Fly Fishing

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   Those who fish on a regular basis know there are just five rules of fishing, which if followed, will aid them in catching more fish and enjoying the activity of fishing. These rules can be adjusted to any type of fishing and to any species of fish, but in order to have a successful outing, they should be followed. They are not to confused with "Laws" of fishing, which MUST be followed (laws are, after all, much more concrete). These five rules are explained in other documents for saltwater, river and trout fishing. Here I will try to define the rules in terms of fly fishing.

1. Fish where they are, not where they ain't: There is a vast amount of water you will encounter while fishing and all of it will tend to look the same to you. Most of this water will not hold fish on a regular basis and much of the remaining water will hold fish only of a certain type and only at certain times.
   For example, trout in a river or stream tend to hold in cut banks, under cover, in front of or behind rocks and many other areas which will offer them protection from predators for much of the day. But when they feed, during a hatch, they will move out into the riffles where the majority of the food will be found. When certain types of salmon move into the rivers, these trout will be forced out of their preferred water and will seek out the two to three foot pockets. The salmon will move into their preferred water, and though they do not feed, they will sometimes strike at flies placed in their sight zone. Chinook salmon have a tendency to hold at the bottom of the deeper holes. Coho salmon, given a choice, will also hold in these holes, but if there are large numbers Chinook and Coho in the same water, the Coho will be forced to hold in the tail outs of the deep water.
   Pink salmon hold in all levels of water but prefer to be in the deeper holes until they are ready to make their move to the next hole. They will hold in riffles at the top of the holes where they become more aggressive and will take flies readily.
   Chum salmon hold in the two to four foot water close to the beach and take weighted flies present on a floating line or any fly on a sinking line. Steelhead will seek out the three to six foot slots with some cover from the swirling water overhead.
   This is just a brief summary of where fish hold in rivers. Learning fish behavior as well as times of the year that fish come into the rivers requires a great amount of study as well as some skill at "reading" water. If you fish lakes for trout, you must also understand the habits these fish have.

2. Match the hatch: With most fishing, this rule means to find out what the fish will strike and give it ti them. In fly fishing you sometimes have to be much more specific. The majority of a fish's life is spent eating. When they emerge from the egg, nature gives them an environment full of food and the tools to gather this food. In the case of salmon, they feed to reach the ocean where they fatten up for their spawning runs. Resident trout feed to survive so they can also spawn sometime in the future. Most lake locked trout will never have an opportunity to spawn so they just feed until they are either eaten by a larger predator or die of old age. Either way, the majority of their food is naturally found in the lakes and streams.
   Much of the time fish are not specific at what they will eat, so matching the hatch can be as simple as presenting something that looks like food. Many of the more successful flies do not resemble anything found in the water, they just have certain characteristics of something fish may eat. At times, especially when there is a particular hatch going on, fish will become very particular and you must match almost exactly what they are feeding on.
   This is when "match the hatch" becomes very important.
   Larger trout become that way by balancing their caloric intake with the amount of energy it took to gain the meal. When they take in more than they put out, they continue to grow. Keep that in mind when selecting your fly or lure. Even though salmon do not feed in the rivers, they will still take a well placed fly, either out of habit or due to some unknown genetic urge. Chinook salmon take large red or bright colored flies presented close to the bottom. Coho take "egg" patterns as well as bright flashy patterns, which seem to catch their eye. Pinks take anything pink and small, but will also take greens and other colors. Chums are known for their affinity to green patterns and especially seem to be attracted to chartreuse. steelhead appear to be attracted to reds and yellows with purple becoming more popular. Although some fly fishers claim success with dry flies, wet flies do much better for salmon.

3. If what you're using isn't working, change what you're using: This rule is an absolute no-brainer, but is broken by more fishers than any other rule. We all, including myself, have favorite patterns or lures, and when they do not work, we are hesitant to change. It worked last time or last week or even five minutes ago, why not now. The fish do not care what used to work, they only care about what they want now. Try to find out what it is. Maybe the hatch has changed and they are targeting something new. Maybe the daylight conditions or even the weather has changed. Whatever the reason, be ready to stop using what is not now working and try something new. Changing flies can mean the difference from an unsuccessful fishing day to a successful fishing day.
   The other side of this rule is, if someone else is catching fish, find out what they are using. Sometimes a dry fly is not drawing strikes, but a well presented chironomid is. If the successful fisher is catching, ask them what they are using. If they refuse to tell you,make a nuisance of yourself until they do or just hang out until you can figure it out.
4. It is persistence, not patience that catches fish: Patience is over rated as a virtue when fishing is involved. Patience can mean doing the same wrong thing in the same wrong place all day while the fish, not rewarding your patience, bite someone else's offering. Persistence will help you catch fish because a persistent fisher will change flies, change presentation and even change locations until the correct depth or method of delivery is discovered. Sometimes the correct presentation, location or lure will make a slow day a day to remember. Change until you either run out of ideas, materials or patience, then change one more time. You may be the one others will try to emulate.
5. Keep it all in perspective: Fly fishing, more than any other type of fishing, is beauty and art in itself. The act of presenting the fly in a proper manner can be almost as satisfying (but not quite) as actually hooking and landing a fish. When you actually begin to learn how to cast, how to get your fly to lie on the water in a natural manner, see the dimple of a fish striking at your presentation, then you begin to learn to appreciate the art of the sport. Of course I love catching fish and that is why I go. I also love to watch the action of the fly knowing I have done my best to properly present it to a potential taker. I still remember my first caught trout and still feel the pride of catching a fish on a fly I tied myself. Enjoy the day, the weather, the company and the shear beauty of the experience. then, and only then, can you call yourself a true fly fisher. Do not allow yourself to become so self assured that you look down upon others who may not be performing to your standards or you will draw my ire and distain. Instead, learn to appreciate everything around you. Fishing is a sport that too few people can really enjoy to the maximum, so try to share what you know with others.
   Take a young person fishing and enjoy the wonder and excitement they feel just being out with you. Enjoy the experience! I truly believe that a day spent fishing is added to your life span and it is always better than a day spent working.

Last Updated on Friday, 20 January 2012 08:32

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