Fly Fishing Preparedness
After being asked to write a blog for FlyCast, to be honest, I really struggled on what topic to focus on. It wasn’t until I realized that most information available to anglers is tailored towards those with either advanced expertise or those who have yet to wet a line. The most valuable information to anglers in their 1st through 4th year of fishing is largely ignored. After years of frustration stemming from the fact that everything I was reading was geared for someone with decades or more of experience, it has become my intention to compile some of the key tips we have learned over my past five years of fishing to provide information vital for the intermediate angler.
Part 1: Preparation
As I was preparing for my most recent weekend fishing trip, here is the list I pulled together of the gear that I packed with a little info/stories on why I made sure to include it with the gear I brought.
Fishing licenses not only keep you from receiving a poaching ticket, but provides statistics of all moneys devoted to fish habitat and population conservation and restoration (hug an angler/hunter).
This may seem like a no-brainer, but if sometimes you forget to use your brain – trust me I can relate- generally, you are out of luck. So, don’t forget it.
If you do, you better be resourceful. The Dream Stream (as referenced in our FlyCasts) is a little over 2 hours from Denver, so it is somewhat of a big deal to head out there, especially for the intermediate angler. There is little comparison to the amount of anxiety that you feel pulling up to a parking lot full of other- especially older/more experienced- anglers all racing to get their gear on and be the first to their special fishing hole. The last thing that you want is to be the last of your group to be ready. Well, after the rush of pulling on the waders and cinching up the boots passed, it was time to start rigging up the rod. Only problem, I left my rod at home…. Panic, shear PANIC is the state I was in after realizing that I was facing days of planning and hours of driving all for not because I was stupid enough not to grab my rod. What to do…. I had watched many Bear Grills and Les Miles shows so I felt like I knew how to make a rod using only a willow reed and some tippet- NOT. I was up a river without a paddle, or at least on a bank without a rod. In some cases, I would argue this is worse. Luckily for me, my buddy had his wife’s pink Wal-Mart spin rod in the back of his car. More of this story can be found here, but long story short, I was able to rig up the pink rod with a fly fishing reel and catch a few fish. It was not the ideal situation, but at the end of the day, it was an example of improve which is a reoccurring necessity that as an intermediate angler is invaluable. From fishing flies that don’t quite match the hatch to tying flies with materials that don’t quite match the materials called for, improv and the ability to adjust on the fly can be invaluable.
See other blogs by FlyCast for a more detailed explanation of the truly amazing traits this bag has to offer. This is the most basic form of a bag that is large enough to hold your waders, boots, fly pack/fishing vest, and net. It allows you to spend money on what makes sense and provides a singular bag to hold all of your most important fishing gear. Anyway, the following contents are what you can find in my Go-Bag packed the night before.
Notice that all following items can be stored within an appropriately sized bag.
Purchase what will work for the amount of fishing that you will be doing. I started with a basic pair from Cabela’s. They come with a life time warranty and are fairly cost effective for a hobby that you may or may not fall in love with. If you don’t end up using them every weekend, you at least didn’t break the bank buying them. If you do end up like the rest of us, you have a lifetime warranty on them, so anytime they spring a leak, you can take them back for a new pair and upgrade as time goes on.
Boots are very much the same as waiters. Purchase what you can afford, exchange when need be from dealers who offer lifetime warranties, and upgrade from there. I am on my third pair of boots from Cabela’s and have only paid for the initial pair.
I would suggest getting a pair of rubber soled boots with screw studs. Some states have outlawed felt soled boots as they can transport invasive species from one body of water to another. Colorado is the state that we focus on, and even though felt soles have not been outlawed, the conservationist that I hope we all have within us will sway you to go with the more environmentally friendly version. Also, felt tends to pick up a TON of snow when trekking along the banks of rivers during winter months making it difficult to navigate through dense willows.
Go with a rubber mesh net. My first net was a nylon blend with very tight meshing. Although this is better than the nylon nets with large holes, as they tend to be more damaging for the fish, I found that the majority of my flies would get stuck in the nylon blend netting forcing me to cut the flies out of the net. This forced me to keep the fish out of the water longer than intended. My remedy for this was to purchase a replacement bucket on amazon. They go for about $20 and are easily replaced by following the plentiful videos on youtube, assuming you get the correct size bucket for the dimensions your net.
I started out with a hand-me-down vest from my father. I absolutely loved it until I was introduced to the fanny pack style fishing bags. For starters, they look cool, but allow you the ability to have everything organized in one place and to simply move it behind you to get it out of your way. It also makes for a great place to hold your net. You can’t lose either way, just go for what makes you most comfortable. After all, you will be spending hours upon hours on the water with this decision.
Rely on your local fly shops and FlyCast for more information about this. Anglers All, in Littleton, has an awesome selection of flies and tying material online and in store. The one thing that the shops won’t tell you regarding flies is organization. There is nothing worse than trying to match the hatch based on the bugs you are seeing on/in the water or trying to match what your fishing buddy is out fishing you with and not knowing if/where that fly is in your box. It wasn’t until my Fiancé found a fly box floating down the Arkansas River that I realized the importance of an organized fly box. Not only was this box packed with all of the flies that we were told to use from the local fly shop, but it was organized by life stage and color! I took a look at it and thought to myself “are you kidding me? Who would put the time into organizing a box like that?” Since there was no one around for miles, and no one we could return the flies to, as any novice angler would do, we tried out the newly discovered flies. We sifted the water and scoped the surface to get a good idea of what was available to the trout and found it so easy to pair what we saw on the river with what was in the box. From that day on, I continuously organize my fly box and work to know where every type of fly is so that I don’t waste any time locating it or even worse, skip fishing that fly because I don’t realize that I have it in my box buried under a variety of unsuitable flies.
Tippet, this is something that I really struggled with and still do. How do you know what size to use for the fish you are fishing for? How do you know what size to use for the flies that you are fishing with? How do you know whether to spend the money to purchase fluorocarbon or basic nylon tippet? The answer: everyone has a different opinion. I have talked to seasoned anglers that say there is no difference between fluorocarbon and nylon tippet and others who say they wouldn’t dare use nylon tippet. The biggest difference to the consumer is price. The average difference in price between the two will be around $10. Knowing that a spool of tippet with last the beginner angler 6 – 8 months, I believe it’s worth spending the extra cash for the peace of mind knowing you are using the highest quality tippet.
Information on this is hard to find. Weight a.k.a split shot, is used to get subsurface flies deep enough to reach the depths where the fish are feeding. This all depends on the depth of the water and varies constantly throughout any river system. There is no exact science for how much or little weight to use when fishing subsurface flies but the best advice I have had is “if you are confident in the fly you are fishing, adjust the depth you are fishing by adding or subtracting weight.” I realize this is vague but such is the sport. Be innovative and be willing to change your tactics based upon what the river and the fish are offering.
These are vital in the nymphing game and come in all sorts of sizes, colors, and variations. The most common are balloon types that can be easily tied onto a leader with a simple loop not. I have a background of fishing with my dad using a spin caster primarily from a canoe on mountain lakes. When we weren’t using SuperDupers or PantherMartins, we were fishing with suspended bait using bobbers as “strike indicators.” The strike indicators I am referring to provide the same purpose. When a fish strikes the bait or the fly, the strike indicator ‘indicates a strike’ which should be followed by you setting the hook. I have heard many opinions on these but have concluded that the most effective strike indicators to purchase are those that you can see, that suspend your flies on top of the river bottom, and are hard enough for the fish to see. In other words, find a happy medium between a strike indicator that you can see and one that won’t feel like a cannonball hitting the water every time you cast. This will take some experience to really understand but should be fairly apparent once you are on the water. Ideally, you don’t want a ping pong ball sized pink strike indicator in slow and clear water because the fish can see that. On the other hand, you don’t want one that is so discrete that you can’t see the strikes. Find that happy medium.
Floatant is used to keep your dry flies above the water. There are various types of floatants available at any fly shop. They generally come in a gel like liquid which you rub on the fly itself or in a powder which you shake onto the fly. Either type works well to keep dry flies on top of the water and should be available to any beginner or intermediate angler within their fishing gear.
You never know when you will need an extra leader. Whether you are fishing for the first time in a few months and forgot that you absolutely trashed your leader the last time you fished (this happens to me all the time) or if you end up getting a bad snag where most of your leader is lost, make sure you always have a backup. Simply buy two each time you need to replace one so that you always have a spare on you when the time comes that you really need to replace your leader.
No reason to go expensive with these. Clippers are an essential part of your fishing gear. They are probably used more than any other piece of equipment but as long as they are sharp, there is no need to break the bank on these.
These are incredibly useful for removing difficult flies in a fish’s mouth but similar to clippers, as long as they are able to serve their purpose, there is no need to go for the expensive ones.
No explanation needed. However, always avoid glass bottles.
There is nothing worse than fishing in a wet pair of socks all day.
Not only do these help you look like you know what you are doing, but they can quite literally keep you from becoming a redneck. Protect that skin!
There is nothing better than a nice pair of polarized shades to cut the glare off the water to help with sight fishing and to protect your eyes from harmful UV rays on the water. You get what you pay for when it comes to sunglasses. I have always had good luck finding nice sunglasses for unbeatable prices on sites like SteepandCheap.com.
Don’t be a hangry angler! We are generally on the water for hours at a time. Having a snack bar or bag of trail mix can keep you sharp, focused, and on the water longer.
First Aid Kit essentials: be prepared
Alcohol prep pads
The reoccurring theme of this blog is being prepared and that is exactly what this site is designed to help you with. The more you prepare before you leave the house, the better your fishing trip will be. Be sure to check out FlyCast’s reports and forecasts for the most up-to-date river info prior to hitting the water and TIGHT LINES EVERYONE!