Have you ever had one of those days when you were standing near a fishing buddy throwing basically the same fly and s/he was catching most of the fish? Maybe you even sidled closer until you were almost in their hip pocket. Well with any luck maybe you both started catching similar numbers of fish and all was well. But if not, here are a few things that might help next time. I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been very lucky in my fishing career. I’ve had lots of help from members of Wyoming Fly Casters with the when, where, and how to fish our local waters. And I’ve been fortunate to fish with excellent guides not only in Wyoming, but in Idaho, Arkansas, and Alaska.
It’s not just about fishing the right fly, it’s about fishing the right fly right. Some seemingly subtle things often make a considerable difference between catching many fish, a few fish, and just enjoying the scenery.
First of all, it makes a world of difference whether you are fishing flat water (reservoirs, lakes, or ponds), or flowing waters (rivers or streams). And on flowing waters it makes a big difference whether you are fishing from the bank, wading, or from a boat. We are fortunate to have an abundance of all of these opportunities within reasonable driving distance.
It was my friend Harley Reno who firmly reminded me that if you make more than a half dozen casts from the same place doing the same thing with no strikes, you are wasting your time to continue. Change something. Change your fly, change your weight, change your presentation, change your location… something. Harley insists on changing after 5 casts, but I usually feel like I can’t cover all the available water in only 5 casts.
There being basically three kinds of flies we fish (nymphs, dries, and streamers) and two kinds of water (flat and flowing), you can already see that there are several combinations, even without considering rod and line weights, and fly colors or sizes. We won’t try to get into those items today. Fishing any fly in flat water, it’s up to you to give the fly some sort of action. In flowing water, the current takes care of providing the action; usually you want a dead drift with nymphs or dries, and part of the time with streamers, although one is typically better off stripping the streamer as it drifts.
In any kind of water you can change your presentation by changing the way you give the fly action (movement). In flat water the most common is to move the fly by stripping, although sometimes the wind takes care of that for you. We’ve sometimes been fishing dries on the surface of lakes or ponds on days without wind (rare in Wyoming, but it does happen). If we just let our flies sit calmly on the water it was a long time between strikes. But if we twitched them a bit, or stripped them slowly the fish became more interested. And when a light breeze came up, there was good attention by the fish. On flat water, stripping nymphs at a rate similar to the insect being imitated is usually effective.
It’s been a pretty open winter so far, and we’ve been trying to take advantage of not having to break ice out of our guides. My final suggestion: Get out there and make your own memories!