Learn The Fly Fishing Basics and How to Fly Fish!

10 Tips to be a Better Fly Fisher

One of the best parts of learning how to fly fish is that you can never stop learning and becoming a better fly fisherman. There’s always something new to figure out and something out there to help you become a better angler. It may be something to help you spot fish easier in your local river or even something to simply enjoy your time on the water more. The fact is that there is always something you can learn no matter how long you have been at this fine sport. Here is a short list of 10 Tips to be a Better Fly Fisher.

10 Tips to be a Better Fly Fisher - The Fly Fishing Basics

    1. Fish Upstream in Small Waters. Always try to work upstream on small waters. These types of streams don’t usually allow you the options of larger bodies of waters where you can fish down, across and pretty much any other way without spooking fish. By fishing upstream it gives you the advantage of approaching trout from the rear where they are less likely to see you. You can take extreme levels of stealth and crawl on your hands and knees, but if you simply crouch down and avoid jerky movements and keep you shadows off from pools as you approach them, you’ll be just fine. Try to plan your progress up these smaller streams and you increase your odds tremendously.
    2. Dead-Drifting a Streamer. Many anglers fish streamers the typical way. Cast it out and strip it back in. It’s very effective and it’s a way that I fish them 90% of the time. One other great tactic is to try dead-drifting a streamer along a bank so the profile is perpendicular to the current. You can use your line to control the fly in the same way as you would tight-line nymphing. Many times you will induce a strike that is far from subtle with this technique and you can fish two techniques with one style of fly. Go from standard streamer fishing to tight-line nymph/streamer fishing in one go when you see a likely holding spot. Try this one out next time and you just might be surprised how effective it can be.
    3. Casting in Dangerous Crosswinds. We’ve all been there. The wind is howling and it’s blowing directly into your casting arm. It’s a recipe for disaster in the form of massive tangles or worse, a hook in the head. You can overcome this though. Simply turn around and face the other way. Sounds odd at first, but this solves the problem of the wind blowing the line into you and now blows it away from you. the trick now is to just cast normally, but instead you will lay out your presentation on your backcast instead. Basically you just reverse things. It may take a little practice to get fully stop the rod tip on the final backcast and get things to unroll correctly, but this works perfectly on those horribly windy days on the water.
    4. Use Bigger Flies in High Water. High, murky waters are not the time to try and match the hatch. Fish will be opportunistic and snatch up things that are moving quickly by them in the dark waters. The chances of them seeing something larger moving quickly by them are far greater than than size 20 hare’s ear nymph. Larger flies also tend to move a lot of water which can also attract attention and bring fish to your fly. Look to flies like conehead streamers, big stonefly nymphs, larger copper johns, and other flies in the larger than normal sizes. Also, while white and other flashy colors work great, don’t overlook black in dark and off-colored waters.

  1. Making a Delicate Presentation. The simple secret to making a delicate presentation is all in controlling the rod tip. Dropping the rod tip too early in your presentation and your fly line won’t roll out completely and will crash into the water. The rod tip should stop at about eye level to let the loop roll out. At that point is when you should lower your rod tip. This will help let your line roll out and prevent that crash into the water.
  2. How to Fish Thick Lily Pads for Bass. Here’s one for the bass fisherman out there since I don’t have too many tips for them. Bass are known to be able to see through translucent lily pads and will wait in ambush below them where they see food. This is why you see so many early morning TV shows where bass fisherman are pulling rubber worms and other lures over lily pads that cause some pretty vicious strikes. This will work for flies as well. Tie on a dragonfly, grasshopper, frog, or your other favorite bass topwater pattern and cast that onto a lily pad. Let it sit there for a few seconds and then jerk it off the pad into and open hole of water. Hold on as those strikes can be pretty exciting! You may even see the bass nudge the pad from the bottom in an attempt to knock whatever is on top of the pad off. Sounds like pretty exciting topwater fishing to me.
  3. Use the Slip Strike to Prevent Breaking Light Tippets. This is a technique to help if you find yourself breaking fish off on the hookset and when using lighter tippets. Some of us can be somewhat heavy-handed when setting the hook when a fish strikes. I’m guilty of this myself sometimes. We all do it. This is a tip to help combat that feeling of loss when you set that hook just a little too hard, which is called the slip strike. What it does is uses the friction of the fly line against the rod guides to set the hook. As you raise the rod tip, don’t pinch the fly fine as you normally would, but instead make an O with your thumb and forefinger of your line hand and let the line slip through as you raise the rod tip. The tippet can’t break because the tension on the line now is so light compared to actually gripping the line as you normally would.
  4. Think About Your Approach To The Water. Before you wade in and start casting away, stop a ways back from the water’s edge and glance over the water. Take note of where any fish are that you can see, where any fish might be holding, where you might want to try casting, and any other likely holding spots. You may see fish right up next to the bank that you would have spooked had you just walked right on into the water. It can pay off to take a minute and scout out the water and plan your approach. Sometimes you’ll see some of the biggest fish feeding right where you would have walked into.
  5. Use Longer Tippet Than You Would Think. I get many questions about fly fishing leader and tippet. Many of them revolve around the tippet section. A good rule of thumb is that it’s always better too much tippet than too little tippet. When you have less than 20 inches of tippet, you have very little room left for changing flies and it doesn’t help with drag reduction or improving the delicacy of your presentation. Try to use around three to four feet of tippet material on a 9-12 foot leader. This will give you plenty of length to tie on new flies, help with micro-drag in the water and also help with your presentation. If you’re increasing your leader length beyond 12 feet, increase your tippet length as well.
  6. Have a Quick On-The-Water Checklist. There are a lot of moving parts when you’re out fly fishing your favorite lake or river. From there multiple different pieces of gear that are used to the hundreds of different flies we all accumulate and then all of the different tips, tricks, knots, and other techniques, it can get hard to remember everything. That’s where having a quick on-the-water checklist can help you out. This is just a quick mental rundown of things to help you remember to check some of the things that we tend to forget about far too often and only remember when it’s too late, like after your tippet breaks unexpectedly. Here’s a quick sample list of things you can check periodically throughout the day
    • Hook Point (Before you start, every 20 casts, after a snag, after landing a fish)
      • Is it Sharp? Did you crimp the barb? Is the point still there?
    • Fly (Every 20 casts, after landing a fish, after a snag)
      • Is it still floating? Is it still intact? Are there weeds or other items stuck to it? Is it performing as it should?
    • Tippet (Every 20 casts or after landing a fish)
      • Are there any nicks that would weaken it? Any wind-knots in it? Any abrasion that would weaken it?
    • Knots (Every 20 casts or after landing a fish)
      • Are they well-tied and smooth? Are they tight? Give them a tug to check they are holding still.
    • Ferrules (Every 50 casts)
      • Are they properly seated? Are they aligned correctly?
    • Wading Position (After changing positions)
      • Are you in a safe position? Can you get back to shore safely? Is the water rising? Are there any obstacles you need to avoid? Be aware of your surroundings.
    • Personal Health (Hourly)
      • Are you drinking enough water? Do you have enough sunblock? Are you warm/cool enough? Are you too weak to be wading in fast water? Be aware of your condition.

These are justĀ 10 Tips to be a Better Fly Fisher but there are far more out there. Pursuing this sport is an ongoing passion for many of us that lasts a lifetime. Each day and year we learn something new that we can then pass on to the next generation. That’s part of what makes it so great. If you can think of any other fly fishing tips that help make you a better fly fisher, leave them in the comments below.

About Clint Losee

Clint Losee is an avid fly angler of 30+ years, web developer, and Utah Landscape & Nature Photographer. You can connect with him on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter. Curious about some of the gear he uses? Check out the new Amazon store.