push broom he cleared the moss, slime and leeches off the shell. "OK, now we're gonna leave this guy here till tomorrow when the shell should be dry", he said.
That night mom fixed dinner for just my brother and me, dad was on his own, which seemed cruel at the time but in retrospect, was probably appropriate. Things were a bit tense in the Barr household that night until my father was forced to share his plan with only my mother. She directed him to sleep in the breezeway that night, paying a slight penance for what she perceived as bordering on animal cruelty.
After returning from church the next morning my father told me to put on some old clothes and fetch a paint brush and a can of white refrigerator paint from his workshop.
"Just do it" he ordered, with a twisted smile. "I'm gonna fix Haren!"
The next day after the paint was sufficiently dry, we retraced the drive to the landing, whereupon I rowed the boat back to the cove with the turtle in tow. Dad cut the turtle free and away it swam into the murky deep.
About two weeks later, Dad invited Haren to go fishing with him in Fish Creek. He told Haren he knew of a cove that had some big largemouth bass in it. Haren was excited to try some new water. He was his typical self I was later told, yakkity yak, fidgety, a comment about everyone and everything at the shop...
Dad poled the rowboat deep into "Turtle Cove" as it became known in our family. He loved it when his plan came together, as it did that morning.
With his best friend in the bow, and the fish biting, on a warm summer Saturday morning, he poled the rowboat into the turtle's lair... alas the same moving lily pads with the trail of bubbles. There it was... Haren stared into the water in utter disbelief.
Dad related the story at our dinner table that night... I remember his words and his expressions as if it were yesterday. He said he had never once seen his friend absolutely speechless, without so much as a peep... white knuckles gripping his fishing rod as he nervously peered into the water and shook to his core.
(Obviously this is not the original photo, I don't believe we even took one. The script was written across the back of the turtle so it could easily be seen from above. I never saw that turtle again but I'm sure somebody must have, perhaps there's another similar story out there from an angler who knew Johnny Haren- wouldn't that have been a gas!)
Worm Hatch- Ninigret Pond
Molly Semenik, self, 3rd Beach Middletown, RI
Ken Durk- West Wall Narragansett, RI
Heidi Flagg- Ninigret Pond
Some fly anglers often get coils in their fly lines and they are quick to blame the manufacturer of the line, the age of the line, or the Guide for not cleaning and stretching the lines in advance of a charter. I can only speak for myself and it may be true with other guides that their lines are dirty, twisted, old or of poor quality etc. I buy only the best fly lines available (RIO Products) and those lines are replaced about every other year, and they are properly maintained throughout each guiding season.
From where I stand behind the center console I can see everything going on inside the rub rails, as well as on the water. The chief cause for poorly performing fly lines aboard my boat are three: 1. The angler is constantly standing on the coiled fly line with their soiled shoes. Just the walk between where the angler parks their car at the boat ramp to my boat, will result in the angler picking up on their shoes- oil from the asphalt, sand, small stones and broken shells, fish guts, gasoline, bird droppings, etc. Most of this junk ends up on the floor of my boat- front to back. 2. The weight of the angler standing in their shoes that are coated in this parking lot crud is then ground into the fly line on which they are standing most of the day, and 3. As the fly line is stepped on, it often rolls (twists) as the angler moves about resulting in a coiled fly line. Some of the crud comes off and some of the coils unroll during the cast and the retrieve, but much of it does not. Some of these conditions can be avoided by having the angler clean their shoes on a small carpet before they board. I have a small one that I unroll that helps eliminate some of the problem. As for the coils caused by a twisted fly line, they can be mostly eliminated by the angler using a stripping basket that fastens to their waist, or the angler stripping their fly line into one of the two large "leaf barrel" containers I have aboard.
Another chief cause for coiled fly lines is the manner in which the fly angler fails to manage their fly line lying on the deck between casts. I have had anglers who begin by casting a beautiful line, good form, reasonably tight loops that unroll nicely, smooth rod accelerations to hard and high stops, etc. However, as the hours pass, those same anglers can start developing coils by "short stripping" line that piles inside itself, as well as line that gets blown about the boat from ambient wind conditions and when we relocate to other water. Some of these coils are nearly impossible to untangle once a fish eats the fly and takes off. With a hard charging fish these coils quickly morph into knots too large to pass through the guide set.
Take for example a False Albacore that once hooked instantly races away from the boat at breakneck speeds. Here's a common scenario for the angler who hooks an Albie 50 feet from the boat. If we have a 9 foot leader, that means there's about 41 feet of plastic coated fly line beyond the reel (towards our pissed off tuna). There is also a varying length of line on the deck near the anglers feet that has been stripped during the retrieve from the 60-65 foot cast. With no tangles in the fly line, the 60 feet remaining on the deck and on the reel of the total 100 foot long fly line, will disappear in roughly 3 seconds, taking into account that the fish will not attain warp speed immediately (which is 60 feet/second or 40mph!). Ok, now you are almost instantly into your backing and your jaw has dropped in disbelief that this fish is so strong and fast. You keep your fingers away from the knob on the fly reel as the RPM's speed up, and you do not attempt slowing the fish by palming the reel spool until the Albie begins to slow... you let simply let her go, keeping the rod at anywhere between parallel with the water or maybe at 30 degrees from the surface. It's all good, you are in some degree of control as you begin to gain line and play the fish back to the boat.
OK, now let's change the model. You have made your 65 foot cast, and you have some extra fly line on the deck (and on the reel of course). However inside that loose deck line there may be one or more coils of line piled on itself. Those coils have formed due to crud on your shoes, a line that's been rolled over repeatedly by you stepping on it, perhaps the wind has blown the line around mixing these coils helter-skelter around your feet. Ms. Albie then eats your fly, you go tight in a nano-second, line instantly jumps off the deck on it's way through your line hand and into your first and second stripping guides. The coils get pulled at great speed and force and instantly tighten and become a series of small, medium and large knots that quickly hang up, and jam into part of your guide set.
Several things can then happen at warp speed, 1. You break off the fish because your tippet snaps as it can't handle the force of the weight and speed of the fish. 2. The fouled guides get bent or even break off the rod, and you also lose the fish, and 3. You totally lose it, drop the rod and there goes someone's $1,700 fly rod, reel and fly line combo into Davy Jones' Locker.
So what are the lessons learned, or "Hotwash" to prevent this from reoccurring?
1. Keep your shoes clean
2. Do not step or roll your shoes on the fly line
3. Strip the fly line into large coils
4. Always watch the line on the deck before and after you cast to make sure there are no coils that can become knots
5. Use a stripping basket or a stripping bucket provided by the guide that keeps the fly line off the deck and loosely arranged.
6. If your fly line has the traditional monofilament core, the line should be stretched in advance of the fishing outing to remove coils brought on by the line being stored on the reel.
OK, so I have discussed the most common and easily remedied prevention techniques for avoiding coils in fly lines. Let's review the less obvious malady... the fly cast itself. This too can be easily remedied once the casting fault has been discovered. I saw this situation occur several times this season, and it occurred with two experienced and pretty good fly anglers. Each angler had a casting stroke that had the tip of the fly rod moving in an elliptical path. In fly casting the fly line always travels the same path as the fly rod tip.
For many casts the angler attempts to achieve what we casting instructor geeks refer to as straight-line casting. In both cases with these two anglers, their standard (all day) overhead casts were rounded, oval or circular in movement. **This is unlike the "Belgian" cast which has the rod traveling in an oval path, with the line in
the backcast traveling in a low trajectory and on a continuous path that then sweeps up into a high plane forward stroke. The Belgian cast is a great cast for handling heavy and wind resistant flies, for fishing with limited backcast room, and because the backcast does not cross it's own path, this circular rod tip and fly line path may assist the caster to eliminate wind knots and tailing loops. It also is a great cast if the angler has a strong wind coming from behind. By keeping the rod tip and line at a low trajectory in the backcast, the line is less impaired by the wind. Then with the sweep and "angled-up" forward stroke in a high plane rod path- when the rod is stopped and the angler shoots the line, the tailwind catches the line pushing it downwind for very long presentations. (But I digress too much)
Back to my charter guests. Their standard overhead forward and back cast strokes were not of the Belgian variety. If you were to view those strokes from directly above each angler what you would see is the tip of their fly rod tracking in a very shallow and long oval path, not a straight-line path. Tracking is the bird's eye view of the path of the rod tip during the stroke. There are two main faults, the first is the backcast stroke not being in line with the forward stroke, and the second is a forward cast not being in line with the back. Most fly casters throw their backcast at about 20 degrees off to the side, however these gentlemen had a back cast considerably beyond 20 degrees. With each forward and backcast stroke that employs their long and wide path, the angler is unknowingly inserting twist into the fly line. Over a fairly short period of false casting, the line twist occurring will result in the fly line developing coils and knots, that can be virtually impossible to easily and permanently remove. The most effective technique to remove these coils is to clip off the fly, strip all the fly line from the reel and troll at slow speed with the fly line trailing behind the boat, then rewinding the line and retying the fly. This takes time away from fishing.
So what's the Hotwash here?
1. Understanding that it may be your elliptical casting stroke that is causing your fly line to twist and develop coils so that it begins to look and act like the Slinky toy.
2. Find a Certified Fly Casting Instructor, and have him/her analyze your casting stroke, and coach you on how to change it so that it is closer to a straight-line path.
3. A self correction is for the caster to lay out a straight 100' foot long rope or hose on the grass. If the angler stands at the 50 ft mark and begins to do a series of false casts, while carefully watching the path of the fly line in the backcast, they should readily see how their backcast is tracking relative to the forward cast in relation to the rope or hose.
The following link takes you to an article that appeared some time ago that provides further detail on fly line tracking. Sexyloops/ Fly Line Tracking
be willlng to bet that 95% of New England saltwater fly anglers use the
standard 9 foot fly rod paired with a variety of weight forward
floating, intermediate and sinking head fly lines as they fish for our
customary species of stripers, blues, bonito and false albacore. How
Perhaps as many as half of those anglers fish from a standup-type of boat, which for this article excludes various paddle craft. (Don't get me wrong, I like fishing from my kayak and canoe but from the standpoint of this article- for the most part they are not applicable to the case I'm about to make for a change in approach.) I'm talking about a boat anywhere from 12 feet and longer- where the angler has the luxury of standing as they cast. Many of those mid to larger watercraft have lots of "things" that can get in the way of effectively using the conventional 9 foot fly rod with a standard fly line that typically requires a minimum of 35 feet of fly line outside the tip top (not including leader and tippet) to properly load the rod. So we have a boat with a center console, t-top, antenna's, rod holders, engine, other anglers... and then we combine all that stuff that gets in the way of an arcing fly rod- with anywhere between 35 and 50 feet of fly line and leader, with wind of varying speeds and direction plus a rolling and pitching boat. It's no wonder most anglers would rather fish with a zip gun (spinning rod) than tempt fate with a fly rod.
Ok, so let's change up the fly casting model and use a different setup. Let's cast with one of the several short fly rods that have been developed over the last few years. The rods that readily come to mind are the Sage Bass II Largemouth (7'11" in 330 grain), the TFO Hawgleg, that was made exclusively for Bass Pro Shops/ White River Fly Shop (7'11" in 7/8 weight), and the Loomis Pro 4x SHORTSTIX (7'6" in 8/9 weight). The Sage and Loomis rods are four-piece models, and the Hawgleg is a two-piece rod. The Sage retails for about $550, the Loomis for $400 and the TFO Hawgleg is the bargain rod at about $150.
Now let's pair the shorter fly rod with a shooting head fly line system. This is in lieu of the standard weight forward floating and varying sink rate fly lines plus dacron backing that you would have spooled onto separate reel spools that would snap into your fly reel frame. This is the approach that Spey anglers use when fly fishing for salmon and steelhead. Instead of having multiple spools with different lines, the angler has one reel spooled with fly line backing which is then attached to a length of running or "shooting" line. RIO Product's Powerflex Max Shooting Line is 100 feet long and is the same thickness it's entire length. The line floats and has welded loops on both ends. It has an extremely tough outer coating, over a medium stiff core that shoots with ease.
The angler carries a zippered wallet that stores a variety of coiled Shooting Heads. These are anywhere between 24 and 30 feet long, also with welded loops on both ends. The RIO Outbound Short Shooting Heads are 30 feet long and come in Floating, Intermediate sinking (1.5 inches per second), and faster sink rates of 3-4 ips and 6-7ips. The angler then connects the Head of choice using a loop to loop system.
Unlike the standard weight forward fly lines that most anglers typically use that require a full 35 feet of fly line to be outside the tip top to properly load the rod, the Shooting Head system only requires the caster to have about 25 feet of fly line outside the tip top in order to load the rod. Also, unlike using the conventional weight forward fly line that requires the angler to utilize several false casts (at a minimum) to load the rod and to attain the necessary line speed to shoot the line to the target, the Shooting Head system minimizes the false casting to one backcast before the angler can easily shoot the line. This is because the shooting heads have more mass and are heavier than the first 35 feet of the standard weight forward fly line. This additional weight does a vastly more efficient job in pulling the reserve shooting line from the deck or stripping basket through the guide set on the fly rod. The result: Further casting distance, less work from reduced false casting and line pickup, and the ability to cast more quickly, while simultaneously taking up less backcast space to make the cast.
These changes in fly line dynamics combined with a shorter, faster loading fly rod results in a more efficient casting stroke that takes up a lot less space than the conventional combination, yet still provides good control and lifting power when playing strong and fast saltwater fish.
with two flies simultaneously is a very effective technique for
"upping" your catch rate. It only stands to reason if you increase the
number of flies you are presenting to fish, that you therefore increase
the odds that a fish will see and eat your fly pattern. The trouble
comes into play when the second fly tangles on the leader during your
casting creating a mess. Generally there are three methods to attach two
(or more) flies to a leader: attaching the dropper fly (tied onto a
section of tippet) to the bend of the hook of the point fly, secondly,
attaching the dropper fly to a piece of tippet material tied to the eye
of the hook of the point fly, and thirdly tying the dropper fly to the
tag end of leader ahead of the point fly. Sounds confusing, right?
The "Belgian" or Oval Cast
Many fly anglers have essentially two fly casts in their inventory, the standard Overhead Cast, and the Roll Cast. These by far are the most commonly used, even by experienced fly casters. There are however a multitude of other types of casts that we use in fly fishing for situations brought on by the different flies we are casting, different fly lines, wind direction and speed, and leader construction. One of my favorite "alternative" casts is the Belgian cast, sometimes referred to as the oval, elliptical, tension, circular, horseshoe, swing-around, wind and constant pressure casts. This is a constant motion cast where the rod never stops, distinguished from the standard overhead cast that has a start and a stop motion on the forward and back casts.
|Macauley Lord's Fly Casting "Bible"|
- it helps in casting heavy sinking tip and shooting head fly lines
- it eliminates much of the risk of weighted fly patterns colliding into the rod on the forward and back casts, which can damage the rod
- it's a great technique to use when casting in very windy conditions. If the angler were to use the standard overhead cast at the higher casting planes, it would often result in the fly line getting knocked down by the force of the wind
- For a strong headwind, it's important to keep the fly line at a low plane on the forward cast. The wind speed is lower closer to the surface of the water. So, on the back cast I instruct the caster to use an overhead (or high plane) back cast at perhaps a 60 degree angle to the water's surface (90 degrees would have the rod pointing to 12 o'clock) and allow the wind to push or carry the fly line out, but then to angle downward and then in a circular or elliptical fashion make a low, sidearm forward cast to the target just above the water's surface.
|"Flyrod" Frank Farraye MD|
- For a strong tailwind, the reverse motion described above would be employed. Here, I would instruct the caster to make a low sidearm back cast to keep the line close to the water's surface (again lower wind speed), but then to angle up in a circular or elliptical fashion and make a very high forward cast/presentation. Releasing the fly line at a high position takes advantage of the strong tailwind, causing the line to billow-out, resulting in a very long cast. An added technique one can employ is to introduce a short "haul" or tug as the line straightens, to help turn over the leader and fly.
The link below takes you to an excellent article on the Belgian Cast authored by my friend Macauley "Mac" Lord, Master Casting Instructor with the International Federation of Fly Fishers, and head of the L.L. Bean Fly Fishing Schools.
|Loon UV Knot Sense|
One of the most frequently asked questions from new charter guests is "how did you get into fly fishing?" I tell them that I was actually shamed into it by a co-worker in my days as a corporate insurance geek. I'll digress a bit to set the background.
Worm and bobber fishing was how many of us were introduced to fishing, whether by a parent or with a close friend in the neighborhood, that's pretty much how it began for me. My father was a businessman, a busy guy with a demanding job that had him working long hours, but on weekends beginning about 1955, he often took my brother and me fishing to a nearby lake in rural Ohio. Reflecting back on it now, it was kind of a weird place. A dairy farmer with a lot of pasture land, in an effort to supplement his meager income, bulldozed a giant hole in his "back 40" and in short order groundwater filled the hole and voila, the pasture morphed into a fishing pond. He stocked it with largemouth bass, a variety of panfish and even hornpout. He had created a pay to play fishing pond and after hanging a sign on a utility pole at the head of his gravel driveway, he was in business. I think he did pretty good because it was always busy with families. We went there often and it was fun.
Simultaneously my mother's family operated a small ranch in the foothills of Wyoming's Big Horn mountains just south of Sheridan. Most summers our family would make the long drive from Ohio to visit and vacation with my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. My father would stay for a couple of weeks and then return to Ohio while the rest of us would take up residence for a couple of months before returning home. My brother and I would help with ranch chores ranging from milking cows, branding cattle, repairing fences, bailing hay, etc... but on many weekends my relatives would load their pickups and everyone would go camping in the mountains. Near our campsite we would trout fish in small creeks, my grandfather using his bamboo fly rod, and me using the equivalent of a Zebco outfit. Our trout would go into the creel and would be fried up for lunch or dinner. Catch and Release was when you screwed up.
"Monster" Pickerel- 1958
Leaky wooden fishing boat - 1964
Fast forward twenty-five years, a period that included college, a relocation to Rhode Island, weekend backpacking, mountaineering and rock climbing in The White's, a marriage, three great children, lots of personal and business golf, (very little fishing), and a demanding corporate insurance job that included (in retrospect) too much travel.
Late in that period, on a Monday morning I'm changing-up in my company's fitness center locker room and while making small talk with Alan (one of my co-workers), he asks about my weekend. "Yeah, pretty good I responded, I got a chance to do some canoeing and fishing on the Wood River. I caught some really nice rainbow trout." Alan's response was something along the lines of, "... so what were they hitting?" I answered that I got them on a small black Roostertail. A very long pause...I still remember the raised eyebrows and the grimace that overtook his face, "... a Roostertail!, are you shitting me, you fish with a spinning rod?!!" "Well yeah, what's wrong with that?" I responded .
(An aside ...This exchange reminded me of a vignette in the men's room at the high brow Algonquin Club in Boston while on a business luncheon about the same time. I'm at a urinal doing my thing and this prep school stuffed shirt businessman pulls in next to me, looks over in a semi-condescending manner, nods, unzips, does his thing. A minute goes by, I zip up and am on my way to the door, when Mr. Ivy League interrupts and blurts abruptly, "You know, at Harvard we were taught to always wash our hands after we urinate". Ballsy I thought.
Out of nowhere I found myself responding , "Well at UMass we were taught not to pee on our fingers".)
Ok, enough digression... back to Alan's highbrow insinuation that my fishing success was somehow beneath his dignity, that trout fishing should only to be done using an artificial fly . (...and maybe from his perspective one also had to wash their hands after handling the little trout, just like Mr. Ivy League).
So... week after week in the fitness center I would be subjected to what seemed like an unending torture from my waterboarding friend Alan. Same question from him, same answer from me (well maybe the lure of choice that weekend was a green Roostertail ). This went on for weeks, then months . Sometimes the query would vary slightly ...."so are you STILL fishing with a spinning rod?"
I had had enough by the end of that summer ... I was going to learn to fly fish and shut this guy up once and for all . I had to make a business trip to Los Angeles in a couple of weeks. At the time I subscribed to Backpacker Magazine. Each issue contained a one page article entitled "Weekend Wilderness". I pulled out all my back issues and low and behold I found an article about a combination backpacking and fishing excursion into the Golden Trout Wilderness situated on the southeastern flank of the Sierra Nevada mountains, a few hours drive from LA... this I thought, would be my chance. I could pack in solo to a remote stream, set up camp for a few days and teach myself how to fly fish, hell it couldn't be that hard, I had pretty good eye-hand coordination, I could play a reasonable game of golf, how difficult could fly casting be? The fact that I would be in a remote area was also appealing... no one to watch in amusement and critique me . Perfect!
In short order I found an LLBean catalog and telephoned-in (no internet then) my order for the LLBean Beginner's Fly Fishing Kit... $100... 5 weight rod (whatever that was), backing, floating fly line (weren't they all), a leader, a few flies, and an instruction book on how to assemble the whole thing, together with basic diagrams on how to make a few rudimentary casts. Perfect! A few days later the kit arrived. I packed my business bag and briefcase together with my backpack with the fly fishing kit strapped to it and I was off to the airport.
LLBean Starter Fly Fishing kit
Following the business part of the trip, I rented a car and drove east through the desert, 150 miles to Inyokern, then northwest on US 395 to Nine Mile Canyon Rd. to a pullout at the end of the gravel road. I strapped on my pack and hiked down several miles into Rockhouse Basin. The trail descended into a canyon, at the bottom of which lay the south fork of the Kern River (just like the article read). Paradise Found! I added a couple of miles further downstream for extra privacy, finally settling into my camp for the next three days. It was there on the bouldered shoreline of the Kern that I unpacked my fly fishing kit, assembled it step by step according to the instruction book, then practiced my casting... and the best part, proceeded to catch many willing Brook, Rainbow and Lahontan Cutthroat trout.
South Fork Kern River (internet photo)
South Fork Kern River (internet photo)
Lahontan Cutthroat (internet photo)
I likened that fishing trip to what it felt like as a child to have my father unbolt the training wheels from my bike, and following a few crashes, suddenly experiencing the thrill of finding myself balanced and riding on two wheels. Camping and learning to fly fish, and catching trout on the South Fork of the Kern River in southern California was a unquestionably a magical experience. In retrospect, in many ways a turning point in my life.
So that's my not so short story on how and where I learned to fly fish. Since then, to say it consumed my life, would be an understatement.
When I saw Alan in the fitness center the following week and he asked if I had gone fishing the past weekend... I responded affirmatively, and then proceeded to tell him my story. Since that time Alan and I have fly fished together many times and when we do, I often close my eyes and mentally taste those precious days on the Kern. Thank you Alan , a debt of gratitude is owed.
Self & Alan Passante- Bighorn River- 2002
If you've never been on a guided fishing trip the following points should help you be better prepared and make your trip more enjoyable and hopefully productive.
1.Fishing unfamiliar waters? ...save the first day of going fishless, and up the odds that on successive days and return trips by hiring a guide. Guides are expensive but they spend a lot of Time on the Water. Learn from them and if possible, guide yourself on the following days or on your next trip.
2.Guides know their waters at all times of the day, at all tides, and in all seasons. They know what fly patterns to use and which presentation techniques work.
3.Before casting, understand the wind direction and check your back casting room for obstructions- such as the guide, your fishing partner, the boat antenna etc. Use the back hand or off shoulder cast to keep the fly line from crossing over the boat and getting hung up or worse-yet, causing injury.
4.Use stripping baskets on boats for line control, particularly if you are experiencing windy conditions.
5.When the guide tells guests to pull their lines as he is about to move, do it immediately- lines can get tangled in the prop very easily that results in losing valuable time, and worse yet causing equipment damage.
6.As an angler you should always have at minimum 10 feet of fly line (no including leader and tippet) outside the tip top and a minimum of 30 feet of line at your feet or in a stripping basket. You need to be ready to make several false casts to get your 30 feet of fly line aerialized to effectively load the rod to make the cast.
7. Things to do before and during your fishing each day:
•Cast for several minutes to warm-up especially if sight casting. This improves your timing, loosens you up, develops confidence, and shows the guide how you cast
•Have your terminal tackle prepared if using your equipment
•Make sure hooks are sharp
•Stretch the fly lines you are going to use
•Have already cleaned your line and leaders and inspect them for nicks and frays and change them if necessary
•Check that all knots are strong
8.If you have hired a guide...help the guide. Be upfront and honest about your experience and particularly your casting abilities. Don't be locked into using a fly rod if your skills are inadequate or if conditions make it difficult to use a fly rod i.e. too much wind, too bumpy, or a low tide that does not allow the guide to position the boat close to productive water.
9.All eyes and ears are focused on the job at-hand. When fishing difficult areas with rocks, swells/waves- help the guide with input on water depth, an oncoming swell, and alerts about navigational and lobster pot buoys.
10.Your guide is not your butler. The guide's principal job is to put you ONTO fish. He cannot catch fish for you.
11.If you are on a guided trip and you're into Bluefish... let the guide handle the fish and to crush the hook barb, do not risk injury that requires a trip to the Emergency Room to remove a hook or stitch a laceration.
12.Tell the guide in advance if you cast right or left handed, this will help the guide attempt to position the boat best for each of you given your respective casting skills.
13.If your guided trip is mostly about learning a fishery and less about catching a lot of fish...advise the guide accordingly and ask him to spend more time than usual talking about how best to fish that fishery. The good guides will help you, the selfish ones will be closed-mouthed.
14.Some anglers are trophy hunters, others just want to catch a few fish and others may just want to learn a fishery. Discuss your preferences at the beginning of the outing.
15.If you have any special medical, dietary or drinking restrictions, they need to be discussed with the guide before your fishing day begins.
16.If you are going to use your equipment, tell the guide in advance of your intentions. You will frustrate the guide and yourself if you are fishing with equipment not up to the task.
17.Sometimes a guide acts as a referee between two anglers who are competing for the optimal casting position on the boat. Accept the guide's recommendation, he can allocate the preferred casting positions fairly.
- Saltwater Quick Cast- typically used by an angler on a flats or bay boat who needs to make an accurate and fast cast to moving fish in relatively calm water. This cast is imperative to know when fishing for Bonefish, Tarpon and Permit, and for Bonito and False Albacore in New England waters.
- Single Haul- this is "one-half" of a double haul. It is designed to help speed-up a number of types of casts and to quickly achieve higher line speed and distance.
- Double Haul- used to achieve higher line speed, greater distance and with less false casting. This cast and the Single Haul are imperative for anglers fishing in windy conditions and who may be casting large air resistant fly patterns.
- Off Shoulder Cast- this cast is helpful to the angler who has wind blowing against their casting arm/shoulder where the fly line passes perilously close to the angler on both the forward and back casts, and when the angler needs to present a fly when a traditional back cast cannot be made due to wind or obstructions.
- Roll Cast- typically used to cast the line when there is no room to make a traditional back cast due to obstructions such as bushes, trees, a boat's center console, another angler on the boat etc. This can be combined with the Off Shoulder casting technique. The Roll Cast can also be used very effectively to quickly reposition line and to assist in stages of repositioning a sinking line closer to the water's surface in preparation for a cast.
- Single Water Haul- using the surface tension of the water to load the rod in preparation for the backcast to achieve additional distance.
- Double Water Haul- using the surface tension of the water to load the rod on both the forward and back cast as a setup to a high overhead forward cast.
- Long-Line pickup- a casting technique used to pick up very long lengths of fly line in preparation for a forward cast.
- Casting with the Wind at your Back- a variety of techniques to take advantage of wind blowing from behind the angler to achieve significant increases in casting distance.
- Casting into the Wind- techniques to help the caster achieve higher line speed and presentation angles to be able to mitigate the distance shortening effects of wind.
- Belgian Cast- a wind casting technique that utilizes an oval shaped path of the fly rod starting with a low casting plane for the back cast and coupled with an "angled-up" forward cast in order to take advantage of wind at the casters back.
- Change of Direction Cast- a casting technique that allows the angler to make a quick change in direction after a cast has been initiated.
- Extra High Back Cast - a casting technique designed to get the fly and line above an obstruction to the rear of the caster or to insert the back cast into an opening behind the caster (such as a space between trees) to allow for a longer forward cast.
- Barnegat Bay Cast- a backhand fly casting technique that allows the angler to present a low angle (plane) cast in windy conditions and/or to keep the fly line on the forward and back hand casts outside the interior of the boat.
- Dapping- a simple way of presenting the fly at very short ranges using a "high-stick" approach.
- False Casting uses
- Why we overline a rod and by how much
- Casting heavy lines
- Slipping line
- Casting Shooting Heads
- Controlling long line with coils
- Controlling line on the Shoot
- Open v Closed Stance
- "Fishing the Hang"
|Hines Cinder Worm|
- Near shore reefs/ ledges
- Shallow and protected salt ponds Fish breaks between shallow and deep water
- Smaller bays
- Salt rivers
- Boulder fields
- Docks, wood and concrete pilings, rock piles, ledges, dropoffs - they all hold bait- Fish on and near them.
- Fish where current meets or leaves ledge and other structure.
- Scout boulder fields and shoreline contours during low tides.
- When you spot boulders and ledges not on your chart or chart plotter, set waypoints for return night time excursions.
- Break down large sections of water into understandable and manageable (fishable) pieces.
- Think of the saltwater environment like you would a trout stream or a freshwater bass pond- fish cover & structure.
- Bass will be moving toward or away from structure as current changes and bait repositions.
- When flats fishing from a boat look closely at the dark grass patches on the bottom, bass will spend more time on dark areas where there may be more bait and where they are camouflaged.
- Look for "highways" that bass use for access and egress to/from the flat. They don't always follow defined channels.
Fish rock piles and reefs
Fish coastal points, bars and breachways
- Fish where flats meet deep water breaks.
- Fish where current meets or leaves a ledge and other structure.
- Fast moving water & turbulent water provides ambush points for stripers.
- Scout boulder fields and shoreline contours during low tides and mark them with your chart plotter. This is particularly helpful at night for wading anglers with a handheld GPS to allow you find these spots at night.
- Mark structure not on your chart with your GPS so you won't run afoul next time.
- Use "drift socks" (drogues) on your boat to counter the effects of wind and current.
- Use top water hookless lures as teasers in shallow or dangerous waters to prospect for fish.
- Use a heavy "river anchor" in muddy soft bottom areas where a traditional fluke type anchor will not hold.
- Stripers will stay on the flats all summer as long as the water temperature stays below 75F.
- Tides are critical, a flooding tide is typically more productive than an ebbing tide.
- When the flat is emptying, fish are hastily retreating off the flat to get to deeper water.
- When flats fishing from a boat look closely at the dark grass patches on the bottom where bass will be spending more time than over the white sand.
- Drape fishing nets over your outboard, hydraulic lines, cleats and any obstruction that can foul a fly line.
- Use blue painters masking tape to cover smaller fly line fouling areas such as cleats, rod holders, etc.
- Stay put when fish blow up. Resist the temptation to do large moves. Where possible drift through active areas several times. Some fish (False Albacore/ Bonito for example) will repeat a feeding pattern. The bait that fish crashed just minutes ago is still there and the predators will often times circle back.
- When fishing a surface frenzy, particularly tuna species, it often pays to dead-drift your fly pattern or use a very slow retrieve and to also vary the retrieve.
- During windy fall fishing... 8wt rods are generally not up to the task. Go with the heavier rod and the sinking line to power through the wind.
- Fish creating swirls may actually be 2-4 feet below the surface but because of their size and large tail fins, they are moving a lot of water.
- Feeding fish signatures- mornings generally provide the best conditions for spotting fish feeding during flat water conditions. Look for swirls, breaks, birds looping/hovering/dipping, baitfish spraying.
- Have your fishing partner cast into the immediate area of a fish being played. Oftentimes others will be closely following a hooked fish and they can be easily caught.
- Use a kayak or inflatable in combination with your "mother ship" to access hard to reach or private and delicate waters.
- On the Rhode Island flats you will rarely see bass feeding on top, they will be on the bottom scouting for crabs and shrimp.
- Always bring binoculars to spot fish and birds. Binoculars with a built-in compass allows for pinpointing a bearing in open water having few or no landmarks or navigational aids for reference.