Many people first learn to cast a fly rod on a bass or bluegill pond. They provide great opportunities to practice casting, learn fishing techniques, and be successful. I still remember my first day casting to bluegills with bright yellow poppers on a pond in south Georgia and the thrill of my first bass on the fly.
When people think about fly fishing, they often overlook many of the species that are a blast to pursue on the fly, one of which is the largemouth bass. For my Alabama fishing trip, a friend near Mobile invited my dad and me to come and fish at his family farm. Having learned to cast in a local bass pond in Thomasville and with many experiences since, I was excited to target the species in another state as a part of the quest.
Leading up to my spring break, I really anticipated the chance to check off another state, and when I finally arrived in Alabama, my buddy Thomas and I were able to achieve this goal in a big way. It had been a while since I had last wet my fly in a murky bed of lily pads, so when the first bass hammered my frog-popper, I was reminded of the strength and explosiveness of these incredible fish. I ended up having one of my most successful warm water days, landing many fish on both subsurface and popping flies.
I recall one fish that lurked under a log near the bank. Of course when I casted to this structure, my fly got hung up on the bit of weeds growing from the log. Hoping to free my fly, I yanked my line, and the bug jerked through the weeds. My third tug was answered by a gaping mouth smashing the popper and ripping it from the structure, naturally eliciting a “Bro, did you see that!”
Though they aren’t one of the most popular targets of fly fishermen, bass provide super fun experiences. When the bucket mouth opens up under an unsuspecting white chug bug, I jolt in excitement and aggressively set the hook, feeling the tug of one of freshwater’s most aggressive fish.
Sedona, Arizona, sits about an hour and a half outside of Phoenix. The drive from the city to this popular vacation spot full of mystics and pink Jeeps took dad and me through arid, brown desert and awe-striking, massive red rocks, for which the area is known. Sedona is a great area for rock climbing, hiking, and adventuring, along with just enjoying the beauty of the landscape. The red rock forms enormous canyons with massive rock faces and towers up around the town. Running through these incredible rock formations is the Oak Creek, a spring creek that is home to wild brown trout, along with a population of wild and released rainbows. These fish are finicky–really finicky.
Dad and I fished the creek in July. The approach, location, and adventure of fishing there as a whole are rugged but well worth the journey. With the guidance of Brian Mowers and Victor Vaughn from Sedona Fly Fishing Adventures, we climbed down through the red boulders onto a more green and lush canyon floor. This involved lots of slipping and sliding, as well as close encounters with threatening cacti and prickly century plants. We slipped into a large slow-moving section of the river and threw hopper droppers against the bank.
My first few casts elicited no response. I saw a small rise up river, so I crept through the still water hoping to prevent conspicuous bow waves. I love the hunting aspect of fly fishing. Once in position, I casted up past an overhang and allowed my drift to go under it. There was one branch breaking the surface of the water. With my luck, my line got stuck around it, so I started to slide the flies back out for another shot. As soon as I lifted, a big, golden tail slapped the water and a fish fed on my dropper! It was sort of like the tail of the humpback whale in Pacific Life ads, but with much more splashing. He immediately buzzed up stream and sailed through the air. Six times he acrobatically soared out of the water, each time causing a nervous heart pound.
Victor was jumping up and down in the water and slapping me on the shoulder. Apparently it was a nice fish for the creek. Meanwhile, I was doing all that I could to keep the fish on, fretting that he was going to spit the fly with every jump. Finally, we were able to net the fish and relieve the pressure of the fight. We checked off Arizona.
This experience was such a testament to some of coolest aspects of fly fishing. First of all, I’ve always found that one of my favorite parts of the sport is its tendency to take anglers to beautiful destinations. Fishing for wild trout under towering red-rock faces in the middle of a desert seemed even majestic. The thought of targeting browns in such an environment never would have crossed my mind. Sedona, along with many other popular destinations across America, is a spot where fishing is often overlooked. Fly fishing can be done almost anywhere; many times those places are ovelooked.
Fly fishing is one of the outdoor adventures that I enjoy most with my brother. It provides excellent opportunities for us to explore and experience nature. It also allows us to compete, which I’m told is a popular method of interaction amongst siblings. To his credit, he typically out-fishes me; however, regardless of who has more success, we both always have a blast on the water, sharing time together doing something we love. Fishing Minnesota provided us with another chance to experience new waters together. We spent the day on the Mississippi river with Kip Vieth near Monticello, targeting smallmouth bass. The weather was a bit unfavorable as it was overcast and slightly chilly, but that didn’t keep the fish from eating!
As usual, Parker caught the first fish. The goal’s requirement to actually catch a fish always seems to drift over me until I finally land the first one; it’s incredible how the pressure just instantly lets off and the mood eases. After a few missed fish, I gratefully felt this relief once I finally put my first Minnesota smallie in the boat, a nice 17-inch fish. Shortly thereafter, I was able to catch a pike for the first time ever. That was a neat experience!
Since we had officially achieved the goal, we decided to put on a popper to see if we could get some excitement on a top water bug. I made my first cast and let it drift over a slow section and then snagged an Oreo and a cherry (eating is one of the best parts of fishing...good luck of course). I looked up and noticed a rather enticing shadow beneath an overhanging willow. Seeing this as a possible home for a hungry fish, I casually picked up my line, made a false cast, and glided it into the middle of the shadow. WHAM! A wave of water pushed from two feet away, and before I had even gathered up the line to make my first pop, an eager hunter hammered the electric yellow popper. I managed to get hold of my line and lift my rod into the air for a set. Kip and I went ballistic over the epic eat as the fish zipped out some line and battled like a bonefish. I really underestimated the brute strength of these fish, which put a full bend in the 8 wt. I was using.
We eventually landed a few of these knuckle knockers. They were incredible! Getting to watch any fish smash a bug on top is one of the most exciting parts of fly fishing; an eat that gets the heart pounding is hard to beat, especially when you get to be out with your brother or a friend, sharing a passion for such incredible creatures and experiencing their diverse habitats in God’s awesome outdoors.
And of course, a little compeitition does make for a fun day. For the record, that was the first and only time I have ever out-fished the little bro. Tight lines Parker :).
Parker untangling a knot...
The Everglades are one of our nation's most incredible ecosystems. However, they are currently facing huge threats. Check out this vidoe to learn more about the issues facing the Everglades and what you can do to help. Thank you to Orvis and all who are committed to saving such an extraordinary resource.
"The great charm of fly-fishing is that we are always learning."
As the bucket opens and water rushes in, the silver king vacuums up not only the 3-inch fly, but also the water surrounding; the adrenaline of an angler shoots through the roof. There are few things more epic than the explosion of a 100+ pound tarpon. After a slow stalk of the fly bouncing through the water, this aggressive creature gulps in a fly that is a fraction of its size. With this intense strike, the dance begins! As the king sprints, flies, and shakes, what seemed like a great idea often turns into a brutal battle; even more, a workout. However, it is worth every bead of sweet and bruised knuckle. "Bowing to the silver king" and hearing the screech of one’s reel is an unmatchable experience. Holding the jaws of a beautiful tarpon and looking into its enormous eye is a testament to the beauty of God and truly one of the most rewarding and fulfilling experiences an angler can have.
A few years ago, I got the opportunity to look into that incredible eye for the first time. A fishing buddy of mine met me at the dock just as the sun started to rise. The water was glass as the sun ascended and cast its illumination into green, Florida waters. We started the day out polling for laid up fish. I had a few shots, and even one hook-up during the morning, but the fish was able to shake my fly. Around noon, we decided to take a snack break, so I whipped out my box of Oreos (a necessity for fishing) and a tub of watermelon, staying on the casting platform. While eating some of my watermelon, and in the middle of a fishing tale, something caught the corner of my eye. I quickly spun around, handed off my snack, made one false cast, and threw to a previously unseen dark line swimming 10 yards from me in the water. My fly landed right beside his face, he made one kick, and my fly vanished in a spray of water. One strip and it was on! He bursted out of the water 5 times before making a run that set my novice knuckles on fire as I tried to slow his speed (and quickly learned that he was stronger than me). I tightened the drag and cranked and reeled. After a long battle, I managed to get the fish to the boat for the first time. It was an incredible experience! Tarpon are one of the most exciting fish I've been able to purse and I look forward to every chance I get to spend on the water in the presence of such awe inspiring creatures.