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They Call them "Sage" for a Reason- Rod Review

by Captain Jim Barr on 04/25/13

I just took the opportunity to test drive two new fly rods that I added to my inventory last December when I joined the Pro Guide program with Far Bank Enterprises, the holding company for Sage, Redington and RIO Products.
I bought the Sage One in a 9ft-9wt and the Xi3 in a 9ft-10wt.
Understand that I was an Orvis Endorsed Guide for the last several years and had the opportunity to own and fish with their two top of the line rods, the Hydros (now discontinued- mistake!) and the Helios, both very nice rods. But I have to tell you that the Sage rods I noted above are not only great looking rods, but they cast beautifully. Neither are as light as the Orvis rods, but the action on the One although fast, is very very smooth and extremely precise. It casts more like a trout rod with pinpoint accuracy yet it has plenty of backbone to allow casting the entire line with ease. The line on the reel was a 9wt Scientific Anglers XXD Floating with a 17 ft front taper, 19ft front belly and a 15ft rear belly... a discontinued line but one that was engineered for distance casting. (I just bought this line at a "fire sale"). It's perfectly matched for this rod and for my style of casting. Very very impressed with the One. The blank is stealthy black- very cool looking rod.

The Xi3 is a stiffer rod, it's a 10wt and although just one line up, it's action is considerably different than the One. It's not quite as "surgically smooth" casting as the One but it has incredible power, and dumping the entire 10wt floating Orvis Wonderline (a new line but also from a discontinued series)  was easy facing a slight headwind in the field. This rod is truly a cannon. The blank is "electric blue" (my term) and it is gorgeous. The rod is fast, and under the strain of powerful double hauling force with a lot of fly line aerialized, does not flex as deeply as the Helios 10wt flexes under similar casting dynamics. The Helios tip section feels softer than the tip section of the Xi3 and in my experience the softer tip bleeds power. The tradeoff may be that casting an Xi3 all day will tire you a bit more quickly than the Helios, but I would rather have increased ability to punch longer casts in the windy conditions we continuously face in Rhode Island salt waters. (Tests under engineering conditions may contradict my findings and that's OK- this was a field test and is based on the subjective "feel" of each of these rods)
I have built many Sage rods over the years, 3 weights to 10 and have always liked how they cast and how they looked. The One and the Xi3 do not disappoint. Both are very different looking rods and both are nicely appointed... not fancy like the Helios rods, but very nice. I'm looking forward to testing these rods under fishing conditions.
In my opinion neither the One or the Xi3 could be truly appreciated by amateur or even intermediate fly casters. They are very precise and powerful.

Weed 'n Tag

by Captain Jim Barr on 03/02/13

Fishing the worm hatch on a night where there's lots of weed in the water? With every retrieve you have weed on the nose of the fly and the hook. You know the bass won't touch it. Several remedies:
-During your false casting you will hear the weed on the fly. It will sound like a flag blowing in 20 kts of wind. Make your casting starts and stops very crisp and with a very powerful series of false casts (be careful of the tailing loop) and most times you can cast the weed free.

-Sometimes a water haul provides enough tension to tippet and fly and you can pull the weed off during the haul in the casting stroke.
- Another tip that works well. Have several pre-tied leader systems in plastic sandwich bags. When you construct the tapered leader, instead of using double or triple surgeons knots (the easiest), use instead a series of Blood Knots. However leave the tag ends, don't clip them off. I leave mine about a half an inch long. As you strip the fly, the tag ends catch the weed in the water and don't allow it to run down the leader to the head of the fly and the hook bend. By leaving the tag ends, the surface tension of the water helps float the monofilament leader or maintains it just below the surface (do not use Fluorocarbon material- its too heavy and will pull down those light-weight patterns).

Dump the Wading Boots

by Captain Jim Barr on 03/02/13

Like to wade fish the beaches or wear your waders while kayaking... and you're wearing clunky wading boots? Where it's just sand and gravel and no slippery rocks or barnacles on rock or ledge, buy oversize Keens or Simms water sandals, or go really cheap and buy water shoes at Walmart. If you are only going to be getting in and out of your kayak, Crocs work great. Jury rig the Crocs and Walmart water slippers with parachute cord and a plastic draw string fastener. You've just lost fifteen pounds of unnecessary weight.


by Captain Jim Barr on 03/02/13

Scenario: Fly fishing in Newport at certain harbor beaches (or anywhere for that matter where sand eels are on top or near the top of the water column).

1. If the sand eels are tiny (1-2") and they are swarming in the upper water column. Get rid of any fluorocarbon tippet you may be using on your floating line (when was the last time you cleaned your floating line?) Not cleaning it on a regular basis will cause it to sink. Switch your leader/ tippet system to all monofilament.
2. If your pattern is not riding on top or high enough in the water column, tie in a Thingamabobber (the small version) to your leader about 4 feet up from the fly. Use the version that has the peg so it won't slip down the leader as you false cast. It's a bit clunky to cast. Remember your not using it as a nymphing strike indicator as you would for freshwater trout fishing, rather you are simply using the Thinga.... to keep the fly pattern high in the water column.

Speed Up Your Casting to be Successful

by Captain Jim Barr on 02/18/13

I see many anglers on my boat as well as on other boats who take way too many false casts. From my experience the average fly caster in a "no to low" wind speed environment, will take 5 false casts before they present the fly.  I see many fly casters take up to TEN false casts before the fly gets wet. There are many variables that occur in saltwater fly fishing that have a bearing on casting. Wind, waves, a rocking boat, another angler or captain that may be in the way of the backcast, fish you are targeting that are to your unfavored casting side, just to name a few.  Many anglers don't start the cast with enough line outside the tip to start loading the rod with the first false cast, others cannot generate enough line speed quickly enough to load the rod and create that ideal narrow loop to punch through a gnarly wind. Let's experiment how long it takes you to deliver a fly 60 feet to a target. (That's about an average distance in most saltwater fly fishing). In your backyard, a park, or ball field, set out a 60 foot target. Take a friend with you who can time how long it takes for you to present the fly to that target.  Conduct two experiments, one using a trout rod setup up with a 4-6 weight rod. The other experiment using an 8-10 weight rod. Use a weight forward floating line in both experiments. For the purposes of this exercise let's define one "false cast" as a linked backcast and forward cast, where you do not present the fly. When you reach the point where you feel you are ready to make the final cast to your target do not count that last backcast and the forward cast as a "false cast". Let's start the experiment with only ten feet of fly line outside the tip in addition to a 7 foot leader and have that line/leader on the grass or water immediately in front of you. Begin your false casts to prepare for hitting the 60 foot target while your friend times and counts the number of false casts you need to present the fly to your target.

I will hazard a guess and say that it will take the average fly caster a minimum of 5 "false casts" (as we have defined) before you are ready to present the fly to your target. Another guesstimate, those 5 false casts plus the final backcast and presentation cast will take 7-8 seconds. Many of you may be in the 8 false cast range, that requires about 15 seconds elapsed time before you present the fly.

Keep your numbers in mind as you rejoin this discussion.

Trout Scenario: In the trout stream we are targeting a rising trout in pocket water, in a riffle or in a glide. Duns are being carried down the stream drying their wings and the trout is rhythmically rising to those bugs, taking some and letting others pass by. In this environment we have a fish that doesn't move much beyond the diameter of a hula hoop, perhaps a bit larger, but in a fairly confined area. (You know where I'm going here I'm sure). We have several challenges to catch that fish. First, we have to be able to reach the fish- our cast has to be long enough. Second,  we have to present the fly upstream (and without lining) of the fish so that the current will carry the fly to within the trout's "hula hoop". Third, we have to present the fly so we get as near as possible a natural "drag free" drift. To those of us who have been successful in this environment, getting the trout to take our fly can be very challenging, but that's what makes it fun.
In this scenario we generally want to take our time with our false casting to establish the optimal combination of these major challenges in order that we can get that fly to pass through the fish's feeding zone.

Saltwater Scenario: In the ocean the fishing environment has it's similarities to the trout stream, but there are many key differences that have a bearing on our success in catching Stripers, False Albacore and Bonito. (For the purposes of this discussion I will leave out the almighty Bluefish because he can mitigate the case I am trying to make!) Similar to the trout environment we are in many respects "matching the hatch" but with primarily bait fish patterns, and unlike the trout stream these critters are not bound by the banks of the stream. They swim in a vast environment, they are strong and in some cases very fast swimmers because their lives are heavily influenced by tide, current, sea state... and voracious Predators constantly on the hunt. As bait fish move singularly and in schools they are being hunted by their Predators. As the predators crash on the bait, the bait scatters in pods and darts in multiple direction swimming for their lives. The pace of activity below and sometimes on the waters surface becomes frantic and the SPEED at which the drama unfolds is what makes saltwater fishing so much fun and which makes it very challenging. You have singular predators and packs of predators swimming, crashing the surface making dramatic turns as the bait fish flee all at what often is at breakneck speed. This is particularly the case when targeting False Albacore and Bonito.
A trout's food source is generally brought to it by a conveyor belt- the movement of water downstream to the trouts feeding lies. With some exceptions, saltwater fish eat primarily by chasing down and ambushing their quarry. The Trout and most freshwater fish are essentially static, while the ocean fish is dynamic. As quiet and placid and even tempered as fresh water fishing can be most of the time, ocean fishing is generally a game on the opposite end of the urgency spectrum. Most freshwater fishing is to Baseball- as Striper, False Albacore and Bonito fishing, (and in some cases Bluefish) is to Hockey.

When casting to our rising (but essentially static) trout- we have the luxury of taking 5 to 10 false casts to get THE right presentation. In most saltwater fly fishing scenarios, we do not have the luxury of time to take 5 and more false casts (as we defined false cast). Stripers are always moving and although they are far from the fastest swimming fish in the ocean, when they are chasing schooling baitfish, the striper can swim upwards of 20 mph given the power of it's wide tail fin and muscular body. The Bluefish can swim faster than the Striper, and the False Albacore and Bonito can reach speeds up to 40 mph!

Getting back to our experiment. We stand a much better chance of keeping up with a speeding saltwater fish with a rifle than we do with a fly rod. Striped bass are primarily cruisers but if they can attain speeds of 20 mph, that means they can cover about 29 feet per second. The Bluefish is considerably faster than the Striper and when you consider that False Albacore and Bonito can reach speeds of 40 mph, that translates to nearly 60 feet per second. These are straight line speeds and only on rare occasions do these fish feed in straight line drag races, as the bait they are chasing can be anywhere from nearly stationary to very fast as they attempt to outrun and out maneuver their predators.

To be successful at expeditiously and accurately delivering your fly to a fast saltwater fish, you must be fast- Very Fast!  If you are taking anywhere from 7 to 15 seconds to be able to accurately reach a 60 foot stationary target, add to that challenge a target that is potentially moving at 30 to 60 feet per second. In 7 seconds your striper can be over 200 feet away from where you first thought about casting to it and your False Albacore and Bonito are in the next football field over. If you are taking 15 seconds to deliver the fly in hopes of catching that fish you need to either find another sport or take some casting lessons and drink 10 cups of coffee- an hour. Urgency is key.
To be fair to the discussion however, not all saltwater fish are constantly swimming at these breakneck speeds and they all aren't 60 feet away, but they also aren't Mr. Trout. As a charter captain I get quite a number of freshwater fly anglers that hire me and fully expect to catch False Albacore, Bonito, Blues and Stripers on the fly. Many are basically good fly casters however now they are faced with a world very different from the sedentary rising trout, that lives in a relatively "controlled" environment. A place where the angler has firm footing, little or no wind or waves to deal with and who is casting super lightweight flyrod and line, with casting approaches that can be engineered by careful wading and strategic body positioning.

False Albacore, Bonito and Bluefish never stop swimming. In fact the False Albacore and Bonito must constantly swim at high speeds in order to stay live. If for instance one of these fish gets wrapped around a lobster pot line while you are playing it (or him you) it will die very quickly from it's inability to oxygenate.

To further complicate the puzzle, the angler must be able to make a variety of casts to not only their favored  (strong side) but to their unfavored side in order to consistently catch these fish. Fish will break aside the boat, behind the boat, at near and distant ranges. They will cross from right to left and vice versa. If you cannot make instantaneous adjustments to the casting angle required, combined with the necessary distance and further combined with very fast presentations, your catch rate will suffer significantly.

The captains job is to put his guests ONTO fish, but he/she cannot make the cast for the angler. If you sense your captain's patience may be wearing a bit thin, it may be because of the frustration of first finding the fish, then jockeying for the optimal boat position with the competition, then dealing with the effects of wind, waves and current, a pitching boat, only to watch their guests fail to make the cast and be successful in hooking up.

Learn the Saltwater Quick Cast- This is a great cast that positions the angler in a "ready position" with adequate line outside the tip to facilitate the loading move, together with an additional 20 feet of line draped in loose coils over the fingers of the line hand. The rod is in a 45 degree upward angle ready for the cast.  When the angler spots the fish he/she makes a quick back cast, releases the coiled line (but continues to pinch the fly), then makes a forward stroke and the tension of the line gently pulls the fly from the line hand, another backcast where he shoots line and then a 60 foot presentation- all in the manner of a couple of seconds.  It's an easy cast to learn if you take the time in the back yard.  When perfected you stand a much greater success in casting to and hooking these fast moving fish. The following link takes you to a You Tube video produced by Captain Chris Myers illustrating how to make this cast.

So  practice- practice- practice... that's the name of the game. Once the snow clears, get to work. Hire a professional casting instructor. Work at being able to make the 60 foot cast at different casting angles and with a bare minimum of false casting. Tie an empty plastic milk jug to a length of line and tie the line onto your dog's tail and have your friend chase the dog in the yard... great practice for fast saltwater fly casting! Just be sure your better half, the kids and the snoopy neighbors are gone when you try this training aid. Also both you and your dog should wear safety glasses!

A Primer on Rigging for Fly Fishing- Spools, Backing, Fly Lines & Leaders

by Captain Jim Barr on 02/18/13

From the beginner and advanced beginner fly anglers I get a fair number of questions pertaining to what fly lines, leaders and knots to use in joining backing to the reel spool, fly line to the backing and leader and tippet to the fly line and tippet to the fly. The following discussion covers this information in addition to the most commonly used knots to connect these systems.


Fly Reel: The reel's primary job is to hold the line and most have a variable braking or "drag" system that slows the fish pulling line. A small handle (aka "knuckle buster" when it's rotating from a large game fish stripping line) is actually part of the spool and is used to wind the line. There are a number of other features to the reel that I won't go into here but the key is that all reels have a latching mechanism that allows the angler to separate the spool from the reel frame. This is important because it allows the angler to use multiple spools containing different types of fly lines for varying conditions. For saltwater fishing applications do not buy a fly reel that does not have the feature to interchange multiple spools.  


Spools: Many beginner fly anglers don't at first realize that to effectively fish in saltwater you really need to have a variety of fly lines to suit the fishing conditions. By having several spools each wound with a different type of fly line the angler can quickly change spools to suit the water level being fished (top water, slightly below the surface, and at a variety of depths.)   




Backing:  A thin diameter and inexpensive "nylon-type" braided line. Backing is tied to the spool on one end and to the fly line at the other end. It's purpose is to provide a connection between the reel spool and the fly line when a hooked fish pulls line as it attempts to escape. For freshwater applications anglers typically use  

20 lb. Dacron with as little as 50 yards wound on the spool. For saltwater fishing we use 30 lb test in either Dacron or Gel-Spun line. Gel- Spun line is more expensive than Dacron and is a smaller diameter, allowing the angler to wind more backing onto the spool (typically 50% or slightly more than a compatible test of Dacron line). For northeast saltwater fishing, 150 yards of backing is generally enough but most anglers fill their spools with 200 yards of backing.  


Fly Lines: I think it's fair to say that in freshwater trout fishing,  probably 80% of the time the angler is fishing in shallow water, typically a stream and they are casting to surface (or near surface) feeding trout, or in water shallow enough that a floating line and leader system can reach fish feeding just below the water's surface, to the bottom of the stream bed. Anglers can get by with one line, a weight forward Floating line. The designation on the fly line box is a combination of numbers and letters. For trout fishing a good all-round fly line would be: WF5F (Weight Forward taper for a 5 weight fly rod, and the line Floats).  

However,  in northeast saltwater environs using only one fly line will severely restrict an anglers ability to catch fish.  At a minimum, you are going to need two fly lines that will cover roughly 80% of the waters you will fish.


Running Line: Is the thinner part of the fly line starting at the point of attachment to the backing, and running forward and stopping at the beginning of the "head", or weighted section of the fly line. Running lines are a uniform diameter, and sometimes a different color than the head portion of the line. 


For the beginner what fly lines should they purchase for northeast saltwater fishing? 

As a general rule for the beginner and advanced beginner I recommend two types of lines for fly rod weights 8 to10: 

1. Intermediate Sinking Tip- (with a sink rate of 1.5" second) I prefer a clear head with a light colored running line. Intermediate lines are effective in targeting fish from just below the water's surface to generally not much deeper than three feet. The Intermediate line can also be used to fish surface fly patterns. The trick is to start your retrieve as soon as the fly makes contact with the water before the weight of the slow sinking head pulls the fly down. 

2. Fast Sinking Tip- (with a sink rate of 4.5"- 7" per second). Fast sinking tip lines typically have dark colored heads as they are less noticeable to the fish. Generally the running line is a lighter color. Fast sinking lines are used to get the fly deep into the fishes feeding zones. Depending upon the sink rate, anglers can effectively fish from 4 to 20 deep using the fast sinking tip line. Fast sinking tip lines are also a good choice when casting into a strong wind. Their weight punches through the wind much more easily than the Intermediate and Floating lines (discussed below).    

These are "sinking tip" lines vs "uniform sinking" lines. Sinking Tip Lines have the weighted portion of the line in the first 30 feet or so from the fly end of the fly line, this is referred to as the "head" of the fly line.  The Intermediate Sinking Tip line has a floating running line behind the tip or weighted section. The Fast Sinking Tip running line is generally an intermediate sinking line (again about 1.5" a second).  These relatively new sinking tip lines are what they call "integrated" lines. That means the heavier head section transitions smoothly to the lighter and thinner running line. There is no joint or loop connection and therefore no hindging effect when casting.


Full Sinking lines (aka Uniform Sink lines) sink throughout their length and are more difficult to pick up and cast, as the entire line is weighted. It helps if you are a strong caster with good technical skills to effectively cast uniform sink lines. Your false casting must be strong and your rod starts and stops, crisp in order to keep the heavy line aerialized while maintaining good loop control. Personally I use both the sinking tip and uniform sinking lines for varying conditions. 


Floating line: The third basic fly line most anglers have in their inventory is a floater. This would be the last line I would buy if I am on a limited budget. I will caveat that by saying if you primarily fish in very shallow water (i.e. flats), then the floating line may very well be your primary line. It is the lightest weight class line in the fly anglers inventory and consequently the easiest to cast. It's use however is generally limited to surface fishing applications, however if you are using all but the lightest of fly patterns you can use a floating line to fish just below the surface. I typically use the floating line when fishing cinder worm fly patterns, shrimp and crab patterns in very shallow water, poppers and sparsely tied sand eel patterns. In the northeast where our ocean waters are cold you want to look for a line that is manufactured specifically for colder waters. A tropical floating line is not a good choice for cold waters. 




For the knots discussion that follows, I have included a link that goes to the Orvis website. The landing page will provide animated drawings of how to tie most of the knots mentioned below, plus several others.  


Backing- The backing is tied to the spool using an Arbor Knot and the line carefully wound on the spool evenly with moderate tension.   


Joining Fly line to Backing-

- For rods 7 wt. and lighter (trout/panfish etc.) I tie the backing to the fly line using a Nail Knot and I then cover the knot with super glue and then an application of Pliobond (most hardware stores carry it). Pliobond is a flexible rubber-type of adhesive that when carefully applied to a knot will create a smooth covering over the knot to eliminate the line from hanging-up in the rod guides (and catching grass or other debris during the retrieve).

- For rods 8wt. and heavier (largemouth bass, northern pike and saltwater fish), I tie a large loop (10") in the backing using a Double Surgeons Knot. I then trim the tag end of the line, drop on bit of super glue and apply the Pliobond to smooth the knot. As for the fly line, some come with a welded loop manufactured into the butt end of the fly line. Others have no loop and I have to tie in my own.  If I tie my own loop in the fly line I fold the end over itself creating a loop of about 2/3rd's an inch in length. I then whip-finish the tag end to the standing line with heavy thread (rod wrapping thread, monofilament), then apply super glue to the wraps and then Pliobond to smooth the knot and eliminate high spots.  The backing and fly line are then joined Loop-to-Loop


Joining Fly line to Leader-  

The end of the fly line (where it joins to the leader) may or may not have a preformed welded loop, most do not, particularly the heavier fly lines. If the manufacturer has not formed the loop you have to create your own. Alternatively you can tie the fly line to the leader using a double set of Nail Knots. I prefer to tie in a loop (as I did in the end of the fly line that is joined to the backing. By creating a loop (vs using a double nail knot) I have created a much more secure union of leader to fly line. Again I use a loop to  loop connection to join fly line to leader. The other advantage is that the loop to loop connection makes changing the leader system a snap. As a general rule I do not use braided line connections that are sometimes packaged with a fly line (mostly the lighter lines). These braided sections slip over the fly line and the leader and create the "chinese finger" type of connection. In my experience they are not reliable and oftentimes come slightly apart and after repeated casting, create a hindge that does not allow a smooth transition of energy from the fly line to the leader, sometimes causing the leader to collapse during the cast.  



I generally tie my own leaders and tippet systems rather than purchasing tapered leaders. The Tippet is the last and lightest section of the leader system. Generally it's no longer than 3 feet and is the section of the leader system that shrinks in length as the angler cuts off and reties his fly patterns. As the tippet section gets shorter, the angler simply ties in a new "working" section of leader material without shortening the next section of the hand tied leader. Tying your own leaders is much cheaper than buying them, plus as your leader and tippet system is shortened during the process of tying, cutting off, retying and (god forbid) breaking off fish, being able to fashion a new leader or partially rehabilitating a shortened leader, is fast and economical. 


As a rule I use a 9-10 ft. leader system (leader and tippet combined).

The butt (heaviest) section is usually 40 lb. monofilament- 3.5 ft long. Next I tie in a 2 ft section of 25 or 30 lb. mono (we're now at 5.5 ft) and then 2 ft. of 20 lb. mono, followed by 2 feet of 12-15 lb. mono for a tippet. I will alter that formula depending upon the fishing conditions (wind, waves, water clarity etc) and how nervous the fish might be. If I am fishing in open water with big fish I will use 20 lb. fluorocarbon as my tippet. If fish are picky as they can be during the cinder worm hatch, I will lengthen the leader system to a total of up to 12 feet and taper the leader down to a 12 lb tippet. If I am trying to keep the pattern in the upper water column I will use monofilament. If the fish are deeper and I am using my fast sinking tip fly line I cut the leader back to a total of 4-5 feet to fish this deeper water. By having a short leader as the fly line sinks it takes the leader with it so you don't have  a deep fly line with a long leader system pointing at an upward angle towards the surface of the water. Using the shorter and heavier leader is also best when retrieving your fly through  structure (rocks, ledge, heavy grass or kelp) Whe I fish deep my leader is typically a straight (non-tapered) section of fluorocarbon material. Fluorocarbon is dense and sinks more readily than monofilament, and it resists abrasion much better than monofilament. Fluorocarbon also refracts light similar to water and therefore is more "stealthy". 


Knots used in constructing the tapered leader 

-For the 3.5 ft. butt section section of 40lb. or 30lb. mono, I first tie a Perfection Loop Knot at one end (the end that joins to the backing loop when you're ready to join the leader system to the fly line). When I join that heavy leader section to the next length of lighter leader material (30 or 25 lb.) I join the sections with a Blood Knot (it's a smoother knot than the double or triple surgeons knot and it provides a straight connection). All other leader material and tippet material connections for the balance of the leader are joined using the Double Surgeons Knot (two overhand knots with the tag ends clipped).

- When I join wire tippet to monofilament leader material I will use an Albright Knot. I also use the Albright when I use the Orvis Retwistable bite guards. Wire tippets must be used when fishing for toothy fish such as Bluefish and Mackerel. 

- When spin fishing and using braided line I join the braided line to a section of monofilament leader (to which I tie in a swivel to prevent line twist), I will join the braid and the monofilament with an Albright Knot. Braided line is very slippery and I find that a Double or  Triple Surgeons Knot will slip and eventually part from the monofilament leader when under tension from fighting a strong fish. 


Leaders for Blues and the smaller Tuna (False Albacore and Bonito):

-When fishing for Blues I will use nothing longer than 9 ft total leader system (sometimes as little as 6 feet) and instead of using any nylon (mono or fluorocarbon) tippet material I will tie in 30-60 lb nylon coated knotable wire- in lengths of 6-12" depending on the size of the blues, or I will use  the Orvis retwistable bite guards. For the retwistable bite guards, each package of fly fishing leaders contains six guards in a rigid plastic tube to keep them straight. 4"- 38 lb.; 4"- 58 lb.; 8"-38 lb. 8"- 58 lb. If I am fishing with poppers or non-aerodynamic (clunky) fly patterns I will shorted the leader to about 6 feet total. 


-When fishing for False Albacore and Bonito I will use a 12 ft leader/tippet system- tapered to 12 lb fluorocarbon. These fish have extremely good eyesight and fluorocarbon's high light refractive qualities will help disguise the leader. 


A Summary follows of my recommendations for Rod weights, Lines by fish and water type:

Saltwater- Stripers, Blues, False Albacore, Bonito. Two lines, the Intermediate Sinking Tip and the Fast Sinking Tip. The floating line is not at all critical save for the Worm Hatch and other very shallow water applications (fishing with shrimp and crab patterns). For Redfish, Snook, Bonefish, Permit- floating lines only. Rod weights- 8-10
Cold Freshwater- Trout- Floating lines only when fishing in streams and most still waters. If you want to fish deep as in lakes for trout using Wooley Buggers, streamers and heavy nymphs a Fast Sinking Tip line. When nymphing  in streams your go-to line is the Floating line, and you adjust your, leader and tippet length and weight according to the water depth and current speed. You don't need a "nymphing line"- it's a marketing gimmick in my opinion. Rod weights: 1-6
Warm Freshwater- Largemouth bass, Pickerel, Northern Pike, Sunfish, Crappie, etc- Floating lines for poppers and other top water fly patterns. If you want to fish deep, I would use the Sinking Tip line. Essentially the same setup you would use for Saltwater (discussed earlier). Rod weights- 7-10. If you are targeting only the smaller sunfish varieties including crappie, you would use lighter weight rods and lines- essentially the trout rig.

Four Key Fly Casting Fundamentals

by Captain Jim Barr on 01/10/13


As an FFF Certified Casting Instructor I have the opportunity to instruct students who have never fly casted. Before we actually get into any lessons, I ask the student to go through the motions of fly casting as they know it (the back and forth as I refer to it). Almost without exception what I see is the "buggy whip" motion of the rod moving through a 140 degree arc with no hesitation on either the forward or back cast (to allow the line to unroll). This is accompanied by lots of "wristing" or wrist flexion, typically as much as 90 degrees. It's a horrible mess, but it can be fixed very quickly with some illustration and a variety of instruction techniques...and of course, practice.   


1. For the rod casting arc- I ask the student to start with short casts to keep the rod arc in a narrow "V" (review Jeong Park's You Tube video to understand what I mean by the "V" ).

I don't use the worn-out and often incorrect "10-2 pm clock face" illustration. To illustrate the concept of rod loading, I have them false cast initially with only 10 feet of line outside the tip top, then gradually increase the amount of line up to the "magic" 30 foot length. With 30 feet of fly line outside the tip top (not including leader and tippet) most fly rods will load (bend) properly due to the weight of the line and it's resistance to movement. As we increase the amount of fly line outside the tip we have to increase our line speed and we have to open up the "V" of the casting arc in order to keep the line aerialized. Generally the wider the casting arc, the more open the loop is unless it's accompanied by higher line speed, together with slow starts and accelerating strokes that finish with a crisp stop of the rod. The narrower the casting arc combined with slow starts and acceleration to crisp stops, the narrower the resulting fly line loop will be on both the forward and back casts. A narrow loop is what we are attempting to accomplish in most of our fly casting. It will enable us to be more accurate with our presentation and because a narrow loop is more aerodynamic, it will be less affected by wind. (However for certain fishing situations and types of fly lines and fly patterns, we do oftentimes adjust our casting stroke to effect a wide or open loop, but that's for another discussion.)   


2. For the wrist- We want to minimize wrist flexion and extension. (Flexion decreases the angle between the bones of the limb at a joint, while extension increases it.) The more the wrist flexes and extends, the wider the casting arc becomes (even if we're doing everything right in 1.- above). A technique I use to help the student physically limit the flexion of the wrist is to have them insert the butt of the fly rod reel seat inside the end of their long shirt or jacket sleeve. As the caster raises their rod arm on the way to the backcast stroke, the butt end of the rod binds inside the cuff of the shirt or jacket and prevents the wrist from flexing too far. Conversely, to establish muscle memory in the arm and wrist, for the forward cast, I ask the student to hold the rod grip 180 degrees from the normal position so that the fly reel is positioned between the wrist and the the butt extension of the fly rod. This technique helps curb over-extension of the wrist. Too much wrist flexion and extension during the casting stroke opens the rod's casting arc- and thus opens the fly line loop.  These techniques are simple but they work and both can be easily practiced at home.   


3. Slow Starts and Fast/Crisp Stops- If our forward and back casting strokes start slowly and end fast (abruptly), our fly line loops will be narrow (that's a good thing). To illustrate this I use the analogy of throwing a potato off a fork. I actually bring both items to the lesson to illustrate the dynamics. When simulating the casting stroke with a potato speared onto a fork, if the starts and stops of the casting stroke are slow to start and slow to end and not abrupt at either end of the casting stroke- the potato may fly off the fork, but it won't travel very far (low energy). However, if the casting motion with the fork starts slowly, then accelerates to an abrupt stop- in a narrow "V" casting arc,  the potato will be projected with considerable force and distance and at a higher trajectory.    


Another technique I use to illustrate this same point is to use a 3" wide paint brush. I dip the brush in water and then simulate the casting stroke using a slow start and stop. A slow casting stroke throughout, plus a slow stop and an open (or wide "V") casting arc results in very little water being propelled from the brush and what falls off, is minimal. I then re-dip the brush in the water and change the stroke to a slow start, then accelerating to an abrupt stop in a tight "V" casting arc. This simulated casting stroke shoots water off the brush for a considerable distance and at a higher plane. Again, this sounds elementary, but both techniques are effective in illustrating the importance of a slow start to the casting stroke and an acceleration to an abrupt stop.  


In actual fly casting, as the length of line increases as a function of needing to cast a longer distance, the casting arc needs to open (a wider "V") in order to keep the line from falling to the lawn (during practice) or to the water while fishing. The casting stroke may need to widen but the start and stop principle stays the same. Review Jeong Park's casting to better understand these fundamentals. She is utilizing a "double haul" casting technique to help her increase line speed. (The double haul is an advanced casting technique that comes later in the learning process.) This technique and an adjustment in the timing of the forward and back cast strokes allow more line to be aerialized. Watch the video carefully to understand the importance of allowing the fly line to nearly straighten before beginning the forward and back casting strokes. While the loop is unrolling, the caster has the option of keeping the casting arm exactly where it ended the stroke or following through. Follow-through helps to smooth the shock of the abrupt stop or "power snap" (Joan Wulff's term) and gives the caster a feeling of staying connected to the fly line's weight as it unrolls.    


4. Rod Loading- The fly rod is a spring, similar to leaf springs in your car's suspension or a hunting bow. In the case of the fly rod, it's the bending of the rod under the weight and tension (or resistance) from the inertia of fly line (the line's resistance to move) that stores energy in the rod (makes it bend). It is that same stored energy that when released by the momentary straightening of the rod (unloading) through the casting arc that causes the line to be propelled on both the forward and back casts. In fly casting, the weightless fly pattern is delivered to the target (the fish) by the fly line that is propelled by the release of energy from the unloading or straightening of the fly rod. In conventional casting it is the weight of the lure that pulls the line off the reel on it's path towards the target. In fly casting we are casting the line and the fly simply goes along for the ride. In order for the rod to load (bend) properly there must be a certain amount of fly line outside the tip of the rod to provide the appropriate amount of weight that is transformed into "tension" or resistance (thus energy) during the casting stroke. In most cases the rod will load beautifully with roughly 30 feet of line outside the tip top. (This changes with several key variables such as line speed, fly rod and line "weight", wind, etc). I routinely mark my fly lines with a black Sharpie marker at about the 30 ft. mark to help me identify that sweet spot.  Too often I see anglers "buggy whipping" their false casts with only 5-20 feet of line outside the tip top. It's no wonder they false cast 7-10 times before they finally make the actual cast... and in most cases the line falls in a heap not far from the casters feet.   

  • In order to make a good cast they need to get more line out beyond the rod tip (the magic 30') to allow the rod to load properly
  • They need to create a more effective power stroke. Slow starts with acceleration to an abrupt stop in a controlled "V" in the false and presentation casting process
  • They need to allow the fly line to unroll almost completely before starting their forward or back false casting and final presentation strokes. This means they must wait or pause for that to occur. You need to carefully watch the line on the backcast as well as the forward cast to better understand the required timing  

TIP: To make it even easier to locate the fly line's sweet spot I wrap a 1/4 -1/2 inch section of rod wrapping thread on my fly line at that same 30 ft Sharpie ink mark. I cover the wraps with Pliobond to keep them from unraveling. When fishing at night when you cannot visualize your ink mark, you will feel the thread bump slip through your line hand on it's way to the tip top signaling that you have the optimal amount of line aerialized.


* With several fly casting lessons (about 6 hours total) from a Certified Casting Instructor, most beginners will be able to cast with an acceptable degree of accuracy to a distance of forty feet, the distance that probably 80% of the fish they will ever catch, will be caught within.  

On Being "Guided"

by Captain Jim Barr on 11/30/12

What can a charter guest do to increase their odds of having a more enjoyable and potentially more productive day on the water?  Here are some thoughts:


1. The cardinal rule is to be straight forward with your guide as to your level of experience with saltwater fishing and your casting proficiency (with both a spinning rod and a flyrod). This conversation should occur when you are first discussing the plan for your day on the water. If you are sharing a trip with a friend, advise the guide on behalf of your partner as to their level of fishing and casting proficiency.  


2. It's critical for you to advise the guide what hand you reel with. Most fishing reels (fly and spin) are set up for a left hand retrieve. If you reel with your right hand the guide will either have to convert his reels from left to right hand retrieve or bring reels and spare spools that are already set up accordingly. If the guide does not ask this critical question before the day of your charter, you need to initiate that discussion before you set foot on the boat so that there are no surprises. A good guide will NEVER tell you that you have to fish with the way his reels are set up. If  he does, you need to find another guide. (This is not generally a problem with spinning reels. The conversion is simple and accomplished by moving the handle from one side to the other.)   


3. A good guide will do his/her best to adjust the nature of the trip and the type of water you will be fishing in according with your physical abilities (or disabilities). If you are not steady on your feet and able to keep your balance in a pitching boat, you need to advise the guide accordingly in advance of the outing. The same thinking applies if you are prone to motion sickness. There are several over-the-counter drugs available to help you with motion sickness, but typically most require you take the medication at least an hour before being on the water.   


4. Be realistic and practical. Although it's wonderful to catch a fish on a fly rod, there are a myriad of conditions that can really complicate fly fishing in salt water. Your freshwater fly casting abilities frequently do not translate well into a saltwater environment. A bumpy boat, menacing winds, difficult casting angles, fast moving fish, heavy equipment, and confined or blocked back casting room can all contribute to complicating your day. You need to face up to your limitations and the environmental conditions and adjust your angling conventions accordingly. I have seen too many guests drive themselves to frustration and in some cases anger due to insisting on using the flyrod in very difficult conditions. If a guide suggests you use a spinning rod vs. a fly rod, he/she is not being rude or condescending, the guide is generally looking out for your best interest by trying to increase your odds of hooking up. (I  will tell you this however, if the not so accomplished angler insists on casting with a flyrod and the guide repeatedly puts the angler "on top" of the fish and the angler cannot make the cast, you might be prepared for a strong recommendation from the wheel-house!) 


5.  Tell your guide what's important to you and he/she will do everything possible to accommodate your wishes. Is your day on the water more about "just being out there"?  Do you want a mix of fishing and sightseeing and perhaps a bit of history of the area you're near? Are you after the trophy fish, or that you don't want to catch a certain species of fish (some anglers are like that with respect to Bluefish). Communicating and setting realistic expectations are critical for both the guest and the guide.  


6. Be patient with and trust your guide. He/she knows the waters, generally where the fish are located and at what time of day is best to pursue them. Most guides will not guarantee you will catch fish. Ocean fish, unlike trout or freshwater species are constantly on the move. The fishing location that was good yesterday may not be good today. The guides responsibility is to put you into the best position to catch fish while doing everything possible to provide for your safety. Certain weather and sea-state conditions may simply be too dangerous to venture into even though the fish are there. 


7. When you are lining-up your charter,  your guide will suggest a departure time. Understand that in most all fisheries the time of day for your fishing outing is absolutely key. This has to do with multiple variables such as ambient light level, wind conditions, tide stage etc... all absolutely critical elements that determine fishing success. You may find it uncomfortable to meet the guide at 5 am when it's still dark and perhaps cold and you haven't had much sleep. Conversely the guide may advise that the fishing outing should start later in the day or evening and that you may not be  returning to the dock until after dark. It's the guests right to object to the guides recommendations as to departure and return times, but understand that doing so may very well have a direct bearing on your catch rate.


The guide's job is all about creating a safe and fun outing during which you can catch fish. There is no room for a guide to be intimidating to his/her guests. I think you will find that most guides are cordial and are striving to provide you with a great fishing experience. If you are made to feel uncomfortable, it's the guides fault and he/she doesn't deserve your business.  


For several years I was an Orvis Endorsed Guide and through my own choosing I no longer am, but Orvis developed the following definition of a professional guide, that I think is quite good.


A Professional Guide is a professional at all times; they are mentally alert and physically prepared for a strenuous day of guiding. Their self-confidence can be observed but not heard; they are totally prepared for the day and ready to accept its challenges-good or bad. Their appearance and dress show pride in themselves and the operation they represent. They immediately become a teacher to their clients and the client readily accepts their leadership.   

Dry Fly Fishing in Salt Water?

by Captain Jim Barr on 11/30/12

Each spring, anglers in Rhode Island are blessed with an event that we refer to as the Cinder Worm "Hatch". I also refer to it as the closest thing anglers will experience to dry fly fishing in salt water. It's not an insect hatch but rather an emergence of aquatic worms from the muddy bottoms of several of Rhode Island's salt ponds. Unlike similar cinder worm emergences that occur on Long Island and Cape Cod, the duration of which is short, in Rhode Island in an average year the hatch will last a full six weeks! This is a daily event beginning in the late afternoon and lasting  into the early night-time hours. We fish with 8-10 weight rods and floating lines utilizing a myriad of different patterns most of which are not commercially available. It involves short-range casting to rising fish and is very exciting!

This fishery is not limited to flycasters, using a spinning rod is also very effective. Skinny Water Charters specializes in this fishery using several boats, the decision as to which vessel we use is based on what salt pond we decide to fish and the number of anglers aboard. If you like to sight fish in very shallow, calm, and non-pressured water, to Stripers rising within 10-60 feet of the boat that range in size from 15" to 40", I'd be willing to bet you'll want to fish the worm hatch more than once. For the angler who has never fished in the saltwater, someone who perhaps favors casting to trout rising to mayflies, fishing the cinder worm hatch will offer an exciting and unique angling experience.

In May 2011 the producers of The New Fly Fisher television show and the Orvis Fly Fishing Learning Center visited Rhode Island to videotape fishing the cinder worm hatch. These television productions have been aired this year on the World Fishing Network and in December, The New Fly Fisher segment will be aired on the New England Sports Network (NESN)- look for it. If you will be unable to watch the show in December you can visit my website and on the Worm Hatch Page, click the YouTube video to watch the 23 minute segment featuring the worm hatch and near shore sand eel fly fishing hosted by Orvis' Tom Rosenbauer.
Fishing the worm hatch is becoming increasingly popular and there are still some great dates available in late May and early June so if you're interested in making a reservation you should call me soon at 401-465-8751 or email me at:  

Not So Fast!

by Captain Jim Barr on 11/30/12

Now that the 2012 northeast saltwater fishing season is over don't be so quick to put away your equipment for the winter months in "as is" condition. Off-season maintenance of fishing equipment you use in saltwater requires careful cleaning so there are no ugly surprises come spring.
What's critical:

1. Reel & Spools: Use a line winder and remove all the fly line from your reels and spare spools (or carefully coil the fly line by hand). Anglers Image makes a simple, low cost line winder.   Preferably use a high speed line winder with an electric drill to remove the fly line and the backing. A product called "Smart Spooler" is particularly good.

Once the lines (and backing) are removed, thoroughly clean the reel and spools using hot water, mild soap, a spare tooth brush (mark it) and a clean rag. The following YouTube video by Captain Bruce Chard may assist in the steps for both a short and longer term cleaning regimen. .   


2. Lines & Backing:  Rewind the backing onto your reel and spare spools. Clean the fly lines with warm soapy water and apply a line dressing. Coil the lines in large coils and secure the coils using pipe cleaner ties. Label large plastic resealable food bags with the specifics of each line (line type- floating, intermediate etc, and weight) and store the lines in a cool, dry location. Keep these lines stored until spring when you will load them back onto the reel and spools using your line winder or by hand. Storing lines in large coils will mitigate line memory so that you are not dealing with "slinky toy" coiled lines come spring. 


3. Rods: Use a toothbrush and with hot soapy water clean the reel seat, the metal rings that secure the fly reel to the reel seat and the screw threads of the reel seat. Clean around all of the stripping and snake guides and the tip top. If the grip is discolored, or slick with an oily residue- use a very fine grit sandpaper or 0000 steel wool and carefully rub down the grip to restore it's color and smooth surface. (Use masking tape to cover the rod blank and the reel seat immediately adjacent the cork grip to guard against scratching). If there are cracks in the cork or sections where the cork filler dislodged, mix cork dust (sand a wine bottle cork and collect the fine dust) with waterproof glue (Elmer's), and using a flat wooden stick or coffee stirrer, push the paste into the cracks and pits. Wait 24 hrs to allow the cork/glue slurry to cure and then carefully sand the grip to return it to near new  condition. Wipe down your rod sections with a clean cloth soaked in hot soapy water (use a mild soap). I like to then polish each rod section with a furniture spray wax like Pledge. Spray the wax onto a clean dry cloth and polish each rod section. Apply beeswax (or paraffin wax at a minimum) to each male ferrule of the rod sections. (The wax keeps the rod sections from coming loose after repeated casting). Store the rod sections in a rod sock and secure everything into the appropriate rod tube. (If your rod tubes have a description of the rod on the exterior make sure you've got the right rod in the right tube, otherwise you might be in for a surprise when you are assembling your rod on-board or at your car and you now have a 6 weight to fish the salt. Pay attention to the details. Store the tube in a cool and dry environment.


4. Zippers: Take particular care with any clothing items and gear bags that have zippers. Zippers that have been exposed directly to salt water and salt air can get encrusted and lock up and when you force them because you're in a hurry, the zipper head will break. The following link will take you to a blog on my website that offers tips on how to remove salt, clean and maintain zippers exposed to the salt environment. 

Zip it Up

by Captain Jim Barr on 10/16/12

This is more like a Martha Stewart helping hint than your traditional Blog post, but it is what it is. Being a saltwater angler first, and a fishing guide second, I am constantly plagued by "frozen zippers" on my gear bags, tackle bags, jackets- on and on. The effects of saltwater will in no time encrust a metal or plastic zipper and render it useless. I have destroyed many zippers trying to free them by all means gentle and persuasive and unless I am willing to spend hours with boiling water, pliers, WD-40, prayer, voodoo... my restoration efforts are only effective half the time, at best. I have, however, found a great solution apart from lubricating these blasted things every other day...who the heck has time for that?

Let's get to it. The remedy is broken down into two sections, Unlocking and Maintenance.

Unlocking:  For a zipper that's encrusted and won't budge, I apply CLR- (right click and select open in a new window otherwise you will be permanently directed away from this website)( full strength with a cue tip. CLR is the same stuff  I use periodically to clean the water deposits in my bathtub. This product dissolves the salt deposits on a zipper head and the zipper teeth surrounding it in short order (give it ten minutes). Following the CLR treatment, rinse the zipper head with hot water and pick out the chunks of salt with a fly tying bodkin or needle. Then squirt a good dose of Starbrite Snap & Zipper Lubricant (right click and open in a new window, otherwise you will get permanently directed away from this website)  ( into the zipper head and along the zipper track. This product can be purchased at West Marine for about $11 or you can probably get it direct from the manufacturer.

 Maintenance: Once the zipper head is free and runs along the zipper track smoothly, I apply beeswax to the track. Beeswax is not your average paraffin candle wax. Beeswax is a natural wax secreted by honey bees when they construct their combs. I buy mine in cake form at West Marine- $12 (right click and open in a new window otherwise you will be permanently directed away from this website)

Church candles (votive candles) are oftentimes made of beeswax and may be available through your place of worship (don't steal them and go to church while you're at it- it'll probably do you good and improve your catch rate.)  Look around, you'll find a source. I take the wax cake and rub it up and down the zipper track vigorously, the heat generated by the friction softens the wax and it penetrates into the spaces between the zipper teeth and provides a clean, non-staining, non-toxic, and slippery quality that is very durable. If you reapply the wax every few weeks you should never have a problem with frozen zippers again.

So, like everything we as anglers need to protect and maintain from the effects of the harsh saltwater environment, be it our rods, reels, lines, boats etc.- careful maintenance of plastic and metal zippers on our gear will be made easier by these tips that have worked well for me.

Good Luck-














When Lightning Strikes

by Captain Jim Barr on 10/06/12

(This is an earlier post that somehow never got published when I wrote it this summer)

Every year in the heat of the summer when we face frequent afternoon thunderstorms that often include lightning, I think about an event that occurred in 1976 when a good friend and I were in Baxter State Park, rock climbing on Mt. Katahdin during the Labor Day weekend. During part of that weekend there were storms bringing rain, wind, thunder and some lightning. On Labor Day we decided not to climb but to stay low- off the higher elevations due to the thunder. Others forged ahead and attempted to cross over the Knife Edge, Katahdin's summit ridge. Five people were struck by lightning on that dangerous and exposed ridge that afternoon, three were knocked unconscious and had head wounds. My friend and I led a search and rescue effort in the dark to locate and consolidate these people and administer whatever medical care we could provide until formal search and rescue personnel from the Maine Fish and Wildlife and Forest Service Rangers could assist. They all survived and they were very lucky to do so.

Now I flash forward 36 years and I hear and see anglers and boaters who pay little attention to thunder and lightning, who feel they can skirt the storm or that the lightning is too far away to be dangerous. There was a Master Maine Guide who used to work at LLBean in the mid-70's. This was when Bean's had crooked wooden floors and was a genuine Outfitter that didn't sell all sorts of cutesy clothing and have pictures of yuppies in what was then a very spartan catalog. (This also was way before websites). Whenever we made our way north to Millinocket and Baxter, we used to detour off the highway and stop in at Bean's for supplies etc. More often than not because of our late departure from our respective jobs on a Friday afternoon, it wouldn't be till very late that we would pull into Freeport to make the obligatory stop at Bean's.There was an old gentlemen who worked in the camping department who I used to look for to say hello, he had to have been in his late 70's. When I would find him oftentimes he would be asleep with the countertop serving as his pillow. I'd have to wake him up for assistance. On that Labor Day weekend I told him we were on our way to Katahdin to put in some new routes on the walls below the summit and above Chimney Pond. He pointed his old and crooked finger at me and gave me some invaluable advice- "lookey hear, when you see the barometer drop and you hear thunder, you are close enough to get hit by lightnin- you get your ass off that mountain." As we completed our visit to Bean's that night, we circled back to say goodbye, but decided to let him continue his beauty sleep. A precious man, with life saving advice.

Get Ready and Stretch

by Captain Jim Barr on 10/06/12

As a charter captain, I know everything about fly fishing. At least that's what a lot of clients think. Well that is far from the truth, but there are a few things that I observe that consistently get in the way of clients catching a (or more) fish. Behind the steering wheel you make a lot of observations in the course of  5-10 hour outings on the water. Aside from the obvious, the need for fly anglers to get better at casting, there are two observations that replay day in and day out and both are easy fixes. They apply particularly when fishing for False Albacore, one of the fastest fish in the sea.

Urgency: This ain't cane pole fishing from a lawn chair on the banks of a lazy muddy river. Albie fishing requires the urgency of 220 volts. These fish when swimming at top speed are capable of 45 mph. Clearly they aren't going that fast when you see them on top (briefly) during feeding frenzies, but anyone who has fished to these speedsters will tell you that as an angler you have to be fast- really fast. Here's the scenario I see played out all the time. I spot topwater Albies breaking on bait and knifing through the water at breakneck speed. I alert my  guests that I have spotted the fish and I am motoring up on them to position the boat as best as possible so that both anglers can make a close cast. (That in itself is a bit of a challenge particularly with wind, waves, a rocking boat and other boats in the immediate area wanting to do the same thing.) I announce how I am going to approach the fish and to "Get Ready". What I generally see are anglers paying attention to something else other than the mission at hand or not getting prepped. Their line is under their feet or wrapped around their leg, they don't have enough line out of the tip top so that when they begin their cast they have enough line to reach the fish, or they are shooting the breeze with their fishing buddy, or the absolute worst case... taking a call on their cell phone from someone who knows they are fishing but feels compelled to call to shoot the shit. Jesus! Then at the end of the day after I have put my guests on top of these fish repeatedly, they wonder why they couldn't hook up or their catch rate was disappointing.

Stretch: The other principal observation is that if they are fishing with their own equipment, they have not Stretched their fly line before getting on the boat. Many anglers have not fished for weeks and in some cases months and their fly lines have been tightly coiled on the reel spools. All fly lines have memory (no matter the cost and the advertising hype) and when they have not been properly stretched before a fishing outing- when they are stripped from the reel they look remarkably like a "slinky" toy. The line further coils into other coils, forming knots, and of course this seems to most frequently occur when Albies are in easy reach- so close that even the worst fly caster can reach them. So, if you find yourself on the boat with a coiling fly line- ask for assistance with your angling partner and/or the captain to strip off 70 feet of line and stretch it in sections. Alternatively you can cast the line, strip off 70 feet or so and tow it behind the boat. The resistance of the water on the fly line will in most cases more than adequately stretch the line so that coiling will be minimal. Do this in concert with the captain so he doesn't make a turn in that process and sever the line on the engine prop.

In conclusion: "Get Ready and Stretch"


Now What?

by Captain Jim Barr on 08/07/12

The Scenario:
You're wade fishing from the beach or in an estuary. From where you stand you cannot wade any closer to the rising fish. With all your casting techniques and effort, you cannot reach further than 70-80 feet and the fish are on top and thumbing their noses at you. They are safe because they are not tempted by your offering.

What do you do?
You get frustrated, you may curse, you muse with your buddies that you wish you had a boat... but you're "sunk" for that outing.

A better solution:
You buy an 11 foot- 8 weight Switch rod, you put a technical "switch- type" line on a spare spool, take a few lessons from a qualified fly casting instructor and the next time you're presented with a similar scenario you are able to cast the entire line with ease. Sounds simple enough to me!

When Lightning Strikes

by Captain Jim Barr on 07/27/12

Every year in the heat of the summer when we face frequent afternoon thunderstorms that often include lightning, I think about an event that occurred in 1976 when a good friend and I were in Baxter State Park, rock climbing on Mt. Katahdin during the Labor Day weekend. During part of that weekend there were storms bringing rain, wind, thunder and some lightning. On Labor Day we decided not to climb but to stay low- off the higher elevations due to the thunder. Others forged ahead and attempted to cross over the Knife Edge, Katahdin's summit ridge. Five people were struck by lightning on that dangerous and exposed ridge that afternoon, three were knocked unconscious and had head wounds. My friend and I led a search and rescue effort in the dark to locate and consolidate these people and administer whatever medical care we could provide until formal search and rescue personnel from the Maine Fish and Wildlife and Forest Service Rangers could assist. They all survived and they were very lucky to do so.

Now I flash forward 36 years and I hear and see anglers and boaters who pay little attention to thunder and lightning, who feel they can skirt the storm or that the lightning is too far away to be dangerous. There was a Master Maine Guide who used to work at LLBean in the mid-70's. This was when Bean's had crooked wooden floors and was a genuine Outfitter that didn't sell all sorts of cutesy clothing and have pictures of yuppies in what was then a very spartan catalog. (This also was way before websites). Whenever we made our way north to Millinocket and Baxter, we used to detour off the highway and stop in at Bean's for supplies etc. More often than not because of our late departure from our respective jobs on a Friday afternoon, it wouldn't be till very late that we would pull into Freeport to make the obligatory stop at Bean's.There was an old gentlemen who worked in the camping department who I used to look for to say hello, he had to have been in his late 70's. When I would find him oftentimes he would be asleep with the countertop serving as his pillow. I'd have to wake him up for assistance. On that Labor Day weekend I told him we were on our way to Katahdin to put in some new routes on the walls below the summit and above Chimney Pond. He pointed his old and crooked finger at me and gave me some invaluable advice- "lookey hear, when you see the barometer drop and you hear thunder, you are close enough to get hit by lightnin- you get your ass off that mountain." As we completed our visit to Bean's that night, we circled back to say goodbye, but decided to let him continue his beauty sleep. A precious man, with life saving advice.

As an FYI... this YouTube video was taken recently and shows some pretty good footage of the Knife Edge. I actually traversed the Knife Edge in January of 1976 with three friends.

What's the Quickest Way to Break a Fly Rod?

by Captain Jim Barr on 07/18/12

What's the quickest way to break a fly rod?

Some might say- putting too much pressure on the rod while fighting a heavy fish. Another might say- holding the rod butt above your waist while fighting a strong fish. Still another might answer- holding the rod blank above the cork grip to gain additional leverage while fighting a heavy fish. All answers are good ones but from my experience the quickest way to break a rod is to not apply a paraffin-type wax to the male ferrule sections of the rod where they seat into the female sections.

For all new rods and periodically through the life of a rod, wax needs to be applied to the male section of the rod sections where it inserts into the corresponding female ferrules. The wax creates a "binding" effect preventing the rod sections from working loose during the process of the casting stroke. If you don't apply a wax periodically before assembling the rod, with repeated casting the sections will gradually work free leaving only a small section of the male ferrule in the female section and with pressure being applied to the rod by the loading action of casting or fighting a fish, the female section will split and the rod will have to be replaced or returned for repair.

If you are lucky you may only "cast off" a section of the rod. Typically you won't lose that section as it is prevented from sinking by the fly line- but why take the risk?

Candle wax works great, as does dubbing wax if you have a supply from tying flies. Bowstring wax (if you are an archer) also works great, and if you are really in a pinch while on the water and you lack any of these types of wax, a little ear wax will get you through.

After you have applied a moderate amount of wax to the male ferrules, the proper way to assemble the rod sections is to insert the male sections into the female ferrules at 90 degrees to the alignnent dots on the blank and/or the guides. A gentle push of force is used to join the sections while simultaneously twisting the rod sections and aligning them. Don't use too much pressure, as breaking down the rod at the end of your outing will become difficult. Periodically during your fishing day, check to make sure your rod sections are tight. When it's time to break down the rod, use the same slow twisting force to free each section.

As far as I know, Orvis is the only flyrod manufacturer that actually includes a small tub of candle wax with every rod they sell- it's that important. To be on the safe side, throw an old candle stub into your fly vest, pack or in the glove box of your boat so it's there when you need it.




Is your life worth about $200?

by Captain Jim Barr on 07/18/12

A lesson to be learned from the Westerly, RI guy who was tossed out of his boat in choppy water yesterday. The Coast Guard found him at 4am this morning between Pt. Judith and Block Island. The man had to tread water for 9 HOURS because he was not wearing a PFD. So lucky! When running at night solo you're just plain stupid not to be prepared, particularly in rough conditions.
Inflatable PFD- $100
Waterproof VHF radio tied to a lanyard and secured to your PFD- $85
Emergency Strobe light attached to your PFD- $24
Whistle attached to your PFD- $2
Say no more.

Humble Pie

by Captain Jim Barr on 05/07/12

Tonight in Ninigret a lot of fly anglers got humbled. So, you've heard that fishing the worm hatch is easy stuff and to small fish. Well think again. Some of the best fly rodders I know were on the water tonight. There were tons of very big fish and a lot of worms and a lot of great fly fishers got skunked.

The Flyrod

by Captain Jim Barr on 05/07/12

When angling in salt water, in my view not much beats catching striped bass on a flyrod. Yeah, I will use a spinning rod if I have to, and surfcasting?- well in my view that's right up there with watching sailboat races from shore. No, from where I sit a flyrod puts a real challenge into the game. No telephone pole, no goofy plastic baits and clunky plugs... but personally tied fly patterns imitating the natural bait, presented with a 9ft  9weight, 3 1/4 ounce rod. Pure excitement when you see the fly line go tight, feel the weight of the fish, strip-strike the hook home, watch the rod arc forward and feel the head shakes telegraphed through the line into the rod and into your wrist. Wow!

Casting to your Unfavored Side

by Captain Jim Barr on 05/02/12

As a fishing guide I constantly see anglers on my boat who are pretty good at casting, as long as the target is to their favored side. Translated, if the angler casts with his or her right hand they can hit targets in front of them and to most locations to their left. However if the water they are casting to is to their right, they are in trouble because they cannot make a backhanded or off shoulder cast. If you add wind to the equation that is a given in most salt water environments, whether on a boat or while wade fishing, the problem of casting to the "unfavored" or "weak" side is made even more onerous.
To be an effective saltwater fly caster, one needs to learn to cast in all directions. The link below will take you to a You Tube video featuring my good friend Peter Kutzer. Peter is on the Orvis fly fishing school staff in Vermont. He is a Certified Casting Instructor (as am I) and in this video he illustrates some of the techniques that a fly caster needs to master to be better at casting at different angles. I have had Pete on my boats in windy conditions and he is a joy to fish with and is the strongest caster I've seen. He can dump an entire fly line to his unfavored side, and do it accurately. It does help by the way to be 6'7" tall, lots of leverage!

G olf
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