Rookie Longrodding Mistakes
If you’ve been wanting to take up the sport of flyfishing and have thought it a tad too intricate or elite; if you learned how to flyfish when you were a kiddo and forgot half of what you learned and weren’t really all that good at the other half, or if you have thought to yourself while knee-deep in a New Mexico stream fishing with a spinning rod and Power-Bait that you’d like to have a different angling option, it’s not too late to learn.
And the good thing is that almost anywhere you live, you have numerous options and lots of fellow flyfishing fools to help you learn. Over 20 million anglers in America flyfish annually and since we're so close to so many trout streams, you might as well take back up the sport so you can enjoy the scenery and sport. Chad McPhail and I have a how-to-flyfish book coming out this summer (So You Want To Flyfish from Frederick Fell Publishers) that is meant for those anglers who are newbies or have tried it but haven't had success. We think too many fly-anglers get overwhelmed by all the complexities. Simplify things. That said, here is a short list of rookie mistakes that you probably made when you gave it a go. Read and learn:
· Pay attention! Be careful when scrambling on rocks or walking along the bank while holding the fly in your fingers. All it takes is for a limb to snag the loose flyline and it’ll sink right into your fingers or hand. Secure the fly to your rod (hook keeper or in the cork handle) so you don’t have to waste time crying and bleeding all over the bank.
· Part two of bad move? Not de-barbing the hook. When, not if, you hook yourself, for you most certainly will at some point, if you have not de-barbed your hook, you will be in for a big surprise. Those barbed flies don’t back out easily. You’ll lose flesh or if stuck in the right spot, it won’t be coming out rather it will have to be removed by making it go forward. That’s right. You’ll push it through the skin so you can cut it with pliers. Gross, huh? Well, there is a slightly –less gross method in the removing a hook section.
· Watch a stretch of water for a minute before casting. You’ll be able to see fish rising or feeding under the water and then you can formulate a plan of attack, how you’ll position, how you’ll cast, how you’ll drift.
· Don’t use too much rod for the water and the fish. That’s a problem that’s hard to fix unless you are willing to drop cash on several rods. A lot of the beginner rods are 6-weight and that’s just too thick and stiff for your basic trout stream. The pitch for the 6-weight is that it’s versatile. You can fish for big bass and for small trout with the same rod. Truth is, you can. But you won’t want to. 4 or 5-weight is better for trout. Even a 3. The rods today can handle heavier fish even though they’re slimmer and lighter. You’ll feel the difference with a lighter rod when you cast and when you feel a take and play the fish.
· Don’t wade where you should be fishing. We know. It’s fun to wade. That’s part of the appeal of flyfishing. But don’t wade unless you have to. The more you wade, the greater the chance you spook trout. Trout can hear and feel your “Sasquatch” footfalls from a long ways away. Think “Twinkle-toes,” not “Buffalo.”
· Know where you’re stepping before you step. If you can’t see the bottom, maybe you’re in over your head. Slide your feet, always keeping one on the ground / river bottom. Shuffle. Sashay. Mosey, if you will. But whatever you do, don’t beeline rush it.
· Don’t set the hook on a trout as you would on a bass. Otherwise, “Pop goes the weasel.” Lift the rod tip. That is all.
· Do not walk into some other angler’s water. This isn’t sand bass fishing where all the boats circle round the one boat that is catching fish. In flyfishing, anglers walk upstream on a river so you don’t want to jump in front of someone and make them have to get out and go around. Be aware as you walk behind them – don’t get too close. Your footfalls, shadows and general presence cause problems for fish and anglers.
· It’s easy to stand so close to the bank that you scare every trout within ten feet. Don’t.
· More power on your forward stroke (cast) does not equal more line being cast. It means trouble. Stay smooth and keep things tight, short, controlled.
· If you stop to talk to an angler to pry info, respect them. Don’t invade their space or time. Most flyrodders are eager to share what is working (or not working) but don’t assume anything. They may be sitting on the motherlode, working a huge fish, seeing the most prolific hatch ever, that sort of thing. In that case, you can understand their proprietary nature.
· Don’t wear your chest waders to fish a shin deep stream.
· A store-bought fly costs 2 bucks. If you get one stuck in the trees, and you will, look at the risk-reward factor. Is it really worth it to cross the dark deep pool of which you have no idea the depth just to recover that fly that hasn’t been working any way?
· Rookies will often cast to the same rising fish over and over without success. They’ll change flies but the ones they select are too similar. The trick often is drifting a dropper nymph or stripping a woolly bugger in front the trout. Or going much bigger or much smaller with your fly. Summary: change depth or change size.
· Bird’s nests. For rookies, it’s just easier to cut the line and cut your losses. Start over and tie on new leader and a new fly.
· You’ll find paths on any fished river. That means that angler after angler tends to cast to the same pools, the same lies, the same water as the previous one. That also means that trout in waters that never see casts are never seeing flies. Cross the river on the other side of the path and that way, you’ll get to fish fresh water.
Be sure to look for our how-to flyfish book coming out next month: So You Want To Fly Fish?