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Five Tips for Fly Fishing Success

By Randy Beck, Ultimate Sportfishing | Published in April 2012

How to be successful in fly fishing

Want to be a better fly fisher? Read the 5 fundamental tips from Randy Beck at Ultimate Sportfishing below to increase your fly fishing success! Randy and his experienced guides offer airport shuttle service, comfortable accommodations and guided Fraser River sturgeon and salmon fishing trips.

Tip #1: Practice your Casting

Practice makes perfect, we all have heard it a hundred times, but with fly fishing there is nothing more true, if you want to make the perfect cast and hit the fish holding spots every time - you have to practice. When a client asks how to become a better fly fisherman, I always ask them how often they practice away from the river or lake, and the anglers that need the most work consistently say never. I am constantly reminding people that in order to develop a good casting technique, it is critical that they practice on a regular basis throughout the year. This will lead to a proficiency in casting that can make all the difference between being a successful fly fisherman or a frustrated one.

Try practicing against a wall on the outside of your house. Just imagine that there is a clock hanging on the wall that is at the same level as your shoulder. Place markers, such as black electric tape, at the 11:00 and 1:00 clock positions. Practice casting against these markers for a few minutes each day to improve your accuracy and style. Set up a few dishes or even a hula hoop as a larger target in the yard or an open field and work on your ability to land a fly into the target. At first it may be very difficult, but in time you will be nailing small targets most of the time.

Tip #2: Tying Effective Knots

The knot is the biggest cause of fly fishing failure that you have control over, you may not be able to control a fish going into heavy cover and breaking you off, but you can make sure that you do not make a cast with a poor knot. When tying a knot the line will immediately lose strength because very few knots will ever be at 100% of the rated strength for a line. However, there are several actions an angler can take when tying on a fly to increase the likely hood that the knot will hold true. These are few techniques that have worked well for us and our clients.

  • Moisten the knot before pulling the line tight
  • Tighten the knot slowly and smoothly
  • Watch for any weak frays or abrasion in the line
  • Test the knot with a strong consistent pull
  • Look at the line when the knot is completed and is not showing stress
  • These techniques will reduce the chance of a knot failure occurring at that moment when you least want it.

Tip #3: Keeping Track of Patterns

The best fly fishers record basic details after a fishing trip in a written log or excel sheet to refer to in the future as it can be very easy to forget some of the subtle details and patterns that emerge on each fishing day. This is most important if you fish the same bodies of water consistently as you can keep track of working patterns and refer to them year after year before going fishing. Make note of the problems and also remember to log what was occurring during completely unsuccessful days. Sometimes you learn a whole lot about a specific body of water by not catching a single fish all day because you can eliminate water, techniques, and lures for the next day. While very frustrating by logging and referring back to your fishing log you can avoid these same mistakes the next time you have a similar situation out on the water and continue to experiment and find what is working instead of repeating the past mistakes.

Here are the most important details to record in your fishing log:

  • Date – Time of Catches
  • Water Conditions
  • Water Temperature
  • Weather / Moon Phase
  • Currents / Tides
  • Bottom Features
  • Vegetation
  • Fish Sizes
  • Fly - Size and Color
  • Line Size & Type
  • Other – Any unusual activity such as birds working bait fish, unique weather such as hail, lots of other boat activity

After a period of time you more than likely will notice patterns emerging, such as the lack of bites on days when the water temperature is too hot or too cold. This will be your indicating factor of what changes you have to make to break your unlucky streak, such as changing the time of day that you fish or changing the side of the lake that you fish from.

Tip #4: Learn to Read the Water

Fish will behave differently depending on certain water conditions that change depending on what season it is. This includes the temperature of the water, what the weather is like, and the volume of the water. If you want to become a successful fly angler you'll have to learn how to read the waters where you're fishing.

Some of the things that you'll discover as you learn to read the water are:

  • During non-feeding periods, fish can still be encouraged to strike if they are in a deep pocket of water.
  • When fish are feeding they are usually found in the shoreline of runs of pools and in moderate water pockets.
  • Large underwater boulders can be seen by the eddies behind them and they are likely fish holding locations.
  • Where the fish holding pools and fish highway tail outs meet.

Tip #5: Keep an Eye Out for Structure

When you're looking around for a place to cast your line it's important that you look around for structures both on the shore and those in the water. Key features like main lake points can be visible from shore and yet extend way out into a lake. Other key areas include elements such as a large boulder or stone, a log that is submerged, or the tail end of a pool. These are great places to find fish since they are conducive to a fish that is looking to rest and can be the perfect ambush zones that allow a fish to easily target its prey without wasting lots of energy chasing its food in open water situations. Fish are known to congregate near structures, and the best will resemble a feeding station that brings the food directly to the fish lying in wait. As a fly fisherman it is essential to present a fly into these areas even though it is more likely to hang up in these places, the biggest and wisest fish will always be nearby. If you are not occasionally loosing a fly due to being to close to the cover in the water then you are fishing too timid and need to get your fly where the fish live.

These tips cover only a few of the basics designed to make you a better fly fisherman, use these tips to your next fishing trip and I'm sure hook and land more fish.