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We Are Getting Closer- Early Spring Hotspots!

by Captain Jim Barr on 02/27/18

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 on 02/27/18

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.

Material list:

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

Process:

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

A Turtle Made Me Do It

by Captain Jim Barr on 12/16/17

I'm a reasonably good swimmer but I never learned to swim "the right way", that is with the crawl or freestyle stroke using rotational breathing. I can do the breast stroke, the backstroke, and I can freestyle but I have to keep my head up, looking straight ahead. Unlike many friends, I learned how to swim in a lake, not in a swimming pool. As a teenager I would sometimes swim at night across sections of the lake we lived on, it would drive my mother crazy. Later, during college days I recall one pitch black summer night when a few of my buddies and I swam from shore to a nearby island where friends were tenting and sitting by the campfire. We didn't know about Navy Seals in those days but we could have perhaps passed as special ops frogmen. After we silently swam across the lake and through a muddy cove, we waded ashore, we covered ourselves in mud and lake weeds, then spread out, and snuck up on these guys- scaring the holy shit out of them. After lots of laughter and a few beers, we returned to the water and swam back to where our car was parked. As the lead swimmer and with my head out of the water I maintained the proper bearing so we arrived on target.
Swamp Thing

There's a reason I swim with my head above water, our lake was full of tree stumps, brush piles and big snapping turtles, but despite these hazards I was very comfortable in these surroundings. Swimming in a chlorinated pool (had it been an option) didn't do it for me. One reason was there were no largemouth bass in swimming pools, and I was an avid largemouth bass fisherman. One of my secrets for success in locating big largemouth bass is that I would don a dive mask, snorkel and fins and search for bass in the heavy cover of the brush piles, tree stumps, docks and muddy coves that were loaded with lily pads.
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.
"Dad!"
"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.
"Dad!!"...
"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.
"Dad!"...
"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!)

What's Your Favorite Fly Line in Salt Water?

by Captain Jim Barr on 12/16/17

Choices, choices and more choices... one of the wonderful things about living in a free and bountiful society. This is particularly true when it comes to fly fishing, especially with respect to fly lines.  
 
I give quite a few fly casting lessons during the course of the year, and generally they are with anglers who are wanting to make a switch from conventional fishing (spin and baitcasting) to fly fishing. Generally I provide the rods and lines for these lessons except in cases where the student with some fly fishing experience wants to improve their techniques using their own equipment. As an aside, I really like these type of lessons because I can take the average beginner to low intermediate student and in the course of a few hours have them make a few critical changes and in so doing improve their casting ability drastically. I don't mean to brag- we're not talking rocket science here but with a few simple changes in technique and timing, it's pretty amazing how quickly the student starts to enjoy their new found abilities. Many times it's as simple as putting on their fly rod a reel with a different fly line than what they have been using. Alas... a balanced system of rod, reel and line weight!
   
Many of my advanced beginner and low intermediate students have been fly fishing in fresh water, mostly for trout, some with reasonably good success, but many who want to try fly fishing in saltwater given the fact that Rhode Island just doesn't have much in the way of good fly fishing for trout (arguable, I understand). Let me sail a different tack, it's not so much that our trout fishery is not so robust, rather, it's just that we are blessed with miles and miles of saltwater shoreline, most of it holding striped bass and bluefish and in some places bonito and false albacore in the fall months. Also, Rhode Island offers unparalleled public access to our shoreline, better than any other northeast state. Choices!
 
I've been fly fishing in the saltwater for a long time, it's no wonder that my casting shoulder is now starting to seriously bark at me. Rotator cuff issues I'm told... that at minimum will require extensive physical therapy and perhaps even surgery to restore painless or near pain-free rotation. Had I stuck with freshwater fly fishing where we use very light rods, reels and lines and where we are casting short distances to small(ish) fish, perhaps my old arm and shoulder would have lasted longer than it has. It's bothersome enough however, to cause me to start fly casting lefty, a goal for spring 2018. I'm digressing too much, let me get back on-point.  
Fly lines.  
 
I get students who have expressed a desire to get involved in fly fishing in the salt, and who want my recommendations on a rod, reel and line. As for the rod, for the newbie to salt in Rhode Island waters, my recommendation is a 9 foot~8 weight (4-piece). As for the reel, I suggest one with a large arbor that's constructed to withstand the corrosive effects of saltwater... in both cases (rod and reel) there are a lot of choices at many different price points and quality.  Your choice of a fly reel will not have an effect on making you a better fly caster, it will however help you to control your catch and bring it to hand quickly and safely. Your choice of a fly rod definitely will have an effect on making you a better fly fisher but I can confidently opine that for the beginner to intermediate fly fisher, if you purchase a medium to fast action graphite fly rod with quality components (good quality cork or synthetic material grip, corrosion resistant reel seat and guide set, and a fighting butt) you will be fine, and if it turns out that fly fishing is not for you, you haven't spent a ton of dough and it's an easy matter selling your equipment on EBay, Craig's List or to a friend.   
 
My father who was a much better home mechanic, plumber and carpenter than an angler had a pretty sound philosophy when it came to buying tools that I think very aptly applies to fly fishing equipment. His take was... don't buy the cheapest or the most expensive... choose tools that fall in the middle. This makes sense to me and that's the advice I offer to my fly casting students... with one exception... Fly Lines! Here I deviate from my father's sage (no pun intended) advice. I counsel my students to buy the best fly line(s) available, even if they are a beginner or low intermediate. I also encourage my students to, if possible, try a variety of fly lines before they make their final choice(s), however that sounds a lot easier than it actually is.  
                                      http://www.rischoolofflyfishing.com/
 
Fly lines can be purchased through the internet, from a fly shop, and from a big box store. Unless you know exactly what you want, I would avoid the internet and the big box stores. That doesn't leave much of a choice particularly for those of you who are not near a fly shop, and if you are, whether that shop stocks a good variety of line types and from a variety of manufacturers, and is staffed with sales folks that know what they are talking about, and/or are not primarily oriented towards simply making a sale.  So what's an angler to do?   
 
My recommendations are as follows:
1. First and foremost take a fly casting lesson or two from a certified fly casting instructor who can not only help you with your casting mechanics but who can put into your hands (on your rod or the instructor's) a variety of fly lines of different construction and weights. Most instructors will not have a wide variety of manufacturer's lines in their inventory, but most will have a solid selection of floating, intermediate and faster sinking lines from their preferred manufacturer. I happen to be on the RIO Products pro program so all my fly lines are from RIO, however other instructors may primarily use Scientific Anglers (Orvis), Royale Wulff, Airflo, Cortland etc. and clearly there are differences between those products. Are those differences really material?, I would suggest they are not particularly for the beginner and low to mid-level intermediate caster (arguable).  
 
2. If you are reasonably comfortable with your fly casting ability but you want the opportunity to try a variety of types of lines and from different manufacturers, you may have some options. If you can visit a fly shop that stocks a variety of lines, has a space available for you to cast them and who have employees that are knowledgeable and can make recommendations, you're probably in good shape. Additionally, there are a variety of fishing shows that are held around the country between now and spring. "The Fly Fishing Show" http://flyfishingshow.com/, is one that may be coming to a venue near you. Most of the prominent fly line manufacturers are represented at these shows, and some that will allow you to cast their lines in a casting pool using their fly rods.  
 
So let's talk a bit about what type of fly lines I recommend for fishing in the northeast saltwaters. I will stay away from lines anglers would use when fishing for warm saltwater species, as this is not my forte.  
 
The questions I ask my students first who are wanting to fish for our northeast species (stripers, bluefish, false albacore and atlantic bonito) has to do with the waters they will most likely be frequenting and from what platform they will be fishing (shore or boat).  All fly lines are sold in weight numbers that correspond to a rod's weight (1-12 for example) and action (slow, medium, or fast action). For example, an 8 weight line matches to an 8 weight fly rod.  
 
For the beginning to intermediate caster, the primary categories of fly lines we use are broken down to three main types: 
1. Floating (the entire line floats on the water's surface) 
2. Intermediate sinking (the entire, or just the front part of the line), sinks at a rate of about 1.5-2 inches per second  
3. Fast(er) sinking (the entire, or just the front part of the line), sinks at a rate ranging from 3- 9 inches per second   
 
In the interests of simplicity, within each category there are variables as to how the line is constructed:
1. Weight Distribution
2. In the case of the slow and fast(er) sinking lines, Material Composition
 
As for Weight Distribution, fly lines can be uniform in weight and diameter from the beginning to the end of the line- these are called "level" lines. They also come in what's called "double taper". Here the line is heavier and thicker at the beginning and end of the line with the middle section being level. The most common weight distributed line used in saltwater fly casting is the "weight forward" type. Here the line is heavier and thicker at the front of the line (portion closest to the fly) with the balance of the line being level. The weight forward line has a short double taper section up front with the most common length being 30 feet. With the weight of the line up front, this line is designed to more efficiently shoot this double taper section towards the target. The beauty of these lines are that they are easy to cast and may cast further than other types. Weight forward lines are generally the best choice for Beginner and Intermediate casters.
 
As for Material Composition, the "Floating" line floats because it is less dense than water. It's plastic coating is infused with tiny air bubbles that serve to keep the entire fly line sitting on top of the water. The "Intermediate and Fast Sink" lines are constructed with more dense material that causes them to sink at varying rates. They come in both "Uniform Sink" and "Sinking Tip" varieties.  
Worm Hatch- Ninigret Pond 
 
In the case of the "Uniform" Intermediate line, the entire fly line sinks at the same rate (typically about 1.5- 2" per second). In the case of the Intermediate "Sinking Tip" line, only the front section of the line sinks, while the balance of the line either floats or sinks slowly. As noted earlier, the "Fast Sink" lines also come in a uniform sink and sinking tip variety. These lines provide significant variety in their "sink rates" ranging from 3"- 9" per second so the front section of the line is constructed with heavier material and therefore sinks, while the balance of the line is constructed using either floating, or a slow sinking (intermediate) line.  As for the sinking tip lines their sinking portions generally vary in length between 15' and 40'.   
I have endeavored to simplify this subject of fly line options as much as possible and have done so in the context of the Beginner and Intermediate angler. There are so many more options and variations as to fly line construction, water type (fresh, salt), water depth, flat or moving water, current speed, distance desired, and of course manufacturer- it's absolutely mind boggling!  So what's a angler to do?
My advice- do not go blind into the decision process, instead, get independent and expert advice in your choice of lines for your particular fishing venue and experience level.
 
For the Beginner and Intermediate fly angler wanting to fish in the northeast U.S. saltwater fishery, let me conclude by offering several considerations and  recommendations. These are not specific to line manufacturers, but rather in terms of general considerations as to your experience level and the type of fishing you do, and with an eye towards the value proposition.  (The following recommendations are in line with using one rod...an 8 weight which in 90% of the time suffices nicely and reduces the anglers cash outlay. Also an 8 weight rod will be more forgiving than a 9 or 10. Additionally, an 8 weight can be used for freshwater angling for salmon, steelhead, large and smallmouth bass, pike, musky and pickerel as well as for many warm saltwater species such as bonefish, seatrout and redfish.) The following recommendations are guidelines only, and they limit the angler to 3 fly lines and therefore three reel spools on which to wind the lines.)  
Molly Semenik, self, 3rd Beach Middletown, RI 
 
Wading or small boat
Venue:  Estuary, Salt Pond, Flats, Shallow Beaches 
Wind: None to 10 knots 
Water Type: Mostly shallow (1-4 feet), to moderate depth, still water and with current  
Leader/tippet: 9 feet (Shorter if windy conditions)  
Line: 8 weight- Primarily a Floating- Weight Forward line with floating fly pattern or unweighted streamer. For deeper water, weighted fly pattern or Intermediate Sinking Tip- 20-30' tip with sinking rate of 3", floating running line. (Vary the retrieve as necessary to keep the fly from hanging up on the bottom or on rocks/ weed).   
Ken Durk- West Wall Narragansett, RI 
   
Shore structure 
Venue: Casting from ledges/ jetty's/ boulder structure
Wind: Zero to 15 knots 
Water Type: Ocean, boulder fields to deeper water ~15 feet maximum. (If fish are deeper than 15 feet, use shorter leader and heavier weighted fly pattern.)  
Leader/tippet: 4-6 feet- the deeper you need to go the shorter the tippet. Shorter tippet for high winds  
Line: 8 weight- Sinking Tip- 20-30 ft tip with Type 6" sink rate with Intermediate running line. (Multiply estimated fish depth in feet times 12", then divide product by the 6" rate to determine the countdown in seconds to start your retrieve. Example: 15 foot depth X 12"= 180"/6= 30 seconds of wait time before fly is at level of the fish)  
If fish are feeding on top use the same line but start your retrieve as soon as the fly lands on the water to keep the fly near the top of the water column, or switch to an Intermediate sinking tip line.  
 
Heidi Flagg- Ninigret Pond 
Fishing from boat 
Venue: Casting from a boat in the bay or in near shore water
Wind: Zero to 15 knots
Water Type: Ocean, Bay- fish are at a maximum of 20 feet (that's 40 seconds of wait time- switch to a spinning rod with a weighted lure- more fishing time and less waiting!)
If fish are deeper than 15 feet, use shorter leader and heavier weighted fly pattern.   
Line: 8 weight- Sinking Tip- 20-30 ft tip with Type 6" sink rate with Intermediate running line   
If fish are feeding on top use the same line but start your retrieve as soon as the fly lands on the water to keep the fly near the top of the water column, or switch to an Intermediate sinking tip line.  
 
 
RIO Products does a nice job by providing a very easy to use Fly Line Selector tool. It goes considerably beyond saltwater lines and may be of help to you in identifying what makes sense for you and your fishery.  
 
Quality fly lines are expensive ($80-100), so take great care in making your decisions, they literally can make or break your success in the salt.     
 
 
 
 

Why Does My Fly Line Look Like a Slinky Toy?

by Captain Jim Barr on 11/24/17

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.
 
Fly line stripping buckets/ baskets  
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.  
Hand Casting  
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 
 

Shooting Heads Paired with Short Flyrods... whattayamean you're not using Shooting Heads!

by Captain Jim Barr on 03/23/17

I'd 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 boring!
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.

Dr. David Deitz

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.
Donald J. Trump Loudmouth Crease Fly 

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.  

Fishing With Two or More Flies

by Captain Jim Barr on 03/23/17

Fishing 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?

In the link below review these three methods carefully and give fishing with two or more flies a try, I think you will be convinced in short order that this approach makes a lot of sense. When fishing the cinder worm hatch and a sand eel emergence where we are competing with a lot of "real" forage, fishing a multi-fly system will definitely improve your odds of hooking up.

** Something to keep in mind however is when casting a multi-fly setup, keep your fly line loops open to minimize the risk of tangling. To create a more open loop in your fly line, widen your casting arc and make your starts and stops a bit softer, or alternatively use the "constant tension" Belgian cast discussed earlier in this newsletter.

The link below will take you to an article entitled The Two Fly Setup authored by Clint Lee. It should help you understand how to rig a multi-fly leader system.

http://theflyfishingbasics.com/two-fly-setup/  

The "Belgian" or Oval Cast

by Captain Jim Barr on 03/23/17

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"


There are a number of reasons we use the Belgian cast but my four primary reasons are:

- it keeps constant tension on the fly line so that when casting heavy or large wind-resistant fly patterns, the leader does not collapse due to the start and stops of straight line casting, thereby eliminating a collapsing leader/tippet/fly system

- 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

Being a charter boat fly fishing guide I see a lot of fly anglers struggle with casting into the wind, or conversely having great difficulty in fighting through the wind in their back casts. The Belgian cast is an ideal method to employ for both scenarios. 
 
TIPS-
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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.

**It's important to remember that the Belgian cast if used extensively will introduce line twist on each cast. If left unmanaged, this twisting will result in a fly line that will coil and kink and over time making it nearly impossible to cast. The twisted line cannot be stretched by the angler to remove the coils, rather the fly must be cut off and the line deployed over the side of the boat and stripped off the reel back to about the length of the average distance the angler has been casting. Then towing the line behind the power boat, drift boat or canoe/kayak without the fly attached, the twisted fly line can be removed.

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.

 http://midcurrent.com/techniques/the-belgian-cast/ 

Using Tippet Rings- Preserving Leaders/Facilitate Adding Tippet Material

by Captain Jim Barr on 03/23/17

I tie my own leaders for fishing in salt water, and when fishing for Largemouth and Smallmouth bass in fresh water. If I'm fishing for trout, I buy commercial leaders from RIO Products. https://www.rioproducts.com/freshwater/leader

For saltwater applications I use a straight-forward leader formula that has served me well. As for leader material, I use your basic Berkeley Trilene monofilament in 50, 40, 30, 25, 20, 15 and 12 lb test. I mix-up the leader sections a bit to create different length and heavier/lighter leaders/tippets depending upon where I'm fishing and for what species. I will use fluorocarbon material for my tippet sections with the exception of top water situations like when fishing cinder worm and small sand eel patterns, but again, nothing fancy, typically I turn to Berkeley for their "Vanish" brand of fluorocarbon. Good stuff and cheap.

I found a leader formula years ago that seems to work well. I tie 10 1/2 foot leaders that consist of a Butt section, two Intermediate Sections, and finally the Tippet (end) section. Here's the formula:
1. Determine overall length of the leader.
2. Butt section should be slightly less than 1/2 the leader's entire length.
3. 1st Intermediate section= 1/2 the length of the Butt section.
4. 2nd Intermediate section= 1/2 the length of the 1st Intermediate section.
5. Tippet= 2 feet

If I have lots of time when building leaders, I will join each section of leader material using a Blood Knot. (I may even smooth Loon UV Knot Sense over the connection https://loonoutdoors.com/product/uv-knot-sense/). 
Loon UV Knot Sense
If I don't have much time, I will simply join each section using the Double Surgeons Knot.

OK, so what's the skinny on Tippet Rings you ask? 

When you repeatedly tie on and cut off flies in your leader's tippet section the length of the leader and tippet gradually shorten, requiring you to add additional lengths of tippet material typically using a double surgeons knot. In trout fishing when you are using commercially produced leaders in varying lengths and "X" factors, it's easy to lose track of the taper and the gauge of the material. When starting out with a new leader you can measure (or attempt to eye-ball) the diameter of the leader about two feet back from it's end, clip it and tie in a Tippet Ring, then re-tie the clipped tippet section onto the tippet ring and then your fly. Then when you have tied on a number of fly patterns, clipped them off and re-tied additional flies, you can readily see the diminishing length of your tippet section as it relates to the position of the ring. To maintain your original tippet length and diameter, you simply strip off a section of tippet material from the appropriately sized spool and retie it with a clinch or improved clinch knot. When using this process you will preserve those expensive commercial leaders. 

An alternative that works well when using heavy commercial leaders when fishing saltwater or when using heavy leaders for largemouth bass is to utilize the same process as described above, but instead of using a Tippet Ring, use a tiny, high quality barrel swivel, such as the Spro Power Swivel (http://www.tackledirect.com/spropowerswiv.html) . They will help immensely when casting large air resistant flies like Crease flies, poppers and hair bugs. These patterns spin as they are cast and the tiny barrel swivel will keep the leader (and fly line) from twisting and putting kinks in your leader/line system.

The following video illustrates the process of rigging tippet rings. I use them in saltwater for stripers, bluefish and false albacore. 

RIO Products makes tippet rings for trout and steelhead, the steelhead versions work great for our saltwater species.

** In the photo to the left, you will see what looks like a snap swivel. As you saw in the video, the tippet rings are very tiny and are packaged by stringing them on the snap swivel. When tying them on your leader you leave them on the swivel until the ring is firmly tied on the leader, otherwise you will surely donate them to the ground or water.

Landing Big Fish Near The Boat

by Captain Jim Barr on 03/23/17

When you're playing a big fish from a boat and you are getting close to landing it, it's very easy to put too much pressure on the tip section of your rod. When playing that fish with a fly rod- as it's coming closer to the boat, with your rod hand pinch the fly line with your forefinger against the rod grip. With your line hand strip off 2-3 feet of fly line from your reel and let it pile at your feet. With the rod hand still pinching the line, grab the leader just above the fish with your line hand while simultaneously releasing the pinched line from the cork grip. This maneuver releases the tension on the rod's tip section and eliminates the potential of snapping the tip from holding the rod in a near vertical position where the rod flex is completely on the tip section.
   Tom Rosenbauer of Orvis showed me this procedure a few years ago when we were filming a video for The New Fly Fisher, and it works great. It's also effective when using a spinning or surfcasting rod. For reels with a bail there's no need to strip line from the spool, simply open the bail.

"So Captain Jim, How Did You Get Into Fly Fishing?"

by Captain Jim Barr on 12/01/16

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.
 
Fast

"Monster" Pickerel- 1958
forward ten years that included a stint in upstate New York (we moved a lot) and more spin fishing in creeks, rivers and lakes. Our family now lived in north central Massachusetts. We lived on a lake that was loaded with largemouth bass. We had a healthy inventory of boats and motors, aluminum fishing boats, wooden rowboats (very leaky), even a plywood hydroplane that my father and a friend built and we raced against neighbor kids, and small horsepower engines that were broken down half the time. Our fishing boats always had oars and bailing cans so we were never paralyzed from temperamental outboards. Either way there was always a way to reach some absolutely pristine bass water. Tackle was very basic, second-hand fiberglass spinning rods, combined with Hula Poppers, Daredevils, Jitterbugs, Flatfish and plastic licorice flavored worms, all fished in shallow water around tree stumps, brush and lily pads. My only exposure to fly fishing were articles I'd read in Sports Afield Magazine that depicted pipe smoking anglers in goofy hats wearing plaid shirts, casting flies to willing trout in pristine trout streams
Leaky wooden fishing boat - 1964
in the Rockies. I was happy with my bass fishing, and playing high school sports. Fly fishing was way above my family's pay grade, and honestly I wasn't remotely interested.

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

F
ollowing 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

Tips to Keep in Mind on a Guided Fishing Excursion

by Captain Jim Barr on 09/14/16

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.

What Casts/Techniques Should You Know?

by Captain Jim Barr on 09/14/16

This short article is addressed to the fly angler who has a good grasp of the basics of fly casting but who aspires to get better. What follows are a lit of casts and techniques that I instruct in my Advanced fly casting lessons. Most apply to fresh and saltwater environments but typically are used more frequently when fishing in saltwater where we typically need to achieve greater distances and with faster presentations, and are less concerned with the need for accuracy (i.e. dropping a dry fly on a rising trout's nose). None of them are difficult to learn and typically most can be picked up in a couple of two hour lessons. If interested and you are in the southern New England area, please contact me for private casting lessons.

Casts:
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Single Water Haul- using the surface tension of the water to load the rod in preparation for the backcast to achieve additional distance.
  7. 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.
  8. Long-Line pickup- a casting technique used to pick up very long lengths of fly line in preparation for a forward cast.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. Change of Direction Cast- a casting technique that allows the angler to make a quick change in direction after a cast has been initiated.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. Dapping- a simple way of presenting the fly at very short ranges using a "high-stick" approach.
Other Techniques:
  1. False Casting uses
  2. Why we overline a rod and by how much       
  3. Casting heavy lines
  4. Slipping line
  5. Casting Shooting Heads
  6. Controlling long line with coils
  7. Controlling line on the Shoot
  8. Open v Closed Stance
  9. "Fishing the Hang"
 

What Fly Patterns Do You Really Need?

by Captain Jim Barr on 09/14/16

I have tied both freshwater and saltwater fly patterns for a very long time. Someone once said... "well, in the long run you will end up saving lots of money by tying your own".... Not!
You end up buying tons of materials, tools, hooks and books, and ... the list goes on forever. No, at the end of the day most anglers who tie their own patterns end up spending a lot more money on the latest and greatest of supplies and never get anywhere near a positive ROI. I have never tied flies commercially nor have I ever been even remotely interested in doing so. I would make more money selling pencils on main street and in the process preserve my eyesight and not have to manage a huge inventory of fly tying materials. However, tying is not just an exercise in an effort to save money, it's much more. It's about being creative, having fun, and it fills the down time particularly during the winter months when many of us are closed-in due to the elements etc. I still enjoy going into a fly shop and marveling at the tremendous array of fly patterns and scanning the walls and bins marveling at all the latest and greatest of esoteric materials. I also get a kick out of the creative names for some of the fly patterns, and certain tyer's who feel compelled to slap their name on the pattern as if it's the first of it's kind ever produced. It's all good as far as I'm concerned.
 
On my boats I carry a lot of fly boxes that are loaded with flies of every shape, color and size. Most are the basic patterns that have been around for many years, however some are the more advanced and material intensive patterns like the ones in the fly shop. Many of these fancier ties come from articles on fly tying that I've read that looked fun to tie nad experiment with and that just might make the difference in getting a hookup.
Despite having these huge collections of fly patterns, typically I end up using about five or six that do the trick from the first stripers arriving in April to the last fish to swim our waters in October and early November before they go south for the winter.
 
Just for kicks I contacted a number of fly fishing guides as well as hard core recreational fly anglers to poll them as to their successes with various patterns. The exercise was designed to develop a short list of patterns that work year-in and year-out in our regional waters so that if you were so inclined you could streamline your fly boxes, simplify things and cut costs.  What I expected from this project proved to be the true. Here are the top eight fly patterns chosen by ten very experienced northeast professional and recreational anglers.
 
Anglers polled all noted that these patterns should be tied on hooks ranging from size 2 for the smaller forage species such as cinder worms, sand eels and surf candy's, to upwards of size 6/0 for the larger baitfish-type of patterns such as the Clouser Minnow, Lefty's Deceiver, Gartside Gurgler and Squid. Color choices most often suggested included Chartreuse, Green, Tan, Yellow and White, and reds/browns and tans for the Cinder Worm imitations.
 
So, what's the point?... simple, if you don't want to spend a lot of money or waste a lot of time tying or shopping for the fancy and more costly fly patterns, chances are very good that with these eight patterns, in varying sizes and color combinations, should be enough do the trick.


 
Bay Anchovy
Surf Candy
Squid
Lefty's Deceiver
Hines Cinder Worm
Sand Eel
Gartside Gurgler
Clouser Minnow

When in Doubt- Fish on Structure

by Captain Jim Barr on 09/14/16

No doubt you have found yourself with the opportunity to fish in unfamiliar water. Sometimes that means you are going with a friend or maybe you will be with a guide. There will be those times however when you will be solo, whether on foot or in a watercraft of some sort. If you prefer to fish shallow water as I do, you will always be on or near what we refer to as "structure". Structure comes in many forms, in saltwater we consider rocks, ledges, coastlines, reefs, sand bars, shallow water flats as forms of structure. If you fish in fresh water structure can mean rocks, sand bars, underwater brush piles, downed trees, docks, weed beds- the list goes on.  As you plan your excursion to unfamiliar water, do some homework first. Find a map or chart, access on-line resources such as Google Earth, scout interesting waters at low tide or if in fresh water, survey streams and lakes when water levels are down...and look for structure. Structure provides nurseries for bait, protection from fast moving water and predators, ambush points for predators, and food collection areas for drifting forage such as insects in a trout stream.
Pay attention to the following:
  1. Near shore reefs/ ledges
  2. Shallow and protected salt ponds 
    Fish breaks between shallow and deep water
  3. Smaller bays
  4. Estuaries
  5. Salt rivers
  6. Beaches
  7. Flats
  8. Boulder fields
  9. Docks, wood and concrete pilings, rock piles, ledges, dropoffs - they all hold bait- Fish on and near them.
  10. Fish where current meets or leaves ledge and other structure.
  11. Scout boulder fields and shoreline contours during low tides.
  12. When you spot boulders and ledges not on your chart or chart plotter, set waypoints for return night time excursions.
  13. Break down large sections of water into understandable and manageable (fishable) pieces.
  14. Think of the saltwater environment like you would a trout stream or a freshwater bass pond- fish cover & structure.
  15. Bass will be moving toward or away from structure as current changes and bait repositions.
  16. 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.
  17. 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

General Angling Tips/Techniques

by Captain Jim Barr on 09/14/16

  1. Fish where flats meet deep water breaks.
  2. Fish where current meets or leaves a ledge and other structure.
  3. Fast moving water & turbulent water provides ambush points for stripers.
  4. 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.
  5. Mark structure not on your chart with your GPS so you won't run afoul next time.
  6. Use "drift socks" (drogues) on your boat to counter the effects of wind and current.
  7. Use top water hookless lures as teasers in shallow or dangerous waters to prospect for fish.
  8. Use a heavy "river anchor" in muddy soft bottom areas where a traditional fluke type anchor will not hold.
  9. Stripers will stay on the flats all summer as long as the water temperature stays below 75F.
  10. Tides are critical, a flooding tide is typically more productive than an ebbing tide.
  11. When the flat is emptying, fish are hastily retreating off the flat to get to deeper water.
  12. 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.
  13. Drape fishing nets over your outboard, hydraulic lines, cleats and any obstruction that can foul a fly line.
  14. Use blue painters masking tape to cover smaller fly line fouling areas such as cleats, rod holders, etc.
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  17. 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.
  18. 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.
  19. 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.
  20. 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.
  21. Use a kayak or inflatable in combination with your "mother ship" to access hard to reach or private and delicate waters.
  22. On the Rhode Island flats you will rarely see bass feeding on top, they will be on the bottom scouting for crabs and shrimp.
  23. 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.

What Casts/Techniques Should You Know?

by Captain Jim Barr on 09/14/16

This short article is addressed to the fly angler who has a good grasp of the basics of fly casting but who aspires to get better. What follows are a lit of casts and techniques that I instruct in my Advanced fly casting lessons. Most apply to fresh and saltwater environments but typically are used more frequently when fishing in saltwater where we typically need to achieve greater distances and with faster presentations, and are less concerned with the need for accuracy (i.e. dropping a dry fly on a rising trout's nose). None of them are difficult to learn and typically most can be picked up in a couple of two hour lessons. If interested and you are in the southern New England area, please contact me for private casting lessons.

Casts:
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Single Water Haul- using the surface tension of the water to load the rod in preparation for the backcast to achieve additional distance.
  7. 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.
  8. Long-Line pickup- a casting technique used to pick up very long lengths of fly line in preparation for a forward cast.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. Change of Direction Cast- a casting technique that allows the angler to make a quick change in direction after a cast has been initiated.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. Dapping- a simple way of presenting the fly at very short ranges using a "high-stick" approach.
Other Techniques:
  1. False Casting uses
  2. Why we overline a rod and by how much       
  3. Casting heavy lines
  4. Slipping line
  5. Casting Shooting Heads
  6. Controlling long line with coils
  7. Controlling line on the Shoot
  8. Open v Closed Stance
  9. "Fishing the Hang"
 

Musings... and a Trade Secret for the May/June Worm Hatch

by Captain Jim Barr on 09/14/16

It was an early May in the late afternoon, probably twenty years ago when I first started fly fishing the Rhode Island Cinder Worm emergence. I didn't guide then, and for most of my saltwater fly fishing I wade fished, rather than fishing from a boat. One of my favorite spots was Ninigret Pond in Charlestown, RI. I still fish in Ninigret, but now it's 100% from a boat and most of the time I'm guiding. The Grassy Point area of the pond is easily accessible by car combined with a short walk to one of the better coves in the eastern end of the pond. In those days the drill was to get to the pond no later than 3:30pm basically any day from about the end of the first week in May to about mid June. You can still fish the worm hatch from this location but as you near the end of May, the worm "hatches" as we call them, mostly happen at some distance from the Grassy Point area- that's pretty much still the case.
Capt Jim Barr Hickory Hills 1963
1964- Lunenburg, MA
    
  I'll digress a bit... I often fished solo then and even today when not guiding I still enjoy going alone, I don't know why, it's not that I'm anti-social, far from it actually, but it's just something in the genes that drives me to seek privacy when I fish. As a kid I would often fish alone, sometimes not returning home in my rowboat until way past dark on Hickory Hills lake where we lived... I would always be worrying my parents when I wasn't back by dark, and be reminded of that too frequently. No such thing as calling in from a cell phone to advise that all was well and that I was making my way back.
  
Anyway back to Ninigret Pond thirty-two years later. The worm hatch is very much a top water game. I still refer to it as the closest thing a fly angler can get to dry fly fishing in salt water. In 1994 the worm hatch was far less popular than it is these days. You pretty much knew most of the anglers you encountered there, most were from Rhode Island. Many of us were good friends who had migrated part time from fly fishing in freshwater for stocked trout. We still loved wading fresh moving water, but there was this allure of catching much stronger fish, ocean fish, using our heavier weight fly rods. Some of us had 8-weights because we used them for fishing for largemouth bass, some even had 9's for those who journeyed north to fish New York's Salmon River for steelhead or and to New Brunswick to fish the Miramichi for atlantic salmon.
The patterns we used to fish for stripers in Ninigret Pond during the worm hatch were pretty much home-developed and for the most part, untested. Most of us were freshwater fly tyers, fairly creative, and in some cases, very talented. We could with ease replicate what we thought to be reasonable facsimiles of the cinder worms we saw swimming in the pond. One day I stumbled across a cinder worm pattern at the Fin and Feather flyshop in East Greenwich, RI, a shop owned by a couple of good friends. "The Fin", as we called it, was a place where many of us would stop by on a Sunday morning, shoot the bull, sip coffee, watch an 8-track fishing video on the TV above the fireplace, and to catch up with one another on our fishing successes, what was hatching and where, and to learn the latest about each other's family and careers. It was a very warm and genuine place where no one was an expert and people were a hell of a lot less bossy and disrespectful than today. I miss that place and those days.
The real deal

   This is becoming a ramble, sorry. Let me get back to the point of the article which is to offer a tip on fly fishing the Rhode Island Cinder Worm hatch. One particular day at The Fin, I found a pattern in their fly bin, the Page Rogers Cinder Worm. It was a very odd looking thing, bright red in color, tied with what looked like a decorative velvet tubing that you'd see on a couch cushion or stuffed chair. It was mounted on a 1/0 stainless hook and had a dark head made from either black or dark green chenille or maybe it was iridescent peacock herl. I had never heard of Page Rogers but after I bought a few of these baubles, I looked her up and a year later actually arranged her to present at the United Fly Tyers of Rhode Island, a fly tying club I started with a couple of friends, a club that was authorized by the original United Fly Tyers of Boston. Anyway, I added these weird looking flies to my saltwater box and used them one particular night fishing the worm hatch in Ninigret Pond.
Page Rogers Cinder Worm

   I was fishing alone that night. Bass were really chowing down on a solid worm hatch that was unfolding right in front of me. They were slurping on the pinkish/tan colored naturals. I was trying what seemed like every pattern in my meager collection, attempting first to catch fish on my flies...without a heck of a lot of success even though, TO ME, my patterns looked remarkably like the real deal.
  
A hundred yards to my left, down the beach at Grassy Point were two fly anglers who were absolutely slaying the bass, one after another, hooting-hollering-laughing. I was jealous, perhaps a bit insulted, and nearly at my wits end. Then I remembered the Page Rogers pattern made from that bright red couch piping. What the hey, I tied it on, and in short order caught a bass, and another, then another- maybe fifteen minutes between each take. But those guys just down the beach from me, were hooking up on every other cast. WTF were they using?
In those days we often fished into the night, wanting to eek out that last take before reeling up and making the fifteen minute trek back to the car, to get out of Ninigret Park before the 9:30pm curfew, when the park ranger locked the gate. It was time to go. The anglers to my left were ahead of me by a few minutes so I had to hurry to catch up with them to try and find out what pattern they had been using.  I had to know. In short order and panting from being out of breath, I caught up with them and with my tail tucked firmly between my legs, begged to learn their pattern. I was sweaty, out of breath, and desperate. They were well groomed, cool, and somewhat pompous donning their Orvis wear. I must have looked pathetic, but I didn't care. I was just short of going to my knees to implore them to give up there secret fly. They were "Connecticut shrewd", probably corporate insurance geeks (like me). They first asked to see what I had been using- I gladly showed them my bright red Page Rogers couch fly, a small and humble price to pay for the key to their Holy Grail. They snickered to one another, pulled from their flybox a fresh Page Rogers couch fly... in TAN!
   Another (inaudible) WTF! on my part...  One of them smiled and in what I perceived as somewhat of a descending manner, told me they start out with the same red version, but dip it in a solution of Chlorox bleach and water morfing the worm into something ranging from pink to tan. The longer the fly remained in the chemical bath, the more tan it became.
That was It!... a mere subtle color variation!...everything else the same. Bright red vs. bleached to pink and tan, the difference between world class catching and my struggle.
Since then, my go-to pattern for fishing the cinder worm hatch is the "Page Rogers Bleached". For me, it outfishes by a clear margin every other pattern I have experimented with in the twenty plus years of fishing the cinder worm emergence.  Whodathunkit?
  
Water, hooks, peacock herl, thread, Goop, and Chlorox bleach are all easy to find... bright red velvet tubing is not. On scrap furniture collection day in Newport and when local colleges let out for the summer and students trash their dorms and apartments of beat up furniture, I can be found cruising city blocks and campuses scouting for bright red couches with velvet tubing trim. There's a method to this madness.
2014- Charlestown, RI
The following YouTube video takes you through the tying process of my version of the Page Rogers Cinder Worm fly. I start out with bright orange velvet tubing for this pattern. It's best to first bleach a length of the tubing (assuming you can find it) before you tie the pattern. The original bright red fly can still be found if you look hard. My recommendation is if you do find them, strip off the head material, then bleach the fly, then retie the head so it's dark, close to the coloring of the real worm. Alternatively, if you bleach the fly with the dark head, you will have to use a black or dark green Sharpie to recolor it appropriately.
Wine not Cinder Worm
Good luck!

Good Lord!, where did you learn to fly cast?

by Captain Jim Barr on 09/14/16

I give a lot of private and some group fly casting lessons, and before we begin each lesson I go through a process of casting the student's fly rod and line combination if they have brought their own equipment. Half the time the combination is horrible- totally wrong, 25% of the time the combination is "just OK" with the balance being "pretty good", but most of the time none that perfectly matched. So where do these abysmal decisions as to line/rod combinations come from? I suppose some come from people who buy their combinations "on-line" through an internet store, some combinations are purchased at big box stores and from a sales person who is not qualified to provide good advice on fly fishing equipment, and some come from fishing shops who should know better on how to counsel the customer but who don't either carry an adequate inventory to provide a diverse selection, or who lack the casting expertise to provide good advice,  and/or worse yet- who are motivated more with profit pushing with products with the highest margins.  In almost every case, the customer does not have the benefit of knowledgeable advice that creates a solid value proposition.

My recommendations are straight forward:
  • If you are just starting with fly fishing, ie. you've never gone before, and you don't know where to start, get to an IFFF Certified Fly Casting Instructor for a few lessons. Don't even think about buying your own equipment before your lessons. Thank your friends for offering their help, but find a professional. Every good instructor I know has a quiver of fly rods and line setups they can bring to a lesson for the student to play and experiment with. I would much rather go to car dealer who carries ten different makes and models than to go to the Henry Ford dealer, where you can have any car you want as long as it's a black Ford.
  • If you have been fly fishing for some time but you're struggling with your ability to consistently cast 40 feet with accuracy, get professional lessons, and in that process your instructor can test your fly rod/line combination. It may be that you fall into that 50% category where the majority of your problems come from mismatched equipment. A good instructor will also immediately recognize poor casting form and start to put you on the path to improvement. Many instructors will take video of your casting technique and provide you with not only immediate video feedback, but assemble a short series of videos they will provide you illustrating before and after techniques, and to reinforce advice provided the day of your lesson.
  • If you know how to fly cast reasonably well and are in the market for a new rod or fly line, buy that equipment from a seller who is knowledgeable and who will allow you to thoroughly test several rods and lines so that you are making a tested and well informed decision. Buying fly rod and line combinations must be a much more cautious process than selecting surf, spinning or conventional casting rod and line combinations.
Where do you go for good advice and qualified instruction, my recommendation is find a Certified Fly Casting Instructor associated with the International Federation of Fly Fishers based in Livingston, Montana. (http://fedflyfishers.org/). Take a tour of their website first to become familiar with the organization, but hone in on the "Casting" page and specifically in the drop down box, "Find a Certified Instructor"... here's a direct link.(http://fedflyfishers.org/Contact/Locate/CastingInstructors/tabid/301/Default.aspx)
Every state has certified instructors- find one closest to you and take a solid step towards improving your fly casting and fly fishing fun.

It only stands to reason, that if you can REACH more fish, you can catch more fish.

Let RIO PRODUCTS help with your Fly Casting

by Captain Jim Barr on 09/14/16

As a recreational fly angler initially, and then as a professional fly fishing angler, I have developed my preferred list of equipment, to include rods, reels, fly lines, leaders, tippet material and of course, fly patterns. For the sake of this brief article I will skip the rods, reels, leaders, tippet material and fly pattern discussion and save them individually, or collectively for another day and another article. (FYI, in the January 28, 2016 newsletter I penned an article pertaining to my thoughts on saltwater fly patterns.)
 
Of the entire suite of fly fishing hardware used to get a fly in front of a fish, in my estimation THE most critical item- is the fly line.
 
I don't have the time or the interest in experimenting with and testing all the fly lines in the market place and laying out all my findings in an elaborate Excel spreadsheet to help identify the winners. I will leave that to someone else who gets paid to do those kinds of things, or someone who has more time. I have tried most of the major fly line brands, and yes it's probably fair to say that I have not kept up with the "latest of the latest" developments of the various horses running the race to be "the best", but I have a pretty good handle on what's out there. In my estimation, of the high-end lines now available, most are pretty good, some are absolutely horrible irrespective of their pretty packaging, marketing hype and cost, but with only a few who are leading the race to stay ahead of the field by consistently researching, testing and developing new technologies. I don't offer the following opinion out of any pecuniary incentive to do so, my intent is only to provide good guidance to my friends and clients on how to cut through a lot of the marketing bull and get to a point where they don't have to go much further in making a sound purchasing decision.

From where I sit, RIO PRODUCTS is without peer. In the four years that I have been associated with Far Bank Enterprises, the holding company for Sage, Redington and RIO PRODUCTS, I have been primarily fishing with RIO lines. They have performed wonderfully, so much so that in preparation for the upcoming season I recently swapped out all other manufacturer's fly lines (for saltwater and freshwater applications) from my personal and professional inventory, and likewise am recommending RIO to all my fly casting students (both freshwater and saltwater anglers). RIO's fly lines are the only lines that my clients and I will fish with going forward. They offer the largest inventory of fresh and saltwater lines of any manufacturer. Their diversity of types, weights, lengths, densities , coupled with unmatched customer service and technical help desks, is beyond any other fly line company in the world marketplace. I will also say that if you don't have a resource available to you that is knowledgeable about fly fishing and in particular the best fly lines for your type of fishing and level of proficiency, who can provide you with good guidance on what's the best line for you- you can't go wrong by consulting with RIO's experts in Idaho Falls, ID at their manufacturing offices. Some may opine- that's like asking the fox to mind the chicken coop, and I get that, but I think their products and integrity are that good.

In my opinion, for saltwater fly fishing in northeast United States waters, the four most critical features of a fly line are:
  • "Slickness"-  During the cast the ability of the line to freely sail with minimal friction through the guides on the way to the target.
  • "Non Slinky-Toy Behavior"- Lines that retain "memory" from being wound on the reel will develop tight coils when being stripped from the reel, and the propensity of the line to resume the coiling behavior when on the deck or in your stripping basket even, after you have done your best to stretch it before and during your fishing outing. A coiled line will in many cases either prevent you from making a cast, or at a minimum, rob you of casting distance.  
  • Using a line that has minimal stretch. A line that stretches under load will cause you to miss strikes and hooksets, and will be problematic when fish make long runs in current combined with changes in direction. The inability of the angler to maintain a tight connection to the fish as a function of the traditional 30% stretch factor existing in most lines, is the primary reason for fish coming unbuttoned, aside from poor hooksets.
  • For the beginner to low intermediate fly angler, to have a line that has a shorter and heavier "head" section, that has the mass and weight of the fly line concentrated in the forward-most section of the line, which permits easier loading of the rod, and faster presentations due to less false casting, particularly in windy conditions.
Many of my fly casting clients struggle with their casting, particularly in bumpy and windy conditions that are made worse when they must use a backhand cast to reach the fish that are positioned to their "unfavored" side. In my parlance, unfavored means essentially an awkward cast to their non-dominant side when the angler is not allowed to bring their back cast over the interior sections of the boat on account of safety considerations for the captain and the other angler.
Mads Potter Pond bass
Ms. Madeleine- with fly caught striper
OK, what's the point?
RIO manufactures a group of fly lines they call their InTouch Outbound Short series. The head or front section (heaviest portion of the line) is 30 feet long in each of their four lines in this line series- full floating, floating running line with intermediate (slow sinking) tip, full intermediate, and their fast sinking tip with intermediate (slow sinking) running line.  Because the front loaded head of each of these lines is only 30 feet long, they load the fly rod very quickly, and enable the angler to cast very long distances even with heavy/bulky fly patterns. Also, the line has what RIO refers to as their ConnectCore that provides ultra-low stretch performance. Aside from ConnectCore, RIO boasts other breakthrough technologies namely MaxFloat Tip, MaxCast, AgentX and Extreme Slickness. These technologies are explained on their website.
 
As to fly line construction, most lines have a head section that is anywhere between 35 and upwards of 50 feet long (as in the case of RIO's Bonefish line). For the beginner and intermediate caster, these longer head lines can be very difficult to pick up quickly and cast without excessive false casts to build line speed and load energy into the rod.
 
RIO's InTouch Outbound Short line series with the short, aggressive front taper, loads rods deeply and efficiently for effortless casts- the perfect prescription for many fly casters. If you fish and/or take saltwater fly casting lessons with me you will be using these lines and will quickly see how they improve your casting performance.
 
For more information on RIO PRODUCTS visit their website at: http://www.rioproducts.com/ To go directly to more information about their InTouch Outbound Short series of lines, go to: http://www.rioproducts.com/fly-lines/saltwater/coldwater/intouch-outbound-short/

Also click this link that will take you to RIO's Fly Line Selector tool that will help you identify the best fly lines for your specific fly fishing interest.

   

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