Fifty Fly Fishing Tips
From fish more to fish harder. Here’s the full list of the Troutbitten Fifty Tips series.
Sure, looking around once in while and studying the river will improve your catch rate; you’ll build knowledge about a trout stream by just watching, there’s no doubt. But breathing deep and relaxing into the beauty of a trout stream (and they’re all beautiful) is good for the soul too.
Trust. A fly fisher’s relationship with his or her confidence flies is rooted in the belief that one pattern will get the job done over the others. Our best patterns have caught so many trout that we trust they’ll work again. But that trust is earned over time, and...
The river is full of challenges and the trout dictate the terms. A versatile angler is ready for anything. But it helps to be thoughtful about every transition, every time you alter your rig or tactics on the water. Is the change a good bet? And if so, what adjustments need be made?
On rare days, we find good fishing with very little work, and trout come to hand easily. Most days, it’s a challenge out there, and we have to think about what’s going wrong or what we might do better. What can we change or adjust? In tough times, we can give up and walk home, or we can observe and ask questions. One of the best questions to ask is . . . Am I as close as I can be? . . .
Trout have a strange way of all doing the same things at once. Although they rarely pod up like a school of suckers, they tend to function as a collective order, especially during feeding periods. Trout fishing is unpredictable, and sometimes it can be maddening, but...
Playing it safe saves flies. It even saves time. But it catches fewer trout. And whether drifting nymphs across a rock garden, punching hairwing dries into hazardous hidey-holes or slinging streamers into bankside slots, it pays to take risks because the rewards follow . . .
Finding these angles becomes intuitive. Without thinking much about it, I usually set myself up with the sun behind or to my side, avoiding the surface glare of direct light. As I fish upstream I might work left bank to right, moving perpendicular across the stream flow until I reach the right bank. Then I quickly wade left again, back to the left bank, to start over on the next line — like a classic Underwood typewriter printing out one sentence at a time, just to see into the water, see my fly or watch my sighter . . .
It’s not called catching. It’s called fishing. And a lot of our time on the water is spent not catching fish — all of us. Going fishless can be frustrating, or you can readjust the goals, focus on fishing better, and find satisfaction in fishing well. Bite windows are...
You can roam the river, mending, drifting and stripping, casting into every corner pocket and straight channel. You have the skills to present the fly, the consummate awareness of currents and flows and the stamina to wade rough water for hours on end. But can you imagine a target? Can you picture a trout feeding in the hydraulic swirl behind an unseen chunk of bedrock on the river bottom? Can you believe the trout is there? . . .
The capacity to imagine a trout in the river is a next-level skill that’s only earned by thoughtful time on the water . . .
Fishing all the water ahead of me is my favorite way to fish, but I don’t do it all the time. In fact, I probably don’t fish that way even half the time. Instead, I often stay with one rig for hours on end, and I skip all the water where that rig isn’t the best option.
Setting aside a day, or even a long morning, to work with one rig in one water type, skipping over everything that isn’t a good match, really pays off . . .
I’ll get right to the point: Your best bet for catching trophy trout is with medium to small flies. More specifically, large nymphs or small streamers are the perfect size.
I’ve written about making the choice between going for big fish or for a bunch of fish, arguing that you can’t have both. I’ve also pushed the point on these Troutbitten pages that catching big fish does not require fishing big flies.
Talking with my buddy, Matt Grobe, the other day, he summed it up like this: “Fishing large streamers is the most overrated thing out there for catching the big ones.” Nice. And this is coming from a guy who fishes the heart of Montana, around Bozeman and beyond, all year round.
All of this goes seems to go against currently prevailing wisdom, but it wasn’t always that way . . .
I started tying my own leaders when the small streams I fished required something different than what I could find in the fly shop. I needed a short, punchy leader to carry a #12 Royal Wulff back into the brush and yet somehow land with enough slack for a short dead...