Every year I learn a countless amount about fly fishing. I either read something useful, watch a useful video or I learn it directly from someone.This sport is an ever evolving hobby and with that there is always more to learn on and off the water. Here are five simple and important fly tying and fishing tips I've learned that I wish I knew when I first started.
-Tying More Sparse Flies
It’s very tempting when starting off as a fly tier to add too much material. This can inhibit many patterns meant to be tied and fished sparse. The clouser minnow is tied to imitate a small baitfish, most of which are semi translucent, hence the reason for sparse use of bucktail or other materials. Many other flies such as large bass streamers, pike flies, and musky flies are all tied with large profiles. However a large profile does not mean more material, rather how the material is tied on and acts in the water. When flies are stripped through the water the materials become pressed down and the fly becomes smaller, skinnier, and more streamline. but to make flies that imitate larger bait the answer is not to add more material but to tie it on more spread or fanned out. When stripped it doesn’t lay down as much thus resembling larger prey to the predator. Using the method of tying material more fanned it makes for a much lighter fly and and easier fly to cast. Too much material hurts more than it helps and less is usually more.
-Hook Gap Proportions on Poppers
Poppers are awesome, they’re dry flies that yell at the fish and taunt them. But they’re anything but effective when tied incorrectly. Many times poppers are tied with a head to large for the hook they’re being tied on. When this happens the material used and the head itself can block the hook point during a strike causing you to miss and turn fish. To remedy the problem use hooks that may seem a little too large but give you plenty of room to hook the fish. A general rule of thumb for me is at least one and a half head widths need to be open in the space between the hook point and the bottom of the head (this may not work on some more custom heads), Popper fishing is to much fun to loose the fish that erupts on your fly.
-Flash Use is Important
Most baitfish flash in some way when they swim and dart through the water, which is why flash is so important in tons of fly patterns. Tying some flies without flash is like tying a popper that doesn’t pop. Most fish are going to key in on that flash and attack it. Flies without flash loose a big part of what makes a fish hit it. Much like in the first tip of this article you don’t need too much flash to do the trick, depending on the fly you're tying of course. There are many different kinds of flash and some work better than others for different flies. For smaller flies I prefer using Flashabou because it moves and flows in the water more freely than other flash materials. For larger flies I like to use Krystal flash more than Flashabou because it offers more color options and it’s easier to blend. Usually I like to keep the flash ragged on the ends, meaning they’re different lengths and not all cut to the same straight edge. It’s important not to forget the flash in a pattern, it could very well be the difference between a fish and no fish.
-Rethinking Bass Tackle
Earlier this year I attended a seminar by Mike Huffman from Bass Pro. He focused on the tackle side of fly fishing for bass and how the general idea of big rods, reels, and lines aren’t necessary. Usually fly fishing for Largemouth Bass is up close and personal. You aren’t making a ton of long casts with massive flies. So why do you need a nine foot rod to turn your fly over on a long cast? The answer is, you don’t. Bass are strong formidable fish and you do need a fairly sturdy rod to fight them with but not to cast to them with. Mike recommended a seven and a half foot ten weight. It makes sense when you think about it, casting big bugs to bass is not going to produce an artistic loop. It’s more about chucking that fly a short distance accurately. And who needs another two foot of rod getting in the way when you’re chasing a big bucketmouth around flooded timber or under overhanging limbs? Another point Mike made was that not many bass make huge runs into your backing like a Tarpon. Most fish make a solid pull at the beginning but from then on it’s close quarters fish fighting. So why do you need a large 10 weight reel loaded with expensive line when you’re rarely going to get past the first fifty feet? The answer once again is that you don’t. There is nothing wrong with putting a five weight reel on a ten weight rod, nobody wants to blind cast a rod with a heavy ten weight reel that you really don’t need. The truth is that it may not be mainstream (no pun intended) but it seems smarter to switch up your gear for bass based on how bass fishing is done.
-Midge Hatch Must Haves
I’ve often times been out on the water for a day of trout fishing when I notice fish rising, but what they’re rising to is not a well know hatch. Simple midge hatches are overlooked much to often. Many hatches can yield great fish numbers but they’re not super easy to fish. Midges are in general quite small and tying and fishing flies that small is no easy task. Tiny flies are king during midge hatches and if you can tie and fish them there is no reason not to fish size 22’s and size 24’s but for those that can’t, like myself, size 20’s work well and size 18’s can produce some fish too. My go to midge dry fly is the classic, griffiths gnat. Other great patterns are renegades, WD-40’s and of course a parachute adams. I rarely visit the river without these patterns, they always seem to catch fish when many other things aren’t.