Mousing Around in Alaska

  • By: Greg Thomas

Unforgettable is the way anglers describe a good day of mousin’ when big rainbows rise to the surface, often in a splashy, all or nothing style; these fish aren’t just trying to sip in a mouse, like a Montana rainbow might lip-kiss a PMD, they’re trying to kill it. They have to react that way because Alaska provides some of the harshest winter conditions in the world and those fish need every ounce of protein they can get.

Cover Stories

  • By: Joe Healy
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The front cover is the face of a magazine. The façade. The entryway. Done well, through the image chosen and the cover lines written, it’s the summation of not only the pages to follow; but the feeling of the magazine. The cover strikes a nerve, triggers an impulse and arrests our attention. It causes the reader to pause after shaking the magazine free from the mail pile—or, to the enduring satisfaction of we editors and art directors who create these canvases, convinces a customer to buy this magazine from a retailer. More than a mere cloak, a cover is the magazine’s personality. Here, we went back to our beginnings, March/April 1979, marched through the decades and selected some of the most engaging of the past 178 FR&R front covers.

Creative Solutions

  • By: Tom Keer

From 1929 to today, Winston has based its business on designing and building quality fly rods for specific angling situations.

Simple Gifts

  • By: Yvon Chouinard
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FR&R’s 2009 Angler of the Year declares his move toward ultimate simplicity, on and off the water.

Blitz Season at The End

  • By: Pat Ford
  • and Paul G. Quinnett
  • Photography by: Pat Ford

Montauk, the terminus of land off Long Island, New York, is known as “The End.” During autumn anglers consider it one of the country’s best fly-fishing locations for striped bass, bluefish and false albacore.

Trout Realism

  • By: Peter Thompson

he artwork here is excerpted from Freshwater Game Fish of North America: An Illustrated Guide by Peter Thompson, available from Fly Rod & Reel Books.

New Gear

  • By: Fly Rod and Reel

Headwaters Packs

The Headwaters Day Pack is a multi-use backpack designed to carry gear to the water, around town or on a plane. With 1,730 cubic inches, or 30 liters (and weighing in at 43 ounces), the Headwaters Day Pack has an internal compartment for laptop storage, side stretch mesh pockets to hold water bottles or rod tubes, a zippered front pocket for additional storage, a bottom dry zone and removable pack fly and zippers and compression straps designed to eliminate line-catching. It’s designed to be used in conjunction with the Headwaters Chest Pack, which adds to the versatility; $119.95. The company’s Headwaters Chest Pack holds fly boxes and other on-stream gear conveniently and without inhibiting casting or mobility; this spiffy little pack has internal pockets for your iPhone or camera, a retractor docking station, a molded foam front pocket that holds large fly boxes and an easy-pull adjustment system that eliminates traditional line-catching hardware. It can be used on its own, or clipped to the Headwaters Day Pack for bushwhacking excursions. The chest pack weighs 13.6 ounces, has a 500 cubic inch capacity and retails for $69.95.


Boron II-MX Two-Handed Rods

Recently, I was standing on the banks of Washington’s Skagit River, lamenting the merit of my Spey cast. In contrast, three seasoned guides traded off with Winston’s new Boron II-MX switch rod, saying things like, “This isn’t fair! Now I have to own one.” I understood what was in store; with rattled nerves and a lack of confidence, I took my turn with the stick and readied for verbal abuse. And then, the strangest thing happened. I set the line downstream, performed the lift and sweep, and effortlessly launched my cast, which ended about 60 feet from where it began as the line stretched tight in midair. I turned to the fellows with mouth agape. One of the guides said, “Look at his face.” I replied, “How much are these?” Love at first throw.

That was my introduction to Winston’s new line of Boron II-MX switch rods, the 12-foot, 3-inch 7/8 two-hand model to be specific. Those new rods are touted as perfect for midsized steelhead rivers, such as the Deschutes and Grande Ronde, but we found the 7/8, when paired with Airflo’s 540-grain Skagit Compact head, to throw all the distance we desired. This rod, which was designed with input from leading Spey caster Andre Scholz, throws distance like a dream.

Dave McCoy, who owns Emerald Water Anglers in Seattle and who hosted me on the Skagit last winter said, “I am surprised how subtle that switch rod is. I thought it would be too fast for the average angler to pick up and enjoy. But it’s not heavy or clunky at all, even with a heavy tip. It’s easy to handle and extremely light. With the right instruction, even a novice could pick it up and cast really far—maybe 80-to 100 feet—in five or ten minutes.” The Boron II-MX two-handed rods are available in the aforementioned 12-3 7/8 model and in an 11-foot, 5-inch 6-weight design; $795 to $895. winstonrods.comGreg Thomas


The Hook & Hackle Company
Tippet Material

Available in a co-polymer and fluorocarbon, H & H’s tippet is made in Japan in a factory with long-time experience producing these materials. According to the company, the fluorocarbon numbers test at 20 percent stronger than nylon of the same strength. You can go from 5X co-polymer to 6X fluorocarbon and not give up any strength, H & H’s Ron Weiss reports. The spools are 50 yards, not 30 like most others (except in sizes 0X, 1X and 2X). Price is $9 for the fluoro and $3.25 for the co-polymer. “The guides out West use this and when I found out what it was, I had it private labeled for us,” Weiss says. The company also offers packaged leaders, from tapered nylon in a dull olive color to hand-tied fluorocarbon leaders.

40 Years of Fishing Travel

  • By: Tom Keer

Since the company’s founding in 1969, Frontiers International Travel has opened up some of the world’s most exciting fishing destinations.

30 Year Moments

  • By: Fly Rod and Reel
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In the Beginning From the March/April 1979 issue of Rod & Reel, Volume 1, Number 1: “We freely admit that, as long as it’s not damaging, gossip is a hell of a lot of fun. Time, Inc., has laughed all the way to the bank with its magazine, People. Other people make good reading, especially when they share with us the common ground of angling. That’s why you’ll see features on various fishing folk in this and subsequent issues, although we hasten to add that such articles will extend beyond mere gossip.” —John Merwin, founder and first editor Rod & Reel

Favorite Flies from 30 Years (And Beyond)

  • By: Fly Rod and Reel
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Today there are many variations on old and new patterns. What has transformed modern tying is not a handful of patterns, but rather the wide and creative gathering (as well as the use) of tying materials. Now we have CDC feathers, gallo de Leon, epoxy compounds, metal and glass double-drilled beads, rubber legs in rainbow colors, tungsten body shapes, scintillating synthetics, colorful foams and so on. Our feather merchants, such as Whiting Farms, have introduced some new uses for feathers. Have you seen Whiting’s Bird Fur? And the Internet has made materials and tying techniques available world-wide. Finally, what is the shape and color of your hook? The choices are myriad. We have never had such innovative and rich tying. With that in mind, we asked FR&R writers and editors to pick some of their favorite trout patterns through the last three decades.—Darrel Martin, contributing editor

Ted Leeson

My top choice for the most influential fly of the last 30 years would without a doubt be a bead-head anything—probably a generic Bead-head Hare’s Ear (below, top), one of the first bead-head patterns to show up here in the West, though my personal favorite of the bead-head patterns is a Bead-head Prince (below, bottom). In terms of changing the way people fish (dry-fly/dropper combinations) and a style of fly that has become perfectly ubiquitous, the bead-head seems well beyond the others. I like the Sparkle Pupa, too. I might argue as well for the Quigley Cripple, since the dressing style is now widely used on a variety of flies. Something like the Zebra Midge is not a bad choice, acknowledging the small-fly/tailwater phenomenon of recent decades. I’m not sure when the Clouser Minnow showed up—not primarily a trout pattern, but one that does cross a lot of boundaries. I think that CDC flies have been very influential as well; the problem is that there is no archetypical CDC pattern, something that capsulates its importance over the decades. The Stimulator is a reasonable choice, though not a terribly original design, really just tweaking an older pattern, the Bucktail Caddis. But of course there’s nothing new under the sun.
—Ted Leeson is our gear-test maven

Seth Norman

One of first flies I learned to tie came advertised as a Warden’s Worry, which it is not. By most folks lights it’s a long, short or standard, thin, fat floating or weighted, minute or monstrous Renegade. Simple by any standards, it worked for me for years—still does—tied wet or dry. We could do this in one sentence; let’s not: Take two wraps of barred brown hackle at the hook bend, tie off. Follow with a body of peacock herl; rib with pearl Flashabou for dry, copper wire for wet. Add two turns of grizzly hackle up front. Drink, deeply, but wisely. You may wish to time yourself: For me, a pace of one Jim Beam per two pals per hour—it’s hard to describe—will pump out a spring’s worth of these in a period of time I forget. (Note: It does help to admire them at the end of the evening, because by the next morning the later ones may have gone off a bit. Humidity, I’m guessing.) I’m reasonably sure fish have taken tiny versions as a midge or midge cluster, size 18 to 8s as both mayflies (green drakes in particular) and caddis, especially in broken water; and a few fools will mistake fat floaters for snails in lakes. I also do love a parachute tie, and except in white water prefer these to standard patterns. But for me, the Compara-dun style addresses so many mayfly “issues.” To wit, it catches fish—even selective fish, often; also, I can usually see it on the water and tie it at the vise. I even use the wing for a foam-bodied Hex that will withstand an entire evening of toothy cutts and smash-jawed smallmouths. (Note: it helps to—lightly-lightly-lightly!—dab the wing base with a little Soft Tex.)
—Seth Norman is our longtime book reviewer

Jim Butler
I’ll start with the McMurray Ant: Essentially, two cylinders of balsa wood, painted, and strung on a short length of mono, then lashed to a hook; a few turns of appropriate hackle added. More than once, when I’ve been unable to adequately match what was hatching, a McMurray (or some other small terrestrial) has helped me camouflage my angling shortcomings and catch a few trout. Next, an Elkhair Caddis. Not just a fine imitation, but also a terrific searching fly (somehow, its jaunty attitude as it floats down a run almost gives it a personality). Thanks, Al Troth. Gold-Ribbed Hares Ear nymph: The bug that took my first fly-caught trout. Nuff said. Now, in a nod to modernity, I often fish’em with a bead.—Jim Butler is the magazine’s former editor-in-chief

Joe Healy
I’m partial to a Yellow Humpy or a Yellow or Orange Stimulator (hmm, is this sounding like a personal ad?) as searching patterns, or a Joe’s Hopper (of course). Also, a gray CDC Caddis has worked well for me throughout New England waters, and the combination of CDC and a turkey biot in an CDC Biot Spinner is another winner. Also the Compara-Dun is a favorite, particularly in the years since I had a tying lesson from Al Caucci.  —Joe Healy is this magazine’s associate publisher

Val Atkinson

My favorite flies from the last three decades: Quigley Cripple, Black Ant, Poly-Wing Trico, Monroe Leach, Dave’s Hopper. They’re still my favorites. First choice on the top: Quigley Cripple; first choice on the bottom: Monroe Leach. Get’s them every time.—Val Atkinson is a contributing editor. Dave’s Hopper photo by Ted Fauceglia

James Prosek
My go-to flies are Elkhair Caddis, Caddis nymph and Caddis emerger—a la Gary LaFontaine. Also, the Woolly Bugger and Squirreltail Streamer.—James Prosek is a contributing editor.