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Quick Tips Tips/Tactics

Quick Tips — Put More Juice in the Cast

on
November 25, 2018
Keep it tight and crisp. Cast with speed. Be more aggressive. Build more momentum with the rod tip. The casting stroke should be snappy, energetic and sharp with abrupt and forceful stops between two points. I’ve used all of these descriptions and more to communicate the correction for the most troublesome fly fishing flaw out there — lazy casting.

By the end of December, I will log over sixty guide trips this year. On these trips I meet a lot of good anglers from all over the country who want to take the next step and turn a corner with their fly fishing game. I also meet anglers relatively new to fly fishing who are looking to build on the basics. And on the majority of my trips, at the end of the day, the number one thing I leave with my new friends is this: put more juice in the cast. Cast with more power.

Here's why . . .

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Quick Tips — Thumb on Top | Finger on Top

on
November 14, 2018
There’s a reason for everything, right? It’s a truism of life. And that goes double for your fly fishing game. Most of us will never get the hours we really need to learn everything we’d like about the river. Trout fishing runs deep. Questions we ask of ourselves on the walk back after dark linger in our minds until the next time we hit the stream. Until then, we research — we read, watch and talk about trout on a fly rod, filling in the hours, days and weeks until our boots are wet again.

Sometimes, things like these quick tips might answer that nagging question in your mind. Other times, one of these tips might create a new question to chew on. Both are significant. Both are valuable.

When we hold the fly rod, should the thumb or the forefinger be on top?

I use both. There are good reasons for each hold, so let's get to that . . .

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Quick Tips Tips/Tactics

Quick Tips: Fish what you can, and leave the rest

on
October 28, 2018
We’re in an extended high water period in Central Pennsylvania. Honestly, I love it. When the creek are full the trout are happy, and so am I. I’ve heard the lament of so many anglers across the region about unfishable conditions and poor results. But that’s not the reality I’m in. And if the water clarity is decent — if the trout can see the flies — I’ll take high water over low water every time. Success in such conditions just takes some discipline to fish what you can, and leave the rest.

Sure, blown out water is a bust, and there’s really not much you can do about that. But I’m not talking about muddy water and flood conditions. So far this fall season, we’ve averaged flows that are two or three times the norm for this time of year. But consider that our fall water is usually pretty low, and you might suddenly become thankful for the opportunity to fish a creek with some decent water coming through.

No matter the river or the flows, good fishing happens by staying within your effective reach. Fish within your means. If you are only comfortable in water that’s knee-deep, then find water below your knees and fish only what you can reach from there. Try hard not to fall into the grass-is-greener-on-the-other side trap.

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Quick Tips Tips/Tactics

Quick Tips — Let’s talk about your trigger finger

on
October 21, 2018
Fly casting has a lot of moving parts. Two sets each of arms, wrists, hands and fingers all work together to flex the rod and propel the line and flies to the target. There’s a lot going on. It can feel overwhelming -- like sitting behind a full drum kit for the first time and realizing that all four limbs have a responsibility to do independent things.

So it takes a while to get all those parts working together in concert. But anglers and musicians alike need only understand the basics and then put in the playing time. Given enough practice, good things follow.

I’ve noticed the most overlooked aspect of those moving parts is the trigger finger. I meet anglers with all manner of bad (inefficient) habits that hold them back. But the trigger finger issues are easily solved, because there’s not much variation with its job.

In fly casting, all movement of the line should come through the trigger finger . . . with limited exception.

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Quick Tips Stories Tips/Tactics

Quick Tips — When to Fish Just One Nymph

on
October 7, 2018
John and I always keep count. He’s the only fishing friend who can pull me into such a race, and I’m not sure why.

Like all fishermen do at some point, I used to keep count of my catch. I even roughly calculated my catch rate at the end of the day, like this:

“Let’s see, I fished for five hours, but I took a twenty minute break around lunch. Walk in time was fifteen minutes, so subtract that too. I caught twenty-six trout, but I COULD have caught those couple of trout that came unbuttoned if I was more careful, so let’s add those in and say thirty. Multiply, divide and there’s my catch rate.”

But I don’t do that anymore. I don’t like to compete against anything but the river and the trout. And I don’t mind losing on occasion. Loss is a wonderful teacher.

John baits me back into counting every time we fish together. And there’s no fuzzy catch-rate-math involved either — just straight up fish counting . . .

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Quick Tips Tips/Tactics

Quick Tips — Hook set at the end of every drift

on
October 3, 2018
I watched the line, waiting for some indication of a strike and intently expecting a fish to eat the nymph. Then at the end of the drift I looked away, scanning for my next target upstream. When I lifted the line for the backcast, I was surprised to find a trout on the line. He bounced off quickly because I never got good hook set.

That’s happened to you a hundred times too, right?

Nymphing is an art of the unseen, and no matter the material attachments we add to the line for visual aid of a strike, trout take our flies without us knowing about it — probably way more often than we can imagine.

That’s why it’s best to end every underwater drift with a hook set. Do this with nymphs and with streamers, at the end of every dead drift presentation, and you’ll find unexpected trout attached to your line. The short set also prepares the line and leader for your next backcast. Here's how . . .

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Quick Tips — Unbutton Snags from the Backside

on
September 25, 2018
Snags happen.

I’ve fished with guys that see every hang up as a failure — every lost fly as a mistake. But inevitably, that mindset breeds an overcautious angler, too careful and just hoping for some good luck.

Hang ups are not a failure. For a good angler, they are a calculated risk — an occasional consequence after assessing probability against skill, situation and loss. We all hang the fly sometimes. So what.

Now let’s talk about how to pop loose the underwater snag . . .

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Quick Tips — The Fly Rod Quick-Dip

on
September 23, 2018
Some things in fly fishing are obvious right away. The concepts of casting and drifting a fly are intuitive for most anglers after just a bit of instruction and a few trips of experience. Advanced techniques are later pored over in conversations, books, articles and videos. We want to learn. But helpful friends and fly fishing authors probably make too many assumptions. (Myself included.) And a lot of what we take for granted or think is obvious has become second nature only after fishing for a long, long time.

So in this new Quick Tips series on Troutbitten, I’ll focus on the small things that make a big difference — the type of things that some new anglers figure out for themselves but many veteran anglers may very well have missed.

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