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Casting to Your Unfavored Side

by Captain Jim Barr on 03/30/20


I can't tell you how many times I get fly anglers on my boat who cannot cast to their unfavored side without bringing the fly line over the interior space of the boat. If they are a right hand caster as long as the fish are in the 12 o'clock to say 7 o'clock position, they are generally OK.

If however the fish are in the 12 o'clock position to anywhere back to 6 o'clock, their forward and back casts typically cross the boat imperiling the captain and the angler that may be on the stern deck. When I tell them to make a backhand cast or off shoulder cast so that the other occupants of the boat are safe from their line and fly hook... they are befuddled, with some asking me to steer the boat into a different position so they can reach these fish. This of course throws the angler in the stern off his/her casting game and causes me to reposition and in so doing potentially putting down the fish. This is why it is so important to learn how to cast to what I refer to as the unfavored side.

(See Diagram above to better understand the explanation.) For the r ight arm caster at the bow you are probably good at casting to positions to the left ranging from 11 o'clock to the 7 o'clock position because your forward and back casts are traveling over your right shoulder and the line and fly are not threatening injury to anyone else on the boat (barring heavy wind). If you attempt to cast to any of the clock points from 12 to 6 with your casts going over your right shoulder as noted above, your line and fly are going to cross the boat and endanger the captain or other occupants of the boat and/or hang up on the center console, rod rack or antenna. Conversely if you are a lefty on the bow- you're good to go from about the 1 o'clock position to about 5 o'clock, as the line is crossing over your left shoulder and out of harm's way. However when you want to cast to the 12 to 7 o'clock positions- you run into the same problem, the fly line is traveling over the boat and others on-board are ducking and putting on their flak vests and safety glasses!

If you are the angler in the stern , the right hand caster is safe in casting to the 1 o'clock to maybe the 5 o'clock positions, and the lefty is good from about 7 o'clock to 11 for the most part. The diagram above helps explain the scenario of right and left handed casters whose skills are limited and who can only cast effectively to their favored side. In each diagram the black lines represent the rod and forward cast direction and the lighter colored (faint) broken lines represent the rod and line in the back cast. Remember, the fly line ALWAYS follows the path of the tip of the rod. 

You have to extrapolate a bit to visualize the path of the fly rod and line in overhead casts (or slightly canted overhead casts) where the rod and line crosses near the caster's favored shoulder, to the light colored water areas. The light colored water (all non-red pie shaped water) represents the water these "One Dimensional Casters" are unable to reach without bringing the fly line over the boat into what I call the "danger zone".  

There are two fundamental casts you need to learn, and 45 minutes with a certified fly casting instructor (or a good video tape and casting book) can help to get you on the road to catching more fish and hooking less ears by converting you from a One Directional Caster to a Multi-Directional Caster . These are the "Off Shoulder" and "Backhand" casts (these are hot linked to You Tube videos illustrating these casting techniques). The Off Shoulder video is very short but it effectively illustrates this cast that when combined with a double-haul, creates additional line speed enabling the caster to increase their distance.
For good measure if you can also learn to roll cast to your unfavored side using the Single Handed Off-Shoulder Roll Cast - wow, you've nearly achieved fly casting nirvana!

An Eye For An Eye

by Captain Jim Barr on 03/28/20

You may recall in an earlier newsletter I included an article about a practical joke my father played on one of his dearest friends, who like my father, was an avid angler and who worked for my dad in the late 50’s at a paper company in upstate New York. (" A Turtle Made Me Do It- 12/16/17") The story was about how my dad and I came upon a large snapping turtle while we were largemouth bass fishing in Fish Creek near Saratoga Springs and how my father instructed me to lasso this beast, bring it back to the house, whereupon he painted his buddies name on the shell, then had me release the turtle a few days later in the same scummy water we found it, only to “discover” it a year later when he surreptitiously took that same friend to the creek in hopes of finding the monogrammed beast. Johnny Haren practically fell out of the boat when he saw his name emblazoned on the turtle's back. To say my father was a practical joker would be an understatement.

Prior to moving to New York, we lived in a suburb of Akron, Ohio. At the time I was about seven years old and my father was an aspiring young executive. My parents would frequently host neighborhood parties where I’m told the liquor flowed on the heavy-ish side, and for the formal parties the men wore suits and their wives or dates wore cocktail dresses. In preparation for one of those parties my father removed a couple of rather elegant martini glasses from the china cabinet and took them to a jeweler and had the jeweler drill a very small hole just below the rim of each glass (I still have one of those glasses!). At one of the parties, as the evening progressed and the guests became increasingly inebriated, my father would single-out one of the ladies whose husband or date, as the case may be, would go along with the gag. The ideal target was a gal wearing a fairly open-topped dress and who was “well on her way”. Dad would slide into the conversation, make note that her martini was nearly empty and offer to build her a fresh drink. Into the kitchen my father would slither to mix a fresh martini in the altered glass and return to his guest making sure he handed her the glass with the small hole perfectly aligned so that when she sipped the martini, a small amount of the liquid would dribble onto her chin, and then onto her dress. Of course he was immediately at the ready with his handkerchief to assist her with mopping up. She would pardon herself for being sloppy and in short order take another sip, with the same result. Each time my father would take her glass so she could finish tidying up, and then replace the glass into her hand properly oriented for another trickle. When I replay this twisted gag in my mind’s eye, all I can think of is it would have been a perfect Benny Hill burlesque segment! 
My father was a practical joker extraordinaire. So, you may be asking yourself where is this story going and does it have anything to do with fishing, after all this is the Skinny Water Charters newsletter, right? Please bear with me.

At several of the paper companies my father worked for in the early years of his career, he was the operations manager and as such had responsibility for production, profitability, quality, human resources, and worker safety. I can recall when I was a little kid, oftentimes he would bring me to the plant on a Saturday morning and I would accompany him on production floor walk-throughs . He would inspect the machines to make sure they were operating correctly, he’d examine the paperboard or folding cartons to make sure the colors were right and the folds exact. He would always shake the hands of the machine operators and tell them they were doing a good job and he would make sure they were wearing their safety glasses. Whenever he spotted an operator who was not wearing his safety glasses, he would turn away and pull from his pocket a glass prosthetic eye and screw it into his eye and squint to hold it in place, come up behind the operator and tap him on the shoulder and give him the Marty Feldman freaky eye look https://youtu.be/nxxSIX3fmmo. The operator would look in horror and my father would proceed to give the guy a lecture on the importance of wearing his safety glasses to avoid a catastrophic injury. My father always carried that glass eye on those plant tours and many years later, gave it to me along with a bunch of other weird stuff, including the martini glasses.

So, fast backwards a bunch of years to sometime in the late 1980’s. I’ve been invited on a fly fishing trip to a remote lodge in the Quebec wilderness with a good friend and four other guys I knew pretty well as we had all fished together a bunch of times in the Cape Cod trout ponds. Like me, these guys were hard-core fly fishers, loved a good time, were free spirits, loved being in the woods and on boats and enjoyed a good joke, and for the most part could handle themselves should ever a problem arise… perfect companions for a week of fly fishing at a very remote fly-in lodge on Lac De La Robe Noire. We leased a huge van that with careful packing could carry all of us, our fishing equipment and baggage. The driving portion of the trip was a herculean seventeen hour, one thousand mile push to get to the float plane base at Havre-Sainte-Pierre, Quebec.

The flight into the lodge was via a de Havilland Beaver, the preferred aircraft of bush pilots servicing remote locations in the Canadian north. With a short takeoff and landing (STOL) capability, this beast powered by a Pratt & Whitney radial engine had a cruising speed of 140 mph with a useful payload of 2,100 lbs. and in our case, two 55 gallon drums of gasoline for the lodge’s generator and outboard motors (as far as I was concerned we were a flying bomb). I could see it, on the front page of Le Journal de Quebec…
“Fishing Vacation Turns Tragic…a Bush pilot of a 1950’s era de Haviland Beaver aircraft experienced engine problems on a flight into a remote fishing lodge in Northern Quebec. Despite being able to safely land in a small clearing, a spark ignited 416 liters of 89 octane.” 

The Beaver is the perfect platform for flying into wilderness lakes, most of which are quite small and teeming with native brook trout, our target species. The flight was quick and uneventful and because we were at a fairly low level we were able to get a good look at the numerous lakes and rivers and the absolute wilderness below, but the plane vibrated considerably, was noisy and a bit unsettling. In those days, navigation did not include the luxury of Ground Positioning Satellites (GPS), but was a matter of setting a compass course to the target lake, the pilot adjusting for wind direction and speed, and the whole time basically dead reckoning via a network of familiar lakes and hills from having taken innumerable trips into the lodge.
We landed without incident and proceeded to have a wonderful week of brook trout catching, spectacular boat rides to fertile waters, great food by the very capable camp chefs, lots of cocktails, sound sleeps, numerous stories and laughter, while nearly contracting blood poisoning from untold bottles of DEET required to keep from getting eaten alive by black flies In the evenings following dinner when we really got to laughing and carrying on with the camp staff joining in (most who couldn’t speak much English), I would look away from the group and insert my father’s glass eye which I brought along for the trip. No one ever got tired of dumb glass eye antics and lousy jokes (some of which were only humorous when I resorted to the Marty Feldman goofy eye look).
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After five days of fishing, the morning came for our planned departure, however the weather had turned rainy with a low cloud ceiling accompanied by a very heavy fog. The camp manager broke the news that he had received word via radio from the float plane base that we would have to stay another night, that with essentially no visibility, conditions were too dangerous to fly. We made the most of it by enjoying our "bonus" night with our wonderful hosts. The following morning the fog had mostly lifted with breaks in the low clouds, enough so that we would be able to leave. The Beaver arrived a bit late due to having to navigate around cloud cover, but we were able to load our gear and bid adieu to our new friends, and our little piece of perfect wilderness… or so we thought.

I sat in the co-pilot’s seat enjoying the ride from an entirely different perspective, and following about thirty miles into the flight, watched the dry windshield become wet and the clear sky ahead, turn to fog. The pilot adjusted the controls and lowered our elevation clearing the heaviest of the fog. He reached behind my seat for a topographical map that he used to attempt pinpointing our location. He banked the plane to the left- looked out his open window to the area below, then turned to the right, each time simultaneously studying the map. Without my asking, it became apparent he was looking for a lake on which to land. In broken English he announced to the guys what was already obvious to me, we had an unscheduled landing coming up with no idea of how long we’d be delayed. (I was already wondering if he stowed any sleeping bags and food- this could be an overnight stay or perhaps even longer.)

In fairly short order he spotted a lake where we could possibly land. He made a few more turns to confirm wind direction and speed, cross referenced his topo map, dropped elevation again, radioed our location and plan to the float plane base, and took a final low level look at the stretch of water that was to be our runway to make sure there were no rocks, floating logs, or sand bars in the way. There was only one cabin on the lake with a short dock that was to be our “terminal”. I asked him if he knew anything about the cabin and with a raised eyebrow and a smirk he said he had no clue. We lined up and barely cleared the trees at one end of the lake. The pilot pushed in the steering yoke and set the plane down for what was a smooth landing, dropping speed way before the advancing shoreline. In short order he taxied over to the dilapidated dock that was in front of the cabin we had seen from the air.
Following his instruction, a couple of us jumped out of the plane and tied the Beaver to the dock as the pilot shut down the engine and made a final call to the float plane base confirming a safe landing, our approximate location and requesting he be notified when the weather looked to be clearing. He directed us to the cabin to check if there was any sign of life. I found the cabin door unlocked, took a quick peek around and noted a few cigarette butts, the leftover smell of burned tobacco and wet dirty dishes in the sink.

As I returned to the front deck I could faintly hear in the distance what sounded like an outboard motor. Sure enough, in short order a fishing boat with two anglers aboard was approaching the dock. I remarked to the guys that this was going to get interesting… a huge plane just landed on their lake, it’s now tied to their dock and there are six strangers standing on their cabin’s porch! 

The pilot helped the anglers secure their boat to what little room remained on their dock. These guys were clearly agitated as evidenced by their hand and arm movements and elevated voices, which of course suggested we might be in store for a confrontation. None of us spoke French so we had no idea how the pilot was positioning the situation, but after a few tense minutes it appeared the anglers had settled down as they made their way to cabin. As they joined us on the deck they were smiling and began to shake our hands and jibber-jabbered in a mix of French and rough English. (trade is an amazing thing... the promise of a few beaver pelts, a wool blanket and beads settled down the natives.)

In short order Henri and Marcel invited us into their cabin, pulled up extra chairs surrounding their retro formica top kitchen table, quickly distributed a collection of dissimilar coffee cups and pulled two bottles of Canadian Club whisky from the cupboard! I thought to myself, my how things have changed! I might add that our hosts were already half in the bag from what was probably a slow morning of fishing, but it appeared they were receptive to having temporary house guests and wanted to make us comfortable for what they probably hoped was a short stay. As the whisky flowed to and through all of us (with the exception of the pilot, thank god) so did the laughter and back slapping, with the pilot interpreting the two-way conversations as nimbly as he could.

The festivity continued as the levels of whisky in the bottles continued to drop. I thought to myself, although it was festive, there was an increasing kind of weirdness to the scene with some drama starting to unfold. Shortly my uneasiness manifested as things took a surreal turn. Our hosts were now downright shitfaced and their demeanor started to shift from being jovial, to becoming edgy and a bit combative. Henri fell off his chair and as he attempted to get up using the table as support, pulled onto the floor several coffee cups of whisky and an ashtray. Marcel got up and staggered to help his friend offering a hand and in so doing slipped on the puddle of booze also falling to the floor, and the two of them let out a rant of expletives that required no translation. The six of us and the pilot quickly glanced at one another, all of us thinking… now this is goddamned weird!
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Our hosts got to their feet and with hysterical “hyena-type” laughter, and in concert with one another, began pulling coffee cups, silverware, dishes and saucers from the cupboards and drawers, and stumbling to the deck began throwing the kitchen contents into the woods. These guys had transitioned from happy hosts to dangerous drunks and it was immediately apparent to me we needed a plan “stat”, to manage what could become a dangerous situation. As our hosts were occupied on the front deck emptying the kitchen, I quickly devised a plan and made the rounds with my friends instructing them as follows…
If need be:
Jimmy – “if pandemonium breaks out your job is to protect the pilot and get him to the plane”
Ed – “you’re good with guns, grab that double-barrel shotgun propped in the corner, make sure it’s empty and slide it under the couch”
Mike- “you and I we’ll take down Marcel”
Chris and Carl- “you guys take down Henri”
I can recall as if it were yesterday, looking out the door to the deck and watching our hosts scale their dinner plates and saucers into the woods as if they were Frisbees, many exploding on the tall pine tree trunks. On one hand it was hilarious, while at the same time I was concerned what might happen once they returned to the cabin… but we were prepared should things have gotten ugly.
Marcel and Henri ran out of ammunition and came back into the cabin now looking to throw chairs off the deck! (Sure I can recall a certain level of frustration on bad fishing days, and rounds of golf where I was tempted to throw my rod into the drink or my clubs into the pond on #4, but plates, saucers, and chairs, from your cabin and in front of complete strangers!… we were indeed in uncharted territory.)
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If it were to occur that our hosts would start pushing and swinging, we were prepared to launch our plan. If you were ever in a bar fight, and I’ve been in a few, you know how quickly things can go south- but so far, cooler heads were (barely) prevailing. During our time in their cabin I had studied both guys closely and had noticed that Henri had evidence of a broken nose that occurred sometime in his past- maybe he was a fighter or more likely, he fell down or drove his snowmobile into a tree, both guys had scarred knuckles and Marcel seemed to have a problem with looking at you straight!

So, as we were all on edge, standing up and looking at these guys, wondering what was next, I remembered that I had in my pocket my father’s prosthetic glass eye. (As I noted earlier I had used it several times during the week at our fishing lodge, and as always it got lots of laughs… and magically here it was in my jeans pocket- such luck!) I thought… man, if there was ever a time when we needed some comedic relief… it was now!
I turned to the pilot and told him to tell Marcel, quote “Jim here is keeping an eye on you!”, and as the pilot with some hesitation did the translation, I turned away, pulled the glass eye from my pocket, quickly screwed it into my right eye socket, turned back and looked directly at Marcel, and gave him the Marty Feldman look.
For a moment you could have heard a pin drop and in the next breath Marcel doubled over in laughter nearly dropping to the floor- (again), but this time from laughter. Henri’s face lit up like a drunken Canuck (he was) at a festive Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day celebration, and he likewise went into hysteria…and then began hugging Marcel (strange dudes these French Canadians). My friends and the pilot likewise erupted in unrestrained laughter. It was a sight to behold.

As we were all catching our breath, Marcel, with a semi-sober demeanor, not unlike an experienced poker player holding a winning hand…“saw my bet and raised me one”, and proceeded to REMOVE his glass eye! Holy Shit Batman, Marcel was now staring at me with one good eye and one white muscle! The cabin absolutely exploded- I mean exploded in laughter. We slapped each other’s backs, we did man hugs and high fives. Did you ever hug a man with one good eye and one flesh eye…I have!

After the craziness settled and Marcel reinserted his prosthetic eye and I returned mine to my jeans pocket, we seemed to all sober up for a minute, shake hands and wish one another well. We then went about helping our hosts clean up the cabin and salvage some of their dinnerware from the woods. In short order we heard the airplane radio crackle, and our pilot motioned to us to get a move on as the base station had radioed an "all clear " weather report.

We bid adieu to our hosts, thanked them for the respite and whisky party and climbed into the Beaver for the remainder of our flight to the float plane base. It was a bizarre but fitting end to a wonderful fly fishing trip to a great wilderness location, with good friends, old and new.

Ghosts and Mayflies

by Captain Jim Barr on 03/28/20

Long before becoming a fishing guide I used to fish freshwater, almost exclusively. Mostly for trout, but for largemouth bass and other warm water species, and mostly with a fly rod. I preferred to fish by myself, not because I was antisocial but because I enjoyed the solitude, probably not unlike many other fly anglers. There was just something about being in the woods by myself as I often bushwacked to remote waters in search of not only the peace these environs offered but also because I liked to fish water that didn't get much angling pressure. It was always an adventure, I loved adventure and still do.

As a kid we lived in the country, often near a stream or lake, and in the 50's and 60's my parents thought nothing of letting me go off for the day to fish, hunt woodchucks with my .22 caliber rifle, trap muskrats and search for arrowheads. Things were a lot different then than today. These days it seems there are just so many wackos that steal children, molest them, or the kids themselves find getting into trouble way too easy. Trust has been compromised.

My childhood days of ranging far and wide from the house on these sometimes day-long excursions carried forward into my 40's and 50's. On the backside of business trips I would often solo backpack with my flyrod into some prettty wild-ass places, most often in the mountains of northern and southern California, Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico.
I thought nothing of being in the backcountry and solo for upwards of a week at a time.

I often encountered some weird things when alone for days on end. Let's not call them ghosts, instead I'll call them apparitions or spirits. At times they were clearly visible, other encounters were more like a "presence". No, I wasn't dehydrated and experiencing hallucinations (the halluncinations were mostly in my college days, and I'm not going there.) These were different and left an other worldly kind of impression. Never were they scarey per se, but all of them stopped me dead in my tracks, sent chills up my spine and caused the hair on my arms and neck to spring up.

My very first encounter:
My mother's family owned a ranch in the foothills of the Bighorn Mountains in Wyoming. My family would travel there every summer. My father would return to Ohio after two weeks to return to work. My mother, brother and me would stay for a couple of months until my father returned to bring us all home in time for the start of school. The McCormack's were a big family, my mother being the oldest of five children, the youngest being my aunt Jeanne, who at the time of this story had just graduated from high school. Jeanne loved to fish and she often took me with her during that summer of 1955. There was a small stream that wound through my grandfather's property that he used to pull water from with a pump tractor to irrigate his alfalfa fields. That muddy stream which was not much more than an irrigation ditch was loaded with trout- rainbows and browns. We used worms that aunt Jeanne would dig from the cutbank at the streams edge and we would use broken sticks tied onto fishing line as bobbers to keep the hook from snagging on sunken brush, barbed wire and pieces of discarded farm equipment that created a peculiar kind of cover (almost urban) for trout. The rods we used were $5 fiberglass specials bought at the feed store in Story, the next town over from Banner where the ranch was. It was pretty basic fishing but we caught big trout! Jeanne knew that stream like the back of her hand. When not doing chores, riding fences and taming horses, she was fishing, and always by herself.

Later that summer after my family returned to our home in Ohio my aunt was competing for the rodeo queen title in Sheridan, Wyoming when she was thrown off her horse and killed, as my grandparents watched from the grandstand. I was seven years old when I watched my mother melt after she took that fateful phone call from her father who broke the news.

The following summer my family again vacationed on the ranch. In the interim from when Jeanne died and when we arrved that following summer, my grandfather had built a small shrine in the backyard of the ranch house where he and my grandmother would often sit and reflect on their lost daughter. It was all very sad.

One day I asked my mother if I could go down to the creek to fish. She was apparently confident that I knew how to get around down there so she let me go off by myself. It was while I was on that stream that day that I saw my aunt, as clear as day, just upstream from me, fishing by herself. I ran back to the house and told my mother what had happened and as you might guess, she didn't believe me.

My grandfather was a tough son-of-a bitch, a US Army infantry veteran in WW1 who fought in the Argonne Forest). He was a no nonsense guy who by day milked cows by hand, mended wire fences, rolled his own cigarettes while driving his tractor, and irrigated his fields with a shovel. He was the original Marlboro Man. But after dinner he would sit in his overstuffed chair and play his violin, a nightly ritual before bedtime. I could only imagine the things that played through his memory as he sat in that chair most every night deep in thought as he played his music. Although his exterior was rough, battle scarred, plagued by advancing arthritis, and sunburned from hours in the fields, he had a heart of gold I think and was always very good to me, and he was approachable.

I told him about seeing Jeanne down on the stream earlier that day, and I braced myself for his response. He looked me square in the eye, smiled and told me that he and my grandmother saw her all the time.

This was my first encounter, but over my life I have had many others, some with my deceased parents and others with strangers, many times while on my solo adventures.

?Don’t call me crazy, call me blessed.
It's now mid-July of 1994, the peak month for fishing the Hexagenia Limbata mayfly hatch on the Wood River, a gorgeous sixteen-mile serpentine trout stream situated in southwestern Rhode Island. The Hex hatch brings out the biggest trout that make this stream their home, and it also brings out the most diehard Rhode Island and nearby Connecticut fly anglers. The downside (considered by some anglers) is that the emergence of these giant mayflies (also referred to as the Giant Michigan Mayfly) doesn' t get going until about 8:30pm. You can catch the big trout during the nymph stage but the real fun is fishing the hatch as the mayflies emerge onto the surface, and dry their wings in what's called the Dun stage.

The Wood River is relatively small water and it's at the Barberville Dam (see photo) where I would start my adventure. In order to get to one of the prime spots to fish the emergence from a canoe (particularlly on a weekend evening)- one has to get on the water considerably before dark to stake out the water you intend to fish.
Whenever I fish this water from a canoe, I want to do it solo, there just isn't adequate room for two anglers both casting fly rods, particularly on this narrow stream lined with heavy brush and overhanging trees. Casting needs to be accurate and quiet as the trout are very spooky as the hatch begins. They become less so as the evening progresses into complete darkness. During a pitch black night when the mayflies are flying into your eyes, ears and mouth and the trout are smacking the surface, casts need only be 15 feet or less. Leaders on your floating line are only 3 feet long and once darkness falls you don't ever see the take, but when you hear a trout smack the surface and you think that noise is near where you think your fly is floating, you pick up and some of the time there's a connection and you're off to the races.
As I noted in an earlier article most anglers don't like to fish in the dark, they feel intimidated, and when fishing from a canoe, in the woods, in complete darkness where you literally cannot see your hands in front of your face, being comfortable in these environs comes as a result of experience, confidence and time on the water.

It's a weeknight, very muggy, a heavy cloud cover, and there's light rain in the forecast. Perfect. I'll have the river and the trout all to myself. I pack two short fly rods, a box of Hex patterns, a head lamp, a bottle of bug dope, a rain jacket, a life preserver, a small anchor, a length of rope, two paddles and I strap down my canoe on the roof of my 4-Runner and I'm headed for the Barberville Dam. These days there is a parking lot at the dam large enough for a few cars requiring only a short carry across a lawn onto a dock where you drop your canoe and load it with your gear. In 1994 you parked your car down aways from the stream and just off the road. You then hoisted the canoe onto your shouders and carried it 100 yards through heavy woods, dense brush and over a stone wall to finally get to the water's edge just above the dam. Then you returned to the truck to get your gear. You did all of this while it was still light when you were launching, but on the return trip after fishing, it's completely dark and being so close to the dam, the pucker factor sets in as you carefully land the boat, and then haul it up the embankment after which you remove all the gear and start ferrying it back through the woods to the car. A pain in the arse, but typically well worth the effort if you've caught some nice trout.

It was well past midnight when I decided I'd had enough. I had been eaten alive by mosquitoes, and was beat but had caught some memorable rainbows and browns. It was now starting to drizzle, a breeze was picking up scattering the mosquitoes and in the distance I could hear the rumble of thunder, sure signs of a gathering storm. Clearly it was time to go as I had several miles of downstream paddling to get to the takeout at the dam. There were no other boats or people on the river, no lights in any of the remote cabins, just the sound of thunder as a cold front approached from the west.
Lightning
I strapped on the life preserver, turned off the headlamp to regain what little night vision there was and started to paddle downstream.
Halfway through the return to the dam, the wind picked up significantly and the frequency and proximity of the lightning strikes increased. Clearly I should have left earlier but I was in it now and just needed to be careful to not overturn. I paddled close to the bank so if I did capsize I could probably wade to shore but would likely lose my fly rods in the process. The going was difficult as the wind was gusting and blowing the canoe off course but in time I started hearing the water going over the dam, I was getting close but now my concern was overshooting the takeout and going over the dam.

I switched the headlamp on and studied the shoreline for the takeout, as I continued to gently paddle now getting very close to the dam. At last, there was the spot, a three foot apron of sand, just below a muskrat den opening, next to a big oak tree at the water's edge. I put the canoe broadside to the embankment, stepped out and grabbed a low branch with one hand while holding the painter tied to the canoe with the other. Terra Firma!

In short order I pulled the canoe up the embankment being careful to not dip the stern into the water. It was now raining hard but I could have cared less. I might as well been in my living room. It was a successful fishing outing and a great adventure. I packed up all my gear and made my way back though the woods, over wet and exposed tree roots, over the knee high stone wall, through the heavy brush to the truck. Now the canoe.
Back through the jungle to the canoe. I reoriented the 16 foot canoe around some trees and hoisted it onto my shoulders. My headlamp was slightly askew so I didn't see the exposed tree roots. I tripped on a root, but was able to momentarily keep my balance as I was being pitched forward by my momentum. My left shin struck a small boulder, the canoe lurched to the right and as I fell hard to the ground with the canoe on my back, with the carrying yoke pinning my neck and head to ground. My right cheek got jammed into the dirt and gravel, my arms were ahead of my body and wedged between the stern seat and sole of the canoe. Pain coursed through my entire body, I was under the boat and I could not move. My headlamp was now focused on the dirt just ahead of my eyes as I watched a procession of red ants, not five inches from my face carrying leaf matter back to a hole in the ground. (Despite the pain I found that rather interesting actually). I was probably in that position for five minutes which seemed like an eternity. I tried several times to move my arms, to reposition them and try and push the boat off my back, but I could not free them. I felt powerless. The pain still raged in my legs, arms and back. I wasn't paralyzed but I was completely immobile. There was no sense in crying out for help, after all it was probably 1am and it was raining and still thundering and lightning.

I tried a third time to get the boat off my back but it wasn't going to happen. I lay in the dirt for probably another five minutes and tried once more, but this time it was different.
I know that it wasn't my power that allowed me to get free, it was like something magical had just happened. The boat was featherlight, I easilly rolled the canoe away from me and was able to very slowly gather some strength, so I could get onto my knees. Immediately in front of me was a tree, maybe 18" in diameter. While on my knees I hugged the tree to steady myself as I slowly pulled myself up the trunk. As I was almost standing erect, not five inches from my face was a large see-through plastic envelope nailed to the tree that came into view that contained a photograph of two guys smiling at me. It startled me and I pushed away from the tree and as I did so I could see an array of multi-colored plastic flowers that bordered their photograph, along with a cross and an inscription, and with my headlamp now aligned properly I could see that this was a memorial to two guys who died just months before in a canoe drowning accident at the dam.
Chills shot up and down my spine. I wasn't frightened, just taken aback by all that had just occured. I later learned about their accident.

The following is an excerpt from American Whitewater, a non-profit organization that reported what had happened to these fellows, who in the
(not the actual tree)

strange ways of life and death may very well have helped me that fateful night.

TWO MEN DROWN IN A RHODE ISLAND DAM
Wood River near Acadia, Rhode Island: March 26, 1994
SUMMARY: On Saturday, March 26th tragedy struck a group of paddlers on their annual canoe trip down the Wood River in Rhode Island. Domenic Valleta was killed when he got caught in the hydraulic at the base of Barberville Dam. In the rescue attempt Paul Valliere was also killed and a third man was hospitalized.
DESCRIPTION: The Wood River is a local moving-water stream popular with Rhode Island paddlers. It was swollen from recent snowmelt and rains. this river trip was an annual event for the six men who survived; for the two victims it was their first run. Both men had some paddling experience and were wearing life vests when the incident occurred.

Don’t call me crazy, call me blessed

Casting to Your Unfavored Side

by Captain Jim Barr on 01/31/20

Casting to Your Unfavored Side




I can't tell you how many times I get fly anglers on my boat who cannot cast to their unfavored side without bringing the fly line over the interior space of the boat. If they are a right hand caster as long as the fish are in the 12 o'clock to say 7 o'clock position, they are generally OK.

If however the fish are in the 12 o'clock position to anywhere back to 6 o'clock, their forward and back casts typically cross the boat imperiling the captain and the angler that may be on the stern deck. When I tell them to make a backhand cast or off shoulder cast so that the other occupants of the boat are safe from their line and fly hook... they are befuddled, with some asking me to steer the boat into a different position so they can reach these fish. This of course throws the angler in the stern off his/her casting game and causes me to reposition and in so doing potentially putting down the fish. This is why it is so important to learn how to cast to what I refer to as the unfavored side.

(See Diagram above to better understand the explanation.) For the right arm caster at the bow you are probably good at casting to positions to the left ranging from 11 o'clock to the 7 o'clock position because your forward and back casts are traveling over your right shoulder and the line and fly are not threatening injury to anyone else on the boat (barring heavy wind). If you attempt to cast to any of the clock points from 12 to 6 with your casts going over your right shoulder as noted above, your line and fly are going to cross the boat and endanger the captain or other occupants of the boat and/or hang up on the center console, rod rack or antenna. Conversely if you are a lefty on the bow- you're good to go from about the 1 o'clock position to about 5 o'clock, as the line is crossing over your left shoulder and out of harm's way. However when you want to cast to the 12 to 7 o'clock positions- you run into the same problem, the fly line is traveling over the boat and others on-board are ducking and putting on their flak vests and safety glasses!

If you are the angler in the stern, the right hand caster is safe in casting to the 1 o'clock to maybe the 5 o'clock positions, and the lefty is good from about 7 o'clock to 11 for the most part. The diagram above helps explain the scenario of right and left handed casters whose skills are limited and who can only cast effectively to their favored side. In each diagram the black lines represent the rod and forward cast direction and the lighter colored (faint) broken lines represent the rod and line in the back cast. Remember, the fly line ALWAYS follows the path of the tip of the rod. 

You have to extrapolate a bit to visualize the path of the fly rod and line in overhead casts (or slightly canted overhead casts) where the rod and line crosses near the caster's favored shoulder, to the light colored water areas. The light colored water (all non-red pie shaped water) represents the water these "One Dimensional Casters" are unable to reach without bringing the fly line over the boat into what I call the "danger zone".  

There are two fundamental casts you need to learn, and 45 minutes with a certified fly casting instructor (or a good video tape and casting book) can help to get you on the road to catching more fish and hooking less ears by converting you from a One Directional Caster to a Multi-Directional Caster. These are the "Off Shoulder" and "Backhand" casts (these are hot linked to You Tube videos illustrating these casting techniques). The Off Shoulder video is very short but it effectively illustrates this cast that when combined with a double-haul, creates additional line speed enabling the caster to increase their distance.
For good measure if you can also learn to roll cast to your unfavored side using the Single Handed Off-Shoulder Roll Cast- wow, you've nearly achieved fly casting nirvana!

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-
-
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.

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