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 . . .

Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #38 — The Fly Line and Leader Need a Target

Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #38 — The Fly Line and Leader Need a Target

Look at the water. Your target is two feet on this side of a current seam that’s drawn downstream from the tip of a gravel bar. Three trout are steadily rising within casting distance, lined up and distributed in the riffly, bubbly seam. Golden noses poke through the surface and slurp Blue Winged Olive duns without reservation, with early-season, confident rises and none of the skittish hesitation that you’ll see in a month or two. It’s as if a long winter erased the trout’s memory of all present dangers — of anglers and shadowy herons.

Yes, these trout should be (almost) easy. Your leader is well designed, tapered to a long soft piece of 5X nylon. Your position is downstream. Behind the trout’s vision and just off to the side, you stand in ankle deep water on the soft, inside part of the seam. You mentally process the targets and plan to pick off the most rearward riser because he’s closest to your position. And with luck, you’ll hook him on the first few casts. You’ll set the hook and use his upward momentum to pull him sideways and downstream, away from the top two risers. The other trout will be undisturbed — hopefully.

Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #37 — Zoom in and think smaller

Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #37 — Zoom in and think smaller

The more time we spend on the water, the better we fish. No news there, right? But why is that? If I don’t fish for a week, it’s not like I’ve lost the skills to get a good drift, nor have I lost lost the ability to read trout water. Shouldn’t it be like riding a bike?

Fishing skills certainly can grow some rust, but after a couple of hours on the river, everything about your game ought to mold back into shape (assuming your layoff wasn’t months long). Because once we’ve learned something in fishing, it stays with us — thankfully though, there’s unlimited potential for refinement.

So still I ask, why? Why do we fish better when we’re out there multiple times each week?

Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #36 — Dry flies and flotation — Building in some buoyancy and preserving it

Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #36 — Dry flies and flotation — Building in some buoyancy and preserving it

Hatch season is just around the corner. On some rivers we’ve already experienced good fishing over eager trout rising to delicate Blue Winged Olives. And somewhere in the distance, a chorus grows louder — the Grannoms are coming, the Grannoms are coming.

Oh sure, there are midge fishing opportunities around here all winter long. (I know a local guy who travels in shorts and picks his spots from the banks with no-see-um dry flies all winter long). But for most of us, the winter season is a subsurface fishing affair — we bottom bounce nymphs and strip streamers for eligible trout. And after four months of all that, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t get excited about a good dry fly opportunity. In fact, show me a legit chance to fish dries for active fish, and I’ll take it any day of the year.

And now, on the precipice of all the major hatches, right before mayflies, caddis, midges and stones start bumping into each other, we prepare at our vises. We tie flies, and we dream. We pack our gear and envision the surface slash, the gulp, the dimple and the ring of the rise. So it helps to consider for a moment — what keeps a dry fly floating on the surface in the first place?

Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #35 — How to Fish With Friends

Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #35 — How to Fish With Friends

Fishing with a stick and line is a solitary endeavor by nature. It always comes down to the two hands of one angler: one on the rod, and the other in control of the line. Sharing the water with friends is great, but fishing, inherently, is not a team sport. It’s more like pole vaulting than a baseball game. It comes down to individual performance. And at its root, fishing is just a contest between one man and a fish.

. . . But we fish together to share our experiences, to learn from one another, to catch up with old friends and make new ones. We choose to fish together because the bonds formed on a river are like none other, and because flowing water and shared moments can heal friendships and mend grievances . . .

Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #34 — Outside the Box

Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #34 — Outside the Box

Good things happen by thinking outside the box. Norms are for normal people, and in the strange world of fishing, there aren’t many of those. At some point, every type of fly has been used against its intended purpose, because fly fishers are a creative bunch — not so normal, really — and the penchant for experimentation is urged on by the trout themselves. Everything works sometimes.

So here’s a list of flies and techniques that do double (or triple) duty.

Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #30 — The best-laid plans of fishers and men often go awry

Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #30 — The best-laid plans of fishers and men often go awry

All of the things we plan for and dream of in our downtime — the river conditions, access points and locations on maps, the hatches that should be, the expectations of success — all of it is variable. It all can and will change. Truthfully, the variations — that randomness — is the heartbeat of fly fishing. It’s the essence of the allure. The unpredictability is the draw. Adapting to the day-to-day river conditions and meeting the trout on their own terms is half the fun in all this. Plan, but plan broadly and expect the unexpected.

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Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #29 — Read Trout Water

Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #29 — Read Trout Water

Gravity pulls it downstream. All of it. Every drop of water merging into a river, whether fallen directly from the clouds into a small brook, or bubbling from a spring seep on a large and open river, is under the consistent influence of a force none of us can see. But we feel it. It’s predictable. Gravity holds few surprises. And though its mystery runs deep, we’ve each learned, from birth, to expect the unseen force holding our world together to continue doing just that — to keep all the pieces and parts stuck tight — trusting that the center will hold and things won’t fall apart. It’s consistent enough to be boring. But as an angler, the effects of gravity on flowing water is fascinating. It’s fundamental. And it’s the key to reading trout water . . .

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Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #28 — Ten and Two

Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #28 — Ten and Two

I’ll admit it. I came to the fly rod by way of Brad Pitt. When I heard Robert Redford’s overwhelming and compelling voice-over, it was too much to resist. Because one afternoon in 1992, while browsing the VHS titles at the local rental joint, I was drawn in by the...

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Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #26 — The Art of Hanging Out

Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #26 — The Art of Hanging Out

Tip number one was about fishing more, and (spoiler alert) tip fifty is about fishing harder. But do you ever just sit and watch the river? Do you know how to enjoy a good break? So . . . I’ve read the advice, same as you: “Don’t jump in the water right away,” they...

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