In this Tip I’m going to talk about actually fishing. About time, right? But be advised that in keeping with my desire to help you be independent of anyone other than yourself in your fly fishing adventures, I may bring up additional points once in a while about things to do before you hit the water.
OK; let’s go fishing! You’ve got your fly rod all set up; you’ve selected a fly or two; you have figured out how to conveniently carry the stuff (flies, tools, etc.) that you may need; and you can cast well enough to reach 30’ or so. Incidentally, I heard just this weekend that 90% of the fish caught on fly rods are within an additional 2 fly rod lengths of the end of your rod. In other words, within 27 feet or so, given that 9’ rods are the most common in most places. We will talk about this again from time to time, but I hope you have given attention to how you will carry the stuff you need. Remember, you’re going to be on your own. My approach has evolved considerably from when I first bought a fishing vest with all those pockets – and started filling them with stuff I had but would never need during a day on the water. After while my vest must have weighed 50 pounds or more! It was becoming uncomfortable, hot, hurt my back and neck, plus when I wanted to find something I often had to hunt through all those darn pockets to find it. And sometimes couldn’t. I’d occasionally find that I had 2-3 of the same thing but wouldn’t be able to find what I needed when I needed it. My current approach (still evolving) is to use a lanyard for the tools I use the most, and a medium sized waist or chest pack for flies and other stuff. I find that if I purge this pack occasionally I most often have all that I need and can even supply others who may have forgotten something.
Your next consideration is how you approach the water. Do not go charging and stomping right down to the water’s edge. If you go stomping around and making yourself visible to the close fish, you’re going to miss some of the best opportunities of the day. Stop 10-12’ from the edge of the water and carefully look around: “read the water”, we say. Look for places that fish are likely to be holding. This will vary a bit depending on whether you are fishing flat or flowing water, but some of the same principles apply. Look for structure, whether it is a pile of rocks or a fallen tree. And look for seams between different types of water, especially water moving at different rates. Also look for drop offs in either flat or flowing water. Look for obvious fish activity. Are there fishing taking bugs off the surface? Let’s say you have pre-rigged up with a couple of nymphs of different sizes and shapes. Not a bad way to go in most places on most days. But when you look around carefully you see a lot of dimples on the water; the fish are going after something right under the surface. The smart thing to do at this point is to change flies. Now Joe and I have a sort of rule that before we start changing stuff we will make a dozen or so casts with whatever we happen to have on. Not the smartest thing to do; it’s just one of our traditions. And we get a fly in the water sooner. The smart thing to do in this example would be to clip off both nymphs and put on a size 16 or 18 parachute Adams with an emerger dropper of some sort, or start with a size 16 soft hackle. But hey, traditions are part of the game, whether they are smart or not.
Fish the close water first. I can’t recall the number of times Lloyd told me this when we started fishing together. It’s one of those things that should be obvious, but I see fisher after fisher persons casting as if they were trying to set the club distance record – right out of the box. Accuracy is typically more important than distance in actually catching fish.
That’s probably enough for today; I need to tie some small Streamliners; the fish have really been hammering them!
Get out there and start making your own set of traditions!