Peer Pressure, Neurotransmitters, & Fly Fishing

I like to think that I’m mature enough to make decisions for myself. Maybe it is prideful, but between my age, my education, and my intelligence, my actions shouldn’t be so easily swayed.

Then I get a text message with a picture of a fish.

My day takes a little bit of a right  turn. Sometimes, it is a pull-the-emergency brake, 180-degree spin towards the closest body of water.

Someone with a different worldview might say that it is my selfish primate brain realizing that someone else is catching food and therefore is depriving  me and  those who carry my genetics from sustenance.  I say that is nonsense. It is silly in principle, but also because I know what truly lies behind my compulsion.

In my head there is a little biological “X many days since a fish has been caught” sign. Whenever I land a trout, my happy little serotonin run up, wipe off the embarrassingly large number, and scrawl a big “0.” Out of joy, synapses fire their little electrical impulses to the  point where it might be dangerous to be wet wading. The dopamine is all in on the party, but then  they see a rise upstream and get all antsy.

So really, those little pleasure/incentive neurotransmitters are  to blame for the obsessive nature of the habit. They are to blame for the greedy “oh, just one more cast” after catching a nice smallmouth… or being distracted by that aforementioned upstream rise… or justifying another ten minutes, you know, since it is so nice out.

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Rusty Flybox: Youth & Trout

Next week, I’ll have an exciting announcement regarding Casting Across and a partnership with a premier fly fishing organization. I’m looking forward to this opportunity, but I’m waiting for all the ducks (trout?) to get in a row before I come out with it.

That being said, I will say that it has to do with fly fishing, conservation, and the next generation. So, to prepare myself and you for next week’s article, I thought I would share three pieces from the archives that exist within a similar topical sphere.

Fly Fishing at Fourteen

How do you create an avid angler and conservationist? Wire it into them at a young age. I had the blessing of being in an amazing angling location, having a best friend that fly fished, and  attending the premier coldwater conservation  summer program. Here, I recount some of the formative moments and concepts that made me the fly fisherman that I am today.

Tomorrow’s Conservationists: The TU Teen Summit

Last year I spoke with Franklin Tate, director of the Trout Unlimited Headwaters Youth Program, about the national education, service, and fishing program that attracts students from across the country. The TU Teen Summit gleans the best and brightest students from the 20+ TU camps in the USA, and gives them an opportunity of a lifetime to learn and fish. These are tomorrow’s leaders, and they are being given a great head start.

Breaking Curfew with Inky

So I might not have been the best or brightest when I attended a TU camp (many, many moons ago). However, I did have a lot of fun. And a lot of that has to do with the genuine character of the men and women that invested in my peers and me. One of them just happened to be half of the duo who started this whole Trout Unlimited youth thing.  While the classroom and stream time was important, the relationships were vital. That was what made it stick.

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If You Can’t Fish with the One You Love…

Don’t ever take a stream, a pond, or any other water for granted.

Take a minute to consider the closest lake or river. Maybe you’re there every day. Or, maybe you drive past it daily and then again whenever you go fishing. Maybe you have ample reason: it isn’t that great, it’s crowded, it’s too close. But hopefully the fact that it is close isn’t what is keeping you away.

Plenty of people live on blue ribbon trout streams, trophy bass lakes, or inlets teeming with shallow-water gamefish. However most of us live by dirty tributaries, suburban retention ponds, or unnamed trickles. Those waters aren’t glamorous. They might even be filled with just sunfish. Or just stocked trout in the spring. Or just small fish.

For all the aforementioned issues, these waters are still just a minute away. What these waters might lack in charisma, they might make up in character or intimacy. And let’s not forget: they’re just a minute away.

We’re all familiar with the whole fish -> lots of fish -> big fish -> that fish progression that anglers go through. Fishing your closest water religiously is a way to jump to the end of that chronology. For all the road noise, small fish, and normalcy that fishing the closest pond or creek might entail, you can forge a relationship that rewards you with achievements that transcend just fish.

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The Western Wanderlust of an Eastern Fly Fisher

I can clearly remember my first cast fly fishing out west. It came shortly after I pulled off the side of the road on Colorado’s route 34 along the Big Thompson River. Coming from the plains and foothills outside of Loveland, I also began my first ascent into the Rocky Mountains. Ever mile I drove, every step I took, I was going farther west than I had ever gone before. And this river – this scenery wasn’t like anything I had ever seen before.

Nearly all of my trout fishing in and around my home in Northern Virginia was small. Small mountain brook trout streams. Small spring creeks. The valleys and river currents were gentle. I was used to being able to cast, and sometimes even hop, across the entire creek.

The water I approached off that Colorado highway was bigger than nearly every river I’d fished in the Mid-Atlantic. It was like seven or eight of the high gradient streams I was used to fishing stacked side-by-side. All the while, the water was moving faster and plunging deeper. There was an instinctive knowledge of where to cast, but that didn’t completely mitigate the overwhelming sense of fishing somewhere big.

The mountains towered on either side of me, with others in the backdrop that were inconceivably tall to someone accustomed to the Blue Ridge. Birds, and their songs, were different. The foliage was similar, but still different. Standing on the bank, looking into my fly box, I wondered if the trout would know that my elk hair caddis was a different elk hair caddis. An eastern interloper, not fit for consumption.

It’s happened before, and its happened since. I began to fish before I really started fishing. My mind wasn’t in it, it was taking in everything that was around me. A cast to some slack water behind a big eddy produced an aggressive strike. A gold and red flash took my dry fly. Startled, my hook set was slow and all I felt was a slack line.

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Last Cast of the Week, 5/12/2017

Most Fridays on Casting Across are  devoted to other people’s contributions in the fly fishing community. Articles, pictures, social media accounts, videos, podcasts, products, and more will be featured on The Last Cast of the Week.

Today, I’m sharing items from Brackish Flies, Forbes/Orvis, and South Texas Kayak.

If you’d like to be featured in the Last Cast of the Week, or have seen something that others might be interested in, use my contact form or shoot me an email (matthew[at]castingacross[dot]com). Also, be sure to subscribe to Casting Across to never miss a post.


Brackish Flies – NE Fly Fishing

Wild trout in tributaries, carp in urban canals, sea run brookies in the tidewater, and stripers on the coast. Those are just some of the angling opportunities that the folks at Brackish Flies, a Massachusetts  fly fishing outfit, explore. They guide, tie, and share their experiences. A lot of what they do is a short hike from Boston, and a lot of it is unknown or underappreciated by local anglers (ask me how I know). Check out their Facebook page, where there are lots of great pictures and videos, and give them a follow.

Forbes – Reinventing Orvis

We all know about the dichotomous reputation that Orvis has in the fly fishing community. Let’s be honest… there were some shaky years, but now the brand is back with  a legitimate presence in the industry. This piece by Forbes outlines some of the reasons for the success: programs like the Guide Rendezvous, focusing on including women in the sport, and returning to being at the forefront of angling innovation. Speaking of being honest… I’m an Orvis fan. So this article is a fun read. Regardless of how you feel (dog beds!?!), I suggest you check it out.

South Texas Kayak – Kayak Fishing Accessories

If you’ve ever thought “I wonder what kind of kayaks are out there,” you’ve undoubtedly experienced the overwhelming number of options available. Then, how do you know which are the best for fishing? Once you nail that down, what else do you need? South Texas Kayak is a pretty good resource for questions like that. This particular article includes information on some of the essentials that  you should have on board. Beginners need this kind of help, and veterans can always use the reminder. Plus, there is a picture of a jumping tarpon off the bow of a kayak…

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Getting a Little Lost Fly Fishing

When was the last time that you got a little lost? Anything counts: hiking or driving, in the woods or in the city.

GPS, and the ubiquity of that technology – particularly on smart phones, has made getting lost an infrequent occurrence in this day and age. Survival skills training for 95% of North America simply entails the advice of “make sure your phone is charged before you go anywhere.”

I am not at all lamenting the fact that there are surely dozens, if not hundreds, of people who are spared from discomfort, injury, or death because of this digital safety leash. Plus, I’m able to reroute myself to avoid a bad intersection with a quick command to my robot butler / iPhone.

But are we missing out on adventure, just a little? I mean, is it a good thing to get a little lost every now and again?

A few years back I was fishing in northern New Hampshire. Only a few miles from the Canadian border, I was hiking through marshes and bogs searching for native brook trout. Now, under normal circumstances it is pretty hard to get lost while fishing. A legitimate survival skill is to follow a water source downstream. If you are fly fishing, let’s hope that you’re somewhere remotely close to a river.

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Leader Follower: Fly Fishing with Furled Leaders

I’ve always used a monofilament leader… why should I change?

That is a perfectly legitimate question. I feel qualified to say that, considering it was a question that I posed myself this past winter.

For the first half dozen years of my fly fishing career, I used pack after pack of knotless tapered leaders. After I noticed their lack of versatility and their cost, I began tying my own monofilament and fluorocarbon leaders. My wallet reaped the greatest benefit, and I could discern some advantages. But all in all, it was still just a leader.

Leaders are the least glamorous part of the fly fisher’s terminal tackle. The rod and reel are the stars, the fly gets the most attention, and the line makes it all work. Leaders are simply there because they have to be, right?

The why should I change? question this winter came after I came across a North Carolina company that specializes in furled leaders. What I saw from Appalachian Furled Leader Company got me asking what this traditional, yet underrepresented piece of gear had going for it. I contacted Justin Rose, the owner and leader maker, and asked him what made furled leaders so special? His answer was simple: “you’ve just got to fish one, then you’ll see what makes them so great.”

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Last Cast of the Week, 5/5/2017

Most Fridays on Casting Across are  devoted to other people’s contributions in the fly fishing community. Articles, pictures, social media accounts, videos, podcasts, products, and more will be featured on The Last Cast of the Week.

Today, I’m sharing items from Trout Unlimited, Cheeky, & Presenting the Fly.

If you’d like to be featured in the Last Cast of the Week, or have seen something that others might be interested in, use my contact form or shoot me an email (matthew[at]castingacross[dot]com). Also, be sure to subscribe to Casting Across to never miss a post.


Lightning and Fly Fishing – Trout Unlimited

I have the day off today – a perfect opportunity to go fishing. However, it is storming and looks to continue to do so.  It might be tempting to get out, but as this article from Kirk Deeter reminds me, it just isn’t worth it.  This is the kind of reminder that we all need. Do you know what else we all need? A picture of a graphite fly rod that has experienced a lightning strike. Read this quick post on the TU site to see just that.

Largemouth Flies – Cheeky

So many fly fishers target largemouth bass. Few seem to utilize the most tried and true methods available, choosing instead to “just throw a popper” or “strip a big streamer.” The first step in successfully  pursuing these fish is proper fly selection. Check out what the guys at Cheeky have put together on their excellent, daily blog. Yes – daily! Good reels, good belts, good content.

Presenting the Fly

You should be following the guys from Presenting the Fly.  I met them many moons ago at a fly fishing industry event in Boston. They always have some fun stuff on social media, and their website is very well made. Their home waters are in New England, which, aside from stripers and some Maine brook trout, is underrepresented.  Their latest adventures saw them spend a day on the Farmington River in CT.

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Pull Trout, Not Muscles: A Guide

About 10 years ago, I went bowling. Standing at the counter, waiting for my freshly aerosoled shoes, I noticed a brightly colored trifold brochure. “Stretches for Bowling.” A professional bowler (I assume) was featured on the cover, doing his best to not exert himself too much by pulling his left arm across his chest.

The first revelation I had: I’ve been bowling in a very dangerous state since I was a child. Tens of games played with nary a stretch. It is a good thing I’m not paralyzed.

Secondly, I began to ponder what other activities I should be warming up for. Cooking? Driving” Reading?

And then, of course, fly fishing. #eureka

Now, I’m not talented enough to put together a full color brochure that includes a model demonstrating the proper technique. So you’ll have to wander through this quagmire and hope for the best. Without further ado, the official…

Casting Across’ 5 Stretches for Fly Fishing

The Bootfoot Toecurl: Before you step into the water, you’ve got to put your waders on. The last thing that you want is a foot cramp sidelining you, leaving you writhing in pain behind the trunk of your car. Curl your toes up, like four or five times.

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Fly Fishing For Sunfish

Catching sunfish and fishing for sunfish are two entirely different things. Most anglers catch sunfish. Often the bycatch when fishing for larger species like bass, these round relatives of the more popular sportfish strike voraciously at flies that don’t even come close to fitting in their mouths. But perhaps in a similar manner that the lowly carp has received a surge of popularity in the fly fishing community over the past decade, panfish will finally receive broader recognition for their value as a targeted species.

Often referred to by to some general name according to one’s region, bluegill, pumpkinseed, green sunfish, redbreast sunfish, rock bass and other species of sunfish can put up quite the fight. Moreover, larger specimens aren’t pushovers. Particularly in the southeast, there is a devoted and fanatical angling community that specifically seeks these bruisers. Once these fish get to a foot in length, you can throw all of your cane pole, corn kernel misconceptions out the window.

Once again, catching sunfish and fishing for sunfish are not the same thing. And you will very likely not catch a trophy sunfish unless you are fishing for them.

Late Spring (post-spawn) and summer sunfish fishing can be incredibly dynamic. Although there are plenty of four and five-inch exceptions to the rule, most panfish will stay around cover. Rocks, stumps, and weeds are very likely places that you’ll find them. Expansive weed beds and larger submerged trees are ideal spots for larger sunfish. True, these are the main locations that bass are targeted. The bass are there for the exact same reason you are: sunfish are the objective. Although they have similar behaviors, are both predatory, and are even related; they are very different. Thus, the warmwater fly angler has to adapt in order to chase trophy sunfish.

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