Leland fly

For all things fly fishing... and Maybe a Little More

Shotguns and saltwater fly fishing

FACEBOOK-AND-BLOG-BANNERWhether you duck hunt or not, there’s one undeniable truth, every shotgun has an effective range. Sure, you can slightly increase your gun’s range with specialty loads (shotgun shells) and high-performance chokes. However, there’s a trade off. You just turned your all-purpose, duck gun into a “one trick pony” long range gun…pretty much useless for all regular shots. Why does this matter and what does this have to do with fly fishing? Hang in there…I’m getting to it.

You see, just like there’s an effective range on a standard shotgun, say about thirty yards maximum…there’s also an effective range when fly fishing the saltwater flats. Shooting at a duck that’s way beyond your gun’s range will result in not only a missed duck, but an announcement to all other ducks in the vicinity that something’s up. It’s just like casting to a bonefish or permit that’s beyond your fly casting range. You’ll probably miss your target, spook your fish and any other fish on the flat as well.

So what’s the answer to the riddle? Only shoot your gun or cast your fly at targets within range. When duck hunting, you need your target within thirty yards or less so you can properly identify the duck, make an accurate shot and clean kill. When fly fishing the same is true, you need to identify your fish, make an accurate cast…and unlike duck hunting watch your fish’s reaction to your fly. In other words, if you can’t see what your fish is doing, you’re fishing blind. That might work if you’re fishing bait, but not when you’re using a fly.

Don’t let an uppity guide or high-performance fly fishing rod company buffalo you into thinking you have to cast a country mile to catch a saltwater flats fish. If you still believe that, I’ve got a Howitzer gun to sell you for next duck season.

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An unhurried fly fisher


When I was a much younger fly angler I caught a lot of trout. In fact, I caught way more trout back then than I do today. Without a wife or kids at the time, I had little in the way of responsibility. This lifestyle allowed me to always be the first rod on the water. Early morning drives and headlamp-lit hikes would get me to my water before others. A check of the watch would let me know a half an hour wait was still required before my first legal cast.

When it was time to fish, I’d pull out all the stops. With my fly vest fully-loaded, I could rig and re-rig until the fish count began. Whether dry fly, nymph or streamer fishing, I could switch my angling approach by the minute to better my results. And when my water was exhausted, I dash off to the next run and replay my effective approach to fly fishing. At the end of the day, if asked by other anglers, I’d proudly announce the number of trout I’d caught. It felt good…kind of.

Although I did catch a good number of trout, I couldn’t remember any fish in particular. They all blended together in a blur of rushed angling. I wasn’t earning fish, I was just catching them, using any angling technique that produced the biggest result. In retrospect, I was actually stressed out while fly fishing. I had to be the first on the water. I had to catch the biggest fish. I had to catch the most fish. Truth is, all I had to do is enjoy my day in a beautiful location. I was missing the big picture…such is youth.

Today, I’m married. I have two wonderful daughters. I have a job and lots of chores. I don’t fly fish as much as I did in my youth…and I couldn’t be happier. Today, fly fishing is my therapy. To me, it’s not a sport. It’s more of an outdoor activity. Approached this way, I don’t have to be first on the water or catch the most trout. I just have to enjoy the experience. I no longer wear a stuffed fly vest. I don’t rush to the water anymore. Instead, I enjoy the drive and the walk. If someone is already fishing my run, I don’t mind. I’ll wait and watch.

Chances are, the person fishing that run is younger and in a hurry, as I once was, and will soon move to new water. Chances are the person in my favorite run has not yet unlocked the secret of truly controlling fly line during the cast. And chances are, I’ll be able to land my fly in untouched water. Maybe I’ll even earn a trout or two.
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The “Goldilocks” fly cast.

You remember Goldilocks, don’t you? She’s the one who visited the bears’ house and made quite a mess of the place by trying out just about everything…chairs, porridge and beds. What does this have to do with fly casting? Just hang in there…I’m getting to it.

You see, the thing I learned about Goldilocks was that this young woman was on a quest for something special…something that was, “just right.” If she’d been fly fishing for trout, Goldilocks would have eventually determined (after much testing and the breaking of things), that a forty-foot fly cast was indeed “just right.”

There are a few qualified trout-oriented fly fishers that already know this fact, but the majority of today’s anglers don’t. Unfortunately, too many fly fishers think increased fly casting distance alone is the secret to more fish. It’s not. In truth, focusing on longer fly casts is often more of a distraction than a benefit.

So why is a forty-foot fly cast the secret distance? Because fly fishing is a visual game. It’s exciting to see your fish prior to your cast. At forty-feet, you can see your fish. It’s of benefit to see your fish react to your offering. At forty-feet, you can see your fish react. It’s the pinnacle moment in fly fishing when your trout rises to the surface to take your fly. At forty-feet, you can watch in amazement. Better yet, at forty-feet, you’re not so close as to spook your trout.

So next time you’re on a trout stream. Take it from Goldilocks and craft an efficiency, accurate, subtly-presented forty-foot cast. It’ll be “just right.”

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Take me to my Leader.

I remember as a kid, hand-making fly fishing leaders with my grandfather. Any time we had a fly fishing trip planned, we’d always meet up for dinner and some hand-tied leader making a week before the trip. Not only was it great to get some of my Grandmother’s home cooking, it was also special to hang out with my grandfather in his den talking about fishing and life, while making magic trout leaders.

This was in the mid 1970’s and the glut of today’s fly fishing products was long off. Whether knotless, tapered leaders were available at the time, I don’t know. What I do know is my grandfather was an engineer by trade and he had a special notebook of magic “tapers.” These were secret measurements of nylon fishing line by length and diameter and this information was not to be shared casually.

Fortunately by birth, I was in the club, so I could be part of the project. I still remember carefully measuring sections of particular gauges of fishing line and cutting appropriately. Next, we’d begin the process of fashioning each section to the next with blood knots. After each knot was tied and cut, we’d add a bit of glue to reinforce the knot. A magic fly fishing leader was born.

Once each fly fishing leader was finished, a hand-written label, along with the rolled-up leader would be popped into a small baggie for safe keeping and identification. The process was repeated until we felt we had enough tapered leaders for the upcoming fishing trip. Over the years, we sure made a lot of tapered leaders together. My Grandfather’s leaders cast and fished like no other leader I’ve since used.

Today, we no longer need to make our own hand-tied leaders. Fancy machines can turn pellets of nylon into finely tapered sections by extrusion. If done right, a proper leader profile and the right material can arguably make the world’s greatest leader. But with this ease of production, any leader profile can be casually created, stuffed into a bag and sent to market. The unfortunate result is a overwhelming selection of knotless leaders that don’t cast or fish that well.

I sure miss my Grandfather’s magic fly fishing leader.

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Do fish make sounds?

I wasn’t sure, so I asked Mr. Google. Turns out there are few fish that actually do make sounds. Some fish names now make a bit more sense, like Croakers and Drums. Yup, they make croaking and drumming noises…go figure. There are other fish on the list too, and what seems to be the acoustic connection here is the goal of attracting a mate during the spawn using sound…smart fish.

However, my favorite fish wasn’t on the list…the steelhead. According to Google this fish is silent in the noise making department…even during the spawn. Maybe that’s why they’re so pretty. Then it dawned on me, the steelhead does make a sound, a very wonderful sound…at least the ones I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. The sweet sound I’m referring to is the audible click from my classic “click-pawl” fly reel. It’s celebratory music to my cold ears on a quiet Winter’s day.

If you’ve ever fiddled with a classic, click-pawl fly reel in a fly shop, you might not have enjoyed the metallic click-clack sound. It might have sounded harsh to your ears. Then you imagined that same metalic sound in the quiet of nature and opted for a quieter disc drag reel. But there are a few more things to consider before you give up on that classic reel. Firstly, that reel you held had no backing or fly line on it, which softens the reel’s sound considerably. Secondly, it wasn’t spinning at full speed with your chrome fish running down river, changing that click-clack sound into a wonderful “purr.”

The second consideration is the most important. Even in the quiet of nature, nothing beats that magic moment when a steelhead grabs your swung fly, tightens your fly line with the “tug” and then your classic fly reel begins to sing. If anything, you might at that moment wish your reel was even louder to celebrate the moment. If you’re alone on the river the sound of your reel is all yours to enjoy. If you’re not alone, it’s audible hope to other anglers stating that fish are indeed in the run and maybe they too will come tight to a trophy.

Yup, steelhead do make a sound and it just might be the best sound you’ll hear all year.

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A Fly Reel In A Sock Drawer

Most of us wear clothes, which means most of us have a chest of drawers in which we neatly store them. One drawer in particular is of interest to this story…the sock drawer, actually my sock drawer. In it, I do store my socks, but I also store other items. Maybe that’s because I chose to store my socks in my upper-most drawer…I guess out of convenience. In any case, the convenience of this drawer’s location is also important to this story. It allowed me to be lazy and casually plop non-sock items into it for temporary storage.

I did this once with my trout fly reel after I cleaned my fly line and added some needed lubrication to its inner workings. I reminded myself that I’d have to move my cherished fly reel back into my fishing pack prior to my next fishing trip, but “myself” forgot to do just that. Something about forgetting…it seems to get easier as time passes and family responsibilities increase.

A few weeks later, I had a rare window of opportunity for a quick trip to my local trout stream. Excited, I grabbed my fly gear, tossed it into my car and headed out for relaxing afternoon of fishing. The drive was nice, the music was good and when I arrived stream side, the parking lot was empty. Good day! I proceeded to gear up, waders on and boots tied. I assembled my four-piece fly rod. All I needed was my fly reel…YUP, the very same well-lubed fly reel that was nesting safely back in my sock drawer.

Truth is, you can’t do much in the way of fly fishing without a fly line and fly reel. Although I was frustrated a bit, I did spend some time listening to the stream’s music as I walked its bank and that calmed me a bit. The drive home was nice.

If there’s a lesson here, it might have something to do with keeping my fly fishing gear organized. When I arrived home, I told my wife that the fishing was great. I was too embarrassed to tell her what really happened. I then went straight to my sock drawer and removed all items that weren’t sock related.

Want to stay organized while fly fishing? Click here.

Fiberglass is Magical!

I received my first quality fly rod at the age of seven. My grandfather bought it for me only after I’d proven to him I was worth the investment. It was a two-piece, eight-foot, six-weight, fiberglass fly rod. At that age, I really didn’t know what all that meant…and that didn’t matter one bit. I knew my grandfather was a solid fly fisher and I knew he was tight with his money…so it had to be a worthy fly rod. It sure enough was.

With this fiberglass fly rod, an old Cortland fly line and a knock-off Pflueger fly reel…for five years of my youth, I probably caught more wild trout in the smaller streams of California than I have in the many years since. It was magical. Compared to today’s faster action fly rods, my old fiberglass was buttery, smooth-casting and it made every trout feel much larger than it probably was.

I still think about that wonderful rod and the magic years I spent on the beautiful creeks of California’s Sierra Nevada catching trout. Now that I have children of my own, I can’t help but share the same experience I had as a kid…hiking into the back country, setting a tent and exploring the streams. My closet if full of high-performance, graphite fly rods. Arguably, some of them would work well on a smaller trout stream. To me however, there’s only one answer…fiberglass.

Maybe it’s just emotion. Maybe it’s the slower casting tempo or the deeper bend of the rod when a trout is hooked. The answer really doesn’t matter. What I do know is it makes the whole experience that much better. My daughters don’t yet know the difference in fly rod materials…and that’s just fine. But if I had to guess, one day they’ll tell their kids about fly fishing for trout with their dad and a fiberglass fly rod and that makes me smile.


Northern California Fly Fishing Report – 12/7/2017

Here’s a brief Northern California Fly Fishing report from our friend Brian of NorCal Fly Guides.

northern california fly fishing report leland fly northern california fly fishing report leland fly fishing steelhead

Lets talk about some great fly fishing we are having right now in Nor Cal. With rain coming down right now, as well as in the past month, and what is coming in the near future, December and January are going to be the time to be on the water. Less crowds for December, and the big fish arriving, what are you waiting for, time to get out and do some winter fishing.

This is where, as always, that I do the majority of my guided trips, and it never lets me down. With the egg bite “supposedly” winding down, so is the pressure, but that doesn’t mean the fishing is slowly down, in all actuality its picking up. We are hooking 6-8 fish on average, daily, even though that’s not the norm for this river, what we lack in quantity, we make up for in quality, and I love quality fish. The average fish is huge, hooking many fish over 24″ on a daily basis, but not many of them making it to the net. Average fish is 22-24″, but hooking fish from 24-30″ is a definite possibility. Personally I think these are late spring run steelhead as they are all wild fish, finally showing their beautiful faces and size. The Feather will continue to fish well throughout December as well as January and February, after that its spring time and you know what happens then. This is the place to be right now if you are looking to fish local.  Still a few dates remain in December and January if you are looking to book a trip.
Nymphs- Eggs, Caddis, Copper Johns, Princes and Mays
Swinging- Flesh Flies, Flesh eggs, soft hackles, alevins
Nymphing Rod: 10ft 7wt Red Truck Diesel
Single Hand Swinger Rod: “NEW” 9’3″ 7wt Leland Sonoma Coast (Awesome single handed swinging stick)(Can nymph too)
2 handed Swinger Rod; 12ft 6wt Leland Sonoma

This is of course were I have been spending the rest of my time, and boy is this place fishing good right now. More quality than quantity, however big rains coming through the Klamath drainage, both on the Klamath and the Trinity, is going to set the Trinity up for the next month maybe even two. If you are not up here fishing it right now, you are truly missing out. Most anglers/boats are going to Junction City, due to the low water, well that’s perfect as I have been floating in the upper stretches and doing really well. Hooking 6-8 fish a day, fish averaging 24-28″ on a regular basis. There are no boats or waders in this stretch that I am doing, and that’s just fine with me. Working a bit harder for the same amount of fish, but with no boats and waders its always a treat on the Trinity. Like I said, these rains are doing great things for the Trinity River and for the next two months, if you are not on the Feather you should be on the Trinity, its that good. Nymphing is the numbers game, however, if you hit it right, you can get some fish swinging too. Not a lot, but a few grabs mid day is always a blessing from the fish gods. I still have a few dates available between December and January if you are looking to hook into some of Trinity’s winter steelhead. Book now before they are gone.
Nymphs- Stones, PTs, Legs, Princes, Copper Johns
Swinging- Ho bo Speys, silver hiltons, anything black, purple, blue unweighted flies
Nymphing Rod: 10ft 7wt Red Truck Diesel
Single Hand Swinging Rod: “NEW” 9’3″ 7wt Leland Sonoma Coast (Awesome single handed swinging stick)(Can nymph too)
2 handed Swinging Rod; 12ft 6wt Leland Sonoma Spey

Unfortunately, that’s it folks. Those are the only two rivers that I can personally report on right now, as these are the only two rivers I am guiding on right now. I will include one river, but not as a fishing report, just as a precaution.

Putah Creek
As stated in my last email, I will be staying away from this creek until February, or until the spawn is over. This place is very dear to me, and with the low winter flows, and the fish spawning this time of year, they don’t need anymore stress than what they are going through all ready. Lets leave this place alone and go chase down some chrome domes.

Things to look out for
With the new year just around the corner, there are a few rivers to start thinking about that open up January 1st.
1) American, as most of you know, the American has some big fish. Now I don’t know what the flows will be come January 1st, but I can tell you that there will be some big steelhead swimming around in those waters. Also, with the late run of salmon on the American, there should be a good late egg bite on the American as well.
2) Feather, the upper stretch opens up on Jan 1st as well, and there is some good water up there, both for nymphing as well as swinging. With the late egg bite we are seeing, as well as salmon still showing up, I think there will be a week or two that eggs will be a good choice up top. After that, time to bust out the winter steelhead flies for these bruisers.

My Available Dates:
December 30,31
January 2,3,4,6,7,8,18,25,26,29,30,31
February 1,2,3,4,5,6,15-26
March 16-31
Also due to the addition of a second guide, additional dates may be available. Please inquire if none of the dates above work for you.

Trinity River Available dates
December 20
January 10,11,12,13,16,17
February 6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,28,29
March 1,2,7,13,14
Additional Trinity River dates may be available upon specific requests. Also, due to the addition of a second guide, these dates can be available for local waters. Please inquire if you are interested in booking any of these dates on local waters.

Also, I will have booth at the Sacramento International Sportsmens Expo in Jan 2016, and my partner/guide Tom will be there as well. The dates are January 21,22,23,24 and if you are attending the show, please stop by and say “hi” and meet by good friend/partner/fellow guide Tom if you haven’t already. Look forward to seeing you there.

Last reminder for 2015. If you book a trip between now and the end of the year for any future trips, your rate will be $375 as a repeat client. However, come January 1st 2016, NCFG rates will become $425 for full day guided trips and $325 for half day guided trips. So if you are looking to book any dates in 2016, 2017 and so on, I would recommend booking them before the end of the year.

Being that this is my December fishing report, this will be the last fishing report for 2015, and I wanted to thank you all for making my 2015 guiding season a huge success. Without you, this would not have been possible, and my personal goals would have never been reached. So again thank you to all that have helped Nor Cal Fly Guides have another successful guiding season. Many new things to come in 2016, so keep a look out for my emails, and Ill look out for you on the water soon.

Thank you
Happy Holidays

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