1 Room Left At Holbox, Mexico

Holbox, Mexico

Come along for a fun week. Holbox Island Fly Fishing Lodge is a spacious, modern, comfortable lodge on the water. Boats leave from the beach in front. Walk into town for dinner each night at Italian, Mexican, Argentine restaurants.  June 5-12, 2011.  Timed for the migratory tarpon but lots of baby tarpon too. Lots of fun fishing and relaxation. Check out details on our web site under Hosted Trips. Hope you can join us.
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Cathy's Fleeing Crab in Field & Stream

Cathy's Fleeing Crab with a natural

The coolest thing happened. Kirk Deeter has included my Fleeing Crab in his recent article in Field & Stream of his favorite patterns for trout and bass. It's an interesting list, be sure to take a look. You can check it out on our web site too under Merchandise. Thanks Kirk!
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Fly Casting Clinics and Guiding

Our casting clinics and guiding dates for the spring are filling up nicely but we've still got space so if you or someone you know is thinking about learning to fly fish, want to improve your cast or thinking about a day of fly fishing for trout on private water, we've got you covered! Our casting clinics are April 23 and May 14 & 21, for Basic fly casting and May 28 for Intermediate levels.

If you're looking for a special day of trout fishing how about a day of fishing on private water with one of our experienced guides. Carefully managed for over 30 years, our private water has an excellent population of browns and rainbows and some big fish that will knock your socks off! Come check us out for yourselves. We think you'll be impressed.

Check out the details on our website under Casting Clinics and Guiding. We're centrally located 3 hours from both Philadelphia and NYC in the heart of the Endless Mountains. Contact us for details.
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Choosing Your First Fly Reel

When putting together our first fly fishing “outfit” (rod, reel & line), we find ourselves making decisions about equipment that we probably don't know much about. This is when having a local fly shop is a very nice advantage. They have the expertise and knowledge to assist you with your selection. Arming yourself with some knowledge a head of time will help whether you can visit a fly shop or if you call a mailorder company.

A fly reel doesn't get a lot of attention but it is an important piece of gear and there are certain aspects of a fly reel that should be taken into consideration (beside cost) before making a decision on which model to buy.

The job of the fishing reel is to hold line. This is true whether you fly fish or fish with a spinning or bait casting rod. When retreiving, the line should go on the reel smoothly and evenly. Likewise, when a fish is running the line should also come off the reel smoothly and evenly without getting tangled. If the line doesn't come off the reel smoothly when the fish is running it could cause the fine leader to break. When you're winding line on the reel it's helpful to run the line between a couple fingers of your rod hand adding a little tension. This will help the line go on the reel in tighter coils which will help prevent the line from tangling on the reel.

When a fish is running line off the reel, it is the drag that keeps the line from getting tangled (if it was tight going on the reel). Drag is the tension on the line as it is leaving the reel. Most reels will have a drag knob which increases or decreases tension. If the drag is set too high for the strength of the leader you're using then the fish will break off. If it is set too light then the line comes off too quickly and the angler can't control the fish. Experiment with your drag setting by pulling line off the reel at different settings. If you're not sure what the drag setting should be, set it in the middle of the range until you become familiar with how it works. You'll know better after you've caught a few fish.

If the reel is an external rim model you can also “palm” the reel as the fish is taking line off the reel. The outside of the reel revolves in an external rim model. If the spool revolves inside a fixed frame than it can't be “palmed”. By palming the reel you can put light pressure on the spool as it turns and that will slow down the fish. A word of caution though – keep your fingers away from the revolving spool and reel knob when the reel is spinning.

A less important consideration is whether you like the sound of the reel. Reels sound differently from one to the next and usually the more expensive models are not as loud. Of course this is personal preference. Some anglers like to hear their reel as the fish is taking line off the reel and as they are reeling the line back on the reel. Most reels have a soft click as the line comes back on the reel and a louder click as the line is coming off the reel.

Most reels are easily converted from left hand wind to right hand wind or vise versa. Most of us today who cast with our right hand, reel with our left. You can, however, cast with your right hand and when you hook a fish, change hands, put the rod in your left hand so you can reel with your right hand. Either way works. For me I would rather not have to change hands when I've hooked a fish so I like to reel with my left hand. If you have more than one fly fisherman in the house, it's less confusing to have all the reels set up the same way. If that's not possible, make sure your reels are clearly marked so you don't get them mixed up.

To change the drag you take the spool out of the reel frame and usually flip a spring or a disc over to make it work in the opposite direction. Instructions should be included with your reel or if you buy it from a retail store, they will be able to change it for you. If you ask, most mail order companies will also switch it for you when ordering. If the reel has line on it and you switch the drag, you will then have to take all the line off the reel and wind it back on in the opposite direction so the drag is on the outgoing line.

Another consideration is weight and size. If you are buying a 5-weight rod, you will be buying a 5-weight fly line and thus will need a reel for a 5-weight line. If you buy a reel that is too small it may not be able to hold all of the line and backing (we'll discuss backing when we talk about fly lines). If the reel is too big the line and backing won't fill up the reel. This reel will be too heavy for the rod and will be cumbersome to fish with.

The actual weight of the reel is also important. When you look at a selection of reels that are compatible with a 5-weight line, you will notice quite a variance in weight. The weight of the reel is determined by how technical the drag is inside the reel and by the material used to manufacture the reel. Lighter materials like aluminum and carbon fiber are often found in the more expensive reels while the less expensive reels are often made from die cast. These are all very good materials. Be aware of the difference in weight and buy the lightest reel that is within your budget.

Another consideration is the availability of spare spools. You should start out fishing with a floating line which is what we use most of the time. But later on you may find that you want to buy a sink-tip line to use when the water is deep and the fish are down on the bottom. If you buy a spare spool for your reel, you'll be able to take out the spool that has the floating line on it and insert the spool with the sink-tip. Having a spare spool will make it easy to switch back and forth between the two lines and the spare spool costs less than buying second reel.

Like matching the fly line size to the rod, it's also important to match the size of the reel to the rod and line. While price often dictates what we purchase, keep the following points in mind while shopping for a reel:

1.Is it the correct size for the line you're using.
2.Does it have a drag adjustment.
3.Are spare spools available.
4.Can it be changed from left to right hand retrieve.
5.Do you like the way it sounds.
6.Is it made by a reputable company? If it needs to be repaired someday you'll want to be able to contact the manufacturer.

If you ask me for a couple of personal suggestions, I would recommend a reel like the Sage 1650. It can hold a 5-weight line and about 120 yards of 20 lb. backing, it's fairly lightweight, well made, and has an excellent drag. It's easily converted from left to right hand wind, spare spools are available, and it is large arbor. It retails for $99.00 and is a reel that you won't “out grow” and will be happy with years from now. There is also a 1680 for 7-9 weight lines. Sage

A second choice would be the Redington Crosswater CW2 4/5/6. Similar construction and features. I don't think the drag is as good as the 1650 but a very nice reel for the money. Reel retails for $55.
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Choosing A Flyrod







I can't tell you how many times people come up to us while we're in the Sage booth at Fly Fishing Shows and ask the question, "I'm just getting started in fly fishing. What should be my first rod?"

Of course at the shows, we have 90 rods on display representing at least 9 different "families" of rods, so I can imagine how intimidating this is for a brand new fly fisherman. But, actually the answer is not that difficult with the proper explanation.

There are many words used to describe the action of a fly rod. In layman's terms, what we are talking about is how little or how much the rods bends or flexes at the end of the casting stroke. In the industry we call this rod load. A stiffer rod bends less, thus making it a fast rod. Because it doesn't bend a lot, it generates fast line speed which can be very advantageous in some fishing situations, but this feature does not make it a good choice to use when learning to cast.

On the other hand, a soft rod bends more. This rod will protect lighter tippets and will give you a lighter, softer presentation on the water. But, like the fast rod it will not be a good rod to learn with because it takes a long time to recover from the bend or flex and your timing will suffer.

So, the perfect rod is somewhere in between, or what we call a medium-fast rod. If the caster can feel the line load the rod it will you establish the timing and rhythm of the cast. This is the first step to beginning to feel comfortable with fly casting.

The length and line weight is also a consideration. It's easy to think that a shorter rod will be an easier rod to start with, but that's not true. The most popular lengths rod for learning to cast is also the most popular lengths sold for general all around fishing and and that is 9'.  That said, I must admit that I like an 8-1/2 ft. too only because it's a
little lighter and not as tiring for a new caster, but either is a good length to start with and a useful length to use when fishing.

You will need to choose a line weight as well. This is the number assigned to the fly line which must match up with the rod. Rod manufacturers make this easy for us by putting the preferred line size on the rod blank usually close to the handle. If you look on the rod it will say something like, "9' #5 line". It it telling you the length of the rod and the line size that works best on the rod.

Line sizes range from 000 to 16 weight or from very very light to very heavy. If you're going to fish for trout and panfish though a line size of 4-5-6 should be your choice, and a 5 is my favorite to use when teaching someone to cast.

Therefore my favorite rods for teaching are medium-fast rods, either 8-1/2 or 9 feet in length for a #5 line.

If you were to ask me for a recommendation, I would suggest a Sage Vantage rod.

The Vantage is a medium fast fly rod and one that I particularly like and use in casting clinics. It's medium priced (in the range of beginner rods) and is available in 2 or 4 piece. It's also available as an outfit (rod, reel & line outfit).

An 8-1/2', #5 line, 2-piece, Vantage is $225. The 9' #5, 4 piece rod is $250 and the same rod in the outfit is $495, and includes a good reel and line.

For more information visit Sage, or visit your local Sage dealer.
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Lilypond Cosmetic Bag

Sorry guys, this one is for the girls. Although it would make a great gift. It's the most amazing cosmetic bag I've ever used.  The Nightingale is loaded with useful features and is hands-down the best designed, easiest to use and clean, cosmetic bag ever. It's got tons of room, 5 zip compartments, vinyl lined for easy cleaning and easy to separate the dry  from the "leakable".

And the best part? I can always squeeze in one more thing. There's always a little more room when you need it. Take a look at this and the other really cool Lilypond luggage, bags, totes, & accessories. They are attractive, functional and fun. Find your sense of place and spirit without boundaries at Lilypond.

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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.

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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
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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.

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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.
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