Friday, September 26, 2014


I've caught a lot of salmon all over the Great Lakes region over the years. Whenever I fish, I observe
the same common situations that lead to high snag rates and low catch rates. So, I decided to take a few minutes and hammer out some tips to increase your catch rate and decrease your snag rates.

1. Construct a good fluorocarbon tapered leader. I construct my salmon leaders with 25lb, 20lb, and 15lb fluorocarbon and then the 4th section is my 1st section of tippet. The 1st section of tippet consists of 1x or 2x fluorocarbon (depending on water clarity). You will never turn the fishes head with a lightly constructed leader. I like to make my leaders the length of my rod. You'll figure out what works for you.

2. Never underestimate the power of a small offering for salmon. Look, the reality is, there is no rhyme or reason as to why king salmon ever hit anything. There are arguments that they are aggression strikes only. Others argue that even though they really don't feed much in the river, they can't stop their instincts from hitting food. Who knows? All I know is that sometimes they do strike an offering, and that is the fish I'm looking for. The majority of salmon I catch around the Great Lakes region are on #12-14 hares ear nymphs, stone flies, or egg patterns. I do catch them on hex nymphs as well.

3. Yes, they do hit streamers on the swing. So don't hesitate in trying this. Be willing to mix it up with a variety of offerings.

4. Look for areas of shallow redds and fish the deep water behind them. Every once in a while I see an aggressive buck strike an offering on a redd, but the majority of legitimate strikes are by fish behind the redds in deeper water. Often these are aggressive bucks that are sparring back and forth and nailing everything in their path, regardless of size. This is also a great place to catch brown trout and steelhead gorging on eggs. 

Fishing directly over redds will likely only result in foul hooking fish. Getting fixated on the fish you can see will waste a ton of your time and keep you from actually making offerings to fish that are likely to hit.

5. Relax and let your offering drift freely! If a salmon hits your'll know it. You will likely rarely ever need a pro bass tour set to hook a salmon. When you jerk your offering every time it bumps something, you are setting yourself up to foul hook fish constantly. Frankly, I get irritated when I foul hook a fish. Above and beyond the fact that snagging is no longer legal, it's annoying and robs me of flies and time to be pursuing fish that will hit. So, relax and let that offering swing through the run you are fishing. Your offering is going to bump rocks, logs, and the plethora of fish stuffed in the holes during salmon season.

When a salmon hits you will know it. When you lift your rod at that point you will almost always immediately see a huge salmon head shaking back and forth and it's mouth opening and closing. When you see that, you'll know you did it right! And then....hold on 

Also remember that tight lining your drift results in lining (or flossing) of salmon and a much higher rate of foul hooking. One last time, relax and let that offering freely drift through the run. You can do this whether you use an indicator or not.

6. Use as little weight possible to get your offering down. I have chuck & ducked a couple of times when I was on rivers with tremendous flow and deep holes. I can't say I enjoyed it in the least. It is not a relaxing or pleasurable way to spend a day, but occasionally, it is necessary. 

The vast majority of the time I am able to use 1-3 BB size splits and that is plenty of weight to get my offering to the level of aggressive fish. The more weight you add, the more likely you are to line or snag fish, even when that is not your intent. I leave a long tag from the blood knot connecting my 3rd and 4th leader sections and apply my split shots to that tag. This lets my offerings drift more naturally in the water without the splits being directly in line with my flies. 

7. Make peace with the fact that you are just going to lose some of these fish, even when you do everything right. When salmon are fresh in the rivers they are powerful. You can do everything right and they can still take you to your backing and stick you in a log. Sometimes there is nothing you can do about it. You can't get down river fast enough. When they have you to your backing, you can't keep enough pressure on them or turn them out of a log. The fact is, they win and it is what it is. If you did everything right and did not get the fish in your hand, you come to better appreciate just how powerful and spectacular these fish are. Tip your hat to them and hit the next run.

Consider these things on your next Great Lakes Salmon trip and you will catch more fish and waste less time retying and chasing foul-hooked fish!

If you want some more personal coaching, sign up for one of our 2 retreats next Fall!  LET'S GO FISHIN'!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Let's Get It Started!

All of this cool weather and rain has me thinking about steelhead.  Of course, I'm always thinking about steelhead, but even more the past week.  I decided to get out for a few minutes this morning a poke around a few streams.  Right before sunrise, this little hen gave me the good morning kiss I was looking for.  Things are still pretty quiet on the tribs, but with this continued cool weather and more rain, there will be chrome screaming up the streams.

The question is: Are you ready?  Fall dates are booking fast.  Call me.  LET'S GO FISHIN'!

The cork has been popped off for the season!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

CASTING COACH: Two-Handed Casting Grip

Before we go any farther with single-handed casting, I want to stop and introduce a couple of things about two-handed casting. There is a lot of interest in two-handed casting these days. Two-handed casting is as simple as single-handed casting. I want to introduce the two-handed casting grip here because much of what we learned about single handed casting up to this point is EXACTLY the same for two-handed casting. So, you might as well come to the realization that you are learning important things about them both at the same time, whether you previously realized it or not. And for those of you that already have single-handed casting down and are interested in two-handed casting, this will show you that you are already farther down the road than you thought.

Knowing the point of balance of your 2-handed rod is important. This point is where you will place your hand on the forward grip. Gripping the forward grip in this place cuts back on fatigue because you won't have to grip the cork so tightly to lift the tip off the water all day long. Now, if you have shorter arms and want to move that balance point back a little, you can add weight to the reel or get a heavier reel. This is one reason you should consider getting your reel after you get your rod. Shoot me a note if you would like for me to share with you how to properly balance your rod (too much info for this segment). Also, depending on what you are casting, you may need the forward hand closer to or further from the reel. You may need to move your hand up further on the grip when using long belly lines. You may need to move the hand closer to the reel when casting short belly lines like Skagit or Scandi lines. Shorter belly lines require more use of the bottom arm to casting the short belly lines. So, find the balance point of your rod and then work on your grip from there.

Now, look back at our lessons on how to grip a single-hand rod. The grip on the forward rod grip of a two-handed is the EXACT same grip.

See, you already know what to do. More important, I want to you focus on the position of the rod in this picture. This picture represents that point right after a cast. Notice the forward rod grip is right along my forearm and the back grip is practically in my armpit. Practice holding the rod in this position, build muscle memory for this position, and make it feel natural. This combined grip needs to be wide and the back grip needs to be in next to the body at the end of a cast (not extended a foot away from the body). Trust me! Practice this position. Make it second nature. Fixing this now will make your casting so much easier when we start discussing it.

This is just a view from the opposite side of the body. 

Grip the Back Grip with your opposite hand as if you were shaking the rod's hand. Now, relax and be comfortable with that grip. No hard white-knuckling squeeze is necessary.

This picture is also a great place to discuss stance. 

As with the grip, stance should be comfortable and allow you to make the necessary rotations and transfer of body weight needed to cast. 

If you cast right-handed you want the left foot forward so that you can rotate around to the right. If your right foot is forward, you cannot rotate enough (back to the right).

If you want to make a cast from the opposite shoulder or cast left-handed, switch your feet so that the right foot is forward to allow for adequate rotation to the left.

While you are practicing the grip and post-cast positions, be mindful of your stance as well and get used to it.

Work on all of the things suggested in this series. Build your muscle memory and make it comfortable. You'll be ready for the next lesson of roll casting with the two-handed rod in no time!

Are you ready to work on your casting? Call me. LET'S GET CASTING!