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Tenkara…in Oklahoma!

Orvis endorsed guide Rob Woodruff is fishing Tenkara style.

On Oklahoma’s Lower Mountain Fork River.

And he’s guiding customers to experiences like this one:

Nice looking brown trout I caught on Spillway Creek in Southeast Oklahoma using a Tenkara rod and traditional Sakasa Kebari style fly,” says Woodruff.

Interested in trying out the Tenkara style of fly fishing?

Then give Woodruff a call at (903) 967-2665. Or e-mail him at WGSFlyfish@aol.com . Or visit his Web site at www.flyfishingfork.com . Or do all three.

But just be sure that you get in touch with him soon.

The Lower Mountain Fork is fishing red-hot these days for both brown trout and rainbow trout.

And having given the Japanese method of fly fishing a try myself, I can all but guarantee that you’ll have a blast trying out the Tenkara style of flinging a fly,

Orvis endorsed fly guide Rob Woodruff is guiding Lower Mountain Fork River clients to brown trout like this one with the Tenkara rod.

 

Cardenas: Leave Emotions in the Tackle Bag

On a kayak fly fishing trip the other day, the fishing was unusually tough on my home water.

A little frontal passage. A bit of an east wind. And a barometer moving onward and upward.

Great spring weather conditions with a high, thin overcast above screening out much of the sun and pleasant morning temperatures in the 70s.

When you experience a tough day on the water, keep your emotions tucked away safely in the tackle bag.

But few – if any – fish willing to eat anything that I threw their way.

Which led to the full gamut of emotions.

A little steam occasionally threatening to escape the vents.

An occasional flare up of disgust.

The pathetic whine of “Why me, why today?” rolling around in the noggin.

And finally, the pure resignation of defeat and simply going through the motions.

By morning’s end I was beat and a little frazzled. Defeated by my piscatorial adversaries with a brain half the size of a bean.

Bottom line is that I forgot a very important lesson.

The one that reminds to keep your emotions in check to win the day.

The same one that Jeffrey Cardenas writes of so well in his superb fly fishing tome “Sea Level.”

The one he describes below:

Saltwater anglers and guides react to difficult fishing conditions in various ways. Some become determined. Others sulk. There are guides who rant and rave (nobody we know) and anglers who become crybabies and start feeling sorry for themselves when things aren’t going their way. Those who leave their emotions in the tackle bag and start thinking about the fish are the ones who ultimately catch fish.” (excerpted from Cardenas’ essay “When Saltwater Fish Eat,” emphasis mine)

Which brings this stern memo to self.

Next time tough conditions threaten to scuttle a day on the water, don’t give in. Stick and stay and make them pay. Stay focused. Keep thinking. Believe in every cast. Persevere.

And above all else, keep your emotions tucked safely away where they belong.

In the tackle bag.

Just like Mr. Cardenas says.

 

Wejebe: Making Piscatorial Lemonade

While looking through some old files today from my days spent working for the popular outdoors Website www.ESPNOutdoors.com, I stumbled across a story that I had written several years back about the late great Jose Wejebe.

As most of you know, the popular saltwater angler and longtime television outdoor show host tragically lost his life last month when the kit-plane that he was piloting crashed in his home state of Florida.

The late Jose Wejebe shows off a 41-pound striped bass caught off the New England coast as he tested the new G. Loomis NRX fly rod. (Photo courtesy of http://www.SpanishFlyTV.com )

As I read the contents of that long-ago story aimed at driving viewers to ESPN2 that particular weekend to watch Wejebe’s latest adventure on the H2O, the thought came to me that some of that story was worth pulling out of the mothballs.

Not because of my writing ability or the lack thereof but because of the timeless truth that Wejebe passed along to me during the course of our interview.

Truth that includes: when it comes to fishing, don’t take yourself too seriously. Don’t ever give up hope while you are out on the water. Learn to take what creation is giving you on any given day. Let the story tell itself. And of course, learn how to make lemonade.

So without further adieu, here is a reprisal of sorts for “ESPN2 TV: Making Saltwater Lemonade”:

—–

“Forrest Gump once said that life is like a box of chocolates: You never know what you’re going to get.

While that may have been true for the character Tom Hanks portrayed in the movie by the same name, life has been a bit more like a lemonade stand for captain Jose Wejebe, the weekly host of the “Spanish Fly” and “Vida Del Mar” television programs on ESPN2’s Saltwater Sunday programming block.

During the course of his angling career, Wejebe has learned a lot about taking the lemons of life — and the ocean — and turning them into something sweet. 

Born in Havana, Cuba, in 1958, Jose’s family fled Fidel Castro’s communist revolution, settling in the Miami area.

That’s where Wejebe’s love for the sea sprang into life through the rich angling, snorkeling and diving environments found all along the south Florida coastline.

Today, Wejebe is a light-tackle angling pioneer who delights in exploring relatively untouched saltwater flats and blue-water venues for hard-fighting fish that can challenge the outer limits of gear design.

But while Wejebe is perhaps one of the most recognizable saltwater anglers in the world — his “Spanish Fly” began airing on ESPN2 in 1995 and he now is the host of Saltwater Sunday who is seen between show and introduces each segment — he has always stayed true to his roots.

If life, or the sea, gives you lemons on any given day, turn around and make some lemonade.

Take for instance a recent airing of “Spanish Fly.”

Originally slated as an episode where Wejebe would target tough-warring baby tarpon in the upper Florida Key’s Florida Bay, the final product turned out somewhat different than originally intended.

“It panned out that we caught one or two that morning, but that was it,” Wejebe said. “So, we went with the flow, let nature have her way and caught some black drum and some redfish to finish the show.”

And that, according to Wejebe, is the whole concept of the show.

“When you’re fishing, go along with what nature throws your way,” Wejebe said. “We were looking for baby tarpon, but we also found some black drum muddling around in the water.”

When Wejebe and his crew shifted gears from tarpon to drum, what they found was some epic sightcasting action with light spinning gear and shrimp.

“The cool thing about (those black drum) was that they were literally in water so shallow that the weeds were laying over on surface,” Wejebe said.

“They were in these little tiny potholes, so the shrimp had to cross a spot in front of their nose that was maybe four or five inches in diameter.

“We probably caught half a dozen of them,” he continued. “It was fun — they would turn one way and the five-inch spot would change, then they would turn that way, and that five-inch spot would change again.”

Later that day, the tactic of turning sour lemons sweet proved useful, yet again, when the tide changed.

“We changed zip codes that afternoon because the water wasn’t there (in the location where they started),” Wejebe said.

“When we got to the other place, we could see stingrays, mullet and porpoises, so you could just tell that there was some life there.”

Life to the tune of four or five good red drum, or redfish, including one solid fish.

But that particular episode of “Spanish Fly” isn’t the only place where Wejebe’s “lemonade” approach to life and fishing can be seen.

It can also be seen on another airing of the show when Wejebe and Steve Yerrid (the famed Florida lawyer who won a landmark case against the tobacco industry) travel to the Bahamas for some sizzling angling action before the ESPN Outdoors cameras.

Thing is, once again, it didn’t turn out exactly as planned — where’s that lemonade recipe when you need it?

“We went looking for the grouper spawn that happens over there on Crooked Island, but it didn’t happen,” Wejebe said.

“You can’t script any of these actors, you can’t script the fish. And that’s the main focus for me, you go out there, and have a good time catching whatever fish comes your way,” he added.

“You let the story tell itself, you do not force a story.”

Case in point is this particular Crooked Island episode of “Spanish Fly” airing this weekend.

“We caught a fair number of grouper and snappers, but it was kind of sporadic and spread out,” Wejebe said.

“So what was cool is that we did a time montage on the show and told about the evolution of the Crooked Island (fishery),” he added.

“I’ve been going fishing there for eight or nine years, but before, it was just a bonefish fishery. Now, when you go, there is fishing for things like mutton snappers, yellow fin tuna, and Wahoo.”

What can the weekend warrior — both freshwater and salt — learn from Wejebe’s approach?

Simple.

If a largemouth bass outing turns sour, there are always bluegills. If the walleye aren’t cooperating, don’t forget the crappie. If the redfish are leaving you red-faced, don’t founder; try for flounder. If … well, you get the picture.

“I’ve always fished this way,” Wejebe said. “I may be targeting tarpon on a flat, but I will have various other rigs ready nearby.”

“If you tool on down the flats and see a shark or a barracuda, then, boom, throw it out to him. If you see a permit or a bonefish, then throw it out to them.”

“Learn to take advantage of what comes your way,” he added. “I just think it’s more fun to catch fish and have a bent rod.”

“I’m all for fishing for a target species if they’re there and they’re biting; but if not, why not have some fun while you’re fishing for your target species?”

And while you’re doing just that, why not kick back and take a big swig on a glass of sweet lemonade, Saltwater Sunday-style, of course.”

—–

Rest in peace Jose Wejebe. You’ll be missed greatly.

And thanks for the great memories, televisions shows, and lessons on how to live life and catch fish.

And not necessarily in that order.

 

Monday Movie: R.A. Beattie’s “Off the Grid”

Getting back into the swing of things, blogging about fly-fishing.

And that includes a return of Monday Movie time here on Fly Fishing 365.

Here’s all you need to know about today’s short film:

R.A. Beattie, one of North America’s epic fly fishing film makers.

A project that was some two years in the making.

One that was shot at 12 different locations targeting the kind of fishing most of us can only dream of.

Being “Off the Grid” and on the fly.

Enjoy today’s Monday Movie offering!

 
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Posted by on May 7, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

John Gierach on a Texas 10-Pound Fly Rod Bass

In keeping with my primary blogging topic of this week, I turned to the great John Gierach today for a little perspective on landing a 10-pound bass in Texas.

Here’s an excerpt from his essay “Texas” pulled from the book “Dances with Trout:”

10 Pound Bass Release

John Gierach provides insight into landing – and losing – a 10-pound largemouth on the fly in Texas.

I never did land the ten-pound bass on a fly rod — which you can do in south Texas — but I had one on. At least that’s what a gentleman named Dan said from the seat next to me in the big red bass boat one day. I was fishing some kind of a streamer on a sink-tip line and had gotten a little lazy, as you can do on a hot day fishing from a plush seat, roll casting with your right hand and holding a cold Lone Star in your left.

The fish hit, I struck and had him on for about as long as it took for him to come to the surface, jump and throw the hook. “That would have gone about ten,” Dan said casually. “You should have set up harder.”

I was trying to fix in my mind that fleeting glimpse of the biggest largemouth bass I’d ever seen alive and I almost said, “How the hell am I supposed to set up harder with a beer in my hand? but of course the answer was obvious. You can fish and drink at the same time, but you can’t do both well.

Later I told Ed about the big bass that had gotten off. He said, “Well, that’s another one you can think about for the rest of your life.

Losing a 10-pound bass on the fly rod? Yep, I’d think about that for the rest of my life too.

Morals gleaned from this Gierach story?

1. Fly fish in Texas – 10-pound largemouth bass do exist here and can be hooked on the fly.

2.. Don’t get lazy when you fly fish because that will be the moment that a fish of a lifetime will strike your fly.

3. Leave the beer cooler back in camp. You can’t catch the fish of a lifetime and guzzle Lone Star at the same time.

4. Set up harder.

5. Have a fly fishing friend named Ed Engle who can help provide a little perspective when the fish of a lifetime strikes your fly, gets hooked, leaps into the air so you get a good visual image of how big the bass really was, and then gets off by throwing he hook.

 

Just How Big Is That Fly Rod Bass?

If you follow the drivel in this space, you’ll remember that a few days ago I penned something to the effect that one of the Holy Grails of warmwater fly fishing is the catching of a 10-pound bass on the fly.

That accomplishment – which so far eludes me – is definitely on my bucket list of things to accomplish with the long-rod.

Which begs the question – for me at least – of just how truly big a 10-pound largemouth bass really is on the fly?

World-class largemouth bass weighing 15-pounds or better are rarely caught on the fly. John Lindsey, Jr. got close to the coveted mark in the fall of 2000 when he caught this 14-pound, 14-ounce largemouth bass while fly fishing in Texas. (TPWD photo)

For the answer to that, let me turn to a once-upon-a-time conversation I had with a fishing friend when we tried to quantify just how big a really big largemouth bass is on the overall scale of things.

To get an idea of where a truly big bass falls on the list of outdoor accomplishments, we turned to a scale of sorts that many of us in Texas (my home state) are familiar with each fall, the pastime of deer hunting.

With big antlers as our backdrop, we tried to compare what a certain sized bass would equivocate to in the world of free-range typical whitetails roaming across North America.

I’d say that relative scale goes something like this:

* A 10-lb. bass is the equivalent of a 160-inch typical deer (meaning, it’s difficult but it can be done if you hunt/fish long enough).

* A 11/12 lb. bass equals a 170-inch whitetail (it’s very difficult and your odds of accomplishing this feat are starting to go way down).

* A 13/14 lb. bass is the equivalent of a 180-inch whitetail (only a few ever succeed at this level each year).

* A 15/16 lb. bass equals a 190-inch whitetail (only a handful succeed at this level…EVER).

* A 17/18 lb. bass is the fishing equivalent of tagging a 200-inch whitetail (this is very rare territory indeed, a place of rarefied air where only a dozen or so people ever know the feeling of securing this accomplishment…EVER).

* Anything at or above the 18/20 lb. mark or above 200-inch barrier is moving towards world record territory (getting to this level of accomplishment is all but non-existent for most and happens only once or twice in a generation).

So just how far up this relative scale can a fly fisherman climb?

I’d like to believe that in the right place and at the right time – for instance, a rainbow-trout stocked clear-water lake in California; a big bass lake filled with tilapia in Mexico; or a stateside water body brimming with gizzard and threadfin shad like Lake Falcon or Lake Fork in Texas – an angler could land a bucketmouth bass on the upper end of this scale.

But practical reality might suggest otherwise. That’s because the historical record from the International Game Fish Association (www.igfa.org ) suggests that anything at or above the 15-pound mark is dicey territory for a largemouth bass angler toting a fly rod.

In fact, I can only find one record of a 15-pound bass ever having been successfully landed by a fly angler.

And that bass was caught by Larry Kurosaki on Feb. 26, 2009 when the fly fishing guru landed an IGFA 8-pound tippet class world record fly rod largemouth bass in California. The fish tipped the scales at 16-pounds, 12-oz. and was caught as Kurosaki fished at Castaic Lagoon.

While I’ve occasionally seen a photo here or there – not to mention hearing a rumor or two – reporting the catch of a similar sized bass, that one lone IGFA mark above stands as the only documented time that a largemouth bass weighing better than 15-pounds has been successfully landed by a fly angler.

(Editor’s Note: Other IGFA fly rod tippet class world record largemouths of note include: 6-pound tippet record of 14 pounds, 2 oz. caught by John Lindsey, Jr. at Lake Meredith, Texas, on Oct. 20, 2000;  12-pound tippet record of 14 pounds, 8 oz. caught by Larry Kurosaki at Castaic Lagoon in California on Feb. 24, 2007; and the 16-pound tippet record of 12 pounds, 11 oz. caught by Dennis Ditmars at Lake Dixon, Calif. on April 30, 1998).

If you’re a student of the bass fishing game, you’ll note that all of those records above fall well short of the current shared world record mark of 22-pounds, 4-oz., a pair of behemoth largemouth bass caught more than 70 years apart.

(Editor’s Note: The first WR bass was caught by George Perry on June 2, 1932 in Georgia and the latest WR bass was caught by Manabu Kurita in Japan on July 2, 2009).

Why is landing a truly world-class largemouth bass so hard on the fly rod?

For starters, such bass are rare creatures to begin with anywhere in North America. That’s true even in places blessed with an abundance of giant bass waters like those found in California, Florida, Texas or south of the border in Mexico.

Second, the few specimens that do grow to such sizes are rarely caught by anyone including conventional anglers whizzing about the water in $60,000 bass rigs decked out with the latest 250 hp motors; high-powered trolling motors; and down-imaging, side-scanning electronic sonars.

Those same fishermen toss a variety of realistic looking and scented hard and soft-plastic lures, baits that are flung on baitcasting rod and reels filled with space-age super monofilament lines, fluorocarbon line, or 65-pound braid.

And these guys rarely catch such behemoth bigmouth bass despite probing the water column from shallow to deep and everywhere in between during the annual 24/7/365 cycle.

Third, giant largemouth bass are rarely found in shallow water. And when they are, it’s at best for a few days each spring during the yearly spawn.

Quite frankly, that fact puts such gargantuan bass almost out of reach for fly anglers unless they are adept at probing deeper waters with full sinking lines or sink tips and large-sized flies.

Fourth, merely hooking such a giant bass on fly tackle is one thing. Successfully landing it on fly tackle is quite another.

From line-nicking timber to heavy submerged vegetation to rough-edged rocks to the pure brute strength of a world-class bass hooked by an angler, many things conspire to work against a fly angler being able to successfully land a real mossback bass on the fly.

Take my friend Rob Woodruff for instance, the Orvis endorsed Lake Fork fly fishing guide (www.flyfishingfork.com ; (903) 967-2665) who annually puts clients on dozens and dozens of fish in the five to eight-pound range.

Each year, RW has a small handful of clients that successfully hook and land bass from Lake Fork that approach the 10-pound mark on a Boga Grip scale. For a little perspective, Lake Fork’s overall lake record is 18.18-pounds (a fish that is the current Texas state record largemouth bass) while it’s fly fishing record sits at 9.52-pounds.

And each year Woodruff has an even bigger number of anglers who hook such bass but for a variety of reasons like those noted above eventually fail to land those fish.

With his own personal best bass on the fly at Fork being 11.75-pounds and his clients’ best fish weighing in at 11.25 pounds,  few guides are better qualified than Woodruff to discuss the art of landing big bass on the fly.

Woodruff wryly notes that he’s all but certain that he has had even bigger fish on himself and with clients. Perhaps even at or above the coveted Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s 13-pound ShareLunker mark.

But again, landing such a bass in a timber infested lake like Fork is a chore that is rarely accomplished.

Even by the best in fly fishing.

“I heard someone say once that fly fishing for big fish requires grace and that grace is earned,” notes the Texas A&M grad. “It doesn’t come easily in fly fishing.”

But that won’t keep Woodruff from trying again.

Me either.

After all, somewhere and someday, an angler will probably eventually land a bass in the 20-pound range while toting a fly rod.

And that might as well be me.

Or you.

 

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Deep in the Heart of Texas: A Devil of a Fishing Trip

Legendary country crooner Charlie Daniels once spun the musical tale of a how the devil went down to Georgia looking for a soul to steal.

By song’s end, a passion-filled Peach State lad had turned the tables on Lucifer, dusting off the fiddle-playing demon with some sizzling music of his own.

Flip Pallot, the former host of ESPN’s long-running ‘Walker’s Cay Chronicles’ television show and the current host of The Outdoor Channel’s “Ford’s Fishing Frontiers” show, found a similar tale of redemption on a visit to Texas a few years ago.

Except this time salvation came via a fly rod instead of a fiddle.

That’s because Rick Pope, founder and president of the Dallas-based Temple Fork Outfitters Fly Rod company, shared with Pallot his discovery of a devil of a river deep in the heart of Texas.

A chilly stream in a wickedly harsh environment that is home to some heavenly smallmouth bass fishing.

Wicked little fighters at the end of a fly rod, smallmouth bass are making themselves at home deep in the heart of Texas down on the Devil’s River. USF&WS/Eric Engbretson photo

By trip’s end Pope and Pallot had hooked and landed nearly 75 bronzeback bass from the Devils River including a devilish smallmouth that came unbuttoned in the end.

“The best fish, which could have been my best ever (at the time) at about five pounds, I lost, right at the camera,” said Pope. “It’s not uncommon to catch five-pound smallmouth there.”

Since Pope has fly fished on some of the nation’s best smallmouth waters from the Pennobscot River in Maine to the John Day River in Oregon, that’s saying something.

What’s really saying something, however, is the simple fact that the chance to hook a smallmouth bass – typically regarded as a northern fish – even exists in the high desert plateau stream deep in the heart of Texas.

In fact, the scenic stream is so wild and wooly that it is difficult to access and fish as it transforms itself from flat currents to near Class III rapids falling through limestone walled canyons on its journey south towards Lake Amistad on the Rio Grande River.

“It pops up out of the ground about 40 miles north of Lake Amistad near Del Rio,” said Pope. “As I understand it, the smallmouths were stocked in Lake Amistad when it was built back in the 1960s. They love the river (since) it’s very cold.”

Cold due to the springs that well up and feed the stream on its journey southward through the Lone Star State, the surrounding desert landscape is filled with a variety of wildlife including whitetail deer, Rio Grande turkeys, and, of course, the western diamondback rattlesnake.

While fishing along a 15-mile long stretch of river frontage on the Nature Conservancy’s 88,000-acre Nix Ranch, Pope and Pallot tested out several nine-foot long four, five, and six-weight Temple Fork fly rods.

Coupled with floating lines and nine-foot long 1X leaders, there were ample hook-ups on Clouser minnows and a Pallot-tied variation of the Clouser, the “Bushwood” fly.

“It’s named after the name of the country club in ‘Caddyshack,’” Pope laughed. “The brown version of the “Bushwood” looks like the little brown gopher in ‘Caddyshack.’”

While smallmouth bass are famous for their explosive takes elsewhere, Pope and Pallot found most of their Devils River smallmouths lurking in the cracks and crevasses of the river’s limestone bottom.

“Most of the fish were caught sweeping a Clouser at or near the bottom down into these finger seams and cuts and rivulets (deeper) in the water,” said Pope. “It was a lot more like trout fishing, which has not really been the case in my previous smallmouth trips.”

What was similar to the fly rod manufacturer’s previous smallmouth bass fishing experiences was the ferocious struggle that bronzebacks put up when hooked.

“Size (for) size, a smallmouth will drag a largemouth all over creation,” said Pope. “It’s about as neat and tough a fly rod fish as there is.”

“If I could only pick one fly rod fish to fish for ever, that would be a serious candidate.”

Why such a selection by a fly rod manufacturer who has fished all over the globe?

Simple – look at the best qualities found in many other game fish and they all seem to find a home in the smallmouth bass.

“They have the stamina of a steelhead with the take of a northern pike or a largemouth bass,” said Pope. “They have both ends of the spectrum very well covered.”

“For all around performance and fight, they’re among the very best I’ve ever fished for,” he added. “They’re neat little guys.”

Actually, they’re neat little devils, especially deep in the heart of Texas.