Most of the problems that many beginners encounter when taking up fly fishing relate to the premise that this form of angling is inherently complicated. In reality, fly fishing is fundamentally simple. The sport does involve a learning curve, but through the process of asking questions and seeking guidance, this past-time will quickly be demystified. There are three basic fly fishing techniques to consider when going after trout, and never lose sight of the ultimate goals of getting out on the water. Catching fish is a lot of fun, but spending the day chasing trout with a fly rod is all about enjoying the outdoors while getting away from the hassles of everyday life.
Fishing with nymphs is the bread and butter of fly fishing
The primary advantage of fly fishing over fishing with conventional gear lies in the ability to present very small offerings to a fish in a way that closely mimics nature. By utilizing a floating fly line and a weighted fly, it is quite easy to drift a pattern near the bottom where the majority of fish feed. Nymph techniques are primarily used in trout fishing, but this method is also productive for catching bass and other species of fish.
A basic “nymphing” rig consists of a weighted fly and a strike indicator, which is basically a “bobber” that functions to keep the pattern off of the bottom while alerting the angler when there they get a bite. It is also common to utilize a non-weighted fly with a split-shot affixed to the leader. The biggest challenge of nymph fishing is figuring out how much weight is needed to keep the fly in the strike-zone for the longest time possible, and it can also be difficult to figure out how deep to set the fly below the indicator. It is necessary to make constant adjustments until you figure out what the fish want on that particular day.
The most common and effective way to fly fish with a nymph is to cast slightly upstream into a riffle or off of a drop-off. Try to have the fly line, strike indicator and fly drift at the same speed as the current. Fly anglers catch most of their fish with nymphing rigs because trout primarily feed near the river bottom. Streams with high concentrations of selective trout may require using very tiny flies fished deep. Patterns like Zebra Midges, Pheasant Tails and Hare’s Ears are staple flies that should be in every fly fisherman’s box.
Dry fly fishing: Learn to match the hatch
Perhaps the most common image that most people have of fly fishing involves a large trout taking a fly that is floating on the surface of the water. Fooling a fish in a way that results in a “rise” is one of the most thrilling events that can be experienced while fishing. In a perfect world, trout would rise all day long to insects that are easy to identify, but this is not usually how it happens. Rather, the best way to achieve consistent productivity is to fish with whatever fly will work best at the moment. Trying to coax a fish to suck down a dry fly can lead to frustration if there is no hatch coming off.
If you notice bugs starting to fly around while on a trout stream, it is time to study the situation in order the figure out the best course of action. Take notice of whether or not there are adult insects actually floating on the water’s surface, and study the stream intently in an effort to spot feeding fish. If there is no doubt that trout are rising to insects on the water, it is time to try and identify what types of bugs are out. It is wise to have a selection of dry flies in a variety of colors. Beginners should be sure that they have some caddis and general mayfly imitations before hitting the water.
Some fly anglers prefer to only fish with dry flies, and while this practice may limit their productivity; such fishermen experience the thrill of a rising trout more than those who fish with nymphs during non-hatch periods. If the hatches are light, but you still want to catch a fish on a dry fly, try using an attractor pattern. These flies, like the Royal Coachman, Royal Trudes and terrestrial imitations will draw trout to the surface out of instinct. Fly fishing with attractor dry flies exploits the opportunistic nature of trout as a species.
Imitating smaller fish: This is what streamers are for
Once you have a decent grasp of nymph and dry fly fishing, it is worth exploring flies that imitate the smaller fish in a trout’s diet. Streamers are flies that can be tied to look like and act like the tiny baitfish that predator fish feed on. These patterns are usually fished by casting the fly out as far as needed and then slowly stripping it back in. Anglers must rely on feel when fishing with streamers, but it is not hard to tell when you get a strike.
There are streamers available to mimic almost any type of fish, but most beginners realize success using a variety of Wooly Bugger patterns. These are simple flies to fish and they are very suggestive of many different types of aquatic life. Over time, you will encounter situations where sinking tips and weighted lines will become handy tools for getting a streamer near the bottom, but when first learning this technique, a floating line and a weighted fly will suffice.
Learning the art of fly fishing is a journey, not a destination. Take your time and enjoy the education. Each stage of this sport follows a natural progression, so be sure to learn the basics before tackling advanced techniques. Every fly fishing method has its time and place, and by gaining an understanding of what type of fly is appropriate for each situation, it will not be long before you will feel confident in your strategies.