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Becoming a Better Dry Fly Angler

 

Trial and error can be a painfully slow method for improving your fly-fishing skills. The old adage "you don’t know what you don’t know" is always lurking in the background. I’ve had the benefit of fishing with some extremely knowledgeable fly-anglers, shortening my learning curve considerably. Following are a few important lessons that have helped me along the way.

Reconnaissance First, Fish Second - Before throwing your first cast, scout the section of water you’re approaching. Identify the best holding water and plan your attack for each. What’s the most logical and stealthy avenue of approach? What sections can you effectively access or cast to, and which are near impossible to reach? Watch for rising or holding fish and learn from what they reveal about their size, feeding activity and food preferences. Is there a hatch taking place that might shed some insight into your fly selection? Determine your strategy for each section before stepping into the water. If you ignore pre-game scouting, you’re bound to sacrifice success.

Before throwing your first cast, scout the section of water you’re approaching.

Before throwing your first cast, scout the section of water you’re approaching.

Too Much False Casting - This is a common mistake, particularly for new fly anglers. While false casting has its benefits (ensuring you’ve got the correct length of line out is the most important), excessive false casting brings a list of potential problems. Nothing says danger to a trout faster than shadow and movement. Remember, for an adult trout, natural predators are more likely to come from above than from within the water, so they’re sensitive to perceived threats over the water. On most days your line will throw some shadow and, of course, false casting makes for plenty of movement. If a trout detects either, it may result in it deciding to sulk on the bottom or move to a more concealed lie. Where and when possible, limit yourself to one false cast to confirm the correct length of line, then move straight to the presentation cast. If you must make several false casts, do so in a direction that ensures your trout won’t detect it, then turn back on line for your presentation cast.

Reduce your number of false casts to minimize alerting fish to your presence.

Reduce your number of false casts to minimize alerting fish to your presence.

Lining Your Trout - Related to number two above is the sin of having too much line out and landing the fly line on top of a trout. This is a sure way to put it down. If you do line a fish, the best option is to move upstream and search for another. Too much line out is the result of not measuring your need correctly, or of taking the wrong presentation angle. Fishing from directly below a trout is the most effective way to ensure a drag-free drift, but it requires much greater accuracy in estimating the proper length of line to cast. Less experienced anglers would do well to change their angle of attack. The closer you get to casting from right angles to a fish, the less likely you are to throw your line directly on top of it. However, fishing cross-stream reduces the length of your drag-free drift. A good compromise for many fishermen is to position themselves at a 45-degree angle to their target.

Often the best approach is to position yourself at a 45-degree angle to your target.

Often the best approach is to position yourself at a 45-degree angle to your target.

Too Long a Drift - Streams and rivers don’t flow in an even, steady manner. Changes in water depth, natural turns in the stream bank, and in-stream obstructions such as logs and boulders all have an impact on surface water flow. As a result, extended drag-free drifts are all but impossible in many places. Landing your fly 10 to 15 feet above a trout almost ensures your fly will drag before it reaches the fish. Three to five feet above a fish is enough in most instances, and even that can be reduced when the surface water is turbulent or you’re fishing in diminished light. One false cast designed to land below a trout, followed by a presentation cast targeted three feet above, is just about right in most situations.

Fishing from directly below a trout is the most effective way to ensure a drag-free drift.

Fishing from directly below a trout is the most effective way to ensure a drag-free drift.

Know When to Move On - You’ve seen a fish rise, or notice one holding to the bottom, and you’ve cast to him unsuccessfully two or three times. Despite the fact you’ve been happy with your drift, he’s either completely ignored your fly or risen and refused. What now? Stop casting. Something’s just not right, and continuously casting the same fly the same way is unlikely to result in a hook-up. Step back and reassess the situation. Could you have spooked the fish through your movement or by casting your line on top of his lie? If so, a few minutes of rest will often get a fish back into its normal activity pattern. If that’s not the issue, consider an alternate fly. When a change is required, I’ve had more success by going to a smaller fly than by switching patterns. Understand, too, that there will be times when nothing will budge a fish. Don’t worry about it, but don’t waste your time either. Move on to the next location and start fresh.

Catching more trout on a consistent basis requires as much strategy as it does technique.

Catching more trout on a consistent basis requires as much strategy as it does technique.

Select flies that you can see well on the water.

Select flies that you can see well on the water.

Missing the Strike - If you can’t see your fly on the water, you’re often going to miss seeing a trout take it, giving it time to spit the hook. For many, the answer is using flies that float high and/or are very visible on the water. Flies tied in the parachute, bastard or Wulff style all have very visible white wings, and for that reason are among the most popular patterns available. Even then, there will be times when the light or current is such that you simply lose track of your drifting fly. Resist the urge to end your drift prematurely to cast again, as more often than not when picking up the line you’ll cause a commotion on the surface just as your fly’s drifting over a fish. It’s better to let it drift long enough to ensure it’s below your target, and just hope that you’ll see or feel a fish if it strikes.



Previous Fishing Articles
(1) Becoming a Better Dry Fly Angler
(2) Make Your Own Fishing Adventure
(3) Early Season Fly Fishing
(4) Walleye Logic
(5) Fly Fishing in the Desert
(6) Grammy’s Fish
(7) Top 10 Trout Lures
(8) All I Want for Christmas – Neil Waugh's Yule Tide Fishing Gifts Wish List
(9) Muskies - The Ultimate Predator
(10) What to expect when fishing the West Coast
(11) Tips & Tricks for Fall Fly Fishing
(12) There’s No Place Like Home
(13) A Golden Opportunity
(14) The Observational Trout Fisherman
(15) Un-matching the Hatch
(16) Alberta Super Bugs
(17) Glass is Back
(18) The Bull Trout of the Athabasca
(19) Speed Kills
(20) Entering the Twilight Zone
(21) Old Man River
(22) The Pink Salmon of the Squamish River
(23) Small stream BT fishing
(24) Fly fishing beyond Trout: getting started
(25) In The Walleye Zone
(26) Zoo Trout
(27) Fly Selection for Beginners
(28) Fly Fisher's Christmas
(29) New Waters
(30) Big Bad Burbot
(31) Looking Back
(32) Out of Africa
(33) Finding Success on Crowded Trout Streams
(34) Mountain Peaks, Fast Streams, Fall Colours And Rocky Mountain Whitefish
(35) The Browns of Autumn
(36) Fly-Fishing Pike Through The Seasons
(37) Walleye Town
(38) River Fun - One Bite At A Time
(39) Fly Fishing Larger Rivers
(40) Going With The Flow
(41) Becoming A Better Fly Fisherman
(42) Swinging The Fences
(43) A View From The Aerie
(44) Dixieland Delight
(45) Atlantic Salmon - The Fish of 1000 Casts
(46) Do It Yourself Pink Salmon
(47) Montana's Cool Missouri
(48) Pretty Is As Pretty Does
(49) Toothy Critters
(50) Hard Water Lakers at Cold Lake
(51) Top Ten Flies
(52) Northern Exposure
(53) Home Water Lessons
(54) Chicken Of The Sea
(55) Sealing the Deal – How to Ensure You Land More Fish
(56) Deep In The Heart Of Texas
(57) Keep It Up!
(58) River Fishing for Fall Walleye
(59) After the Flood - A look at Southern Alberta rivers and streams one year after the flood
(60) Reindeer Lake - A Diversity of Opportunity
(61) Hawg Holes
(62) Saltwater Salmon
(63) Early Season Dry Fly Fishing
(64) Down a Lazy River - A Fly-rodding Adventure on the Lower North Saskatchewan
(65) The Fly Fishing Season Ahead
(66) IN SEARCH OF SPECKLED FOOTBALLS
(67) FISHING CANADA'S PRAIRIE CITIES
(68) Bright Fish from the Land of Silver
(69) Canada's "Other" Salmon
(70) Fall Walleye
(71) Wet Flies
(72) Versatility the Key to Success
(73) Grayling of the Boreal
(74) Teaching Kids To Fly Fish
(75) Size Matters
(76) Fly Fishing Small Streams
(77) Chasing Winter Whites One Lake At A Time
(78) Manitoba's Fishing Jewel
(79) The Twelve Gifts Of Christmas
(80) The Point Of It All
(81) Fishing With Friends-Big Weather Seizing The Day
(82) Fall Fly Fishing
(83) Personal Pontoon Boats 101
(84) Big River, Big Fish
(85) Bottom Bonanza
(86) Fishing Small Flies
(87) So Many Choices, So Little Time
(88) Four Seasons of the Bow
(89) Favourite Lakes - Some Like it Hot
(90) GEARING UP FOR SMALL STREAM TROUT
(91) Trout Hunting - New Zealand-style
(92) Don’t Leave Home Without Them –
10 Lures That Should Be In Everyone’s Tackle Box
(93) Edge Walleye
(94) FLY FISHING STRATEGIES FOR HIGH WATER
(95) Smallmouth Bass – An Oft Overlooked Challenge
(96) Four Corners – Four Waters
(97) Chasing Pothole Trout
(98) Springtime Stoneflies
(99) The Torrents of Spring
(100) Drift Boat Fly Fishing
(101) Bust Them With Bait
(102) Cure the Winter Blues with a Good Book
(103) Hot Strategies for the Cold Months
(104) Cutthroat: The Angler's Trout
(105) Terrestrials
(106) Fly In For Fishing Fun
(107) Rocky Mountain High
(108) Reading the clues
(109) Where the Trout Are: The art of locating feeding trout
in rivers and streams.
(110) K.I.S.S. and Tell Fly-fishin
(111) Fly Fishing 101
(112) To Catch a Big Halibut, or Ling Cod
(113) The Bountiful Bones of Ascension Bay
(114) Grayling in the Eye of the Beholder
(115) Fly Fishing for South Fork Clearwater Steelhead
(116) Manitoba's Red River - North America's Catfish Capital
(117) Eliminating the Spook Factor
(118) Trust Your Electronics
(119) The Most Important Hatch of the Year
(120) Early Season Nymph Fishing for Trout
(121) Finding Success for Ice Trout
(122) Walleye can be Humbling
(123) The Secret to Landing the Big One Finally Revealed
(124) Winter Flyfishing
(125) North Saskatchewan River - An Underutilized Fishing Gem
(126) Hot Fall Pike Action
(127) Tips and Tricks to Save the Summer Slow Down
(128) Reading Trout Stream Waters
(129) Frequently Asked Questions
(130) Streamer Fishing for Larger Trout
(131) The Lure of Big Walleye at Last Ice
(132) Deep Water Perch
(133) Post Spawn Brookies
(134) A Fisher's Life
(135) The River's Last Stand
(136) The Big Ones Come out at Night
(137) Coho on the Coast
(138) Chasing and Catching Halibut
(139) Summer in the Mountains
(140) Peak Walleye Season
(141) Slow and Steady Wins the Race
(142) Last Ice Rainbows
(143) The Burbot Event
(144) Tackle Matching
(145) Ice Fishing Strategy #2 - Going Light
(146) Ice Fishing Strategy #1 - Location
(147) The Lure of Brook Trout
(148) The Shallow Water Hunt is On
(149) Hot Backswimmer Action Happening Right Now
(150) Fishing Among Giants-Pursuing Lake Sturgeon on the Prairies
(151) Adventure at Davin Lake Lodge, Northern Saskatchewan
(152) The Vesatile Plug
(153) Bead Head Flies, Plugs and Shot and other Spring Favorites for Pothole Trout
(154) Planning your Upcoming Angling Adventures
(155) Good Fishing at Last Ice
(156) Maximize the Odds - Use Multiple Presentations
(157) Daily Fish Migrations
(158) Fish Migrations - Following the Spawn
(159) Lake Whitefish - An Ice Fishing All Star
(160) Pick Your Favorite Brook Trout Lake...and Go Fishing
(161) A Look Ahead to Great Trout Fishing
(162) Wrestling White Sturgeon on the Fraser
(163) The Fun in Ultra Light
(164) Flyfishing and Leadcore Lines
(165) Embrace the Spirit of Adventure
(166) Never Stop Learning
(167) Ice Fishing is Getting Hot
(168) Jigging through the Ice
(169) An Ice Fishing Unsung Hero – The Setline
(170) Rainbows on Ice
(171) The Season of Ice Begins
(172) Red Hot Fall Pike Action
(173) Hitting it Right with Water Boatman
(174) Facts On Cats
(175) West Coast Adventure
(176) June Walleye Frenzy
(177) Aerated Lakes are Big Trout Factories
(178) "First Fish of the Year - Pothole Rainbows and Browns"
(179) "Northern Exposure"
(180) Sometimes There is More to Fishing Than Catching Fish
(181) Early Season Pike On The Fly
(182) Man Overboard