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Top 10 Tips For the New Season

Soon Christmas will be upon us and before we know it, we’ll be making those annual New Years Resolutions which are normally broken before the end of day one! Instead of promising to cut down on the beer intake, or spend more time in the garden, why not make a real effort to improve your casting technique or water craft? Paying more attention to your technique and tackle will almost certainly put more fish on the bank next season.

So in my 18 years of experience from being the UK’s first Professional Fly Fishing Guide, I have put together a list of the Top 10 most common faults.

1. Casting Lacks Distance.

I tell most of my clients that the majority of fish are hooked at less than fifteen yards, but there are times when casting a minimum of 25 yards is essential. Sinking line fishing dictates that decent distances must be cast in order to get the flies down to the fish – particularly when fishing from a drifting boat.

The same applies to dry fly fishing in calm conditions – rarely do rising fish encroach within 25 yards of the boat in these conditions. But if you can cover that distance with ease, you will get plenty of action to the dry fly.

A decent instructor should be able to get most people single hauling in a day, some even double hauling and the majority will see an improvement in distance almost immediately.

2. Inaccurate Casting.

Sometimes it is not so much the distance that is important, but the accuracy of a cast. This is particularly relevant when fish are moving on or near the surface. Casting to rising fish requires, first and foremost, the ability to spot rise forms – another common problem. This is quite easy to address, so long as the fish respond! Once you spot your fish, you must cast to where it is likely to move next, not to where it has just surfaced. And never … ever …. cast the end of your fly line at the fish – you’ll be amazed how many people do just that!

3. Watching for Takes

One thing that has saved my bacon on many occasions is “watching the loop” for signs of takes. This method is deadly from both boat and bank, but very few people actually do it.

Just in case you are not familiar with the method, it is simplicity itself. Using a floating line, you simply hold the rod tip about a foot above the water surface and watch the length of fly line that hangs in a loop (hence the name) between the rod tip and the water. When you retrieve, this loop will straighten and fall as you pull and pause. When a fish picks up the fly, the line will either stay taught when it should have gone slack, or in many instances, it will appear to “flick” straight as if someone has taken hold of your fly line and given it a tug.

Watch the Loop for Movement

Watch the Loop for Movement

Whatever the sign, it is impossible to miss and the resultant action must be a solid strike – just as if you were hitting a dry fly riser. If you fail to strike quickly enough, the fish will often drop the fly and there is nothing felt at the hand. If you continue with the retrieve, the fish will often come back and have another go, because it has felt no resistance. This in effect will give you a second and sometimes even a third chance. The remarkable thing about the method is that if you were not watching the “loop”, as most anglers don’t, then you would be blissfully unaware of any takes at all. It just makes me wonder how many fish I have missed over the years!

4. Inadequate Tackle

Probably the easiest fault to remedy, but the choice can be too great! Most people starting fishing will buy a beginners kit. These are normally cheap and perfectly adequate. However, as a person improves the need for more powerful and responsive tackle increases.

Rods come in all lengths and line ratings and the best way to find out what works best for you is to test them on a casting pool. Some shops and fisheries have casting areas to test rods and lines.

Always buy the best floating fly line that you can afford, as this is the line you will undoubtedly use the most. Also, buy decent leader materials – both fluorocarbon and co-polymer. And finally, never skimp on waterproof clothing – there is nothing worse than sitting in a boat for hours on end with leaking coat and leggings!

5. Poor Quality Flies

Using sub standard flies is a very common fault but one that is easily rectified. The only thing you may need to do is throw some money at the problem. Flies are best tied yourself, but if you do not tie your own, buy top quality patterns. I would not advise buying flies unless you can see them first or they are tied by a reputable fly tier or manufacturer.

There are lots of poor quality commercially tied flies around at the moment and some are absolutely hopeless. The majority of these are cheap imports, tied on poor quality hooks. I would not recommend anyone to use any hook nowadays that was not chemically etched. Fulling Mill have an incredible range of fly patterns and all are tied on excellent hooks. Both Iain and Craig Barr also sell good quality imported flies at reasonable prices.

6. Wind Lanes.

Wind lanes have been written about for a long time, but you would be amazed at the number of anglers who ignore them. The tight surface tension of a wind lane will trap plenty of food and the trout will never be far away.

When drifting in boats, always set your drift to begin on the right side of the lane as you look downwind, with the engine on your left. As the boat will always drift toward the stern, the drift will actually cut through the wind lane from right to left.

7. No Confidence with Sinkers.

Something I come across regularly while guiding is a reluctance to use sinking lines. Many of my clients do not possess good quality sinking lines which inevitably means they never get down to the fish when they are feeding deep. Some do not even own a sinking line. While I concede that most anglers probably prefer using floaters, if you are to achieve any consistency when boat fishing, you must have a range of sinking lines.

Floating or Sinking Lines?

Floating or Sinking Lines?

8. SIingle Fly Syndrome.

A team of flies is usually more effective than a single fly. By using two or three flies, you can give the fish a choice of fly pattern, colour and size. When fish are moving, it is far easier to cover a potential riser with a team of flies than it is with a single offering. So I like to encourage my clients to move away from the single fly syndrome and to use a team instead.

9. Looking for a Magic Fly.

Most people I fish with, whether expert or novice, change flies too often and always seem to be looking for that “magic” fly. As I said earlier, trout frequently go off the feed for hours, so there will not be a fly in anyone’s fly box that will turn thousands of non-feeding fish into thousands of ravenous beasts! In these circumstances, it is far better to use a team of tried and tested patterns and fish them hard, than to keep changing flies every five minutes. After all, every time you make a change, your flies are out of the water and you will never catch a trout like that!

The Fruits of All Your Hard Work

The Fruits of All Your Hard Work

10. Creatures of Habit.

The final common fault is that we are all creatures of habit to some extent. Most boat fishermen tend to stay in the same spot for too long. My approach is; if it looks good and nothing is happening, then move. The same applies to tactics. How many times do you try a new fly or a new method when the fishing is good? I bet the answer is never. Most people stick with their tried and trusted method or flies until they stop working. Only then does the new pattern make an appearance, or you switch tactics from wets to dries. The odds are, making the change now will not bring success, so you revert back to the old favourites again. The time to experiment is when the fish are feeding and then you can gauge if there is any marked improvement in your catch rate.


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