Year on the fly

2015 was my first fly only year. It was mostly by accident. In the past I have always been a 60/40 conventional/fly techniques angler. Choosing my method based on the conditions and species I was targeting. But my challenge for 2015 was to learn how to tie my own flies. December 2014 I purchased my first fly tying kit and jumped right in. I spent most of January and February researching patterns I had used in the past. I wasn’t interested in creating my own unique patterns, yet. I took the flies I had confidence in and used YouTube as a tool to fill my fly boxes. It was a slow process. I spent a lot of time looking at the computer, pausing it and repeating the steps in super slow motion. With this new passion came a strong desire to only fish my flies. Here are my most memorable events as they relate to the fly:

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March was the beginning of the spring white bass run in Central Arkansas. I was eager to fish the run because I had a box of flies that hadn’t seen the water. It was the first opportunity to see if something with gills would eat a fly I tied. The March trip was also a family affair and the regulars were present. It was an awesome trip. I was able to hold my own against the baitcasting crew. Sort of, the guys with umbrella rigs were catching 3 at a time. That’s cool, every single fish I caught was on a fly I tied and that’s a reward in itself. From that point, I knew I would be throwing the fly rod the rest of the year.

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I wanted to test my new hobby in some cold flows so a trip to Missouri was planned. It was a small stream fed river in Southern Missouri full of wild rainbow trout. I invited my brother and a fresh box of new ties. The most memorable part of the trip was watching my brother swim past me beside his kayak. He got caught in a fast current and pushed under a low hanging branch. Luckily, all that was lost was his fishing gear. When you’re on any river, keep your head on a swivel and wear your life jacket. We laugh about it now. But it could have gone differently.

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Next memorable trip of 2015. A two week long road trip, which included Smallmouth bass and redfish destinations. You would be challenged to find two other locations that feature the natural beauty and kayak fly fishing opportunities found in the Ozarks and Southeast Louisiana. It was my first attempt at complex streamer patterns. The results were pretty good.

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Technically this wasn’t a trip because it’s local but something I’ll never forget. Summer ended with me attempting to create my own unique grass carp patterns. Mostly because there aren’t many grass carp exclusive patterns available. The results were off the charts. In the past, a five fish day would have been considered a huge success. There were days in August and September when I was disappointed if I didn’t catch 20 grassers.

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Visiting the tailwaters. The Spring rains kept the area lakes above the normal pools most of the year. The Corps of Engineers was forced to generate water all summer to lower the lake levels and meet electrical demands. Everything fell into place around October and I was able to test several new nymph patterns on some tailwater trout.

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The year ended on a high note. I caught some large bass in the cypress swamps near my home on streamers I tied. From the conversations I had with a few fisherman, throwing flies from a kayak isn’t as common as you’d think. I returned to Southeast Louisiana and had a great trip sight fishing huge bull reds from the kayak. I developed a bit of a tennis elbow from that trip but well worth it.

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These were just highlights of an incredible and fulfilling 2015. It was not easy and there were a few fails along the way. For example, a craw pattern I invented on 1/8 oz shaky head jig that had to be catapulted with a 10 wt. I should have included a warning label that said “casting will lead to severe head trauma.” But after it was all over I can say it a was great experience. I feel like I’m a more complete angler because of it. In 2016 I plan on learning how to shoot and edit video. I’ve named it the GoPro challenge. I purchased a GoPro in December and have been on YouTube most of January. Should be fun!

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