Category Archives: Personal Best Catches

In Fall Edition of Kayak Angler Magazine – Trophy Hunters

A few weeks ago, I received a surprise message.  The inquiry was from none other than Ric Burnley, Editor of Kayak Angler Magazine and author of the book “The Complete Kayak Fisherman”, asking if I’d answer some questions for an upcoming article on trophy hunting for fish species.  First, I’d like to say thank you to whomever nominated me for the feature.  Second and reason for surprise is, although I’ve caught some nice fish species on the fly, there are many of you out there who I find myself envious of who land some ridiculously mean and large fish on a regular basis!  So to have my name thrown in for consideration of this feature…well, I’m honored.

Kayak Angler Magazine selected five anglers for the feature, including Brian Cadoret and Tom Fucini from the New England region, Kerry Flowers from the country of New Zealand, Josh Dolin from Virginia, and yours truly.  We share our view on what defines a trophy catch, toughest accomplishment, our favorite fish story, some advice, how we celebrate, and what we seek to catch in the future.  There’s some other great content in this edition too including Ben Duchesney’s account of a challenging trip on water in the Adirondack Mountains, so pick yourself up a copy and get your read on!

You can find the 2016 fall edition of Kayak Angler Magazine on newsstands and in kayak shops around North America, or buy a subscription online!

kayak angler mag fall 2016


Similar Fly Fishing Tactics Catch Speckled Trout & Bass

Approaching quiet water on a warm and muggy Gulf Coast morning, early risers in brackish backwater are slashing at pogies.  Instead of observing the aggressive behaviour of bass feeding near and on top, I overcomplicate the strategy and focus on baitfish skipping for their lives.  After an hour of failed attempts with minnow fly patterns, I switch over to a topwater foam fly.  By the third cast, the line is tight with the first of several small to medium-sized bass.

Bass on PopperFast forward six weeks to a 40F cold November morning.  The water is silent.  No sign of fish feeding.  The anticipation isn’t quite as high, but I know bass are close by, and maybe even a salty species since I spied blue crab on the feed in shallows the day before.  Topwater and dry flies are my favorite method to catch fish, and since dawn is breaking, and the water I am fishing is relatively protected, I tie on a bass popper fly.


Bass popper fly chewed on by saltwater speckled trout

The fish seem almost sleepy, but as the sun rises the water slowly comes to life.  The first sign of activity is the increasing frequency of nervous minnows rippling the surface.  Then as it often happens, I’m distracted from my current retrieval pattern while scanning the water for the next cast.  GULP..tight line…then it goes limp.  It’s one of those mornings when every bite counts, and that may just have been the one I regret.

Not long after, I make a short cast to structure at the mouth of an outflow, twitch the fly erratically, and let it rest.  CAWOOOM!  Fish on, and it feels like a heavy bass.  A real good bass!  But then I catch a glimpse of the light blue and silver hues and realize this is no largemouth.  What might just be the largest saltwater speckled trout I’ve ever hooked is putting up a fight that I fear may be over quickly.  Speckled trout have relatively thin facial cheek skin behind lip, and yet I need to put some serious pressure on this fish or lose it in the wood.  She runs underneath my kayak, and for several reasons I’m not in a position to cross over to other side of the vessel to continue the battle.  The only choice is unfortunately grabbing the leader by hand, and encourage the fish to turn and run.  I somehow lose tension and the fish runs.  She’s still on!  After two more runs, several head shakes, and teasing views of the trout just beneath surface, I am in near disbelief upon netting a fat 23.5″, 4.88 lb saltwater speckled trout on a topwater popper fly!

Speckled Trout 23_5

Author, Aaron Rubel, with a 23.5″ saltwater speckled trout caught on a bass popper fly

“Walking the Dog” is a popular technique for luring saltwater fish to topwater on the Gulf Coast.  It is not a tactic that I have been able to emulate with a fly.  So, after a couple years of futile effort trying to do so led me to re-think the strategy.  What I began to contemplate and eventually experiment with changed my perception that saltwater speckled trout and freshwater bass are species worlds apart.

Speckled trout are aggressive when on the feed.  Bass feed angry on topwater.  Speckled trout also like it on top early in the morning, especially on glassy water.  So, I tied some red and white gurgler flies that I had caught bass on prior.  On a November evening a couple of years ago, I cast to structure just like I would to bass.  This time though, it would be in the open salty waters around abandoned piers of Mobile Bay.  Fishing that evening wasn’t on fire, but I caught three trout, with one going 19″.  On a gurgler topwater fly!  The method used was by twitching the light fly with finesse I typically use to target bass.

Since then, the theory that speckled trout will react to smaller than typical patterns on top like those used for bass species have proved effective.  Next time you venture out to target sea trout, take along a two inch popper or gurgler fly, add action that evokes a predatory response to a struggling life form on the surface, and be ready on every cast to connect with a nice salty speck!

For more details on this technique and the exciting day that resulted after catching this personal best speckled trout, visit a story run on Kayak Angler Magazine at link:


 Copyright 2014 by All rights reserved



Fish Species Caught On The Fly


Species Caught on FlyAs the years have progressed, my objectives have too.  Originally, my target was narrow, pursuing only three or four species of fish.  In recent years I started investing time into understanding and catching fish using a fly that I’ve not yet held in hand.  Additionally, improving on a personal best is something I’m thinking about when out on the water.

I believe that if a fish can be caught by a lure or live bait, it can be landed on the fly.  Understanding the behaviors of the fish, what they prefer to eat, habitat they live in, and other details may take a bit of time to research in study and in the field, but that’s part of the fun of fly fishing!

So, below is a list of species I’ve caught by method of fly fishing, and a 2013 bucket list.  I hope to expand the list over time, and certainly improve on my personal best of some.  It’s great to have this on paper for myself.  Seeing it in black and white reveals those fish where personal bests can be “easily” improved upon and for documenting the expanding species that I catch over the years.  I encourage you to make a list for yourself too!

Coldwater Species On the Fly:
Brook Trout – 13″ – South Branch of Au Sable, Michigan – 2003
Brown Trout – 23″ – Rogue River, Michigan – 2001
Cuttbow Trout – 21″ – Cheeseman Canyon, Colorado – 1998
Cutthroat Trout – 18″ – Slough Creek, Montana – 2008
Rainbow Trout – 19″ – Cheeseman Canyon, Colorado – 1998
Steelhead – 29″ – Elk Creek, Pennsylvania – 2001

Warmwater Freshwater Species On the Fly:
Bluegill (northern) – 9″ – Round Lake, Michigan – 2006
Chain Pickerel – 16″ – Big Creek Lake, Alabama – 2013

Largemouth Bass – 25″ – Steelwood Lake, Alabama – 2006
Rock Bass – 9″ – Clinton River, Michigan – 2004
Smallmouth Bass – 18″ – New River, Virginia – 2012 & Upper Peninsula of Michigan Lake – 2014

Spotted Bass – 15.5″ – Lake Neely Henry, Alabama – 2014

Saltwater Species On the Fly:
Black Drum – 13″ – Mobile Bay, Alabama – 2011
Bluefish – 18″ – Gulf of Mexico – 2011
Croaker – 12″ – Mobile Bay, Alabama – 2011
Flounder – 16″ – Mobile Bay, Alabama – 2011

Ladyfish – 24.25″ – Mobile Bay area, Alabama – 2012 (Kayak Fishing World Record)
Redfish – 25.25″ – Mobile Bay, Alabama – 2012
Scorpion Fish – aprox 14″ (not measured due to venomous stingers) – St Joseph Bay, Florida – 2012
Speckled Trout – 23.5″ – Wolf Bay, Alabama – 2014 (Tournament Win)
Southern Stingray – aprox 36″ in width (line cut due to venomous stinger) – Venice, Louisiana
Tarpon – 13″ – Mobile Bay, Alabama – 2012
White trout – 15″ – Mobile Bay, Alabama – 2011

Skipjack Herring – 15″ – Mobile Bay, Alabama – 2014 (Kayak Fishing World Record)

Most Number of Fish Caught On the Fly In One Day:

32 Brook Trout on West Branch of Big Creek, Michigan – 2002

Copyright 2013, 2014 by All rights reserved

A Look Back

This week my wife encouraged me to start a blog about the fishing adventures I seek and related topics associated with my obsession. So where do I start? Well, I guess it has to begin at the origin, which points to my family. From a young age, my father took me into the woods and taught me valuable lessons about nature and wildlife. Fast forwarding to the present, I am grateful for my wife who not only supports my love of water and wilderness, but encourages me to keep exploring. For me, launching my kayak into the currents of a tide, wading a cold flowing stream, or hiking through a quiet hemlock forest is refreshing after spending most waking hours viewing the world from the confines of sixteen square feet.

I write this initial entry from the Eastern Shore community of Mobile Bay in Daphne, AL which we have made home. I was raised far north of here in the small town of Reading, Michigan where I would race to get my homework done in order to explore the woods of the farm before sunset. Even after moving to the metropolitan area of Detroit in my mid-teens, some of my fondest memories go back to cool crisp Saturdays riding back with my father from the state game area as we listened to the college football game on “The Great Voice of the Great Lakes” 760 WJR, or times when we ventured to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan for a week of exploration and hunting. I now hope to pass on some of these discoveries and make new ones with my two sons.


Whether ten or 10,000 readers follow these stories of the past and new adventures found, I hope some of my entries may encourage others to not only seek the experience of the out of doors themselves, but also share it with the next generation.


Copyright 2012 by All rights reserved