"A Master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play; his labor and his leisure; his mind and his body; his education and his recreation. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing. To himself, he always appears to be doing both." - Francois Auguste Rene Chateaubriand
No matter where you find yourself in your fly fishing journey – from first-timer to crusty old veteran – there’s always more to learn or something new to try. Do the work of education and reap the benefits of recreation.
As you look to improve your fly fishing game this year, here are a few things to consider:
Casting and Fly Rod Fundamentals
Someone interested in becoming a boxer doesn’t step into the ring for the very first time and win by KO. It requires reflexes, muscles, and timing, and envisioning the opponent with each swing. Moves that seemed awkward and difficult at the beginning become more natural and intuitive.
Casting is not so different from many other sports. It begins with simple repetition and muscle memory. Before you take it to the water, practicing on dry ground is a great place to start. Try tying a piece of yarn to the end of your leader (hooks get stuck in the grass) and work on your casting motion. You might even consider signing up for a casting class at your local fly shop. It’s amazing what a few simple pointers can do.
With confidence in your cast and your ability to deliver flies with some accuracy, you’ll be able to take those skills to the water with much less frustration. For many new anglers the next big challenge will be line management - for more on that topic, see this previous post.
If you’re already an experienced angler, that doesn’t mean you can neglect the fundamentals. Keep at it and keep learning – many fly shops offer advanced casting classes. Don’t wait to take your casting skills to the next level. Improving your casting efficiencies will undoubtedly make you a better angler.
Fish Fewer Patterns
You can have fly boxes loaded with patterns for the stages and life-cycles of every aquatic and terrestrial food source. But if your presentation isn’t right – all the patterns in the world may not help.
Perhaps your goal this year is to fish fewer patterns and to focus on presentation. Take the time to recognize where fish are feeding in the water column. And then present your patterns accordingly.
By fishing fewer patterns, you are training yourself to think more strategically; practice around strategy builds intuition. You can show up to any stream, be able to analyze the situation, and trust your instincts. When prospecting in unfamiliar waters, start out with attractor patterns. Adjust depth until you begin to recognize where the trout are keying in.
Follow the Seams
Most fish prefer edge habitats – places where varying types of water or structure collide. That might be along fast and slow water; where a current collides with a cut bank, or a foam line along an eddy. In stillwater, this might be a drop-off from shallow to deep water or the edge of a weed bed. Follow the seams, and you’ll often find fish.
These are the places where fish can quickly move between areas of security and their breakfast buffet. Where fast water collides with slow pools, you’ll notice the formation of foamy, bubbly lines. Look for places like these where oxygen-rich water and abundant food sources collide with the safety of darker water or protective structure.
Remember, wherever there are seams, there is often life and action.
Take Your Time to Learn
One of the things we love about fly fishing is that there’s always more to learn. That might be knots, casting techniques, or the entomology and life cycles of aquatic insects. There are differences between rivers and stillwater situations. If you’re a trout angler, try targeting warmwater species like bass. No matter where you’re at in your fly fishing journey, take your time to learn more.
There are enough books, YouTube videos and online forums to fill your downtime for the rest of eternity. To avoid analysis paralysis, pick one or two things this year you’d like to learn. Euro nymphing? Fish more streamers? Focus on something you’ve wanted to try, and take the time this year to begin mastering it.
Not sure where to begin? Your local fly shop is an excellent resource.
Fly Rods and Equipment
If you’re learning to fish, consider investing in a quality fly rod and reel combo. If you’re working on a new technique like euro nymphing, stillwater fishing or spey casting, find the right rod for that application. Need help picking the right fly rod? See this previous article on that topic.
As you’re on the water more often, protect your investment with a Riversmith River Quiver roof rack. Keep your rigged fly rods safe and ready for quick deployment as you move from spot to spot.
This year, take your fly fishing game to the next level. What are your goals? No matter where you’re headed, be safe, have fun and enjoy the journey!
Written by Riversmith staff. To learn more, visit Riversmith.com.