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Trout Fishing Virginia: Fly Fishing in Virginia’s Beautiful Mountain Streams

 With wild trout quietly lurking in 2,300 of its 2,900 miles of trout streams, Virginia’s state slogan should be “Virginia is for Anglers” instead of “Virginia is for Lovers.” In addition to water discoverable by those willing to wear out boot leather in search of a sparkling mountain stream in a private setting, Virginia has over 600 miles of delayed harvest and put-and-take destinations close to population centers and associated road networks. Trout fishing Virginia doesn’t leave much to be desired!

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Trout Fishing Virginia: Fishing the Mountainous West

Not surprisingly, the best fishing is in the mountainous west. A 30-minute side trip off I-81 at Abingdon leads to Whitetop-Laurel Creek, a freestone wild trout stream that is the jewel in the Virginia crown. Whitetop has two special regulation areas (single hook artificial) in addition to put-and-take. Whitetop is a medium-sized stream, typically 20 to 30 feet across, featuring the standard set of pools, riffles, and runs associated with perfect wild trout habitat.

Its close proximity to the Virginia Creeper bike and hiking trail built on a converted railroad bed with a wide, smooth surface and a gentle gradient makes it both unique and accessible. The trail gives those willing to sweat a bit the opportunity to get away from any real or perceived pressure near the trailheads.

Instead of making a strenuous hike, smart anglers use a bike to move quickly from spot to spot. Given the popularity of the trail, there are numerous places to rent a mountain bike in both Abington and Damascus. For example, the Virginia Creeper Trail Bike Shop in Abingdon, charges only $25 for a full day rental of a high quality bike (no department store cheapos) with an angler friendly after-hours return policy, allowing you to catch the evening hatch.

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A few cable ties on a rod tube converts a rental bike into a fishing machine ready to travel miles on the trail to find great fishing destinations!

For advice on Whitetop, check in with the Virginia Creeper Fly Shop in Abingdon. As a full-service fly shop, it has gear, guides, and friendly staff. In addition to guiding on Whitetop, their service covers the nearby trout heavens on the South Holston and Watauga tailwaters in Tennessee as well as smallmouth on the New River and the James.

Use a 4 or 5 weight rod and fish the prime time from April through the middle of June with quill gordons, march browns, stoneflies, blue wing olives, sulphurs and even green drakes all making an appearance.  Before you go, understand the trick to fishing Whitetop!

Since the Virginia Creeper trail gradient runs downhill from north to south, most bikers start at the northern terminus for an easy ride, coasting most of the way down to meet a bike shop shuttle at the bottom. In addition, bikers sometimes stop to either watch or have a conversation as they take a break. If you prefer solitude, start fishing at the lower end at either the well-developed Straight Branch trailhead on US 58 (36.644122, -81.739857; restroom, picnic tables and bike rack) or the middle trailhead in Taylor’s Valley (36.630216, -81.707967; no facilities). Once the bike traffic eventually reaches your location, slide over to one of the many sections out of both ear and eyeshot of the trail.

Trout Fishing Virginia: Looking East for More Fishing Opportunities

Heading East, the next major trout stop has to be the South River outside of Waynesboro just off I-64. While the South River has a sad history as little more than toxic dump for the effluent from various industries lining the banks and even catching fire once, miracles do happen. As a result of the hard work of the Shenandoah Valley Trout Unlimited Chapter and the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF), the river was completely cleaned up and now leverages the large limestone springs south of town pumping thousands of gallons of clear, cool water into a revitalized fishery for wild browns and the normal mix of stocked trout.
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The South River is wide with an easy, wader friendly gradient.

While the town of Waynesboro has an easily accessible, stocked urban fishery under delayed harvest and put-and-take regulations, a better bet is the four-mile-long special regulation area south of town opened to the public in 2011. Fishing there requires a free landowner permit obtainable from the VDGIF website or the South River Fly Shop; a full-service store only a block from the river with guide service covering not only the South River but the Shenandoah, James, Jackson and mountain streams in the Shenandoah National Park.

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A feisty South River brown trout giving a dirty look as he tries to wiggle free.

In what is a consistent theme for trout fishing Virginia, the best fishing is between April and June with sulphurs, light cahill, and caddis (check with the fly shop for the specific variant) being the flies to use on the end of a 4 or 5 weight rod. The special regulation area requires anglers be on their best behavior to prove to the landowners the risk they took in opening their land to public use was justified. Never stray from the marked angler trail and only use one of the five designated parking areas. All lead to good water with my favorite being the section upstream from South Oak Lane (38.043038,-78.925506).

Trout Fishing Virginia: Fly Fishing the Blue Ridge Mountains

Just north of Waynesboro, the Blue Ridge Mountains scream, “Fish here!”

Two choices. East slope or west slope? I recommend the east slope since the water is more reliable.  The smaller streams on the west slope may go bone dry in years of drought (Paine Run, West Branch Naked, and Madison). The two largest west slope streams, Big Run and Jeremy’s Run, are popular destinations primarily accessible via a tough hike from Skyline Drive.  If you want to fish the west slope, check with the Mossy Creek Fly Shop for real time advice.

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Paine Run and other small west slope steams can completely dry up in a bad year as shown in this photo from 2010.

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Trout Fishing Virginia: Focusing in on the East Slope

Moving to the east slope, the famous Rapidan River is always a good choice, but do not neglect its lesser-known neighbors – Conway, Rose, Hughes, and Hazel Rivers. Ignore the “river” designation – these are small streams where short 10 to 15 foot casts do the job for waiting brook trout that will eat just about anything presented properly.

Key flies are Mr. Rapidan, mosquito, adams, blue wing olives and terrestrials (ants and crickets).

This is ideal Tenkara water with either the 8’10” Tenkara USA RHODO or Temple Fork’s 8’6” Cutthroat rods being the weapons of choice. Not a fan of Tenkara?  A 3 or 4 weight works fine. Fishing is physically demanding given the need for stealth, with slippery rocks, large boulders, and dense underbrush making streamside movement challenging. Leaving the feasible, yet strenuous, hike to each of these rivers from Skyline Drive to the very fit, most anglers usually approach from the foothills.

The parking area for the Hughes River at the Old Rag Mountain parking lot (38.589848,-78.315321) is approximately a half mile from the trailhead (38.573030, -78.295552) and the public water is another half mile beyond that via an easement across private property. Public pressure on Hazel is controlled by the limited parking (3 cars) three quarters of a mile from the Park boundary (38.614976,-78.256624; walk up Hungry Horse Lane).

Getting to the Conway requires bumping over a rough dirt road doable on a gently driven “flatland” vehicle to reach a small turnout at 38.432682,-78.4338. Once there, bushwhack west and carefully slide down the steep 20-foot embankment to reach the stream; the trail is on the far side. There are good hiking trails adjacent to the Rapidan, Conway, Hazel and Hughes rivers.

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The Rose River is worth the hike!

The Rose River trailhead has room for six or seven vehicles (38.514334,-78.365769). After entering the Park, anglers can begin fishing immediately by walking 100 yards downhill to the stream. However, the best fishing is upstream from where the trail takes a permanent sharp turn away from the stream, leaving the angler in deep forest with not even a beaten game path next to the stream. Regardless of which stream you choose, bring a canister of bear spray or noisemakers (whistle or air horn) since the Shenandoah National Park has a robust population of black bears.

Trout Fishing Virginia: Targeting Metropolitan Areas

Metropolitan area anglers in eastern Virginia can also get a trout fix; albeit not in a very scenic setting. For example, Accotink Creek is literally within earshot of the Washington DC Beltway and is a delayed harvest stream just under 2 miles long (38.817891, -77.223881). It’s a sad, lazy puddle of water with muddy banks, overhanging trees and nothing interesting beyond the stocked trout.

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Accotink Creek… grateful it is stocked, but no expectations for typical trout scenery.

A better, more scenic option during the stocking season is Chopawamsic Creek on the Quantico Marine Corps Base (38.528413, -77.381977). The best fishing on Chopawamsic is beyond the final vehicle gate.  Walk or “fish bike” upstream to the dam; paying special attention to the two ponds at the top. The creek is open to the public, but everyone, military and civilian alike, must have a Quantico license ($10) available at either the Game Check Station (38.512500, -77.388636) or on Base at the Marine Corps Exchange sporting goods counter (show your driver’s license at the gate). The Base Commander usually closes vehicle access at the turnoff from the main road when the trout are gone.

Trout Fishing Virginia: Some Final Takeaways

In an article this short, I cannot discuss all the great places for trout fishing Virginia. In particular, where you may want to go depends on season, where you happen to be and what is close by. Unlike the days long ago when we would find out about fishing locations through friends and family, there are no secrets any longer. Actually, that is a good thing. Secret water might get polluted or developed if it does not have a constituency. Google “paint branch brown trout” for an example of a wild trout stream in Maryland that would have been wiped out if kept secret.

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The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries has gone the extra mile to ensure anglers know every opportunity to wet a line via the interactive map available on the VDGIF website. Not only does this increase license revenue and the sportsmen spend in local areas, but it gives everyone the opportunity to experience a broader set of locations than are documented in books, websites, or whispered about at Trout Unlimited meetings; spreading the pressure.

Visit the Kayak Hacks Fishing channel on YouTube for fly fishing and kayaking hacks (tips and tricks). For stream specific guidance on trout fishing Virginia, visit catchguide.com or check out Steve’s books available on Amazon:

Originally published in Southern Trout Magazine. Reprinted with permission.

 

Fly Fishing for Bluegill and Other Panfish

ANGLR Expert Jon Dietz started fly fishing about 10 years ago, but being originally from Northeast Pennsylvania he didn’t really have a lot of access to trout waters. What he could find were ponds full of bass, bluegill and other panfish. That’s how he grew up practicing, fly fishing for bluegill and other panfish!

So tune in as Dietz gives you the full breakdown on how to get started!

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Getting Started Fly Fishing for Bluegill

I’ve been fly fishing all-in-all for around 10 or 11 years. My mother got me a fly tying kit for Christmas one year. I started fly tying before I started actually fly fishing. I used them on conventional gear. The real driving factor was that I chase steelhead a lot, being from Erie. When I would go, all the guys that were using flies and fly rods were catching way more fish than I was, so I wanted to figure out how to do this thing.

So I got myself a fly rod, and my buddy got one at the same time. We were using live bait on fly rods because we thought we were cool. Then I finally broke my fly tying kit out and started taking fly tying lessons.

It grew into an obsession from there.

Why Fly Fishing for Bluegill?

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You can catch panfish literally everywhere. It’s the most overlooked fish, I think.

Ice fishermen target them a lot because they’re plentiful and they fight really well on light tackle, but they’re forgotten about for the majority of the year. As soon as the ice is gone, no one thinks about them. But they’re everywhere. You can catch them in farm ponds, lakes; pretty much any lake in Pennsylvania is going to be home to one of the eight species of bluegill that reside in PA.

There are actually quite a few anglers that enjoy fly fishing for bluegill. They’re extremely fun fish to fight. As bad of a rap as bluegill have for not being any fun to catch, they really do put up a fight!

I use a five or six-weight fly rod, which is what you’d use to catch trout or smaller bass, and those bluegill put up a really good fight, especially when you find them in the 10” to 12” range. They can really pull pretty hard. They use their flat body when they swim to sort of parallel you. That large body disperses a lot of water and makes them feel a lot bigger than they are.

They’re actually one of my favorite fish to go catch in the spring. I have another buddy who feels the same way, so every spring we get super amped about it because they spawn in the bays of Presque Isle and we’ll take our kayaks out and head out bluegill fishing. Everyone looks at us like we’re crazy! We actually like to consider bluegills the “gateway drug” to the rest of the fishing world.

They’re great for smaller children and people that are just getting into fishing because they’re so aggressive and so prolific. Generally you can have a great day and not have to sit forever before you catch one. Their action is generally fast and furious, they fight really well, especially on smaller rods and lighter tackle. You can keep catching them all day long. It’s a great introduction into fishing.

Where to Look When Fly Fishing for Bluegill

In the spring and fall bluegills are pretty easily accessible because they stay really close to shore. In the spring and early summer, they spawn way up shallow, in the same places largemouth bass do. They rely on the areas that don’t have a lot of vegetation, so a lot of times they’ll be right up along a boat launch or access areas.

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That makes them really easy to access for everyone.

But as the water gets warmer, they push out deeper in the bigger lakes so it’s hard to target them in the summer with fly fishing gear. But if you have access to a pond, they don’t really have that many places to travel to, so they’re usually always within casting distance.

By using my ANGLR App with the Bullseye, I can keep track of where my catches are, along with all the pertinent information like time of day and weather and water conditions, so I know right when and where to come back on my next trip.

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Fly Fishing for Bluegill: Flies and Gear

You’re using basically the same motions for everything- the hooksets are the same, the same flies, same rod and reel. I just got the practice I needed for trout on bluegills! The lines you use for fly fishing vary in weight, to give different sinking times, depending on what you’re looking to do.

As far as panfish go, they’re pretty easy to catch if you can find them. They’re opportunistic, which is what really makes them so prolific.

They can feed on a variety of different things. As far as flies go, you want to throw pretty small flies in the 12-14 size range. Look for anything that appears “buggy” like a small aquatic insect. They’re going to eat it; they’re pretty aggressive when it comes to that.

Generally when I’m fishing for bluegill, I’ll fish a lot of wet flies and small streamers, or dry flies. Because they have small mouths, it limits what you can throw and get away with. They’ll hit at anything, but when it comes to hook-up percentage, I think the size 12-14 little wet flies work best. You can fish them just under the surface.

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Whatever you do, make sure that you’re using flies that have been finished well. You need them to be indestructible because the bluegill have very small, fine, sharp teeth that can really tear fine thread apart pretty quickly. I like to tie my own because I’ll really put a good finish on it that won’t be destroyed very easily.

Fly Fishing for Bluegill: Locations and Movement

Early in the summer when they first start spawning, they can gather in huge colonies of 60 to 100 fish. You’ll pull up and it’ll look like someone threw a dozen dinner plates on the bottom because they make those big nests. They get incredibly aggressive at that time, so you can catch them on dry flies or anything. I’ll put three flies on at a time and space them out about five feet, and I can catch three at a time. That makes for a really fun time.

The real key with bluegills is that they like movement.

You’ve always got to keep something moving in front of them to really keep their attention. If it stops and sits for too long, generally they lose interest and back out. If I’m fishing a dry fly on top, I’ll fan cast in an area where I think the fish are, then I’ll give it an 8 to 10 second count before I twitch it and leave it sit again for another few seconds before I twitch it again. If I’m fishing a wet fly just under the surface I won’t generally give them more than a one or two second pause. The size makes them really easy for fish to eat, and that movement just drives them crazy.

Generally the only time I’ll stop something is if there’s a bluegill that’s sitting on a nest. He’ll want to keep that nest clean of all debris, so he’ll pick it up to move it. If I put it on the nest and let it rest, he’ll either think that something is eating the eggs, or he’ll want to clean it off because he wants the females to think he has a really nice looking nest.

These are just a great fish to go after, all around. You can find them just about anywhere, you won’t get bored waiting for them to show up, and they’ll give you one good fight. What more could you ask for?

Steelhead Fishing with ANGLR Expert Nolan Minor

While everyone has a few crazy fishing tales to tell, steelhead fishing in the tributaries of Lake Erie in the fall seems to really draw an interesting crowd. So much so, that these anglers wind up a sort of combat, fishing shoulder to shoulder. ANGLR Expert, Nolan Minor had a few fun tales to tell when we chatted with him the other day. He was getting ready to head up to the Great Lake with his buddies and was reminiscing on some of their experiences up there.

Steelhead Fishing: A Whole Different Experience

I like Steelhead fishing in the tributaries of Erie, even though sometimes it’s sort of like going to Walmart. The fish are still there, but the environment is a little different from what you would find elsewhere. The creeks are smaller, and you’re sort of surrounded by colorful, yet rough characters. We chalk all of that up to being a part of the experience. Not only do we get to catch a bunch of awesome fish, but we get in some quality people watching during the process.

In Erie, fishing for steelhead is what they call “combat fishing.” There are so many people out there fishing. It’s not uncommon to be fishing a pool with 25 other people around you, making it pretty close quarters. It’s never pretty, and there are usually guys shoulder to shoulder, but everyone is usually pretty cool about it. When someone hooks a fish, people are pretty respectful and bring their lines in to let the person land their fish before going back to what they were doing. Some people are less talkative than others, but it’s usually a pretty good time.

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My buddy has a video he took of this ‘character’ while we were fishing under a bridge. He had hooked a fish and took off running. He wasn’t only following the fish, but he was being kind of a nut. His boots were full of water, so he was squeaking as he went running through this crowd of people under the bridge. We still refer to him as “Squeaky Boots.”

I usually like to observe what people are doing for a few minutes to see what casts they’re making to make sure I don’t interfere before I step in. On another trip up there, we had found a pool with about 30 fish under an overhanging tree. No one was fishing right under that tree, so I slid in there. I had about six different fish come and chase my bait on the first cast, which told me those fish hadn’t seen a bait in a while. 

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I hooked one and lost one, then I caught one. I called my buddy over and he caught one. Two older men fishing up stream from us decided to leave and were obviously furious with us, expressing their concerns verbally. They told us that we were fishing too closely, and that we didn’t ask to come fish near them. I tried not to really engage with them. Really, what it was about was that those guys weren’t catching anything and us young guys walked in and started catching fish right away. It hurt their feelings and their pride, so they felt like they had to say something. Everyone around us commented the same sentiments after they left. That’s really the only verbal confrontation that I’ve ever seen on the creek, which is amazing, considering all the combat fishing that’s going on.

Things like that happen at least once every trip up there. In addition to the fish themselves, things like that are part of what make the trip.   

Nolan’s Very First Steelhead

When I caught my first steel, we were fishing at the “tubes;” two large culverts that tunnel underneath a set of train tracks. There are usually a bunch of steelhead under there because it’s cool, dark, and protected. There were some pretty large logs in the water under the tunnels and I could see some fish hanging around them. We had already spent three hours looking for fish and I hadn’t caught one yet ‘till we came upon this pool.

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Well, I hooked this fish, but was using 6 pound test line, so there wasn’t really much I could do to steer it away from snags. It decided it was going to head into these downed trees and ran around one branch before taking off in the opposite direction. The fish wound up 30” from the tree, but my line was going around the tree. Then it got caught up on something, so I couldn’t pull him back around the tree. I’m shocked my line didn’t break off because it became so stuck in there.

The fish must have decided that he wasn’t hooked anymore, so he just swam over to the tree and was sort of just hanging out. At first we thought he wasn’t hooked anymore, but then I could still see my hook with the line hanging out of his mouth with my bait.

We had to take a different rod and snag the line to get it closer to us. We managed to get him about halfway to us, but the line got hung up again so we couldn’t get him any closer. We had to take a third line to snag the second line to pull him close enough to us to net him. By that point we had a crowd around us watching these shenanigans, but we got that fish! He was average size, which is around 21-22 inches; about a three pound fish.

That was my first steelhead, and it’s kind of a fitting way to have caught one in Erie, PA. There’s nothing bright and flashy. You just have to do what you have to do.

How to Catch Roosterfish from Shore

I’d like to preface this article by saying I don’t consider myself an expert when it comes to catching roosterfish. After all I grew up fishing on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, where the nearest roosterfish is about 2,000 miles away. My success with catching roosterfish from shore has simply been a combination of fishing amazing locations in Costa Rica, some good luck, great timing and hundreds upon hundreds of casts.

It all started in 2015 when my wife, Lauren, booked us a month at a random AirBnB jungle cabina on the beach along the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. At the time we had no idea that this cabina was located directly in front of prime territory for jack Crevalle, cubera Snapper and the most prized fish of all – the roosterfish.

What occurred during that trip was so memorable that we’d go on to book a total of nine weeks over the course of two years at that cabina – with another 5 weeks planned for the winter of 2019.

Catching giant roosterfish from shore has been the apex of my surfcasting career, and I’m excited to share with you how I like to target these amazing fish.

Best Locations for Roosterfish

For me, roosterfish fishing has been similar to fishing for giant bluefin tuna, in the sense that it can take great patience and many hours to get a bite. Where I surf cast in Costa Rica the roosterfish roam miles of shoreline, following schools of baitfish such as Sardines and Mullet. My best success with roosterfish has occurred when Sardines and Mullet were plentiful in the surf.

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During my first stay along the west coast of Costa Rica in 2015, mullet appeared in the surf every day for about a week straight after the full moon.

It was during that one week that I caught three giant roosterfish with the largest being in the 70-80 pound range. The other three weeks I caught plenty of jacks and mackerel, but there were no roosterfish, and very few mullet.

In December of 2017, I learned a shortcut to roosterfish success. Targeting inlets and rocky points became more reliable than trying to hunt down roosters along the open beach. Sardines, mullet and other baitfish would congregate at inlets and around the rocks. Armed with this new knowledge, this coming January when I return to Costa Rica, you can bet I will be investing the majority of my fishing time around inlets and rocky points.

Best Lures And Baits For Roosterfish

Throughout my time spent fishing in Costa Rica, I have met several local fishermen who primarily use live sardines and mullet when targeting roosterfish.

I would have to admit that live bait seems to be the most effective.

However all my success with roosterfish has been with topwater artificial swimming lures and poppers. Oddly enough, where I fish in Costa Rica I have not encountered situations where roosterfish follow the lure without biting (which is apparently common in many spots). Conveniently the roosters have readily attacked artificial lures right in the surf.

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The two lures I like best for roosterfish are the 6.5 inch slow sinking transparent Canal Magic Swimmer, and the 2 ounce ghost white Tactical Angler Bomb Popper. The retrieve for both of these lures is very simple.

For the Magic Swimmer all you need to do is cast the swimmer out and reel it straight back in at a moderate to quick speed. For the Bomb Popper, simply cast it out and retrieve at a medium speed, while pumping the rod, which will throw a lot of white water into the air. Roosters will absolutely hammer both of these lures when retrieved in this manner.

The Best Rods, Reels and Tackle For Catching Roosterfish From Shore

I am somewhat limited with rod selection because I have to bring all my gear on flights, boats and taxis. Therefore my best rod for roosterfish has been the 8’6″ Tsunami Travel rod which breaks down into three pieces for easy travel.

When paired with a Van Staal VR175 spinning reel, this rod/reel combination can easily handle any roosterfish I have come across so far. The VR175 has a fully sealed drag, which is important because I often have to dive beneath waves and fully submerge the reel in saltwater and sand.

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The VR series of reels from Van Staal will work flawlessly even when submitted to these harsh angling conditions.

I have also caught roosterfish using the Van Staal 150 class reels. When fishing a 150 class Van Staal I pair the reel with either a 7’ 3-piece Offshore Angler Ocean Master or St. Croix Tidemaster Inshore 7’6” 3-piece travel rod. The smaller setups can absolutely handle big roosterfish, plus the lighter setups make catching smaller species like sierra mackerel and jack crevalle more fun. In addition the smaller setup can be fished from a boat.

For line, I will use 30 pound moss green Power Pro braid when fishing sandy beaches, and 50 pound moss green Power Pro braid when fishing around rocks. For leader I will use 30 pound Seaguar blue label fluorocarbon when fishing sandy beaches, and 50 pound Seaguar blue label when fishing around rocks.

I connect the leader to the braid using a slim beauty knot, and I will use a 175 pound Tactical Angler clip to make switching lures quick and easy.

In Conclusion

Roosterfish are incredibly beautiful, strong and elusive creatures. Catching one is not easy and will most likely require a lot of time and patience. However the hunt is definitely worth it.

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Once hooked roosterfish will go on drag sizzling runs, and often launch themselves straight clear out of the water.

I tell people that the fight of a rooster is like combining the powerful tail beats of a giant striped bass, with the scorching runs of a bluefin tuna, and on occasion, the acrobatics of a tarpon.

When landing a roosterfish be extremely cautious because these fish are all muscle and it can be very easy for them to beat their tail or shake their head, resulting in a hook in your hand. Use pliers and try to keep the fish wet and in the water for a quick and successful release.

Best of luck if you decide to give catching roosterfish from shore a try. Roosters are not an easy fish to find and fool, however the time and energy is absolutely worth it.

 

Fishing from a Paddle Board for Exotics in South Florida

Bullseye Snakeheads, Mayan Cichlids, and Blue Tilapia

Florida… it is the “Mecca” of Sport Fishing. Here in Florida, you can catch so many different types of fish that the choices are endless, in fresh or saltwater. One of the most interesting aspects of fishing in Florida is the introduction of “Invasive” or “Exotic” species in several waterways throughout South Florida, and how basic bass fishing techniques can land these fish. Fishing from a paddle board simply makes it more interesting!

From the small bodies of water near exit ramps to the canals that run through developments, these Exotics are becoming a sought after game fish.

Let me review a few ways I catch them…

Snakehead Fishing From a Paddle Board and Tackle Used

As I said, I don’t have to change techniques that I use when bass fishing to land one of these feisty fighters. One of my favorite ways to catch bass is to work a soft plastic frog around and through vegetation fields. My go-to is a Bass Addiction Gear Kickin’ Frog in Houdini color, or a Scumfrog Chugger in Black, both of which are a great imitations to the natural look of the frogs down here in South Florida.

For the Kickin’ Frog, I rig it on a 4/0 VMC heavy duty swimbait hook with a bait keeper. The weedless design allows me to work the frog through cover and not get hung up, and the heavy duty hook is very strong, which is key for aggressive fish like the bullseye snakehead. Now, while Bass will frequent these vegetation fields in a variety of depths, the bullseye snakehead will remain in parts that are closest to the bank where there may be a foot or less of water.

I believe that they do this simply to remain close to the pods of fry that stay within these areas, thus keeping them close to an abundant food source.

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Working these frogs parallel to the bank near vegetation patches will surely bring an aggressive strike.

For my rod and reel, I love using a MH 7’ Falcon Bucoo spinning rod with a 2000 sized Daiwa Tatula spinning reel with 15 pound braided line tied directly to the hook. The medium heavy action rod has a soft tip to cast the frog a good distance, but the backbone to turn the fish when needed. As far as using braid, I normally prefer monofilament, but snakeheads love to hang close to structure as well and the braid helps me keep the fish on without worrying too much about line breakage.

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I will turn to the Scumfrog Chugger when I am working vegetation fields with large open “pockets” that allow me to slowly work the chugger.

For this bait, I use a Falcon Cara T3 Jason Christie Frog Rod paired with a Daiwa Tatula CT with a 8.1:1 gear ratio to allow me to quickly pick up slack before setting the hook. As for the line, I upgrade to a 20 pound braid.

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Fishing From a Paddle Board for Mayans and Blue Tilapia

Another of my favorite ways to catch bass is to work a spinnerbait around structure. My go-to is a RedLine Lures Pro Series in Houdini color with a double Colorado blade configuration. I love to throw it around brush piles, docks, and fallen timber.

I will use a 6’6” Medium Action Falcon Bucoo SR Casting Rod with a moderate taper paired with a Daiwa Tatula CT with a 5.5:1 gear ratio. For spinnerbaits, as well as lipless crankbaits, I prefer the slower gear ration so I can work the bait nice and slow and the soft taper of the rod allows me to softly drop the bait on the cast.

Now, while bass will often be caught in these areas, Mayan Cichlids are also inhabiting these same spots and will readily hit these baits.

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While they are small in size, the Mayan Cichlid fight is very similar to a peacock bass…running side to side with small bursts of speed and pulling straight down.

Another rare species to get on the end of your line is the Blue Tilapia. This fish is much harder to catch, but when hooked…the fight is incredible. I have caught just a handful of these fish, but found that when a lipless crankbait is worked in deeper waters over submerged structure, if near a nest, a Blue Tilapia will strike in order to protect its territory.

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The Blue Tilapia will fight similar to a redfish…it will continuously fight “downward” causing a great deal of stress to the line.

Their fight is unique, so if I get one on, I will quickly loosen the drag so the lure does not pull from the mouth and to release strain on the hooks which will possibly bend. These fish will eventually wear themselves out so let your rod and the drag do the work and you will eventually boat these feisty fish.

Why I Prefer Fishing From a Paddle Board 

While the kayak industry has exploded over the last 15 to 20 years causing kayaks to evolve into fully outfitted fishing vessels, my preferred method for fishing is from my Kaku Kahuna paddle board. I do this for two reasons. One, I love a clean, flat deck. I feel that they are the most comfortable platform for me to fish from.

While I find the room to be beneficial for a variety of reasons, there is also a method to my madness. Many of these exotic species are brutal fighters and the bullseye snakehead is at the top of that list with regard to fighting until the end. These fish, in addition to their power, will also perform what many call the “Alligator Deathroll”, and these rolls will NOT stop when they get into your craft. These fish have been known to break their own jaws trying to escape fish grips, causing your line to wrap around a variety of items, and even in the net, they just simply don’t stop fighting.

I know all too well how self-destructive these fish can be when caught so I want to get them off the hook, photographed and back in the water as quickly as possible. A clean deck without pods, pedals, and rod holders, allows me to have a better chance of safely handling these beasts and my Kaku Kahuna allows me to do just that.

Secondly, I believe that a SUP is even stealthier than a kayak.

Due to the smaller overall size of my SUP, I can have even more of a chance sneaking up on Snakeheads. As I previously mentioned, Snakeheads loom close to the banks in less than a foot of water, and the fully padded, uncluttered deck of my Kahuna allows me to stand quietly in just a few inches of water so I can cast that frog just off of the bank and catch some giants that are just lying in wait.

Fishing From a Paddle Board: Closing Thoughts

I have learned over the years that for me, when it comes to kayak fishing, less is more. Fishing from a SUP may limit my ability to cover big bodies of water, but affords me the right amount of space to outfit my trips and find myself slipping into areas that even kayaks may not enter.

If you are looking to possibly hook a exotic species here in Florida, just bring your bass gear, because down here, when you feel that thump… you just might hook yourself a new species to check off your bucket list.

 

Fishing for Steelhead with ANGLR Expert Nolan Minor

In the corner of northwest Pennsylvania lies the next best thing to a vast ocean: one of the Great Lakes, Lake Erie. With its almost tidal surf and vast, dark, deep waters, it’s an angler’s dream. From roaming schools of smallmouth, giant walleye, and the hard fighting steelhead, Lake Erie has a species for any angler!

We caught up with ANGLR Expert, Nolan Minor just as he was returning home from a trip to the outfitters. The Virginia native was gearing up for a trek from his home in Morgantown, West Virginia to travel three hours to Erie. He and his buddies were heading out fishing for steelhead.

What Makes Fishing for Steelhead in Erie so Unique?

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Steelhead is a rainbow trout, but what makes it unique is that it’s migratory, similar to salmon. They live out in the ocean, or Great Lakes in this case, for the first two to three years of their lives before they make their first trip back in the streams to spawn. Unlike trout, they don’t meet their demise in the rivers, but are able to return to the lake in the spring.

They live their lives out in the vast lake, only concerned about food, but then one day something clicks in their brain and they decide they need to go spawn, so they begin to head to the creeks sometime around the end of September, early October. They keep flooding up the creeks until December. That’s where they’ll remain until the spring, when they return back to the open waters. Their life cycle is similar to their cousins’ out in the Pacific Northwest: Washington, Oregon, British Columbia, where the biggest difference is that those steelhead live most of their lives out in the open ocean.

There are two main creeks that harbor the majority of steelhead as they make their spawn run: Walnut Creek and Elk Creek.

An average Erie steelhead is usually around 21-22 inches and about three pounds, maybe a little less. Most of the fish we catch there are around that size. The largest one I’ve caught so far was 28 inches. That’s not that large of a fish, but it was really fat and weighed about seven and a half pounds. The smaller jacks are usually around 17-18 inches, but they’re less common.

When I Got That First Bite… I Was Hooked

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I didn’t know what to expect on my first trip. I had done a lot of trout fishing in rivers and streams down in Virginia. My skills transferred over pretty smoothly. Fishing for trout and steelhead is closely related. The two fish’s behaviors are very similar, the baits they each take are almost the same, so tackle is similar as well.

This is a huge fish that’s a very aggressive fighter. It’s sort of one of the coveted freshwater fish to pursue. Growing up in Virginia, I hadn’t had an opportunity to go fishing for steelhead before my college years. With Erie being so close [at three hours away], I had to try. My buddy goes regularly, so he took me up there for my first time during my freshman year. Three or four of us still get together and head up to Erie for a long weekend as often as we can. Being college students and members of the West Virginia Fishing Bass Team, it’s difficult but we still manage to make it up two to three times a year.

Because I’m still in school, I’m really only able to get up there about two to three times a year. I’d love to go more often if I was close enough to take a day trip through the weekdays. Fishing pressure is a big factor to your success. When it’s busy, for every 40 fish you see, you may catch one.

Usually about 90% of the fish are being caught by about 10% of the anglers.

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Gearing up when Fishing for Steelhead

Most anglers up in Erie fish with noodle rods. I’ve never used one because I was used to trout fishing on creeks in Virginia. I use a shorter 6’6″ light action rod, pretty light tackle. When we’re up there, we’re catching more fish than most people, so we must be doing something right. In the larger rivers like in the Pacific Northwest, a longer rod is necessary to keep your line off of the water, but these creeks are so little, so you don’t need that length. It’s such tight quarters in the trees and under bridges. The trees are actually covered in hooks, line, and bobbers. This is similar to fishing for stream trout; you have to cater your gear to the environment you’re fishing in.

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We fish our baits underneath a small split-shot float. We’ll use single eggs, and we’ll use spawn bags, it really depends on what the fish are telling us. Some people use minnows or worms. We use a light line and an 8-14 hook, depending on the bait and conditions. Typically, the clearer the water, the smaller the equipment. We’ll use small jigs, and will grab a trout magnet a lot. Another staple of ours is a three inch pink trout worm. It’s the ‘Wacky Senko’ of trout fishing. Since the water is so small, we typically use smaller stuff.

Some people tend to overcomplicate things, but fishing for steelhead is pretty simple. Unlike bass fishing, you only have a handful of different baits and 3 or 4 color choices for most situations.

The fishing changes from day to day, based on the conditions. That’ll determine the bait or technique that works best for the day. There’s no bait that’ll be any better day in and day out.

You’ve got to have a drag-free drift under your float. That’s the key to being successful. You need that bait to be floating in a natural way. That’s the biggest fundamental, and once you have that mastered, you’ve got it. You’ll have your bait underneath your float, then use small split-shot weights to balance things out. Starting with a larger one, tapering off to a smaller weight closest to your bait since you want your bait to drift a little in front of the bobber to get that drag-free drift; a more natural drift, which is the key to getting a bite.

Steelhead sit up off of the bottom a little bit, and you want that bait to be drifting so they don’t have to move very far to eat it. You almost want it to hit them on the nose, since food is not their main priority when they come into the creek. While you can typically see 30-40 fish in the water at a time, they’re not always taking the bait, so you have to be patient, and present it to them in such a way that they can’t say no.

While landing these fish is exciting, it’s the time spent in the crowds of people that flock to Erie during this time that really makes the outing unique. I will be talking about my experiences fishing off of Lake Erie in our next Steelhead Edition. Make sure to catch it!

Winter Fly Fishing Tips With Jacob Jesionek

Don’t let the frigid water temperatures deter you from hitting the rivers and streams this winter. There’s still plenty of fish out there looking to be hooked.

Ohio State University Senior and ANGLR Expert, Jacob Jesionek, talks to us about his excursions winter fly fishing. He’s always been an avid outdoorsman and remembers trying to net minnows in the surf during his family’s beach trips during his younger years.

He convinced his family to try some guided trips and found the fun in working with a rod and reel. He was turned on to bass fishing during his high school years and hasn’t turned back. While a member of OSU’s bass team this past year, he made the National Championships which he fished during the ANGLR Tour.

Getting Started Into the Fly Fishing World

Jesionek was in Gander Mountain one day and saw a sale on fly rods. “I had seen some YouTube videos and decided I needed another thing to spend money on,” he joked.

“It’s more of an artform and a challenging way to fish. It’s fun to fly fish for just about any species.”

He got on the Orvis YouTube channel to educate himself before spending a few days out in his backyard casting, learning to lay down the line.

He eventually started going to the pond across the street from his house, working on getting his false casts down. “Before that, I wasn’t really into trout fishing, but by now, I’ve caught so many trout on the fly rod, I couldn’t imagine not having that as a tool for fishing.”

The Buzz on Winter Fly Fishing

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“When it comes to trout, utilizing a fly and fly fishing tactics to target them works incredibly well because of how finicky the fish could be,” Jesionek says. “But you need to be spot-on with your fly selection.” That’s especially true in the winter.

When you’re trout fishing in the wintertime, it’s all about your fly selection. Trout don’t tend to mind the cold water much.

While they don’t tend to hunker down in really deep holes like bass, they still find deeper areas. You’ll be looking for heavier-weighted nymphs; something along the lines of tungsten head Prince Nymphs, Hare’s Ear, or Pheasant Tail. In warmer months, you wouldn’t typically be fishing with such a heavy nymph, but in the winter you need to get a little lower, so the extra weight is going to be your best bet. You definitely wouldn’t have any need for dry flies, as there are no hatches going on this time of year.

Jesionek recommends trying your hand at fly tying.

“It’s a really cool way to tune your fly fishing skills because the more you work on tying these flies, the better you get with names, and the better you get with matching the hatch. I definitely recommend it as a way to improve your skills if you’re stuck inside or you’re unsure of what you can do better.”

Cabela’s offers inexpensive kits you can pick up. Trout patterns for nymphs are normally fairly simple, so there’s no need to worry about trying to learn the intricate dry fly patterns.

Rainbow trout can be counted on to always eat either an egg imitation or the pink squirmy wormy. “It’s absolutely the best fly to catch a rainbow trout on,” he begins. “A lot of people say it’s cheating, but it’s still a fly that you can tie, and if you’re catching fish on it, you can’t really complain.”

In the wintertime, you’ll be seeking trout towards the deeper side of outside bends in the channel. While not as affected by the change in temperature as bass, they will still prefer sitting in deeper water.  That’s why the heavier-beaded tungsten nymphs come in handy. You can also use a split shot rig. Jesionek uses two nymphs to a rig and ties them 12-18” apart from each other. Above that, he adjusts the height of his indicator as high as he needs to go. You could choose either a bobber-style or the more finessed New Zealand indicator, an almost feather-weight clump of hairs that barely floats on the surface. Staying stealthy is important when fly fishing.

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With the deeper floating nymphs, you’ll notice more subtle takes because you’re typically trying to find bottom. As your fly is tapping bottom, your indicator will be ticking. When the indicator shoots under, you know for sure it’s a fish, but you really need to pay attention and learn the tick from the take.

“I’ve heard that all over the country, coming from seasoned fishermen. I heard it when I was out west fishing in Yellowstone, and I heard it when I was in Tennessee fishing the South Holston with the ANGLR tour.

Winter Fly Fishing Gear

Jesionek uses an assortment of rods. Right now, his preference is among three rods. The first is a 3-weight Cabela’s three-fork rod with the wind-river reel.

“That’s my super light-weight set-up for those super small streams since there’s no room for back casts or false casting.”

It’s a shorter 7’6” rod. “My favorite is the Orvis Recon.” It’s a 5-weight nine-footer. The third is the Orvis Clearwater. It’s an 8-weight nine-footer. He reserves that one mainly for steelhead and saltwater. There’s not really a whole lot of difference between the 5-weight and 8-weight, though it is easier to cast greater distances with the eight since there’s more strength in the rod.

He fishes a floating line with all three of his rods. With the 3-weight, Jesionek normally grabs ultralight 6x tippet, which is somewhere in the three pound breaking range. For the 5-weight, he uses 2x to 4x, depending on the water clarity. He’ll use 0x for the steelhead rod because he hasn’t really found those fish to be very line shy.

Keepin’ It Cool – But Not Too Cool

Always be prepared for the cold. It’s better to try to layer down as you go, rather than trying to figure out how to layer up. “Wading around in the water is a lot colder than you’d think.” he warns.

Jesionek confesses he’s not always as prepared for his adventures as he should be. Last year when steelhead fishing, he broke his cold-water waders, so he used his beach waders. “There was zero insulation in these wading boots. They were literally made for sand, so I was sliding everywhere.” He was also miserably cold.

I definitely recommend the proper attire when trying to fish in the winter. Since his uncomfortable mishap, he’s been relying on Compass 360 Gear. They’ve mastered the ability to add in a lot of insulation, while still keeping their waders lightweight. They’re also affordable, which is nice.

Seeking Trout When Winter Fly Fishing

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Planning your trip beforehand by studying the stream you’ll be fishing to figure out where the best meanders are is key to success. You can utilize resources like local guides and tackle shops that can give you tips. Apps like ANGLR can be an incredible asset. You can start by researching your location ahead of time by using the Explore Feature, marking waypoints to try. From there, the local word of mouth can send you to those spots that can be the most successful, also giving you pointers on what sort of ties are working well for the area right now.

WildTroutStreams.com is a site recommended by Jesionek as a source that provides the most comprehensive maps and mapping data for locating wild trout streams throughout the continental U.S. You can view each creek in the state and see what sort of trout stream it’s classified as.

 

How to Find and Catch Peacock Bass in South Florida

Over the past 18 months I’ve been re-learning the waters of South Florida, where I spent the first 18 years of my life. Now, living in Miami with my wife and two toddler aged sons, I’ve had the opportunity to spend significant time exploring the vast Miami canal system and its adjoining lakes and ponds which are home to several fresh and saltwater species.

Although there are many species to fish for in the inland waters of South Florida, the most pursued species by far is the Butterfly Peacock Bass!

While peacock bass are native to South America, they were originally introduced in South Florida in 1984. Since then, they have become a highly sought after fish as a result of their aggressive nature and majestic colors.

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Peacock Bass are plentiful in South Florida however over the past 18 months I’ve learned that in order to consistently find and catch peacock bass, you have to cover water, know what to look for, and vary your presentation.

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Covering Water In Pursuit of Peacock Bass

Nearly every type of bridge, spillway, seawall, or shoreline connected to the urban waterways and canals in South Florida can potentially hold Peacock Bass, so it is very important to cover as much water as possible in order to find fish. Since the lakes and canals in Miami are generally clear, the vibrant colors of Peacock Bass make them easily noticeable in most conditions and provide natural opportunities to sight fish.

In re-exploring the urban canal system, I made a habit of stopping at nearly every urban body of water that I could find in neighborhoods, near shopping malls, parks, highways, and various other locations in Miami. Most of the time my reconnaissance of potential locations was without a rod in hand while I was on a lunch break or running errands.

My aim was simply to determine if these various locations held fish that I could come back to at a later date.

While I now use the ANGLR App to mark spots where I find fish, I previously made mental notes or took map screenshots with my phone which I would later review to determine other potential ways to access the same bodies of water where I knew fish were present.

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By taking the time to cover lots of water, I quickly found numerous locations that continue to produce healthy peacock bass year round.  

What to Look for When Locating Peacock Bass

While peacock bass can be found in nearly every body of water in Miami, when searching for new locations, I generally look for deep drop offs near hard structure such as limestone, boulders, or large pieces of cement along shorelines. I’ve also had success finding peacocks in deeper water under lily pads that line seawalls or shorelines. Although peacock bass prefer clear water, they can also be caught in areas where water visibility is limited due to pollution, cloud cover, or tidal flow.

One trick to identifying Peacock Bass in the water during low light or limited visibility conditions is to look for the bright orange color on their anal fins. Similar to other species, when in spawn, bedding Peacock Bass will typically be observed in pairs, and sometimes with small fry nearby. While they are other times observed in large schools, my favorite way to target peacock bass is when they are swimming in smaller groups of 3 to 4 and feeding on small baitfish in the shallows.

Focus on Presentation to Catch Peacock Bass

Due to their predatory nature, Peacock Bass are voracious eaters that can be caught on live bait, artificial lures, and even flies. Unlike species such as Largemouth bass, Peacock bass can be more aggressive with increased sunlight and warmer temperatures. When turned on and active, Peacock bass will devour nearly everything you put in front of them, especially by live lining wild shiners or small cichlids using small circle hooks.

When the fish appear uninterested in live bait, I will often switch from live bait to various small flies which I find to be the most effective method overall to entice slow moving fish. There are also ample opportunities to catch them on topwater lures and flies, which makes for an explosive bite. At the same time flashy artificial lures such as Mirrodine’s, or Rat-L-Traps work well as they mimic small baitfish.

Despite their aggressive eating habits, peacock bass often become less active when in spawn and protecting their beds, and also tend to turn off as a result of significant cloud cover, cold fronts, or rain.

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The key to enticing inactive Peacock bass to bite is changing your presentation.

When attempting to use artificial lures with slow moving fish, I like to downsize my lures and retrieve the lure in a more erratic nature in order to provoke the fish. I find that they will sometimes try to bump the lure, or push it away, yet with repetitive presentations of a lure the Peacock bass will usually bite once they are sufficiently irritated.

When casting a fly to a hesitant Peacock bass, I like to slow down the strip of the fly, and at times will stop the fly right in front of the fish and will even let the fly drop to the bottom near the fish before stripping line quickly to elicit a response. This retrieve tends to irritate or provoke the fish and results in consistent bites from seemingly lethargic and inactive fish.

The Miami canal system is one of a kind, and provides as an opportunity for anglers of all skill levels to catch trophy Peacock bass. The next time you make a trip to Miami, be sure to focus on locations with drop offs near hard structure or lily pads and if you don’t see peacocks after a short time, continue to cover as much water as possible.

Once you find the fish and determine their level of responsiveness to your tactics, don’t hesitate to switch up your approach if the fish initially appear lethargic and uninterested. With the right presentation, you can be sure to elicit an incredible bite!

Chad Nelson is an ANGLR Expert and a Miami-based fishing guide who specializes Peacock Bass and has experience guiding families. To book a Miami Peacock Bass trip with Chad or to find out more about catching peacock bass and other prized species in Miami such as tarpon, snook, and bonefish contact Chad on Instagram @cnelson4. A portion of all proceeds go to support 501(c)3 non-profit organizations working to help underprivileged kids and transform communities in Panama and Afghanistan. Chad was featured on Episode 20 of the ANGLR Tour. Check it out below! 

 

Top Fly Anglers You Should Be Following

There are a lot of long winded folks out there. Some of them have a lot of knowledge to impart, and some of them just like to shoot the breeze. So who should you be watching out for, and who should you be watching? We’ve put together a list of some of our favorite fly anglers and why you should be following them.

Devin Olsen

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Devin Olsen, self-proclaimed obsessed fly fisherman, co-founded Tactical Fly Fisher along with his partner Glade Gunther. He’s been fishing since the age of nine and has been competing since 2004. Last year marked his ninth consecutive berth as an angler for Fly Fishing Team USA. He finished with the individual bronze medal and was a member of the team that won the first team medal (silver) for USA at the 2015 world fly fishing championships in Bosnia. He’s been featured in the acclaimed Modern Nymphing Elevated, Beyond the Basics with Lance Egan.

Devin’s blogs are a good combination of modesty and useful information. He’s got a Bachelor’s degree in ecology and a Master’s degree in fisheries science and spent three years working as a fisheries biologist before taking on Tactical Fly Fisher as a full time business in 2017. That means he has a lot to teach us that goes way beyond just how to tie a tungsten taco egg (and why you shouldn’t avoid it!)

Tyler Cornett

Tyler Cornett of Rivers Edge Outfitters (REO)  may just be the next up-and-coming thing. A junior at Western Carolina University, Tyler has a good thing going. As a national fly fishing team member, Tyler co-founded his university’s fly fishing club. He’s put together countless tutorials for REO already (found on their YouTube Channel) and seems to have big things up his sleeve. Keep your eyes on this guy!

April Vokey

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April Vokey has been spey casting since the age of 18. She spent her early years watching instructional VHS tapes about how to cast, and now she hosts a popular fly fishing podcast called Anchored with April Vokey, where she interviews some of the most influential people in the fly fishing game. She believes that fly fishing is a sport for both genders. It “requires finesse, timing, passion, excitement, intrigue, and dedication – descriptives that are not sole features of either gender,” she says. “I urge women who have not given this sport a try to skip their next yoga class or hike. Tranquility or excitement, whatever it is that you’re looking for, why not follow Mother Nature to the river to find it?”

Her blogs bring on the finest fly fishing trips and adventures in the world.

She owns her own guiding service, flygal, specializing in Steelhead trips on British Columbia’s Skeena River, and is currently a member of the Patagonia ambassador team, where she is assisting in the design and direction of an upcoming women’s line of fishing apparel.

Hilary Hutcheson

Hilary Hutcheson grew up plodding around Montana’s Glacier National Park, where her father worked as a ranger for the National Park Service. She started fly fishing in the seventh grade, and by age 14, she had landed a gig with Glacier Angler. By 17, she was guiding fly fishing excursions. While in college, she earned her degree in broadcast journalism, which lead to a television news anchor position in Missoula, then one in Portland, Oregon.

Back in Montana again, she worked to create an outdoor marketing firm, Outside Media, and a network television show called Trout TV, which she hosts.

Pat Dorsey

Pat Dorsey is a Denver, Colorado based fly fishing guide that has been pursuing selective, Rocky Mountain trout for over 35 years. His vast knowledge and expertise makes him a true authority in the fly fishing industry. He generally posts a blog update about once a month with topics ranging from travel to tips on tippet selection

Anni Yli-Lonttinen

Anni Yli-Lonttinen is a fly fishing journalist and entrepreneur who’s been writing about fly fishing for about seven years. She started her own fly fishing business in 2014, Kajana Club. It offers fly fishing enthusiasts inspiration, courses, community, and help with international travel planning.

Chris Dore

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Chris Dore is a professional New Zealand fly fishing guide, writer, FFF casting instructor, SCOTT pro staff, and rep for Manic Tackle Project. He is a recognized freshwater fishing writer and has been a regular contributor to a number of New Zealand angling publications over the last 15 years. He believes that “life’s too short to not catch fish,” and takes a highly instructional and fun-filled approach to fly fishing.

Jeff Blood

Jeff Blood is not only a very well-seasoned steelhead angler with over 40 years of experience under his belt, he’s quite possibly one of the geniuses of the industry. He’s had the great fortune of fishing all over the world, and still favors Lake Erie as some of the best fly fishing he has found. He’s the famed inventor of the Blood Dot egg fly for steelhead, which he created in 1977 while still a college student, and developed Frog Hair tippet and leader material with Gamma Technologies. He’s also a managing partner of NetStaff, LLC, a netting device encompassing multiple tools for fishing. You can find his wisdom on many interviews, blogs, articles, and instructional videos across the net.

 

Fly Fishing Forums Every Fly Guy or Gal Needs To Know About

Fly fishing forums are like opinions. Everyone has one, but only some are based in fact and reality. And when you’re visiting a forum, you’ll notice that there are plenty of opinions and plenty of judgement. You’ll have that. Sometimes people tend to take “free speech” too far.

The good news is that since there are such an abundance of fly fishing forums, there are many to choose from, and some are quite helpful, which allows you to whittle it down to those that offer you the best advice, camaraderie, and useful sounding board.

We’ll hit on some of the best fly fishing forums out there and touch on what makes them worth a visit and a consideration to join.

Forums at Their Best

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When we introduced the idea of a forum in our Bass Fishing Forums post, we discussed that a forum is a great place for users to get together to offer help and advice, and for professionals to lend their expertise, making some interactions a good learning experience. In order to get that balance, forums need a combination of their “old faithfuls,” as well as a splash of consistent incoming new-to-the-sport anglers. That way, everyone benefits from each other’s knowledge, and the “newbies” stoke a refresher course for those that are somewhere in the middle. Good conversations follow.

In the world of fly fishing, there is so much old-world knowledge to be shared and gained. In the years gone by, anglers seemed to hoard their expertise like it was a coveted prize. Not everyone was willing to share their hard-earned secrets of the river for whatever reason. Convincing someone to cough up their tricks to fishing small flies at dusk was like pulling teeth.

Nowadays, people are much more eager to help a fellow out and share their skills with others, and a forum is a great place to get together with people, not just in your region, but across the globe, and better each other’s tackle box. Through the sharing of knowledge and information, a forum can help to make each member a better angler and increase their enjoyment of the sport.

Fly Fishing Forums: North American Fly Fishing Forum

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The North American Fly Fishing Forum, which lands on theflyfishingforum.com, is the most active and interactive forum out there, by far, with upwards of 7,000 visitors daily. The trend with forums tends to be that more “visitors” . . . .well . . . . visit the page than actual contributing members. NA Fly Fishing Forum is no different, but still has an impressive number of members landing on the page each day at over 600.

Impressively, this site has an exhaustive list of every sort of post you can imagine, from the normal tips and tricks, fly tying help and advice on building your own rod. The Region section is broken down into much smaller areas of North America so you can get more specialized updates on conditions and reports, even going so far as to include the “Driftless Region” of Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. Many conversations about fishing in Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean allow you to plan for your upcoming travels, or converse with locals about your current trek.

Competitions for prizes are offered regularly every month, with the added bonus of extra, random games in between. There’s a section to share fishery webcam links to assist with figuring local river water levels. More of the unique qualities that this page offers are conversations geared towards youth fly fishing, and women who tackle the art.

Fly Fishing Forums: Paflyfish

Paflyfish is touted by many as one of the most user friendly forums to visit. Chad Schmukler says that this site actually succeeds in offering what most fly fishing forums claim to offer: “a community of individuals that are extremely knowledgeable, generous with their time and information, and welcoming to newcomers.”

While mostly centered on Pennsylvania, there are members from around the globe. It’s expanded to include the neighboring states, much of the northeast US, and far beyond. A “Beginner Forum” focuses on those new to fly fishing or looking to brush up on some of the basics.

In-depth discussion on tying encourages users to share what they’re working on today, stoking conversations about both new oddities and modifications to old favorites like the zebra midge.

While the member count isn’t as high as North American Fly Fishing forum, the site is active, with contributions being made within the hour. Over 50 users visit the site at a time, with over 10 being registered members. They hold several gatherings throughout the year and many have had the opportunity to meet face to face.

Fly Fishing Forums: Spey Pages

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While geared specifically to those aficionados of the popular spey cast, Spey Pages also has an active membership, with conversations being updated each day. Over 400 users are online at any given time and over 90 of those are contributing members. This seems to attract may new members, as they arrive daily. That’s what may be so attractive about this site. There are solid offerings for both new members and new casters. A “New Member Introduction” thread offers advice on how to post, code of conduct, and a way that new members can introduce themselves to the general population. A “Spey Basics” section is geared towards new spey casters as a way to encourage them to participate and have their questions answered.

Fly Fishing Forums: Troutnut

This one is definitely worth mentioning. Troutnut provides a  light-hearted feel, while offering probably the best gathering place for those very new to fly fishing. The owner has a great sense of humor, and lays out the “Forum Rules” at the bottom of the landing page with realistic style, threatening to “call your mother on you” if you use naughty words. It dictates that you should “use common sense and don’t be a jerk.”

Funny aside, this is an active site with conversations being updated daily. There are usually over 280 users online at any given time.  This is a great page, probably catering more to beginners. The “Fly Fishing Beginner Help” thread offers a safe place where newbies can ask “getting started” questions and the old-timers can share their “wish-I-had-known” lessons. Questions are generally answered within a day or two.

The general feeling from members is warm and welcoming, with very little of the negativity that many other forums can sometimes affect.

Fly Fishing Forums: New York Angler

One last forum to make sure you check out is New York Angler or NYAngler for short! This site features a forum, blog, and even podcasts! For anglers in the New York area, this is your one stop shop for information, tips and tricks, and for talking fishing!

Whether you’re new to the sport or are looking for a sounding board to tackle difficult techniques, using the community of an online forum is a great way to come together with other anglers