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Published by Dave Kile [dkile] on 11/11/2019 (761 reads)
By Brian McGeehan at Montana Angler Fly Fishing

No fly rod is the perfect rod on every river on every given day. I have often fallen in love with a rod on one river, fishing in one style only to curse it later under different circumstances. I have also found that over and over again that the rod I fall in love with behind the fly shop is not the one I fall in love with on the river. To complicate matters, I have lost track of the number of times that I have listened to friendly arguments between fishing guides on which rod is “best” - it is like listening to sports talk radio hosts argue who is the greatest quarterback of all time; there is really no definitive answer. With this no win outcome in mind we set six of our favorite 6-weight fly rods head to head in different environments in the hands of different anglers to at least provide some reasonable guidance to how rods actually perform on the water.


Spoiler alert: Our heads are still spinning and we aren’t sure if we are any wiser after completing this endeavor than when we began, but we did learn a few things.

We are frequently asked, “What is the best rod for Montana fishing”. Our canned answer is a 9 foot 6 weight with floating line. This is the catch all rod that can handle our most common fishing scenarios on many of our most common fishing scenarios in Southwest Montana. No rod is perfect for every scenario but a 6 weight has enough back bone to toss smaller streamers yet still provides enough “feel” to throw dry flies on a windy day. A 6 weight is hands down the perfect big river nymphing rod. When someone is buying their first fly rod for fishing our local rivers we generally steer them towards a 6-weight for these reasons. Of course the follow up question is then “which 6 weight should I buy?”. Now the answer gets a little more complicated!

There are quite simply a lot of really great fly rods on the market today. 20 years ago it seemed like whichever rod incorporated the newest generation of space age graphite would win the “best rod” race. While rod technology including new graphite fabrics and new “nano” resins continue to help make lighter and stronger rods; simply relying on lighter and faster doesn’t always produce the “best rod”. In the early stages of graphite rod development the race was to produce stiffer and stiffer “fast action” rods. Today’s resins and graphite fabrics all have the potential to make hyper fast action rods; but that is not always what an angler needs. In the past the most expensive rods tended to be fast action with higher density graphite fibers while the price point rods were “slower action”. As rod materials and designs have advanced, most rod makers are placing more focus on application specific rods. A price point rod can often be “hyper fast” but feel like a broom stick while many rod makers are producing high end (and expensive) slower action rods that feel buttery smooth. Rod tapers are now just as important as rod materials.

The goal of our review process was in part to provide some first hand feedback on some of today’s finest top of the line fly rods. A secondary goal, however, is also to educate fly anglers on the importance of understanding that no one rod wins every race. You need to also analyze your own fishing needs and then match that to the style of rod that makes you happiest most of the time.

Important Disclaimer: Rods Feel Different On the Water!

Over and over again I find that rods just feel different when you are out fishing with them. Quite simply fishing conditions on the water are always different than on a manicured lawn. To complicate matters; how much you enjoy (or dislike) a rod also depends on how and where you are fishing. The rod that you love roll casting on a small stream might be the one you hate when trying to punch a streamer in the wind. On the contrary, the rod that everyone falls in love with behind the fly shop - that casts 100 feet and hucks a heavy streamer on the water on big rivers in the wind may feel like it has “no life” when targeting more intimate settings like accurately presenting a dry fly to rising trout. Our goal with this rod review series is to take different genres and brands of high end rods and put them into real life fishing scenarios.

Of course, when you are purchasing a rod in a shop - you can’t always take 6 or 7 different rods out for a real world spin on real world streams and rivers. So one of the goals of this review is to provide feedback on how rods were perceived test casting them on the lawn and see how that translates into “happiness” on the water.

General Overview of Rod Review Test Procedures
Our simple goal in mind was determining which fly rods “feel the best” in specific on the water applications. Basically we want to know which rods will be the most enjoyable to fish with when you are on the water. With this in mind we basically chose to ignore rod weights, swing weights, rod deflection curves and bonus points for good looks. We also decided that it is nearly impossible to quantify “feel” so we intentionally tossed out the notion of any point systems and will focus on qualitative descriptions of specific rods in specific situations. We recognized at the outset that it would be hard to crown specific winners and losers; but we also realized early on that every angler is different in their casting stroke and fishing priorities and what is most important is that you find YOUR winner and avoid YOUR losers.

Rods Tested
We opted to select 6 premium price point rods (generally retailing between $875 and $1000) with a spectrum of rods that were designed for different applications (high powered canons for long distance and wind all the way to more moderate actions that “feel” buttery even on up-close casts. All rods were 9 feet in length.

Sage Light Line

Orvis Helios 3F

Orvis Helios 3D

Sage X

G-Loomis Asquith

Sage Igniter

Line pairings
Matching a rod up with the correct line is extremely important in evaluating a rod. Most line manufactures now make both true line weight lines and “line and a half” line weight lines. For this review we used the new Orvis Pro lines in both a 6 weight “trout taper” and “power taper”. Trout taper is essentially a pure 6 weight while power taper is essentially 6.5 weight. We did some quick experimenting and felt like the Sage LL, Orvis H3F and Sage X were best matched with a trout taper while the Asquith, Igniter and H3D were best matched with a power taper. Some of these rods could use either - for example the Sage X feels a little zippier at longer length casts with a trout taper but has more feel at 30 feet with a power taper.

Baseline - Casting on the Lawn
We can’t emphasize enough that trout don’t live in grassy fields. Casting rods without water only provides a small glimpse of what rod you might actually truly enjoy in a fishing scenario. This is, however, where most folks actually test rods before buying. A grassy lawn was also the easiest location to jump from rod to rod with multiple people trying multiple rods. So even though we strongly caution you to choose a rod solely because of how it feels “behind the fly shop”; we did want an even playing field and a baseline to at least begin the comparisons.

What to avoid when “lawn casting”
When you are testing a rod in an artificial setting like a yard or an ally behind a fly shop; what seems to always happen is the caster quickly spends all his or her time firing longer casts that in reality are MUCH longer than what they would actually cast on the water (at least in trout fishing scenarios). Even on larger waters, most of my casts are under 45 feet when I am fishing and on smaller waters I rarely cast beyond 30 feet. Once you gun too much line out it is difficult to manage and your catch rates go down. Fishing in the grass also seems to provide a bit of a depth perception issue. What seems like a “normal cast” on the water seems absurdly short when you are on an expansive sea of grassy lawn. Conversely, a nice “medium” length cast in the grass is actually much longer than you often need to make on the water. Finally, if you use a rod for nymph fishing and streamer fishing you are also adding a fair amount of weight into the system (a common use for a 6 weight) which definitely changes how a rod casts when in application.

One of the traps you can easily fall into when testing rods on lawns is having a bias towards the rods that feel the best at longer distances. It is just simply “fun” to gun longer cast when in a big open field. This is compounded if you have a buddy with you since you might look a little silly make lots of short “trout fishing” casts with all of that green to play with. To avoid this tendency we set out a series of cones at 30, 45 and 60 feet. Many trout fishing casts are under 30 feet and 60 feet is about as far as you would ever actually cast in a real life fishing scenario. We didn’t even let anyone cast beyond 60 feet even though some of these rods can easily shoot out to 100 feet when in the hands of a competent caster.

Sage Light Line

The LL was my “in the grass” winner for short casts. This rod felt very different than every other rod I tested. The cool aspect of the LL series is that you are using the entire rod on every cast, even at short range which gives it a very smooth feel (until it is overloaded). The rod loads easily on short casts and flexes all the way down to the butt. When I ran back and forth between rods and only focused on short casts up to 30 feet this was the rod that I looked forward to casting the most. You can really “feel” every cast. It has a silky, relaxed feel and is very enjoyable. As I pushed the rod out to longer lengths I quickly started to max the rod out. When I was working hard and focusing I could still make 60 foot casts with the LL but I really needed to pay close attention to my timing. So on one hand while the rod is “easy” to cast close in, it felt like work at longer distances. The sweet spot for me was definitely at or under 30 feet. The good news is for a lot of my trout fishing, especially when wading smaller rivers like the Gallatin I am often making shorter casts. So this rod was my favorite under 30 feet. At 30 feet it was probably a tie with the Orvis H3F which also still had “feel” up close but felt zippier and more powerful. I still enjoyed the rod at 45 feet but I had to really make sure my timing was right - although it through great loops when I was on my game. I felt like if there was any wind or if I was hucking any weight at 45 I might be in trouble. At casts longer than 45 the rod wanted to collapse a bit and I was flexing right to the handle. Long casts aren’t really what the LL is designed for but that was certainly confirmed on the grass.

Casey also loved the feel of the Light Line up close and compared it to “grandmas cobbler”: it just makes you feel good. Casey waxed poetic on the LL on shorter casts - just a “smooth rod” when it wasn’t overloaded. On longer casts he started to get into trouble and had to “push the rod” resulting in a tendency for tailing loops if the timing wasn’t dialed in.

Pierce also voted the LL as the best rod under 30 feet “The nine iron of fly rods, everybody hits it great in close. It felt very accurate at typical fishing distances, a great stick”. Pierce quickly acknowledged that the LL is very much an application specific rod and gravitated to the other rods with more of a tip flex at longer distances. Even though he readily admitted the shortcomings of the LL at longer lengths; Pierce voted this his favorite rod - “Sure it isn’t the most efficient rod for longer casts or in the wind but this is a “fun rod” and I like a fun rod when I’m fishing”.

Matt wasn’t feeling the love of the LL. He self admittedly prefers a fast action rod and this was his least favorite rod of all we tested at every distance, even up close.

Zach also really enjoyed the LL at 30 feet and under and placed it as a tie with the Helios 3F at close distances. He felt that the rod started to bog down quickly once he extended casts beyond 30 feet and for longer casts.

Jimmy also voted the LL as one of his favorites at 30 feet and under. He placed the LL and Helios 3F at the top of the “happiness” factor when rod in hand for close casts with a slight edge to the LL. At 45 feet Jimmy was still impressed with the LL and felt that he still had some power at mid range casts with it but he rated it 2nd behind the Orvis H3F at mid range in terms of favorites; so still a strong contender out to mid range for him. Jimmy also felt like the LL dropped off quickly once pushing beyond 45 feet.

Louis had glowing praise for the Sage LL and rated it as his favorite rod both at close range and medium ranges. He enjoyed the slow, buttery smooth loops that the rod casts. It should be noted that Louis also has an aversion to fast cars, fast woman and fast fly rods. He freely admits that he works hard every morning to fight back the desire to dress in full tweed.

Orvis Helios 3F

This was an impressive rod and probably my overall favorite in most situations on the lawn. It was the only other rod that felt really good in my hand on short casts. I would say the Sage LL was still the most “fun” at super short range but by the time I pushed out to 30 feet I enjoyed the H3F equally as much as the LL. The really cool thing about this rod is that it seems to have a fairly wide “sweet spot”. At 30-45 feet the rod really excels and felt the best in this range of any rods I cast. While some of the other rods got the nod at 60 feet, the H3F still retained good power at longer range and was still pleasant to cast. Although I did have to pay a little more attention on longer range casts, my loops were still very tight and I never felt like I was working too hard at distance. I mostly use a 6 weight for throwing bigger dry flies or nymph fishing larger rivers. In these scenarios I generally am casting between 20-45 feet and this is the heart of the sweet spot for the H3F.

Casey felt that the H3F performed most similar to the Sage LL, except it had a faster feel without as much flex at the handle as the LL. He described the rod at feeling great on shorter to mid range casts, but prefered several of the other rods in the test beyond 45 feet.

Pierce also felt like the H3F was the only other rod outside of the Sage LL that still felt really good on shorter range casts. “I felt like the Helios 3F had more power at mid range than the LL but for my casting stroke I had to work a little harder on longer casts. So all in all the H3F has more versatility than the LL and extends well to mid range but I preferred some of the rods with more tip flex once beyond 45 feet.”

Matt also acknowledged that the Orvis H3F was one of the best rods in the closer ranges typical for trout fishing casts. Matt still prefered the “fastest” tip flex rods at all ranges, even short range. Matt was still impressed that the rod had a lot of power for as much “feel” as it offered and it was easy to cast tight loops.

Zach ranked the Orvis H3F as his overall favorite rod in the grass casting session. He described it as “just felt great in my hands”. Zach really enjoyed the H3F both at closer range as well as mid range. At longer ranges some of the other rods outperformed the H3F but Zach still felt it had enough power and enjoyed the smooth feel and tight loops, even at 60 feet.

Jimmy also rated the Orvis H3F as his overall favorite rod of all of the contenders. In closer range under 30 feet he placed it second in fun factor behind the Sage LL and considered it the only other rod in the group that still was enjoyable at close range. At mid ranges of 30-45 feet Jimmy felt that the H3F was effortless to cast, producing tight and accurate loops. At longer range Jimmy reported that the H3F still was throwing tight, accurate loops. He felt that it didn’t have quite as much power as a few of the other rods at 60 feet but still had plenty of “juice” to get it done at longer range.

The smooth yet zippy Orvis H3F put a smile on Louis’s face and met all his criteria for a castable fly rod. “If I was going to buy one rod in the group this would be it, I like a nice moderate action rod that I can still feel in close but that has enough guts to make a longer cast when I need to. Casting this rod is the next best thing to listening to hockey on AM radio.”

Sage X

The Sage X is another one of those rods that feels great in your hands and seems to effortlessly cast tight loops, especially at mid range casts common on larger Western rivers. I felt like the Sage X had a progressive action similar to the Orvis H3F although it seemed to have a narrower sweet spot. Although the H3F felt smoother under 45 feet once my mid range casts extended past 45 feet the Sage X was exceptional. The Sage X also was similar to the Orvis H3D although its sweet spot was at slightly closer range than the H3D which outperformed the X at longer casts. So while the X doesn’t have as much feel on the very short casts once you get to 30 feet you are able to start to load the rod and at longer mid-range casts it is a smooth canon. At 60 feet, just like the H3F I was still able to throw tight loops but I had to work a bit and make sure my timing was dialed in. This struck me as being a great all around 6 weight, especially if you are regularly nymph fishing larger waters or want a streamer stick for small to mid sized streamers.

This was Casey’s favorite “one-quiver” rod based on lawn casting results. It felt great at mid range casting distances but still had enough power to extend out to longer trout fishing range casts. It didn’t provide as much feel in close as the LL or H3F but it also didn’t feel like a broomstick either.

The Sage X was Pierce’s favorite rod for mid-range casts between 30 and 45 feet which is a great range for trout fishing on many of the bigger rivers that we spend a lot of time on. It didn’t have the power of the Igniter or Asquith at long range and Pierce questioned how it would perform as a streamer rod or in wind, but was confident it would still have enough back bone to still get it done if the chips were down.

Matt gave the Sage X a thumbs up. As a fan of faster action rods he felt like the X could still had enough backbone and zip to match his casting style yet offered some smoother casts up close than some of canons like the Igniter.

Zach also enjoyed the Sage X at mid ranges but felt that it didn’t offer much feel at closer range and he struggled with it a bit at longer range. So in its sweet spot it zips line effortlessly when at mid range; but he felt the sweet spot was just a little narrower than some of the other rods he cast.

Jimmy didn’t get a lot of love to the X at distances under 45 feet and felt like the LL, H3F and H3D all felt better in close casting scenarios and even to typical mid range trout casts. Once his casts extended past 45 feet the X quickly jumped to the top of the pack and where he had it as a tie with the H3D for mid range casts and beyond. He felt that for his casting style the Orvis H3D and Sage X compared very similarly overall.

Louis appeared clearly distressed when casting the Sage X. We couldn’t quite make out his words as he mumbled to himself, but it appeared that some sort of spiritual battle was taking place within his inner being as the seductively smooth loops the rod cast conflicted with his aversion to the deceptive line speed it produced. Although he was still smiling at 30 feet, he appeared to break into hives at 60.

Orvis Helios 3D

The Orvis H3D is a smooth yet powerful rod. I had no problem making casts to 60 feet and had good loop control while doing so. The 3D felt just a little more effortless than the Sage X at the longest casting ranges in our test (60 feet which we felt would is about as far as we would practically cast in a trout fishing scenario). At 45 feet the Sage X feels a little smoother than the 3D but they were similar. For short casts there is still some “feel” in the 3D, but the LL and 3F definitely surpassed it on the fun meter when up close and personal. Although the H3D performed very well at 60 feet, when casting the Igniter and Asquith those rods felt like the line wanted to just keep going. Although casting beyond 60 feet is never really required the power to do so often comes in handy on big wind days. I felt like the Orvis H3D struck a nice blend of having great “feel” at mid ranges with great power potential for punching wind. My gut feeling was this would be a great all around big river rod for nymph fishing.

Casey felt that if he had to buy one of the rods after just casting it in the grass the H3D would be a top contender. He felt it was most similar to the Sage X and gave the Sage X higher marks at mid range while the H3D felt better on longer casts. For fishing larger Western rivers like the Madison and Yellowstone he felt like the H3D would be a great match when you are frequently making mid range casts with some wind to contend with.

Pierce enjoyed the H3D. He described it as fun and zippy at 45 feet when it started to come to really come to life. It matched his casting stroke well. Although it wasn’t as fun at close range as the LL or H3F it still retained some “feel” on closer casts, but was mostly just loading the tip. At mid range it felt smooth and powerful. On longer casts it flexed deeper into the rod but still maintained good power. Pierce described the H3D as a great design for a 6 weight on Western waters where nymphing heavier stoneflies with some wind on bigger waters is often the norm.

As expected, Matt enjoyed the H3D based on his affinity for faster action rods. Matt felt that the rod loaded well at mid range but still had enough power to extend to longer casts. He felt the sweet spot was somewhere around 45 feet when casting in the grass without weighted flies, streamers or nymph rigs.

Zach felt that the Orvis H3D offered a good blend of power and touch. He noted that the rod is underloaded at close range casts, but starts to feel smoother on casts beyond 30 feet and it felt better and better as casting length increased out to 45 and 50 feet. At 60 feet Zach described the H3D as still providing plenty of power although not as effortless as the Sage Igniter on the longest casts.

The Orvis H3D made a good impression on Jimmy during our lawn casting tests. It struck him as a great overall rod with a lot of power. Like several of the other guys Jimmy didn’t feel like it was quite as smooth as the LL, H3F or Sage X on closer casts but it felt very smooth on mid range and long range casts.

“NO...just no! Can someone please bring back the Light Line, or better yet some M#%%F&%G Bamboo? And how many times do I need to ask for a dry martini around here?

Sage Igniter

The Igniter is an impressive rod for what it is designed for - power and distance. This is light and balances well in the hand but feels too stiff on short casts where there wasn’t enough line to load and flex more than just the tip. At 30 feet you can start to load the rod but you need to pick up your casting rhythm to do so. This accelerated casting stroke and high line speed required a lot of focus when up close to make sure I didn’t punch the rod too much. At 45 feet I still had to accelerate my casting rhythm to generate a high line speed to feel the rod but once adjusting my casting stroke the rod felt great and I had good control.of loops and accuracy. The igniter just feels better and better as you make longer and longer casts. At 60 feet the rod is effortless - the line just seems to come flying out of the rod and I still had great accuracy. I had to restrain myself from making some hero casts as the rod felt like it wanted to just keep going. The Igniter is definitely an application specific rod - if you are going to fish it up close you may need to line it up an entire line weight (7weight). If you love fast action rods, have an accelerated casting stroke or need to punch wind or make longer casts on bigger water this would certainly be rod to consider.

Casey wasn’t feeling the love from the igniter on shorter casts. He described it as feeling really touchy on short casts, with the rod mostly casting from the tip. The rod felt progressively more forgiving as casting lengths increased. Once beyond 45 casts the rod really started to shine and felt like a Kentucky Derby Pony. Although this wasn’t Casey’s favorite all around rod, he felt like it would be the go to rod in windy conditions or when longer casts are needed.

“I like a fast rod, and this rod is just like a sports car. It might be overkill in a lot of situations but I love the idea of having the rod that I know can always get it done, even on longer casts and in the wind. This is definitely the consummate parking lot rod!”

Also a fan of hyper fast rods, Matt loved the igniter and placed it as his 2nd favorite rod, just behind the Asquith. Matt also agreed that the rod really shined at the longest casts but he also enjoyed it at mid range too. It was also interesting to watch Matt’s casting stroke which was similar to Pierce’s with a very aggressive, faster cadence using a lot of body and extending the casting hand far from the shoulder.

Zach really liked the Igniter. It was his second favorite behind the Orvis H3F. He acknowledged that it wasn’t great in close but it made the longer casts with ease. “If I needed a rod to punch wind or make a longer cast - at least in a big grassy field with no trout or wind, I would pick the Igniter”.

Jimmy acknowledged that the Igniter had power it spades. It wasn’t one of his favorite “fun” rods but he also acknowledged that he was having a hard time evaluating it in a grass field and felt that he needed to cast it “with some bunny fur on the end”. “I’ve got a feeling I would like this rod a lot more on the big water casting big bugs”.

Louis wasn’t a fan of the Igniter: “Let me reiterate - I really, really don’t like fast cars, fast women or fast fly rods...and where did I set my tweed jacket?”

G-Loomis Asquith

The Asquith is an impressive rod and one that was arguably the most polarizing among the rods tested with some guys loving it and others rating it as their least favorite. As I was working my way through the rods we had laid out, the Asquith was the first of the “fast action” rods that I picked up. The power the rod offers is substantial and you immediately want to just start gunning longer casts. It handles even the longest casts well and at 60 feet the line wants just keep shooting. At shorter casts the rod still isn’t completely a dead stick but, this was not its forte. It wasn’t as buttery smooth as the LL, X or H3F at 30 feet but you could still load it by picking up your casting cadence. This rod somehow “feels” different than all of the other faster action rods that punch well at mid range and long range. It was hard to place a finger on why but when I was switching back and forth between the X, H3D and Igniter I noticed more similarities than differences. When I picked up the Asquith after spending some time bouncing back and forth between the other faster rods in the group it was noticeably a different animal. Often when I switched back to the Asquith I wasn’t impressed - but then if you kept casting you slowly adjusted and kind of thought “hmmm”. After little more casting you really started to enjoy it. I think part of the reason it feels so different is that it is the only “power rod” that offers a smaller cigar grip vs. the half wells grips on the other rods. So right away the rod feels different in your hand simply due to the grip. I tend to really like a cigar grip on 6 weights while other guys prefer half wells. I also had some previous bias with this rod as I spent a week with it in Argentina including punching big dry flies at Jurassic lake in crazy wind where it performed magnificently. I kept trying to envision wind blowing or big bugs on the end of my line. I left feeling a little perplexed by the Asquith...or maybe intrigued. There is no question that this rod offers power in copious abundance; you need to spend some time with it to fully take it all in. After a session on the grass my interest was piqued and I felt like I needed to get the rod back out onto the water.

Casey didn’t love the Asquith and placed it near the bottom of the rods we tested. Interestingly Casey felt that the rod was enjoyable up close but he lost control with it once he got passed 40 feet.

"This was hands down my favorite rod, I liked it better than every other rod at every distance. It felt smooth up close but still had plenty of power at 60 feet. It was easily the best rod I’ve ever cast.”

Zach felt that the Asquith was the least forgiving of the rods he tested. “It seemed to magnify any casting errors I made”. I couldn’t really “feel” the rod until longer distances.

Jimmy rated the Asquith as his least favorite. He felt like the rod didn’t feel great in his hand due to the smaller cigar grip. “I’ve got big hands and need a big grip, the half wells grips just feel better”. Jimmy did acknowledge that the Asquith had loads of power both at mid range and longer casts.

Unfortunately we weren’t able to receive feedback on the Asquith from Louis. When presented with another fast action rod he entered a catatonic state. After reviving him with smelling salts we sent him home early for the day.

We all felt like parking lot heroes after spending a day on the lawn with some great rods. Having the opportunity to switch back and forth from one rod to another was a pretty cool way to get a feel for the potential each rod had. All of us felt like we really need to get these rods on the water to fully evaluate them, but a few trends certainly developed. First off it was clearly evident that no single rod was going to be the “best rod” in every scenario. Each rod had “sweet zone” where it felt really terrific. In general the rods that had lots of feel, with a smooth feel in closer distances tended to feel a little overpowered when casting at long range. Others cast at distance with control and ease but lost their “feel” and didn’t load well in close.

Our second observation was that all of us had slightly different casting strokes, which greatly impacted how we perceive the different rods. The guys with aggressive, full body casting strokes tended to gravitate toward the fastest action rods while those of us with a more compact stroke sought out the moderate action rods as our favorites.

Our main takeaway is that you really need to evaluate what kind of water you will fish most often, as how you “like to fish”. You also need to determine what you value most - do you want a rod that will always get it done in tough wind even at the expense of not feeling as smooth in tighter range; or do you prefer a rod that feels like butter at closer trout casts yet takes a lot of work when the wind kicks up? Finally you need to cast a rod at the distances you most often fish (don’t get caught into parking lot hero casting) and find one that matches your casting stroke.

Brian McGeehan is a Pennsylvania native and has been guiding Western rivers in Montana, Wyoming and Colorado for 20 seasons. He is a licensed Montana outfitter and owner of Montana Angler Fly Fishing based in Bozeman, MT.

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Published by Dave Kile [dkile] on 10/27/2019 (1486 reads)
Michael Evanko, Wooly Bugged, fly fishing several Lake Erie tributaries for steelhead trout in Pennsylvania in mid-October. A couple of days prior Erie saw the first decent rain in a long time. The creeks came up for a couple of days and then came back down to low conditions. The short burst of water put the first good push of fish into the system. Evanko shows some of his favorite steelhead patterns and shares several hook-ups with fish. The water fished in this video is all publicly accessible and involved miles of walking. This is not Erie at its best, but rather an "ok" outing. This footage was shot in mid-October 2019. All filming was done solo, no bikes were used to access remote parts of these tributaries.

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Published by Dave Kile [dkile] on 10/10/2019 (1326 reads)
I went up for Krayfish's Get schooled, Get spooled JAM the first part of October. Kray was very gracious to give me the lay of the land and host me on the water for a couple of days in his drift boat. There were a few other guys up from the PAFF to give the Delaware a try that week including: Krayfish2, DaveS, Pittsburgh Don, Istimey, moon, flyswatter Brooklyn Morgan, Cosmic Frank and Cody.

Krayfish with a Brownie

I had a great time with the guys and enjoyed some fine meals at Frank's house in Deposit. DaveS cooked up some killer fillets the first night. Being the newbie to the group, I enjoyed hearing previous war stories about the one that got away and learning a little more about the region.
West Branch Delaware, Deposit, NY

A little bit of a backgrounder for those like me to the region. The Delaware is really three rivers in this area and can be very different in each one depending on conditions. The lower West Branch flows out near Deposit, New York and is controlled by the Cannonsville Reservoir. There doesn't seem to be a lot of notice or reason for the releases that happen from the dam. The East Branch has flows from the Beaver Kill branch and upstream controlled by the bottom released Pepacaton Reservoir. The West Branch and East Branch meetup just below Hancock, NY and then form the mainstem of the Delaware. Some of the West Branch and all of the mainstem are shared by New York and Pennsylvania. These river systems offer some world-class wild trout and incredible bug life that make for some great fly fishing opportunities.


This was the first time for me to fly fish in these waters and really enjoyed the fall colors starting in the trees. The weather was a good mix of clouds, drizzle and sun while on the river for two days. The air temps were a good mix of the mid-'50s to maybe lower 80 on Tuesday. Some really nice days for fishing with a distinct feeling of fall in the air and seen in the mountains.


The big challenge was the water due to the release from the Cannonsville Reservoir on the West Branch. The water was up at about 1200 CFS and at about 60 degrees. This made for a great float, but Cannonsville Reservoir is a bottom release and the water was pretty turbid from the West Branch down to the mainstem both days.

Moon on Delaware
Moon getting into a brownie

We fished hard the first day on the West Branch with streamers getting plenty of hits. Not a very buggy day, but plenty of eagles and migrating ducks all around us.

The second day we went to the mainstem and covered the river with everything in our fly boxes: streamers, nymphs, emergers and dry flies. More rises seen and we went after any rise we saw. We had some #18 Blue Winged Olives in the afternoons as well as a few Isonychia during the day. This was a lot of fun and Cody kept us in line. At the end of day we had a spinner fall coming down and the caddis were coming off in droves. We anchored into a nice stretch of risers and I was happy to throw on my favorite B-52 Rusty Spinner. I hooked into a nice bow, but he showed me who was boss.

Cody providing barking out orders

I ended up staying at the renovated Troutfitter Fly Shop and Inn.


The fishing was very difficult, due to the release, but I had a great time seeing everyone and really appreciated Kray's services getting me onto the Delaware for the first time.
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Published by Dave Weaver [Dave_W] on 09/07/2019 (1557 reads)
We see so many photos of impressive trout caught across Pennsylvania and nearby states every year. Some we know where they came from and what fly they took, and others are more mysterious. Mostly, they’re wild brown and brook trout. Some of these fish are impressive due to their size and others are real lookers with beautiful colors; some are especially impressive based on where they came from as certain streams have cachet as tough streams with few large trout.

I have long felt that PAFF should identify a “top trout” on an annual basis from the photos submitted throughout the year. We’ve discussed it among the moderator staff over the years. So, for 2019, I’m keeping an eye on some especially impressive fish posted to this site. At the end of the year, the “winner” and some runners-up will be identified by the moderator staff. In the meantime, I have canvassed the pics from last year and we have selected a final group of five particularly impressive fish. From these, we have selected a winner.

trout trout


So (cue the drum roll), the Top Trout for 2018 was submitted to the site by Nightstalker – a magnificent brown trout caught on a streamer (Below). Of course, the decision was tough. Runners-up (Above) included a large brook trout submitted by Salvalinusfontinalis, another large brookie submitted by Mowgoli84. 3wt7X submitted a big brown caught by a friend from Penns, and Nymph-wristed submitted a beautiful wild brown that, although it wasn’t the unicorn he hooked, was still a “pig.” These were all top fish in their own right and worthy to be remembered by a Pennsylvania fly fisher as a fish of a lifetime.

Resized Image

Nightstalker – Brown Trout

So, kudos to Nightstalker for winning the Top Trout Award for 2018. Even more so, a heartfelt thanks from Dave Kile and the moderator staff for all the enjoyable content and beautiful photographs and stories that YOU, our readers, have contributed to this site for so many years.

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Published by Dave Kile [dkile] on 09/02/2019 (1154 reads)
By Brian McGeehan at Montana Angler Fly Fishing

Wild fresh run Pacific steelhead are considered by many to be the ultimate gamefish on a fly rod. These electric sea-run brethren of the rainbow trout grow large in the prolific waters of the North Pacific before entering coastal rivers prior to spawning. One of the most remote and least explored regions to target steelhead is the Tongass National Forest of Southeast Alaska. The sprawling 16.7 Million Acre forest spans both the mainland and a vast network of islands and is home to hundreds, if not thousands, of small clear waters where steelhead spend a few weeks each spring. These waters feel more like trout streams than steelhead rivers and their beautiful crystalline waters are surrounded by the towering temperate rainforest and snow-capped peaks. The only road networks in this region are found within a few miles of a handful of small fishing towns on the coast in this region such as Wrangel, Petersburg and Sitka. The vast majority of this country is only accessible by boat and much is still to be explored in terms of its steelhead potential.

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For the past several spring seasons we have been partnering with the Captain Trig Papenfuse who operates Viaggio Charters to offer an Alaska Steelhead Explorer Program to explore this vast region. This small operation is limited to just 4 guests per week during the prime April and May steelhead window. Long time Montana Angler guide Bill Buchbauer is one of the guides for the program along with Greg Slachter who owns Fly Guides, a guide service in Haines, AK.

We set out in mid-April to spend a week exploring new waters before our first guests arrived. On most trips, the guides visit 4-5 fisheries that they have had success in past seasons while exploring new waters on about 2 days of the trip. Exploring new waters is the ultimate adventure and can result in dead-end leads or the ultimate rush in finding new steelhead waters that few (if anyone) knows about. On our scouting week we set out to bypass the rivers that we had good information on to focus on unexplored waters that looked interesting after scouring maps and Google Earth. Our exploratory crew consisted of Bill, Greg, myself as well as our significant others Ashley, Chris and Ann.

The fisheries that guests target during a week aboard the Viagio tend to be smaller rivers and large streams. While there are a few larger river systems on the mainland, they often have a glacial color and locating steelhead is more challenging. The smaller systems are gin clear and easier to wade. Since the season is so short and the forest is so vast the option to visually spot fish is a huge advantage (and also adds to the “cool factor” when fishing). On these small waters, two-handed rods are not needed and can even negatively impact the fishing due to the added complexity of hiking through the forest with longer rods. The ideal weapon is a 9 foot single hand rod with 8 weight floating line and a reel with a good drag. Most of the fishing is either indicator nymphing or swinging smaller leach or classic steelhead patterns depending on the behavior of the fish and the size of the waters.

The standard program involves breaking up into groups of 2 anglers - each with one of the guides. The 72’ Viaggio mothership is also equipped with 2 jet boats. The jet boats are used to access the mouths of streams and small rivers. In some cases 2 different rivers can be targeted the same day while in other cases all 4 anglers visit the same fishery while one pair works the lower river and the other pair hikes further upstream. Both mainland and island fisheries can be targeted based on current weather conditions, where fish are found, etc.

This style of fishing is truly exploratory. Even on known steelhead waters, there is always the uncertainty as to how many fish are in the system at any one time. Over the years the guides have learned that there are a few predictably safe bets that seem to hold fish for several weeks at a time while others can be either spectacular or a bust depending on the timing of the run. Exploring new waters offers the ultimate adventure - sometimes all of the research pays off and a pristine fishery is identified with huge fresh run fish in small waters. Of course some explorations result in lots of hiking and bushwhacking with few or no steelhead encountered. Typically our guests land on average around 16-20 steelhead per week with the Viaggio team. Often one or two days of the week are a strike out while other days when the hot fishery is found produce lots of action.

Due to the delicate nature of these steelhead fisheries and the fact that so much work and effort has gone into finding waters that hold fish the actual names of the rivers and streams in this report have not been used.

Motoring, Glaciers and Crab Pots

We had a mid day departure from Petersburg on our first day aboard the Viaggio. Due to a lingering storm and large swells we opted to spend the first day motoring a few hours en route to the outer island fisheries that would be our target for much of the week and then stop to explore a large glacier and set out some crab and shrimp pots. Although the steelheading opportunities in Southeast Alaska are the marquee attraction on these trips, an adventure in this region would be remiss without taking in some of the other unique activities that this spectacular landscape has to offer.

Upon anchoring the Viaggio we set out via jet boat to explore the terminus of a large glacier as it enters the ocean. As we approached the glacier we entered a labyrinth of icebergs recently calved from the ice mass. The high density of the glacial ice produced by high pressures results in a spectacular blue color. After lots of photo opportunities and a stop to collect some glacial ice for cocktails, we headed back to our anchorage. Before heading in for the night we dropped several crab pots and shrimp pots along the way.

Exploring No-Tellum Creek

The next morning we got up early and headed back out in the larger jet boat to pull the crab and shrimp pots. Although only a few shrimp turned up, we did manage to collect enough Dungeness Crab to excite the chef, Kristin, with the prospects of fresh crab cakes which we would enjoy at dinner that evening. The seas had settled and we planned to motor to the outer islands by days end. Along the way Bill and Greg wanted to stop to revisit a river that had showed promise on past visits. They had found fish in the system at higher flows and with lower water at hand they were excited about the prospects of seeing this fishery again when it was easier to access. Since there weren’t any other viable rivers or streams nearby and we still had a long motor in the evening all 6 of us set out up the river. The mainland fisheries tend to be higher gradient than the island fisheries and this was river required some rugged hiking, bushwhacking and wading. The efforts paid off and we found fresh steelhead in droves. Even with a shorter day to explore we found plenty of fish in near perfect flows. One run held about a dozen huge steelhead with several over 30”. This day ended up being our most productive of the trip with 8 large fish to the net and at least another 8 fish hooked up that were not landed. The sight of such large fish holding in just 2-3 feet of water and watching them turn on our flies was truly one of the most amazing fly fishing experiences I have ever encountered. This day alone made the entire trip worthwhile. It is simply difficult to describe in words how special this type of experience is! Everyone in the group landed at least one steelhead and we all headed back to the Viaggio with permanent grins.

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Once aboard we pulled anchor and made a long run to some of the outer islands where the rest of the rivers and streams we planned to explore were located. An incredible dinner was enjoyed that featured some of the fresh seafood we harvested earlier in the morning. Along the way porpoises followed the boat on numerous occasions. In the larger sounds we viewed humpback whales from a distance and even had a close encounter with a pod of orcas as they fed under the boat. Truly a day we will be talking about for years to come!

Dontask Rivers 1 and 2

After the long motor from the previous day we were now deep within the island systems found along Alaska’s inside passage. Although each island fishery is unique, they tend to be lower gradient than the mainland fisheries. Trying to find new steelhead rivers with scant information is not an easy task and Bill, Greg and Captain Trig had spent copious hours reviewing maps, charts and google earth to narrow down the prospects. On this day we set out to explore two smaller rivers that were within close proximity to one another. We split up with Bill leading Ashley and Chris up one river while Ann and I joined Greg up the other.

As we hiked up this small fishery it looked ideal. The gradient was low and there were plenty of pools, gravel bars and riffles. Our hopes started to fade after a few hours of attempting to spot steelhead in the clear waters as well as making some blind casts in deeper runs. Just as we began to lose focus Greg stopped to examine some grey shapes in a tailout. We debated whether they were steelhead or rocks so Greg stepped out to make a few casts. After the 3rd casts the shapes darted off - spooked steelhead. Although we were unsuccessful with this pair of big fish our hopes were renewed with the knowledge that steelhead were indeed in the system. We increased our efforts and carefully scanned every section of potential holding water. We quickly spotted some more fish in the next run and Ann and Greg set up to make some casts to them. While they were working these fish I continued up the river. Within 200 yards I came around the bend and stopped in my tracks as I spotted 3 huge fish at close range finning in just inches of water. After one cast the fish slide off into deeper water but didn’t appear overly alarmed. I set up just upstream and tried to drift some favorite steelhead nymphs with no interest. These fish didn’t seem very "grabby" so I switched out to a variation of an intruder pattern designed to be fished on the swing. With such tight quarters on this small stream getting the proper geometry on the cast to swing the fly was a daunting task. I had to carefully wade into the edge of the run on my knees to prevent spooking the fish in order to gain enough room for a roll cast quartering down and across the run. I could still see the fish laying in 3 feet of water and after the 5th cast I successfully swam the fly in front of two fish and the second fish lazily turned on the fly and took it. The water quickly erupted as the fish rocketed and cartwheeled around the pool. This hot steelhead got the better of me and just when I thought he was ready for the net he made one more dash and broke off.

We hiked a bit more up the stream and found one more fish in a tough position. After spooking it we needed to turn around and start making our way back to the meet point at the river mouth for our planned pickup from Trig. On the way back we made another attempt at the same run and managed one more hookup - again with the same results of the fish getting the better of us on a blistering, tackle busting run.

Upon returning to the Viaggio we learned that Bill’s foray into the other drainage was not as productive. Even though both drainages looked equal in size on the maps, in reality it was a much smaller volume fishery and very brushy with a lot of deadfall. They were unable to locate any fish and we determined it was not a usable option for future trips.

Secret Creek

A large storm rolled in the previous night and heavy winds and rains were forecast for the remainder of the trip. Anticipating the storm we changed plans of venturing further into the island system and instead moved in between two large islands that were home to some high quality fisheries that the guides had used in past seasons successfully. Some of the smaller rivers and streams in this region had yet to be explored and we decided that this would be a useful way to spend the rest of the week while staying protected from the brunt of the weather.

On day 4 we ventured up a mid sized river that looked promising on the maps as it was the outlet for a mid sized lake. Often these lake fed fisheries offer more stability and similar drainages in the area that are lake fed had proved productive. With the poor weather we opted to stick together vs. making longer runs in the jet boat to cover 2 rivers in one day.

Our morning was spent on the lower runs of the river which proved to look extremely fishy but were also swift, deep and difficult to navigate. Shortly after leaving the coast we entered a beautiful, but rugged gorge. After working the lower runs the gorge eventually became impassable. We recognized that we could either call it a day and head back early to the Viaggio or attempt to bushwack up and around the gorge to see if the upper waters were easier to access. Upon studying the maps it looked like the gorge only lasted about 1 mile. After an hour of bushwhacking through dense forest and dead fall we had only made short progress. Just as we were about to lick our wounds and had back we stumbled onto a well worn bear trail. This region of the world has one of the highest populations of black bears on earth - while they are not a threat to people they sure do a nice job of clearing some paths in the forest! With the discovery of the trail we made much better progress and were able to make our way back to the river. While the upper waters were still rugged, they were manageable and we located a passage back to the water that looked to offer several great runs including a pool below a large waterfall that looked promising.

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The waters were already on the rise with the steady rains and sight casting was not as productive as our earlier days so we switched to blind fishing by swinging flies and indicator nymphing. Ashley was the first to connect under Bill’s guidance as she hooked into a strong fish that tail-walked across the pool. The knowledge that steelhead were indeed in the system invigorated us all. Within 20 minutes I also hooked a huge fish that rocketed to the other side of the run before shaking the hook. Ann and I found ourselves in a productive run and had 4 more hookups in the next 30 minutes while managing to land 2 of the fish. After exhausting options on the 3 pools we had worked we hiked above the falls. We only had about another hour to explore before we headed back to the jet boat. On the upper waters the river flattened out a bit, we had excellent luck on either native rainbow trout or young steelhead - catching about 20 fish between 10-14 inches but no sea run fish. With time running out we headed back to the Viaggio with another successful outing under our belts. This was definitely a fishery worth revisiting in the future to explore in more depth now that we had located some trails around the gorge and verified that it did hold steelhead.

Swing-And-Miss River

When your are exploring remote rivers in search of steelhead sooner or later the well runs dry and that was the case on our final day of fishing. We took a roll of the dice on a smaller drainage that looked like it might have potential. The stream was fed by a lake high in the mountains which was promising and the gradient looked similar to other waters we had experienced success on. The fishery was also in close proximity to some known “winners” so it would be a big win if we found fish on it in terms of logistics.

After running the jetboat to the river mouth we realized the actual volume of the stream was much smaller than we had expected based on the map drainage. Streams this small aren’t as likely to hold fish as they are more variable in conditions but we set off to hike up the fishery just in case. After a short hike up the stream it proved to be extremely rugged with a lot of deadfall. Since the river was already on the small side we decided to pull the plug and check it off the list and return to the Viaggio early to relax and unwind after a fantastic week. With a big storm and rough seas forecast we took advantage of the early fishing exit and started motoring back to Petersburg to avoid an early wakeup on our departure day the following morning.


Southeast Alaska is truly a special place in the world. The combination of wilderness, wildlife, scenery and truly unique wild steelhead fisheries one of our most unique destinations. Exploring the Tongass National Forest should be on the bucket list for any adventurous angler. While success doesn’t come every day when steelheading, the incredibly high quality of targeting these impressive fish in such small and clear waters is difficult to describe and is one of the coolest angling experiences I have personally had the opportunity to enjoy. Our scouting mission was a success and allowed us to write off some fisheries that are not worth a return visit while also discovering a few gems that will become a staple of the program. Alaska Fish and Game publishes maps of all known steelhead waters in Southeast Alaska and several of the fisheries that we had success on had not been previously listed as a known steelhead fishery - pretty cool stuff!

Brian McGeehan is a Pennsylvania native and has been guiding Western rivers in Montana, Wyoming and Colorado for 20 seasons. He is a licensed Montana outfitter and owner of Montana Angler Fly Fishing based in Bozeman, MT.
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Published by Dave Kile [dkile] on 08/23/2019 (1498 reads)
Fall fly fishing in Pennsylvania offers anglers an awesome opportunity to enjoy cool, colorful days on some spectacular streams. Anglers will appreciate the solitude of fall fishing while others are busy with different fall activities. There are plenty of streams across the state with trout and hatches to keep you busy on familiar waters and even going after some streams you’ve been thinking about.

Fall Fly Fishing

Just like in the spring, you’re looking for trout and good water. There are plenty of streams that have naturally reproducing trout as well as stocked waters by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC). However, the PFBC only provides very limited stocking on select streams during the fall, which starts at the end of September through the beginning of October.

As the weather begins to change, so does the entomology or insect life in the stream. Activity will differ from region to region, stream size, summer water temperatures, and geology. The fall provides a more limited selection of insects, and often, anglers enjoy bringing a more modest selection of flies and imitations. Some of the more popular collections include Slate Drakes, BWOs, Caddis, terrestrials and egg patterns. Typical nymphs and streamers are always part of the mix.

Where to Fly Fish?

Stocked streams and Special Regulation Projects
About 40 streams are stocked after the start of fall by the PFBC. The number of trout is not close to the spring stockings, but offer increased angling opportunity to some of the more popular Special Regulation streams across the state like First Fork Sinnemahoning Creek, Lackawaxen River, Little Pine Creek, Ridley Creek, and Laurel Hill Creek, to name a few. The full list of fall stocked lakes and streams can be found at the PFBC site here. Some private clubs and Co-operative Nurseries also provide some stockings beside the PFBC, but those details are not publicly released.

Rainbow Trout
Something from the PFBC

Class A Trout Streams
Class A Wild Trout Streams are designated by the PFBC as: “Streams that support a population of wild (natural reproduction) trout of sufficient size and abundance to support a long-term and rewarding sport fishery. The Commission does not stock these stream sections.”

Wild Trout
Something a little wild

There are hundreds of these streams across the state. Some of the more popular streams are Penns Creek, Little Juniata, and Spring Creek. There are hundreds of streams across the state in this category, and a full PDF listing can be found here. Not all Class A stream sections are on public land so always ask permission from landowners when approaching Class As or other wild trout streams.

The wild trout in these streams behave and act differently than their pellet raised brothers. You’ll find these trout having lived a season or two and are well adjusted to their environment. They have survived the heat of the summer, floods, predators and have seen hundreds of anglers casting all kinds fly past them. Anglers who know the waters, conditions, and entomology of the fall will be rewarded for their knowledge with some fun but challenging trout.

Wilderness Trout Streams
“Wilderness Trout Streams are a sub-group of wild trout streams; some Wilderness Trout Streams also have a Class A designation based on meeting a minimum biomass threshold. Under 58 Pa. Code §57.4, it is the Commission’s policy to manage wilderness trout streams where stream remoteness and populations of wild trout combine to offer sport-fishing opportunities for anglers in a wilderness setting.” – PFBC. Often these remote wild trout stream areas share use with Hunters so always carry some blaze orange with you to help you to be recognized by hunters.

Holtwood Brook Trout Stream

These streams offer anglers a unique experience of often remote and out of the way streams with wild trout. Hopefully, anglers who make their way to these streams are rewarded with native brook trout in some great settings. These are often small feeder streams and those no-name streams you roll past getting to bigger, more popular stocked waters. These streams should be treated with great respect due to their fragile and unique environments. However, these streams are not all in the remote mountains of the state, but can often be found just around the corner of your home if you search a little.

Anglers with a sense of adventure, stealth, and respect can have a lot of fun with little gems scattered throughout the state. Generally, we ask that you not even post a stream report for these special streams to keep the traffic and adventure optimal.

For more detailed designations on all the wild trout waters from the PFBC, anglers will enjoy the PDF publication - Pennsylvania’s Wild Trout Streams.

Watch Out for the Redds
Reproduction plays an important part of the trout lifecycle during the fall months for both brook and brown trout. Brook trout, native to the Eastern US, usually spawn during late September through October. Brown trout typically spawn in October through late November. However, each stream is very different when this actually occurs.

During the spawn, the coloring on the trout will intensify, especially in the males. Females will create gravel beds called "reds" for the dropped eggs to be fertilized. It is very important to avoid fishing these sections on streams when you see redds and be careful not to kick them up when wading. It is probably best even to leave trout to overtop redds alone and give them a chance to protect the eggs.

Enjoy your fall fly fishing and add your stream report to the forum to share with others when you return.
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Published by Alex Ciocca [drakeking412] on 08/16/2019 (21170 reads)
The trip to Idaho was absolutely phenomenal though. The scenery, geology, wildlife, everything was just what we were looking for. We met up with some of my girlfriend's friends from Oregon and camped for the week at Alturas Lake campground which had some extremely beautiful tent-only sites tucked next to the lake. Early week was very quiet and peaceful till later in the week when there was a music festival in nearby Stanley so there was much more drinking in the area. I only fished the lake one day and I'm not much of a stillwater guy so I didn't have much luck but enjoyed watching some families slay stockers with powerbait, nice to see the kids so excited.

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We hiked up to the Alpine lakes one day and fished those however we got to the trailhead a little too late so the "w" had shown up and put all the fish don and my casts too haha. I was stubborn and would only throw a dry but it was fun and worth just the sights, we really enjoyed them and you live and learn. There was tons of bug activity up there though which was really cool to see.

We also did a float trip down the Salmon River which was my first guide trip and my first float trip proper. Man, that was a seriously good time. I could do that every day and not get tired of it. Our guide Troy lined up with our ideas on conservation and fishing in general and was a great guy to be around, I'd consider him a friend and plan on fishing with him again one day. We caught tons and tons of fish too with some being decent sized. My girlfriend had the time of her life throwing big foams and not touching a single fish haha. She hit her first fish on her own and broke off her first fish too. Several times I heard "I should have given him line Alex" haha the one that got away. Driftboat fishing is amazing though and I'm extremely interested to do it more.

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Lastly, I fished the tribs to the Salmon which were somewhat difficult to fish and access was tough at times. They were much clearer and higher flows than some of our streams and the fish seemed to be sitting in different positions than I'm used to. After an hour or two I started to figure it out and got into some fish. Around lunch, I started to miss fish and make mistakes that lost me some very nice fish. I also made a very big mistake of losing a fish, snagging, and then while frustrated retrieving the fly slipping and busting my shin very hard on some very hard rock. It was close to a day ender. Perseverance wins though and I was rewarded in the late afternoon with some 18" native cutthroat, the fish I went to Idaho for. They were very aggressive on the take and the fights were exhilarating too.

Overall my first major out of state fly fishing trip was a major success. We took a much-needed vacation and got to do some super amazing hikes and fishing. I have a ton more photos of some of the other areas like hot springs and falls I'll be putting together later, I can post the link to that here later but it's for her family too so it's going to be tough...

Thanks for reading and check out Idaho if you haven't! Feel free to pm and I can give you some pointers.

link to photos:

link to the conversation in the forum
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Published by Fredrick [Fredrick] on 07/24/2019 (1549 reads)
The "Frankenfish!" Chances are you have heard this name on your local news channel or on some overdramatized fishing show. The snakehead has received a lot of sensationalism by the media over the years with a lot of it misleading or greatly exaggerated. The snakehead is just a fish. They can’t walk on land to eat your pets and they don’t spawn five times a year. Just recently, John Odenkirk, the leading biologist on the Northern snakehead's impact on the Potomac with over 15 years of research has recently stated that he does not see the Northern snakehead as an invasive species anymore.

Photo courtesy Fredrick

For a fish species to be considered invasive, it has to cause economic or environmental harm. To date, there is no scientific evidence to show that this fish is causing harm to the economy or existing fish populations. If anything the snakehead has boosted sales in fishing licenses and equipment in the area they're inhabiting. They are a blast to catch with spectacular topwater strikes and they are great table fare which makes them attractive to many anglers.

Since hearing that this fish was found in Meadow Lake in 2004 I was intrigued about this so-called devil fish. So, like any angler, I wanted to catch one. I took to the internet to do my homework and gather all the information I could to help me catch these fish on the fly. What I found was very limited: a few guys claiming to be experts but only had two or three fish caught in a period of several years. To me, catching three fish of a certain species hardly makes you an expert and the experts shared no info on what techniques to use other than they had flies for sale that would catch snakeheads.

After a disappointing search for fly fishing related information, I turned my search towards what techniques conventional fisherman were using to catch this fish. I lucked out and found a YouTube channel called Noobangler On this channel, there was a group of guys that called themselves the Snakeheads Stalkers. They were based out of Pa and NJ that were targeting snakeheads in my area. After studying their videos, I had to find a way to translate what these guys were doing into fly fishing. Northern snakeheads don’t have great eyesight so they hunt mainly by sensing vibrations in the water. They also spend the majority of their time in aquatic vegetation, so I needed to find a fly that pushes a lot of water and is weedless. I took to the internet again to find something that fits my criteria for the fly that’s going to get one of these devilfish out of hiding to hit my fly.

My search was disappointing. There were weedless flies, but they didn’t push enough water, and flies that pushed a lot of water, but they were far from weedless. With my search coming up a dud, I needed to create my own snakehead catcher - one that is weedless but also pushes water. After a lot of wasted money spent on tying materials, at least ten or more prototypes, I had a fly that could do what I needed it to do. So how to fish the fly? Snakeheads like to hit lures that are moving with little to no pauses. I’m not sure about you, but I don’t want to be stripping my fly in like crazy all day to keep it moving at a pace that will get a snakehead's attention. Before I decided to catch a snakehead on the fly, I was known to hit the surf from time to time with the fly rod so I was very familiar with making my fly move fast using a two-handed retrieve where you tuck the fly rod under your arm so both hands are free, then you proceed to retrieve the line hand over hand. This makes for a lot faster retrieve and it is also less taxing than a typical single hand retrieves.

So, I have the fly and retrieve; it’s time to go catch my Frankenfish. It took me more than ten outings before I finally caught one. There were naysayers. Those people drove me to continue my efforts to get one of these fish to hand. I don’t think I will ever forget that day when I finally caught one. I ran right home after work and grabbed my kayak and my fishing gear and headed to one of my local snakehead holes.

It was hot and very humid out that day. I was paddling along the pads and in the distance, I noticed some nervous water in front of me. Nervous water can only mean one thing in water with snakeheads: there was a fry ball. A fry ball is a school of snakehead fry. Snakeheads breath air so the area where the babies are is always roiled because the fry are consistently surfacing for air. Snakeheads are great parents, both the male and the female guard their young on average for about four weeks. This is one of the easiest times to catch a snakehead they will hit almost anything that they believe is a threat to their young. Running a fly through the fry ball will anger the parents and BAM! - fish on. Once in a while, you will find some smart parents that won’t hit your fly, but if you get a few casts in the fry ball it usually ends in a bent rod.

Well, it was my lucky day. The first fry ball I paddled over, I made sure I didn’t get too close to it to scare the parents off. I dropped anchor to make sure I didn’t drift into the fry ball from the wind. After I made sure I wasn’t going anywhere, I just sat there and watched the fry and parent interacting to plan how I was going to get one of the patents to hit my fly. After some thought, I decided to cast a foot or two out of the fry ball and just strip my fly through the fry ball. I grabbed my rod and made about a forty-foot cast. My fly landed about three feet over the fry ball. I let it sit for a few seconds then I start to make my retrieve. I am at the edge of my seat the whole time. While my fly starts to go over the fry ball some fry scatter away then a huge deep pop noise with a splash. It took me a second to process what had just happened because I was still in shock from what I just witnessed. One of the parents annihilated my fly. My adrenalin was pumping so much I almost forgot to set the hook. I raised my rod up hard while simultaneously doing a strip strike FISH ON!!!!!! The fish immediately went for the weeds so I gave it the full strength of the butt section on my Sage Largemouth rod. After three attempts to go in the weeds and some water thrashing head shakes, I got the fish in my net and on the deck of the kayak. After some hand to hand combat with the fish to get the hook out, the fish stood still just enough for me to snap a quick pic. Right after that the fish flopped out of my yak and spit the hook out in the process. It was from that moment, that I knew I had to catch more of these mysterious, hard fighting fish that have taken residence in my back yard.

Follow Fred on his Instagram and Facebook accounts.
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Published by Dave Weaver [Dave_W] on 07/11/2019 (2993 reads)
Mid summer into mid autumn is prime time for small stream, warm water fly fishing. While this summer (2018) has, so far, been unseasonably wet and cool here in southcentral Pennsylvania, mid-June has traditionally been the time I start to look to local creeks for bass and panfish. The main game are smallmouth bass, rock bass, and red-breast sunfish. Many of these creeks also have largemouth bass, carp, fallfish, green sunfish, bluegills, hatchery trout, crappies, even pickerel and walleyes. However, red-breasts, rockies, and smallies are prevalent in most of the creeks I fish, with red-breasts ruling the roost. Green sunfish are equally widespread and sometimes are present in numbers best described as swarms, but they’re generally too small to target.


Many fly fishers, if they’re not focused entirely on trout fishing, look forward to the summer bass fishing season. Wading or boating the Susquehanna or other bigger waters is indeed a great experience, but many of these anglers overlook the little local creeks close to home. While the rivers are a motivating place to fish in summer, if you don’t live near one, or otherwise are waiting for levels to drop and clear, something that can take several days after small streams have cleared, don’t overlook warm water creeks close to home. Most of these streams I frequent are typically twenty to fifty feet wide and comparable to what I’d consider medium sized trout creeks that one would fish with a 4WT.

Many of these streams are downstream sections of Approved Trout Waters. Agricultural valley streams can be productive too. Some are tributaries of bigger rivers and may play a role in bass spawning in springtime. One thing to note about access: land owners whose properties these creeks traverse, are often less familiar with anglers on their property as landowners who have trout waters on their property. Nevertheless, I have found that, if you ask nicely, you are likely to get permission. In my experience, streams with some gradient and traditional riffle to pool structure fish better than slow-moving waterways, which are often soft bottomed and tough to wade. These streams with current also hold more and bigger fish, especially red-breast sunfish.

This is simple fishing. For gear, I usually wet wade these creeks as they often fish well at mid-day during the summer. I recommend long wading pants rather than shorts as these streams often have dense vegetation along their banks and lack trails due to lack of fishing pressure. Spare your legs and wear pants or waders. I usually use a 7WT fly rod but trout gear is fine and sometimes I’ll use one of my tiny, five-foot brookie rods. Normally I like bigger sticks since I’m roll casting big flies and big strike indicators. Basic poppers and nymphs cover most bases. Plain old Wooly Buggers or Clouser Crayfish are deadly too. No need to go fine on the tippet. I almost never go lighter than 10lb test line and often use 12-14lb test. Stronger tippets will allow you to rip flies out of vegetation.

These streams often hold very dense fish populations, although not typically large ones. One of my favorite local creeks that I’ve fished for decades has produced countless smallies for me, but the biggest I’ve ever caught there was fifteen inches. Creeks are a numbers game with respect to bass. Sometimes a big smallie, or even a largemouth, will show up, but these are rare. While smallies are the main bassin game, there is another favorite creek of mine that, for some reason, has far more largemouths. Rock bass are often present too. Look for rockies around woody cover in the slower, deeper pools. Smallies and red-breasts are more likely to be in the main channel under current where chunk rock is present. In my experience, rock bass are less likely to rise to poppers and are much more susceptible to being caught on nymphs and streamers. Ditto with red-breast sunfish. You’ll get plenty on top, but if you’re mainly after these panfish you will probably get a lot more of them subsurface. Sometimes I’ll fish upstream with a popper and catch bass. On the way back downstream, I’ll fish subsurface with a buggy nymph or small crayfish pattern and slay the sunnies and rockies. Oftentimes, you will find a particular big rock or log that always seems to hold fish and you can pull multiple fish out from around or under it. Such hotspots usually remain productive year after year.

I’m convinced that the fish in these creeks are seasonal transients. This varies and I know some creeks where bass winter over. However, in most of the creeks I fish, the bass and sunnies usually migrate out in autumn, sometime around first frost. By this time, it’s time to go elsewhere and I switch to the big rivers or trout fishing. In the springtime, usually by late May or early June, the bass and panfish return to the creeks. Prime time is July to September. Some years with low flow conditions in springtime, such as 2016, I seem to find fewer bass and panfish in these creeks in summer. Better flows seem to pull more fish up into these creeks. I have found small bass and sunfish in the tiniest of creeks, some just a foot or two wide that dry up in warm years. These creeks aren’t worth fishing, but it is testimony to how far up into the watershed these fish can migrate.

Don’t overlook small streams in summer for easy going fly fishing. You can catch dozens of hard fighting fish in an afternoon and often some decent sized bass in the eight to twelve inch range. Many of these creeks rarely see an angler – maybe some kids with inner tubes and fishin poles. If you have a kid or a dog, bring them too. If you’re lucky, you’ll find a creek filled with scrappy bass and red-breast sunfish - a great way to spend a hot, lazy summer day.

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Published by Dave Kile [dkile] on 05/10/2019 (4576 reads)
Friday, May 17th is the start of our annual gathering for the Paflyfish Spring Jamboree Weekend. This is our annual meet-up for members of the site to get together to fly fish, tie flies, camp and share a few stories. We have a lot of fun fishing over some of Pennsylvania's finest streams including the Little J, Penns Creek, Spring Creek, Fishing Creek and plenty more in the region.


The pavilion at Seven Mountains Campground is rented by Paflyfish and is used as a meeting point during the weekend. Plenty of impromptu conversations, fly tying and meet-ups take place at the pavilion. The idea of the weekend is to provide a setting for a casual weekend of fly fishing in a great region of Pennsylvania . As with every year we will be meeting up in the evenings at the pavilion to catch up on the days fishing trips. Friday and Saturday mornings we meet for coffee and plan the day. Often plenty of opportunities for some fly tying and casting lessons being shared.


This year we are going to make the weekend at little more informal. At this time we are not going going to be planning any special speakers or activities. There is always plenty of impromptu fly tying, casting lessons and support on where to fish. So if you are unsure about the area, do not worry there are plenty of members from the site that can help get you started. Many anglers from the site come up early or stay later after the weekend. Follow the latest details in the forum .


Friday – May 17th - Sunday, May 19, 2018
• 7:00 am Coffee at the pavilion Saturday and Sunday mornings
• 9:00 pm Gathering after the day of fishing Friday and Saturday evening (BYOB)


Please contact Sevens Mountain Campground directly if you would like to stay there that weekend. They have a limited number of cabins and campsites. I encourage you to make your reservations now.

Sevens Mountain Campground
101 Seven Mountains
Campground Rd.
Spring Mills, PA 16875
(814) 364-1910
(888) 468-2556
Call between 8:30-4:30 M-F
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