Becoming a More Versatile Angler – by Scott Jontes

Some of the great things about fly fishing are the endless number of species you can chase with a fly rod and the destinations this sport takes you, whether it’s somewhere exotic or your own backyard. Many are attracted to the sport for these reasons, but how do you account for more than one type of fly line when you’re tight on a budget? Most fly anglers budget for one type of line that typically fits their main style of fly fishing. If you’re like me, and the majority of fishing you do involves a floating line for both salt and freshwater applications, this can create a bit of a challenge when a floating line may not be the best option. A perfect example of this is the seasonal American Shad migration that takes place each year in Florida on the St. Johns River. The Shad are an exciting species of fish to target; they’re strong and tenacious fighters that can be extremely acrobatic during the fight. This is a reason why many anglers take advantage of this yearly migration.

Typically, the American Shad hold deeper in the water column or if the water levels are unseasonably higher than normal, a floating line may not be the best option. A sink tip line, or even a full sinking line, can dramatically increase your success rate. So what can you do to increase your odds of catching these fish if you only have a floating line? As usual, RIO has an answer for this situation: the RIO Versileader. The RIO Versileader quickly turns your floating line into a sink tip line to help get your fly down to the fish.

What’s great about the RIO Versileader is it’s a quick, versatile, and low cost option to expand your fishing opportunities. They come in a variety of lengths, sinking and floating densities, and sizes. You can choose from a wide range of quick-change options for everything including trout, spey, and scandi setups.

This season, I used the 7ft Trout version of Versileader with a 7ips sink rate for Shad. I’ve had great success pairing it with my 6wt InTouch RIO Grand line with an 18 inch tippet. The Trout version has a 12lb nylon core and welded loop at the butt-end, which makes leader changes easier. They’re tapered for increased performance however the extra weight may affect the performance of your rod so you may need to compensate for this added weight. If all of this sounds like it could work for you, then try the Versileader for yourself. It improved my success rate and could do the same for you.

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Anglers Get A Range Of Tippet Sizes with RIO’s new 3-Pack of Powerflex Tippet

IDAHO FALLS, IDAHO (May 2, 2016) – Providing great value to guides and anglers, RIO Products, manufacturer of lines, leaders, tippets, and accessories, offers its popular Powerflex Tippet in a convenient 3-pack in a range of sizes.

RIO’s Powerflex Tippet is made from high tenacity co-polymers, which gives it excellent knot strength, stretch, and suppleness. The material is ideal for dry flies, nymphs and soft hackles, and is particularly suited to the trout angler. A PTFE coating helps knots slide up tightly, neatly and without friction, and the light grey color enhances its subtlety in the water.

With the Powerflex Tippet 3-Pack, anglers get a value pack of three spools of this high performance material in a convenient, reusable plastic container that is ideal for flies, split shot or indicators –  all for a value price of $12.95. Three size ranges of 0x to 2x (15lb to 10lb), 3x to 5x (8.2lb to 5lb), and 4x to 6x (6.4lb to 3.4lb), ensure that all angler’s needs are covered.

About RIO Products:

RIO is a pioneer in developing fly lines, leaders and tippet material to enhance fly fishing experiences across the globe. Offering premium fly lines for both freshwater and saltwater fishing applications, RIO consistently utilizes field experience and scientific testing to create the best products on the market for anglers. Founded 20 years ago in the mountains of Idaho, RIO continues to develop innovative products, design revolutionary tapers and refine performance-driven fly line technologies. For more information about RIO Products, please visit Connect with us through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Vimeo.



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Do You Dangle? – by Phil Rowley

When targeting trout using chironomid patterns most stillwater fly fishers focus their effort in shallow water less than 15’ deep.  For many, a floating line, leader and a strike indicator is all that is required to be successful fly fishing lakes.  There is no denying proven success of this method but there are other ways to fly fish lakes.   For example, when trout are targeting chironomids in water over 20 feet a floating line and indicator isn’t practical, particularly when the wind is up.  Wind often causes you to overpower your casts causing a string of frustrating tangles. Continue reading

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Favorite Fish – by John Barr

john_barr_first_fish_new_rodAsking me what is my favorite fish is like asking me who is my favorite kid, there is no answer.  I like all species of  fish but this time of year I start thinking warm water and I always look forward to breaking out the 3 weight outfit and fishing for sunfish. Although bass are in the sunfish family I think of sunfish as species such as Bluegill that fit nicely into a pan thus the common name panfish that is often used to reference the group.There are a number of different species throughout the country, but in Colorado our fisheries primarily contain Bluegill, Green Sunfish, Pumpkinseed, Crappie and their hybrids. Among the many reasons I like sunfish is they are happy fish and generally very willing to grab a fly. They are beautifully marked, especially when wearing their spawning colors, and when holding one in the sun I sometimes think they would fit right in with some of the charismatic reef species in salt water.

There are numerous approaches that can be used to catch panfish but my favorite is the popper-dropper. Any small popper with rubber legs will work and  my favorite dropper is The Spork, which also happens to be my favorite carp fly. The Spork is also the dropper I use with a larger popper when targeting bass. Other flies will work but the Spork is my confidence pattern for panfish and bass so to keep it simple that is the dropper I carry. When the popper lands on the water it gets the attention of any fish that sees or hears it but they may be reluctant to take the popper and will often take the dropper without hesitation. This is especially true for larger and craftier individuals. After making the cast I like to let the combo sit for a short while, then use a variety of retrieves until I find the one that is most productive. My standard retrieve is a series of hand twists with numerous pauses during the retrieve. The popper acts like an indicator when a fish takes the dropper. Ironically the panfish and small bass tend to slam the dropper leaving no doubt that a fish has taken the dropper, but the bigger bass just inhale it and the popper may just quiver. I use a Sage 390 ONE rod,  WF5F RIO Grand line, 7 1/2 2x Trout Leader and 3x Fluoroflex Plus tippet to the dropper.

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Making the Most of It – by April Vokey

My first guiding job was hardly glamorous.

A sturgeon and Pacific salmon guide on the Fraser river, I spent my summer mornings motoring through swirling back-eddies, and gaffing floating, rotten salmon.

I cringed at the soft, furry flesh that tore under the dulling prong, the light meat plump and glistening with water-bloat and bacterial rot.  Sticky roe balls wrapped in women’s nylons were almost appetizing when compared to such “salmon stink-bait collections,” as we called them.

Throwing carcasses into the bow of my boat, I let their pungency thrive and flourish in the heat of the sun before baiting bits of them onto a hook and assuring my clients that the smell would, “grow on them — not literally, though it might feel like that by the end of the day”.

Promises of winter steelhead trips kept me in the game, after several seasons of Fraser river guiding under someone else’s license (which is the professional way of saying “thumb”), as many guides do, I left to begin my own company as an independent outfitter.

My dream was to sell the experience of B.C. steelhead to tourists and local aspiring anglers.  I wanted to give them more than just the chance of hooking a fish.  I wanted to share with them all the elements of the experience — scenery, techniques, casting, flies, shoreside lunches, bald eagles.  In short I wanted to show them fly fishing’s beauty and its lessons beyond the fish.

Winter steelheading is not the easiest pursuit, and I soon learned that a nine hour day could still be well spent if guests were taught how to be more efficient on the water.  Step by step I waded with them through runs, demonstrating and explaining fish biology, water flows, fly presentation and casting.

For this post I thought it might be beneficial to look at 15 common errors that I see regularly on both winter and summer-run steelhead trips.  Of course some of these are not always errors — some are occasionally sound techniques — but nonetheless here are some personal observations that I hope will be worthwhile.

1)  Fishing too heavy

Depending on water levels, clarity, and temperature, steelhead occasionally hold close to shore.  Many anglers make the mistake of believing that fishing deeper water inevitably increases their chances of hooking fish.  When a client asserts this belief, my response it to remind them that steelhead are almost always looking up.

Furthermore, when a fish is sitting close to shore, heavy sink tips often snag the river bottom before the fly has had time to swing into the fish’s view.  When this happens, the angler engages in a wrestling match with his tungsten opponent; thrashing water and noisy boots alarm the fish and encourage it to move elsewhere.

Casting on a slightly downstream angle can sometimes eliminate this problem, but so too can fishing with a less dense line.


2)  Assuming the water is too murky for a top water pattern

Steelhead are able to spot an angler’s waked dry fly in surprisingly cloudy conditions.  I used to refuse to fish dry flies on the Dean River unless the water was perfectly clear.  But my brother-in-law and head guide, Steve Morrow, had read in a Trey Comb’s book that steelhead can see surface patterns with just 12 to 18 inches of visibility.  We put that theory to the test and were astounded at how many fish smashed our surface flies.  Since then we’ve both been confident to encourage anglers to fish dry flies in water that is less than gin clear.


3)  Single nail knots

There are few worse feelings than that of a light rod that has just lost both its line and the fish attached to it.  I am appalled at the amount of anglers who show up for their trip of a lifetime with a single ratty nail knot connecting their backing to their running line.  What’s worse is when I find out that the culprit is their local fly shop!  There are better knots to attach running line to backing.  Even a double nail knot will do the trick.


4)  Wading out too deep

Unless you know exactly where a fish is holding, it’s best to avoid charging into the current before first casting close to shore.  I encourage anglers to start by casting just their leader, then their sink tip, and then their fly line.  Then I have them increase distance incrementally until they are casting either as far as they can or as far as they need to.

If nothing else, this makes for a safer day.


5)  Not fishing thoroughly

It’s amazing how many people walk past or through a tailout because they feel it’s too fast, shallow or choppy.  But often these tailouts hold fish that are large or aggressive.

Just as often ignored are the upper sections of the head of a run.  Usually this area has some sort of change in gradient and the water forms a gentle trough along either side of the faster flow.  It’s logical that fish rest here before making their next spurt upstream.  If the anglers can get their flies in front of one of these fish, they have a shot at getting a bite.


6)  Casting too far

This is just as frequent an error as wading too far.  I admit that I can also be guilty of this.  Long casts just feel satisfying.  However, heavy currents move the fly from its desired location, thus lessening the goal of efficiency.

Often the “seam” (as you’ll hear guides call it), runs along both sides of a swift current.  By casting across the current and trying to reach the opposite seam, the fly usually gets caught up in the heavy flow and is pushed out of the target zone.  Of course it depends on the situation, but anglers are usually better off casting their flies directly into the zone and then concentrating on fishing the area properly.


7)  Not thinking outside the box

Point #6 brings me to this one.  The folks who always “cast, swing, take a step and repeat” are the cookie cutters of the steelhead world.  I can’t count the days when I’ve watched anglers make the same cast, mindlessly swing the fly the same way, and then stand stiff in the same position in hopes that a fish might interrupt the monotony.

The best anglers know that they need to work every run a little differently, applying subtle or not-so-subtle variations to every cast, every step, and every presentation.

I think of it as piecing together a puzzle.  Every cast and the way the angler fishes it out should be executed with some strategy — or if not strategy, then at least some thought.  Each cast should be the most suitable one for the situation.

There are many variables to consider:  water speed, obstructions, hydraulics, gradient, pressure, time of year… the list is endless.  I learned much of my steelheading methodology by fishing gear when I was younger.  There were times when I high-sticked my rod, times when I walked my float downstream, and times when I dumped line into the water to gain some depth.  I still apply many of these techniques to my fishing, regardless of what sort of rod I am using.


8)  Mending too much

It’s always been a mystery to me how so many anglers ignore point #7, yet partake in excessive mending.  To mend means to fix, and if it’s not broken then why disrupt, slacken or jolt the fly in mid-presentation?  Mending is an important part of fishing, but we need to know why we are doing it.  It appears that many anglers mend out of sheer habit — and a sloppy habit at that.

Proper mending requires skill, practise, knowledge and precision.  Simply ripping the line mindlessly in one direction or the other is not efficiency.

When attempting to mend any sort of shooting head, it is important to lift the rod tip up until their running line has cleared the water.  From here, a mend might make sense provided it is the shooting head that is being adjusted rather than just the running line (I sometimes even use a haul to transmit the mend further down the line).  But please, for the sake of your guide, don’t try to mend the light running line if all the mend does is leave your shooting head where it was before, and your rod tip whipping convulsively through the air.


9)  Over before it starts

It’s quite commonplace for anglers to hear that steelhead usually take “mid swing”.  I can’t deny that I have seen this to be true, but I have also seen fish take on virtually every other part of the presentation:  when the fly first lands, in mid swing, on the dangle and on the retrieve.  Fish love to surprise us.

Fish sometimes take the fly within seconds of it hitting the water.  While it doesn’t happen often, it happens enough that an angler should be ready for it.  Common errors are making a huge sloppy mend that introduces unnecessary slack, fidgeting with gear, attire or body parts, applying chap stick, and dropping the rod tip immediately to the water immediately upon casting (thus introducing slack between the line and fly).  The latter is easily avoided by simply slowly lowering the rod tip after making a cast, while maintaining some tension on the line.


10)  Bad casts, good fish

Although it may be contradictory to point #9, bad casts can sometimes be just the cast a fish is looking for.  I have seen more bad casts catch fish than good ones, and there are times when I swear the dead drift is the reason for it.  This is too situational to elaborate on however, and while bad casts may hurt the ego, they likely won’t hurt your efficiency on the water (depending on just how bad your casting is).

11)  Have some faith

Too often I see fish lost because of distraction — specifically when an angler is taking line off their reel in preparation for the next cast.  Here, the angler neglects to give their current presentation enough faith or enough time.  The line has slack introduced, the fish takes the fly, the line isn’t managed properly, and the fish uses that to its advantage as it spits the hook.

The lesson is that it’s important to complete one swing before starting the next.


12)  Eager receiver

In the Spey world we call the “hang-down”, the “dangle”.  This is when the fly has swung through the current and has reached a position parallel with the shore.  Fish often lie here, especially when the water is high and dirty.  Anglers too anxious to re-cast retrieve their fly before it reaches a true dangle position.  I often see anglers cut their “swing time” in half.  Imagine how many more fish could be hooked if the fly was in the water for twice as much time.


13)  Omitting the strip

Stripping flies is one of the most fundamental of fly-fishing methods, so why would we not use it while steelhead fishing?  Just like the dangle, stripping the fly not only allows the angler to leave the fly in the water longer, and provides one last opportunity to persuade a nearby fish to bite.  If you have to strip line in to recast, why not take the extra few seconds to make some small strips or twitches, just in case there’s a fish following the fly?


14)  A bloody disaster with a capital “L”

The “bloody L” is one of the most common casting errors I witness in the Spey world, yet surprisingly few clients have ever heard of it.

The “bloody L” could occupy a feature article, but I’ll summarize quickly here and encourage you to research it further.

It occurs when the D-Loop fails to align the anchor parallel to the forward cast.  The name comes from the way the line lays in an “L” shape on the water.  The result is a forward cast that lacks the energy to roll over properly.  This is typically caused by setting the anchor in an improper position prior to the sweep, or by an incomplete or shortened sweep which fails to carry enough energy into the D-Loop.


15)  Quick landings

It is important to land these fish as quickly and safely as possible.  Rather than applying slight pressure to the fish with the rod straight up in the air, I encourage anglers to fight with their rod pointed low (as one would when fighting a tarpon) and downstream.  This tends to tire the fish out in the current, rather than enabling and revitalizing them.

Also please remember that when in B.C., your hooks must be single and barbless.  It might even be worthwhile to get in the habit of doing this in all rivers that are home to wild steelhead.


When releasing a fish (all wild steelhead must be released in B.C.), it is important to hold the fish gently in the water until it has recovered enough to swim away.  Facing it upstream allows the fish to regulate itself in the current, and when it has gained enough strength, it will propel itself away from the angler and back into the wild.



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RIO’s InTouch Salmo/Steelhead Line Meets Anglers Demands

InTouch SalmoSteelhead
– RIO Products, manufacturer of fly lines, leaders and tippet material, announces the new InTouch Salmo/Steelhead line – designed and built to satisfy the demands of fly fishers targeting these large anadromous species.

The line has a long head and rear taper that allows salmon and steelhead anglers to mend and control the fly at great distances when fishing the swing. A powerful bullet front taper ensures the line easily handles larger flies, while the rear weight distribution makes the line easy to roll cast and make single handed Spey casts.

In addition, the line is built on RIO’s ultra-low stretch ConnectCore, which improves the performance of a fly line by reducing the stretch associated with regular cores from 30 percent to 6 percent. This low stretch core results in more intuitive cast timing, is more sensitive to the lightest of grabs, and results in faster, more positive hook sets.

The InTouch Salmon/Steelhead line is manufactured with a supple coldwater coating over a braided core that ensures the line remains supple and tangle free, and features XS technology, AgentX, Extreme Slickness and welded loops for easy rigging. This line is available from WF6F through WF10F in a moss/yellow coloring. Find this line at any RIO dealer for $84.95

About RIO Products:
RIO is a pioneer in developing fly lines, leaders and tippet material to enhance fly fishing experiences across the globe. Offering premium fly lines for both freshwater and saltwater fishing applications, RIO consistently utilizes field experience and scientific testing to create the best products on the market for anglers. Founded 20 years ago in the mountains of Idaho, RIO continues to develop innovative products, design revolutionary tapers and refine performance-driven fly line technologies. For more information about RIO Products, please visit Connect with us through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Vimeo.

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