Spring 2012

Fly Rod & Reel Spring 2012

Up Front Notes

Greg Editor Fmt

Almost every year in the northern Rockies, some morning in March or April, the weather forecaster comes on the air and says, “It’s finally going to feel like spring today.”

They call for a high of 58 degrees, but by 3:00 p.m. you’re in a T-shirt and wishing you were wearing shorts instead of waders, because the mercury is planted at 75 and there isn’t a breath of wind. Sweat rolls down your brow, and you vow this is the last time you’re on the water without sunblock. But that won’t ease the pain when you get in the shower that evening and water hits skin that resembles a cooked crab’s shell.

  • By: Greg Thomas


Tosh Brown Fmt

Blake Brown takes his shot at “cruising” carp near Spofford, Texas.

  • Photography by: Tosh Brown

The Wild Steelhead Coalition

Peeler Fmt

I think it takes a bit to get Jim Schmitz pissed off. For instance, I was recently interviewing Schmitz, vice president of the Seattle-based Wild Steelhead Coalition, when he realized that his house had just been robbed. He casually said, without hint of anger, “Hey, I should probably deal with this. Would it be OK if I give you a call later?”

But let me tell you this: If you bring up hatchery steelhead, Washington State’s 1974 Boldt Decision and the mismanagement of that state’s fisheries, you’ll see Schmitz’s hackles rise.

  • By: Greg Thomas

Angry Rain

Angry Rain

For a half-hour my guide, Balacho, had been pointing and smiling at threatening black clouds that formed over the Brazilian border. With each lightning strike, he laughed demonically and shouted, “Bueno, bueno!” What was he thinking? Was he crazy?

My perfect bluebird afternoon was succumbing to a jungle storm of diluvial proportions. Balacho, who was now singing and looked as if he had won the Bolivian lottery, cheerfully paddled the dugout canoe to the beach in preparation for the pending storm. Adding to my misery, we landed across from what looked to be the perfect payara pool.

  • By: Grant Wiswell
  • Photography by: Grant Wiswell

The Five Seasons of May

Canada Bear

Refreshed after a long, ice-covered rest, British Columbia’s interior lakes wake as the light shifts from a cold blue of winter to warmer spring hues. Improving weather trends are fairly consistent, but it’s possible to experience a sampling of four seasons in a single day. If you are a fisherman and a hockey fan, it’s even possible to experience five seasons in a day, those being spring, summer, fall, winter, and the NHL playoffs. The downside of the fifth season is you may lose focus on priorities. For example, a night of hockey and merriment could result in a poorly executed angling plan, especially if you’re scheduled to be on the water a few hours after your celebration ends. We all know that a lack of clarity leads to precarious situations, and that’s exactly what happened to me.

  • By: Geoff Moore
  • Photography by: Geoff Moore

Bolivia Bound


  • Travel
  • Gear
  • Flies
  • Accommodation/Communication
  • Bugs and Disease
  • Season/Weather

Printmaker John Koch

Brookie Pool by John Koch

I admire John Koch’s woodblock prints for the same reasons I like the man; they have an honest and rough-hewn quality that I find direct, straightforward and authentic.

  • By: Bob White
  • Photography by: Bob White

The Royal Wulff Murders: A Novel

The Royal Wulff Murders

So you’re sean shanahan—semi-starving artist, former private investigator, a hard-core fly fisher still emotionally entangled with that ex-wife you left behind when you moved to Bridger, Montana. You’re minding your business, such as it is, hanging on to hope and a paintbrush when—per the jacket blurb of The Royal Wulff Murders— “Delta siren Velvet Lafayette” stops by. She’s sultry a la Spade, wears lipstick the color of blood, and wants to hire you to—what else?—fish the Madison River for as long as it takes to catch trout with fins notched by her late father, by way of finding the riffle where he wanted his ashes spread. She’ll pay you a grand for this service, half down, and—shame on you for hoping—maybe a romantic bonus, TBA.

  • By: Seth Norman

A Passion for Tarpon

A Passion for Tarpon

Tarpon. if that word brings up images that make you tremble, then Pat Ford’s photos in this tome may provoke a petit mal. A reader who’s never yet caught one may think again, “I just have to this lifetime”; and then, after poring over author Andy Mill’s instructions, believe they could hook and land a silver king, maybe. And yet…

A reviewer of tarpon media who hasn’t done so himself (yet) must admit a gross gap in angling experience, by way of adding “for what it’s worth” to praise, criticism or inchoate mewling sounds. Multiple confessions of this fact may initiate bitter spiritual journeys, as in “What kind of SOB was I, last incarnation, to be denied a tarpon this time around?” In my case, I will admit unhappily, the hours spent with A Passion for Tarpon answered that question: I was Vlad, the Impaler.

  • By: Seth Norman

Writers, Take Notice!

Robert Traver Writing Award

The Robert Traver Fly-Fishing Writing Award is once again open for entries. Send your work of fiction or non-fiction by the June 1, 2012 deadline to: Traver Fly-Fishing Writing Award, Fly Rod & Reel Magazine, PO Box 370, Camden, ME 04843. We’re looking for: “A distinguished original essay or work of short fiction that embodies an implicit love of fly-fishing, respect for the sport and the natural world in which it takes place, and high literary values.” Send in a typed, double-space manuscript of no more than 3,500 words, along with an electronic copy on a disc. E-mail submissions won’t be accepted.

The Ice Cream Cone Chironomid

Rainbow on a Leech

Fly-fishing continually evolves, be it advancements in tackle, the challenges of new fisheries, or the evolution of fly patterns and fishing techniques. In fact, what may seem like a simple fishing or tying advancement may turn into a significant step in the refinement of a fishery. That’s often the case with stillwater trout fishing, where creative anglers are attracted to the sport because it offers plenty of challenge and equal reward, in the form of skeptical trout that run much larger on average than their stream-raised counterparts.

One of the most productive lake-fishing methods is to fish with chironomids, also called midge pupae. In nutrient-rich waters these members of the Diptera insect family form a significant part of a trout or char’s diet. During spring and summer daily chironomid emergences cloud the water with pupae wiggling to the surface. Chironomid pupae must taste good, because the biggest trout gorge on even the smallest pupae. Fish literally swallow hundreds of the insects as they slowly ascend to become adults. But matching chironomids and getting a fish to take isn’t as easy as you’d think it would be. In fact, in lakes fish have the time to study them closely, and they’ll likely refuse anything but a perfect match. That’s why matching chironomids has become an art form, and Kelly Davison, who runs Searun Fly & Tackle in Coquitlam, British Columbia, made one of greatest advancements in chironomid construction of all time.

  • By: Brian Chan
  • Photography by: Brian Chan

Conservation NEW

The Chickley River after the Town of Hawley, Massachusetts "improved" it.

Tobogganing on cafeteria trays can be dangerous, especially when icy conditions coincide with heavy drinking, as always seems to happen in my part of the Northeast. So I stick to the foothills. But recently a dozen more daring participants were hospitalized. Some suffered cranial pressure from ependymal hematomas; others had bone splinters in their meningeal tissue; still others leaked cerebrospinal fluid. Since the brain-trauma physicians were on a golf holiday in Aruba, the hospital administrator enlisted the custodians, providing them with condensed neurosurgical guidelines along with carte blanche authority to do whatever seemed necessary with their saws, chisels and staple guns. All the patients died.

  • By: Ted Williams

Wet Fly Ways

Davy Wotton

I wrote a book titled wet flies, and generally consider myself competent to fish them. Recently, however, I fished with Davy Wotton on the White River, near Cotter, Arkansas, and received a set of lessons that gave the effectiveness of wets a quantum leap for me. I was invited to present a workshop for the North Arkansas Fly Fishers, in Mountain Home, and did two smart things: accepted the invitation; and instantly booked a day to fish with Wotton.

I’d met him, discussed writing with him, studied his videos, but had never fished with him, and had not got around to incorporating his concepts whole into my own fishing. When I finally got that chance, I was astounded at the breadth and depth of his knowledge about fly-fishing. I also hung well behind him on the river, so that no contrasts could be drawn between his artistry and my ineptitude when we got fly rods in our hands.

  • By: David Hughes
  • Photography by: David Hughes
  • and Greg Thomas

Spring Steel on Idaho's Upper Salmon River

Alp Fmt

I’ve created a problem for myself; I am a steelhead junkie who lives 500 miles from salt water, in a state where those big sea-run rainbows don’t even exist.

I like where I live—Missoula, Montana—and I’m quite sure this is where I will raise my daughters. But in the back of my mind there’s this idea to endear a Canadian scarlet, gain dual citizenship (plus healthcare, right), and move north, to Campbell River, Bella Coola or, even better, to Smithers or Terrace, British Columbia, where the greatest race of steelhead still pours into the Skeena, Babine, Kispiox, Kitimat and Sustut rivers. That’s the glory list, and I could see myself fishing those waters a couple hundred days a year while pretending that I care about hockey.

  • By: Greg Thomas
  • Photography by: Greg Thomas

Bass in the West

Img Fmt

Sandpoint, idaho—calvin fuller has a pet bass that weighs a pound and a half and eats chicken burritos. He hooks it during lunch breaks less than a block from Sandpoint, Idaho’s main drag, under the watchful eyes of coffee-sippers at Starbucks.

Fuller, a local outfitter who operates the area’s only fly shop, cuts between storefronts and down an alley to reach the banks of Sand Creek, then casts a bug-eye streamer. I watch the fat line he’s throwing off a Sage Bass Series rod and it goes tight. He and his pet play again.

  • By: Ralph Bartholdt
  • , Brian O'Keefe
  • , Jeff Erickson
  • and Kirk Deeter
  • Photography by: Ralph Bartholdt
  • , Brian O'Keefe
  • , Tim Romano
  • , Jeff Erickson
  • and John Sherman

Blowing it Up

Blowing It Up

Whether you realize it or not, modern fly-fishing is guided by an age-old code of conduct with specific rules that help you catch more fish and, in some cases, keep the peace. Among those rules: don’t spook the fish; don’t drag your fly; keep your tip up; let the fish run; and never, ever give away a friend’s secret spot.

That’s all true in the world of trout, but in the Midwest and its emerging world of muskie fly-fishing, anglers are smashing those rules by blending elements of conventional and saltwater techniques, including big flies and figure-eight retrieves, to take muskie, with regularity, on flies.

  • By: Robert S Tomes
  • Photography by: Tosh Brown

The Best of Muskie Country

Towee Boats - Guide tested skiffs.

  • Best Place to Catch Your First Muskie
  • Best Place For A 50-Pounder
  • One River For Eternity
  • One Fly For Eternity
  • Must-Have Meal
  • Best Bar
  • Best Nightlife

  • By: Brad Bohen
  • Photography by: Tosh Brown

Muskie Tribe


I used to be a blissfully happy trout angler living a normal life in southwest Montana, catching dozens of fish a day on tiny dries or great big streamers. I had a job, a life, a routine. Now I’m a bachelor living in the Wisconsin northwoods, packing a fly box the size of a briefcase, and I’m happy when I boat a single fish in a long day on the water. My only routine is treating chronically slashed-up hands and healing my pride after it is trounced by what has become the focus of my life—the muskellunge.

So why did I give up trout and take on this highly predatory and confounding fish? The answer is this: The pull of my home state was too strong to ignore, and I wanted to rediscover myself, find my soul, on the water, while mastering what many considered an impossible task—regularly taking muskie with flies.

  • By: Brad Bohen
  • Photography by: Tosh Brown

Field Test rods

Wog Cast Fmt

At some point, every serious angler confronts the naked truth—no matter how many fly rods you own, the prospect of a new one is irresistible. Part of the attraction undoubtedly owes to an unspoken suspicion lodged in the fly-fishing heart—that a “better” rod will make you a better angler. This comforting (if vain) thought gives us hope, which is a primary component of fishing generally. Sometimes, however, the allure is less easily explained. A few seasons back, I somehow embraced the groundless conviction that the ideal trout rod was eight-and-a-half feet long, and my nine-footers were now insufficient. Time to replace them. Still, there’s often sound logic in the appeal of the new. Over time, your casting style or tempo may change, and you want a rod action that better fits the way you fish now. Or you might seek an all-purpose rod that performs all of its purposes with less effort and greater control. Conversely, you may need a rod for a particular water type or angling technique or fishing circumstance. Or maybe you just want to fish something that feels different from what you use now, just for a change. Sometimes it’s that simple.

  • By: Ted Leeson

Turkey Flat Quills

Olive Quill Dun Fmt

If i have a signature fly it would be constructed with a quill body, mainly because that material best represents the bodies of adult aquatic insects—a shiny, waxy appearance that dubbed-body flies can’t recreate. In addition, when wound around a hook the quill presents the segmentation of a natural. Not only that, quill-body flies float like little corks because the inside of the quill is filled with a pith-like substance. For those reasons, a quill-body fly is my choice when fishing dries on all types of water.

I have written often about using stripped and dyed Chinese rooster neck hackle to tie these flies. But now I have discovered a much better material called white turkey flats. Chinese rooster hackle limits us to tying small flies, say from size 22 through size 18. And that’s fine if that’s all you fish. However, stripped and dyed white turkey flats allow us to tie quill-body flies as large as size 14 and 12 with just one quill. You will still be able to tie the tiny flies with the quill tip and use the remainder of the quill for the larger flies. The stripping and dying process is the same as with Chinese rooster neck hackles.

  • By: A. K. Best
  • Photography by: A. K. Best

Sporting Life


I was northbound on State Highway 63 in eastern Wisconsin, nearing the end of the long drive from Colorado in a peculiar state of mind. If you’ve never experienced one, it’s impossible to describe the quality of road trance these solitary drives can induce. Suffice it to say that after thinking things over for 1,100 miles, I’d arrived at the inescapable conclusion that at the right distance and in a certain light, a mature cottonwood tree looks like an enormous head of broccoli.

  • By: John Gierach
  • Illustrations by: Bob White