Another year is in the books here at the FFFT blog, and what a year it has been. We’ve added 32 additional tutorials to our Fly Tying Database, caught more fish than any year in recent memory and have continued to plug along even as Hurricane Ida did her best to derail our progress.
Narrowing this list down to ten was no easy feat in 2021, but here they are…
#10 – Winter Redfish
While my first fish of the year was a small bluegill, my first fishing trip of 2021 found me returning to one of my favorite holes in the Louisiana marsh. I had done quite well at this spot the month prior and decided to try my luck again when tide and temperature allowed.
Such a day came about the second week in January when a favorable forecast happened to coincide with a rising tide.
The water was as low and clear as I had ever seen in Louisiana, and more importantly the redfish were willing. While not present in the numbers witnessed a month prior, a steady stream of fish eagerly chased down my EP Shrimp.
#9 – Pinch your Barbs & Watch your Back Cast
Let’s face it. There are some memorable events that we’d like to forget, but they stick with us regardless. The big fish lost. The one misstep that sent you tumbling into the stream. That time I forgot to watch my back cast…
For me that memory was the cautionary tale posted in early February of this year. While I can laugh about it in retrospect, I still remain wary of my surroundings any time I visit the lakes.
More over, I count myself extremely lucky that the hook came out so easily (and, more importantly, that the jogger had a sense of humor. If either were not true, this could have been much worse.
Moral of the story: Pinch your barbs and watch your back case!
#8 -Rough Fish
There’s more to fishing than game fish.
No doubt such words are blasphemous in the eyes of many anglers, but their protest does nothing to refute the truth of that statement. While trophy trout, 10-lbs largemouth and bull reds may win the angler more accolades, there are other fish in the sea capable of presenting equal challenge.
And after a year of struggling, failing, learning and eventually besting a number of these rough fish, I can say I now rank them on par with any of the aforementioned game fish.
#7 – New Friends & Acquaintances
Following a 2020 that found many of us largely isolated from the rest of society, 2021 has been a year of new friends and acquaintances.
Beyond those I’ve connected with through the blog (and its associated social media account), I have been approached by more fly fishermen and prospective fly fishermen while on the water than in any year prior. I’ve exchanged contact info with many of them and have been lucky enough in a few instances to join them on the water in the months since. For someone who often fishes solo, it has been an enjoyable change of pace.
Combined with the warm welcome I’ve received from the Kisatchie Fly Fishers, it has been a year highlighted by new friends and acquaintances as my fly fishing social circle continues to expand.
#6 – Small Stream Surprise
On the final day of The Mayfly Project’s 25 on the Fly tournament (more below), Jake and I made our way to a small Rhode Island stream in search of brook trout. The clock was ticking, and we had about 30-minutes to spare before heading to our final spot of the day.
As Jake re-rigged his line, he directed me towards a hole just upstream of our parking spot. After prospecting the hole to no avail, I allowed my Woolly Bugger to swing under a log jam at the tail end of the pool.
To my dismay, I appeared to snag my fly on the initial swing. When I attempted to pop my fly free, however, the foam in front of the jam exploded. Shouting for the net, I guided what turned out to be a large, wild rainbow trout clear of the jam.
Jake, being familiar with the stream, was completely shocked. He was unaware of anyone landing a rainbow, let alone of of that size, within ten miles of where we parked.
#5 – When Research Pays Off
With various mixed bag competitions on the line this year, I admittedly spent more time devoted to internet research than I have in years past. Sites like fishmap.org and even iNaturalist were regulars in my browsing history as I tried to pin down one new species after the next. In the end though, these resources paid off time and again. And, as a result, proved well worth the hours spent.
The best example was likely my late summer search for Grass (Redfin) Pickerel. I had struck out on these fish time and again before setting out to check a series of roadside drainages feeding a particular watershed.
The species seemed prevalent throughout, and, with any luck, these roadside localities would provide easy access to my target.
Sure enough, they did! And by day’s end I had brought more pickerel to hand than I could count.
When Ben of Mountain to Marsh followed up by discovering a Flier population at a nearby location, it was just icing on the cake.
#4 – 20 September Days
September proved to be a rough month as we struggled to recover in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida. A planned trip to RMNP was scrapped as we waited for the power to return. And the month was looking lost as my work schedule shifted to seven days per week. Hopes that my wife could repeat as the Orvis #20SepDays photo contest winner were looking slim as the month wound down.
With a long weekend in California still slated for the end of the month, all hope was not yet lost. Though fishing was not the primary purpose of our visit, I had my 7wt in tow. And when I finally found a chance to wet a line near the end of our trip, my wife found her shot.
Silhouetted by the setting sun, she captured my unsuccessful attempts to catch a Crissy Fields striper in a light that made even my poor technique look good.
When the final ten were announced a few days later, she was once again among the finalists. And while the popular vote did not go her way in the end, she still found herself ranked second among the thousands of entries received. While this blogger tends to disagree with that result, I am still unbelievably proud of her back-to-back Top 3 finishes. She has an incredible eye for photography and can even make a photo of yours truly look amazing.
And for those who have inquired in the past, Maedbh does now have a website where some of her work is displayed:
#3 – The Suncatch Challenge
As the heat of summer took hold, I had largely resigned myself to spending the summer months indoors and at my vise. The urge to fish, however, rarely stays dormant for long, and, by early August, I was itching to get back on the water.
Temperatures were still a limiting factor though, and I found myself largely relegated to short, early morning ventures close to home. With an eye towards completing FFI Gulf Coast Council’s Suncatch Challenge, I began concentrating my efforts on the smaller Lepomis native to Baton Rouge.
#2 – Mixed Bag State of Mind
2021 can best be described as the Year of the Mixed Bag. Involved in two year-long club contests as well as the aforementioned Suncatch Challenge (and 25 on the Fly tournament referenced below), the past year was largely dedicated to improving upon an ever growing species list.
While I set out with the modest goal of surpassing my 2020 total of 19 species, it quickly evolved into something else. In fact, I more than doubled that total with 45 species caught to date. And while I came up short in the KFF Mixed Bag, I did manage to eke out a win in the RSFF Jambalaya Challenge.
Coupled with my completion of the FFI GCC Suncatch Challenge and solid finish in 25 on the Fly, it has been a rather successful year.
While many of the species can be seen throughout this post, check out the slide show to the right for a complete list.
#1 – The Mayfly Project’s 25 on the Fly
Of all the moments and memories that defined the 2021 fly fishing season, The Mayfly Project’s 25 on the Fly Tournament has to rank as #1.
For four straight days, Jake and I fished our way across central NY and Rhode Island. First scouting, and then competing with 40+ teams across the US, we fished from sunrise to sunset chasing the 25 qualifying species.
In the end, we fell a largemouth bass short of the Top 3. A little disappointing…yes, but still one of the more exciting tournament formats I’ve had the opportunity to participate in.
For those who haven’t read them before, I highly recommend checking out the four blog posts at the link below:
With that, I think it’s time to call 2021 a wrap. Thanks to all for following along this past year, and be sure to subscribe at the bottom of our home page if you’d like to see what we have in store for 2022.
Until then, Merry Christmas and a happy, healthy and fish filled 2022 to all of you!