Besides the rod, reel, waders and flies, there’s something else that sets you apart from other sportsmen. You love your game enough to do it all day, every day. As a dedicated fly fisherman, you relish the idea of spending the rest of your life getting better and better at the only outdoor sport that really matters. We add to your ongoing quest for knowledge with these 10 tips to improve your fly fishing.
1. Start Out Shallow
You’ll eventually get all the way out there, so don’t storm the river without exploring that shallow water first. Take your time, ease your way in with a few short casts, and enjoy the salmon and trout that rise to your shallow presentations. Ignore your buddies’ sideways looks while you get the fishing day off to a productive start. You don’t always have to be hip-deep to hit serious action.
2. Add Accuracy to Those Short Casts
Now that you appreciate the overlooked art of staying shallow, you realize that you haven’t had much practice with the unappreciated short cast. It isn’t easy, but it’s a technique that you can master over time. Until then, give your rod an advantage with an overweight. It sounds too simple to be true, but overweighting by just one line weight can turn you into a master short-caster.
3. Stay on the Move
Don’t enjoy that shallow action so much that you start working one spot over and over perfecting your presentation. You know the raw aggression of a salmon anywhere near a good fly. Trout make up for their short feeding season with a frenzy. Give them your best, and move on with your chin held high when they ignore you. They aren’t the only fish in the river.
4. Learn to Read That Foam
Develop a talent for foam reading, and you’ll always be on top of main current seams. As the water flow moves the foam, you know it’s moving the buffet that entices hungry fish, so follow the flow line. It’s also an excellent strategy for catching minor drag problems. If your fly isn’t moving in synch with the foam, it’s time to make some adjustments.
5. Go Prepared for Anything
Are you ready to catch something besides chinook and rainbow? Don’t limit your chances for action with a two-species mindset. Surprise your guide the night before you head out with an idea to fish for something that isn’t salmon or trout. He’s your go-to guy for everything it takes to catch something outside the tackle box, and he’ll appreciate your sense of adventure.
6. Let Go of Perfection
If you could nail every cast on the money, you probably wouldn’t be reading this list. If you’re like most other fly fishermen, you sometimes miss the mark, and that’s OK. Relax, and take a deep breath. While you figure out what went wrong, just go with the drift. Fly fishing is as much mental as it is physical, so don’t wear yourself out casting for perfection every time.
7. Short Drift for Line Management
If you routinely stake a claim on the river with long casts, you’re probably overshooting and setting yourself up for line management problems. Think in terms of a short drift that’s equal to what you can cast, and start from a location that lets you move on a few steps as you work the river. You’ll get the same coverage and reduce line problems.
8. Check Your Fly
You really shouldn’t need reminding, but serious action can get in the way of common sense. Whether you miss that rainbow or land it, always take a quick look at your hardworking fly before you cast back out. Check the hackle, make sure the wings are still positioned just right, and dry it off. Crystals and pads are great, but your shirt sleeve works too.
9. Be a Friend to the Fish
The thrill of landing a 10-pound salmon doesn’t make him any easier to coax off the hook. He’s fighting for his life, and he’s one heck of a handful. Catch and release rules, so make this part of the game easier on you and that fish. Quickly turn him upside down, and he becomes disoriented. Yes, confuse your fish first, and then remove the hook.
10. Practice, Practice and Practice Some More
This may be the one tip that every fly fisherman frames and hangs over the fireplace. You don’t take this one to heart because it makes you better on the river. Of course, it does, but this is everyone’s favorite tip because it’s also a perfect excuse to go out there and do it over and over again for the rest of your fly fishing-loving life.
We don’t claim that this list is the final word on improving your fly fishing powers. There is no such thing, and that’s the way it should be. Please feel free to improve on our ideas, and add your own. Better yet, come join us here on the high banks of the Kvichak River. Your invitation to drop by No See Um Lodge in Alaska is always open, and we really want to hear your best fly fishing tips.