Grant Alvis is a Virginia angler who is as much at home on a native Brookie stream as he is in the salt chasing Reds, Tarpon or Bonefish. His forte is the Northern Snakehead. Grant is an ambassador for the great gamefish, educating people on their misrepresentation as an invasive species and getting people to realize these are not the "Frankenfish" some people would have you believe. Grant is a fantastic fly tyer, tying patterns for just about everything. If you would like to learn more, read on...
My evolution as a fly fisherman is similar to many others. I started out catching trout with a can of corn, mepps spinner, or the old faithful rooster tail. I purchased a float tube and started floating down the Toccoa river which has become my favorite local stream. As I would pass fly fishermen, at first I stereotyped them as being snobby, stuck up, and having more money than they knew what to do with. One day on my float I had stopped near a fly fisherman and he struck up a conversation with me. To my shock, he was actually extremely nice and friendly. I asked many questions as far as equipment, flies, casting, etc and he was very generous in sharing his knowledge. That day changed my life. I made up my mind that I wanted to get into fly fishing so I went straight down to the local Academy sports. $100 later I had me a complete set…….fly rod, fly reel, fly line, backing, leader and even a few flies included. After hitting the river and catching my first trout on a flyrod, I was hooked. The next step for me was trying to tie my own flies. I decided it would be amazing to catch a trout on something I created with my own hands. I started with a $60 fly tying kit that I got from Bass Pro Shops. I remember the first fly I attempted was a flying ant. I thought it looked perfect at the time. 😊 I then joined a trout club and decided to post in the forum mentioning that I was learning fly tying and to see if anyone had any tips. I got several replies that I should look up this well known tyer, Chuck Morris, who lived just down the road from me. He had been tying flies 46 years at the time. I messaged him and he told me to feel free to come by his house anytime. I was there that same night. Chuck took me under his wing and taught me the fundamentals of tying and then got more and more advanced as we went along. Chuck had been taught to tie flies by the one and only George Harvey. He was a student in George’s first fly fishing class at Penn State. Learning the correct proportions and fundamentals from the beginning has served me well over the years. Chuck gave me countless bags of materials when I would go see him. He would give me a pattern to go home and practice and then the following week, I would bring in several flies I tied and he would critique them. I tried over and over again to pay Chuck for his time and materials and he would never take a dime from me. He always said, “Fly tying is an artform. Just pay it forward and that is all the payment I want from you.” That is what I have always tried to do from tying at Atlanta Fly Fishing Show, Spring flings, Fall Flings, Trout Unlimited meetings, etc. I finally realized why Chuck had made that request of me when I was tying at an annual Spring Fling and a young boy came up to me with his dad. His dad said that his son wanted to come over and thank me. I was taken off guard a bit and asked “Thank me for what?”. Apparently a few years earlier I was a guest tyer at an outdoor expo in Atlanta area and the little boy came over to me and was very interested in the art of fly tying. His dad said that I took the time to actually help him tie his first fly and on the way home he begged his dad to get him a fly tying kit which he did. He said fly fishing and fly tying has become their favorite hobby to do together and it all started with the “First fly”. That let me know exactly what Chuck meant by “Paying it Forward”. Later, I lucked into a fly tying lot full of materials, hooks, beads, etc and part of the lot was a Renzetti traveler vise. I was, and still am tying on a Norvise so I just showed up at Chuck’s door one day and when he opened the door, I handed him the Renzetti as a thank you and he is still tying on it today, 13 years later. I have learned since then that the fly tying/fly fishing community is full of some of the best people I have ever had the fortune of meeting. Most of them would give you the shirt off their back and are always paying it forward. With that being said, thank you Chuck for everything. Sharing your time and knowledge has been a true blessing to me and developed in me a passion that I hold dear to this day. Till next time...
I was fortunate to meet Shawn many years ago when I was managing the fly shop in Delaware. We have since become the best of friends. Shawn is an accomplished fly fisher with a life list of 60+ species landed on fly gear. He as also an IGFA record holder (should be 2 IGFA records, but that is a story for another time) and is an exceptional fly tier. For a deeper look take a look at his Norvise Data Sheet.
By Norvise ambassador Marc Williamson.
Through the years of fishing spring creeks, I have learned many lessons on fishing them.
Some great tips for fishing some smaller water. Good stuff Marc, thank you for sharing these with us. Till next time...
Tight lines - Tim
By Norvise ambassador Brian Davenport.
Everyone has a comfort zone-whether in fly tying or fly fishing. Some folks are comfortable at tying certain styles of flies, or fishing in a certain style. But not too many folks are comfortable with more than a couple types of styles of fishing or tying. The ones that are comfortable with various styles, you can bet they are the ones consistently catching fish.
During the Norvise March Madness competition there were 64 tiers and some very accomplished tiers. Even some of the more accomplished tiers found themselves being pushed out of their comfort zone by the fly categories that were drawn. It’s not that they could not tie the flies, but that the type of flies were different than what they normally tie. Some really awesome flies were tied, as they stepped out of their comfort zone.
As for your comfort zone while fly fishing, I know some fly fishers who follow the motto of dry fly or die. When you consider that trout especially, eat 90% of their food subsurface, that does not give them very favorable odds of consistently catching fish. I also know some anglers that only fish subsurface and refuse to fish a dry fly. They are also missing out in some circumstances, like when a hatch is on. Some anglers are so set to one style of fishing, to the point of they will avoid certain places to fish because they cannot fish it the way they are comfortable with.
My favorite fishing partner loves to fish dry flies, and I mean who doesn’t- it is very cool to see the fish come up and take your fly off the top. But she was missing out on other times because that is all she would fish. However, over the last couple of years she has started expanding outside her comfort zone, to include streamer fishing and swinging a wet fly.
Last year we both got out of our comfort zone more, and started to learn and experiment with Euro Nymphing. After reading several articles and talking to some friends about how it is done. We gave it a try on several outings. We had some awesome days on the water, that likely would have only been so-so using other methods.
We live in central Idaho along the Clearwater River. During steelhead season we swing a wet fly with two handed rods for steelhead, however we are going on the Norvise hosted trip to Steelhead Alley this fall. Tim has said that a lot of times they fish with nymphs and indicators as swinging a fly is only when conditions are right-which doesn’t happen too often. I have fished this way for trout and am not very proficient at it, and have had very limited success- so it is definitely out of my comfort zone. I plan on reading up the technique, watching videos and pestering everyone I know that has fished for steelhead in this manner to learn more about it. Also, on my trout fishing outings this year, I may try fishing with an indicator rig more often, so that I can get better at it and more comfortable with it.
Now I am definitely not suggesting to give up your favorite flies that you tie, or your favorite fishing technique. I’m just saying that if you normally fish with dry flies, perhaps work a run with the dry fly and then work your way back thru with a nymph rig. Fish most of the day with your preferred method but set aside a couple hours to specifically fish different types of water and different method.
This also brings up another point-go and fish different bodies of water! A lot of people go to the same body of water and fish the same holes with the same methods each time they go out. Don’t be afraid to step out of that comfort zone and fish a different body of water or a different place on that body of water. If you are willing to step out of your comfort zone it will help you become a more rounded tier and angler and you might just have some great days on the water while venturing outside of your zone! Till Next Time...
Tonight we look at our ambassador Braden Miller. When you look at all he has accomplished it is easy to forget he is still only 15 years old. We are so fortunate to have Braden on our staff. He (and his entire family) are now family to us. I love this kid like he is my own son and Tyler calls him "the little brother I never had".
For a bit of a deeper look into what makes this fine young man who he is read on...
By Norvise Ambassador Shannon Messer
Nose down, tails up searching for fiddler Crabs, Shrimp, Mullet, and Menhaden Shad, Redfish move amongst the marsh grass revealing their location to a keen eye of a captain atop the poling platform. The order is given, "30 feet nine o’clock now, strip, strip, strip", bang fish on! The Scott Tidal 7wt is bent, feeling every burst of strength the angry red exhibits as it comprehends what has just happened. Just as quickly as the battle starts it ends with the redfish coming unbuttoned without warning. Just like that the battle is over. I take a moment to replay the memory tattooed in my brain, dissecting each move. What seemed like hours was only a nanosecond in the battle between fly fisherman and redfish. Redfish won.
Let’s take the time to set the stage, and explain how a mountain Trout fly fisherman ends up on the bow of a skiff in the low country of Charleston, South Carolina. I give credit to my wife of twenty years as she threw out the idea of fishing on our twentieth wedding anniversary. Like many of us, we were looking to travel and explore to celebrate our accomplishment, or let's call it like it is— Tanya putting up with me for all these years. I jumped at the opportunity and we selected historic Charleston, South Carolina.
Charleston was an easy choice for us. We love visiting the area, the food is great, you are surrounded by history, and the weather can be amazing! Every time we visit, somehow, we discover something new. This trip we found Ye Ole Fashioned Ice Cream and Sandwich Bar in lovely Mount Pleasant, SC. While waiting on ice cream we couldn’t help but notice they have a fried bologna sandwich on the menu. If that doesn’t make it a first class food joint your expectations are too high.
I was excited and a bit apprehensive after we booked our excursion. I did not want to look like I had no clue on how to cast to saltwater fish. The double haul is a cast that we very rarely, if ever, use in the North Carolina mountains. I am a stealthy predator, roll casting in tight quarters to almost invisible trout, which is a far cry from a seventy or even sixty foot cast on the money for a saltwater species. I practiced as perfectly as I could until I felt confident in my abilities to present the fly as instructed by the captain.
The morning was picture perfect, mirror smooth water and chamber of commerce temperatures greeted us as we departed on our adventure. I must have felt like a fresh major league call up to the show stepping into the batter’s box for the first time. Just my luck it would be MLB Hall of Fame Greg Maddox on the mound that day.
The casting turned out to be the least of my struggles. It was the spotting of the fish that kicked my butt! Regardless of what lens I had in my Smith Optics, I struggled spotting moving redfish as they revealed themselves to us. I was able to spot a few tails, but that was it. Don’t ask me if I saw the mullet because it was a big fat no! I now felt like many of the guests that I guide in the mountains at that point. They tell me they struggle seeing what I see, and now I was experiencing what they feel and it was frustrating. Spotting reds was the biggest challenge for me and I was frustrated, disappointed, and helpless at that point. Tanya knew it, and she was supportive as I pressed on.
If you are someone like me who has never tried sight fishing for a new species you should do it. Don’t be afraid of failure, and accept the challenge head on. I am motivated more than ever to seal the deal the next time out on the skiff! I continue to practice, and I look forward to the next opportunity in the near future.
I have had the opportunity to fish in many different places the past three years, and for that I am thankful. I have faced many challenges along the way, but in the end it has made me a better fly fisherman and guide. You will see me on the bow of a skiff again, but this time holding a redfish. Who knows? It just might be the skiff that the @georgia_drifter owns. Till next time...
Tight Lines - Shannon
By Tim O'Neill
Any one who knows me knows that Smallmouth Bass are my favorite fish to chase with fly gear. Oh yeah, if it is Steelhead season I will say Steelhead are my favorite, when we are Pike fishing I will say Pike are my favorite, when the Shad are running I will say...well, you get the picture.
I have been quoted many times saying "Pound for pound a Smallmouth is the hardest fighting freshwater fish" I believe that to be true. I have also been quotes ad saying "Once you catch a truly big Smallmouth you will kick a stone at all of your Trout gear". I believe that to be true, hence the title of this article.
For us, typically the end of March into April has always been the Trout time of year. It is just what we did year after year for as long as I can remember, this would take us to the Smallmouth spawn, usually around the first week or two in June. We would start our Smallmouth Fishing after the spawn and fish them through the summer. Well, a few years ago our friend Brian Shumaker of Susquehanna River Guides (the premiere smallmouth guide service on the Susky) introduced us to pre-spawn Smallmouth bass fishing, and he ruined us forever!!!!
For us the pre-spawn typically starts around the last week in March and can carry deep into May with the month of April being the prime time. This is all temperature driven so you need to watch your waterways closely and when that water hits around 45 degrees you need to hit the water. We are typically looking for "river run" fish meaning fish that come out of the river into one of the smaller tributaries to spawn. Resident fish can grow to a large size in this area, this time of year we are looking for the migrators fresh in from the big river, hungry, hormonal, and MAD. Man, I love these fish!
Some of the smaller tributaries can be hard too access and tough to navigate once you get on the water. Our favorite pre-spawn river is no exception. Our Smith Fly Big Shoals was tailor maid for this type of fishing. Light to carry and easy in and out of the water, you can bounce this thing off every rock in the river and it keeps on trucking.
Low and slow if the key during this time of year, intermediate and heavy sinking lines are the norm and you can leave your floating line and popper box at home. Don't get me wrong, I love coaxing bass to the surface and I love the visual of the popper bite. There will be plenty of time for that in a few months, just not now. Short leaders of 12 to 15#, sinking lines and big baitfish patterns are your go to for early season Bassin, favorite patterns include Feather Game Changers, Deceivers, Clouser's and Half and Half's are all great choices. I have long believed white to be the most productive Smallmouth color and the early season choice remains the same. To throw all that payload you need a serious stick. We have been relying on the Axiom II X and the LK Legacy from Temple Fork Outfitters. These rods have the juice to launch a heavy sink tip and the backbone to land an angry 20" Bronzeback. We have been very happy with everything TFO since joining their team.
On this particular day we spent about 6 hours floating a productive section of the river. Cast, upstream mend, count the fly down, strip, strip, pause. We spend as much time on the anchor as we did on the sticks setting up on the likely fish holding water and drifting over the other. Cast, upstream mend, count the fly down, strip, strip, pause. Most of the time that pause id the most important aspect of the cast, a truly bid Smallmouth will usually hit on the drop, probably the reason the Clouser minnow and it hundreds of variations are so effective.
When we were driving home, tired, gear stowed and boat in tow I was thinking; "This was the single beast day I have had on a Smallmouth river. Never before had we landed three 20" fish, 5 18" fish and I don't know how many 14, 15 & 16" fish. Truly an epic day on the water (and I really do not like the word epic) but that is the only way to describe it.
So, like the title says Smallmouth...in April??? Absolutely! Man, I LOVE these fish! Till next time...
Tight Lines - Tim
By Norvise ambassador Brittany Davenport.
Are your favorite trout rivers blown out due to runoff or spring rains? Here in Idaho, we have a nice window of trout fishing pre-runoff. But once the snow pack starts to melt, well, it just makes more sense to look for other options until the flows subside a bit. (Not that trout can’t be caught during run off… but that’s a topic for another day and another blog post!
In past few years, I was introduced to lake fishing, and specifically, fishing for panfish. When I started fly fishing, I jumped straight to trout fishing—and somewhat overlooked fishing for panfish, the typical gateway drug for many folks.
I have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of spring temps, and the local lakes and reservoirs to ice out and start warming up a bit. We’ve had a couple nice warm spring days to tempt us, and it is finally time! Spring fishing for panfish can also be a great cabin fever reliever if you have been stuck inside all winter.
Spring fishing for panfish is also a great opportunity to bring a child or new fly fisher along. Panfish have a way of bringing out the kid in any angler, even the seasoned ones! They are a willing target, and a blast to catch, for anglers of any age!
Now let's talk gear. First, be sure to have a good pair of polarized sunglasses. This will help cut the glare on the water and make it easier to see fish in the shallow waters. I like to use a 4 wt rod. Mine are 9’, but a shorter one is adequate. Some folks drop down to a 3 or 2 wt rod. The catching is more fun, that is for sure! But if you encounter wind, you are at more of a disadvantage with those lighter setups. Any time you are lake fishing, it is beneficial to have a variety of fly lines—a weight forward, and various sinking lines. However, when targeting panfish in the spring, a WF will do just fine. I like to use a 7 1/2’ 4x or 5x leader. You can also purchase some poly sinking leaders, if you want to get just a little deeper. The nice thing about spring fishing is that the fish are generally in the shallower, warmer areas of the lake. Also be sure to bring along some indicators (ie. Bobbers) to suspend flies from.
As for flies, general lake fishing patters are adequate. Thankfully, panfish usually aren’t extremely picky. And during the spring, the bull panfish are more aggressive. Flies with movement are a safe bet. You can use some high floating flies, like a small popper, as an indicator as well. I like to use wet flies, small streamers, and small bead head nymphs. A chartreuse copper john will likely always be one of my favorites for panfish. They just can’t resist.
Editors note: the Norvise Fine Point Conversion is perfect for tying the type of flies Brittany is talking about here.
As for access, we really love to fish our lakes and reservoirs from our Maxxon XPW-239s. They allow for great fishing, maneuverability, comfort, and I can pack both of them down and fit them in the back of my Subaru. You can use a pontoon or belly boat (float tube). However, the water is still on the colder end of things, so be sure to wear your waders, and appropriate layers underneath. If the bottom of lake is firm, you can wade along the shoreline-and fish parallel to it. If the bottom is soft however, your best bet is to stay on shore. Be sure to watch your back cast! The other options would be a boat, kayak or canoe. Use what you have. Simple as that. And if you don’t have any watercraft, stick to the docks, shore, etc. You can still find plenty of fish.
Now for tactics—so at this point in the year, panfish will be moving into the shallower, warmer water. Fishing is usually best once the sun has warmed up the surface water. So it does afford some sleeping in, and enjoying your coffee in the morning, before you have to get out. Often times, bays and coves will be a bit warmer than the rest of the lake. These warmer areas often have the newer weed growth, which draws plankton and aquatic insects, which are food sources for the panfish. Crappie typically spawn in 5 to 6 feet of water or more, while bluegills are shallower, in 1 to 5 feet of water. Keep in mind though, that often, the bigger blue gills will hang out in the 4 to 6 foot range, with the smaller fish being in the shallower water. One effective way to target them in the spring (and any time really) is to float a fly under an indicator, or buoyant dry fly. Set the depth accordingly. If you find a weed bed, set the depth so you are fishing just over top of it. Use flies that have plenty of movement, to elicit a strike from the bull fish. As to presentation, you can let it sit and twitch it occasionally, or use a slow retrieve with a number of pauses in it. If you find you are catching smaller fish, try using a bigger presentation, or a heavier one, that will drop quicker. Often times the bigger panfish hang out below the smaller ones.
There is a great amount of information available on the web, about fishing for panfish in the Spring. If it peaks your curiosity and cabin fever, a quick google search can keep you busy for hours. If you do the Facebook thing, there is a great group called Panfish on the Fly, that is also a source of great information. As we look forward to warmer summer days, while our rivers are blown out, panfish can offer us a much needed excursion to wet a line. I truly believe, that no matter an anglers experience, we can all have a dang good time fishing for panfish. There is just something about it that brings us back to simpler times and makes us feel like a kid again.
And on that note… bring a kid or new angler along with you. They will forever remember their time spent with you chasing the eager little fish at your local pond. Till next time...
This month I was honored to have been asked to do an interview for "On the Fly South" online magazine. This was a fun interview, Usually people want to talk about the vise or how Norm and I started to work together. That is fine as I always like to talk about Norvise. This interview was a little different as you will see. To check out "Getting a Grip on the Fly Tying Business" Click the image below.
I am always humbled when I am asked to do these types of things. Never in a million years did I think I would be in this position. Thank you for reading, thank you for your support, and thank you for tying on a Norvise! Till Next time...
Tight Lines - Tim