Florida Bass Fishing with Jon Cave

Sage Fly Fishing - Jon Cave - Florida Bass

When it comes to fly-fishing for largemouth bass, Florida can’t be beat. The state is loaded with countless small ponds, marshes, lakes, streams, and other freshwater environments that are prime habitat for bass and it’s virtually impossible to drive very far without passing productive water. The vast majority of locations are shallow and, therefore, ideal for fly-fishing with a floating line. Although populations vary from one aquatic setting to another, largemouth bass are abundant in most bodies of water and a proficient flyfisher with reasonable knowledge of the fish’s behavior should have no trouble in finding plenty of action.

Largemouth bass in Florida (Micropterus salmoides floridanus) are a subspecies of the more widespread variety (Micropterus salmoides salmoides) to the north. At first glance, both fish appear to be identical, but a more detailed study reveals subtle differences. The main distinguishing characteristics of the Florida version are the scale counts at different anatomical locations and, more importantly to anglers, its larger average size. Trophy-sized fish weighing 8 pounds are relatively common and the largest specimens can exceed 20 pounds in rare instances. Although the Florida subspecies is native to Florida and the southernmost extremes of adjacent states, it has been successfully introduced into other areas of the U.S. as well as many international locations. They also commonly breed with their northern cousins in watersheds that overlap the ranges of both fish. Despite their minor physical differences, both bass have the same feeding habits and show a marked preference for habitat in the littoral zone.

The Littoral Zone
The littoral zone of a body of water is that portion where a sufficient amount of sunlight can penetrate below the surface for photosynthesis to take place and thereby promote the growth of various aquatic plants. The vast majority of Florida’s freshwaters are shallow with a large littoral zone that supports a complex food web. These fertile areas are the quintessential bass habitat; a mixture of emergent, floating, and submerged vegetation where large populations of crustaceans, worms, amphibians, insect larvae, small finfish, and other aquatic creatures provide an abundant forage base. To be consistently successful in these areas means keeping a fly “in the zone”, but fly-fishing in these salad bowl is not without its unique challenges.

Stout 7- or 8-weight gear matched to a bass taper line is standard for casting large flies and pulling big Florida bass out of the thickest cover. The Sage Bass II Largemouth model was engineered specifically with those conditions in mind and it’s my “go-to” rod for trophy-sized bass in the littoral zone. Where vegetation is relatively sparse and the situation calls for small- to moderate-sized flies, the Sage Bass II Smallmouth rod/line is a perfect match and even an outfit as light as a six-weight can be used effectively.

I prefer to use 4-1/0 topwater patterns in the littoral zone because of the visual excitement that comes from watching an explosive surface strike; but, large 1-1/0 subsurface patterns such as eel/worm streamers often attract the biggest fish, especially around floating leaf plants such as lily pads and spatterdock. Regardless of the pattern, mono and wire weed guards will significantly reduce hang-ups. Sturdy leaders, with a tippet size of 0X or larger, are necessary to turn over typically large bass flies. Since vegetation accumulates around the knots of hand-tied leaders, knotless versions are recommended instead. Regardless of whether a pattern is fished above or below the surface, a slow retrieve will usually draw the most strikes around plant cover.

Sage Fly Fishing - Jon Cave - Florida Bass
School Bass
Of course, there are notable exceptions to largemouth bass feeding outside the littoral zone. In Florida, one of the most electrifying occurrences, and my favorite, is when they gather in schools to attack pods of bait swimming near the surface. The water boils with excitement as baitfish scatter in every direction to avoid the voracious bass. When concentrations of fish are feeding indiscriminately in open water, almost any fly is productive as long as it lands in the middle of the fracas; however, the bass may become increasingly selective as they continue to feed during the course of several hours. In those instances, a match-the-hatch approach becomes necessary. Popping bugs and Clouser minnows in sizes 2-1/0 are deadly on school bass, even the choosy ones.

These melees generally last only a few seconds, after which another attack may take place in a different location, usually within close proximity of the previous one. Unless the fly is delivered during the feeding frenzy, the chances of a hook-up drop significantly. Consequently, a quick presentation is critical to success in these situations.

The combination of a Bass II rod, either largemouth or smallmouth edition, and the accompanying specialty line provide an enormous advantage over standard fly gear tackle for quick casts to schooling bass. I generally opt for the lighter smallmouth model when targeting schools because the fish are easier to play in open water than they are in thick vegetation and the smaller flies are easier to cast as well. Nevertheless, both these outfits significantly reduce false casting and in many instances a single backcast is all that’s necessary to make a presentation. A saltwater speed-cast can hasten the delivery as well.

Florida has a lot going for it in regard to fly-fishing opportunities. In saltwater, bonefish, redfish, tarpon, seatrout, permit, snook, sailfish, and a host of other species all vie for the title of “top dog” among flyfishers; however, when it comes to freshwater fish, largemouth bass are the unquestionable favorite. That popularity can be attributed to their statewide distribution as well as their penchant to readily strike flies. The fact that Florida bass can grow to large proportions only adds to that popularity and there’s always the remote possibility that the next bass to strike your fly will surpass the legendary world record 22-pound 4-ounce behemoth.

For more from our friend Jon Cave, please visit www.jonbcaveflyfishing.com

“It Takes a Lot of Country”

Sage Fly Fishing - Mark Rutherford - Bristol Bay

Photo credit: (Mark Rutherford via Atlantic Magazine)

Paul Greenberg, author of the New York Times best seller Four Fish and writer for the renowned Atlantic magazine, spent the last few weeks writing an article via satellite from Bristol Bay, Alaska. While Greenberg’s article is undeniably pertinent with the EPA’s comment period closing on July 23rd, the article seems to explore a larger relationship between the web of man-made infrastructure and the health of our rivers.

People who would seek to tame Alaska say that the place lacks infrastructure. That it needs the trappings of modern life to become civilized. But for the people who depend on salmon and relish the region’s wildness, no better infrastructure need be created. For them the best infrastructure of all is unbounded, salmon-choked rivers.

Bristol Bay is an incredibly vibrant system of bio diversity and production above ground, yet its true mystique lies in the unground labyrinth of water and nutrients. The vast subsurface waterway emerges from time to time creating lakes, which Greenberg refers to as “pockmarks” or “pimples” popping up throughout the Alaskan tundra. Supporters of Pebble Mine claim that pollution from the mine will not escape into this underground system or damage the fishery, yet to every onlooker (including the EPA) that result seems inevitable.

With just a handful of days between now and the EPA’s July 23rd deadline, take a moment to read Greenberg’s thoughtful piece and take action at SaveBristolBay.com.

Greenberg writes “it takes a lot of country to grow a lot of salmon.” Be apart of ensuring the salmon keep what little country they have left, and keep in mind what type of country we’d like to live in ourselves.

Breaking Records on a Sage Reel

Sage Fly Fishing - Peter Morse - Sage Reels

Our friend and phenomenal fisherman Peter Morse broke a world record the other day. On a Sage 6012 reel, Peter managed to land a 19kg Southern Bluefin Tuna on 8kg tippet!! While Peter is one of the few with the skill, and the knots to pull something like this off, he was quick to give credit to the Sage 6000 reel.

These are really great reels, I have fished them hard and extensively over the last few years, I mean punished them fishing maximum drag a lot of the time. I was permit fishing earlier this year when some big golden trevally swam into range. The guide said “I’m not chasing them if you hook one” and I said “You won’t have to” and cranked the drag around to 10 so the fish went nowhere, didn’t even pull the fly line off the reel. That was a lot of pressure, of course good knots help too!!

Check out these wonderful photos from Peter’s adventures and get inspired to set some of your own world records on Sage gear!

Sage Fly Fishing - Peter Morse - Sage Reels
Sage Fly Fishing - Peter Morse - Sage Reels
Sage Fly Fishing - Peter Morse - Sage Reels

Job Openings at Far Bank

Sage Fly Fishing - Far Bank - Job Openings

Winter time in Washington offers the steelhead angler a plethora of opportunities – enough to last a lifetime, let alone a season. During these winter months, it’s hard not to think about steelhead and spend most of your free time in pursuit of them. For those of us working in the Product Development department at Sage, winter time is also when a lot of strides are made in regards to new products for the upcoming summer months. “Winter” can mean a number of different things depending on your location, so when the call came in from the opposite corner of the country and the guy on the other end of the line was talking about redfish, snook and tarpon fishing in 80 degree weather, we considered the 40 degree water and snow forecasts on the Olympic Peninsula then jumped on the opportunity.

Sage’s Product Development team is made up of a group of scientists, engineers, artists, analysts and anglers. We are very passionate about our work and our time on the water. Fortunately for us, the two are not mutually exclusive. It’s in the lab and on the manufacturing floor on Bainbridge Island that our ideas come to life and prototypes are tested to our rigorous standards, but it’s on the water that the Sage rods and reels we all love are tested for what we like to call their “fishability,” a trait we pride ourselves in including in all our products. This is that feel of a rod that brings confidence to your cast, that perfectly balanced outfit that you forget you’re holding or that feeling of a big fish taking line on a perfectly tuned, super smooth drag. It’s the fishability of our products that make them lifelong fishing companions.

Accompanied by an arsenal of a dozen rods, a reel or two for each and two or three lines for each reel, we left Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and headed southeast. By nightfall we had met up with Capt. Andy Lee of Grassroots Guiding in Chokoloskee, Florida and were rigging rods for the next day. Zigzagging our skiff through the oyster bottomed bay surrounding Chokoloskee, we entered the Everglades backcountry. The channels that connect the bays of the Everglades are a maze of mangrove-lined rivers, each nearly identical at first glance yet dynamic, complex and beautiful. Each backcountry bay provoked a sense of deja-vu. I was comforted by the presence of the GPS unit on our boat, even though our Captain hardly used it.

Over the course of the next three days, we found backcountry redfish, snook and black drum amongst the mangroves. Accuracy and stealth were critical for these fish. Large snook lay in ambush underneath mangroves; redfish cruised backcountry bays and oyster-lined islands on the prowl; black drum slowly worked the edges of mangrove islands. When the pieces came together, the fish were agreeable. On our final day, after a morning warm-up of redfish on the outside, we elected to try our luck on some newly arrived tarpon. We were greeted by fins at our first bay and soon we started seeing long shadows of laid up tarpon in the murky water. Our first good shot resulted in an eat and we were in the game. A few picky fish later and then we found ourselves lined up on another shadow within range. On our third cast to the fish the water erupted with a wide open mouth the size of a garbage can. The hook held, the line cleared and we were still tight. A half hour later and the tired fish was leadered, admired and set free. It would be our last fish of the trip and one we will not soon forget.

Sage’s Product Development team uses resources from around the globe in our pursuit of performance. Occasionally there are open positions in the department at our offices on Bainbridge Island. We look for candidates who are not only avid anglers but experienced professionals in engineering, industrial design or material science. Use the link below to search our current openings.

Interested in Employment with SAGE and our Far Bank Enterprise brands?
 Visit our on-line job board at http://farbank.iapplicants.com/

To contact Andy Lee at Grassroots Guiding in Chokoloskee, Florida, visit: http://evergladesflyfishingguides.com

Sage Fly Fishing - Far Bank - Job Openings

Sage Fly Fishing - Far Bank - Job Openings

CEO Travis Campbell on Bristol Bay

Sage Fly Fishing - Travis Campbell - Bristol Bay

As a fly fishing company we are a natural resource dependent business and, as such, it is in our best interest to help foster healthy fisheries, clean water, and abundant access. Simply stated, no fish, no fishing, no us. The fly fishing industry is relatively small, yet we believe our shared passion and action can help determine the fate of causes. Sometimes we champion causes in familiar home waters, however, there are times when we need to protect resources in some far off part of the world.

Bristol Bay in Alaska is one of those far off places that deserve our protection. It holds a special place in my heart because one of my brothers guided in the region for nine years and I have been lucky enough to fish there a time or two. As I typed this I got chills down my spine as I thought about a day salmon fishing in the region with my Dad and brother. It’s that special of a place.

Bristol Bay is currently under threat from an effort to develop one of the largest open pit mines ever conceived. The Pebble mine would be developed at the headwaters of the Kvichak and Nushagak rivers – two world class salmon and trout producing rivers. An excellent description of the mine and its scale is provided by Trout Unlimited at the following link – www.SaveBristolBay.org.

Our organization first got involved with the effort to oppose the Pebble mine in 2006 and we now find ourselves at another critical juncture in the process. The EPA recently completed a major watershed assessment of the region and the research came out overwhelmingly supporting the belief that the mine would pose a major threat to the fish and wildlife of the region. The comment period for the watershed assessment is open until July 23rd and I encourage you to take a moment to write to President Obama and your congressional delegation to let them know you support the EPA and its assessment. Click here to take action – www.SaveBristolBay.org/TakeAction.

Thank you from all of us that care about this amazing place.

Felt Soul Media’s Damnation

Sage Fly Fishing - Conservation - FSM DamNation

For those of us who have seen Felt Soul Media’s Red Gold or Eastern Rises, we are familiar with the tingly feeling the Colorado based production duo are capable of leaving an audience with. Eastern Rises, which received a handful of awards including “Best Film on Mountain Sport” at the 2010 Banff Mountain Film Festival, is a fly fishermen’s dream. Massive rainbows gulping at mouse patterns on untouched Kamchatka rivers with a pinch of bigfoot humor and some close calls with Grizzly Bears. Between the fishing fantasies and deft touch behind the camera and computer of Ben Knight and Travis Rummel, Eastern Rises will certainly jump to the top of the fly fishing and adventure film hierarchy.

Felt Soul Media’s newest project is titled DamNation, which focuses on dam removal across the country including the Elwha River in Western Washington. The trailer was recently released and it appears the men of Felt Soul Media are continuing to raise the bar. Ideally, DamNation and Mark Titus’s The Breach will be a catalyst and ultimately a foundation for the movement towards sustainable dam removal across the country. Keep an eye out for the release of DamNation in early 2013 and check out the trailer here!