Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Fly Fishing is for Trout Only? Why?!

So I wanted to take a pause from my series on how to fish different types to flies. Many of us got into fishing because we were drawn to the idea of standing in the middle of a river with the trees surrounding us and some sort of mountain scenery all around you. This is all well and good and is still what I enjoy most to this day however there is a period of time, most notably between May and June where the snow runoff turns most of our streams into raging rapids. The Kayakers get all geeked out about this but it isn't good for us anglers. You will go down to your local fly shop and see a lot of sad faces. People will throw out the terms "Blown-out" and "Chocolate Milk" to refer to the favorite stream. However in the back, tying up something that vaguely looks like a leech or some other random giant streamer is a guy with a huge smile on his face. If you talk to this guy you will find out that he has been fishing every day for the last two months in the local lake.

Perhaps some of you are turned off by the idea of super speedy boats, sponsored guys on ESPN throwing some worm into the same spot a thousand times. Or perhaps the thought of a can of worms and a bobber makes you want to pass out. However we are fly fisherman, none of these things apply to us! There is no shame in throwing out a streamer and slowly retrieving it along a bank of weeds and hooking up with a large mouth. Not only is there no shame it is downright fun.

I highly encourage you all to get out there and try some warm water fishing. My favorite species to go after are Carp. Now before you talk about how gross they are or how easy they are to catch I can just stop you right there and state that you are wrong. Sure I could chum the waters with dog food and probably catch a Carp, but then again I could sit on the bank with a can of worms to, that isn't what I am talking about. I enjoy trying to sneak up on a Carp that I can see, place the fly 1-2 feet in front of where I think he might swim and then strip the line when he gets close. If all goes well (and it usually doesn't for me) then you have a fight on your hand that will take you into your backing. I promise to go into this more one of these days and post up some tactics and such, but for now hopefully this sparks some of you to get out there and try. Or of course you can go mope around the fly shop with the other guys. I will be off fishing with the guy in the back!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Tactics for Nymph Fishing

Continuing on with this week's discussion on how to fish with Nymphs I figured it would be a good idea to let the beginner angler know what tactics work best with Nymphs. As I mentioned in the first Fishing with Nymphs post it is important to time your casts correctly so that the fly gets down to where the fish are eating at the spot where you think the fish is. This is very important. Also if you are fishing a multiple fly rig it is best to always put the heaviest Nymph on first so that it will drag all of the trailers behind. Not sure what a multiple fly rig is? Well it is where you tie on multiple flies to your line. This is done primarily by taking some tippet and tying it to the hook bend of the previous fly. I will go into this later in this blog I am sure, but for now this is an easy way to get multiple flies in the water and increase your odds of picking something the fish really want to eat.

Finding the fish

It is important to remember the third dimension when Nymphing. You will have to judge the depth of the water and the current to tie on the right amount of tippet. The deeper and faster the current the more you should tie on, the shallower and slower the less amount of tippet is required. When in doubt I tie on somewhere between 6inchs to a foot of tippet and then just trim it down from there if I am scraping the bottom.

Examine the picture below. I will go over how and where to throw a nymph in each of these positions.

Z1 and Z3 – The pool/eddy

The section shown in Z1 is probably one of your better chances to catch fish in this spot, although a decent nymph presentation is slightly more difficult. The reason for this is you are trying to get a Nymph to float into an area with very little flow. To do this you must gain some momentum by casting into the left side of Rift 1 (R1). I am not sure actually if rift is the right term but I think it sounds all sy-fi and awesome so I am sticking with it. By casting into the left side of the rift the nymph will get down faster to close to the bottom and then tail off around the rock into the eddy, where hopefully you are ready for that giant Brown Trout named "Bubba" to eat it up.

R1 And R2 – The flowing water

It is important to remember that Trout are extremely lazy. Some people might scoff at that but it is true. They will not just sit in R1 or R2 and constantly swim upstream. They will either be in Z1, Z2, or Z3 and dart out into the rifts for big juicy bugs they see go through then right back to being lazy. With that being said it is very important to throw at least one or two casts straight down the middle of these rifts. They will sink fast and get to the bottom quickly and if you are fishing something a decent size and shiny enough you just might snag a big one. Also I will tend to make my first couple of cast straight into these because if I mess up it will be less noticeable than in one of the calmer sections. I will almost always work from the middle of these out. So a good few casts for me would be right in the middle of R1, then to the left side of R1 and then try to do the Z1 cast described above.

Z2 – The middle water

Think about it this way. Seriously… stop and imagine you were a trout. Where do you think the majority of the food ends up on this section. IF you guessed Z2 I would say you are correct. Although you will probably find the giant fish in Z1 that is for protection only that that fish is there. You will find a lot of fish in areas like Z2 because they can feed off of both the rifts R1 and R2. Again a decent approach to this is to cast to the right of R1 and work your way to the middle. Alternatively you can cast to the left of R2 and do the same.


So hopefully this will shed some light on how to dissect a section of the stream for some good fishing. Now of course various things change everything I just said above. Like if the water is very clear you'll probably have good luck right down the middle of R1 and R2. If it is somewhat off color then the eddies will work the best, and you will probably need a bigger or more flashier fly to attract the fish. Bottom line though, your best chances to catch fish are with a Nymph. So if you are a dry fly purist (..you're probably not reading this blog) trust me and tie one on to the end of your dry fly.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Fishing with Nymphs

As I mentioned in my Article About Bugs post I will be going over how to fish each type of fly. I figured I will start with the hardest. While Nymphing may seem like it is the easiest because there is not as big of a need for presentation of the fly, it is the hardest because it can be nearly impossible to detect all strikes. As an example of this, go get a friend and have them stand on a bridge and spot fish. Then throw the Nymph normally. In most cases your buddy will see the fish take the nymph and spit it back out a couple of times before you even detect a strike. Just the thought of a fish on the end of the line and me not knowing makes me a little sick to my stomach. Another issue with fishing with Nymphs is that the fly will often bounce around on the bottom or even catch a stick or two and the angler thinks that these are strikes.

Yet most trout eat somewhere around 80% of their diet underwater so it is very important for a beginner to understand how to fish with Nymphs to be successful. Unlike dry fly fishing Nymphing requires the angler to think about depth as well. If the fish are eating off the bottom then when you make your cast you will need to give your nymph diving time so that it reaches the location where you think the fish are at the perfect position.

With all of those cautionary words odds are you catch more fish Nymphin than you do on dries. Plain and simple they eat more Nymphs than anything else, so here are some tools to help you be successful.

Strike Indicators

A strike indicator is generally some sort of giant yarn or bobble, or whatever tied up the fly line that floats on the water. This is what the angler watches when Nymphing. Overtime you will be able to detect strikes very efficiently with one of these devices. I say overtime because for a while you will be ripping your rig out of the water every time the indicator stops because it hits a rock. Do not beat yourself up about doing this, as a matter of fact I say set it every time it does something unnatural. I would rather rip it out of the water and recast than tell myself "it was a rock" and have it be that record brown trout.

Polarized Sunglasses

Not only will they help you see the fish in the water which is always useful, but if you are using a very small strike indicator or a clear one you have to be able to see it for it to be effective. I highly recommend some good Costa Del Mar sunglasses. Any polarized sunglasses will do the trick but Costa Del mar has a lifetime warranty and if they break you can just send them back and they ship you a new pair. I have had this happen before and I had the new ones within a week. So they will always get my recommendation.


If you get strictly into Nymph fishing you can buy all sorts of other items to help you catch fish. There are sinking lines you can get. You can use split shot (please use the nontoxic kind, lead is poisonous to fish… and most everything else). For the most part however you can use the exact same setup you fish for dries.

With all of that being said my favorite setup is called a Hopper Dropper, or a dry dropper. This means you use a dry fly on top and you tie on a Nymph to the bend in the hook with some tippit. The dry fly or hopper becomes your strike indicator and you can catch fish on both hooks! I will go over some of these advanced rigs in the future.

Friday, June 11, 2010

An Article About Bugs (Entomology)

First and foremost Entomology is the study of bugs. You will hear some fisherman throw this term around mainly to sound smart. I usually just call it "bugs I fish with". As with most things and this article the topic can go very deep and be overwhelming. Just walk into any fly shop and shout the word "Entomology" and you will get what I am talking about. The bottom line is this, fish eat bugs (primarily) and so you must know something about bugs in order to catch more fish. Simple as that.

Type 1: Nymphs

Now some of you who are reading a beginner blog may already be up in arms about this. Not all flies go through a nymph stage. Some go through a larval stage and then directly into a fly after metamorphosis, but then again some things we call flies aren't even flies. So for the sake of this article the term Nymph means "any insect that we try to imitate under the water". There are a ton of different types and sizes of nymphs, the important thing to remember is that most fish eat the majority of their diet under water. Now everyone loves to see a fish come to the surface and smash a giant hopper (hence the name of this blog) but the fact of the matter is nine times out of ten you will catch a lot more fish under the surface. Nymphs are generally smaller and look like all sorts of different bugs that float along in the water. If you want to take a good look at some, flip over any rock in your local stream. It may take a bit for your eyes to focus but after a short time you will see the rock teeming with life. These are what fly fisherman call Nymphs. The best thing to do is take a look under the rock and get a general idea of the size of Nymph, then reach into your fly box and get something that looks close to the size. Generally, when you are starting off you will have less flies available to you so just grab the correct size and have at it. Latter on you will be able to detect the abundance of one particular nymph over another and match the size and type exactly. I've been at this over a year and I am just barely getting to be able to tell the difference, so take it slow.

Type 2: Emerger or wet flies.

Emerger isn't even a real word, but that doesn't stop us fly fishermen. This isn't really a stage of an insect but what happens is when say a Caddis fly hatches out of its cocoon after it's larva state it has to get out of the water to fly. So it swims/floats/flounders it's way to the top of the water. From there it will take off and head directly for your face to bug you. Emergers or wet flies are fished just below or half on and half off the surface. They can look like the scenario I said above or they can be various other bugs that are crippled and couldn't make it out of the water. The best thing to remember when fishing an emerger is that a lot of times the strike will come when you are taking the fly out of the water. This is because as the fly goes towards the surface it looks more and more like it should and your chances of the fly being hit increase dramatically.

Type 3: Dry Flies

The grand daddy of fly types. This is like the holy grail of fishing. Everyone wants to throw down a perfect cast that just barely taps the water as it lands and then is promptly hammered by a giant trout. These are meant to imitate flies or bugs that have either fallen into the water or land on the water for a drink. The Caddis fly for instance will tend to hop along the water even in fast moving currents. I have literally no idea why they do this other than to taunt the trout. Maybe they all just hang around daring each other or something bit it makes little to no logical sense. Because of this some of the best hits I have had was when I would let the fly swing past me and then "skeet" it along the top of the water while stripping the line back in. The dry fly category includes terrestrial flies. These are bugs that generally want nothing to do with the water but ended up there anyways. Bugs like grass hoppers, crickets, beetles, ants, gnats, etc etc. These are extremely fun to fish when the fish are hitting them.

In the coming days I will give some examples of how to cast and fish these different sets of flies, as well as go over some advanced rigs that you can fish to increase your odds, so stay tuned!

Friday, June 4, 2010

A short piece of advice...

When the fishing is slow it is good to stop and look around! This is what I looked up and saw and the frustrations of no carp biting my fly went away instantly. This blog will talk a lot about gear and tactics over the years but there will be no shortage of these.

From Colorado Pictures

Also... I am trying to work this guy into my logo :)

From Colorado Pictures

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Fly Rod And Reel Selection

When selecting a Fly rod the beginner and even some people who have had the same rod for a long time can feel overwhelmed. In just the short time I have been fly fishing it seems as though the technology has changed almost daily, and yet a rod is a rod it seems to me. When choosing a rod the major factors to consider have nothing to do with the rod itself. It has more to do with you the angler than what the rod is capable of doing. Think of it like golf clubs, every golf club will hit a ball. They all are made to do basically the same thing, yet that doesn't stop me from hitting them all into the trees now does it. Below are some of the factors you should consider before even holding a rod in your hands.

  • Budget - This is first for a big reason. You can spend anywhere from $50 to "ohh my god my savings is gone". Set a budget that is realistic for you and keep in mind there are some very shiny rods and reel setups that cost a thousand dollars that may fish just as well for you as the ones that cost two hundred. It is very realistic for you to spend somewhere in the $200-$400 range and never need a new rod and reel this lifetime.
  • Where will you fish - If you are surrounded by small streams and creeks then there is no need to get a giant 12' rod with 15 weight line on it. It seems like a fairly simple concept but from what I understand it is generally overlooked because people like to rush into the sport and just get out and fish. Thinking about this ahead of time will benefit you for a long time to come.
  • Will you be traveling - If you think you may be traveling with your rod and reel then it will be important to get at least a 4 piece rod so that it is easily packable. They even have 5 piece rods now I believe which are even more convenient. If you're like me you have grand dreams of fly fishing the world and catching all the exotic fish that can be found in a lifetime. Of course I haven't fished more than a few miles from my house in the past 2 years, but that doesn't stop me from dreaming.
As you can probably tell these things have more to do with a broader "what are your goals?" type of questions. I haven't even gotten into line weights, action, or length yet. However if you know the answer to these questions it will make your setup buying experience a thousand times easier.

Rod Size

Here is a general table you can follow to help you in your selection. Keep in mind there are a thousand different combinations of this very brief table that you can choose from. This is just to simplify things.

UsageLengthLine weightExample
Small Stream, delicate presentation, short casting7'-8'2-4Fenwick Eagle GT
Stream/creek longer casts7'- 8'5Fenwick HMX
Various conditions rivers, creeks, etc8'-9 1/2'6-7Ross Essence FS
Larger Game fish, very long casts9' - 12'10-15Ross Worldwide Essence FS

For adults I recommend the highlighted rod above. It is the most versatile and will get you through most situations. For example I caught a few trout the other weekend then went over and caught probably a 3 foot carp on the same setup. I just switch the flies. I have a 9' 5/6w rod, which falls squarely in that category of rod highlighted above. For children it may be better to go with a shorter more manageable rod such as the first one in the table above. These are the easiest rods to cast and are also the most forgiving.


To add another wrinkle to the rod selection is the action of the rod. Basically this defines how stiff the rod is, again to use the golf club analogy this would be the flex of the club. The rods I have in the table above are almost all slow - medium action rods. You can however get a fast action 7' rod I believe so make sure you check this before buying.

  • Slow - These are very flexible rods that bend uniformly throughout the rod. They are very accurate at close range and have a very delicate fly presentation.
  • Medium - These are the middle of the road between casting distance and accuracy. They flex more towards the upper half of the rod.
  • Fast - These flex almost all the way in the upper third of the rod. You can cast for miles with these if you know what you are doing. They are less forgiving however and you will end up with a fly earring if you aren't careful. Unless you fish for Tarpon all day long I would stay away from these as a beginner.


Some people will go on and on about reels and how some are better than others. I have yet to even tell the difference between the two reels I have except one is a lot shinier than the other one and I think it looks cooler. Essentially make sure that your reel is decently constructed, the spool sits tightly in the reel to avoid the line catching, and that it can hold the line weight and the length of line that your rod requires. Other than that there are a few nice things about some reels. Some have gears in them which can mean 1 turn of the knob equals 4 turns of the spool and things like that. I have yet to find a need for that but it seems cool, and perhaps helps on the ocean when you have a lot more line in the water. Others have interchangeable spools so you can swap out lines. This is actually a fairly cool feature that I am thinking about upgrading to as I want to try to catch different types of fish.


So now you know the basics of selecting a rod and reel setup. This article could have gone on for days, months, and years however this will get you by as a beginner. You can bury yourself in information but these are the basics and should get you out on the water very quickly.

Of course if you would like the easiest possible route that gets you a travel case, rod, reel and fly line already you can do what I did and buy this Ross Worldwide Essence FS Fly Fishing Outfit. There are many other quick start kits like that. I like them because they get you on the water fast and you can learn what your preference is from there without a huge investment.