Turning over long leaders

As I write this we have been in New Zealand for about 2 weeks. Our trip is about two-thirds over already. New Zealand is known for it's difficult technical fishing. Here on the South Island there aren't a lot of fish, at least not a lot compared to the well-stocked trout streams of Pennsylvania, our home state. That said, there are no stocked trout on these rivers. Each one is a wild fish and each one has survived floods of astronomical proportions, some each year. They are the strongest, smartest survivors. All the others are long gone.

On an average day of fishing, we probably walk 5-6 miles. Some days are shorter hikes, most are longer. Some days if we're lucky we may see a big fish about every mile. Once in a while we might see a couple fish within a short distance of each other but more often than not they are spread out with a lot of water and rocks in between. As if getting to these fish weren't difficult enough, once we find them it can really get technical. Someone once told me that a poor cast doesn't catch any fish and it's more true here than anywhere else.

Our go-to rods this trip are both Sage Rods, a 9' TCX and a 9-1/2' Z-Axis, both 5 weights loaded with Rio Grand willow floating fly lines. We usually keep one rod rigged for dries with a Chocklett cicada, parachute Adams, or Chernobyl beetle. The second rod almost always has two nymphs and often one or both will be a tungsten bead head. Most of the time our leaders are about 18 feet long. Add a pretty stiff breeze, sometimes gusts, and most of the time it seems that the wind is coming straight at us making the cast difficult to turn over and put in the right place.

There have been a dozen times (perhaps my guide would say more) when we finally find a fish, he's moving around feeding, and therefore "catchable". I get into position, get the line out, false cast out to the side of the fish carefully measuring my line only then to drop it either too close or too far upstream, too far right, or too far left. On occasion when I do drop it exactly where I want it, the current grabs it and it either pulls it out of his feeding lane or it drags. If everything is perfect (and I do mean everything), then the fish will usually eat the fly. If I continue to be lucky I will strike at the right nano-second and hook the fish. Then it's a contest to see who is the fittest - him as he races upstream and down or me as I try to dance across the rocks both wet and dry trying to stay connected. Once in a while I win, once in a while he wins.

One of the problems is that first cast that didn't quite work out the way I wanted it to. Probably with trout everywhere, but especially here, if he doesn't eat the first cast he is put on alert and then becomes much harder to fool. It's not to say he can't be caught, but you've just stacked the odds more in his favor and less in yours. Making a good first cast is so very important. It's bad news if it lands wrong or if the leader doesn't turn over and turning over a 18' leader with tungsten bead head nymphs is not for the faint of heart, however there are a couple things that can help us get the job done.

The first thing is to be sure of the amount of line you're casting. This much I've learned the hard way. Thankfully there is usually a white wool indicator on the leader. By casting out to the side of the fish you should most of the time be able to judge how much line you're casting and know when you've got the right amount. Then move the cast back to where the fish is and present it. If you false cast over the fish you will run the risk of him seeing the cast, the indicator, or the shadow of the line.

The second thing that helps me is to not watch the fish but concentrate on the spot up in front of him where you want your fly to land. Your cast will have the tendency to go where you are looking. If you're concentrating on the fish you may hit him on the head with the flies and trust me, they don't like that.

If you're not comfortable casting such a long leader and most of us aren't, get 3 or 4 feet of fly line out beyond your rod tip before starting to cast. When walking from one spot to another, hook the bottom nymph in a snake guide pretty far up the rod and then bring the leader back around the reel seat and reel in the slack. When you're get ready to cast again, pull a couple inches of line off the reel and drop the line from around the reel and while still holding the leader, tap the rod blank and the fly will drop out of the guide. Before letting go of the leader pull some extra fly line out beyond the rod tip with your free hand. Then toss the leader into the water, do a quick roll cast to get it out in front so you can then pick it up and start to cast. This is also a good trick for fishing streamers or nymphs back home with split shot or a sink-tip.

It's important that you remember to lengthen your casting stroke as the amount of line increases that your casting. In other words, as you shoot line thus increasing the amount of line that your casting, lengthen the stroke. Take the rod further back in the back and in the front. Many times, just a couple inches in each direction will smooth out the cast and make it more manageable. Remember the quick stop with the rod tip at each end of the casting stroke so you don't sacrifice line speed.

Another thing that will help a lot is a good sharp single haul at the end of the forward cast to help increase line speed and turn over the long leader and heavy flies. Whenever you need more line speed, it will be easier to get it from a good haul (in the right place) then to try casting the rod harder which can result in a tailing loop. In this example, it's important to put the haul at the front end of the forward cast. Don't spread it out over the entire casting stroke because you'll waste most of it. Wait until the rod gets in front of your shoulder before starting the haul.

The last thing is to make sure you're far enough behind the fish to make a cast using some fly line. It's easy to sneak up behind the fish and sometimes we can get so close that we don't have much line to cast. This is especially true in rough water or when the fish is deep. By getting back a bit further we put more distance between us and the fish, therefore using more fly line to reach the fish which makes the cast easier to execute. It is much harder to cast just the leader when you're close then it is to cast a few yards of fly line and leader. Simply backing up may make the cast easier in the long run.

Places like New Zealand make us become better anglers. So much of the time, it's little things that we can do that make us better fishermen. That said, I think my guide is waiting for me. We'll see what today brings! Cathy.

Continue reading
7246 Hits

Different Fly Types

I've been asked by a couple of new fly fishermen to talk about dry flies, wet flies, and streamers. What makes it a certain type of fly, dry, wet, etc., how to tell what it is and when to use it.

Let me start by saying there have been volumes written about this very subject and what you read here will be a very basic abbreviated version. People have spent entire lifetimes on this subject and it's an area that as a fly fisherman, you'll never stop learning about.

Aquatic insects spend most of their life underwater. The fly fisherman will use imitations of these insects to fool the fish. some of these flies float and some sink depending on the stage of life the fly is imitating and the fish are feeding on at the time.

Mayflies have three stages; egg, nymph, adult  (dun) and spinner. Mayfly eggs lay in the bottom of the stream. Over the course of a few weeks the eggs hatch into nymphs. The nymphs live under rocks or in the silt on the bottom of the stream for nearly a year. At the right time, often in the spring, the nymphs emerge, shedding their shucks and change into adults (or duns).

The duns leave the water and fly into the leaves alongside the stream where they molt and return in usually a day or two as spinners. The female spinners lay eggs on the water and then fall to the water and die.  All mayfly duns have upright wings when riding on the water.

Spinners have airplane-type wings that lie flat on the water when dead or dying. Nymphs, emergers (the emerging nymph), duns, and spinners are all food for the trout. There are more than 700 different mayflies in North America in various sizes and colors. Fishermen and fish eagerly await their arrival each year.

Caddisflies are aquatic insects found in nearly all trout streams. They have four stages to their life cycle; egg, larva, pupa and adult. Female caddis lay eggs in clusters which hatch into larvae in two to four weeks. The larvae live underwater for nearly a year, part of this time in a case or shuck that they've made out of grit, sand, and bits of dead leaves. The larvae will enter a cocoon and become a pupa. After a couple weeks the pupa emerges just below the surface as adults.

These adults fly to the bushes and mate. The females return to the water to lay their eggs. Adults may live for awhile, but will eventually die after mating. Caddisflies look like small moths. They have antenna but no tail and are found in various shades of gray, tan, brown, olive, and black. Fish feed on all stages and flies are tied to imitate these stages.

Stoneflies prefer rocky fast moving, clear streams. Nymphs have two tails and two sets of wing pads. Stoneflies cling and crawl about on the stream bottom and feed on leaves, slime, and sometimes other insects. When it's time to emerge stoneflies crawl out onto dry land. After hatching they fly to bushes where they live from a few days to a few weeks. They mate here and the female returns to the water to deposit the eggs. Some stoneflies grow to 3 and 4 inches in length. Mayflies, stoneflies and caddisflies do not bit. We can handle them without worry to get a closer look.

Midges include the tiniest of insects and some that bit including mosquitoes and gnats. Midges have 3 stages; larva, pupa, and adult. Active year-round, they are sometimes the only insects available to the fish. Midges migrate and at times are in the surface film by the thousands. Not all midges are tiny buy most are. Midges are sometimes called the anglers curse because of their small size.

Terrestrials are a fun category of insects to imitate because it includes crickets, ants, grasshoppers, beetles, and all the land born insects. Terrestrials are fun to look at in your box, fun to fish with as they are often easy to see and fun to tie if you make our own flies. Many of these insects are around from the time the ground thaws to when it freezes again in the fall and often the fish are not as selective when fish terrestrials.

Flies On and In the Water

This illustration shows how various flies behave on or in the water. Dry flies float or rest on the surface. Examples would be adult aquatic insects (mayflies, caddisflies, etc.), terrestrials like grasshoppers and beetles and attractor flies like a Royal Wulff or an Adams. To keep the fly floating, use fly floatant.

Emergers rest just under the surface. Often when a fish takes an emerger it looks like he took a dry fly because he breaks the surface with his dorsal fin. If there is no tell tale bubble, he probably took an emerger. Emergers are often fished behind a dry fly as a dropper or trailer. The dry fly acts like a strike indicator and lets us know when the fish has eaten the emerger.

Nymphs, larva and pupa drift through the water with the current speed to imitate insects doing the same. Sometimes we 'twitch' the nymph to make it look alive. The fish will often take the fly as it swings around below us at the end of the drift. Some anglers like to trail these flies behind a dry fly with a section of monofilament or use a strike indicator. To make the fly sink, use split shot.

Streamers are fished underwater, sometimes deep, and retrieved or made to swim through the water. They imitate minnows, leeches, and crayfish and other things that the fish will eat. The fish will chase after the streamer – not wanting it to get away. Because the line is kept tight by retrieving, when the fish hits it will feel like a bump or smack often surprising the angler. To make the fly sink, use split shot. Sometimes they are tied so that the hook rides upside down and doesn't get snagged on the bottom of the stream.

For more examples of flies that imitate insects, take a look at the Umpqua Feather Merchants web site. That's where the examples above came from and it is incredible the number of fly patterns that are available to imitate the different insects, crustaceans, and smaller fish that big fish feed on! www.umpqua.com
Continue reading
15810 Hits

Tying the Super Bugger

Thanks to everyone who came to see my fly tying demonstration at the Fly Fishing Show in Somerset, NJ. As requested, here are the tying instructions for Cathy's Super Bugger which is the fly I tied at the show. Please let us know if you have any questions. Enjoy tying & fishing the Super Bugger. It's a great fly. Barry

Cathy Beck’s Super Bugger

Sizes: 6 & 8
Colors: Tan, Black, Olive
Hook: Tiemco 3761
Thread: Tan, Black, Olive
Tail: Tan, Black or Olive Blood Feather overlay 6 strands Krystal Flash in corresponding color.
Rib: Hareline dyed grizzly hen body feathers, available from AA Outfitters, aaoutfitters.com, 800-443-8119 or  Tan, black or olive.
Legs: Two rubber sili-legs. Root beer, black or olive.
Eyes: Lead eyes painted yellow and black.  XS on size 8, small on size 6.
Head: Spiked dubbing figure-eighted around the eyes. Or, dubbing brushes if available.

The idea for Cathy’s Super Bugger was to design a fly that would create more underwater vibration or noise which would help fish locate and find the fly. The combination of the thick web hackle body and the sili-legs pushes the water as the fly is retrieved, creating noise and vibration. Having the eyes tied on top of the hook inverts the fly as it is being retrieved, gives it a more leech-like action in the water, and keeps it from fouling on the bottom.

Continue reading
16636 Hits

Subscribing Made Easy

Hi everyone. I've received a couple of phone calls from followers who are trying to subscribe to the blog. We should have been a little more explicit about this, please let me give you better instructions:

1. Choose the Subscribe button located under the blog header photo, right side.

2. If you want to be notified of updates via email, choose email.

3. Choose Feedblitz. It will take you to a new page.

4. Enter your email address, enter the funky letter and letter code, and click "subscribe me."

5. You're done. Thanks for subscribing.
Continue reading
3021 Hits

Join Us on Facebook!

Happy New Year everyone!  Thank you for checking out our website and reading our blog. Did you know you can follow us on Facebook as well?  That's right, we're there posting images, news & tidbits as often as we can.  Facebook is a great way to stay connected not only to friends and family, but also for the latest info from The Becks.

January 2011 marks the end of the Beck Bulletin, our email newsletter we've been producing for the past 4+ years.  Thank you so much to the hundreds of people that subscribe to it!  It's been a great way for us to get you the information in a timely and efficient manner.

But like all things in the internet era, there's always something new.  The combination of our blog and our Facebook Fan Page has made the newsletter obsolete.  As fast and easy as it was to use for letting everyone know what was going on, it can't touch the speed and ease of our blog and Facebook.

Since you're reading this we're pretty sure you can find the blog, but just in case you got here from the last Beck Bulletin link, our blog address is www.barryandcathybeck.com/blog.  Add that to your 'favorites/bookmarks' and you'll always have it at the ready.  You can also subscribe to the blog to get email notifications when we post something new. This is the most efficient way to use and read the blog.

Facebook is a remarkable, easy-to-use  way to keep in touch with business contacts, family, and friends. You'll be amazed with who you find (and who finds you) on Facebook. Yes, caution should be taken with how much personal information you divulge but it's easy to show only what you want to. For instance, I don't want to advertise what year I was born, so I block this little tidbit from the viewers of our Facebook pages! And, remember we're always here if you have a question or run into a snag. We'll be happy to help.

So, if you're looking for the latest news and images from the road, definitely become a fan on our Facebook Fan Page.  We've put this blog together just in case you're NOT yet on Facebook.  Follow these simple steps to sign up and follow us there.

STEP 1:  Go to www.facebook.com

If you don't already have an account you'll be presented with the following signup screen.  Simply fill out the information requested and click on the 'Sign Up' button.

STEP 2: Clicking 'Sign Up' will take you to the CAPTCHA screen.  This is a security requirement that must be completed.  Retype the letter combinations in the white box into the field provided.  Again, follow the instructions and click 'Sign Up'.

CAPTCHA's are difficult to read by design.  You can ask for a new CAPTCHA if the first one you're looking at is too hard to read or you can take a stab at it. If it doesn't go, you'll just try it again.

STEP 3: The next 4 slides can be SKIPPED if you'd like.  They give you a chance to personalize your account, which you'll want to do eventually, but is NOT necessary when signing up.  Following the on-screen directions will walk your through doing so, or you can skip it and proceed to your account verification screen.

- finding friends -

- filling out profile information -

- uploading an image/photo of yourself -

...click the 'Save & Continue' button to proceed.

STEP 4: Account Verification - You will now be instructed to check your email for a verification email.

STEP 5: Click on the link in your email to verify your account

You will then be taken to the following screen and you're ready to go!  Congratulations on making your very own Facebook profile.

The next 2 slides show you what you see when you click on the HOME button in the upper right of the screen, or the...

...PROFILE button next to it.  Both will be important to your Facebook experience, so get familiar with them.

STEP 6: Find Beck Photography!

Go to your search field and type in Beck Photography.  Make sure you see the picture of Barry & Cathy next to the link for Beck Photography (since there's a few different ones on Facebook).  Or you can simply click HERE and jump right to the page.


To follow us and receive notices when we update our Facebook page, you need to LIKE our Fanpage...so click LIKE! :D

...and that's it...you're in!  You now can find us on Facebook, in our blog or on our website.  And don't forget to follow us on Twitter as well.

Thanks again and we'll see you online!
Continue reading
49521 Hits

Angling Ethics

From Angling Ethics and the Golden Rule by Jim Bashline

(This was written at least 25 years ago and is still good advice. CB)

Angling for any fish species can be very basic or as complicated as one would like to make it. And it becomes more so each year. New methods, new tackle and new horizons as anglers learn more are continually adding refinements and different approaches to this simple sport. You can usually predict the arrival of budding anglers when you hear them say something like, “Wow, I didn’t know there was so much to this fishing thing. All the lures, flies, different kinds of rods and reels and everything. This is really interesting.” Indeed it is.

During the hasty years of youth, learning how to catch more and bigger fish is the major goal, but eventually most anglers develop an ethical code of their own. Where they fish, for which species and the type of tackle they choose are variables, but their codes are patterned after a common blueprint. It’s the well-tested Golden Rule.

Time teaches the growing angler that decent conduct on streams and lakes means better fishing and better-quality experiences for those who share the water with them. Today’s angling scene includes a different blend of participants. The kids and the “old-timers” are there, as they’ve always been, but there’s a new sort of entry-level group. It’s the fledgling fishermen between 25 and 45 years of age, who have decided recently to become anglers.

Now, a crusty rod holder who’s been stalking Pennsylvania waters for nearly a half century might say, I’m not going to rail against this wave of beginners. Sure, we’ve got to share the water with more license buyers, but these people also represent additional allies in our never-ending battle to conserve, maintain and add to the total fishing resource. I fervently believe that the defense of clean water is not vice and anglers should try to enlist all of the help they can find.

The “ethics of angling” undoubtedly sounds terribly lofty to some, and frankly, it may be. Perhaps a better choice of words would be “good manners.” As a large share of new anglers are attracted to fly fishing, so a large number of beginner sins are committed while wearing waders. In most cases, it isn’t that the novice is trying to be annoying, he simply doesn’t know. At the risk of sounding paternalistic, I’d like to insert some guidelines.

Wading noisily to a spot thirty feet away from another angler, who is obviously casting intently, is poor form. If the pool is large enough to accommodate additional anglers, it’s a good idea to observe the angler for a few minutes, determine whether he’s working his way upstream or down and then ask if he would mind if you fished “behind” him. Most anglers will be accommodating in this instance. Thank him and then quietly position yourself well away from him in the water he has already fished through. After all, he was there first.

A new fly fisherman can learn a lot by watching an accomplished veteran. If you see someone catch a fish from a particular spot, for heaven’s sake, don’t wade in next to him and start casting. It isn’t polite to ask flatly, “What are you catching them on?” A much better approach would be to make the observation, “Nice fish” or “It looks like you’ve got the right fly today.” Such an opening usually brings some worthwhile information and perhaps a sample of what fly the angler is using.

If the pool approached is not large enough to comfortably accommodate extra anglers, move up or downstream to another location. Yes, it’s a free country and all that, but on streams open to the public there is an unwritten “rule” that says: This particular spot is mine until I choose to give it up. Respect this rule and you’ll discover that others will too.

Where the regulations require the return of fish under or over a certain length or on no-kill waters, make a strong effort to learn how to handle the fish properly. Sure, we’ve all had to discover how to do a lot of things, but improper handling of released fish marks the beginner like no other indiscretion. It’s much easier to work with a fish in a net and remember that you shouldn’t keep a fish out of the water for longer than you can comfortably hold your breath. If you absolutely can’t get the fly out, cut it off and gently release the fish making sure that he has recovered.

If two or three anglers are fishing together, the proper procedure is to take turns in being the first to “work” a particular stretch of water. Yes, there is some luck involved in angling and a large measure of skill, but the first fly or lure to pass through a pool on any given day stands a better chance of scoring.

Ethical angling behavior should not be a mask that’s slipped on from time to time when others are watching. Actually, when others are watching is the easiest time for all anglers to do a bit of proper posturing. It’s those times when one is alone or thinks he is that true ethics are showcased.

Several years ago, as I fished a small tributary of Lake Wallenpaupack, I rounded a bend and saw an old angler wading behind a huge brown trout that was grounded on a shallow riffle. The fish was apparently attempting to move upstream for spawning. The autumn season had barely arrived, but this trophy-size fish had come from the lake a bit early.

At first it appeared that the grizzled angler was trying to grab the trout. As I silently watched it was soon obvious that he was coaxing the fish with his landing net in an effort to guide it into the next pool. Finally, when the fish began to flounder in less than two inches of water, the old man reached down and gently lifted it with both hands into deeper water. He watched the fish vanish into the depths and then, with great effort, pulled himself to a standing position by leaning on his wading staff.

“Hey, that was some trout.”

Startled, he turned and smiled, “Well, yes, it sure was. The biggest one I’ve seen in this creek for 30 years. Fact is, I gave some thought to just scooping it up in the landing net and . . .”

“Well, why didn’t you?”

The old timer smiled broadly and patted his chest. “That big trout is a healthy spawner and this is sort of my home stream. With some luck, I may have a chance to fish for its offspring. And besides, taking a big dead fish home without having hooked it fairly just wouldn’t be right. . . now would it?

No, it wouldn’t be. The defense testimony for ethics rests.
Continue reading
7013 Hits

Nikon's New D7000

We've been looking for a smaller Nikon to carry with us when we have limited weight restrictions, so we decided to try the new D7000. There are times when our D3 and D300s are too much weight. To say that we were impressed is not really fair to the D7000.

This is a camera that right out of the box takes amazing pictures – no kidding. We charged the battery, stuck in a memory card, put it on aperture priority at F8, set the white balance to auto, and started shooting. The results were unbelievable. We don't think you can take a bad picture with the darn thing. The HD video offers automatic follow focus. No one else has anything like it. Add the 16.2 mega pixels and you've got file sizes that you can use to create a billboard. You need to try this camera for yourself.  For details on the D7000 and other Nikon cameras and to order, contact Jody Grober at Roberts Distributing today!

Real Photographers shoot Nikon


Continue reading
6623 Hits

Grip & Grin Photo Question, UV Filters

A reader asks a couple of questions on lens care and wide angle shots. If you have questions, please ask!


Barry & Cathy:

I am in the process of getting a lens and filters set up. I think I've decided on an 18-135mm lens for my recently acquired pentax K-7 to start, as I'm hoping this focal length will provide good versatility starting out, but isn't going to sacrifice a lot of image quality like a super zoom of 18-200 or 18-250. So my question....when you guys get all of those fantastic hold-up shots published, are those usually shot
at super wide angle, like 12-16mm?

Also do you and Barry use UV filters as protection from salt spray and
all of the risks involved in fishing environs? I have invested in a
quality circular polarizer filter, but am not sure if it is worth the
money for a quality UV filter as well for lower light conditions. Many
folks on the photography forums don't believe in the use of filters for
protection, but probably as fly fishers we subject our camera gear to
much harsher natural elements than the average photographer.

Tight lines and thanks for your advice -Loren

Our Answer:

Thanks for writing. Most of our "grip & grins" are shot with a 20mm. We've found that if we go wider the sky gets too dark - especially with a polarizer. And, yes, we use UV filters on all of our lenses. We're in the same camp with you, we just like the extra protection from the elements. And when we have to clean the lens in a hurry we are not always as careful as we should be and sometimes the cleaning cloth ends up being a shirt tail or handkerchief. If we scratch it, it's a lot easier to replace then the lens!Sounds like you've got a good system going with your choice of lenses and camera. If we can help with anything else, please let us know. Good luck with your shooting. Cathy & Barry
Continue reading
10722 Hits

Agua Boa, Brazil

We had a terrific time in Agua Boa. There were 11 of us and we all caught lots of big fish, had great weather, enjoyed great guides, and had lots of fun. We did our fishing in the river and lagoons. We caught all three species of peacocks and lots of other jungle fish. The rooms were spotlessly clean, air conditioned, and comfortable (with Wifi). We enjoyed a combination of American and local cuisine and delicious desserts. Overall, we wouldn't change a thing and we can't wait to go back next fall.

[gallery link="file"]
Continue reading
4420 Hits

Welcome To Our New Blog

Welcome to our new blog which will replace our Beck Bulletin hopefully by the end of the year. We trust that you'll find the new blog easier to navigate and more pleasant to read. From our perspective, it is certainly easier to publish, therefore, you should hear from us more often with announcements of new products, trips, industry news and tidbits of interest. Please let us know if there is anything we can do to make the blog experience more interesting. Thank you for subscribing to the Beck Bulletin. We look forward to the future of the blog and sharing experiences and information.
Continue reading
2600 Hits