Chad Shmukler's blog

New look Hatch Magazine launches today

Bigger, bolder photography is just part of the new package.
Bigger, bolder photography -- like this capture of a Belizean bonefish from Turneffe Flats -- is one of the best parts of our new look and feel (photo: Chad Shmukler).

For the last few months, we've been working on an all-new version of Hatch Magazine, with a completely revamped look and feel. The goal from the outset has been to provide a more pleasant, immersive reading experience complete with bigger, bolder photography. It's not that the existing incarnation of Hatch Magazine is all that bad, its just a bit dated and we knew we could do better. And we have. The new Hatch Magazine is better in every way, and it's almost ready for prime time.

Almost, you say? But it's launching today? Yes. Almost.

Originally, the new Hatch Magazine was slated to launch on May 15. But, an announcement from Google last week -- one which has much of the internet clamoring to take action and gravely worried about potential impacts to their business -- has fast tracked our plans.

All anglers know that we can get by storing and carrying our flies in all manner of decidedly un-fancy receptacles. The various plastic containers that come free with your selection of flies from the bins at the shop, old film canisters, an Altoids tin (with a stick-on magnet if you really want to get serious), Plano boxes and so on are all perfectly viable and decidedly inexpensive ways to tote flies to and from the stream. But we almost all opt for something more.

For the most part, this is because better fly boxes make our days on the stream more efficient, more pleasant. We can organize better, protect our flies from the elements, more easily access and find the flies we want. And so we're happy to pay a premium for a better box. It's probably safe to say that most anglers have paid upwards of $25 for a fly box at some point in their angling careers and many more have likely spent upwards of $40 or even $50. But what about $125? What do you get for that?

Yield to thy friends, not temptation

Handing over prime water to the less experienced makes you, and them, better anglers
New anglers that catch fish are happy anglers (photo: Chad Shmukler).

We recently published a quick tip from friend, former guide and all around wildly skilled angler Todd Tanner. Todd's tip urged more experienced anglers to yield the best water to friends that are less experienced anglers, noting "You won’t catch more fish, but you’ll end up having a better time and cementing your friendships." Initially, I took Todd's tip to be a matter of simple common courtesy, one that I assumed all good and moral fly fishers such as myself follow without deviation. Given some more thought, I remembered not only many times when I had faithfully followed this credo, but many when I hadn't -- and how that choice affects us as anglers.

My guess is that most anglers will share similar memories -- those of times we've passed on fishing our favorite honey hole, instead setting up a beginner angling friend and instructing him or her on just the right way to ply its waters, or of times we passed up pods of steadily rising fish, yielding them to a friend that sees such opportunities less often than those of us who get to fish more often. And, as Todd notes, those choices almost always pan out for the best.

From a short video on the Orvis/TU 1,000 Miles Campaign, which is working to reconnect streams across the U.S. creating miles of spawning habitat and fishable water.

We spend a lot of time beating the drums of conservation, talking about the need to prioritize the preservation of clean water and healthy landscapes. We do it because we believe the message is simple: conserving our rivers, forest, streams and so on is good business. Not just in the sense that it allow us to pass down our hunting and fishing heritage to the next generations, but that it is literally good business; for those of us in the outdoors industries, the health of our businesses rely on the health of our lands and waters. Orvis, driven by its CEO Perk Perkins, is one of the companies that seems to understand these concepts particularly well.

Anglers have grown accustomed to seeing Orvis' name attached to countless important conservation efforts that are tied directly to preserving, protecting and improving our fisheries. Whether that is through their support and partnerships with the Save Bristol Bay campaign and other Trout Unlimited efforts, American Rivers, the Wild Steelhead Coalition, the Atlantic Salmon Federation, the Deschutes River Alliance or The Bonefish and Tarpon Trust, Orvis's commitment to fisheries conservation is well demonstrated widespread.

A Christmas Island surge wrasse (photo: Earl Harper, Harper Studios).

I have noted to more folks than I can count that I find trout -- a grouping I casually expand, solely for the purposes of that discussion, to include most salmon and char -- to be indisputable as the most beautiful fish in the world. For most of the year, trout and salmon exhibit a streamlined, understated elegance and beauty that I've scarcely, if ever, seen matched elsewhere. And when spawning season comes around, they put on a show. It truly is hard to imagine fish more beautiful than the likes of the Alaskan leopard rainbow, a brook trout in full spawning colors and so on.

Been struggling to find just the right gift for the angler that has everything? Well, search no longer. Give the gift of Patagonia. Heck, for the price of a fly rod (if you're into really scarce, antique bamboo, that is), you can send your favorite angler on the trip of a lifetime, with us, when we head to Patagonia this April.

Yes, that's intentionally a bit tongue-in-cheek. Fly fishing vacations aren't the sort of thing you toss under the tree in a box. But, if you've got Patagonia pegged high on your list of dream travel destinations -- and we've yet to meet an angler for which it doesn't -- you'll want to learn more about what we've got in store this April.

Each year, around this time, we take a look back to see which of our articles are read the most. Not only does it give us a great deal of insight into what our readers value, it's a lot of fun and there are always a few surprises in the mix. The three articles that follow reached more people in more places than everything else we submitted for your review this past year.

On Top: 12 Tips for Catching More, Bigger and More Difficult Fish on Dry Flies

Articles about tips and technique are almost always popular. For the most obvious of reasons -- we all want to catch more fish -- an angler that isn't fairly insatiable about learning is a rare one. Even the shortest tidbit about angling tactics and strategy can offer the potential for big changes in fishing success, and so most anglers are eager to lay their eyes on as much educational material as they can.

The Grande Ronde River, a BLM Scenic and Wild Waterway (photo: RW Bailey).

Typically, hokey holiday-themed pieces aren't my thing. But, at a time when it seems that fewer and fewer anglers are in tune with the things that we should all be thankful for, this year's Thanksgiving holiday seemed like a good opportunity for a few reminders. No angler is more fortunate than the American angler, and sincerely acknowledging some of the things that make us so can help keep us on task.

Our Public Lands

This is the big one. The US public lands system -- our National Parks, National Forests, BLM Lands and so on -- is unparalleled across the globe. It provides anglers in America free access to vast swaths of wilderness not only to fish but to hunt, hike, camp, ride horses or ATVs and graze cattle. This endowment of public lands, set up by visionary leaders of our country's past, is something that we have all grown up with. It is stitched into the fabric of what it means to be an American. They are truly our lands. And our ownership of them is a privilege that is virtually wholly unknown to citizens of most other countries across the world, where hunting and fishing lands are almost entirely under private control.

Redfish gorge on shrimp in muddy shallows outside Charleston, South Carolina (photo: Doug Roland).

In my limited experience, the easiest way to catch a redfish is at low tide, casting to pods of cruising fish in relatively shallow, but too deep to stand in, water. It's still not easy, but if you get your fly in front of the cruising pod, strip it properly and the fish are in the mood to eat, you stand a decent chance at a hookup. The most exciting way to catch a redfish, however, is casting to single, sighted fish in the shallows on a flood tide. If you've ever stalked redfish this way, scouting for tails, doing your best to determine where the plucky red you're targeting will be looking when you hurriedly toss your best cast in its direction, you know that eats don't come easily. Redfish can be choosy eaters, and the conditions can be difficult.

Given such, the idea of catching redfish on a popper seems wholly unlikely, if not ridiculous. As it turns out, it's not, as guides and South Carolina redfish junkies Owen Plair and Harry Tomlinson recently showed. Word is, when redfish are gorging on shrimp in the autumn shallows, choosiness goes right out the window and they'll eat just about anything. And, not only will they take a popper, they'll take one fashioned out of a wine cork.

Perhaps it should come as no surprise. Not long ago I learned that, despite a typical of salmon fishing featuring countless casts and swings only to turn up nothing more than a few tugs, even salmon can be caught on poppers when the conditions are right. So why not redfish?

Pebble Mine has always lacked for popular support. And, it has never really mattered who you asked. Whether you queried commercial fishermen, anglers, Alaskan residents or virtually anyone across the globe that wasn't directly invested in the mining industry, the answer was largely the same: Pebble Mine, the plan to build the world's largest open pit mine at the headwaters of the single most productive salmon fishery on the planet, is a preposterously stupid idea. Over the last few years, the already strong popular opposition to Pebble and the evidence against its viability has grown stronger and stronger, but the project's sole remaining investor -- Canadian mining firm Northern Dynasty Minerals (NYSE:NAK) -- refuses to let plans to develop the $500 billion Pebble deposit die.

The almost mythologically draconian figurehead of the Pebble Partnership (which, since last year's brisk departure of former partner Anglo American is no longer a partnership at all), chairman John Shively, recently expressed confidence that if the partnership is allowed to submit a permit application and have it reviewed, the state and its legislature is almost certain to approve the project. Shively explained, "The state has royalty, the state has taxes, the state’s going to get the economic benefit.”

Shively's comments and the insistence of Northern Dynasty to stay the course continue to ignore public opinion and the mounting facts that undermine the project's viability.

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