Tag Archives: Aaron Rubel

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: http://www.rapidmedia.com/kayak-fishing/categories/departments/4017-fly-guy-beats-them-all.html


 Copyright 2014 by icastinayak.com. All rights reserved



The Foundation of Fly Fishing


Foundation 1jThe following was originally published in the April 2013 edition of Great Days Outdoors Magazine.  Thank you to the magazine publisher for use of article.

The Foundation of Fly Fishing
by Aaron Rubel

One of my favorite aspects about the pastime of fly fishing is learning from those I accompany on fishing trips as well as casual contacts along the way.  Sharing what I’ve learned with others through my experiences is always rewarding.

There was a point in time when I wanted to start gaining detailed knowledge about fishing.  A friend suggested I consider fly fishing.  While researching, I found a lot of information available that was practical and creative.  I also liked how fly fishing enthusiasts regard the importance of watershed conservation and giving back to the resource.

I didn’t know anyone who fly fished at the time.  To get started, I purchased a video on how to cast, along with a starter fly rod combo.  Fortunately, the video was effective in demonstrating the basics.  During my second year of fly fishing, I was introduced to an organization named Trout Unlimited.

The roots of Trout Unlimited are based in conservation of North American coldwater fisheries habitat, and many members fly fish.  After establishing some relationships with a few of the members, my knowledge of the sport gained by leaps and bounds.  If certain skills are an art form, then fly fishing has to be one of them.  I began to think of fly fishing as art.

The first piece of advice I’d recommend is to connect with an experienced fly angler.  In our region (southeast USA), the International Federation of Fly Fishers (IFFF) is a great organization with the goal of educating anyone interested in the sport.

Your local International Federation of Fly Fishers club can recommend a qualified casting instructor who provides expert one-on-one advice.  Books and videos are good sources of information to supplement fly fishing knowledge.  However, personal relationships with people who can spend time on the water with you are invaluable.

Are you an experienced fly angler?  Then seek out someone who has shown an interest in learning the art.  Spend some time with them.  After all, introducing a beginner to the basics of fly fishing doesn’t require a certification in fly fishing.

As a mentor, you’ll even become a better caster and angler.  You’ll spend more time on the basics.  Plus, you’ll study methods so as to demonstrate the mechanics of fishing techniques.  It’s invigorating to watch a protégé develop.  It’s like seeing an art form reborn.

The greatest compliment to a teacher is the moment when the student starts contributing to the knowledge base of the mentor.  Besides, all of us need a few fishing buddies.  Art imitates life via fly fishing.

For more information on how you can subscribe to Great Days Outdoors Magazine, check out their website:  http://www.gdomag.com/

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Copyright 2013 by icastinayak.com and Great Days Outdoors Magazine. All rights reserved

Fly Fishing Early Spring in Lower Mobile River Delta


Mobile Delta 1Spent a beautiful afternoon on the lower Mobile River Delta today.  The contrast  between winter hungover Cyprus trees draped in Spanish moss, early spring blooming flowers, and palm lined backwater creek banks framed a tranquil backdrop.  Quaint river boat homes welcome anglers into a time warp of earlier and more simple times.

Mobile Delta 2Enjoyed spending a few hours on the water with a friend, Stacey Martin, who has depth of experience on the backwaters of the Mobile River Delta.

Mobile Delta 3We caught a couple bass and spooked 3 alligators totaling 25ft in length from their early spring slumber.

Mobile Delta 4A great fly to use in early spring is a gurgler fly pattern, which will bring out the predatory instincts of bass that reside in backwater creeks within the lower Mobile River Delta.


Mobile Delta 5

Copyright 2014 by icastinayak.com. All rights reserved

Leopard Redfish

Leopard Redfish 1Photograph by: Jameson Redding
Angler: Aaron Rubel, with a fourteen spot leopard redfish

I was Informed Sunday evening that this 20.75″ redfish with fourteen spots (eight on one side) earned me first place in the leopard redfish category of the month long 2014 Great Days Outdoors Magazine New Years Tournament!

This fish hit three or four feet from the bow of my Hobie Outback kayak.  A great example of how stealthy a kayak can be.

It’s not all that rare to catch a redfish with more than one spot, although fourteen spots on a fish of this species is not so common either.  The characteristic is passed down through the family lineage of the fish, determined by combinations of dominant and recessive genes.  The most common is for a redfish to display one spot on each side, at base of the tail.  One spot on each side of a redfish can be compared to the most common eye color for humans being brown.  More spots, on the other hand, can be compared to the small percentage of blue eyed humans through combinations of dominant and recessive genes passed down through family DNA.Leopard redfish are beautiful creatures, and I’m thankful to have been able to spend a few minutes up close and personal with this one.


Leopard Redfish 2

Copyright 2014 by icastinayak.com. All rights reserved

Fall Tournaments On the Fly

Fall Tournaments on Fly 1Photograph by: Marty Smith
Angler: Aaron Rubel

An unusual award for an unlikely species.  Recently, I participated in a couple tournaments that benefited great causes.  In early November, the Mobile Bay Kayak Fishing Association held its’ annual fall tournament to raise funds and awareness for Heroes on the Water.  Following that up, I fished in the inaugural Kingfisher Classic.  The tournament’s goal was to raise awareness for the great work the Weeks Bay Foundation is doing to preserve and expand natural habitat as well as contribute toward educational and volunteer opportunities along the bay coastline.

Fall Tournaments on Fly 270 competitors signed up to compete for a $500 first place prize in five categories which included redfish, speckled trout, flounder, bass, and bream.  When I heard about the tournament, I was shocked and excited that $500 would be offered to the winner of a bream category.  There was only one problem.  The engine block in my kayak car had cracked days before and was in the shop being replaced.  That meant, I had no plan to transport my Hobie Pro Angler 12 to the water.  That is, until my wife generously volunteered her mini-van.  So, out came the seats and in went the kayak!


The rules stated that waters were limited to tributaries of Mobile Bay, which heightened the competitiveness of the bass and bream categories.  The salinity of Mobile Bay tends to challenge growth rates of area bass and bream.  However, I had been catching some relatively nice bream in previous weeks on the fly.

Fall Tournaments on Fly 3Low tide and peak feeding window that morning surprised me.  The fish fed better at low tide than when current was moving, and their location were predictably centered in river.

Fall Tournaments on Fly 4Fortunately, the cloudy day made for some great bream fishing and I was fortunate to place second in the category.  I was the only kayaker and fly angler among the 70 anglers in the tournament.  That was probably the most rewarding feeling of placing high in standings.

Fall Tournaments on Fly 5All fifteen bream caught during the tournament were on a black, chartreuse, and red top water fly.  I had tried various other color combinations of different fly patterns, but on this day they were turned on to the darker colors.

Fall Tournaments on Fly 6Pictured from left to right: Aaron Rubel receiving 2nd place award, Jeff Dute (Mobile Bay Press Register Outdoor Writer), and Ben Raines (Executive Director of Weeks Bay Foundation)

Thank you to the Weeks Bay Foundation for running this story in the Winter 2013 edition of the Pelican Post: http://www.weeksbay.org/pelican_post/pp-winter-low-res.pdf

Official results of all categories in the Kingfisher Classic as reported by the Weeks Bay Foundation:
Speckled trout:
1st place:  M. Wilson, 6.16 lbs
2nd place:  O. Harrison, 5.23 lbs

1st place:  J. Mann, 6.99 lbs
2nd place:  K. Olmstead, 5.95 lbs

1st place:  O. Harrison, 2.68 lbs
2nd place:  M. Foster, 2.02 lbs

Largemouth bass:
1st place:  W. Miller, 1.17 lbs
2nd place:  A. Dobson, 1.12 lbs

1st place:  T. Nelson, .39 lbs
2nd place:  A. Rubel, .32 lbs

Copyright 2013 by icastinayak.com. All rights reserved

Rocky Mountain Tree Monkey

I’m told altitude sickness can do some strange things to the mind.  A severe headache and disorientation to name a couple.  Disorientation, otherwise known as a confused state of mind, can result in hallucinations.

I had a few days before having to conduct some business upon landing in Denver, Colorado and so with travel rod in tow, I made my way west up into the Front Range of the Rockies.  I had read about some of the productive creeks in the foothills and had reserved a quaint stream-side cabin.

Upon checking in, the owner of the cabins gave me a few complimentary flies he tied.  A nice touch, considering the effort and care that goes into tying flies.  I’ve found that even if I think I’m prepared for a trip, including flies, I’m really not.  Locals tie patterns that are specific for the water they fish, and I was thankful for not only the flies but also a very good fishing report.

Quickly unpacked, I strung up the fly rod with a #14 buckskin nymph, as recommended by the expert local knowledge acquired just a few minutes before.  The stream’s flow was lively, dancing over and around rock formations.  Towering pines canopied the stream’s width that spanned three or four lengths of a fly rod.

Spending the afternoon fly fishing to willing trout slips by quickly.  Sometimes this happens before realizing the need for drinking fluids.  Unfortunately, for a lowlander such as myself, fishing at altitude without hydrating can have negative consequences.

A headache set in and a nap was in order before an evening wade.  A couple hours later I woke to not only a throbbing headache, but sick to my stomach.  So, the only way I could think of to expunge the miserable feeling was to hit the river again.  This time I packed a little water into an inside vest pocket.

Fly anglers have a sixth sense.  We can hear a fish feed that only dimples the water from 200 feet away.  Have you ever approached a stream’s bank, took a deep breath, raised your eyebrow, exhaled and exclaimed, “What a day this is going to be”?  If you’re a fly angler, you know that sixth sense while on the water.

Casting upstream with a reach cast from left to right, my fly made a drift through a good seam.  Upon picking up the fly at the end of the drift, I made a false cast and then something interrupted the process over my left shoulder.  It was that feeling you get when you discover someone was watching you, even though you haven’t confirmed it.  You just know somehow, something isn’t right.

Glancing over my left shoulder and across the stream, the hair on the back of my neck suddenly stood tall as two eyes and a pale face entered my periphery view.  Before I could gain a clear picture of the life form in the trees, it disappeared.  I have spent a lot of time in the woods, and never before had I seen anything like it, even considering my poor view.  Initially, my thought was this might be a curious child climbing in the trees.  Then again, the situation just didn’t add up.

Using a method I learned years before while deer hunting, I continued on with what I was doing so not to spook whatever it was.  I remained aware out of the corner of my eye only, and didn’t allow myself to be focused in the direction of the strange sight.  Within minutes, I again caught view of the pale face with large eyes that seemed to look right through me.  This time I flipped the line upstream as if to fish another drift, but then turned and focused on the image in the trees intently.  My thought was, “A monkey in Colorado?  Impossible.”  I am not native to the Rocky Mountains, nor have I studied in detail the wildlife that reside in the high hills of the Front Range, but this couldn’t be.  But it was.

Over the next ten minutes or so, I watched the funny monkey jump from tree to tree, as if to gather information on me from different angles.  Eventually, the monkey scurried away on a long branch, and I never saw him again.

That night as I turned in for bed with flu like symptoms, a debate waged in my mind as to whether I would tell anyone of the experience.  Would anyone believe me if I told them anyway?  How loco would locals think I was if I were to tell a story of a monkey peaking through pine branch needles as I fished below.

Curiosity got the best of me.  The next day I ran into the owner of the cabins.  Stumbling over my words a bit, I finally got the story out.  He nodded his head and responded, “Rocky Mountain Tree Monkey.”  There was silence between us, and I likely gave him the look of a very confused individual.  But he didn’t waver.  He convincingly told me of the occasional sighting of Rocky Mountain Tree Monkeys, although not commonplace.

I walked away from the conversation half feeling sheepish for telling the story, but half believing I was lucky to have witnessed such a rare event in the wilds of a Colorado mountain stream.  Either way, I say long live the Rocky Mountain Tree Monkey.  After all, I saw one don’t you know.

Copyright 2013 by icastinayak.com. All rights reserved

Conservation Articles Published in Kayak Angler Magazine

Conservation Articles in Kayak Angler MagLast Christmas I entered a writing contest upon viewing an ad.  The winner was to be published in a second quarter print edition.  I drafted an essay and submitted the paper by the New Years Eve deadline.

A week or so later I received an invitation from the publication to make a query for an upcoming edition.  What a surprise!  Upon inquiring to the Editor about the contest, he laughed and informed me there was none, but that I could consider myself the winner anyway!  I had evidently submitted the entry to the wrong publication, or maybe not.  Funny how things turn out sometimes.

Conservation ranks equal if not higher in my book, to that of fishing.   In the early summer edition of Kayak Angler Magazine, I have the honor of sharing two conservation articles.  I am thankful to have spent some time with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and one of the top tagging anglers in the country, Kayak Kevin Whitley, for developing content on the subject of fish tagging programs.  Check it out on page 30.  Also, on page 12, read how a small tarpon caught in Mobile Bay is big news for conservation.

Find the print edition of Kayak Angler Magazine at your local kayak shop.  The digital version can be found at the following site:

Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries:

Gulf Coast Research Laboratory:

For info on Kayak Kevin Whitley and his great instructional material, click here:

Copyright  2013 by icastinayak.com. All rights reserved

Chain Pickerel in the Grass

I went out for a different kind of adventure on the fly in Hobie kayaks a couple weeks ago.  The Chain pickerel is definitely a fish I will be pursuing in the future.

Click here to about it in an article published by Kayak Angler Magazine Online entitled “Snakes in the Grass”

Copyright 2013 by icastinayak.com. All rights reserved

Articles to run March-June in Great Days Outdoors Magazine!

The first of a few fly fishing articles can be found on convenience store news stands across Alabama and west Florida as of March 1st!  The first article is a fun story about the possibilities and surprises that can happen while out on the water.  You never know what might end up in your net!

In the April edition, I will share my thoughts and experiences on how to get started in fly fishing.  It will be fun, because even for someone who may have been fly fishing for years, there’s nothing like getting back to the basics.  As the months progress, I’ll share some of my favorite fly fishing techniques, and uncover some secrets to catching fish on the fly.

For a preview, the magazine featured the March article online last Friday.  See below:

Click here to read March edition of “On the Fly”, by Aaron Rubel

Copyright 2012, 2013 by icastinayak.com. All rights reserved

Smallmouth Bass in Mountains of Virginia

Photograph by: Jameson Redding, Anger: Aaron Rubel

My roots in fly fishing go back to days wading within well-structured banks swept with cool flowing water. I have no idea why rivers energize me, but even after a week of only 20 hours of sleep, a day on a mountain river in Virginia expunged every bit of stress in my body.

I have learned that some of the very best days of fishing on a river nearly always occur on cloudy days. I have also learned that there is something about friendships introduced around water and fish. The morning started early as Jameson and I met at 5:30AM for a day of fishing. When we arrived at the river, there were fish actively feeding, and the sunrise combined with just the right amount of fog reminded me of why the Blue Ridge Mountains are so appropriately named.

If there’s one thing that is the same about every fishing trip, there’s always a surprise that ends up making the day memorable. After casting from a bolder into a promising corner structure, we decided to move on after only catching one small spotted bass. Moving on gracefully in a kayak sometimes turns into begging for some mercy. After placing my fly rod in the kayak, I leaned over to sit on the water craft, but my foot was not firmly planted as moss was growing on the aggressively angled rock ledge. In certain circumstances, there comes a point when time stands still and you know there’s no going back. A choice must be made and made in that moment with no hesitation. I only had one option to keep from swimming, and that was to lunge for my kayak as it slid away from the bank. When I lunged off the ledge, I was certain the kayak would capsize and my fly rods would be at the bottom of the river (seven feet deep at this point). Well, thank the Lord I didn’t lose a single piece of gear, wasn’t impaled by a hook, and I stayed on top of the kayak albeit refreshingly wet!

The fishing picked up around 9:00AM, maybe not so coincidently in sync with clouds that moved in. I’ve learned that smallmouth like top water flies, and big ones. This knowledge is thanks to a guide I’ve spent some time on the water with in Michigan named Jon Ray as well as reading the book, “Smallmouth Fly Fishing”, written by well-known author Tim Holschlag. I came armed with an 8wt and 10wt rod. The ten weight might seem overkill, but I subscribe to selecting a rod for the day that efficiently casts the size of flies I intend to throw rather than choosing a rod solely for the size of fish I am targeting.  Anyway, smallmouth fight hard which raises the bar compared to any other freshwater fish of the same size.

Smallmouth Virginia 2Smallmouth bass flies of choice for the day

On our way upstream earlier in the morning, I noticed a deep trough on the inside of the river that spanned thirty yards across by one hundred yards long. My Maui Jim Ho’okipa’s with rose lenses enabled me to see detail that consisted of a deep and relatively narrow finger within the width of the river and adjacent shallows on all sides. On my second or third cast into the head of the pool as I drifted downstream, a smallmouth rolled my fly but the hook set wasn’t successful. I didn’t have to wait long for another chance as about ten casts later, another smallmouth rolled on the black and red popper fly and this time my rod bowed and it was game on! During the fight, the three plus pound smallmouth leaped out of the water, exposing just how fat he was and made some strong runs. I knew I needed to get downstream of him if I had a chance to land him. Well, as soon as I successfully negotiated getting downstream to gain leverage, the bronzeback ran under a rock ledge and anchored in with current pushing between him and the underside of the large rock structure. I was able to reel down to where the leader and fly line met my rod, and Jameson came over to lend assistance by sliding his hand down the leader and bringing to hand the 18 inch Virginia smallmouth bass.

Smallmouth Virginia 3Aaron Rubel with an 18 inch Virginia smallmouth bass

Photography: Jameson Redding of http://www.anglershare.com/

I so enjoyed the day, both fishing in the river and at a pond that was literally on top of a mountain. In addition to the smallmouth we caught on the river, we landed ridiculously large bluegill that afternoon on the pond and some largemouth bass too. In all, we caught and released four species of fish and I look forward to hosting Jameson to some coastal Alabama fishing in the future.

Smallmouth Virginia 4Smallmouth being released, Photography: Jameson Redding

Copyright 2012 by icastinayak.com. All rights reserved