Articles in the Category Fifty Tips

Fly Fishing Tips: #54 — Don’t let a good bite teach bad habits

Fly fishing provides so much variety in presenting flies to a trout that a good and well-rounded fly angler can make something happen, even on the slowest days — usually. And so, we spend our time on the water learning and refining these various techniques with dry flies, nymphs, streamers and wets, waiting for the trout to turn on, but fishing always with persistence and hope flung into each cast.

I’ve been around enough long-term fishermen to understand one primary character trait — we all approach the water with an effort to learn. That’s what keeps things fresh year after year. That’s what keeps a man fishing from childhood to the grave. It’s not the trout, but the process of discovery, the perfection of tactics that will never be good enough to make a sure thing out of a day on the river.

Every angler finds moments when the fishing is easy, when seemingly any decent presentation of the fly brings a fish to hand. Even the most difficult rivers give up a good bite once in a while. And the easiest rivers, with eager trout, produce great bite windows that last for hours or even days. But what should we learn from that? . . .

Fly Fishing Tips: #53 — Nymphing: Set On Anything Unusual

On a first drift through the lane, you may very well set on anything. But maybe that line hesitation was just the flies ticking the top of a rock. Good. Now you know.

Don’t set on anything. And don’t wait for a sixth sense to kick in and grant you the superpower of sensing trout takes. Instead, pick a lane and learn it. Use the nymph as a probe to draw a mental map of a specific lane. Refine the drift. And all the while, set on anything unusual.Let’s break it down real quick . . .

Fly Fishing Tips: #52 — Clip it, unravel it and retie it

It shocks me how many good fishermen think they’re saving time by untangling a maze of monofilament and flies. They use forceps and fingernails. Some even carry needles specifically for the job of picking out would-be knots.

Most guys see their options as a pair of choices: either cut off the whole thing and re-rig with new lengths of tippet, or try to salvage it all by spending enough time working the messy knots and tangles free.

But I promise you, there’s a third option. And it’s much better than the other two . . .

Fly Fishing Tips: #51 — Limit the line in and on the water

Whatever line touches the river will drag. Start there. Assume it as reality. The currents take your leader, pushing and pulling it downstream. This wouldn’t be so bad if the current could be even all the way across, from bank to bank. But it isn’t. It never is. Even long flats and pools have microcurrents tugging on the leader and tippet, destroying all hopes of a dead drift and complicating the lives of fishermen . . .

Fly Fishing Tips: #53 — Nymphing: Set On Anything Unusual

Fly Fishing Tips: #53 — Nymphing: Set On Anything Unusual

On a first drift through the lane, you may very well set on anything. But maybe that line hesitation was just the flies ticking the top of a rock. Good. Now you know.

Don’t set on anything. And don’t wait for a sixth sense to kick in and grant you the superpower of sensing trout takes. Instead, pick a lane and learn it. Use the nymph as a probe to draw a mental map of a specific lane. Refine the drift. And all the while, set on anything unusual.Let’s break it down real quick . . .

Fly Fishing Tips: #52 — Clip it, unravel it and retie it

Fly Fishing Tips: #52 — Clip it, unravel it and retie it

It shocks me how many good fishermen think they’re saving time by untangling a maze of monofilament and flies. They use forceps and fingernails. Some even carry needles specifically for the job of picking out would-be knots.

Most guys see their options as a pair of choices: either cut off the whole thing and re-rig with new lengths of tippet, or try to salvage it all by spending enough time working the messy knots and tangles free.

But I promise you, there’s a third option. And it’s much better than the other two . . .

Fly Fishing Tips: #51 — Limit the line in and on the water

Fly Fishing Tips: #51 — Limit the line in and on the water

Whatever line touches the river will drag. Start there. Assume it as reality. The currents take your leader, pushing and pulling it downstream. This wouldn’t be so bad if the current could be even all the way across, from bank to bank. But it isn’t. It never is. Even long flats and pools have microcurrents tugging on the leader and tippet, destroying all hopes of a dead drift and complicating the lives of fishermen . . .

Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #50 — Fish Hard

Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #50 — Fish Hard

Here we are, at the end of fifty tips. Just two weeks shy of a year ago today, I started this series with a plan. Determined to publish every Sunday, I wrote these tips to be a little different, trying for something unique, and with a new take on some stuff many of us may not have considered for a while.

. . . What brings us back is the trout. Fishing without catching only goes so far. It only lasts so long. We dream not just of the woods and the water, but the trout too. And catching those fish brings in another art, another appreciation for the challenge and a new way to be creative. It also fulfills our human need to learn something. And without a trout on the end of your line once in a while, you’re just hiking through the water with a ten-foot stick . . .

Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #49 — Your Line Hand

Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #49 — Your Line Hand

Ever feel like your dominant hand has all the fun? It holds an ice cream cone, throws a football and sets the hook on your biggest trout. Your off hand is so neglected that at times you might forget what it’s used for. Fishing with a spinning rod keeps your other hand busy — constantly doing the reel work. But we aren’t reeling in line much while fly fishing, right? And at the close distances we often fish for trout, it’s easy to forget to keep the line hand involved.

So this is another one of those “Duh” tips. It’s the kind of thing that seems obvious. And yet, by considering all of the tasks for the line hand, we become better anglers. It’s always the little things that make a difference in life. It’s the basics, refined to perfection (or something close to it) that make us better — that bring more fish to hand.

Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #48 — Fish the Other Stuff — Fish the Weird Stuff

Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #48 — Fish the Other Stuff — Fish the Weird Stuff

There’s a canyon stretch on my home stream with a gated, gravel access road used by dog walkers, runners, hikers, bird watchers and crazed fishermen. It’s a wonderful three-mile walk up into the canyon or down from the other side. In some sections the path bumps up against the towering limestone walls, and you can feel crisp cool air pushing aside the heavy heated blanket of summer.

There are huge chunks of those same rocks that have broken off through time. They remind you how many centuries this place was here before you were, and how long it will remain after we’ve all turned to dust. The eternal boulders were separated from the crest of the cliff through the earthly power of spreading hemlock roots that infiltrated every available crack, until eventually an enormous boulder fell to the forest floor and rolled into the river, providing a landmark and a constant reminder of how small your space in time really is.

So it’s a good walk up in there. And lots of anglers make the trek. But here’s the funny thing: people stop and fish the same places, day after day, year after year. All of us do it.

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Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #47 — See the Dead Drift

Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #47 — See the Dead Drift

The dead drift. That’s what it’s all about, right? It’s the baseline for a decent presentation and the starting point for real success in fly fishing. Oh sure, we strip streamers. We swing wet flies. And on occasion we may dance an Elk Hair Caddis on its hackle across the river. But by and large, the dead drift is our objective when fishing for trout — especially wild ones . . .

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Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #46 — Fight Big Fish Upstream

Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #46 — Fight Big Fish Upstream

Midday. High sun and an overpowering heat. I stalked the banks of a large Montana river with my Border Collie at my side. I mirrored his shepard’s crouch: low, with my head forward, almost crawling through the dry sage brush.

We paused strategically under the thick Douglas Firs, not only for a break from the unrelenting sun, but for a real chance at deception. The large wild trout, it seemed, were at the moment, predictable — laying close to the banks (sometimes within inches), and waiting for the next overhead meal from a hapless hopper or any other random terrestrial occurrence. The evergreen limbs provided the shade for true cover — our only opportunity for real stealth.

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Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #45 — The Dry Fly is a Scout

Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #45 — The Dry Fly is a Scout

The fly is an explorer tied to the end of a string. It bounds along with the current, making discoveries and telegraphing its collected information back through a line. Whether nymph, streamer, wet or dry, our fly is an investigator sent forward to probe the water and search for trout — and to collect more information than our eyes can see.

Standing riverside, pinching the hook of a caddis dry fly between forefinger and thumb, with slack line and a rod poised to send our fly on a mission, we scan the water for signs. We look for rising trout and likely holding lies. And we look for  much more than is easily visible. The currents of a rocky, rolling river are a converging and confusing mix. And what we may decipher through polarized lenses is a mere scratch of the surface. So we send a pioneer.

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Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #44 — From the Wrist to the Rod Tip

Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #44 — From the Wrist to the Rod Tip

I’ve not taken a fly casting class. I’m not Federation of Fly Fishers certified, nor do I have any similar credentials. But I daresay I can put a fly just about where I want it, within a reasonable fishing range of, let’s say, fifty feet.

I can land a Parachute Ant in a small shady pocket, upstream of the overhanging limbs and downstream of the rock. And perhaps more challenging, I can usually land two nymphs in one current stream on a tight line, with the point fly directly upstream from the tag fly — and that’s with a moderate tuck cast providing just an instant of slack.

Is that bragging? I hope not. But lacking the aforementioned credentials, I figure I should at least state my competence for your judgement before offering any advice.

So with that preamble delivered, here’s tip #44: Good casting happens from the wrist to the rod tip. . . .

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Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #43 — Two Ways to Recover Slack

Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #43 — Two Ways to Recover Slack

Much of what we learn about fly fishing comes from instinct. Fishing, after all, is not that complicated. It does not take a special set of talents or years of study to figure most of this out for yourself. It just takes a tuned in, heads up approach out there on the water, and a good bit of want-to.

Being self-taught has its own rewards, namely a certain individual satisfaction about doing and discovering things your own way. I would argue, however, that no one is fully self taught. And the motivated anglers I know all seek out information from a variety of sources to improve their game.

I like to think this Fifty Tips series and the Troutbitten site as a whole caters to that ambitious kind of angler — the one who takes pride in fishing hard and digging deep for new resources, mining information about the next small (or large) adjustment that hooks more trout to the line.

And many of these adjustment, these tips or discoveries are downright obvious. They’re the kind of thing that you certainly would figure out on your own if you thought about it long enough. They’re the things you already know, inherently, but perhaps haven’t thought about in much detail. And often, I believe within these simple things are the keys to the greatest discoveries — your biggest steps forward.

So here’s a “Duh” tip that has big consequences:

There are two ways to recover slack after the cast: stripping in line or lifting/moving the rod tip.

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