Hints and tips

Recently, in the Dibbler's Digest, there was a call for fishing tips. This looks like an ongoing project. The first big batch arrived from Ray Burt, and several others have now contributed. Here's the list. I'm sure that it will be added to.

  • Casting - Learn to cast well. If the fish are close in and you can't cast very well you'll probably get some, but if the fish are further out you'll struggle. By overloading the rod by one line size you'll see an increase in the distance you can cast.
  • Reading - Read fishing magazines - they'll give you more tips and the methods and tactics can well apply to waters you fish. And books too, of course.
  • Fly lines - Make sure that you have at least three fly lines - a floater, an intermediate and a fast sinker.
  • Leaders - For bank fishing with a single fly go for a 10 feet leader - with two flies up this to 13 feet, the dropper 8 feet from the fly line and a further 5 feet to the point fly. For boat fishing go for a 16 feet leader with 3 flies at 6 feet from the fly line, then 5 feet and another 5 feet. All of these distances can be varied depending on the strength of the wind and water clarity. Save money by not using tapered leaders but using fluorocarbon straight through. Have regard for the thickness. For example Fulling Mill .23 mm is 7 lbs breaking strain but Riverge Soft Plus is 13.7 lbs. Again, Fulling Mill .18 mm is 4lbs but Soft Plus is 8.2 lbs. Yes, Soft Plus is dearer but you'll have saved money on not buying tapered leaders.
  • Flies - Have a range of flies you have confidence in. Have some attractors in different colours and actions: Black (something like a Montana), White (Cat's Whisker), Orange, Goldheads, Boobies. Then some imitative flies: Damsel, Hare's Ear, Cormorant, Diawl Bach, Cruncher. If you don't tie your own use good quality flies like Fulling Mill, Flash Attack or Selectafly.
  • Wind - Have regard to wind direction over the previous few days and overnight temperature - if it's been cold early season the fish are likely to be deeper. Ask fishery staff for methods and areas.
  • Be observant - If fish are rising you'll obviously fish nearer the surface - if not try different depths by counting the flies down and watch for takes on the drop. If other anglers are catching watch what they are doing or ask them. Remember that the water movements caused by trout may sometimes be subtle and hard to spot.
  • Retrieves - Try different retrieves. For nymphs, figure of eight is normally best but sometimes pulling works, either long or short pulls. The roly poly retrieve can be used either slow or fast and aim to increase the speed at the end of the retrieve to fool a fish into thinking he's going to lose his meal and finally hang the flies for a few seconds.
  • Move - When fishing either bank or boat if nothing happens in half an hour don't be afraid to move or change tactics. On clear waters where you can see fish, why cast if you can't see any?
  • Diary - Keep a diary noting weather conditions, wind direction, fly lines and flies used - it will help on future visits to that fishery.
  • Pick your destination - if you are choosing your fishing venue, do some research beforehand to make sure that it is fishing well. There are many fisheries that are hard work at particular times of year. It may be worth avoiding a small water immediately after it has had a busy day.
  • Knots - Make sure the knots you use are sound, after all what is the point of fooling a trout into taking your fly and then losing it, leaving the fish with a fly in its mouth and with you to tie or buy a replacement?
  • Small flies - I enjoy fishing light with small flies. After all, many of the food items of rainbow trout are small. There is that thrill of watching a trout engulf a tiny nymph as it feeds, but to do this a bright small head to a nymph is needed - normally a small tungsten or ceramic bead and my preference is white, broadly imitating the breathers of many of the buzzers. If the water is clear, always try small flies.
  • Barbless hooks - I was re-reading Brian Clarke's book On Fishing recently. I enjoyed his piece on barbless hooks and it re-affirmed my view that barbless is best. A long time ago I spent a season fishing barbless and monitoring my results against the previous year of fishing barbed hooks. I found no discernible difference between my catches as a result.
  • Sharp hooks - Keep your hooks sharp. I'm very bad at this and it usually takes several lost fish before I realise that the hook doesn't have a proper point. Hook files aren't at all expensive. Even a small piece of fine grit wet and dry paper can do the job.
  • Hook in the hand - Do make sure that you know how to get a barbed hook out of your hand. There's also a clever plastic tool that can help.
  • Cleaning - On returning from a wet and muddy fishing trip it's really annoying to have to spend time cleaning rods, lines and reels, but it really should be done. Especially after a salt-water trip I've taken rods and reels into the shower with me. Cleaning the line can make it last much longer. And cleaning the rod's cork handle with a brush and hand cleaner (Swarfega, or whatever) can get rid of a lot of the ground-in grubbiness. Works a treat.
  • Web - The web, of course, is the place to go for up-to-date information. For example, Orvis have produced a vast collection of video-based training material and more at howtoflyfish.orvis.com. Well worth a look. And there's some specific hints and tips information at www.orvis.com/news/fly-fishing/10-tips-will-make-better-fly-fisher/.
  • It's only a game (usually) - It doesn't matter if you don't catch anything. Just make sure that you reflect on what you could have done differently so that you learn something from each trip. If there's a chance that you will have a rotten morning's fishing, make sure that you take a good lunch with you. It can work wonders!
  • Tippet rings - If you use tippet rings, thread them on a safety pin and tie one length of tippet on a ring while it is still attached to the safety pin. Then it can be taken off safely. Saves dropping it while tying it on. (I think that one came from an Orvis podcast).
  • Change tactics - if things aren't going well, then try something different. Maybe use a different line or a different leader, try a heavily weighted fly or a dry fly.