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Tips, Info, Contact Us
Tips, Knowledge, Links, and Humor (using the term rather loosely)
Most of you probably know a lot of this, but we are hoping that a few novices can gain technique and a few experts can be reminded and even moved to submit comments of their own. See some helpful links at the bottom of the page.


Handling fish
Always keep the fish close to or in the water, but how to do that when the damn things keeping flopping around while they're hooked?  Does holding the fish upside down calm them?  For the most part it does, BUT, rest the fish in your hand instead of gripping it. For a simpler method, I find that if I let fish calm down in the water at my feet, then put my hand a few inches under the fish and slowly raise it so the fish is gently resting in my hand with it's pectoral fin between index and middle finger, for some reason, they seem to consistently stay calm.
- stay away from the gills
- don't pinch the fish - especially around the gills
- when tailing the fish, apply all the pressure at the top and bottom of tailmeat (just in front of tail), not on the sides.

Removing the fly
- barbless hooks, of course, help, but if you're going barbed, have your forceps in hand to remove the fly with a quick motion.
"yeah right, how do I hold the fish, the rod and the forceps? last I checked I have only 2 hands."  Good point. Follow these steps:
1. cradle fish
2. put rod in a rod hook (check our products page), or place the reel end in your vest pocket with tip facing downstream or back toward shore or in the vest armhole with same orientation, or if your in slow water, just lay rod down in the water.
3. grab forceps

easy peasy, no? Somehow, we always make it harder for some reason.

Using a Landing Net
- Beware, many fisheries in California do not allow landing nets - anadromous (meaning fish who migrate from salt water to fresh water) waterways in Santa Cruz County, CA, for example.
- Dip net in water before nabbing the lunker
- Bring net to the head not the tail to keep fish from simply swimming out of it - seems obvious right?  But why is it when you're the net guy, the fish is always, ALWAYS, pointing the other way? In this case, lower net under fish and come straight up.
- If you have a net man, back up on shore while you're bringing fish in, unless of course you enjoy watching him swim - which can really make for better stories... so ignore what I just said.
- leave net in water while you dehook the fish. then tail the fish first before cradling front end.
- see above for removing the hook... except now you need 4 hands. here are the steps:
1. rod high in one hand while net low in the other
2. once fish is in net, stow the rod as above while keeping net in water. If net is deep, twist it to close opening.
3. Forceps in hand, you can usually grab fly without grabbing fish. Take line and fly out of net first (sure, sounds easy)
4. tail and lift fish for that georgeous picture
Newer nets have a polyethylene fine mesh which is much better for the fish.

Getting Those Pictures
- Get a waterproof camera - some of the best pictures can be those underwater as the fish swims out of the net!
- Put camera on a retracting line in case you drop it, which in my case is pretty much guaranteed. 
- Try to use darker background, usually the water.
- keep both hands thumbs out, face up to get clearer picture of fisher
- If you're like me and only have a cell phone camera in your pocket... well, good luck with that.

Some Casting Tips (like I can really help, but here goes)

Problem:  Line keeps whapping my rod (especially with heavy weights) or wrapping on itself and hanging up on a knot or indicator. I am a sidewinder by nature so when I have to cast directly overhead, this will sometimes happen. To avoid this, I simply introduce a small sideways loop in the cast by a slight twist of my wrist. As I am pulling into my backcast, I am looking at the back of my hand, as the line straightens out behind me, I roll my wrist outward into a natural golf grip position with thumb on top. This will allow line to move forward on a path slightly offset from backcast. Sometimes holding the rod in it's backmost position for an extra nanosecond is also just enough to let the heavy portion of the line get past the rod. Course, I guess that's just basic casting.

Problem: Fly line stretches out, but leader and tippet just drops down next to fly line.
This is aggravating for sure and it seems to happen right when you had carefully, stealthily, crept up to the perfect dry fly, spring creek spot where you know this huge fish is feeding. Very often this is due to not letting the line fully unfurl on the backcast before coming forward - then coming forward too far with the rod. The 10 to 2 rule is designed to allow the line to straighten out. It can also be due to poor line matching. The line system should be a decreasing gradient of line weight to the fly. If the fly line is too heavy versus a leader/tippet that is too light, the tippet will flip over on itself and gather before it drops in a nice bundle. if you can't change the leader system (why am I always out of 5X?), one technique to beat this is the "snap down". Pull your backcast up at a 30* angle or so and wait until the line is really unfurled behind you and snap the line sharply pointing the rod at a place 10 yards beyond where you want to go. Again, this is probably basic casting lesson #4 but for those of you who haven't had much instruction, like me, this might help.

Knots are the weak links in the line system. Tie them with care.  GREAT Website with animation, even!:

The most used knot: Fly to tippet
Most of us probably use the improved clinch knot. Most of the guides I know use the trilene knot and the Perfection Loop. Both are fast and good for flourocarbon which doesn't cinch as easily as monfilament. For the Trilene, basically thread through the hook eye twice making a loop plus a tag end. Wrap the tag end around the main line 5 time and tuck through the 2 loops. pull tag end to tighten. ALWAYS moisten tippet when tightening to avoid weakening.
Even better is the Perfection loop because it creates a small loop that allows the fly to move freely on a drift, which can be critical in spring creek conditions or swirly water. Start by threading hook eye and wrapping tag end through fly and around main line once loosely to make a second loop with the fly threaded on it. Wrap tag end around main line again and take the second loop and push through the first loop. Pull tight and first loop cinches around second loop leaving it uncinched on the end.

A Story: My First Steelhead

We were on the Trinity River, wade fishing a small pool below a shallow riffle. I had caught many trout in all kinds of different rivers, but I was not really prepared for the beast steelhead. Several buddies were in and around the riffle because it was easier to wade, but I had carefully found a rock to wade out to and perch upon along side the pool. A few drifts had shown a hesitation somewhere in the middle of the pool as I lifted the nymph off the rock or branch or whatever was the hangup. On about the sixth pass through, I again gently lifted the rod only to find I was hooked. "Damn, I thought, it is a branch and my hook is buried." Just then the branch bucked it's head, turned and headed downstream. Oh yeah, it's a fish, alright! About 30 yards downstream the thing swirled on the surface to which I cried "Holy s**t, that thing is huge and I must have about 5 knots in my line system, none of which are going to hold this beast!"  My buddies heard my pathetic bleating and began to head down to my spot.  I slowly brought the fish closer to me. When he caught his first look at me, he turned and peeled off 60 yards of line in the blink of an eye. Was it something I said? It was at that point I started barking out commands like Captain Ahab. "Who's got the net? Who the HELL has the net! My freakin' kingdom for a goddamn net!". My head spun around only once I think, but it was enough to bring my buddy Ron crashing through the brush with the net. I had just brought the fish back to me when Ron jumped in the water, sending the fish off again, taking me to my backing. Now I was coming unglued. My head spun around 3 or 4 times, but I was able to somehow slowly bring the fish back upstream to us. When it got close Ron tried to net it and missed. The fish actually went toward shore threatening to wrap the line around us both. Now my head had spun completely off my shoulders and was hovering in the air about 3 feet above us. I kept barking out "No, over here! No, not here, there! and other clear concise instructions to Ron. When Ron stopped listening to me, he quickly netted the fish. It was an 81/2 pound hen and it was the biggest fish I had ever caught out of a river that was not 15 yards wide. I realized suddenly that I was not on my rock anymore and that cold, cold water was trickling down throughout my waders and it was the best feeling ever. Someone once said "Steelhead ain't like other fish". No, really?

On Steelhead Guides

The next year, we floated the Trinity for the first time with Scott Stratton, one of the finest guides I've met and George Durant, again, one of the best. When we met him in the morning and when I proudly handed him my carefully pre-rigged rod, he looked over the line system, gently nodded his head which caused me to beam. He then bit the whole thing off and re-rigged.  Note to self: let the guide rig the rod, because he generally gets better tips if you, the moron fisher, actually lands fish than if you break off, no matter who rigged  it up.

By the way, call Scott at Trinity River Adventures (530-623-4179; if you really want to get put on some spots where the fish are. We're talking Steelhead, Salmon, throw in a few big browns and you got a day! 

Helpful links:
CalTrout is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving California Trout and other Salmonid species and the quality of their watersheds.
US Forest Service Region 5 - Southwest Pacific Region including California
This site has interactive topo maps and really great information about Parks and National Forest lands
This is the official website for the artwork of Joseph Tomelleri - the reigning genius of Trout Species Illustrations. Available are beautiful calendars, prints etc etc. Check out Oncorhynchus mykiss newberrii. Awesome.

Fish on for "Fish ON!"

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