RSSFly Rods

Texas Fly Fishing Report 030918 – Spring Has Sprung as Dams Draw Down

| March 9, 2018 | 0 Comments



The Texas Fly Fishing Report is back from the winter break, rightfully so and ready to go! We have plenty of fishing, fly fishing action, to report today. The report’s home base is in North Texas, so in such a large state conditions will vary wildly.

What we are experiencing in this part of Texas is a fantastic pattern for fly fishers that starts below a lot of the lake dams. Numerous lakes are beyond conservation pool as this report goes out, and authorities are releasing water to bring those lake levels down. I have documented those releases, and the fish caught during those releases, over several years (beginning in 2010).

This phenomenon never happened during the drought years (about 4 years) as you may recall, and I expected us to continue along the downward drought spiral going into the Texas fishing season in 2018. But we have had surprisingly good slow rains that have saturated the ground, pushed back the drought map (away from North Texas), filled the lakes and now come the lake releases in advance of the real rain during the “rainy months.”

Right now, the fly fishing is absolutely fantastic on these releases – for the most part. All we have to do is find a releases, like the one at Ray Roberts Dam, and go throw a few good tight loops. Sure, these places (especially the Ray Roberts Dam) are overrun with conventional fishermen who finally found their pot of gold, and you will see them there day-after-day, in the same spot, slaughtering fish day-after-day. And they leave behind a mountain of trash and submerged lines in the water to tangle and lose flies on, but if you can handle the crowds and the carnage? Well, like you see in the video; these releases can be one big box of chocolates. The big bass are coming in, the sand bass are up and full-on running, and if you sprinkle in some hybrid action … what’s so hard about that?


You will want a 7 or 8 weight rod to be able to fight these fish in huge current, and be able to turn them toward you.

I like a reel I can count on – with good drag and a big enough spool to manage line to ALWAYS go to reel. Going to the reel is very important in these situations, and that is because line gets caught on everything in riprap fly fishing – rocks, fences, bushes and everything else we find in these dirty situations.

I am using a fluorocarbon leader with either an 8 or 10 pound tip – remember you can control depth by what your tip is – bigger is shallower.

Year after year, the red over white Clouser catches these fish. But your hook needs to be something extreme, like a Tiemco 600SP, or a circle hook, which I have gone to to allow fish to hook themselves on a slack drift. The circle hooks are great, and do exactly what they are designed to do – and cost a fraction of what super-sharp normal hooks cost.

Where I am fishing, the fish are in very tight bunches, so you will have to search and fan cast until you find them. Once you find them, don’t go looking elsewhere – keep going back to the spot you found. The spot you see in the video, for example, was about 10 feet across!

New Mexico Fly Rod Reel Outfitting

| January 17, 2018 | 1 Comment

Choosing the Right Rod and Reel For New Mexico Small Streams

New Mexico FlagI have a friend, this old codger who is about to retire from a cushy professor job that he’s had so long … he actually knew what he was teaching, and got paid for it! You know, the days before universities became bottom-line corporations.

Besides his great spot on Lake Kiowa, he has a second casita on a hill overlooking Downtown Santa Fe, New Mexico. And it’s that home that comes with some fantastic trout fly fishing opportunities. He made some contact there, at one of the fly shops, and whoever he met filled his head with the idea he was in valhalla for brown trout. I would never deny my limited knowledge of that part of New Mexico, so what am I to do, but get him ready for retirement.

He is ready for something small, and matched to the fish he’s going to find in that part of New Mexico and Southern Colorado.


From my quiver, I pulled three rods to show him, rods I have had a long time, caught a lot of trout on, and rods that travel well. They’re versatile, and they are sized for the potential small stream, tight overhanging trees and shrubs that can foul a day pretty quickly.

That’s another thing. Although this guy is considerably older, he still has a signifiant case of ADD. If he doesn’t catch, it’s time to go. If he has to go too much? It really IS TIME TO GO NOW. So, we don’t want him to get frustrated in this new habitat.


The three rods I would go mountain man with are:

  • TFO BVK 8-foot 3 weight
  • TFO BVK 7-foot 9-inch 4 weight
  • TFO Finesse Glass 7-foot 3-4

I have had, and sold all of my rods – below five weight – that are 9-foot rods. And I can never imagine going back. It’s hard to figure out why the dice landed on 9 when it comes to modern fly rod length, but we are going through some blow-back in recent years, as it dawns on fly fishers; why the heck do I need a 9-foot crack pipe? Couple that enlightenment with the advent of legal bass rods, and the door was blown wide open when it comes to rod length.

Of the three rods listed above, the TFO 4 weight is now available in 8 feet only. Three inches really don’t do a lot to the overall performance of this rod. That’s because, in general, when we are dealing with these ultralight small rods – the differences between those of the same family, and the differences with other families, like Sage or Winston, are so minute as to be completely negotiable. Sure, you will get the latest generation whiz bang from the high end rods, but can you feel it? Does it matter that much? The TFO warranty trumps any minute chills that a Sage runs up your pant leg anyway.

Whenever you get to five, then a rod can speak to you more clearly – in its own language that you either understand, or you don’t. I would stand by my Winston BII five weight in case the old codger invited me to a place, like the San Juan River Navajo Quality Waters. That’s a place that has some fantastic trophy fish that would break one of these small rods like Bo Jackson breaks bats.

Now this education is a “ground-up” outfitting for this old gentleman, so we also need to look at reels and lines.

Best Small Fly Fishing Reels Under 200 Dollars

This is another great reason to pull the trigger on a small fly rod – reels at this size are also extremely affordable as well! There is no good reason to spend a lot of money on reels at this size because drag is rarely an issue, rust is no issue, and the reel often amounts exactly to what it has been so often called – A LINE HOLDER.

If I were buying new small reels today? I would honestly have a hard time deciding which reel to buy. Many of today’s reel makers realize the function of their reels has never been better – advanced drag systems, computer controlled production machining or casting. The average reel today is mechanically light years ahead of the best reel of fifteen years ago. Some of the old technology has survived, but that reel technology has also been upgraded by the technological revolution.

So how are today’s small fly reels different? The drag systems ARE different for different brands, and different models with in a brandname, and the materials can be cast or machined aluminum. But the big differences are in the sexiness being designed into fly fishing reels these days. These designers are learning from sports car design; creating reels that look like they are moving even when they are standing still. New anodized colors, machined textures and mixing of materials for knobs – all can make a reel look like spinner rims on a low rider.

My small reels are the same as they were ten years ago – with one new addition this year, as I evolve away from my originals.

Those two are the Orvis Battenkill BBS II reels. They are simple, small, reliable, warrantied, affordable and they never miss a beat. The third reel that is moving into my trout driver is a Lamson Guru 1.5.

The Lamson lacks the screaming drag and reeling sound of the Battenkill, but I have come to appreciate that silence.

But since I was doing my due diligence for the old guy … I started looking around at reels, and was extremely impressed with today’s choices.

Orvis Courtesy Photo


Strangely, as a brand, Orvis seems to be less sexy than a lot of other brands, but still an affordable choice.They run about $160-dollars, and have recently been updated.


I looked at the Reddington line of reels, and really like the price and look of the ZERO reel. I am not sure what they are made of, but they are a cast reel, and lightweight.

Reddington Zero reel courtesy photo Reddington

  • Lightest reel in its class
  • Unmachinable, unique die-cast construction
  • Super-lightweight design with quick-change spool
  • Spring loaded, clicker drag system
  • Easily converts to left or right hand retrieve
  • Twin molded, soft-touch ergonomic handles
  • Large arbor design speeds retrieve and reduces line memory
  • Nylon reel case included
  • Lifetime warranty

SAGE 2200

The Sage 2200 is at the bottom of the Sage fly reel line, at $170-dollars, but doesn’t look like the bottom of anything. This is a great looking reel, and has a good deal of technology under the hood. It’s twice the price of the ZERO, but looks like it too.

Courtesy Sage Fly Fishing Sage 2200

  • SCS drag design
  • Large arbor for fast line pick up; Concave arbor for greater strength and capacity
  • Large machined one revolution drag knob with numbered and detented settings
  • Ergonomic machined aluminum handle
  • Easy conversion from left- to right-hand retrieve
  • Neoprene and embroidered ballistic nylon reel case


These are good looking reels, and at a good price. Cork drag gets my attention every time.The price point is right in line with the competition here at $140-dollars. Seeing as he’s retiring from UNT, the green anodizing should be the cat’s meow.

Courtesy Allen Fly Fishing

  • Fully machined aluminum spool and frame
  • Cork disc drag system
  • large arbor spool
  • Click retrieve and click drag
  • Bearing-less disc drag system
  • Easily converts from left to right hand retrieve


Probably the lowest on the totem pole is the Waterworks Lamson Remix model. It is the bottom line Lamson, and I guess I have just been spoiled by my Gurus look and feel. The Remix just looks chunky, but if you need a big, easy to find drag knob – think about this one at $180-dollars.

It’s their cast reel, and I had problems with the finish on one of these — they show punishment very quickly.

Lamson Courtesy Photo

  • format: Large Arbor
  • materials: Machined 6061 Aluminum Case, Pressure Cast Aluminum Spool
  • finish: Type II Anodize Case, Polyurethane Spool
  • drag: Sealed Conical Drag
  • 80% US Manufactured, 100% Idaho Built

CONCLUSION – For a classic size, look and sound – it’s the Orvis Battenkill. For a modern looking reel, I like the Reddington ZERO, but wonder what it is actually cast from? Next to that, it is hard to go wrong with the Sage 2200 series. The Allen Fly Fishing reel is probably the toughest reel – it’s machined, while all the others are cast, but that does make it hefty. If you want a splash of sentimental color, don’t hesitate to do the Allen Reel.

TUNE IN FOR PART 2 – Fly Line and accessorizing for safety.

IFTD Wrap Up of Retail Winners

| July 19, 2017 | 0 Comments

2017 IFTD Show Winners

We all know how these fly folks like to sell stuff, right? Well every year they get together and find new ways to entice the fly public into what are now called, “upgrades” to the great stuff they/we already have. By now, we would think a fly rod has reached the apex of quality and craftsmanship, BUT NO, there are always new improvements to be made! And here the show winners are …


A complete listing of the winners and categories is below:

Men’s Wading Boots: Orvis — Ultralight Wading Boot

Men’s Waders: Simms Fishing Products — G3 Wader

Men’s Outerwear: Simms Fishing Products – G3 Guide Tactical Jacket

Men’s General Apparel: Simms Fishing Products — SolarFlex Armor Shirt

Women’s Waders: Orvis — Women’s Ultralight Waders

Women’s Outerwear: Orvis — Pro Wading Jacket

Women’s General Apparel: Simms Fishing Products — Women’s BiComp LS Shirt

Women’s Wading Boots: Korkers, LLC — Women’s Dark Horse Boot

Accessories Under $100: Fishpond, Inc. — Quickshot Rod Holder

Gift Items Under $100: DeYoung Studios — DeYoung Gift Wrap

Fly Rod — Freshwater: Scott Fly Fishing — The G Series

Fly Rod — Saltwater: Sage Fly Fishing — Salt HD

Reel – Freshwater: Abel — SDF (Sealed Drag Fresh)

Reel – Saltwater: Nautilus Reels — GTx

Fly Line — Freshwater: RIO Products — IT Single-Handed Spey 3D

Fly Line — Saltwater: RIO Products — Direct Core Flats Pro

Leader / Tippet: RIO Products — Big Nasty

Fly Hooks: Stealth Fly Products — Stealth Hooks & System

Fly Tying Vices & Tying Tools: TMC Magnetic Bobbin, Fine — Umpqua Feather Merchants

Fly Tying Materials: Fair Flies — Composite Brushes

Youth Product: Redington — Minnow Outfit

Fly Pattern — Freshwater: Flymen Fishing Company — Double Barrell Bass Bug

Fly Pattern — Saltwater: Umpqua Feather Merchants — Chicone’s Tuscan Bunny

Fly Box / Storage System: Umpqua Feather Merchants — UPG HD Mag Midge Fly Box

Eco-friendly Product: Fishpond, Inc. — Submersible Backpack

Luggage (Bags, Backpacks): Fishpond, Inc. — Grand Teton Rolling Bag

Entertainment / Education: Stackpole Books / Lyons Press — Orvis Fly Fishing Guide

Chest Pack / Vest: Fishpond, Inc. — Submersible Lumbar Pack

Boat / Personal Watercraft: Creek Company — T. Rex 9.8 Mini Drifter

Fly Rod Choice For North Texas Carp and Largemouth Bass

| June 19, 2017 | 0 Comments

My Choices for boat rods fly fishing for carp and bass North Texas

Opinions on fly rods are, like opinions in general; you know … everybody has one. The reality is the best rod for you is the one that best matches your cast. If you cast enough, I mean a WHOLE LOT, the rod matters a lot less than the ability to change rods – from a mountain 2 weight to a saltwater 12 weight. If your cast is locked and loaded, you could do both rods (and anything in between) in the same day – and the action of the rod is inconsequential.

I am on the water Tuesday morning, so enjoy this and I will get the continuation of this video out (the 360 Nikon maybe) later this week. I apparently had two cameras going (double live GONZO!), and may just run both for your comparisons sake. This Nikon 360 software is nothing short of a nightmare!

Shots Fired – Big Box Fly Fishing Retail on Life Support

| March 24, 2017 | 1 Comment

This week seems to have been the tipping point in big box retail business, when Sears declared itself unsure of being able to operate as a “going concern” going forward. For you accountants out there, you know what that means. For our young readers, a “going concern” is an accounting term that essentially means having a business that makes money, any money at all. And businesses that don’t make money? They don’t stay open.

[ppw id=”159497038″ description=”Big Box Fly Fishing Retail Outlook” price=”.25″]

Locally, Backwoods in Fort Worth, Texas, ceased operating as a going concern earlier this year. It should be noted that Backwoods Fort Worth is just one of the retail locations for that company, and no matter what, Backwoods did not fail because of its people on the floors. It failed the way the vast majority of businesses fail – bad management at the top.

Backwoods was only a bit player in fly fishing and the larger story of retail fly fishing though. A big player, a fly fishing company, SIMMS of Bozeman, Montana, caused a huge storm a few years ago when they announced they would begin selling directly online. Retailers who carry SIMMS didn’t hold back, and SIMMS listened, they didn’t back down, but they listened. They promote “Buy Local,” and even sell T-shirts with the saying on the SIMMS site. SIMMS was doing what is necessary in the 21st. Century to remain a “going concern” – to take care of its employees, management, and continue operating for profit. Nobody even talks about that landmark event anymore.

Lately, Bass Pro, the behemoth of outdoor sports retailing and especially fishing, did a little transaction where they purchased Cabela’s (CAB). Hard to believe, right? A company started in the back of a liquor store (don’t believe all the historical rewriting – the nest-egg of the start came dubiously as well) buys an organically grown company with deep roots in the fly fishing and outdoor sports community. I had listened to employees boast of how (in it must have been 2014) Cabela’s had made huge profits, so I was as surprised as you were on the news.

So what got Cabela’s in the long run? One thing was their liberal return policies, leading to a huge “Bargain Cave” where buzzards like me circled, first stop, on every visit. Another thing: Expansion of their brick-and-mortar stores in a huge, and incomprehensible way. Cabela’s WAS a mail order company before mail order took  over (see Amazon) and went worldwide web. Mail order (now internet order) is the lean and mean super efficient bully. Remember when finding a Cabela’s retail store on some far away journey was a memorable stop along the way? You could go home and brag that you’d actually been to a Cabela’s. The rest of us checked our mailboxes for the latest catalog.

What happens now? I think it’s safe to say Bass Pro will begin to reassess Cabela’s big box brick-and-mortar operations. Stores will be closed, just like malls get closed (and imploded), just like Sears stores will close. And where they remain, you’ll be visiting a Bass Pro store in the future.


Founded in 1971, Bass Pro is a privately held company that (shows on the internet) earned $4.45-billion in 2015, and had 22-thousand employees in the same year.


In 2016, Cabela’s, a publicly traded company, had 19,100 employees, and showed a nearly $147-million loss on $4.1-billion of revenue. In October 2016, Cabela’s (they had separately sold some of their other interests earlier) sold to Bass Pro for $5.5-billion.

Right now, in 2017, there seems to be a lot of love in the room (the boardrooms) between Cabela’s and Bass Pro, make no mistake that Bass Pro wants performance from Cabela’s. And how did Cabela’s get here? They certainly did not have being bought by Bass Pro, in a deal financed by Goldman Sachs and  Pamplona, as a future company goal. What happened? I believe Cabela’s went too big into brick-and-mortar at a time when all the signs were there – brick-and-mortar is going away, and will never, ever be the same again.

What does this have to do with you?

Set aside our sentimental attachments to Cabela’s – because we have to. K-Mart is gone too, as well as Gibson’s and Globe stores. They’re going away. Maybe Cabela’s will still exist, but not as currently constituted. For the fly fishing public who shops at big box stores, you now have fewer choices – if you choose to burn the fossil fuel to go to a retail store and price compare, buy flies (mostly tied overseas SOLD at both stores), and socialize.

That last thing is what fly fishers, on a local basis, will miss the most – the socializing and information gathered in fly fishing departments. I guess you will have to socialize in new ways – like here on this website!?!


The brick-and-mortar philosophy is one that still exists at Temple Fork Outfitters, where they do not wholesale (knowingly) to businesses that do NOT have a brick-and-mortar store. They say they want the expertise, the experts behind their rods, to teach fly casting as well as sell their rods. Will they stick with that idealistic philosophy? I imagine they will, even if fly fishers point out places like – – where a guide sells fly rods (without a brick store). And I am sure there are more online only sellers of TFO out there that somehow fly under the radar. I only point this out because, I would certainly love to sell TFO rods here at Texas Fly Caster, or at my online fly shop PoPs, but haven’t been able to get that done over the decade. I’ve sold plenty of  TFO Rods though – through lessons and demonstrations over the years. Glad to help. Even more glad to directly sell your rods though!

Mom-and-Pop brick-and-mortar shops run into trouble when they exist to satisfy the wants of JUST fly fishers. The best stores, like Tailwaters in Dallas, know what the value of fly tying materials is to their bottom line, and they know what the value of clothing like Patagonia is. And they know what has more appeal to the masses (traffic in the door).

Brick-and-mortar stores will have to continue to promote and sell exotic trips for a certain clientele, but they would be well advised to also invite participation of the local population of hardcore fly fishers and guides who fly fish and work in their geographic areas. A mutually beneficial relationship, that is measurable, would go a long way toward floating everybody’s boats. Perhaps a spring Saturday called, “LOCAL FLY AND GUIDE DAY,” where we can all gather at a shop, like Tailwaters, and meet-and-greet. Heck! Do it at all the brick-and-mortar Mom-and-Pop fly shops across Texas on the same day.


You may notice there is little mention of Orvis in this article on retail fly fishing. It seems so hard to classify that company. They are nimble when it comes to responding to opening and closing retail outlets, and have a pragmatic approach to retail stores and the relationship between their retail and online operations. They certainly provide very good and excellent products for fly fishers. They just never seem very “local” to me, and are another retailer that would do well to foster outreach to the local fly community. I’ve experienced local store employees who simply read this site, glean all the information they can, call it their own, and take customers out on the “latest rage” fly fishing for carp. Yup, Orvis invented fly fishing for carp. Credit to them though – if ORVIS says it, it must be true (much like the Backwoods FW cult but with a much deeper following). ORVIS has gotten a lot of seniors outside, and exposed to the local game of carp on fly.

I can imagine ORVIS will try and fill any void created by the combination of Bass Pro and Cabela’s – when it comes to fly tying. Although I believe fly tying materials are the ULTIMATE BEST BUY in online fly fishermen’s searches.

ORVIS was founded in 1856, and is a family owned company with 91 retail stores and 10 outlet stores as of this writing. They do donate to environmental concerns, and seem to have a sound business philosophy. In 2012, ORVIS report $340-million in sales (not updated), and 1700 employees.  They also have approximately 500 independent dealers worldwide (could be a model for Cabela’s future?). Their website is one any other fly fishing business (large and small) can envy. It is fed by local guides (PAYING ATTENTION?), and the big name guides as well. The information breaks down to a web of knowledge, fed regularly, to the fly fisher who is hungry to “Know Before You Go” just about anywhere fly fishing exists.

ORVIS, because of its size, makes it nimble enough to respond to and embrace the internet in a way that benefits readers and buyers. They obviously integrate promotion of their products, as a smart retailer should, into the information provided by their “ORVIS Endorsed Guide” system.



If the USA no longer makes steel, and they are imploding malls in the rust belt, don’t we realize change, even a change in the way we shop for fly fishing goods, is inevitable? If you don’t think changes, known and unknown, are coming in the future of retail(for the rest of our future as fly fishers), then I have a buggy whip to sell you.

banner ad