Flyfishermen are an introspective bunch, tending to philosophize a little more than our other fishing brethren. We like to catch big fish and high five about it, but we also like to talk about WHY we fish. I figure that is mostly because it's something we ask ourselves often as we are picking another tangle out, or standing waist deep in frigid and/or shark infested water.
That being said, there are also physical and mental attributes that make a fly fisherman respected among his peers. A few days ago I read a post on Chi Wulff where a list of "reasonable fly fisher skills" for his area was laid out. I thought it was well done and it got me to thinking about what would pass for a good list in my area. Saltwater fly fishers have to deal with a different set of obstacles than coldwater fisherman, arguably separate but equal.
At any rate, I started thinking about what made a respectable salty fly guy/gal, and started asking a few of my more crusty friends for some input. Some were more tongue-in-cheek than others. This is a shortened list of what we came up with
Tell by looking out at the roadside palm trees in the glow of the streetlight roughly how fast the wind is blowing.
Be able to tell the difference between the wake pushed by a mullet and that of a redfish or black drum.
Know that terns always lie, but gulls can lead you to treasure.
Be able to filter the sounds of jumping mullet from the sounds of bait being crashed.
Fully load the vehicle and have kayak strapped on top, in the dark, in ten minutes.
Spot a tailing redfish from over two hundred yards on a good day, from over 50 on a bad one.
Knows where the most sheltered spots are to get away from the wind, but generally only fishes those on days over 20kts.
Must be able to two-handed strip at warp speed to trigger mackerel and other pelagic species.
Must be as comfortable laying in a back cast as a forward cast on target.
Be able to maintain relative composure as a fish bigger than your duck dog approaches your fly.
Not locking up when a red/bone/permit/tarpon suddenly appears less than 30' from the boat.
Effectively pole a boat with and into the wind all day, positioning the caster for best shot on fish.
Know how to interpret tide chart and mentally calculate the difference in water movement for local area you plan to fish.
Navigate labyrinth marsh and marl while neither running aground or putting others in danger.
Be able to wade with ninja-like stealth while avoiding the mine field of oyster shell and stingrays.
Turn over a fly at 60' into a 20kt wind.
Cannot drive by hobby stores without wondering if they might have gotten any new foam or tinsel in...
Willing to endure withering wind and endless staring at empty water to hook the silver king from the granite of the jetty.
With the first major cold front of the year leaving Fall hanging in the air, it's time.
Time to go fishing.
Get out there and take advantage of the bait migration, the cooler temps, the clear water, the low numbers of fishermen on football Sunday afternoons. Do yourself a favor - grab a fly rod and get out there.
Spring is green water, and the first week of sunny days without a cold front to bust the pattern. Spring is out once again on the warm granite of the jetty, remembering the times before, anticipating the times ahead. Spring is a lightning slash through schools of tiny baitfish; a flicker of black forked tail re-entering the water in the afternoon sun, as terns dip and wheel, crying the raucous song of their people. Spring, for me, really truly starts when the Spanish mackerel arrive at the jetty.
They're not the biggest, or the fastest, but they're big enough and fast enough to make your reel sing, your heart rate elevate. They've got a face full of razors and they mean business; they'll slice you good if you're careless while de-hooking. Follow the birds and you'll often find the Spanish, ripping up the surface as they slap-chop baitfish. In the picture above, they had corralled schools of bait against the rocks of the jetty and were systematically shredding them. They can often be found right off the rocks; for this reason, they're a great introduction fish for jetty fly neophytes. In my next post, I'll talk more about that.
Size 2 clousers in your favorite color combo, heavy on the flash, retrieved as fast as you possibly can. No wire needed, just 50lb bite tippet if you start getting bitten off. Simple, and at times very fast-paced. Spring has smacked, and soon... very soon... the summer will kick off for real. I can't wait.
When rigging for the flats, it’s more a question of knowing how to deal with the current situation than anything else. For many flats fly fishers, the prepackaged tapered leaders made by many manufacturers are their go-to, and that often works just fine. They're hard to beat for convenience.
Personally I like to make my own leaders, mostly because I think I can do it just as well for less cost. Like most guys that roll their own leaders, I like to start with a heavy butt section. This allows for efficient transfer of energy from the flyline to the leader. I generally go with a 30-20-12 progression in pound test if I am expecting to be casting to tailing or cruising fish (reds, drum, trout) on the flat.
The typical leader I will use on the flats is around 9-10', but I have gone up to 14-15' in super clear water. Longer leaders/tippets become necessary on highly spooky/pressured fish, or when hunting the big sow speckled trout that will prowl the shallows from time to time. Windy conditions call for shorter, stouter leaders; something like an 8-9' leader of 50-30-20 or 40-20. When facing windy conditions, the heavier tippet turns over bulky, air-resistant flies a little better and can withstand the occasional windknot. This same configuration is what I will use when I am searching for fish with topwaters or sliders - the more casts you make, the more likely that you will eventually put a windknot in the line.The last thing you want to do is come tight on a good red after a crashing eat and have that tippet pop - ping! Don' ask me how I know this.
When I'm actually walking the flats, I will generally carry a small roll of 12-14lb tippet material, in case I need to refresh my tippet or I have some sort of catastrophic failure happen to my leader. Being unprepared for that when you're several hundred yards from the boat or truck is not something that you want to do to yourself. Don't ask me how I know. Just trust me when I say:
Most high-end flylines these days come with a loop already formed at the terminal ends of the line. There are people who believe that you should fashion your own loops – if you’re one of those people then you probably already have a favorite method.
When was the last time you went barefoot outdoors for an extended time? Maybe it was for a bit of grilling on the back deck, or strolling the beach. Good for you, I’d say. We spend so much time with our feet cooped up in shoes that any time spent barefoot is time well spent.
People who know me well will tell you that I spend plenty of time barefoot, even walking on the egg-cooking concrete of my local Texas sidewalks during summer. I sincerely enjoy the feeling of being barefoot, and I am willing to endure a few sand burrs for the pleasure.
With all that said, you won’t be surprised to learn I also love to wade barefoot. In fact, I have previously mentioned it in this blog post, in case you missed out.
I really love the feel of the sediments under my feet and between my toes. It’s very different than the normal wading experience, and it can make you far more stealthy than wading with footgear..