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  1. Default Becoming Member of 20-20 Club Can Be Challenge

    Becoming Member of 20-20 Club Can Be Challenge

    Yesterday I was fishing with my wife and fishing buddy, Lori. The going had been a bit slow, and I decided to try a Dan's turkey quill emerger. This has been one of my go-to flies for more than a decade. Dan recently began tying them in smaller sizes, and he had given me a half-dozen in size 22. I took my 7 1/2-foot, 4X leader and tied on 5 feet of 6X tippet.

    I tied on the fly and cast at a 45-degree angle from straight downstream. I stripped the line as soon as it hit the water to sink the fly into the film. I let it swing in the current until it was straight below me. Then I cast again. I made no effort to mend the line, figuring the additional pressure from the drag on the line would help me set the hook.

    I started working my way downstream. Three casts to the right, three casts to the left, and then I took one step. I picked up a 13-inch Brookie and stopped for a while to admire it. It was brilliantly colored and full finned. It looked like a wild trout.

    I continued downstream, and then it happened. I felt a strong tug on the line, and I instinctively set the hook. I saw a big splash and quickly identified it as a large cutthroat. He took off quickly, putting me in the backing with one run. I stood my ground. The rod was bent nearly double, but miraculously the soft tip protected the small tippet and the tiny hook held. I was able to slowly work him in. He took several more runs but finally ran out of gas. I coaxed him into quiet water and slipped him into my net.

    I called Lori over and asked her to take a photo. It was a beautifully colored male. He was fat and sassy and measured a righteous 22 inches. I gave Lori the camera, and we quickly discussed the best way to photograph him. I gently lifted him from the net and posed. While Lori was focusing the camera, he flounced out of my hands and took off, taking Dan's turkey quill emerger with him. At first, I was heartbroken. But upon a bit of reflection, I realized how lucky I was to catch such a great fish on light tackle.

    I had caught a 22-inch fish on a size 22 hook. I had heard of the 20-20 club. This is where you catch a 20-inch or larger fish on a size 20 or smaller hook. I have done this before, as has my brother Dan and my wife Lori. I find it to be a rewarding challenge. If you are going to attempt this yourself, there are a few things to keep in mind.

    The first thing is small hooks require small tippets. The weakest link in your tackle is not the small tippet but the knots in the tippet. Carefully form your knots and lubricate them with water before pulling them tight. Test them to ensure that they will hold. This would be a good time to use fluorocarbon, which is a bit stronger and more abrasion-resistant.

    Second, sharpen your hooks. Even small hooks need to be sharp to penetrate deep. There is not much metal in a size 20 hook, and you are going to need all of the help you can get to land a big fish on it. On my smaller flies, I try to tie them on wide gap hooks. A wider gap hook is going to result in a better hook-up.

    Third, use a softer rod. A stiff rod will not protect the smaller tippets required for this challenge. Save the meat sticks for fishing woollies and other streamers. I like a rod that has a full flex. You can easily test your rod to see if it is soft enough. Rig up a leader on your rod with a 6X tippet. Tie the tippet to a fixed object. Pull the rod back and put tension on the tippet. Does the rod easily bend or does it break the tippet before flexing? This is also a great way to learn how much pressure you can put on a tippet before it breaks.

    Finally, carry a big net. In my 15 years of guiding, I have observed that a large number of fish are lost within 10 feet of the angler when he is attempting to land it. A small net is useless on a big fish and unnecessary on a small one. I carry the biggest net I can find and have found that it allows me to land a higher percentage of trophy trout and to do it quickly.
    Beaching fish is an iffy proposition. If done carelessly, it can injure the fish. They can be easily lost in the process, particularly if you are using small tippets.

    Keep this in mind, and let me know when you join the 20-20 club.

    John Berry, of BERRY BROTHERS GUIDE SERVICE in Cotter Arkansas, has 25 years of experience fishing local rivers including the White, Norfork and Little Red. Contact him at Fly Fishing for Trout On The White and Norfork River in Arkansas Ozarks or 870-435-2169

  2. Likes uncle chubby, N/A, busbus, jgentile, imxer, kaleun liked this post
  3. Default Re: Becoming Member of 20-20 Club Can Be Challenge

    After visiting a friend in Rhode Island who has wild turkeys frequenting his property i have a few turkey quills added to my flytying arsenal. The turkey quill emerger sounds like something I should be tying. Does anyone have a pic of this fly?

  4. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Missouri City (near Houston), Texas

    Default Re: Becoming Member of 20-20 Club Can Be Challenge

    I caught a 23" rainbow on a size 24 nymph, 6X tippit on the San Juan/NM on my 5-wt. Sage SP (which I understand is not all that unusual a feat there). Your advice re a soft rod tip and a big enough net with flies and tippit that small is well taken. I do think that using too small a rod weight on fish this size will endanger the fish because of the long fight really light tackle requires, however.
    On the whole, I'd rather be in Wyoming . . .

  5. Default Re: Becoming Member of 20-20 Club Can Be Challenge

    I too am a member of the 23-24 club, and of the 25-22 club, also on the san juan! To me it was pretty cool, but didn't really give it much thought until one of my clients asked me about the 20-20 club. I had to really think about that 25" fish and what size hook I caught it on. I know I tie the NV midge in a 24 but the time of year I caught it, it had to be a size 22! I just like catching trout, and if they are big...all the better! I think a 20" fish on size 20 is quite a feat, those small hooks can work loose very easy so if you can do it, especially in current, you have accomplished something.
    Roughrider Guide Flies

  6. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Missouri City (near Houston), Texas

    Default Re: Becoming Member of 20-20 Club Can Be Challenge

    I'm inclined to think that frequent sharpening of these small size hooks are more important than frequently realized, particularly since the nymphs that size no doubt catch on rocks enough to knock off the sharpness. I first noticed this when after landing a good-sized San Juan monster, I started getting my fly thrown on later strikes for no apparent good reason. Going barbless in hooks this small on fish that size really drive the point (no pun intended) home.
    On the whole, I'd rather be in Wyoming . . .

  7. Default Re: Becoming Member of 20-20 Club Can Be Challenge

    Anyone tried tying a#20 size fly on a #16 or #18 size hook? This would give better hooking and holding qualities than those tiny hooks.

  8. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Bozeman, MT

    Default Re: Becoming Member of 20-20 Club Can Be Challenge

    I know this sounds ridiculous, but I read an article a few years ago about some guys on the Bitterroot joining the 20-20-20 club. Yes, that's 20 fish over 20" on size 20 flies. I've never caught anything larger than 14" on a #20.

  9. Default Re: Becoming Member of 20-20 Club Can Be Challenge


    The guy that gave the info for that article to the writer was a lying-SOB. He has since left the Bitterroot.....good riddance! Guy was a total JERK.

    It is not uncommon to catch a 20 incher on a size 20 fly, maybe a few, but twenty, come on.

    fish or DIE

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  11. Default Re: Becoming Member of 20-20 Club Can Be Challenge

    Fatguide, gotta agree with you. It is amazing how often people catch 10 fish over 20" or nothing under 20" on the san juan! When I was guiding there, my clients would catch a fish that was really nice and their first question was, "That's gotta go 20" ", depending on our relationship, I would ask them if I could measure it. If they said OK, I would, when that tape barely reached 17", they were amazed! I gotta tell ya, a 20" trout is very big, I mean VERY big. I was on that river 150 days a year and maybe every other trip my client would catch an honest 20" fish, sometime we could catch a few, but it's not like every other fish was 20". Just some things I noticed. I have not caught a 20" fish in 3 month, maybe tomorrow?
    Roughrider Guide Flies

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  13. Default Re: Becoming Member of 20-20 Club Can Be Challenge

    Only one guide on the entire San Juan that can outfish all other guides.. Andy Kim.

    I've used him twice and his clients are catching so much more fish than anyone else on the river.. including the other guides. I've watched him as a client and at a distance the following days.. he is always catching fish!.. and mostly on size 22 and 24 hooks.

    He is pretty arrogant overall, very specific on mending to get the fly down to the fish, and his teaching methods can rub you the wrong way, but he knows his stuff. His entemology knowledge puts him several notches above anyone else guiding there... that's why most all other guides don't like him there.

    He is THAT good.

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