Every angler has his or her reasons for picking up a fly rod for the first time. Mine is an inherent phobia of nightcrawlers(read about my wormphobia). This is probably a little more peculiar reason than why most fly fishermen pick up a fly rod for the first time. However; it illustrates one the myriad of different motivations that has driven many of us to this wonderful sport.
At first glance, it looks easy. My mother-in-law made me throw my face in my hands when she said; “You just whip your pole around in the air. Anyone can do that.” This was after she had just watched me place a #24 Adams on the edge of seam some forty feet away. The Owyhee Brown trout came up and slurped the little fly down just as she finished discounting the fact that there is some skill to fishing a fly. Every first-time fly angler subconsciously thinks the same way. That is until they try to cast or tie a knot for the first time.
It is easy to fall into the trap of becoming of one of the facets of fly fishing and thinking you have mastered it. For example, there are those fly fishermen who can cast a Sage X or a G Loomis NRX or whatever rod they have chosen the length of a football field. Usually, these great launchers of fly line spend more time telling people how far they can cast than actually catching fish. This is largely because their line spends more time in the air than on or in the water.
There is nothing more frustrating than watching someone blow a shot at a large fish because they can’t put all the necessary skills together. Being a great caster, entomologist, or fly tyer doesn’t mean that you are automatically a great fly fisherman. It’s the combination of these skills that make up the backbone of the sport.
However; it is the fining tuning of the lesser known, more intricate skills or just helpful hints that lead to catching more and larger fish or just having a good time. Often these things aren’t sexy, shared by secretive anglers or are obscured by how obvious they are when you think about them. Here are six things that we at Always A Good Day think are often overlooked by fly fishermen that will greatly improve your time, success and fun on the stream or lake.
Stakeout Your Spot
Challenge yourself to stand or sit without making a cast for ten minutes when you arrive. Watch what is going on around you. Take the water temperature, seine for aquatic insects or have a drink of water, just take your time and be aware. Noticing if birds are low or high above the water can tell you a multitude of things. Seeing how the fish are taking bugs off the surface or subsurface and determining how you intend to start your day or evening. Noticing wind direction, water level and even leaves on or in the water can help you make early decisions that will help you catch more fish. Ten minutes of holding your fly rod without making a cast and watching will make you more successful over the course of your day.
Don’t Over Do It
Drunk fly fishing is frustrating and dangerous. I am not going to say not to have a beer or a sip of whiskey while you enjoy your day, just don’t overdo it. The most vivid example I can remember of the effects of alcohol was the day I landed 17 Rainbows at one of our local lakes with my friend James and he landed 0. We were fishing the same chironomids exactly the same way. He was getting as many takedowns as I was, the only difference was the case of PBR that was more than half gone by noon. He is a great angler and ex-guide who spent most of the day tangled or watching me land fish. Nothing more needs to be said.
You are probably not going to pull a muscle fly fishing. Taking a few practice casts, and more importantly, practicing getting a good drift before nymphing a run or casting to rising fish will pay dividends in the end. I equate this to golfers hitting the driving range and practice putting green before a round. At their base physiological levels of small muscle movement and muscle memory, the two sports are very similar. This is especially true if you haven’t picked up your rod and reel for awhile or have a new, untested fly line on your reel. If taking a minute or two to get the feel of your gear to keep from putting down a fish or tangling up a double nymph rig in your first few drifts then it is probably worth it.
Watch Your Buddy
I didn’t even know what “double haul” meant when I started doing it or why it worked. When I was 14 I saw an older angler easily out casting me without looking like he was throwing a shot put. After watching him cast for a few minutes I saw how he was moving his hands.
Three hours later I almost had it down, my old 490-LL was reaching 30’ further without having “throw” the rod harder. I chalk my first steelhead on a fly up to watching this man below me. Since that epiphany, I have learned most of my fishing techniques from watching my friends, clients, the guy above or below me or in the boat next to me. The more I think I know, the more I seem to learn from watching others.
Inventory Your Fly Fishing Bag
I always forget to do this. Either I am short of the right tippet or leader material or I forgot that I was out of floatant or indicators. Usually, I realize this when I am by myself and I can’t bum what I forgot off of someone. One longtime friend, who is a very good steelhead guide, never fails to forget his old, reliable (so he tells me) Abel reels when we go out, citing he is on a day off as he put my spare on his rod. Rationalization is awesome but it doesn’t replace forgotten gear or accessories.
I have a list of what I need for gear on my refrigerator that I add to after trips. This works pretty well if you remember to add to it. Remembering to use the list when going to the fly shop or ordering becomes difficult. Forgetting stuff happens but if you take some time to inventory your fly boxes, reels, rods, lunch or whatever, I guarantee it will happen less.
Tell Someone Where You Are Going Fishing
This is a pretty obvious one. Also, tell the person when you will be back. There are several times when I have neglected to do this. Once I spent the night in the middle of nowhere along a high desert road in Oregon because I had two flat tires and no cell service. Neither my friend nor myself had told anyone where we were going. Dumb. The consequences for this oversight were minimal but the fishing trip would have been much better if I would have been able to sleep in my own bed that night and not rolled up in an old blue tarp.