Tag Archive: fly fishing tips

How To Catch And Release A Bush

At some point you’ll surmise that the professionals who make their living tying and selling expensive flies spend their off-hours planting trees and shrubs around all the best fishing spots. Getting snagged is part of the sport, and it happens to everyone, not just beginners.

If you get snagged on a forward cast, don’t try to throw your fly line through the branches; it’ll make things worse. Instead, point your rod tip at the snagged fly and retrieve any excess fly line with your free hand. Pull until good and tight, then release the line so it springs hack toward the snag. You may have to repeat this a few times to get your fly free. If you’re stiff unsuccessful, you can always go back and visit your Outfitter. No doubt he’ll be happy to see you.

And You Thought Eagles Had Sharp Eyes!

Trout and most other fish have a wide field of vision stretching from the front to both sides of their bodies (about 97 degrees). The deeper a fish flies, the broader its cone of vision and the more it can see.

Trout have a blind spot directly behind them, but even if you managed to position yourself to the rear, the fish would probably sense your presence and bolt.

To cope with such a wide field of vision, you should cast from shore and stay low. If you must enter the water, wade slowly, one step at a time, until you reach your spot. Then relax so the fish will become accustomed to you.

If the trout behave warily and leave a pool, get out of the water and out of sight. Let the waters settle, or “rest”, and chances are the fish will return.

Tackle For The Backcountry

Forget the bulky fishing vest and wicker creel. Light is best when it comes to backcountry fly-fishing. Here’s a general guide to what you’ll need.

  • Rod tube: Most aluminum tubes weigh more than your rod and reel combined, so opt for plastic. Cost is usually about $20. You can also use a section of PVC pipe from the hardware store.
  • Pack rod: Listed as a “travel rod” in catalogs, it comes in three, four, or five pieces. A 7-weight rod (usually 8 1/2 to 9 feet in length) is the all-purpose size for catching everything from trout to bonefish. A few models also work as spinning rods. Prices range from $160 to $700.
  • Fly reel: There are lots of lightweight aluminum models–one trout reel weighs as little as 2.7 ounces–priced from less than $100 to more than $400. A single-action model is all you need for the backcountry. Make sure it has good drag, which refers to the “braking” capabilities you’ll need when the fish tries to run with the line. A jerky drag may snap the leader.

  • Polarized sunglasses: The lenses reduce glare on the water so you can see beneath the surface. Plus they protect your eyes from hooks and ultraviolet (UV) rays.
  • Fly line: The fly line carries enough weight to cast the featherweight fly. You want to match the line weight to the rod. For example, use a 7-weight line on a 7-weight rod. A “weight-forward” line is the easiest to cast; look for “WF” on the box. An “intermediate” line is the most versatile because it sinks slowly for fishing beneath the surface.
  • Leader: The section at the end of the fly line that connects to the fly. “Compound” and “knotless” (good in weedy areas because there are no knots to get hung on the plant life) are the two most common.

Besides your box of flies, you may also need:

  • Waders: A pair of ultralight, stocking-foot, nylon waders will do, even in icy alpine lakes and streams (if your socks and underwear are insulated enough to keep you warm). For wading on slippery rocks, you can glue felt soles to a pair of high-top sneakers.
  • Hemostat or needle-nose pliers: They help you unhook the fish. Most multitools contain pliers.
  • Strike indicator: The “bobber” that signals when a fish has your fly.
  • Floatant: Grease that keeps dry flies floating.
  • Paper towel: The best way to keep a dry fly dry. Fold the towel, and squeeze the fly to remove water and fish slime.

How To Fish Moving Water

Fish face upstream with their mouths in to the current so they catch bits of food–mostly insects and bait fish–caught in the flow. They like spots where the current isn’t too strong; otherwise, they burn too much energy trying to stay in place. Fish also need a hiding place nearby, in case they sense danger.

  • Pools: Deep, slow, and wide, pools generally hold fish in the middle, where a lot of food sweeps down on easy currents. Fish also stay on pool edges, where two currents meet. Such an edge is called a “seam” and looks like a line on the water; fish generally stay on the slower side of the seam. The “tail,” or lower end of a pool, is shallow; it’s here that you’ll find large fish behind rocks and at the point where the water abruptly changes from deep to shallow.
  • Bends: On deep, winding streams, fish usually stay on the slower inside of a bend so they don’t have to fight the current. On shallow streams, look on the outside of the turn where the current makes the water deeper and funnels food to fish waiting near the edge.
  • Brushy banks: When overgrown with grass or brush, they make great hiding places. In summer the vegetation drips with insects. Muddy banks that overhang a stream are especially good for trout.
  • Deadfalls: Fallen trees break the current and provide places to hide.
  • Pockets: Areas behind rocks, which break the current and sweep food to fish. To locate submerged rocks, watch for bulges in the stream surface and small patches that look slick against the rest of the current. In slow-flowing streams, fish may be in front of rocks, where the flow has created a depression on the bottom. In faster streams, clusters of rocks often form funnels that carry food to fish waiting downstream on the edges of the current.
  • Side channels: The current generally is slower than in the main stream and the food is abundant–good conditions for larger fish that cannot afford to waste energy.
  • Riffles: This shallow, choppy water generally downstream of deep, slow pools usually holds a few small fish. Look for patches of smooth water that indicate depressions deep enough to hold fish.
  • Eddies: The swirling water gathers food and attracts fish but makes it tricky or difficult to fish.
  • Weed beds: Up against the weeds there’s plenty of fish food and places to hide.

What’s That Smell? (Hint: It’s Not The Fish)

As far as a fish is concerned, humans–particularly males–have a stink that can seriously turn off a trout. This is why in British Columbia, some professional guides use lemon-scented dishwashing detergent to remove the human smell from flies and lures. In the United States, several companies make solutions that either eliminate or mask the human scent. Using one of the biodegradable solutions before you start fishing is probably a good idea.

If you want to go natural, rub mud from the stream bank on your hands before you start fishing. Rub some on the fly, too–just enough to cover your scent but not so much that it affects the action of the fly. Applying fish attractants or crushed bait to a fly, however, is generally regarded as unethical.