Fifty Fly Fishing Tips
From fish more to fish harder. Here’s the full list of the Troutbitten Fifty Tips series.
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.
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?
Buoyancy is all about trapped air. It’s what keeps an eight-hundred foot cargo carrier afloat at sea, and it’s what floats a #24 Trico Spinner. With just enough trapped air to overcome the weight of the hook and material, the fly floats on the surface and resist being pulled underneath and drowned. It’s simple.
Regarding this buoyancy, we must consider two things: the materials of a fly (what actually traps and holds the air), and a way to preserve the material’s ability to hold air (waterproofing).
Let’s tackle both . . .
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 . . .
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.
I walked against the current for most of the evening, working a mid-river seam with a pair of nymphs, stepping slowly upstream after a few casts and picking off a trout every ten yards or fifteen minutes (however you want to measure it). In the heaviest sections, the...
Fly fishing seems complicated. And that creates an artificial barrier to both new anglers and the casual fly fisher who just wants to get a little better at something. “Where do I start?” They ask. “Fly fishing is so complex.”
No it’s not. It certainly doesn’t have to be.
Two flies don’t tangle much. Yes, I know the skeptic immediately thinks about a maze of twisted tippet. And we all fear the site of multiple flies in an entwined mass of confusing knots and snarls. But I’ll say it again: Two flies really don’t tangle very much. And...
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.
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 . . .
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...
Changes are a reset. The next trip, a new day, the evening shift, another stream — they’re all a chance for us to reset. And when we reset, we naturally pick an auspicious starting point for the first cast . . .