3 Easy Ways to Shore Up Your Bank Fishing Game

By David A Brown

Bank fishing offers several benefits — immediate access, no boat ramp mayhem and minimal startup cost. But don’t mistake this relaxed scenario with its minimal requirements for an easy stroll to instant success. Truth be told, the shoreline game presents a handful of challenges unique to fishing on foot.

For starters, realize that standing on the shoreline puts you at a lower angle than anglers in a boat, so your retrieves automatically follow a flatter plane. Using topwater frogs as an example, this means more potential lily pad entanglement/notching.

The solution: Use a higher rod posture and more nose lift to bounce your frog through the thick spots and make good use of each little pool your bait encounters.

(1 of 3) LONG DISTANCE RELATIONSHIP

Bank anglers may, at times, have to cast across vegetation to reach a sweet spot, or hit the fish they’ve spotted busting bait or swirling in chase. This always sounds like a good idea, until you actually hook a fish separated by a mini jungle of dense vegetation.

Case in point: I hooked a 6 1/2-pounder when I saw it swirling on the opposite side of a small lily pad field. The fish bit immediately and when it ran into the heavy cover, I kept my rod as high as possible without compromising control and leverage.

I reeled quickly when I felt the fish slip into small open areas and gained line – sometimes only inches – when I could. But when the fish got clogged in a dense spot, I could tell that continuing maximum pressure would not end well, so I ventured a risky bet that paid big dividends.

With the fish still tight, I opened my bail and released about 2 feet of line, while gradually raising my rod tip to prevent a sudden bubble of uncontrolled slack that I’d surely regret. Instead, I lowered the rod tip in measured form to gradually decrease the pressure in hopes that the fish would reverse out of the jam. Fortunately, that’s exactly what happened and I was able to guide the now tired fish around the jam and through an adjacent gap. Once I got her into open water, it was a done deal.

(2 of 3) BRING IT HOME

Landing big fish on a lakeshore can be tricky. I’ll generally “shore flip” the little ones and even a decent-size fish hooked solidly on a Texas-rigged bait. I do not like to see air below fish that bite anything with a treble hook and the real toads I occasionally see will always get the slide treatment – get them coming shoreward and about two feet out, I’ll sidearm my rod and slide them onto wet grass, or at least into reach on a muddy bank.

(3 of 3) DANGER CLOSE

Wherever I fish in Florida and many other southern waters, I’m always mindful of the potential hazards. From fire ants massing amid debris, to cottonmouth water moccasins slithering amid the vegetation and suspended in overhanging tree limbs, to alligators hiding just about anywhere, I don’t let potential threats dissuade me from fishing; but I definitely maintain a high level of awareness.

Snakes: Usually hear/feel you coming, but smacking/poking high grass with your rod tip or a walking stick helps prevent unexpected meetings. Similarly, check those trees before walking/wading beneath branches to reach a sweet spot. And if you’re keen on tiptoeing onto the trunk of a solid laydown to venture a cast into a submerged treetop, survey the deal carefully, lest you find yourself staring at hostile company while precariously perched in a vulnerable position.

Ants: Take particular caution during the rainy season when high water pushes insects farther up the shoreline and into temporary living arrangements. Suffice it to say that disturbing a pile of displaced ants won’t meet with a cordial response.

Consider, also, that displaced fire ant colonies have been known to form living rafts by interlocking all those legs and literally floating to their next high ground refuge. I’ve never waded into one of these biting flotillas, but I can’t imagine any upside to that deal.

Alligators: In truth, the small gators are more interested in catching my topwater frog, but dehooking one of these bandits can be a finger-risking exercise. Moreover, a larger gator might decide to help himself to my struggling catch and such close encounters can, at best, become perpetual YouTube fodder; and, at worst, an E.R. visit.

Example: Several of the roadside canals in South Florida and Venice, La. find windblown hyacinth mats jammed against the shoreline for an ideal punching scenario. I wouldn’t hesitate to send a heavily weighted creature bait into what would almost certainly be bass laden waters.

However, should a big one get tangled in the junk, you WILL NOT see David reaching into said mat. I want to catch every one that bites, but if I lose one, I lose one – that’s just God’s will. I’d rather lose a bass to the mat than lose a hand one of those cranky swamp dragons.

HOW TO BE A PRO ANGLER

by Brian Latimer

I get a lot of questions from young and old anglers alike about the steps to becoming a pro. I guess maybe sometimes I take it for granted. The process seems somewhat obvious to me. How to execute on it might not be simple, but the steps you need to take really are. There are only a couple of ways to get into this sport, and they all start at the grassroots level, in $200 and $300 tournaments.

Fishing through FLW there’s a very simple path to becoming a professional fisherman. That starts by fishing T-H Marine Bass Fishing League tournaments, or BFLs. It’s very easy to enter and very easy to compete, and there aren’t really any restrictions on the equipment that you need.

You can start out as a co-angler with no boat – just your rods and reels and love of fishing. Obviously, if you’re looking to be a pro, I think it’s a very good idea to figure out how to get some type of boat. The BFLs are close to home, so it doesn’t cost a lot to compete. Chances are there’s a division close to where you live where you can compete on your home bodies of water.

Boater Brian Latimer of Belton, S.C., won the April 28 BFL Savannah River Division tournament on Lake Hartwell to earn $4,197 plus a $740 Ranger bonus.

I started at the club level first, and then I started fishing BFLs later on in life, in my early 20s. I fished the entire season for four years. The other years I was in school and fished one or two here and there.

When I won one, that gave me a pretty good stash of money to fish the Costa FLW Series, which is the triple-A division and the next step up to the professional division. I fished the FLW Series for a long time, from 2008 until 2016. Some years I couldn’t afford to fish all of them, and some years I did. I fished those until I started to fish the FLW Tour. The FLW Series is your gateway to get to the Tour, which is the top level.

It’s really that simple. It’s not anything you can’t overcome. Some anglers are going to go through that system in three or four years, and then there are other guys like myself that might take 10 or 15 years.

I think the biggest piece of advice I could give anyone is to just be patient with the process and not get ahead of yourself too quickly. Let each level finance the next level, and know where you’re at and what you can do with your skill level.

Also, be aware of tournament bodies of water you have or haven’t been exposed to. I didn’t know anything about fishing grass when I started fishing the FLW Series. I didn’t know anything about fishing for smallmouths. I used the triple-A level of fishing to expose myself to that before I started fishing the Tour. I learned how to fish grass in the FLW Series Southeastern Division where we always went to Okeechobee, Guntersville and Seminole, and this year I won the Tour event on Seminole.

You just have to start where you’re at. Be prepared to be patient and maybe have to wait 10 years. It could be 20 years. If you’re 20 years old and it takes you 20 years to go through the system, you’re still only 40, and there are plenty of guys that are competing in their 60s and 70s. It’s a career where you don’t have to be a pro when you’re 22. If that happens, it’s great, but it’s not over for you if that isn’t the case. Joseph Webster is a perfect example. He started fishing as a pro in his 40s after he won the TBF National Championship just the same year I started on Tour. If I fish for another 20 years I’ll only be 56; I’d be satisfied with 20 years.

There’s no need to rush.

Hidden gem lakes

Back in late May, my dad, Mike Brasher, and I took an early-morning trip to a beautiful 990-acre water works lake in Birmingham, Ala., called Lake Purdy.

We started the day by loading our tackle and equipment into my Toyota Tacoma — and it was no small task.

The only way to access the lake is by aluminum rental boat. For that, you need a portable outboard, a gas tank, a trolling motor and battery, two anchors, a cooler, a dip net, a paddle, two life jackets, rods-and-reels and tackleboxes.

It’s a job just loading it all into the truck — and when you reach the lake, you have to repeat the feat, moving all of the stuff again from the truck to the boat.

But man is it ever worth it.

Lake Purdy has literally been a part of my life since I was born. It was the site of my first fishing trip, the place where I caught my first fish and the place where I caught my first 5-pound bass.

In 46 years, it has undergone many changes. But it’s still one of the most pleasantly underrated lakes in the state of Alabama — and thanks largely to its limited access, it’s likely to stay that way.

You can start your day at Lake Purdy fishing topwater baits for bass that are feeding ferociously on shad around the shoreline.

Then you can switch to crankbaits and catch a few out a little deeper before finally moving to the deep ends of long, sloping points with Carolina-rigged plastics.

And you can do it all without seeing the first Jet Ski.

Nothing against Jet Skis. Some of the most fun I’ve ever had was on the back of those things during hot July days when not much was happening on the fishing front.

But coming from the old school like I do, I’d still rather have my fishing trips interrupted by a whitetail deer swimming across the lake or a bald eagle diving down to prove he’s still a better fisherman than I could ever hope to be.

Those kinds of things happen fairly often at Lake Purdy because there aren’t enough humans out there to interfere with the natural flow of things.

Little hidden gems like Lake Purdy are particularly valuable during these brutal summer months when the lakes become more crowded.

I topped the 6-pound mark with a largemouth for the first time in August of 1990. Temperatures reached triple digits that day, and area lakes were covered with every type of watercraft imaginable.

But my cousin Brian Brown and I had a 10-mile stretch of the Cahaba River all to ourselves. We were fishing from a canoe for bass that probably hadn’t seen an artificial lure since the last time we floated that stretch.

When I lived in Columbus, Ga., there was a small pond on the Chattahoochee River that could only be accessed by carrying a 10-foot johnboat down a steep bank covered with rocks and briers. But once you made it to the water, you could catch 5-pound shoal bass on buzzbaits.

When I was in west Tennessee, I made it a point to learn how to catch fish at every small state lake within easy driving distance of my house.

People complained all the time about the fishing at Herb Parsons Lake, but I caught something — often a whole lot of something — every time I went there. Tippah County Lake, which is located just across the Mississippi line, was the same way.

You could usually have those state lakes mostly to yourself because they all enforced a 5-mph speed limit that eliminates anglers who just don’t feel like they’ve been fishing unless their speedometers top 60 at least one time per hour.

Every region of the country has the kinds of hidden gems I’m talking about — and even though we’re not going to leave our big, fancy boats in the garage very often in favor of an aluminum johnboat, they still hold an appeal that can’t be obtained through higher horsepower.

So as the heat of summer takes hold, ask yourself where are those places in your neck of the woods and what would it take to spend some time enjoying them?

Review: ECHO BASE fly rod

The $89 BASE punches above its class in nearly every category

by Johnny Carrol Sain

If you’ve got kids of a certain age, you’ve likely viewed the Pixar flick Ratatouille, in which the lead protagonist, Remy—a rat—is inspired by Chef Gusteau’s proclamation that “anyone can cook.” It is possible that no other company more tightly follows the vision of its leader than ECHO fly rods follows Tim Rajeff, who proclaims that anyone can fly fish. You don’t need years of practice, and you certainly don’t need wads of money. But Tim knows that you do need the right fly rod.

The ECHO BASE I own is a workhorse of a rod that I’ve put through the paces for various species of warm water fish for nearly four years. You can learn a lot about a rod in that amount of time.

WHAT WORKS
A pleasing action

ECHO says the BASE is a medium-fast action rod. Personally, I’ve found the action difficult to define because I throw so many different types and sizes of flies, but whatever it is, I like it. Casting the BASE is an enjoyable experience.

On the lighter stuff, sure, I’d call it medium-fast with a lean more toward the medium. Heavier Clousers, bunny strips, and big poppers slow the action down considerably. It’s nowhere near glass levels of softness, but it is a languid, very liquid feel. Smooth is a good word for it. Overall, let’s call the action a comfortable medium.

Presentation

I don’t worry about dainty presentations because none of the fish species I pursue really care about them. That being said, I’ve slipped a few tiny streamers into some minuscule moonshine-clear pools without alerting the resident smallmouths until one was hooked. And I did it with accuracy. The BASE is a surprisingly accurate rod out to about 50 feet and even a bit beyond.

It’s not a spool thrower, not in my hands anyway. Maximum casting distance is 65-70 feet for me, and in pursuit of bass, bowfin, gar and drum, pinpoint accuracy at those distances is rarely needed. One fine summer day, I did unfurl a dandy toss that perfectly intercepted a couple of cruising grass carp more than 60 feet away. I’m not saying that’s the norm, but I wasn’t shocked.

Backbone

Pretty much anything I’ve tied on, the BASE has handled from size 10 nymphs for spooky panfish to 2/0 hollow flies. Only when trying to stretch my casts with the beefiest of flies does it feel like the BASE is laboring and only on the biggest fish have I wondered if the BASE had the guts. Twenty-inch largemouth, 17-inch smallies, 18-inch spotted bass, two-foot gar, 8-pound freshwater drum, channel catfish long as my forearm— all have succumbed to the BASE.

The grass carp was, perhaps, the ultimate test. And, though it took a while, the BASE eventually wore it down, too. Tackling 15 pound grass carp in mild current is a lot to ask of any 6-weight rod.

Build quality

The graphite BASE is a deep ocean blue accented with black and silver wraps. It features chrome guides, an anodized reel seat and two grip options. It also comes with a lifetime warranty and excellent customer service. Just a few months into my ownership of the BASE, a sloppy backcast led to a collision between the rod’s tip and a heavy Clouser. The dumbbell weight cracked the tip. But after a quick call to ECHO, a new tip was on the way and I was back in the water with it in less than two weeks.

The price

The BASE costs $89-$99 depending on what size you want. This include a sock and hard tube.

I’ve got some buddies who dig the finer things in life, including expensive fly rods. I won’t throw out the brands they own, but when I put the BASE in their hands, they were shocked that a sub-$100 rod could compete—fiercely—with their rods costing five to seven times more. As for me, in a comparison with their rods, I could not tell that more dollars spent would equate to making me a better fly caster. And I sure as hell wouldn’t want to bang up and down the creeks I roam with a rod that costs nearly as much as my set of off-road tires. I’ve abused this rod—beat the crap out of it, actually—from falls on slick rocks, to clambering up bluffs with it in hand, to traipsing down brushy deer trails hoping not to snap it, to asking way too much of it on big fish. The BASE has not let me down.

WHAT DOESN’T
My 9-foot 6-weight weighs in at 3.9 oz. Some might consider that a little heavy. I’ve logged several four- to six-hour fishing trips, crammed full of blind casting with the BASE in hand, and never thought twice about the weight.

FINAL WORD
A lot has happened over the last four years: I finally finished my college degree (after a 20 year hiatus). My hopes for the country’s future took the steepest of nosedives. I became a grandparent — twice. But one thing that did not happen was me finding a better fly rod for the price for my local smallmouth bass or pretty much anything else I want to tackle. ECHO’s BASE is the penultimate everyman’s fly rod.

The BASE is a good—really good—fly rod at an incredible price. It punches above its class in nearly every category. Regardless of your skill level or your bank account, with ECHO’s BASE anyone can be a fly angler.

The Top Rated Fly Shop in All 50 States, Part I

The Top Rated Fly Shop in All 50 States, Part I thumbnail

What is the best fly shop in your state?

This is a very subjective question. But in a day and age when online reviews actually have an impact on the success or failure of a business, we have something close to objective data to work with. I’ve looked at a few review aggregations, and compiled a list of the top rated fly shop in all 50 states.

This doesn’t mean that the shops listed are, in fact, the best. More importantly, it isn’t a slight at other excellent fly shops that aren’t listed. Of course, there are some factors that propel the ratings of certain shops over others: being in a metropolitan area, offering guide services, and even catering to a demographic that is more willing to leave an online review. Still, these online reviews are a legitimate 21st century indicator of a place – and people – that anglers appreciate.

In part I, I list the first 25 states: Alabama – Missouri. Is your favorite fly shop on the list?

Continue reading “The Top Rated Fly Shop in All 50 States, Part I”

Dry Fly Fishing – Tips and Techniques

Dry Fly Fishing – Tips and Techniques thumbnail

When new anglers embrace the intricate world of fly fishing the ultimate goal is to catch a trout on a dry fly. The iconic image of a fly angler floating down the river or wading through a stream with a rod bent over from a heavy fish that has taken your dry fly is the peak of our sport for many. Approaching dry fly fishing with a few helpful hints will enhance your fishing experience and increase your success. 

Fly selection:

The most important factor to dry fly fishing success is fly selection. Size, silhouette, and color steer the selection process when choosing a dry fly.

Size falls under the old adage of “match the hatch” anglers need to choose flies that mimic the same size of the insects that are actively emerging. Fish become very selective during the hatch and size is the most dominant factor.

Silhouette refers to the shape of the fly on the water. Mayflies are easily mimicked with a parachute dry fly. Caddis can be copied accurately with the appropriately sized elk hair caddis. Grasshoppers have a very distinctive shape that even anglers recognize from a distance. The size and shape of the predominant insect in your watershed are the factors you should strive to imitate.

Color is the last factor in dry fly selection and can often be more for the angler than the fish. Dry flies become very difficult to track in broken water for anglers and fish. Indicator or Hi-vis dry flies allow for the first two factors, size, and silhouette, to seal the deal while the bright color assists anglers in setting the hook. Color could be as simple as changing the body color of your caddis fly from tan or olive to black. Trout notice the difference.

Dry Fly Dressing:

A dry fly is an adult bug that belongs on the surface in the air. Very few situations allow for a dry fly to be fished effectively drowned. Therefore there is a necessity to dress your dry fly for optimal performance.

Aquel, Flyagra and Shimishake are just a small sample of the myriad products available for dry fly dressing. Aquel made by Loon Products is an industry leader in environmentally safe products. Aquel is applied in small amounts with your fingers before the casting begins and is reapplied riverside when needed. Flyagra is a liquid you dip your fly into. Not so environmentally safe. This product needs to be applied ahead of time for the best effectiveness. Shimishake is a dry powdery desiccant you shake your fly into. The shake is used on the water and will require reapplication regularly to maintain high floating flies.

Leaders and Tippet:

Trout have an inquisitive eye requiring long leaders and fine tippets to present a dry fly effectively. Leaders longer than 9 feet in length and thin tippets are necessary in highly pressured waters like many tailwaters. Catch and release sections allow trout to become educated requiring extra stealth to entice a dry fly bite. I recommend the Scientific Anglers Freshwater Leaders as they come in a variety of sizes and lengths. The standard dry fly leader would be a 9′ 5x one.  

Casting:

Accuracy is critical to put the fly where you need whether wading or float fishing. Misplacing your cast by inches can be the difference between a hookup and a pretty drift. As your skills improve a reach mend performed during the cast extends the effectiveness of your cast.

The Drift:

The drift, the way your dry fly floats upon the water, is critical to selling your dry fly. Careful mending both upstream and downstream is the only way to deliver your dry fly with the illusion of reality. Well-timed mending presents the fly for the longest amount of time unmolested by drag or negative water currents. 

Hatches:

Seasonal hatches are predictable for the time of year and water temperatures. However, rely on your fly shop for up to date info. Be aware of simultaneous hatches such as Pale Morning Duns emerging alongside Yellow Sallies as this is a common occurrence on Colorado rivers.

Be Observant:

Watch before you cast or enter the water. Knowing where the fish are feeding and what bug they are eating gives you the edge when you make your first cast. The observant angler understands where to place their first cast and that is often all it takes.

Best Positioning:

As part of being observant, there is always the best position for presenting your dry fly. Whether there are casting obstacles, difficult surface currents or mid river structures moving into the best position minimizes troublesome conditions. This is a task more easily achieved wade fishing by repositioning your casting angle. Positioning is crucial in netting your fish too.

Stealth:

Move slowly when wading. The slow-moving angler has more time to observe and spooks less fish. Wearing naturally toned clothing helps to hide the angler allowing for more accurate casting, less mending and better positioning. The angler bumping boots off underwater rocks and logs has already alerted fish of your presence. Be stealthy.

Dancing Game:

After the hook set, be prepared to move. Don’t stand still, now is the time to dance. Sitting square, boots planted in the river or without arm movement is a quick way to loose a fish during the fight.  Repositioning yourself for landing the fish is a regular occurrence.

Targeting trout with dry flies is the ultimate goal in fly fishing. Approaching dry fly fishing with these key points in mind will not be as intimidating to beginning fly fishers. Enhance your next fly fishing experience by booking a dry fly trip with your local fly shop. And to experience dry fly fishing in the most picturesque trout country in all of Colorado contact Vail Valley Anglers. Located in the heart of the Colorado Rockies Vail Valley Anglers specializes in float and wade trips that focus on dry fly fishing. Vail Valley Anglers can be reached here.

This article is written by Michael “Sal” Salomone (www.michaelsalomone.com) a trout fly fishing guide and writer based in the mountains of Colorado at Vail Valley Anglers. Photos by the talented Nolan Dahlberg @dahlberg.digital. Follow along with them at @vailvalleyanglers for the latest in trout fishing in the west. 

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