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Flymen Blog

The Art of Stripping Streamers: Fly Fishing Tactics

You have the fishing reports, a spanking new streamer outfit, and a leave pass to go chase some predators.

Your fly boxes are crammed full after hours watching videos while tying at the vise — heck, you probably know more about Brian Wise’s hands at this stage than his wife does.

Flies, lines, and water are all essential tools, but it's not going to work out if you can’t make those bugs swim.

When the Flymen crew asked me to work up another streamer piece for the blog I went back to my 2016 article, “Beyond Banging The Banks”. What we didn’t cover was how to make that fly swim when it hits the water. Consider this Chapter 2.

Trout Fly Fishing: 3 Bad Habits to Break

As a trout guide I like to think that there are no mistakes in fly fishing, rather there are learning opportunities — lots and lots of learning opportunities.

With each client I try to place an emphasis on proving yourself wrong, and by that I mean, take some rule/tactic/method and try to disprove it. After all, how many times have you done what was considered to be wrong and yet still caught a fish?

Habits on the other hand, are another story. Unlike mistakes, habits — especially a certain few — can be detrimental to catching trout. I'm going to address three of the worst habits I see on the water and how you can go about improving your habits to catch more trout.

Popper Fly Fishing for Golden Dorado: 5 Tips for Catching the "River Tiger"

Without a doubt, golden dorado rank among the most exciting gamefish on the planet to catch on a fly rod. If it happens on the surface, not to mention with a popper, your adrenaline levels can raise to new all-time high levels! When fishing with a popper it is not...

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Temperate Bass Flies: How to Diversify Your Fly Box

Over the last few years I've spent the majority of my fishing time chasing whites, hybrids, and the occasional striper around the Midwest.

While the Clouser Minnow is the staple fly for most temperate bass, sometimes you've got to shake things up a bit. The Clouser would be the equivalent of a Hare’s Ear nymph in the trout world; you can almost always get fish to eat it, but it may not be the most productive at that given time. Consider it like Sex Panther Cologne: “60% of the time it works every time." With that being said, I would never go on a white/hybrid bass fishing trip without a box of Clousers.

Fly tyers before us had to work hard to get the most out of their feathers and hair, but with new fly tying materials readily available in today's market we have the ability to alter the action and profile of the fly relatively easily.

Here are some things to consider to shake it up and get a more diversified bass fly box.

Make some noise! How to tie loud flies for esox fishing.

The Esox family has evolved over thousands of years to give us a top predator to chase on the fly.

These beasts' senses are tuned to the max.

One sense that is important for pikes/muskies is the lateral line, a system of tactile sense organs located in the head and along both sides of the body, used to detect movement and vibration in the surrounding water.

They use their lateral line in conjunction with their sight to give them a more accurate picture of what’s going on – how far away their prey is, how fast it's moving, and its size.

The lateral line is often forgotten by the fly angler. We tie pretty flies, but most of them have a very small footprint in the water. I'm not saying these don’t work, but why not maximize your chances of attracting more fish or perhaps bigger fish?

So how can you make a loud fly? 

3 things you must know to chase carp on the fly.

Carp have been rising up on the list of desired freshwater fish to experience on the fly.

Some will even go so far as to compare this freshwater monster to the notorious bonefish, earning the carp the nickname of the golden bone.

Many factors will greatly determine your success rate when fly fishing for carp. To name a few: location, mood, posture of the fish, and time of year.

If you've been wanting to try your hand at chasing these golden ghosts of the shallows, here are 3 tips you must know to get in the action with these easily spooked creatures.

How To Fly Fish For Smallmouth Bass In Winter

winter smallmouth bass fly fishing

During these frigid winter months I often find myself thinking about something dear to me – smallmouth fishing.

If you're like me, you miss the warm sun on your back and the bend of a 8wt rod with a bronzeback on the other end.

It doesn't have to be over for us. There is still bass fishing around.

Granted, the cold and brutal conditions of winter do not make it easy to put in the time it takes to locate and fish for these guys. I have found myself questioning my own sanity many times over. It’s a part of being a die-hard fly angler.

With that being said, here are some tactics that I have found helpful for cold-weather smallmouth fishing.

How to tackle big water fly fishing

Something about pulling a fish out of a big body of water makes you feel heroic.

Walking up to a big body of water, so big that your cast doesn’t even cover a fraction of the water, can be daunting and even downright discouraging.

You almost feel nervous to make your first cast. Where do I start? How do I tackle this water without a boat?

But when everything comes together and you hook into that fish, you feel like you won the lottery!

Here are a few things to help make swinging your fly rod feel a little more like fishing and a little less like… flailing.

Bluegill: Fly fishing's little magic bullet.

Bluegill fly fishing

How do we get new fly anglers introduced to the sport of fly fishing?

We hear this question over and over again.

The answer might be sitting in front of us and we don’t even see it. This magic bullet is also a hell of a lot of fun for the seasoned angler as well.

What is it, you ask?

It is Lepomis macrochirus, more commonly called a bluegill.

No matter where you live, there are probably some of these little gems swimming in a pond or lake near you.

Let’s face it, trout fishing can be hard and often a barrier to getting new fly anglers off to a good start.

There's nothing better than the humble bluegill to ensure a new fly angler has a great experience and gets put on the path to success.

Swing it! Spey streamer fly fishing tips.

Reddington fly rod stream

Everyone has their own style of fishing whether it be with a spinning rod or a fly rod.

Those of us who choose to pick up a fly rod also have our little own niches in which we choose to stick with.

Unfortunately, we tend to put our streamer boxes aside during this time of year and stick to more traditional approaches.

Yes, it’s exhilarating to watch that giant brown trout come to the surface and take your size 18 dry fly as you fish a tail out of a pool or a nice steady run, but what is more heart pumping than watching that same giant fish chase your 4” to 8” streamer from bank to bank and demolish your fly on the strip or the end of your swing?

Summer pike fly fishing tactics.

Gunnar Brammer fly design

Catching a pickerel, pike, or musky on a fly rod is an intense experience that translates into obsession very quickly.

There are only a handful of fish that I can say I’m obsessed with targeting on a fly rod.

Trout are at the top of my list, but any of the fish within the esocidae, or esox, family come in at a close second.

Spring and fall are the typical seasons when big pike are most vulnerable to a fly angler, but I can’t help but target them all year long, summer being no exception.

These tips will help you dial in summer pike within your local system.

Fly fishing: Smallmouth spawning psychology.

Water temperature will tell you a great deal about where smallmouth bass are and what they're up to.

The first thing to do when you get on water you haven’t fished all winter, or even in the last week, is finding the right water to fish.

As conditions underwater change, fish swim to find a comfy spot that suits their needs.

Learning to read water and pay attention to the finer details will enable you to identify holding spots quickly and increase your chances of being in the right place at the right time.

A quick breakdown looks like this:

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Fly fishing for predators: 3 ways to entice an aggressive eat.

Fly fishing Sculpin Helmet

Your fly is the most critical part of your setup.

It doesn’t matter if you’re throwing it on your new $500 rod, or fish scale print reel, or in the newest wading shoes.

If your fly doesn’t fish, the fish won’t eat it.

That being said, a fly is only as good as its presentation. Your fly might be the best-looking, most lifelike imitation ever tied. It might perfectly match the hatch, down to the exact shade and color; however, it's only as good as the angler throwing it.

My aim is to give you some perspective on how I fish a streamer and why, hopefully increasing the effectiveness of the flies already in your box.

Inside look: Designing the Fish-Skull Shrimp & Cray Tail.

Martin Bawden fly fishing Bahamas

Sight fishing for bonefish, permit, or redfish is one of my favorite things in life.

It combines many of the visual pleasures of fly fishing with some of the toughest technical challenges, creating a scenario in which so much needs to come together perfectly to be successful.

Travelling to a beautiful tropical location and searching for an almost invisible, elusive quarry among endless sand flats, palm trees, mangroves and crystal clear water is incredibly relaxing.

Then add the heightened sense of anticipation, the sudden jolt and adrenaline rush as you first sight the fish – heart pounding, panic setting in, and of course the pressure! Pressure from your guide, your buddy, and yourself to put together the perfect cast at the perfect time to deliver your fly to the perfect spot in the hope (or prayer) that you'll be rewarded. 

So much fun!

The idea for the Fish-Skull® Shrimp & Cray Tail™ first came to me during one of these trips to the Bahamas in late 2014. Out on a flats boat in the middle of nowhere, but somewhere between my fourth bonefish and third Kalik of the day, the idea formed to create an alternative to the established fly tying method of using bead chain eyes or small dumbbells to weight shrimp or small crayfish patterns. Continue reading

3-minute fly: Tie the Mottlebou Mop Fly.

3-minute fly: Tie the Mottlebou Mop Fly

Forget the Squirmy. Forget the egg flies. The Mop Fly is the most sinful fly of all time.

You’ve seen them – you’ve seen the chenille fingers coming off an array of products these days, from dust mops to car washing aids to teddy bears to throw pillows. You can clip these off their backing and have a killer fly if you lash those fingers to a hook.

Pushing fly fishing forward: The next generation.

5 Rivers Rendezvous Colorado

When I graduated college in May of 2015 and shared with my peers that I was going to be working for a non-profit conservation organization to work with college fly fishing clubs nationwide, I got a variety of responses ranging from, “Whoa, that's sick,” to, “What are you doing with your life?”

Many of my peers in college viewed fly fishing as an old guy sport, with their closest mental image being Brad Pitt “shadow casting” on the banks of the Bitterroot in A River Runs Through It.

Little did they know, fly fishing is actually a growing sport in the millennial generation.

Fly tying: How to hide your weight.

Brita Fordice fly tying

As a woman, when you gain a little weight you have 3 options:

  1. You can lose it.
  2. You can just deal with it and not do a thing.
  3. You can buy one of those horrific sucker-inner-things that make you look 10,000 times thinner but make you cry trying to imagine how to pee out of it.

And your poor fly has to worry about the same thing. Well, not the peeing part.

You have 3 choices when tying your fly:

  1. It can lose the weight and sacrifice action.
  2. It can stay big and bulky and sacrifice appearance.
  3. You as a fly tyer can conceal the weight.

Here are my favorite techniques to conceal weight in a fly without sacrificing appearance, or running up a Nordstrom card on some fly spanx. Continue reading

Fly Selection and Speed of Current

Fish-Skull Skulpin Bunny

Over the last 20 years of streamer fishing I've encountered many different situations.

I've fished fast Western rivers, Southern tailwaters with variations of speed based on dam flows, and slow Midwestern streams and lakes.

One of the most important factors I have found to maximize fly action is having the correct weight for each situation. Continue reading

5 tips to help you fish the unseen part of a hatch.

Match the hatch fly fishing

I swear to fish the hatch and the whole hatch.

To most fly anglers, fishing the hatch means fishing dries, spinners, or maybe emerger patterns to actively feeding trout.

For more years than I can remember, I've spent time sitting on the bank waiting for the “hatch” to happen.

Then about 15 years ago it hit me when a guide client asked me, “what were the bugs doing before they hatched?"

Bam! Light went on.

Why I hadn’t thought of this myself? Continue reading

3-minute fly: Tie The Girdlebug nymph.

3-minute fly: Tie The Girdlebug nymph

This bug is especially useful for fish that haven’t had a lot of pressure in slow water, or for all fish large enough to get their mouths around it in fast water.

With all the legs going this way and that in fast water, this fly initiates one strike after another. 

One of the best things about it is that when fishing it, you really do often nail only solid fish – but of course you’ll pick up the random optimistic dink. Continue reading

3-minute fly: Tie quill body flies.

3-minute fly: Tie quill body flies

This fly is effective on pressured fish who need a little more reason to eat — especially in slow moving water when pressured fish have a long time to look at flies before they commit to eating. 

Just as The Sexy Walt’s and The Frenchie are simply tied patterns, so are these quill-bodied bugs.

One of the hallmarks of these simple flies is that there’s not a lot of junk on them to keep the fly from cutting through the water on its descent to the bottom. All that extra junk on flies can also spook fish hooked too many times for their own comfort. Continue reading

3-minute fly: Tie Blood's Blood Dot Egg.

Blood's Blood Dot Egg fly pattern

If you’re an egg-slinger and don’t have a box full of Jeff Blood’s Blood Dot Eggs, you might want to rethink your inventory. 

This egg style is the single best I’ve encountered.

This fly is especially productive from October through January and March through May – or whenever the fish in your neck of the woods are spawning and eggs make up a substantial portion of the edible biomass in the water. Continue reading

Fly tying: There's no new black.

black fishing flies

It doesn't matter what happens in the fashion industry – when it comes to fly fishing, there's no new black.

We've all heard it!

"Orange is the new black," or "purple is the new black," or even that olive would be the new black.

Don't get me wrong – I know there are a lot of colors that are really effective in different types of flies. I love throwing white deceivers to snappers and other saltwater species, and big olive flies to pike, not to mention fishing a banana-colored zonker for salmon or a big gray articulated streamer for trout.

There are so many colors that are important when it comes to flies and fly tying, but none more important than black. Continue reading

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