Tricks and Tips

Lippa4Life Review

Lippa

So, since June of 2016, I've managed to contain my excitement about releasing our film, "One Man's Trash".  We also decided to keep it a secret and build some curiosity around what type of fish we were targeting.  Being that we didn't want to give any hints, we have kept more than just the species a secret.  We also haven't told anyone about some of the great gear we used and other stories that accompanied this excursion. So the first that comes to mind, and an absolute essential for targeting Bowfin, or any toothy creature for that fact, is the Rising Fly Fishing Tools Lippa4Life.  I've been visiting and fishing for Bowfin in the swamp several times a year for the past 9 years.  There are two things that are a fact about Bowfin, they are slimy, slick,  and loaded with several rows of very sharp, fine teeth.  In the past I've used the standard "boga grip", which are a fine tool which has become an industry standard among all fishermen.  However, the Lippa4Life has 2 clear advantages.

First and most importantly being; If you intend to release fish without harm, the wide rounded pincers of the Lippa4Life do not puncture through the jaw of the fish you are gripping (even when thrashing violently as the Bowfin love to do).  That means, no blood, no mess and most importantly you release the fish back just how you found him for the next sport angler (or alligator) to catch.  That's the whole idea behind the Lippa4Life and it works perfectly!

Second, the Lippa4Life is lighter and has less moving parts.  I don't like leaving things laying around on the boat deck or fumbling for tools when trying to release a fish.  I kept the Lippa in my pocket and attached to a belt loop thanks to the optional coil leash.  The only thing I did add was a small, lightweight, stainless Night Ize S-Biner to make attaching easier.

Rising makes a lot of great tools and this was just one of several we used on this trip and many other trips we take.  Swing by the site and check out their tying tools, nets and some sweet apparel.  Click here: http://www.risingfish.net/

And, if you didn't catch the premier of our film at the 2017 Fly Fishing Film Tour (F3t) stop in Atlanta, there are two more local screenings before it goes life on the inter-webs!

Well worn and well worth having!
Well worn and well worth having!

Nice Pack Co

So I’ve been in possession of a Midge Pack from Nice Pack Co for a little over a year now.  I’ll be honest that I’m generally guilty of carrying too much and have never been a lanyard user.  I carry enough gear to easily switch between nymph, streamer and dry rigs and of course, I can’t forget the other essentials like (in order of importance): A beverage, vittles, camera gear and the occasional rain jacket.  Most places I fish are far from where I park and even if I am close, I like to make the most of my time on the water and not waste a single minute.  So there you have it; my excuse. This year’s hot summer has pushed me to the hills and I’ve been much more focused on photography, and carrying less fishing gear in an attempt to keep things simple.  And that’s exactly what the Midge Pack is, simple.  I was able to carry my photo gear in a traditional backpack while having an arsenal of dry flies and supplies right there under my chin.

I don’t think a lanyard fits every occasion on the water, however if you find they work for you or you are considering using them, the Nice Pack Midge might be a solid alternative to the traditional “fly fishing necklace”. There’s no fancy pukka shells, beads or hemp here; just solid, durable, thick materials and buckles that you know will last.  Getting this pack also forced me to purchase my first Tacky box, which the pack was designed to hold.  I have to say, I’m also a fan of these box's slim, lightweight design and quality materials.  What also makes the Nice Pack Co Midge Pack attractive is they are made here in my home state of Georgia by a couple of "fishy" dudes who had a vision of how they could "loose the lanyard" and make a better micro pack.

Overall I’m glad I gave the Nice Pack Co Midge Pack a shot this year.  It’s found a home in my go-to-gear for small stream, simplistic fishing.

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Photos by Matt Bornhorst

To Seine or Not To Seine

Hands Free Seine
Hands Free Seine

One of the oldest debates within the fly fishing community is "proper drift vs proper fly pattern", and which one holds the most weight. Ask this question around a group of half boozed up fly anglers and you're likely to get a split between the two with various reasoning's behind their argument. Personally I feel like there are times when any properly presented fly will suffice and other times when having the proper pattern will be the only way to put fish in the bag. There are of course numerous factors that play a role in this, such as stream fertility, conditions, and fishing pressure, to name a few. In all reality though if you want to take your trout fishing to the next level, ultimately putting more fish in the bag, becoming efficient at making a proper drift and matching it with the proper fly pattern will be key. All anglers should make a habit of observing the water, turning over rocks and seining the water, and observing fish behavior before jumping right into fishing. While turning over rocks and observing fish behavior requires minimal effort, seining the water for aquatic insects is not as simple. Typically, a majority of anglers will carry a paint strainer that affectively slips over the net basket to search for underwater trout snacks. While these strainers are relatively cheap, they work best on larger guide/boat nets and require a little effort to set up. The other day while cruising the web I came across the Hands Free Seine site. The Hands Free Seine uses a weighted net attached to a retractor which allows the seine to be used at different depths, while also being used hands free via the attached belt clip. The compact size of the Hands Free Seine also allows it to be stored easily inside of your vest or pack. For $30 this seems like a great deal for a quality seine, that can be deployed easily without the use of a net. While I have no experience with this product, I can tell you having a way to seine the water has saved numerous days on the water for me when I couldn't decipher exactly what the fish were eating that day.

I love seeing new and innovative products hit the market because like most I'm always trying to improve my fishing game and get a leg up on my quarry. Drop us a line if you have used the Hands Free Seine or have additional unique ways to seine the water for bugs!

Trout Snacks
Trout Snacks
Trout Snacks
Trout Snacks

Sage Accel: Smooth As Silk

After being gifted a new Sage Domain reel for my birthday this year by my super sweet and exceptionally beautiful girlfriend, I knew I needed to get a new stick to pair with this badass new reel. It’s been awhile since I’ve purchased a new rod and since that time, conservatively, I would estimate that there have been easily over 1,000 new models introduced touting the latest and greatest advancements in super high modulus graphite resin nano particles or something to that affect. In simple terms, for the vast majority of these rods, all of that high tech speak means fast. Unfortunately for me (or maybe fortunately) I’ve never been one to be scientific. I don’t see naturals flying around the river and instantly spout out their scientific name. The same thing goes for rod technology. All of the fancy lingo honestly means nothing to me. I just know how they feel and what I like. By now I’m sure those reading this are saying, now wait a minute. All of the high tech lingo doesn’t necessarily mean fast! Just to clarify; I realize this. But, there has been a huge push in fly rod production over the last several years to manufacture rods that are basically cannons. These rods are capable of creating super high line speeds which in turn allow the angler to easily bomb 100 ft plus casts. Don’t get me wrong, those rods definitely have their place. Hell I even own several that I’ve equipped with green distance backing, because these rods will really lay it down! For me though I do a lot of trout fishing and it’s hard to beat a rod that is a little slower and loads slightly deeper. If you’re like me, then Sage’s new Accel rod will tickle your fancy, much like it did mine.

The Accel uses Sage’s generation 5 technology and is advertised as a medium-fast rod. It’s definitely beautiful to look at, but we all know the fish could give two shits less about that. The good news is this rod performs as well as it looks. When I first cast the Accel I was blown away at how smooth the rod felt and my ability to really feel the rod load. It’s light in the hand and has, in my opinion, one of the most sensitive tips on a fly rod that I’ve seen in a long time. I’ve thrown nymph rigs, dries, and dry dropper rigs with this rod and it handled all of them with exceptional grace. Mending feels effortless and casts of 60 ft with indicator nymph rigs were also easily accomplished with the Accel. I’ve handed the rod off to others on recent trips and all who cast the rod agree that it is a great do-it-all rod and were shocked by its midrange price point.

I know it has been said over and over, but it’s worth mentioning that you should always try and swing by a shop to cast rods before making a purchase. Fly rods are like women (or men for the lady anglers) and no one size fits all. Bottom line the new Accel is a fantastic rod and I urge you to give it throw if you’re in the market for a new rod. It won’t disappoint!

SmithFly Digi-Pouch

In prior years, I was toting around a Pelican case to carry my camera gear. It is big, bulky, obviously rigid, and limited my options in fishing packs. I got to a point where I was tired of carrying a normal-sized backpack on day trips. I found myself getting immensely frustrated with the routine of unpacking the case, taking out the camera shooting, then repacking it all away. Worse than that, I was missing a lot of opportunities for photos simply because I couldn’t get to my camera quickly and easily. I needed to find a solution and a viable one at that. Then it happened, the angels of Google provided me a name…SmithFly. I hit up their site and was amazed at the simplicity of their products. I saw the Digi-pouch and I knew it was meant for me. It was my solution. On top of that, SmithFly products are made in the U.S.A. I was sold.

About a week later, a beautiful brown box was on my doorstep when I got home from the 9-5. I didn’t even open the door to the house before I opened the box.

After close to two years of use; it was, and still is, perfect. I don’t have any other of the items from the SmithFly collection, but I’m hoping to change that soon. In all it's use, it hasn’t leaked a drop…ever. It has been bashed through the dense rhododendron of Appalachia, braved the rain and snow, as well as some salt water adventures and nothing has phased this pack. At no time did I ever worry of losing any of my gear to water damage.

This pack is built by a fishing oriented company, but I would want this pouch even if I didn’t fish at all. With the Molle system and the two button-fastened straps on the back, you can attach this thing to a myriad of packs, belts, or anything else that you can think of.

Two pieces of advice if you are thinking about picking one of these packs up: 1) don’t wait, and you’ll be glad you didn’t, and 2) get the optional padding. I would bet $1,000 that padding has saved my camera and/or lens on numerous occasions. This pack is the camera bag you have been looking for; American made, durable, and adaptable. If you carry a camera outdoors; get one…seriously, do you self a favor and get one. 

Fishing Elbow

I remember the day when fly fishing was an old man’s sport.  It seems that day is closer than I thought.  Although I expected to grow old fishing I hadn’t anticipated injuries that would occur as a result of fishing.  I’ve spent a lot of time this year, much more than usual, throwing big streamers in large rivers and double hauling lots of line on open water.  Following my first couple of trips I noticed the elbow in my casting arm had some pain radiating around my elbow and my head hurt around my temples and eyes.  After the first warning of pain I did what any serious angler would do and suffered through the pain in pursuit of what’s really important, fishing and having a few beers (not my health).  It took about 6 more full days of fishing in the course of 4 weeks and I was completely out of the game.  The pain at this point was from my elbow all the way down my forearm. I had a hard time picking anything up and even writing with a pen or typing at my desk.  When whining about the pain, someone mentioned I probably had tendinitis, more commonly known as tennis elbow (and a slight hangover causing the headache).  As I started my internet search to find out more I was surprised how many others had the same problem and there was actually such a thing as “fishing elbow”.  Who knew the thing that relaxes me and brings me joy could actually cause pain and injury. I did some research for a way to treat the problem and of course I got exactly what I didn’t want to hear: Stop fishing.  Tendinitis is an irritation or inflammation of the tendons in your elbow.  Although there are many braces and straps to relieve the pain, continuing to abuse your elbow could lead to tendon tears, cortisone shots and surgeries.  In my research I was surprised to see that there aretournament bass fishing anglers who have undergone surgeries on both elbows to remedy the pain and continue their careers casting.

It seems the best way to prevent a problem is stretching prior to activity, and some recommended following the same regimen major league pitchers use.  I found some instruction videos and I was expecting something a lot less like Shaolin Kung Fu meets the robot dance moves, but if it saves me some pain and gives me fishing it was worth a shot.  I’ve been stretching for a few minutes the night before a trip and the morning of.  Mostly in the privacy of my own house so I don’t look like I’m doing a secret hand shake with myself.  I’ll be honest it’s not the full 5 minute gambit I viewed in the video; I picked exercises that I felt gave me the most benefit.  So far it seems to be helping.  After a 5 hours day of throwing long casts on a lake the other weekend, I had no pain.

It seems early detection and prevention is the ticket to beating fishermen’s elbow.  And although it’s hard to add something new to your pre-fishing routine, it may save you from having to sit out the next trip.  And no one wants to ride the pine.

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30th Century Fisherman

Last month, two days after my own birthday, an invention that changed the way I fish turned 10 years old.  It has surely changed more than just the way we fish; it has changed life for us all.  In a world of technology where anything seems possible, it’s easy to overlook how something so widespread has changed the sport of fishing forever.  A big part of fishing for us all is the mystery of the unknown.  Whether that be what lurks in that dark, deep pool or what’s around the next bend of a new, unexplored body of water. This invention unshrouds a bit of the mystery making the unknown more obvious and the unexplored more accessible.  It gives us a peek at the man behind the curtain.  Any guesses what the invention I’m speaking of is? If you guess Google Earth, than you’re an exploration geek like me.

The invention of Google Earth was supposedly predicted in a 1998 speech by the then-US Vice-President Al Gore, who imagined a "Digital Earth", which would help causes such as environmental protection and international diplomacy. Three years later, the IT firm Keyhole launched a new program called "Earthviewer". It looked like Gore's vision, but its creators had a more simplistic idea.  It was designed for home buyers to survey the area around potential homes

In 2003, the program brought major attention when news casts began using its application to show battlefronts during the war. Shortly thereafter, In-Q-Tel, a "non -profit" company funded by the CIA (37 million tax payer bones a year), invested in Keyhole, presuming Earthviewer could have intelligence applications. But when Google purchased all of Keyhole in 2004 for a cool 2.2 million, the owners had no idea the potential of their product.

Much of the imagery in Google Earth is commercially available data from US military satellites.  So if you ever wondered why Google offered satellite images for free, they weren't free.  You payed for them in your tax dollars via a CIA funded company (that's deep for a fishing blog right?).  Although widely used and imagined for travelers to find directions, it allows not just fishermen but all outdoorsmen to survey terrain and water as they never have before.  If you haven’t used it, and still can’t figure out the benefits, let me name a few;

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Planning trips: Not only can you find close parking, view forestry service roads and check on elevations changes, you can also check mileage if you’re planning a canoe or kayak river trip.

Historical Data: Google earth lets you view images in areas as far back as the 1930’s. Yeah, mind blowing.  Without it, I wouldn’t have known GA’s trophy bass lake (Ocmulgee PFA) is now better suited for a quail hunt.  The dam had problems and it’s bone dry.  Good thing I didn’t make a special trip.

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I can say I haven’t visited new water since Google Earth inception in 2005 without viewing satellite images first.  It’s truly revolutionized the way I explore and fish.  Surely it’s done the same for others.  And if you aren’t familiar with all of its features, it’s time you do some desktop exploring and see what new water and adventures you can find.

Hatchery vs. Wild Trout

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Written By: Pete - Photos By: Pete, Jamie Keown     

What are the Biggest Differences?

The discussion of the differences between hatchery and wild trout is one we have been having for some time. While I have had my opinions on the differences that I have seen, it wasn’t until recently that I had the opportunity to speak with people who manage fisheries and hear about their experiences. I also recently found a podcast by Tom Rosenbauer on the topic and found his thoughts to be very much in line with what I have experienced over time. Now that I have enough information to put together a post I thought I would start the discussion on the topic.

Before we get into the differences I would like to make a few assumptions clear. The first is that the comparisons are for trout living in rivers or streams. I have yet to fish a still water managed fishing environment so I am unaware of the differences in that atmosphere. The second is that we will examine the comparison of hatchery fish that have been in the water for over a month. We all know freshly stocked fish can be very confused when they are seeking out new kinds of food and learning how to protect themselves from predators. I have been told that it generally takes about three weeks for them to start to fall into somewhat normal habits and acclimate to their environment. I am hoping to examine the differences once they have established residency within the stream.

The first thing I would like to cover is location in the water. One of the biggest differences is that wild trout are used to living in moving water and having to control energy expenditure while feeding and protecting themselves from predators. When reading a trout stream it seems that wild fish are more predictable than hatchery trout. They tend to stay close to faster water that provides food and oxygen while also managing to find a place that allows them to eat with very little movement or energy. Wild fish seem to have a clear exit plan from that location that allows them protection from birds and other predators. On the other hand, I have found that hatchery fish can be in many locations. Because they are less aware of natural predators and how to feed efficiently you often want to fish a much wider sections of water and will be surprised where you spook or catch fish. Hatchery fish are known to over extend energy when feeding so they can often be found in the middle of faster runs or in still water that is not as close to a natural supply of food. I have recently seen fish in one of the stocked streams I fish sitting in slow moving water and facing the bank instead of facing the current. While they are getting a supply of food that is adequate for survival they are clearly missing the opportunity to maximize their feeding with the smallest amount of energy.

The next thing I would like to discuss may be the most controversial. I believe that in many instances hatchery trout can be more selective in food choices. I know this sounds crazy but I have seen it time and time again. During the podcast that I listened to recently Tom Rosenbauer brought up a great point that I hadn’t previously considered that may help understand this phenomenon. Hatchery trout are used to one food source while wild trout are often looking at multiple sources of food. Because of this, once hatchery trout have learned how to survive in the stream I believe they tend to focus in on a singular source of food more often than wild fish. As I look through my fishing journal and recap what flies caught fish I notice that in most instances I have had success with very small natural flies in established stocked streams and some of the biggest ugliest attractor patterns in wild streams. This seems backwards I know, but after reviewing my notes it seems to be true. Some of the wildest streams I have fished provided amazing days with y2k’s, big stimulators, and rubber legs while I have had some great success on stocked trophy streams with small pheasant tails, soft hackles, and hare’s ears on light leaders and tippet. It seems with hatchery fish there are very specific flies they are looking for and the bite can turn on and off with the change of a fly. I have found in wild streams that I often catch fish on multiple flies in the same hole.

Another phenomenon I have noticed is how they spook. Wild fish tend to spook very easily and are not used to seeing a human presence around their environment. When wild fish spook they often run for cover and you don’t see them again. With hatchery fish they do run sometimes but return to their positions much quicker. What I see most often is hatchery fish will move over slightly but remain in the same general area. During this time you can still see them but it has been my experience that they will stop or slow feeding.

Lastly, I would like to cover the fishing experience. While I find the experience similar, I find the overall reward or satisfaction to be very different. From a fight perspective I have had a hard time differentiating the two categories of fish. I have seen both fish make great runs, jump and head shake with the best of them. I have also seen both put up less of a fight. I think the conditions and the individual fish play more of a factor in the fight then the place where they were raised. Once you have landed that fish I think most would agree that the color and overall “clean” look goes to the wild trout hands down. They tend to have better fins and much more color. Over time if there are carry over fish in a stocked stream I think the gap narrows but there really is nothing like a wild fish in terms of appearance. I have also noticed that my sense of accomplishment seems to be much higher when I catch a wild trout. Some of the happiest photos you will see of me are holding much smaller wild fish.

Overall I find hatchery fish to have less fear of humans but be more selective than wild fish. While I enjoy fishing for both hatchery and wild fish, interacting with fish in a natural environment where they have been for generations is truly a unique experience. Being from the south I do appreciate hatcheries that expand our options for cold water fisheries but there is nothing like catching a beautiful fish out of a wild stream.

What do you think? Share your thoughts below in the comments section…

Tight Lines,

Pete

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