If you’re just starting out, if you recently began to have an interest in the sport of fly fishing, or even if you’ve never heard of what fly fishing is, then here are some basic tips to help make your trip a fun and fruitful one! Let’s start with the basics.
General Fly Fishing
Fish want a shield of survival like deep water, logs, brush, or undercut banks. They want to be in shady areas to reduce visibility from predators. They also gravitate towards choppy water which provides cover as well.
Fish want to swim where the current is slow. That way they aren’t having to exert too much energy. Lazy right? The thing is, they still need food. So, the fish will then congregate in seams, which are the transition zones of two different speeds of water. This is what carries the food. Fish will take a nice slow Sunday stroll in the slow water and then zip into the fast water for their meals.
Fish will feed mainly on insects which is determined by sunlight. The more sunlight that reaches the water, the more vegetation. Vegetation provides food for the insects. Shallow fast moving water in a stream will have more insects than deep areas where the sun cannot penetrate the deep water and in lakes there are more insects near the banks.
Fly Fishing in Lakes
Fishing in a lake is a different experience then fishing in a stream do to lack of current. So out of the three basic principles that govern fish (protection, food source, and current), current has been removed. A fish’s primary protection in a lake is deep water, weeds, and large obstructions like rocks and logs. Most insects in a lake are near the shore since that’s where the light source is located.
Fish in lakes feed primarily at night. They can emerge from deep water under the protection of darkness and eat all night long! Night time feeding helps with a fish’s protection and many hatches occur just as the sun is setting so this is a prime time to fish. If you are going to fish a lake during the day, consider that fish will be in areas that are shaded or in weeds. Shaded areas provide protection and allow them to get closer to the shore and weeds protect them. You can have good luck casting dry flies at dusk when you see fish starting to rise. You must have a long leader as the fish have a long time to take a look at your fly. During the day, you will have better luck casting nymphs near the shore or in the weeds. Float tubes are an inexpensive way to get started lake fishing. This is where you sit in a U-shaped inner-tube with flippers on your feet, that keeps you waist high out of the water. A more expensive water craft called water skeeters are also available. They keep you almost completely out of the water and most use oars to move around the lake.
Fly Fishing in Streams
When in streams, there is one basic rule that can help you find the right place to float your fly: cast to the foam or bubbles. Foam or bubbles are caused by a variety of ways (fast moving water, logs, rock formations). They work by creating a funnel of food indicated by the foam/bubbles and is usually located in deeper water or on a seam. You should cast you fly above the foam and let it float drag free through it. If you are casting a nymph, you must cast past the foam because your fly will sink. If you don’t, your fly will float short of the foam.
Make sure you are picking the best spots to fish!
Make sure you are fishing where a riffle flows into deep water. A riffle is a shallow, choppy, fast moving part of the river. Riffles produce a lot of insect life and also oxygenate the water. Fish will be here! Cast above the deep pool and let your fly (dry or nymph) float down into the pool and be ready for a strike.
The bank provides protection and there is usually fast moving water just outside the bank. Insects like grasshoppers can fall off the bank and provide a good food source.
Logs, Rocks and Large Obstructions
Fish will swim right behind or underneath large obstructions waiting for food to float by. There is usually there is a seam between the fast moving water beside the obstruction and the slow water behind it. Make sure you cast above the obstruction and let the fly float down next to it in the seam or foam.
Here is some information on how to choose the right equipment for your next fly fishing trip.
When choosing a rod there are a few things to consider.
Rod Weight – The purpose of the fly fishing rod is to cast the fly to a desired target to catch a fish. Since the fly tied at the end of the line is very light, the line must have weight in order to cast it any distance.
Rod Length – Rods come in varying lengths from 7 to over 10-feet. The majority are manufactured around 9-feet. You will want a shorter rod if you are casting short distances in tight areas with lots of brush or trees around you. Longer rods are available if you need to cast a long distance with little obstruction around you.
Rod Action –The action is essentially where the rod flexes when a load is applied. Rods come in three action types: slow, medium, and fast. In general, most beginners should purchase a fast action rod as it is easier and more accurate when cast longer distances.
The main purpose of the reel is to hold your fly line. It keeps pressure on the fish during a “run” and eases retrieval. You want to size your reel with the line and rod weight to ensure the correct balance of your rod.
Material – Reels can be made of many different materials ranging from graphite to titanium but most are made from aluminum. Expensive reels are machined from bar stock while less expensive reels are formed or pressed.
Arbor Size – The arbor is the inner cylinder that your line is wrapped around. There has been a lot of talk lately of the advantages of arbors with large circumferences. Advantages include less line memory, faster line retrieval, and most important, better control of hooked fish.
Drag – The drag system is one the most important parts of the reel. You should look for a reel that has a Teflon (or similar synthetic material) or cork drag system. The drag allows you to keep constant pressure on the fish preventing it from breaking your leader
Saltwater Proof – If you are going to be fishing in saltwater, you should definitely purchase a reel that is sealed from the saltwater. This will increase the cost but it is necessary.
While the designation of fly lines may be the same between manufacturers, there are some differences between lines.
Double Taper (DT) Lines – A great choice for beginners. Double taper lines are tapered on both ends of the line. You can reverse the line on the reel when one end begins to crack or is worn and you essentially have a new line. Double taper lines have a more gradual taper than weight forward lines.
Triangle Taper– Triangle taper lines have a gradual taper increasing in diameter from the tip of the line to about 25 to 40 feet. It then necks down to a level line. It provides the mass for long accurate casts, but also gives gentle presentations because most of the mass is away from the fly.
Weight Forward (WF) Lines – Weight forward lines have a section of the largest taper near the end of the line. This puts most of the mass at the end of the line allowing anglers to more easily and quickly load their rod for more casting power.
Level Lines – Level lines have the diameter thickness throughout the line. These are the most inexpensive lines and are hard to cast and not as accurate as double taper or weight forward lines.
Backing – Backing is a inexpensive cord like material wound on the spool of the reel before the line. It fills the spool to its capacity making it easier to reel. It also provides backup line in case a big fish runs and takes all your line off your spool.
Waders not only keep you dry from the water, but keep you warm from the elements above water as well. The weather can change dramatically. Waders protect you from the wind, rain, snow, and anything else mother nature can throw at you.
Fly fishing vests have been developed to carry all your gear. Choosing the right vest is a matter of preference but you will want to make sure the vest has plenty of easy accessible pockets. There should be a mixture of pocket sizes. You should also consider what type of weather you will be fishing in. If you are a fair weather fisherman, make sure you get a vest with good ventilation. Make sure your vest is made from good quality material.
Accessories like Sunglasses, Hats, Fly Boxes and Nets are not mandatory but strongly suggested to make your fly fishing experience easier. Don’t forget to be safe but also have fun! Bring snacks, water, or even a cold one. There is nothing like enjoying the outdoors with a fun sport like fly fishing, so make it a great experience and be prepared.
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