Categories
Fresh Guest Blog

Why Should You Learn How to Fish? That’s a Good Question

They say that nothing worth having comes easy, and this is certainly true when it comes to catching fish. Learning how to fish is anything but easy. Getting started involves handling sharp things with unfamiliar motor skills, there are plenty of confusing knots to memorize, and because the activity has an infinite skill ceiling, it can take a while before you’re any good at it.

But once you get the hang of it, fishing is more than just fun. Casting and retrieving eventually becomes muscle memory, letting you focus deeper on all the other factors that can be taken into consideration when catching a fish, and worrying less about keeping your line out of a tree.

The surface of rippling water.

Before long, fishing becomes meditative and struggling through the initial learning curve comes with valuable lessons.

If you’ve ever asked yourself why people like to fish or how people benefit from fishing, here’s our best attempt at answering those questions…

It feels good to improve

Being confronted with learning new skills and buying lots of gear can make it intimidating to start fishing. But it doesn’t take long to pick up the basics and that turns out to be half the fun. A limitless skill ceiling means you’re always getting better, and there are always new lures, techniques or locations to try. That keeps things interesting if nothing else.

Fishing cultivates patience

It can take a while before you develop the muscle memory to work your rod and reel, much less do anything meaningful with it. That requires patience itself as you learn to read the water, weather conditions and other variables. But you’ll always have times when you thought you had a bite, times when you actually did have a bite but the fish shook off, and a whole lot of times when you don’t get any bites at all.

Trout swimming in sunlit water.

Risk, reward, luck & loss

If you have a favorite lure, it’s probably sitting at the bottom of a lake. Your second favorite lure may only be a few yards away. Perhaps the trophy bass that snapped your line just swam by. And your boots are wet too. Damn. You shouldn’t have stepped there. More than just patience, fishing teaches about measuring risk, accepting loss, addressing failure, appreciating success, and dealing with unpredictable circumstances – for better or worse.

Making the most of things

Catching a fish can be hard enough in good conditions, but you often have to persist through challenging circumstances. Maybe the bail on your reel broke again, the lures you have aren’t ideal for the situation, or the weather isn’t as nice as you thought it was going to be. You aren’t always presented with ideal conditions, which encourages resourcefulness, adaptability and creativity to overcome the unexpected.

A fishing hole pictured in front of rugged terrain.

Thinking on a systems level

It doesn’t take long before you get the basics down and start thinking about water structure, lighting levels, lunar cycles, lure colors, presentation styles and lots more. You can get deep into the psychology and physiology different fish – what their vision is like, what feeding habits they have, how aggressive they are, whether they school or not, when they move to shallower or deeper water, and so on. Broad strategic thinking is developed by learning how to fish.

Better eating, more exercise

Fresh food has a vitality to it that you can’t buy at the grocery store and catching your own dinner enhances the connection you have with your food. It also doesn’t hurt to know that you can feed yourself in unfortunate times. Nor does it hurt that getting to your favorite fishing hole often involves hiking through rough terrain while carrying lots of gear. Seeing wildlife and breathing fresh air along the way is nice too.

Several trout pictured on the surface of water.

And why is fishing fun?

Casting and retrieving with precision scratches a similar itch to playing catch or shooting targets. It’s satisfying to throw a lure exactly where you mean to, especially if tree limbs or other obstacles are in the way. And once you start, you can’t stop. It’s easy to keep saying “just one more cast” because you never know what will happen. That element of suspense and discovery may be the funnest part about fishing.

Republished with permission from Top Strike Fishing.

Categories
Blog Posts Events Fresh

Joe Boula: Slayin’ New Jersey

Joe Boula (@bassin_nj on Instagram) has pretty much lived his whole life in New Jersey.

“Technically, I was born out of state,” he says. “But I don’t know anything but New Jersey.”

From his hometown of Edison, Joe runs the New Jersey Trail for Slay Nation Tournament Fishing, a tournament dedicated to people who fish from small, non-motorized vessels, like canoes, kayaks, and jon boats. Slay Nation will be hosting its first full year of tournaments in 2019, and Joe is excited to be a part of it — especially since he’s just rediscovered the joys of fishing, himself.

“I used to fish as a kid a lot,” Joe says. “When I was thirteen, I got hit by a car and ended up sitting around in a cast for three months, playing video games. And I didn’t really get back into fishing.”

But it’s never too late to rekindle a passion.

“I had been talking about getting back into it for years,” he says. “And then my father sent me a picture of me when I was like ten. I was at a car show, and I wasn’t paying attention, I just kind of walked in front of a guy taking pictures for the local newspaper — up in Massachusetts somewhere — and he took a picture of me fishing in front of a car. And they put it in the paper.”

Seeing that picture was the motivation that adult Joe needed.

“When my dad sent me that picture, I was like ‘I’m doing it — I’m going to buy a fishing pole,'” he says. “I’d been talking about it for years, putting it off, putting it off, forgetting about it. Then spring came around, I was like, ‘I still haven’t done anything.'”

Finally, Joe pulled the trigger.

“I picked it up again just this past October,” he says. “Right before the winter hit.”

Initially, he was just doing it for the fun and nostalgia. But an off-handed joke turned it into a challenge.

“I said to my son and wife, ‘Wouldn’t it be real cool if I could get paid to fish and just quit work?’ And my son laughed at me,” Joe says. “I asked him, ‘What’s so funny?’ and he said, ‘You can’t do that!'”

Joe rose to the challenge.

“I said, ‘Watch this!’” he says. “I got serious. I started a dedicated fishing page and started trying to get some sponsors. But then the guys from Slay Nation approached me and asked if I wanted to run the tournament in New Jersey. And I said, ‘Yeah, sure, why not?’”

He’s already got it planned for the year.

“We’ve got six or seven events total planned,” Joe says. “April may be a little tough, but that lake specifically should be good for the first event.”

A busy realtor, Joe manages to balance time between his work, fishing and his family.

“My son is interested in fishing, now, but I’m not sure if he’ll do tournaments with me,” he says.

As for what it feels like to be fishing again?

“It’s just like riding a bike, you know?” Joe says.

Categories
Blog Posts Fresh

Duayne Foust: Losing and Finding Himself in Fishing

Duayne Foust (@duaynefoust on Instagram) was born and raised in northeastern Pennsylvania, where he’s been fishing since he was ten years old.

“My father took me the first time, but then I started going with my grandpa,” he says. “But I didn’t really get serious about fishing until six years ago.”

Duayne never took a break from fishing, but rather had an epiphany about its effects on him.

“I was always fishing,” he says. “But it wasn’t until I realized what fishing did for me as a person that I started putting actual work into it. I started taking it more serious because I realized the potential that was there.”

Duayne found that, for him, fishing was not about catching his quarry.

“It’s not about the fish,” he says. “It’s much deeper than that. I would say it’s a form of meditation, almost, for me. It’s an escape where I can lose myself but also find myself, if that makes sense.”

Duayne lives just minutes from the Susquehanna River, which is where he finds his peace in fishing. He discovered the therapeutic nature of fishing the Susquehanna — and fishing in general — while he was making his journey through recovery.

“I was in a bad place with some worse things,” he says. “My path was wanting to get back into fishing, and it literally saved my life.”

He’s definitely found better things in the river.

“We’re usually going after smallmouth,” he says. “But we’ll also go after muskie and walleye, but mainly smallmouth. They’re all there in the Susquehanna.”

Duayne usually varies his lures and presentations based on the time of year.

“I’ll use a spinnerbait in spring,” he says. “If I had to pick a go-to set up that I would use year-round, it would be a green pumpkin tube. But, obviously, spring or fall, I’m going to throw a topwater, mostly.”

River fishing has its own set of challenges that differ from chasing smallmouth — or any other species — in a lake.

“I’m usually out looking for deep pockets and eddies,” Duayne says. “Anywhere there’s a current change is what I’m looking for.”

Duayne is a dedicated bank fisherman, so he’s adept at finding the water and structure he wants without the benefit of a boat.

“Usually, there are a couple spots that we’ll always go to if we’re just trying to catch a fish,” he says. “I try to broaden my horizons and go to new water and stuff like that. But if I’m land based and I’m stuck in town, there’s the same walk I’ll do every time. There are a couple islands I always walk out to that hold fish.”

Although he works hard to be a successful angler, the act of fishing and what it brings has always been important to Duayne — even before he got serious about it.

“There’s always been a connection… with everything: Other people, other fishermen, the connection with nature, itself,” Duayne says. “It humbles you. It can humble you really quick.”

 

 

Categories
Adventures Blog Posts Charters, Guides and Outfitters Salt

So You Want to Be a Fishing Guide? Chandler Williams Offers Some Tips

When we last connected with Chandler Williams (@chandler_williams_fishing on Instagram), we told you about his grit: Working for a neighbor to earn his first fly rod; teaching himself how to fly cast; sleeping all night on a dock as a young teenager in order to hitch his first ride with a sport fisher. You get the idea.

In light of the way Chandler went from mulching lawns to get a fly rod to guiding 250 days a year at such a young age, we thought he might have some tips to offer reelers who might be interested in becoming guides.

It starts with a passion for fishing.

“Ever since I was at a young age, I’ve been super passionate about it,” he says. “I always used to watch Jose Wejebe, even when I was a little kid, and some of these other big names, like Chris Owens, Brian Jill, and Carter Andrews. Seeing what their lifestyles were [traveling and fishing], I thought, ‘I want my lifestyle to be that way.’ There’s just something about watching the sun on the water, that fish kick his tail, and the drag screaming. That’s something I just can’t get enough of. It’s like I’m hungry for it.”

Sustainability is also a big part of being a steward of the sport for Chandler.

“I hate killing fish so they can be mounted on the wall,” he says. “We need to practice better conservation now so that more young people will practice it, and get the message out across the world. That will make a big difference for future generations who want to work in this industry.”

“There’s so many young people these days who want to become a guide or live this lifestyle on the water,” Chandler says. “And if we don’t protect the fisheries, they won’t be able to do that.”

And you have to be willing to put in the work and pay your dues along the way.

“You’ve got to step on some toes,” Chandler says. “And go where the anglers go. I went to iCast the first time when I was fourteen. No one really showed or taught me anything up until now. I’ve learned a lot from others, but I basically taught myself. Do your research and study a lot — figure it out. Figure out how to be a good fisherman at the level you want to be at. Get on the Internet before you go on these boats and show them what you’ve already figured out and learned on your own.”

Even after doing all that research, though, you’re not likely to find an e-vite onto a boat in your inbox.

“Step on toes. Aggravate the shit out of people, you know?” Chandler says. “Demonstrate that you have the drive for it, and show them that you’re going to be at the dock at 5:30 in the morning and ready to go. If no one hires you, go to the dock every day at 6:00 in the morning when they go out, and be there when they get back, if you can. Over time, somebody’s going to eventually pick you up because they see you’re dedicated. There’s a lot of people who go out and drink at night and don’t show up for the boat the next day. So, your opportunity will surely come.”

Hitting the docks and industry shows is a great way to network, which is key to breaking into the industry.

“Make as many connections as you can,” Chandler says. “And if you burn bridges, mend them as quick as you can.”

For most folks who want to get into guiding, there are no short cuts.

“It’s not about the sponsorships or getting free stuff,” Chandler says. “It’s about having a dedication for it. Work hard and build your name, and over time, those things will come.

And if you want it, you have to go for it.

“For the younger kids coming up,” Chandler says. “This isn’t the easiest path in life, but it’s the most rewarding. And one thing I can say is never give up — no matter what.”

Categories
Blog Posts Salt

Chandler Williams: Reel Salty

These days, Chandler Williams (@chandler_williams_fishing on Instagram) splits his time between South Carolina and Key West. But the Columbia, South Carolina native has fished all over the Western Hemisphere. It took a lot of grit and gumption for him to get there, though.

“I think I went fishing for the first time when I was three,” he says. “My dad took me fishing, got me a fishing rod for my third birthday and took me bream fishing. I caught one. But when I didn’t get one on the second go-round, I threw my rod in the water.  We had to fish the rod out.”

Clearly, Chandler  was serious about fishing from the very beginning.

“Yeah, I fish more than 250 days a year, now.”

But it took a lot of determination for him to get to where he is today.

“When I was ten or eleven, I was helping a neighbor mulch his yard,” Chandler says. “And he wanted to pay me. And I told him that I wanted to get a fly rod. So, I got a fly rod from Wal Mart and taught myself how to fly cast.”

At that time, he was still fishing freshwater.

“Around the time I was fourteen, though, I was down at Edisto Beach,” Chandler says. “I went on the docks and walked onto this sports fisher and begged the guy to take me fishing or let me do a ride-along with him the next day. He said, ‘Yeah.’”

But Chandler didn’t have a way to get to the dock that early the next morning.

“So, I packed a bag for the next day, and went back to the dock,” he says. “And I slept on the dock. The captain kicked me in the foot at 5 a.m. the next day to wake me up and tell me it was time to go.”

After he graduated high school, Chandler got a job offer at a fly fishing lodge in Montana.

“I went out there and paid my dues,” he says. “It didn’t work out. But I was eager to get back into it. That was when I got a job guiding in Argentina. It was my first international guiding job.”

While in Patagonia, he was guiding for sea-run brown trout.

“After that, I went to Bolivia and did exploratory fishing for golden dorados,” Chandler says. “For four months, I lived with indigenous Amazon people, in a tent, going up and down in dugout canoes.”

Apart from the guiding he does in South Carolina and Key West, Chandler’s next plan is guiding in the Seychelles.

“I’ll be working as a head guide for Blue Safari,” he says. “We’ll be doing blue water and guiding fly fishing on the flats.”

For him, a little fly fishing and a blue water fishing is the perfect combination.

“Blue marlin are my favorite offshore target species,” he says. “But I love bonefish on the flats.”

Does he prefer offshore or flats fishing?

“It would be hard to make a choice,” Chandler says. “I love it all! I can’t separate the two. I’m addicted to both.”

Check out the second part of our interview with Chandler Williams for some tips and advice about getting into the guiding business – Coming soon. 

Categories
Blog Posts Salt

Reelin’ Strong with Kimmi Stark

Melbourne, Florida native Kimmi Stark (@kimmistark_ on Instagram) has only been fishing for about two and a half years. But she’s coming on strong!

“I just won my first fishing tournament up in the Mosquito Lagoon,” she says. This was not just her first tournament win — it was the first tournament she’d ever fished.

Although she’s always been a water girl, Kimmi didn’t get started fishing until she met her boyfriend.

“I’ve always loved being outdoors and in the water,” she says. “I’ve always surfed, and fishing is my boyfriend’s hobby, so I thought fishing was something we could on the water together. After I caught my first fish, I was hooked. I was like, ‘Alright — here we go!’ And I’ve been all-in ever since.”

“We do mostly inshore fishing,” Kimmi says. “On the Indian River Lagoon.”

Although Kimmi is happy to chase any inshore species, one, in particular, has captured her heart.

“My favorite fish are tarpon,” she says. “My personal best, right now, is about two and a half feet.”

Kimmi tries to get out at least every weekend to chase those silver kings.

“I use spinning gear,” she says. “And a combination of live and artificial bait.”

Although Kimmi is new to artificials, she’s taken a liking to them.

“I just got into artificial baits, and I actually like them a lot better,” she says. “It’s more fun and requires more skill and more precision. So, when you catch a fish, it feels like you had to work harder for it.”

Parts of the Indian River Lagoon are ideal for sight casting.

“We are mostly sight casting when we fish,” Kimmi says. “We have a flats boat, so we’re able to pole and see the fish before we cast. But when it’s tarpon, it’s often blind casting — you have to wait and see them roll. And then you go for it.”

As much as she loves chasing them, Kimmi doesn’t limit herself to tarpon.

“We’ll also go after trout and redfish,” she says. “The Indian River Lagoon is a really diverse ecosystem, so you can catch a little bit of everything.”

Remember that tournament Kimmi won?

“I had the biggest redfish at that Mosquito Lagoon tournament,” she says. “It was 32 inches. There wasn’t a just-girls category, so I outfished all the guys and the girls that day.”

Kimmi is hoping to step up her tarpon game in April with a trip to the Florida Keys.

“We want to do some wading and go after the monster tarpon they have down there,” she says. “Eventually, I want to try fly fishing, but first I want to perfect my spinning gear and artificals game before I move on to the next skill. I just want to practice and practice, learn new skills, and get better every day.”

Angling skills are not the only skills that Kimmi was motivated to learn because of fishing.

“I got into fitness because of fishing,” she says. “The first thing I ever caught was a jack, and it, like, ripped my arm off. So, I started working on getting stronger and healthier, and eventually got my personal training certificate.”

Now a personal trainer, Kimmi owns her own business, Tarpon Fitness. The business focuses on “fishing and Florida style,” she says.

As much as she gets out of exercise, it’s still the water that Kimmi goes back to.

“It’s relaxing, like therapy,” she says. “You can just go be in or on the water and feel connected with yourself, and all your worries just go away. You know how they call it salt water therapy? It’s the best thing for the mind.”

 

Categories
Blog Posts Salt

Larissa Marchsteiner: This Gator Girl Loves H2O

Larissa Marchsteiner (@gatorgirl1183 on Instagram; @GatorGirl on Facebook) was born and raised — and still lives — in South Florida. And reeling has almost always been a big part of her life.

“I’ve been fishing since before I remember,” she says. “There are pictures of me when I was about five years old holding fish. I started by fishing off the back dock of my grandparents’ house on Lake Okeechobee.”

It was her dad that introduced Larissa to fishing. And clearly, she started out as a freshwater angler.

“For the longest time, I didn’t I liked to eat fish,” she says. “Because it would always be bass or other things we caught out of Lake Okeechobee. I always though it was disgusting.”

But she had an epiphany when she started fishing Florida’s coastal waters.

“I was introduced to saltwater fish,” Larissa says. “And I was like, ‘Oh! This is really good!’ It was a different thing altogether.!”

These days, Larissa spends most of her fishing time offshore.

“These days I’m usually out on the water trying to get my wahoo,” she says. “I have yet to get one. That’s next on my bucket list.”

Apart from her wahoo, though, Larissa has a pretty solid offshore track record.

“I caught my first swordfish,” she says. “It weighed in at about 400 pounds, so I’m probably pretty spoiled. I can hold off catching another one for a little bit so that I’m not disappointed.”

But Larissa’s heart belongs to mahi.


“Mahi are probably my favorite,” she says. “I love the colors — watching them in the water and seeing them when they come out. And they’re delicious.”

She’s still chasing a big bull, though.

“I still want to get a big one,” she says. “I’ve caught decent-sized ones, but I still want to catch a good sixty-pounder.

Although, most of her reeling is offshore, Larissa still finds time to do some occasional inshore fishing.

“I go down to to Islamorada and fish with some charters down there,” she says. “We go after mangrove snapper and trout mainly.”

With all the time she spends on the water, Larissa needs to make sure she’s outfitted with the right gear and apparel. Recently, she tryed some pieces from TH20 Gear — who make apparel to reflect the mahi colors that Larissa loves so much.

“I love it,” she says. “It’s bright and vibrant. It really gets people’s attention — which is always good.”

She even modeled some of the apparel for a shoot with renowned marine photographer, Tony Ludovico.

When she’s not fishing herself, she’s an insurance agent (“I sell AFLAC — I sell the duck.”) and she’s teaching her 10-year-old son to fish, as well.

“He loves it,” Larissa says. “He likes bottom fishing because he feel it — there’s more action to bottom and ishore fishing, as opposed to trolling for mahi.”

To a certain extent, it doesn’t matter to Larissa whether she catches whatever species she is targeting.

“My favorite part about fishing is always seeing what is going to come up,” she says. “Because, obviously, even if you’re fishing for a specific species, you still don’t know what’s going to be on the end of the rod. I love looking for the color, whether I’m the one holding the rod or I have the gaff — what is it going to be? That excitement… that’s the adrenaline rush I love so much.”

But regardless of why she’s on the water, H20 is a big part of Larissa’s life.

“Fishing clears my mind,” she says. “It makes me at peace. Out on the water, I’m away from everything — usually, I don’t even have cell phone service — I can not think about everything else that’s going on. It’s my get-away place, whether I’m catching fish or not, just being out on the water makes me happy. It’s how I deal with life when it’s rough.”

 

 

 

Categories
Blog Posts Salt

Lelani Bright: Reeling Sunshine in the Florida Keys

Lelani Bright (@beautifullifemember on Instagram) was born in South Africa, growing up in Pretoria and Durban.

When I asked if her name was Hawai’ian, she schooled me.

“Lelani is actually a very Afrikaans name,” she says. “It also means ‘just cried’ in Zulu.”

She moved to the United States in 1997, and landed in the Florida Keys, settling on Key West.

“I only spoke Afrikaans, at the time,” Lelani says. “So, I learned English from Hooked on Phonics. But I still go back to South Africa every year for two months or so.”

Lelani has loved the water for, essentially, her entire life. She surfs, dives, snorkels, spearfishes, and “just about anything on or in the water.”

“My mom put a snorkel mask on me in the bathtub when I was one and taught me to snorkel,” she says. “Later, she would show me waterproof books in the ocean, while I wore my mask — I learned to read that way. We’d vacation on Mauritius, an island east of Madagascar, and I would spend the whole time in the water. I was just a total water baby.”

Fishing is a big part of her love for the water — especially offshore fishing.

“I feel like fishing is honorable hunting. You’re not just sitting there with a gun and a bullet, waiting for something to come along,” Lelani says. “You have to know what the winds and tides are doing, what fish are running and what they’re eating. You have to know how to maneuver the boat. It’s very deliberate and calculated, and that’s one of the reasons that I love the sport.”

The only piece of equipment Lelani insists on having with her is her Hookerstix rod.

“My buddy Jason Smith makes these custom rods in colors and styles that are particularly geared toward lady anglers,” she says. “They’re awesome.”

Regardless of the gear she uses, self-sufficiency and sustainability are crucial to Lelani.

“There’s also something about going out and catching a fish and knowing exactly where tonight’s meal came from and that I caught it myself,” she says. “Every day out on the water is different, they’re never the same. All fish are beautiful and there is always something to learn about them.”

One of her most memorable fishing experiences was when she hooked a blue marlin south of Tortola, in the British Virgin Islands.

“I was on this eighty-two-foot Hatteras called Aquaholic,” Lelani says. “But I was in the fighting chair, and I had this creature that was bigger and heavier than me on the end of my line. I saw its fin and saw it come out of the water. It was a bright and sunny day. I didn’t bring it to the boat, but it was just the day, the boat I was on, the people I was with and this beautiful animal basically surfing waves with us. It was surreal —  just beautiful — and the experience of being at the mercy of this creature was something that felt magical to me.”

Make no mistake  — Lelani enjoys catching fish, as well.

“Another time, I was fishing off of Galveston — we were out two days. Just me and five other people bouncing around on a boat,” she says. “I caught my first yellowfin [tuna]. I also caught several lionfish around the structure of an oil rig. It was a beautiful experience.”


Wahoo and sailfish are the next two species on the bucket list for the tennis coach, writer, and private aviation flight attendant.

“Fishing, for me, is something that I will enjoy all my life,” she says. “Like tennis, it’s something that I will be able to enjoy when I am old. I also love the community — the people I meet when I fish, the friends I make. The fishing community is like a family, and I am always learning about new species, new gear, and new techniques.”

But being on the water is not just about the fishing for Lelani. It’s clearly a happy place for her.

“When you’re in the water, you’re away from anything that’s been touched by man — sure, you may see some garbage or other things — but you’re in this serene world, seeing the fish and animals in their habitat, doing their thing. There’s just something spiritual about that,” she says.

“When I’m in the water, I feel like I’m one with nature — like I’m closer to God. I love the serenity. You put your ears in the water and you can’t hear anything except that snap, crackle and pop. You know what I mean?”

 

Categories
Blog Posts Fly Fresh

No Matter the Season, @4Seasonsflygals are Reelin’

Back in September 2016, Texan Karen Clark was visiting Vail, Colorado with her husband, some friends — Beth Paterson and Leisha Scaling — and their husbands.

“Our husbands were golfers,” she says. “And we were looking for something fun to do. So, we decided to try fly fishing.”

Karen, Beth, and Leisha had never really fished before. But they went out with Katie and Cooper Anderson (of Anderson’s Fish Camp) and were instantly hooked on the sport.

“We loved it so much that we decided to form a little fly fishing club and start an Instagram account,” Karen says of herself and her two friends (all of whom live in the Dallas area).

And that’s how 4 Seasons Fly Gals was born. When I caught up with Karen and Beth, they were visiting Karen’s rental cabin in Branson and had been out fishing on Lake Taneycomo in 24-degree weather.

“They stock rainbow trout in Taneycomo,” Karen explained. “We’re still very new to it. We’ve got to the point where we’re going out by ourselves — without guides — wading, and actually catching fish. But there’s still so much to learn.”

The Fly Gals have added another twist to their new pastime, as well.

“We’re strictly catch-and-release,” Karen says. “I would never eat anything I catch. But we take pictures of our fish. And sometimes when we get back to the cabin, we’ll print off the pictures and paint watercolors of the fish we caught. That’s always fun. We also keep a fly journal of each trip we go on.”

Gals have also started tying their own flies.

“About a year ago, we took the Orvis fly-tying class,” Karen says. “I bought the set, and I’ve tied a few flies. Every time I come to Branson, I try to the flies I’m going to need. I’ve learned to tie an egg pattern. I’ve learned the wooly bugger, I’ve learned the sculpin. The squirmy worm, the San Juan worm — we fish with a lot of those in Branson. Tying flies is a lot of fun.”

As much as they enjoy fly fishing, the Gals are occasionally met with incredulity.

“I get tickled,” Karen says. “Sometimes, we’ll be walking through the airport with our fly rods and guys will come up to us think we’re carrying our husbands’ fly rods. I’ll be like, ‘No, it’s mine — he’s the golfer.’ We do attract plenty of men with our fly rods.”

For the Gals, the learning has been a big part of the joy they’ve found in fly fishing.

“Every time you go out, you learn something new,” Karen says. “There’s always something to learn.”

She referred to their outing that day as an example.

“Today was the first time that she went out and waded by herself, and she caught her first fish,” Karen says.

“Without a guide,” Beth clarified.

“Usually, in Colorado, we go with guides because we love Katie and Cooper so much,” Karen says. “We’re all grandmas, and they’re excited to see people our age taking up something like this.”

“Especially women,” Beth adds.

Most importantly, the Gals are creating many memorable moments as they continuing honing their fly angling skills — even if some of them don’t involve catching fish.

“I was fishing for the first time by myself for the first time at this little lake. Some other folks who were fishing there suggested that I move to a spot where the fish had really been biting,” Karen says. “I picked up my rod, but I didn’t hook my fly onto it — I just let swing. And as I ran over to the new spot, I hooked the fly in my calf.”

Ouch!

“I didn’t know what to do, so I decided to go back to the fly shop and see if they could get it out of my leg,” Karen says. “So, I was walking back, and this gentleman goes, ‘What kind of fly were you using today?’ I put my leg up and said, ‘Well, it’s right here if you want to take a look.’ He said, ‘Come on over here. I’m a surgeon, and I can pop that right out for you.’ It was really funny.”

Beth recalled a recent trip to Mexico.

“We went to Punta Mita, and we thought we were really big stuff. So, we chartered a boat and went out on the ocean, fly fishing,” Beth says. “I got sick as a dog. They finally took us back to the bay.”

“We thought we knew how to fish on the ocean because we’d fly fished before,” Karen says. “We were just too big for our britches on that one.”

Although the fly outing didn’t go as planned, Karen did get a jack crevalle on spinning gear after they returned.

“That was a little more fun because we really didn’t know what we were doing with the other,” Karen says.

Karen and Beth have a wonderful sense of humor about some of their missteps. Make no mistake, though. The Gals catch plenty of fish, and their enthusiasm for fly fishing has taken them on plenty of adventures.

“It’s fun at this point in our lives that we could find something that we just love to do,” Karen says. “It’s just such a learning experience. Every time you go out, you learn something new. And we’re just beginning.”

“It’s like a treasure hunt when you’re out there fishing,” Karen says. “You just don’t know what the day’s going to be like. You don’t know how it’s going to turn out, but you’re not going to leave until you catch a fish.”

“It’s beautiful, the scenery…,” Beth says. “It’s just a great way to spend the day.”

 

 

 

 

Categories
Blog Posts Fly

Nick Vlahos hooks fish on Sandbars

Nick Vlahos (@sandbar_flies on Instagram) was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana but he grew up in Georgia. An avid fly angler, these days Nick travels between homes in Louisiana and Destin, Florida.

“I grew up in Georgia, mainly. I started fishing when I was four or five,” he says. “But I didn’t start fly fishing until I was thirteen or fourteen, after moving to Georgia. I started fly fishing for rainbow and brook trout in the mountains of north Georgia when my mom’s stepdad got me my first fly rod.”

He returned to Baton Rouge to go to college.

“It was when I started going to school at LSU [Louisiana State] that I got into saltwater fly fishing,” Nick says. “I started fly fishing out of a kayak for redfish.”

His go-to pattern for redfish is the Sandbar Mullet fly — which he ties himself and markets through his company, Sandbar Flies, as well as major outlets like Orvis.

“I like to throw it and a medium dumbbell weight to get down to the fish pretty quickly,” Nick says. “My favorite color for it is tan and purple.”

Nick didn’t always tie his own flies, though.

“Most of my buddies tied their own flies. They’d make fun of me because I didn’t, and I would bum flies off of them,” he says. “But then I actually won a fly fishing contest, and I got a gift card to Cabela’s. I spent most of it on fly-tying material and a vise, and everything I needed to get started. That was about seven or eight years ago.”

It didn’t take long for him to catch the fly-tying bug.

“From there, I was just hooked,” Nick said. “All my buddies then thought my patterns were better than theirs. So, I just stuck with it. And eventually, my flies got picked up through Orvis. I tie all the time, now.”

Nick concentrates his fly tying work on saltwater patterns — particularly those that are effective for the inshore species along the Florida and Louisiana Gulf Coasts.

“I tie based on the species that I target, mainly,” he says. “So, I create patterns for redfish and pompano, mostly. I’ll also go after tarpon, speckled trout and black drum.”

Sometimes, though, Nick’s flies will attract a species he’s not targeting.

“In Louisiana, sheepshead — which are known as the permit of Louisiana — are really picky. But they will also sometimes hit a fly, even if I’m going after redfish,” he says.

Nick sees an even wider variety of species when he fishes closer to Destin.

“In Florida, you get all the same species as Louisiana — and more,” he says. “You’ll get tarpon and bonito close to the beach in Destin. You can even catch snapper on the fly, amberjack, mahi mahi. There’s definitely a lot more species you can cover, there.”

Ultimately, it’s the challenge of fly fishing that keeps getting Nick back out on the water.

“I try to get out as much as I can,” he says. “You learn something new every time you go. It’s hard to conquer fishing — the fish are always in the mood for a different fly or they’re not there when you think they’re going to be.”