Float-n-Fly Presentation 2019

Float and Fly continues to amaze me!

It works in all kinds of water and all kinds of conditions.

It seems to work best when other tactics fail.

It's not just a small fish tactic as you can witness in this video.

I've been told my success is also in part how I fish it, how I craft my own flies, modify my own floats and tie my own leaders.

While this tactic is regularly performed with spin gear I find it more fun and effective with a fly rod.

Longer than a decade I've experimented with this tactic. Now my future quest is to perfect it.

More Species...More Locations...More Fly Patterns....
Float-n-Fly Smallie on Greg's custom tied fly

My name is Greg and I am an Angler.

Today I want to talk to you about Float and Fly.

F&F is not a new technique. It's actually been around for many years in the gear fishing world.

What's odd is the gear fish world titled this a fly technique, yet rarely do I find fly anglers doing it!

Let's take a minute and watch this short video....key in Al Lindner Video

Why Fish Float and Fly or should I ask why fish float and fly on a fly rod? 
I hope to answer both of these questions in this presentation.

Questions for you...

1. What do you do when bass are ignoring your usual game?

I find it funny when some anglers speak out,"Anybody can catch bass!" Sure, when bass are willing to be caught. Fact is anybody who really pursues bass know there are times when very few anglers can catch them.

2. Would you like to extend your smallmouth season?

More and more I find better fishing earlier and later in season and have been pushing those boundaries farther and farther into cold weather.

3. Do you like to fish for multi-species?

Personally I really enjoy catching multi-species. F-n-F can appeal to many species.

4. Do you fish from float tube, pontoon, kayak or boat?

Utilizing a bobber, cork, indicator, float, whatever you wish to call it allows for a presentation to happen while you are also actively involved in vessel navigation.

If you have answered yes to any of these questions...

I wish to give you some a very compelling argument to add Float and Fly to your fishing techniques.

In this presentation I wish to share the merits of float and fly. We will cover the "how to's" including tying, rigging, casting, and presentation.

We shall explore the many uses, discuss the nuances as well as inherited limitations.

Bass anglers will benefit the most from this technique but be assured it possesses a multi-species attraction.

I've turned many days from poor to success with this technique and I am confident with this knowledge you can too.

Thank you for joining as I share my secrets of fly fishing with Float and Fly.

In the beginning
I learned of this technique of fishing years ago, probably from the in-fisherman video or something similar. Anglers in the Tennessee area were using it in winter time to target smallmouth bass. It was rumored to have been discovered by winter season crappie anglers. The way I understand the story, some winter crappie anglers came into a bait shop and was complaining about catching smallmouth when they wanted crappie. The bait shop owner was more interested in smallmouth therefore he questioned the anglers, took notes and put to test this tactic.

I would have liked to been that guy!

My Experimentation Started...
About 12 or so years ago. It was spring on the Columbia River and fishing had it's up and down periods. I first tried f&f on spin gear but quickly found it cumbersome for the tactic and immediately switched to a fly rod. It just made more sense to me to use a fly rod. AND, I am by no means a fly only angler. With a thing-of-a-ma-bobber and Northland firefly jig in pink/white I started catching smallmouth almost immediately.

No one, myself included, could believe that this little system could catch numbers and quality of smallmouth bass but more often than not it proved it's effectiveness.

Over the next several years I continued to experiment with float and fly. Rods, lines and floats where part of the experimentation of course but I had put a big emphasis on the fly design. At that time I felt to sell the fly it would have to move away from the form of a jig. Today I'm not as concerned about the fly.

I still struggle with this decision today as to what is really better, fly or jig. I think I've come to accept that it has very little to do with the actual fly and much more about a different type of presentation.

My early flies adopted a method of moving the weight forward of the 90 degree hook bend of a jig hook in order to obtain a horizontal presentation.

The fly represents a baitfish therefore I totally feel that the Neutral Balance, horizontal presentation is important for success.

Many anglers brush it off as "just tie on a woolly bugger" or "I fished a saltwater shrimp pattern under a float and that worked just fine."

I laugh and cry a little to every fly angler who thinks the woolly bugger is an acceptable replacement for a hair jig.

If you find success with whatever weighted pattern under a float I tend to believe their fly was probably on bottom. That works at times but it's not float and fly.

I actually will use a small indicator on a clawdad rig which I fish on bottom but it's not f&f.

You will also find balance like this in today's fly known as the balance leach. Some fly anglers are exploring the "balance leech" idea. I did too. I feel like the name, balance leech, just like "wooly bugger" is trying to hide the fact that it's a fly version of a hair tied jig.

I think I said earlier...I'm over it! It's a jig and I'm "ok" with that. Since I no longer concern myself with this fact it has opened up the door for me and allowed me to pursue jig type forms and seek out any difference in operation or success.

Also float and fly flies are not trying to be a leech or bug. They are baitfish imitators. I believe a very important part of this fly presentation, after suspension, is the horizontal suspended presentation. Jigs that present this way are said to have a neutral balance.

In my attempt to give this technique a new name I started to call float and fly "suspend fishing". I believe the key to success lies in "the suspension" of the fly.

I've learn this about bass, and you may know this too, The hardest bass to catch are when they get into a suspended or neutral state. In this condition bass don't chase streamers, they either ignore or refuse topwater, often if you can see them they are just motionless.
I believe a key to catching suspended fish is a suspended presentation.

Can you think of a gear tactic that calls on the suspended technique?
The Husky Jerk or the common name Jerkbait can be quite effective at times due to its ability to suspend when motionless.

In come the twinkie example. No matter how full you are from eating I bet if I hold a twinkie in front of you long enough you'll give in and eat it. I'll put money on that bet. Maybe beer would be a better example.

I don't think fish are any different. Given an opportunity eventually they will give in to the easy meal.

If nothing else maybe curiosity takes over.

But that's not all

In my years of experimentation I've also learned that this technique is not just for neutral fish. In part I believe this delivery system is mostly different than anything else they are use to seeing.

One such revelation I've encountered hundreds of times is the extremely high percentage of comeback strikes.

Example; you're fishing a streamer and a smallie takes a swipe but refuses it. Drop f-n-f in and it's a done deal.

I actually started to adopt a two angler system where front angler fishes a streamer and rear angler fishes f-n-f. This tag team approach can be crazy effective for comeback strikes.

Often in this situation the streamer guy just becomes the attract-er and calls the fish up to look meanwhile coming up the rear, the f-n-f guy is catching most the fish.

The Buddy Program

Another "done deal" with F-n-F is for those times when your boat partner has a fished hooked and you see other fish under his fish, "Buddy's", Drop that F-n-F in and hook up for a double.

Around boulders and heavy structure

Good anglers know that bass hang around rocks and structure. But many times we can't seem to coax them out with usual offerings.

Float and fly has that ability to go in, hang around long enough to entice a strike when other, faster offerings get pulled away before the fish makes up his mind to commit.

Another revelation I've had is drifting river current seams and tailouts. I've always known bass will hang out in these places but have never found streamer methods to consistently succeed in these water types. F-n-f has become my go to for these approaches.

In this case it starts to resemble trout nymphing. Regardless it can extract some big fish when other methods just don't seem to work.

Wind blown points and riprap

Another advantage of f-n-f is no matter how windy it gets you can still see the strike. When I started experimenting with this technique on the windy columbia river I soon saw how effective it was at taking fish off the railroad riprap banks. I always knew fish would suspend off these but they never seemed to produce as good as they should.
With f-n-f you can make your cast close, throw some slack in and let the wind carry it into the riprap. You might have to adjust depth a couple times to dial it in but when you do results will follow.

The fish above was caught during a kayak bass fishing tournament that I won.
Also a great technique for kayak anglers. Anybody who as fished from a kayak knows that fly fishing is next to impossible. Too much going on with boat control and fly control. With F-n-F once you have placed you cast you can set rod down and control your boat while you fly does its work.

Fish Hang on

It's surprising how long fish will hang on to the fly in this presentation. It gives you time to get your line in control and set a solid hookset.

Really helps non fly fishers get into fly fishing. Maybe you have that son/daughter, brother or friend that just can't seem to break in to fly fishing. I've turned many into fly fishing finatics with teaching them float and fly. One, they see the strike. two, they don't have to spend all their time casting. Three, they enjoy the fish battle.

Expand your season. You can take this technique late into fall and start early in the spring. Depending on where you are you may even be able to enjoy winter fishing it.


When does it not work?

It really helps to have ripple on the water. I find this method nearly drops dead on glass calm days. You can impart your own action and that helps but still doesn't seem to be as effective as natural wind. A small ripple is all you need and I've seen it work in water rough to the point of almost unable to fish.

How to fish f-n-f

I'll start this off by telling you to fish this as if you are fishing a topwater popper.

Cast to likely structure, let the rings settle, move it a little, pause, move a little, pause. If you like where it is sitting don't move it at all.

While this is fishing with a float, it's not sitting around and waiting for something to happen. Yes, there are days fish move slower than others but in general 5-15 seconds in one spot is long enough. Move on!

The only exception I've found to this is crappie fishing. It sometimes takes crappie longer to commit, even so maybe a minute max.

Cast tight to structure. Use the wind to let it float deeper into structure.

Fish weed edges, current breaks, bluffs, jetties, rock piles, boulders, etc.

What about floats...This subject could turn into an all night discussion. 

Things to consider when choosing a float...

  • Needs to float your fly or jig
  • Is depth adjustment critical to your day of fishing?
  • Will your float show you bottom or an upward strike?

I'm favoring a pencil style for two reasons: 

  • First, they will identify when the fly becomes tight to the float by standing up. If they don't stand up then your fly is probably on bottom. 
  • Second, a pencil style will identify a rising or upward take by falling over. A rising take is when a fish has picked up your fly on a raise. Raising strikes can be very hard or impossible to identify with round floats. 

Hook is always clean in top of mouth:

One of the most impressive traits of this technique is the clean hook entry and clean release. Top lip every time and rarely do fish throw the hook.

About 95% off time hook is in top lip

Preferred Rods

I like a 7 weight. I've used 5's, 6's and 8wts but I think the best all around float and fly stick is a 7wt with a mod-fast action and 9ft.

Preferred Fly Lines

I like a line that has a medium to long head. Somewhere in 40-50 foot range. S/A Titan Long, S/A Anadro. S/A Infinety is also good but you might want to bump up one size. Any nymph/indicator line usually works well.


Varies with application. For Lake fishing I usually make my own with fluorocarbon material.
I start with 4 feet of 0.020" or 30lb tied to a tippet ring
Then tie on 2-3 foot of 15lb
Then I blood knot 2-3 foot of 6-10lb depending tippet depending on application and water clarity.

For river fishing I'll go with a tapered leader in either 7.5' or 9' - 2x, 3x, or 4x and use a air-lock type of strike indicator for easy quick adjustment.


Loop knot or Rapala knot...Funny story about that. Which came first. Way back a fly guide friend had asked me if I knew how to tie a loop knot. Well I knew the rapala loop not but not knowing if that was the knot he was talking about I said show me your loop knot. He did. Then I proceeded to tell him "oh yeah, a Rapala knot! He got very offended. I'm like it's on every rapala lure package I've ever seen. Which came first...I don't know.


Are you ready to tie some flies?

Ultra-lite Bait Finesse System Presentation for Trout and Bass - 2019

A small group of trout anglers started reaching beyond the noodle soft spin rods, spin reels and inline spinners into a new era redefining the ultra-light fishing approach. With the help of Japanese anglers, along with precision Japanese manufacturing modern levelwind baitcasting reels and ultra light baitcasting rods are carving a path to fish lighter, more accurate and more fun than ever thought possible. Light lines and small lures are no longer just panfish toys. In this presentation I will cover rods, both available and custom build options, available reels, lines and lures. I will share where and how I've found success. Join in as I share the excitement I have experienced with this amazingly fun technique and be a part of the early progression as it evolves.

What is BFS

Have you've heard of a fishing term called BFS or Bait Finesse System?

I first heard of BFS being associated with bass fishing especially Japanese bass fishing. Japan luvs American bass fishing so much that they stocked their reservoirs with bass. They hold tournaments just like Americans do.

But Japan has few reservoirs and a ton of fishing pressure. To overcome highly pressured fishing conditions the Japanese anglers turned to downsizing their fishing equipment to light lures and plastics.

In order to fish these light offerings spin gear was employed. But bass anglers, especially Japanese bass anglers, don't really care for spinning gear so they created a movement toward ultra-light baitcasting gear.

You won't find an american bass casting rod under medium power...maybe a couple ML's out there. At one time shorter casting rods were pretty normal like this old 5'6" Cotton Cordell. While not an ultra light I still enjoy fishing this 35 yr old rod. It's casting accuracy is tough to match.

Japan bass scene is where Bait Finesse System was conceived. At least that is one story. Members of the trout movement lay claim that they started BFS. I'm not sure which is true but I lean toward the bass story.

My belief is that some of the mountain trout stream anglers were also bass anglers. Knowing the advantages of ultralight baitcasting reels they saw an opportunity to fit it into their trout quiver. All they needed was to craft some custom BFS trout rods and let the games begin.

My Evolution of Ultra-Light Bassin' with a Baitcaster

In 2007 I started fishing the Columbia River Smallmouth bass

About that time, without ever hearing the term BFS, I started pushing my bass casting gear toward a similar revolution.

About year 2008 I had bought a gloomis casting rod from the new nrx line of rods. It was the lightest in the bunch of casting rods. Model nrx802c rated medium. Soon after I purchase a Curado 50 size reel.

At first I fished this rod like any other casting rod and it was impressive. Then I started downsizing line, downsizing lure weights, even fishing weightless plastics with baitcasting gear.

I also experimented with using baitcasting gear in drop shot fishing situations.

I kept reducing my lure weight trying to find when this rod would no longer load.

I finally got to a point were I was casting weightless senkos on 8lb line.

One day fishing with my friend Gabe he says to me, you're like fishing ultralight with a baitcasting.

This was before either one of us had heard of BFS bass fishing.

Later, like much later I continued to evolve into bfs bass fishing with actual japan models of bfs bass rods


To Ditch the spin reel
I'm not against spin reels and they are the right tool for certain uses but my goal was to ditch them!!!

I grew tired of twisted line and the awkward size in relation to a rod and the oversize rod guides needed to make them work right.

Also I didn't like how much room they took up in my boats rod box and spinning rods were always the cause of lines being tangled with other rods.

It just seems to me that baitcasting, levelwind style reels are superior in so many ways most notably in line management and casting accuracy but also are also compact and store easier.

Japanese bass anglers must feel this same way. Most won't even consider using a spinning reel.

A Vote for the Spin Reel

Please understand I'm not totally discounting the positive attributes of the spin reel.

If you want max casting distance or super tough casting situations spin rods are your friend.

Maybe you are starting someone into fishing, spin rod is a great tool for this.

*Guess who holds the original patent for the spin reel. I understand it is Orvis

Switching Gears...Exploring Ultra-lite

A few years back on found myself on foot fishing a large reservoir in New Mexico. With the size of water, shoreline obstacles and wind I ruled out fly fishing pretty quick. I felt like I would need a spin rod to fish this place.

The lightest thing I had was a drop shot spin rod so I loaded it with some small line and went for it. At first I was just throwing some light jig/grub combinations and soon started catching some walleye and bass.

I was having fun so I decided to explore deeper into "lite" or ultra-light game.

I bought a good ultralight spin rod and reel and started to collect some small lures. I also started to tie some of my own extra heavy flies to use on my ultra-lite rod. I found some success with some and none with others but I continued to have fun therefore I continued to explore.

Story..I remember way back I took a friend fishing. He needed to buy a new rod and reel....noodle rod

I always thought ultra-light spin rods were just too noodle like to take serious. So now with a good modern UL rod I have a different opinion about ultralight spin gear. Not noodle soft rods anymore.

Enter Trout BFS

Fast forward a couple years later on a trout stream in winter. I had been learning trout spey and swinging small streamers for trout. It was pretty fun fishing. Then one day I was talking a friend about swing flies and what we could do to improve them and in conversation he had mentioned how effective spoons were on trout and we could only get that same attraction in a fly it would be unbelievable.

I was curious about these spoons so the next trip I brought along my ultralight spin rod and a couple little spoons that I'd collected years before. On that day what I learned forever changed my approach to ultralight, for both gear and fly. TOTAL GAME CHANGER!!!

Before ultralight, while swinging flies my catch would be approx 95% rainbow trout. I really thought there wasn't many brown trout in this water.

My first run with the ultra light spin was quite a different story. Most of the fish I caught that day were brown trout. More than I've ever caught on that river in one day ever and I was still catching rainbows too.

In short what I was learning that day was trout are way more attracted to small lures than they are swung flies. I should tell you now that I still fish flies for trout...but why limit oneself!

How did I find BFS

While in my quest for small spoons I came across a website, www.finesses-fishing.com, were I found a small group of guys who were geeking out on ultralight fishing. On this sight I also found BFS trout.

At the same time frame I had just read this book, Piscatorial Absurdities by Joe Robinson. Joe was an avid fly fisherman who learned of ultra light fishing from Dave Whitlock. Joe spent many years exploring ultra light fishing about as deep as one could venture into. It's a well written book as well as quite entertaining.

Now I've already have heard of bfs in bass fishing.

So imagine now, I've been hooked on bfs bass since 2008 and also hooked on ultra-light angling for trout and here comes Trout BFS.

Wilt!!! Wilt!!! Holy shit Wilt!!!. Do you guys know JD?

Long story short, I vowed to hang up my spin rods forever and go all in on bfs baitcasting.
And you should too! End of story! I'm Out!!!

Hang on, Just Kidding! We're just getting started

For whatever reason I've always been attracted to small lures but fishing them was more of a novelty idea than actual reality. Most attempts to fish with them revealed that my gear was too large to effectively cast and forget actually feeling any of their action.

Do you have a collection of small lures, spoons or spinners?
Did you ever think they could be practical in anything other than the panfish fishing.?

Now, I know a few older guys that have fished mepps and panther martins for trout all their lives. And they are quite good at it.


Bait Finesse System - Born on the idea that an angler can fish small lures, spoons, spinners to mountain stream trout with highly accurate underhand cast enabling anglers to work upstream casting under overhangs, eddies, pockets, etc, with excellent presentations while seeking explosive reactions from predatory feeding trout.
Can we expand on this? Heck yeah! More on that in a bit!

Let's break it down starting with reels
As progression of bfs bass was taking place the demand for smaller reels with better cast braking / anti-backlash systems was coming around.

The technology that really drives ultralight bfs reels is lighter spools. With lighter spools it takes less inertia to get it moving so therefore lighter lures can be cast

The Pro's and Con's of BFS

  • Much more compact gear especially for boats, floats, kayak anglers
  • Can be much more accurate casting.
  • Virtually no line twist problems. This alone makes them quite attractive.
  • Generally much shorter rods
  • Underhand casting
  • Learning curve for reel setup
  • Learning curve for casting
  • Backlash
  • Lure size/weight restrictions...Greg's 3 gram rule
  • Available gear and prices..although good spin gear can be just as expensive
BFS trout rods - why so short

  • Underhand casting - picture yourself knee deep wading
  • Shorter is more accurate
  • Confined spaces

Note on the short rod subject

JDM markets trout rods in two different categories of fishing they call Mountain Stream and Area. BFS Trout rods that are referred to as Mountain Stream are short rods for small streams where as Area rods are longer and designed for lake type of fishing. 

Lure size/weight restrictions
  • Lighter the lure the harder to cast
  • Trout 3-5gm
  • Bass 4-7gm

Gear Availability and Pricing

  • True BFS reels still a jdm item
  • Limited availability of jdm rods. no USA rods (maybe a St Croix)
  • Build your own using US sourced spin rod blanks


So what is the drive to get into this? I believe for me it's several factors. For one the coolness factor.
  • In a day when most fly anglers frown at spin anglers I feel like I have a secret weapon. 
  • All those little lures, spoons, spinners are now open for me to explore. 
  • It's a one rod, one box of lures, one angler show
  • Compact and precise
  • Hard, reactive strikes
  • Attracts action/fish from all types of water
  • Very well suited to fish from kayak or inflatable
  • Light line... line can be a little as 5x tippet
  • Very challenging

Uncomplicated - While fly fishing for trout is awesome I feel it is becoming too complicated. 
  • Multi fly rigs and tangles
  • Euro nymph now a big thing and that's cool but where do we draw the line on what is fly fishing
  • Streamers are awesome but not so much on foot or your own self propelled craft. Have you ever tried to fish a streamer from your own craft while floating a river. this is why we have drift boats and guides
  • Swinging two hand for trout is cool but takes certain water types and limited in trout attraction
Why not just ultra-light spin fish?
  • No reason not to
  • Harder to cast accurate
  • Line twist
  • Good equipment just as expensive as BFS

My BFS Trout Day Looks Like...

Currently my trout time is limited to some winter days on San Juan River and some bassin on my local lakes. On the San Juan I float a 3 mile stretch known as the quality waters. It's loaded with rainbows and browns. Most anglers think to catch fish you need to fish size 28 midge patterns and there is some truth to this. Fact is the fish are so accustomed to anglers that as soon as they know anglers are around they lock their jaws on everything except the tiny bugs they are accustomed to eating. 

One exception is to be the first one down the river and hit the hot spots before other anglers get in them. There is always a fish or two that will ferociously attack on a reaction type of presentation: such as lure, spinner, streamer, etc.

Most anglers think it's fly water only but it is actually no more than two, single hook barbless fly or lure. I've become fine with the dirty looks. Fact is I move along quickly and if an angler is already in an area I was going to fish I just move along. I don't stay in one area very long with this presentation. 

On this float I encounter water types such as riffles and runs and long stretches. I also encounter lake like pool areas. There are eddy's and seams. I can adapt my BFS to any of it with nothing more than a change of lure. No indicators, no multi-fly rigs, no sink or float lines. Just one rod and one box of lures.

Pools I usually float and fan cast. Cast toward any structure you can see. Be mindful of followers. If you see them soon enough many you can coax to eat with a sudden pause.

Runs I will cast across quartering downstream and swing like one would for trout spey. Spoons are real good at swinging. Be sure to hit the far side. Fish are always on the far side, right Lance?

Look for any seams and cast across them retrieving back through them.

Look for back eddies, foam lines and drop offs.

If wading, I fish upstream to undercuts, overhangs, boulder pockets

Most areas I cover quickly either by floating slowing or get out and wade. I fish this from a Outcast stealth Pro and sometimes I just put my feet down, stand up, make a couple cast, sit back down and move on.

Big lake type areas I float and fan cast cover wide areas of water. At one time I could hardly catch in fish in this area. Now I can find many. They seem to respond better to lures. I think lures can call them from farther away to come in on curiosity. 

Staying ahead of the guide boats is my strategy.

The compact gear easily fits withing the confines of my watercraft therefore navigating rapids and other hazards are a non issue while floating

It's freedom! Just me a my favorite rod.

So Why Not Bass

Understand as the name "trout" enters this picture often I think the bigger overlooked area of bfs is in fact ultra light bass angling.

My assumption would be that there are a few of you here tonight with a bigger interest in bass fishing. As of matter of fact I'm willing to bet everyone of you is pretty crazy about bass fishing.

In America we have all the standard bass gear one could ever want! We have bass fly gear!. But where is the evolution of a real ultralight bass game.

I noticed a year ago St.Croix came out with some new kayak bass rods. I checked them out and was seriously disappointed. All they were was 7 foot medium and 7'6" med/hvy rods with the name Yak on them. Obviously whoever designed them has never fished from a kayak.

Whether you float, wade or boat I think you can have some fun with lighter, shorter, smaller rods for ultra-light bass fishing.

Lots of lures are available already including crankbaits, minnowbaits, topwater, spinbaits. Treble hooks can be replaced with either single hooks of doubles.

What do you need to get started?

Pick a rod. This is probably the hardest part at this point. Options are go JDM, build your own, or try to find a domestic offered product such as a bass pro micro light or the St. Croix Panfish model.

Pick a reel. US market Shimano Aldebaron 50. Or go JDM.  Or find a Shimano size 50 Curado or Core Or modify a reel with an aftermarket spool. Keep in mind any baitcaster will work but the better it is the better it will cast light line and lure.

Pick a line. Don't start too small. I like mono in the 0.007" size give or take 0.001". This typically falls into 4 to 6lb range.  Braid might be an option. I recommend one of the 8 carrier braid types. I'd avoid fluorocarbon just for reasons of manageability and cost. If fluorocarbon is something you feel will benefit you mess with it after you have dialed in a good working system with monofilament first.

Pick some lures, spinners, spoons. My advice don't start too small. Plenty of good trout stuff in the 3-5gm (1/8-3/16oz) range for trout and 3-7gm (1/8-1/4oz) for bass stuff. Start on the upper end of these weights.

As you are starting out and getting your outfit dialed in start on the larger size of lines and lures. They manage better and are easier to cast with. Gradually work your way down in size and find your comfort point.

Adjusting Reels

Baitcast reels have two critical adjustments: spool tension and backlash suppression.

Spool Tension: Note...Spool tension helps control backlash at the end of a cast
Set first with lure attached disengage reel and allow lure to drop under it's own weight. Adjust spool tension tight enough that the lure has a controlled descent. You are always looking for a controlled descent so if you change lure weights this might need to be re-adjusted.

Backlash Suppression: Note backlash suppression helps control backlash on the initial start of the cast when spool speed is the highest. Depending on reel this can be a dial or may be other adjusters under side plate or a combination of both. Once this gets to desire setting it won't need to be adjusted much if any at all. Start with large amount of suppression this will limit casting distance but control backlash better. Once cast are being performed without backlash you can start backing down this adjustment until desire control is reached.

Note about different systems..many reels use centrifugal mechanisms, others use magnetic systems, some use a hybrid of both. New on the scene is Shimano's DC reels found in select curado's and SLX's. Right now only in bigger sizes. I'm watching for this technology to come down in size. Even if they made a 50 size I would be all over it for BFS.


Will I build you a rod?
Reels? - if money no concern I would go with US market Shimano Aldebaron 50MGL

Stren Crappie mono 4lb
Sunline Super Natural Mono 4 or 6lb
Rapala Ultra Light all
Rapala Ultra Light Crank - Gold and Firetiger
Rapala Mini Fat Rap - Crawdad and Perch
Rapala Ultra Light Pop
Yo-Zuri L-Minnow 1/8 model - Gold Flame and Muddler Minnow
Dynamic Trout Spinnerbait
VMC Duolock Snap Swivels #10
Thomas Cyclone Spoons - 1/6th Gold Red
Finesse Fishing - USA JDM Gear Site
Finesse Fishing - Single hooks for lures and spoons - Micro barbed hooks awesome
Piscatorial Absurdities by Joe Robinson
North-One - JDM Reels
St.Croix Panfish Casting Rod

Techniques for Fishing Crawfish Patterns

Alright you Dirty Anglers! Let's talk Crawfish, Crayfish, Crawdads or Clawdads...Whatever you wish to call these armored, Dirty little creatures!

It's my belief that crawfish pattern flies are greatly misunderstood. So, to make a bold statement like that you'll demand I back that up. Here's my take on this and I'm going to start with shooting a bullseye right at the fly tying industry first.

I've found a lot of crawfish in nature but I've yet to find a live one colored orange. Unless you have crawfish in a pot of boiling water their color is NOT orange! But yet every fly shop fly bin has orange crawfish patterns in them.

Yes, there are red crawfish in the south regions but most of us have crawfish in the brown or olive coloration. They might have hints of orange but all orange is rarely ever found in nature. If you have orange crawfish in your fly box, take them out now and let's start over, pronto!

Colors to look for are tans, browns, chocolate browns, olives, dark olives, blacks. Highlight with hints of red, chartreuse, blue and copper. My "go to" crawfish flies are brown with copper highlights or black with blue highlights or dark brown with olive highlights.

My general rule is your pattern should closely match the the bottom of where you are fishing or go with black for an increased silhouette in stained water.

While it would seem bigger is better I prefer to keep them small and slim. Small and slim profiles sink better and since I want this fly on bottom bulky material will just slow down the sink rate or even prevent your fly from reaching bottom. I see some crawfish patterns having big bulky claws, these are not necessary. Matter of fact a crawfish pattern could not have claws at all and still be effective. Often in nature crawfish will have just one or no claws at all most likely lost in defense of predators.

Back to the fly
Crawfish patterns need to have strong hooks that are tied to ride up. These characteristics along with strong tippet will give you the ability to work around heavy structure.

Heavy Fly and Heavy Tippet
Along with a slim body a crawfish pattern will need to be heavily weighted in order to sink well when attached to heavy tippet.

Fish it like you intend to lose it
Crawfish survive by their ability to run and hide from their prey. They scurry under rocks, boulders and wood structure and will remain relatively close to hiding spots.

To make natural presentations flies need to be cast right on these structures and allowed to fall in and around them. Too many anglers spend all their efforts trying to avoid such situations when they should be aggressively going after those tough presentations.

Once you have presented the fly try to keep sight on it as long as possible on the initial drop. Many strikes occur at those first descending moments. Don't be in a rush to start stripping. Maintain a taunt line without moving your fly. Keep on the alert for any tick movement at all times.

Next action is to make 2-3 very short strips like 2-3 inch strips, short and quick! Pause....2-3 more short strips! Pause. At this point if nbo strike has accured go ahead and lift fly quickly and recast to next location.

Avoid presenting/stripping your fly all the way back to you. The longer you dredge bottom the more likely you will snag the fly. Most strikes occur on or after the initial drop and strips. No need to continue. Cast to a new spot and keep moving.

Things to cast on include, rocks, logs, root wads, quick drop offs, points and man made structures.
When sun is high fish the shady sides. Imagine there is a fish under every boulder you see, More than likely there is!

About leaders and tippet
In this type of fishing I tie my own leaders. Start with a 30" section of heavy nylon monofilament in the .024" - .026" range and nail knot that directly to your fly line. No loop to loop in this setup. You want NO possible slack in this system. Hatch Professional Med/Hard Monofilament leader material is a good choice.

Next slip on an indicator such as RIO's Kahuna LT. Slide that right up to the nail knot. This indicator is not made to float anything. It's purely for sight reference to help detect those slightest of strikes.

Next tie on 30" of 30# fluorocarbon leader, then 30" of 25#, then onward to 20# and in most cases I'll end in 16#. You got to be the judge of what your final tippet needs to be in order to avoid detection.
Personally I believe if you fish this fly correctly you won't have tippet shy problems.

All blood knots, no loop to loops. Tie fly on direct with a palomar knot. No loop knots!

The idea of the monofilament butt section is that it will somewhat float while the rest of the fluorocarbon leader will want to sink. Along with the indicator your fly line should stay on the waters surface while the rest of your leader is free to sink. The indicator is needed to detect the slightest tick of a strike.

The Strike
Strike detection is the utmost importance to succeed in this fishing. Big predators that eat crayfish typically engulf and crush the crawfish in order to kill it and avoid being pinched. Strikes are usually not an eat and run ordeal. One slight tick on your indicator my be the only sign of a strike you will get. Don't hesitate, hook set immediately.

I've watched countless many times anglers detect the initial strike and remain still waiting for something bigger to happen. I always say the next tick in the line will be him spitting it out. Hook sets are free, all day long! Take advantage of that. I'd rather find out I set on nothing than miss a possible catch of a lifetime.

Hint...the biggest bass will strike the lightest

It took me years to feel confident in fishing craw patterns on fly rods. I knew how to do it with gear rods but struggled to translate it to a fly fishing. I hope this info can help advance you along much quicker path than I did. It's become one of my favorite ways to fly fish for predators.

Video - How to Fly Fish a Balance Leech and Indicator in a Lake

Came across this. How similar this is to float and fly bass. All the way from line choice, rigging and even fly is made to fish horizontal.

Warmwater Lake Fly Fishing

Largemouth Bass on Fly

Over many years of warmwater lake fishing I can count on one hand how many other anglers I've witnessed fishing with a fly rod. I'm talking hundreds if not in the thousands of days spent on the lake warm water fishing and rarely ever see another angler with a fly rod. Why is this water so barren of fly anglers!?

Do you have a warm water lake or reservoir near you? Let me provide you some reasons you might want to fly fish this water.

Let's start with the obvious...No one else is doing it!

These warm water fish have seen every lure known to man but they have never seen a fly. That is a HUGE advantage! They've never seen streamers or natural looking crawfish patterns. No one has ever fished a beetle, dragon fly, diving hair frog or fly popper to them.

Multi Species

Lakes usually have many different species inhabiting them. This fact can make the fishing interesting when you are never sure what you have hooked. It also can provide options when some species seem are being hard to find others may be readily available.

Crappie on Fly

Room to Fish

When the local trout streams are crowded I can usually find solitude on lakes. Sure, you'll need a watercraft of some type to get there but that becomes part of the adventure. A boat or kayak, I've even ventured out in my Outcast Stealth Pro on lakes and found great fishing.

Catfish on Fly

Stable Environment

When you favorite river gets blown out by a storm the day before you were all set to fish it why cancel out the day and sit on the couch whining about it. Go to a lake instead. Most lakes can take a pretty good storm without being disrupted. Sometimes the influx of fresh rain water can even turn fish on. Make your local lake a plan B and before you know it might become your plan A.

Wild Fish

The other day I had a trout fisher friend from Colorado with me on a local lake. We were having a great time catching smallies. At some point during the day he asked in a statement way, "so these fish are hatchery I assume?"

It never ever occurred to me that this could be a question but I guess if you only grew up around stocked trout fisheries then why would one assume warmwater would be any different. New  reservoirs may have some original plantings of species but after that most warm water lakes and reservoirs are self sustaining and therefore the fish stocks are wild.

The Pursuit

Remembering back many years ago the first time I took a fly rod to a lake I felt a bit like it was a needle in a haystack kind of situation. Armed with a craw pattern fly a friend had given to me it wasn't long and I found some smallmouth bass. Pretty soon I was spotting carp to cast to and after a few failed attempts I finally got one hooked up. Today I've caught on fly about every warmwater species you'll find in the most lakes.
Throwback to 2014 - My first fly caught smallmouth

Funny Looks

I get funny looks from other anglers I encounter and many have asked if I am actually catching anything. Funny part is while they within my sight and catching nothing I was quietly releasing my catch so as to not give away any secrets.

I'm Hooked

For me a fly rod on a lake is not only a viable, fun tool but I've also come to realize that in many situations in the right hands it is a superior tool. I can deliver pinpoint accurate cast with realistic presentations and offer to multi species, natural imitating fly patterns with an end result of incredibly fun fishing.

Now, Why aren't you doing this!

Spring Bassin - GFS Throwback from march 2013

April 12  - Low and Clear

Are you waiting for summer to get here? Me too! But I’m not waiting till summer to go Bass fishing...Best time for spring Bassin’ is coming along right quick. So let’s get ready to go kick some Bass!

Spring Bassin’ for fisherman can vary greatly across the nation due to the wide range of waters where they live, and the fact that they can be found in all the continental states.  However, for the purpose of this article, I will be referencing the NW waters of the Columbia River where Micropterusdolomieu (The Wiley Smallmouth) has found a home.

The Big Question

When do I start fishing for Bass? Is May too early? How about June? Not too many years ago my answer would have been when the water temps reach 50 – 55, and oh how I got funny looks from unbelieving fisherman. What if I told you that you can be catching Bass right now! No Kidding, I have caught many fish right down to the 40 degree water temp mark. Do you believe me? I understand if you don't, because not too many years ago, I wouldn’t have believed me either.
Fact is fish need to eat and they will. The trick is to be there when they show up for dinner.
So forget about water temp and focus on conditions that will determine how we fish for Bass.

First up is water clarity; low and clear or high and stained. Chances are, early in the season, you will find low and clear and as spring progresses, the high and stained will become the norm for some time while snow melts and spring rains cascade from mountain rivers.

I like to get started fishing while the water is low and clear. It’s amazing what new structures you’ll spot in these conditions, so take note of every rock, log, drop off and any little subtle difference in the underwater landscape. This will be useful knowledge when the high and stained conditions arrive. Bass are structure oriented fish. They like to be near something and be able to retreat to deeper water if needed. In low clear water stealth must be your game. Smallmouth Bass are alert creatures so shadows and noises can turn them off or drive them away easily. Clear water calls for long casts and quiet approaches. Patience is required for this early spring fishing.

Strip, Strip, Pause!

Normally I would tell you to fish with some pretty heavy flies on bottom for these big river Smallies, but not for low and clear conditions. I look to the suspending or slow sinking bait fish patterns. Flies like Zonkers, Sea Habits, light Clousers and a couple of no name patterns I like to tie. Bass can see quite well in clear water and you need to give them some time to come look at what you're offering. If the bass come looking for dinner in clear shallow water then they will most likely be feeding up....it’s really easy to fish underneath them in the early spring. Cast long and allow your fly to simmer in its landing location. Keep your line tight without moving your fly and be very observant to any motion in your line. Proceed with a strip, strip and pause retrieve.....Strip...Strip....Paaaaaause....Vary your pauses and watch your line for any movement. Now listen carefully to what I’m about to tell you: If you witness any twitch...even the slightest twitch, do not hesitate...set the hook and set it hard. Big Bass don’t nibble and they also don’t peck at food. A twitch in your line means he just inhaled the fly and the next twitch you see will be him spitting it out. I have witnessed angler after angler make this fatal mistake and they all say these words, “I was waiting for him to really hit it”. Sure there are days they’ll yank the rod out of your hands but more often than not the strike is very subtle especially in the early season. This might be my favorite technique but it demands calm clear water and bit of afternoon sun can go a long ways.

A few flies I like for these conditions: Sea Habit, Zonker and Lite Clousers

Let the wind blow! 

And it will and we will curse it over and over again, but I have learned to embrace the wind to some extent and realize that, while it has its challenges, it also has some benefits. If it has been windy for some time this will stir the water and start to add color, and with spring winds, usually comes the rain. Combine wind and spring runoff and now you have high and stained or even muddy water at times. I know many anglers that will refuse to fish muddy water. I’m going to let you in on a little secret, high and muddy water makes bass location predictable. So, awhile back I said to pay attention to every rock, log, drop off and any little difference in the landscape when the water is low and clear. Hopefully you remembered some of those locations. High muddy water will move bass in shallow and put them right on those structures and with some wind chop and stained or muddy water, we can move in close to these locations without fear of spooking fish away.

Now you want to fish a fly with some weight to it. Exposed lead eyes or bead head flies work great here. Cast your fly right into those structure locations and make contact with something solid...a stump, log or even just a rocky bottom. Bass are classified as site feeders but their other senses are not to be underestimated. I am quite certain that bass will move in on sounds that may resemble a crayfish working in the rocky bottom or an injured baitfish. Sounds of a fly banging against rocks can draw fish to your fly, and when he gets close enough, his vision will spot the meal. Warning...If you want to catch fish you're going to have to cast flies into places where they may not return from. Don’t spend an hour tying the best-ever bass fly because you're going to get pretty frustrated after losing a couple. In muddy/stained water a bead head black wooly bugger can be quite effective and a little chartreuse in the mix can go a long way to getting that strike. So plan on losing some flies but in time you’ll learn to dance them over the laydowns and bounce them though the rocks.

A few of my favorites for bottom-contact fishing:  Creek Crawler, Clouser, Action Crab, and an articulated steelhead pattern that we'll just call "The Calvin" named after its tyer

I have had many great days Bassin’ in early spring, some of my best days actually. The best advice I can give is to not pay attention to water temperature but instead fish the conditions that exist at the time you can get on the water. If I could pick my most favorite early season conditions it would be low and clear with light wind and sunny skies. Those days are few and far between so just go fish when you can, determine the conditions, fish accordingly and rarely will you be disappointed...

~Rambling Thoughts of the Tormented Angler

March 27th... 1 out of about 10 caught that day... Low and Clear
May 17th... 1 out of about 15 this day.  My client cancelled his trip with me on this day because he said the water was too high and muddy to catch fish... He missed out!

Gear Selection:
Sage Bass Series Smallmouth Bass Rod – This is my “go to” gun for those heavy bottom flies…It has power to spare plus the backbone needed to pull though the nastiest of snags.

Rio Outbound Short - Full Intermediate – Shoots great…I use an Airflo sinking polyleader to reach the final depth I wish to achieve.

Nautilus FWX 7/8 Fly Reel - Handles both the line and fish.

G.Loomis NRX 9’ 7wt Rod – Distance with ease for the large, light-suspending flies.

S/A Textured Titan Taper Fly Line – Carries these large flies and the high flotation of the line makes for easy pickup. The orange color also makes it easy to see.

Lamson Speedster Fly Reels - Balances this rod so perfectly that I can cast all day with total comfort.

Flies – Use your imagination when it comes to flies. You can see I use an assortment of Bass, Saltwater and Steelhead flies.


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