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Posts tagged “Steelhead

Guide Profile – Max Werkman

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Four years ago, I received an email message from Max Werkman.  I have saved this email as it is a constant reminder to me, and I refer back to it in times when I ponder what direction the sport and industry of fly fishing is heading in.  With a new generation that is typically pre-occupied with tweeting cat videos, posing half naked on Instagram, spending their time with their noses buried in their phones, or trying to level up in the most recent Xbox game – there are young men and women out there like Max.  As long as we have people like Max involved in this sport and industry, we will be in good shape.  I won’t share with you the entire email, but here’s how it begins;

My name is Max Werkman,  I’m 15 years old and I live in Holland Michigan. I love fly fishing and I always have.  I do most of my fly fishing in my local rivers here in Michigan. I also see that your company is based out of Portland Michigan, so your might know the rivers I am talking about.

I met with Max a short time after receiving this email and was came away from that time we spent together extremely impressed with his passion, thirst for knowledge, and commitment to the sport.  With all of the different opportunities available to find social connections and to be entertained, Max more than anything just wanted to fish.

Since that time I have been fortunate to spend time with Max on the river and feelings of admiration and if I’m being completely honest some amount of jealousy came over me.  I admire Max’s work ethic, energy, and passion that he exhibits while on the water – he works extremely hard and is able to find fish in even the toughest of conditions.  The jealousy stems from my own personal experience in that I don’t think I was nearly as focused, driven, and committed to anything at his age, as he is to fishing.

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Most people Max’s age are spending their summers figuring out which party they are going to go get wild at, living in the comforts of their parent’s homes, bumming money from dad to fill a tank with gas, and working on a tan at the beach.  Not Max.  Max left the comforts of post high school/pre-holy shit I have to be responsible for myself life to gain more guiding experience in Alaska.  Coming back to the Mitt, with a ton of experience Max is ready to spend the day on the water sharing his knowledge and passion for our resources –

Not only is Max and Werkman Outfitters committed to giving their clients a great experience, they are also extremely strong advocates of our environment.  Here is a statement from their website: Click here for more.

“Being from southwest Michigan, we saw the ecological and economic damage that occurred as result of Enbridge’s Line 6 B spill in the Kalamazoo River. Although the clean up has restored the habitat we feel a spill in the Straits would be far worse and more difficult to clean up.  For us, having a healthy wild fishery in the Great Lakes is critical to our livelihood. If a spill were to occur it will effect wild populations of salmon, steelhead and trout not only in the Straits, but as they are migratory, through out the Lake Michigan / Lake Huron basin. In addition, the native smallmouth bass and carp populations that live along the flats in the area will be negatively effected.”

Here’s the Q&A with Max:

What rivers do you guide on primarily?

White River

What’s your favorite method of fishing to deploy while guiding?

Honestly my favorite method of guiding would have to be float fishing. It is the most effective way for me and my clients to catch fish, but it is also a very easy method of fishing to teach as well.

Species of fish that you guide for?

 I guide for Salmon, Trout, and Steelhead as well as Smallmouth bass.

Are oranges named oranges because oranges are orange, or is orange called orange because oranges are orange?

I think that oranges are named oranges because oranges are orange. The color orange was probably established before the food in my opinion.

What’s your favorite thing about guiding?

My favorite thing about guiding is seeing the excitement that someone shows when they catch fish or see/do something that they have never done before. Seeing the excitement of catching a huge steelhead or just helping someone learn to cast a fly rod for the first time is what I love about guiding.

Favorite bank lunch to prepare for clients?

Probably my favorite lunch to prepare on the bank would have to be hamburgers. There easy to cook, don’t take up much space in the cooler, and almost everyone loves hamburgers.

If you could be in a band, which one would it be?

I am a huge metal fan so if I were to be in a band it would diffidently be Avenged Sevenfold.

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If I were to eat myself, would I become twice as large or completely disappear?

I think that I would probably disappear if I were to eat myself.

What do you believe makes a guided trip with you a unique experience?

I am only 19 years old so I am a younger guy, but I have tons of experience. Most clients have never spent a day on the river with someone who is the same age as me.

What makes a good client?

To me a good client is someone who likes to have fun, takes my advice into consideration while fishing, and someone who is willing to try something new.

Would you rather fight 1 horse-sized duck, or 100 duck-sized horses?

I would rather fight 100 duck sized horse’s because I feel like being taller would be a good advantage in fighting duck sized horse’s.

If your life was turned into a movie, who would play the part of you?

I would want Charlie Day to play me. I think he has a goofy personality like me and he is a very funny actor in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

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What else would be helpful for people to know about you?

I am not a very up tight guide, I like to have a good laugh about stuff on the river. Another thing would be that I can’t control everything that goes on during the day. Weather that is catching fish or not, or if a client is cold I cannot control everything that goes on during a guide trip.

How does someone contact you to book a trip?

Visit my website at www.werkmanoutfitters.com. Email me at max@werkmanoutfitters.com or call my cellphone at 616-403-8780.

 

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Guide Profile – Brian “Koz” Kozminski

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Networker.  Conservationist.  Educator.  Fly Fishing Evangelist.  Communicator.  If you are at all plugged into the Michigan (or beyond) fly fishing scene, chances are you are aware of the man everyone calls “Koz”.  Originally hailing from the Grand Rapids area and now residing in Northern Michigan, the only thing bigger than Brian Kozminski’s network is his generous and affable personality.  http://www.truenorthtrout.com

Koz serves many roles in the fly fishing community.  First and foremost, he is a defender of our resources – promoting educational opportunities for others to better take care of our waterways.  Koz also has done a great amount of work to promote fly fishing in a positive manner that encourages youths and others to explore the sport and take advantage of our great fishery.  Leveraging his vast network of people involved in the sport and industry, Koz serves as a one-stop hub for endless amounts of information.  It is obvious to anyone that visits his Facebook page, that Koz is a sharer of important information and events that impact and inform the entire fishing community.

While I have not yet had the privilege of spending a day on the water with him (something that will get remedied this year), my numerous conversations and encounters at shows, all of my exchanges with Koz have been nothing short of extremely pleasant and focused on driving the sport forward in a positive manner.  It is obvious that he not only cares deeply about the health of our sport and the resources, but he also has the same level of care for the people in it.

What Rivers Do you Guide on Primarily?

You can find me taking clients on a variety of water, whether wading the upper Jordan Valley, floating its cedar strewn lower or my favorite stretch of the Upper Manistee from M-72 to Three Mile.  Some wadable locales on Lake Michigan for Carp or smallmouth. We will always make a worthwhile trip to Mio on the Au Sable to throw articulated wet tube socks with the best of the Mitt Monkeys around. There are a handful of other northern Michigan streams not as often publicized, but equally rewarding because of their secrecy.

What’s your favorite method of fishing to deploy when guiding?

Anytime you have a client that can cast-> BONUS!

Watching an angler who can negotiate down trees and flip streamers within inches of structure, cast after cast, all day long, can make for a productive day. But I really, truly enjoy being on the river in near complete darkness, all other senses besides sight are heightened and on high alert when you are casting foam and deer hair tangerine sized rodents against the double shadow of a tall grassy bank that seems to move and come alive the longer you stare at it……waiting for the explosion at the surface and the entire universe erupts with chaos.

Species of fish that you guide for? 

Primarily a trout and steelhead guy by nature, but my youth was focused on bucket mouth bass, so it feels good to get back to basics and peruse local warm water species. Smallmouth and carp are so abundant in the Great Lakes and especially the Lake Charlevoix system. Toothy fresh water wolves have become more notably sought after species.

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What’s your favorite thing about guiding?

Best case scenario, at the end of the day, clients learn a thing about fly fishing, its rich and deep history in Michigan. They have a remarkable ‘all day’ experience, from casting & conservation, to bug lessons, and hopefully catching a fish or two. That is not always the case. we have to remember to make the experience fun, so they wish to return. I try to make these things memorable by providing a farm fresh lunch and out of this world scones from the Boyne Farmers Market, a taste of up north to take back home with them.

Favorite bank lunch to prepare for clients?

It used to be a wine marinated hanger steak with fresh grilled asparagus, these days, I have more requests to be ‘heart smart’ and not waste an hour grilling- even though I enjoy a good steak from time to time. Seems lately we are doing a sweet potato black bean quesadilla with pepperjack cheese and fresh ginger guacamole- and people are raving about it.

If you could be in a band, which one would it be? 

stuck on a retro 80’s mohawk, black leather kind of mood- Depeche Mode – seems Dave Gahan & I have hit bottom and are building ourselves back up from scratch. everyday, one day at a time.

Do you believe that Disney World is a people trap operated by a mouse?

Totally a mouse trap. I know people who have worked for the mouse, they rarely ever come out the other side the same. Its like they brain-wash you to the next level, CIA conspiracy kind of stuff. I would like to convince my family we could vacation in Yellowstone for 6 months on the same amount of coin we would spend in the Rat Trap…

 

What do you believe makes a guided trip with you a unique experience?

Specialize in beginners, fresh, local friendly, and genuine. Making a day trip on one of our rivers is an escape from the busy text message, fax, memo, meeting filled world. We just like to take a moment to appreciate the beauty in the nature that surrounds us.  We waste too much of our valuable time on the things that really mean so little.

What makes a good client? 

Practice casting prior to getting in a boat and not be happy with missing a few fish. You dont buy a new set of golf clubs and fly to Pebble Beach without a few practice swings. You need your A-game on any river in the Mitt, some days, it’s the wind, others it’s the fish, current, rain, bugs, the sun, etc. You need to do the best you can to be prepared for connecting with a trout. Listen to your guide, chances are, they have been down this river a dozen or more times than you have…image4

Have you ever pondered the fact that fish see people as aliens?  We hover above their environment, in a ship and pull them from their dwellings into the sky? 

It is true~ like in “Horton Hears a Who” the fish world is a speck on a flower, and their world is equally dependent upon how well we take care of it…

If your life was turned into a movie, who would play the part of you? 

Of course the ego maniac would like Brad Pitt in the lead role, some would say more like Matt Damon- not that bad, but reality is- Anthony Michael Hall(16 Candles/Weird Science fame) is your huckleberry, a sure shoe in for my days on the river and chasing Molly.untitled

How does someone contact you to book a trip?

The usual suspects: calling works- 231 675-1237 or

Facebook

Flyfishbkoz@gmail.com

http://www.truenorthtrout.com

 


Guide Profile – Matt Zudweg

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Without any shred of doubt, Matt Zudweg is one of the most (probably is #1 actually) supremely multi-talented individuals that I know.  Possessing more creativity in his left pinky finger than I have in my entire being, Matt is able to inspire through his art work, popular sticker creations, t-shirt designs, and innovative fly patterns (Click here to view his work).  That creativity, along with the enormous attention to detail that he exhibits, undoubtedly allows him to achieve great success in not only his creative business but also when he provides his expertise to clients on the river for a day of fishing.

When he’s not guiding clients to enjoyable days on the water, exercising his artistic abilities, or reconditioning classic ski boats, Matt is a leading advocate for Michigan’s precious resources,  working tirelessly to preserve and protect our fisheries.  matt-z

It’s obvious that Matt is extremely passionate about his crafts, but its his humility, humbleness, friendly demeanor, and  genuine enthusiasm for sharing great experiences that makes him a great guide, and even better person.

As a new feature on Michigan Fly, we will be highlighting a new guide each week – please see the end on how to contact to book a trip.

What Rivers Do you Guide on Primarily?

Since 2003 I’ve guided exclusively on West Michigan’s Muskegon River.

What’s your favorite method of fishing to deploy when guiding?

For steelhead my favorite and primary method of fishing is swinging flies with a Spey Rod. For trout, I’m also primarily using switch rods and swinging wet flies (unless of course there is a good surface bite)… although I am a slightly bigger fan of hucking a big streamer for the big guys, if conditions are right. For bass my favorite method is fishing large poppers into nooks and crannies or a streamer fished just under the surface. The take is what does it for me so I tend to be drawn to the method that creates the most exciting strike, although most of those methods are the more challenging ways to produce numbers of fish… I’m ok with that though.

Species of fish that you guide for?

Steelhead, Bass and Trout

What’s your favorite thing about guiding?

The teaching aspect probably. I never really pictured myself as a teacher until maybe 7 or 8 years ago. One of my kids was taking one of those tests to see what kind of job they’d be good at, so I filled one out as well. I was surprised at the time when it said I should be a teacher, but that conclusion has made much more sense to me ever since. I also love the camaraderie.

Favorite bank lunch to prepare for clients?

A good steak and some grilled pineapple.

If you could be in a band, which one would it be?

Definitely something bluegrass and from days gone by like the Osborne Brothers or Flatt and Scruggs. I’ve wanted to learn the banjo for some time now, but I’m not sure I have the musical talent to ever make that happen.

Do you believe that Disney World is a people trap operated by a mouse?

Ahh, this is a question always in the back of my mind, I’ve just been waiting for someone to finally ask it. I’ve come to the conclusion that it absolutely is a people trap and most likely run by a large herd of mice with ambitions of world domination.

What do you believe makes a guided trip with you a unique experience?

I believe my good humor, positive attitude and undying passion for making my clients better anglers is something that I have to offer.

What makes a good client?

The “ideal” client to me is someone who is easy going and looking for a great overall experience on the river. They are motivated to become a better caster and angler, and they prefer angling methods that target the most aggressive fish, rather than using methods that may be more productive for numbers of fish. I have been so blessed to have mostly clients who fit that description.

The “perfect” client also shows up in a 69 Charger painted Hemi orange and let’s me do some donuts at the boat launch.

Have you ever pondered the fact that fish see people as aliens?  We hover above their environment, in a ship and pull them from their dwellings into the sky?

Of course I do. After a certain amount of time fishing alone I think that thought crosses every anglers mind and they come to the same conclusion.

If your life was turned into a movie, who would play the part of you?

Probably Jase Robertson. He seems to have a similar sense of humor, he’s a fair skinned fellow like me and he already has a gnarly beard.

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What else would be helpful for people to know about you?

I love people, but hate crowds. I’m very comfortable around 2-4 people. I love making balsa poppers, antiqued furniture and vintage style signs. I had a life changing moment when I was 18 and dedicated my life to following Jesus. I’ve been married 22 years to the most incredible woman and we have 3 kids that mean the world to us. I feel older than I look but am trying to reverse those. Some people call me Pastor but I’m not officially a Pastor and have no plans to be at this time. Many call me “Z” or “Zuddy”, nicknames I’ve had since childhood. I still jump up and down clapping my hands when a client hooks a swung fly steelhead… it just never gets old. I’ve got a thing for Toyota 4Runners and I’m super thankful for all the opportunities that I’ve been given in this life. How’s that?

How does someone contact you to book a trip?

Through Feenstra Guide Service www.feenstraoutdoors.com or my personal website www.zflyfishing.com or by email matt@mattzudweg.com or even by calling/texting at 231-206-7660 or just yelling my name very loudly.

 

 

 


We’re Back…….

 

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The very first post written on MichiganFly was published on Jan 9th, 2014 – 3 years ago today.  That Michigan winter was especially brutal, temps that reached a high in the single digits for several days in a row and snow that was measured in feet instead of inches.  Dan and I started this as a coping method as we searched for any crutch available to maintain the level mental sanity we both had.  Luckily for us, jumping on the internet and acting like clowns worked to the degree that we didn’t have to resort to our final plan that involved tons of drugs and booze.

We decided at the time that we would operate the blog through the winter months, then bail out of it when time no longer permitted, usually signaled by the polar bears and penguins migrating back to more permanent arctic lands.  So……..we’re back for the next couple of months.  Who’s ready for Tuesday bananas?

2016 was a good year – they are all pretty damned good if you have a group of friends that you spend time with on the water.  Here’s a the start of a brief recap:

SPRING

Instead of typing some BS that nobody wants to read here, a video recap is probably better.

A few trout a few steelhead, nothing wrong with that.  Then towards the latter half of spring, something happened that….that changed everything forever.  In our circle a 20″ trout is usually referenced as a “good fish”, anything over 24″ becomes a “giant” and if you topple the 27″ mark, something that has been done once by Jeff (see his work at  Fly Fish the Mitt) its legendary status.

Well, Dan (MichiganFly co-founder) didn’t just set a new bar this year, he took the old one, broke it and shoved it up everyone’s rears.  Never in my lifetime did I expect to witness a 30″ resident brown trout being put into the net – but it happened.

The fish ate a fly of Dan’s own design – the Mitt Fiddle.  Guess what bug got fished by everyone else a lot for the rest of the year?

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Personally, I was on the struggle bus a bit streamer fishing this past spring.  I had a number of opportunities at good fish maybe even a few giants in there – but usually I had my head up my ass and completely blew the chance.  Definitely, something that will be addressed this year.  I don’t know – is there some surgical procedure or something to remove craniums from rectums?

Rest of the year recap to come soon.  Tune in tomorrow for the 1st Tuesday Bananas of the year!


Weekly Review

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If you missed the F3T in GR this past weekend, Koz has got you covered with a recap

Found this killer PT nymph variant  at Frankenfly

Matt Barthels will be tying big streamers at the Muskegon River Fly Shop soon, get in while you can fit in

Get your fill of #glassisnotdead here (Spoiler Alert: theres some badass photos)

Bucket list fish Golden Dorado is explored at Gink and Gasoline

Funny stuff over at Windknots and Tangled Lines, be sure to watch out for the fresh water sharks and Great Lakes Whales

These guys seem like fun:


Feature – Dave Hise, Casters Fly Shop

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I met Dave Hise a number of years ago, I had wandered into the Grand Rapids Orvis shop completely new to fly tying and not knowing my head from my rear in regards to where to even start.  Dave, sitting behind the counter was quick to greet me and offer his help.  I don’t know why, but at the time it was some sort of embarrassment for me to admit I didn’t even know where to start when it came to spinning bugs – instead I started fumbling around the walls of slat board loaded with endless pegs of colorful materials that at the time I had no clue what their applications or purpose were.

I suppose that my lack of comfortability in accepting Dave’s offer to help was probably a result of my previous interactions with other fly shops.  The monumental level of smugness and unhelpful attitude that I had experienced previously left me apprehensive to  seek advice or help.  Instead I opted to pretend to know what I didn’t know, quickly slide into the shop disguising myself as someone “in the know” grab a bunch of materials that I had no knowledge of the purpose, return home and try to figure stuff out.

Dave though, he was different.  It was obvious to him that I had no idea what I was doing – so he pursued further conversation with me.  As a result, I learned more in 5 minutes talking to Dave than I had in the previous 5 months.   This positive encounter substantially changed the path I was on.

Dave has since moved to North Carolina, opening Casters Fly Shop (<- click here).  He has won or been nominated for a number of tying and fishing awards, including a number of nominations for Orvis Guide of the Year.  He has an enormous number of fly patterns (<- click here) that are carried and distributed by Orvis.  Always trying new materials, Dave’s tying style is unlike most, pushing the envelope in developing ways to create fishable realistic patterns.  His flies combine realism that exceeds others and yet are functional to fish.

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Dave’s use of materials and innovation has always inspired me, since the time that I walked into the shop a fly tying rookie all the way up until this point.  While not tied to the exact lofty standards of his flies, many of the patterns that I carry in my box are direct descendants of Dave’s flies.

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Reviews of Dave’s customer service are nothing short of glowing.  His ability to consistently get his guided clients into exceptionally large North Carolina trout is impressive.  The innovation and knowledge that he shares with the fly fishing community has a positive impact on the direction of the industry.

Recently I was in desperate search of a few particular materials that the local shops do not carry, I needed these materials pronto for a demonstration tying event coming up.  Because of extremely poor planning on my part I was in a bind, I had to get the materials quickly.  I contacted Dave and explained the situation – of course he had the materials I needed, his shop has quite literally every tying material imaginable.  But that is not the impressive part, Dave continued to go far above and beyond and took it upon himself to rush ship my order to ensure they arrived in Michigan ahead of the time that I needed them.

In an age where there are endless options of where to buy from, its this extremely high level of customer service that continues to set Dave apart in the fly fishing industry.


Weekly Review

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True North Trout heads out with some buds and gets his Soul Replenished, as we all need more often than we experience.

Super interesting take at Fontinalis Rising regarding The Search for Balance

I may have just become a fan of Lanyards – check out the info I found at The Fiberglass Manifesto

Gunnar Brammer tying featured at Frankenfly

Mary and Dan O are super cool to follow along with on their adventures, check out their latest

Gink and Gasoline provided me with a mental escape from a shit week.  Read this.


Nomad Anglers Brews and Bugs

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Nomad Anglers Brews and Bugs Lineup <- Clicky Clicky!

Local shop (to 3 metro areas now!) and all around great group of dudes, Nomad Anglers puts on a winter series called Brews and Bugs where they invite fly spinners in to share with participants a few different patterns.  Unlike a lot of tying events, this series encourages active participation – so instead of just sitting around and watching a fat kid (like me) flap his trap about how awesome a fly pattern he came up with, you actually get to practice tying yourself.  All the materials are provided, all you have to do is find an excuse to leave the home for a few hours without explaining where you are going, bring your vice and other tools, and a healthy thirst that can only be quenched by consuming copious amounts of alcohol (be sure to Uber your ass home if you over do it).

Erich at Nomad in GR asked if I would share a few different steelhead nymphs on March 1st at Schmoz in GR.  So if you happen to be in the area, and want to listen to some really poor off colored humor, marvel at the fact that I wind my tying thread backwards, or simply throw fruit and vegetables (no blunt or sharp objects please) at me while I act like I know I’m doing – PLEASE RSVP TO : INFO@NOMADANGLERS.COM with your Name, Phone Number and Email Address.

On the tying menu for the evening will be – Latexed Stone Fly, Latexed Hex Nymph, BBC (Bitches Be Crazy) Fry pattern, and a “secret” egg.

latex stone BBC

 


Weekly Review

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Fly Fishing Needs Dirty Harry.

You guys, THIS IS SUPER IMPORTANT, and a must read for anyone that cares about our fisheries.

Some great advice at G & G for you newbs out there looking to row a boat.

Go see Koz at the Celebration of Fly Tyers.

Super cool vid and pattern I saw at Frankenfly

Windknots and Tangled Lines goes shirt shopping and the sense of style is glorious!

Whoa, check out these works of art over at The Fiberglass Manifesto.

Ever wondered how to construct an indicator rig for steelhead?  Nomad Anglers shows the way.


I’m Knot Messin’ Around Here!

For our first official Amateur Hour post, I’d like to chat about a topic that I feel often goes overlooked when introducing people to fly fishing: knots. While doing so, I’ll try my best to knot get too tied up with puns and will just attempt to clinch my speaking points. Ha, OK, I’m done.

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It’s fluorocarbon, so you probably can’t even see the knot.

I feel that when most people take up fly fishing, they assume knots aren’t that big of a deal.  After all, they’ve been fishing since their days in Underoos, and already know how to tie a clinch knot. And that may be so. But rigging up a fly rod poses a whole new set of challenges if all you’ve done is tied Trilene to Rapalas and crawler harnesses (not to say hardware guys are incompetent at tying knots…I’m just saying…well….yeah, let’s…let’s just not). You have to deal with tying super thin tippet material to impossibly small eyes on size 100 hooks that always seem to be trying to impale you while you are seating your knots. You also need to know your way around several different types of line-to-line connections that have ominous words in their names like “blood,” “nail,” “perfection” or “albright” (which is Latin for “good luck holding onto all those wraps, loser!”).

Fluorocarbon tippet is also a must now, which means dealing with the line self-destructing every time it turns over on itself. (You do use fluorocarbon tippets, right? I mean, everyone uses fluorocarbon. I heard the DNR is trying to outlaw it because it works so well. I’m pretty sure it was designed by NASA to tether their space ships to space stations). And, in the end, every single one of these knots needs to be as close to perfection as possible when you rely on them to hold as you try to put the brakes on that solid slab of river-current trained muscle making a hard run downstream for the safety of a submerged Forest of Fangorn (NERD!).

So, now that we’ve established how important knots are, let’s talk about how you can step up your knot game.

Use the knot in which you have the most CONFIDENCE, and that you can CONSISTENTLY tie well in ALL conditions and scenarios.

This amazingly wise piece of advice was shared with me by our very own Chief Rocka (and was probably followed by “Please stop messaging me at 3 a.m. with questions about knots.”). Sure, some people with a lot of time on their hands have said the San Diego Jam knot is the strongest terminal knot in the universe, but if you can’t tie it to near perfection after being on the river all day in cold rain with a belly full of Fireball, you won’t be able to use it. A well-tied clinch knot is better than a crappy tied SD Jam Knot every time.

Remember that practice really does make perfect.

Being able to tie a good knot in adverse conditions (be it chasing steelies in the rain or smallies under the influence) is a product of muscle memory. My advice for practicing your knots? Find the following items and put them in a big ziplock bag, tupperware container or elegant, hand-crafted, wooden keepsake box:

  • Two, differently sized spools of line. Those old spools of Berkley from your spinning gear days should work. Or, if you are super rich, actual Maxima and a few sizes of tippet.
  • Some old flies with the hooks cut off, and maybe a barrel swivel if you run indie rigs.
  • A good chunk of old fly line (you know you have to change that out eventually, right?)
  • A set of nail clippers. It’s not like you are cutting those Sasquatch toenails, anyway.

Now put that bag/box someplace where you usually have down time, like in front of your Netflix box. When you are sitting there watching The Good Wife and eating cheesy poofs, practice your damn knots. The goal is that by the time you get to Alisha dropping out of the governor’s race due to a scandal, you should be able to tie your preferred knots with ease and confidence. And, when you are on the river tying, try to tie all your knots the exact same way.  Hold the fly the same way, twist your wraps the same number of times, say the same prayer each time, etc…muscle memory is a beautiful thing.

Lubricate

I don’t care if you use nature’s universal lubricant (spit), river water, whiskey or the tears of your fishing partner. Just lube up that line like your life depends on it before you seat it down.

How to teach yourself new knots

As with most problems in life, if you Google it, you will find an answer.  Here are some great resources for learning how to tie knots online.  I didn’t include YouTube in this list, but I also highly recommend searching there if you are struggling to learn from animated pictures.  I will try to link all knots I mention in this post to one of these resources but don’t take that as the end all say all for learning it.

These two sites are the standard for animated, step-by-step knots
NetKnots.com
AnimatedKnots.com

Rio has a good library of knot tying videos and in each one show the breaking strength of the knot.
Rio Knot Tying Videos

Also consider finding a printed guide that has your favorite knots in it for keeping in your backpack (or fannypack if that’s how you swing) when on the river.  The Little Red Fishing Knot Book seems to be displayed in every single fly shop I’ve ever been to.  I have two of them.
The Little Red Fishing Knot Book

Bonus link:  The Yellowstone Angler did a very in depth comparison of tippets a few years back and in their lengthy article, had some awesome notes and discussions on various tippet and line-to-line knots I feel are worth the read.
Yellow Stone Anglers Tippet shoot-out

Fluorocarbon lines

Apparently fluorocarbon is super-big-time invisible under water and less susceptible to abrasions. As such, it’s perfect for tippet material. I’m way too cheap to buy actual tippet material in fluro, but I do cheat and buy Seaguar Invizx on a spool and use that, instead. The size difference in diameter is negligible for how I fish (my opinion, calm down, Internet) and after a few years using it, it does seem to be a ton stronger than mono tippets. However, I freaking hate tying knots with it. I don’t understand how something that is so “abrasion resistant” can be so abrasive to itself. I would literally tie the damn knots under water and still have them get all mucked-up. Eventually I realized that you just need to be patient, lube er’ up and SLOW DOWN when you are seating it. I still only ever tie standard clinch knots with Fluorocarbon as all other knots have just been disasters for me. I would like to get to where I have confidence with improved clinches, but I’m still working on that. Speak up in the comments if you are a master of the fluoro. Maybe it’s just me.

Finally, a post on knots wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t talk about actual knots. There are a plethora of knots that are useful in the world of fly fishing, and the ones you need to know will vary depending on what line/gear you are using and how you use it. Since I’m far from an expert here, I’m just going to talk about the ones I regularly use and practice.  Let’s break this down from reel to fly shall we?

Reel to backing

The Arbor knot is the best bet here. Before I knew this existed, I would just throw a bunch of overhand knots on there and call it a day. My thought was, if the fish I’m fighting has taken me all the way down to the end of my backing, it’s probably a done deal, anyways. But it’s worth using the Arbor knot, as it’s fairly easy and will definitely hold better than your shoelace knot.

Backing to fly line

How-to guides or articles almost always seem to say to use an Albright knot here. Maybe a loop-to-loop, but pulling the whole spool of fly line through the backing loop doesn’t make sense to me. I’ve always used the Albright. It’s really a simple knot, with the hardest part being the management of the nine wraps it calls for from laying overtop each other while you stack them up. Otherwise the best tip I have for you (again…credit to Chief here) is to close the gap between the backing wraps and loop in the fly line before you tighten it down by pulling on the standing end of the fly line VERY SLOWLY.  Just leave enough of the loop showing so that when you tighten it down it doesn’t disappear into the wraps of backing.

Fly line to leader
Again, this will vary greatly depending on what fly line you are using and what you are using it for. I see a lot of recommendations for the Nail Knot (with a straw) for this connection, as “apparently” it’s strong and transfers energy really well. I hate this knot, though. First off, you have to have a nail, paper clip or magic tool to tie it (apparently there is a version where you don’t, but I still stand my ground) and even then it’s a pain to get it right, as wrangling the wraps after you remove said nail is nightmare material. Even if it’s tied correctly, the whole principle of how this knot works is crazy to me. You are basically relying on the leader to squeeze down on the fly line hard enough to not slip off under a load. For me, it’s always going to be a loop-to-loop knot. All but one of my fly lines have pre-made welded loops, and once you understand the trick to tying them, perfection loops are a snap. Chuck n’ duckers should be using the blood knot here, but we’ll discuss that in the next section, as the shooting line used in that application is more akin to a heavy leader material than floaty fly line.

Leader to tippet or custom leaders

The blood knot (and if you are insane, the improved blood knot) is widely known and regarded as the strongest line-to-line knot for this scenario. You also need four hands to tie it correctly.  Seriously, if you look at this knot online or in a knot book, it will show you need to pull on two tag ends and two standing lines at the same time in opposite directions..  At the very least, you need three hands since the two tag ends are pulled in the same direction.  They way I’ve gotten around this is to…..all dentists stop reading for a bit….use my front teeth to hold the two tag ends and my hands to pull the standing lines. Depending on what you have going on in the teeth department and the variances in diameter of the two lines you are joining, this may or may not be a good solution. But I have no idea how to make it work otherwise. I pride myself on tying pretty awesome blood knots, but if I’m having an off day, my back up knot is the Double-Uni knot. It’s essentially just two clinch knots tied onto each of the lines that then smash against each other when tightened down. I don’t think it’s as strong as a blood knot but it’s just as streamlined, and (I think) much easier to tie. The Double Surgeon’s knot is also a really strong line for this connection, but it is super bulky and doesn’t traverse through eyelets well.

Leader to fly

And now the bread n’ butter knots: terminal connections. Look, there are SO many knots that can work here, so please re-read my first bullet point about using what you can confidently and consistently tie in all scenarios. I’ve been down a handful of roads here, but have come full circle and with the exception of my trout streamers, always tie either a standard clinch or improved clinch knot. These knots will never come out on top in a terminal knot strength contest but come on, it’s literally called the “fisherperson’s knot,” for Pete’s sake. And as I mentioned in the opening paragraph, I bet every single one of you reading this post (all 12 of you) already know how to tie it. For me, I just had to get to the point that I could tie it LIKE A BOSS. I will say that for whatever reason, I still struggle getting the improved version to seat correctly on my heavier leader material. But from a line tensile strength standpoint, my tippets usually break off before that knot comes into play anyway, so I haven’t been super concerned about it. However, I’ve debated going back and mastering the Trilene Knot.  I used to tie it a lot for terminating my leader to swivel for indicator rigs, but lost confidence in it.  For my big nasty trout streamers, I will often tie a Non-Slip Mono Loop for even more dip-in-the-hips action. It’s a fairly simple knot to tie, but again, takes some dedication to get right every time. For me, the struggle has been getting the loop size to not be ridiculous big.  But I’ll get there, as I really like the drunken swagger it gives my streamers.

I’ll end with a quick P.S.A about the line itself. No matter what size or material of line you are using, make sure you are checking it for nicks, frays or extreme kinks frequently throughout your fishing escapades. I know you don’t want to hear this, but if said anomalies are found, you need to change out that section of line as they are DRASTICALLY reducing the tensile strength. Unfortunately I’m speaking from experience here.

Alright! That’s all I have to say about that. I know we aren’t really a heavily comment-orientated blog, but if you are so inclined, I’d love to hear what knots you all run!

Peace out girl scout!