By Jack Simpson
This is a brief overview of what is involved with 'getting into' fly fishing.
Choosing the correct fly fishing equipment is not difficult once you know what type of fishing you will be doing. Are you trying to catch salmon off the Bella Coola coast or small 12-inch trout from a mountain stream in the Cariboo Mountains?
Each condition will generally require a different size rod, reel, and line to maximize your ability (and enjoyment) in catching fish.
Rods, lines, and reels are all matched by an arbitrary weight designation to more accurately optimize your equipment performance in order to present your fly and give you the necessary casting distance. It all starts with the line weight for your particular type of fishing. Rods are designed to cast a specific line weight while reels are designed to hold specific weight lines. Smaller weight combinations (2 to 4 weight) are generally used to catch small fish. Mid-sized rods/reels (5 & 6 weight) are good for fishing rivers and lakes where you may catch fish of up to about 7 pounds. Higher weight rods (7wt-9wt) are good for those big lunkers or salmon in migratory rivers.
You will also want to consider items like waders and wading boots. These will undoubtedly make your experience better but more importantly, safer. Vests are used to carry all your gear. And there are miscellaneous accessories like nets, sunglasses, and other tools that will also help make your life easier when out on the water fly fishing.
I won’t kid you: it will take some money to acquire the equipment, but you shouldn’t have to take out a second mortgage to get a good quality rod, reel and line. Just make sure you purchase the correct rod weight for your type of fishing and a rod/reel combination that actually feels comfortable in your hand. If it doesn't feel comfortable, put it back in the rack
Welcome to the wonderful and wacky world of flies. There are literally thousands of different fly patterns out there, most trying to imitate a specific insect for the area. Others imitate nothing at all but apparently look too tempting for fish to pass up.
Some flies float on top of the water (drys), while others will sink to the bottom (nymphs). You don't need to be an entomologist to understand your basic fly patterns. Usually there just a few different patterns you will need to cover the basics while fishing.
For the beginner, I recommend visiting your local fly shop or sporting goods store to see what patterns are recommended for your area and at what approximate time of year. Also, just take a look at the fly selections in these shops, to get a general idea of the different sizes, colors, and range of patterns.
And finally, don't be afraid to ask what is working for that particular time of the season. Flies come in different sizes based on the size of the hook. The smaller the size number, the larger the fly. They range in size from 2 to 32, with 32 being almost too small to see!
Understanding the fundamentals of casting is essential for productive fly fishing. You can have an ideal situation where a big hatch is coming off the water and fish feeding, but if you can’t cast to the right spot, you most likely won’t catch fish.
While the Internet is a tremendous place to disseminate information, it is not the best way to learn fly casting. I would highly recommend taking lessons from an instructor in your area if available. Videos and books are also available for purchase or they may be available from your local library.
NOTE: If there is sufficient interest in the Williams Lake area for a four-hour fly casting clinic in early spring, I will be glad to set one up.
Fly casting is not rocket science, but there is a science to it. Once you know and can ‘feel’ the fly line loading the rod as you apply the proper techniques, after that, all it takes is practice to be able to place the fly where you want it. ‘Distance’ comes after that. I can’t overstate how important it is to practice casting. You can practice just about anywhere there is room and it doesn’t have to be in the water. Practice in your backyard or at the park, anywhere there is 100 feet (30 metres) of open space. You can use a parking lot but that can be a little rough on your line. Take a small piece of wool yarn, tie it on the end of your leader and practice.
The overhead cast is the basic fly cast. The fly line is lifted off the water in front of you, brought over head and behind you, and then cast forward again in front of you. It’s as simple as that. However, the trick is to do it as efficiently and effortlessly as possible and still be able to land your fly in the desired location.
The roll cast is a simple and extremely effective cast. It is primarily used when obstructions like trees or bushes prevent you from using the back cast. It is also used in strong winds. With your line tight in the water, lift up your rod vertically to a point just beyond your ear (some call it the one o'clock position) and then do a firm forward cast. The line will make a loop and land in the direction you point your rod.
In order to fly fish, you will need to know how to tie some very basic knots. There are just a couple knots that you will use very regularly and soon they will be as easy to tie as tying your shoe laces. Find a book or a website on ; ‘Fishing Knots’, find and learn to tie the ‘Modified Clinch Knot.’ This knot is used to tie your fly to your leader or tippet. This is knot you will undoubtedly use more than any other knot.
The ‘Surgeon Knot’ is an easy knot to use when tying tippet material to our leader: easily the second-most used knot.
A ‘Nail Knot’ is used to connect your leader to your fly line. It is also an excellent knot to connect your line to your backing. It’s not as easy as the clinch or surgeons knot, but you can become proficient with a little practice.
The ‘Figure of Eight Loop’ is used in many of the ‘loop to loop’ line to leader connections with factory welded line loops.
The ‘Arbor Knot’ connects your backing to your reel. You probably won't be using this knot much but you should know how it is done.
Here are some essentials that you should know about tying knots so you don't lose that big fish:
*Lubricate your knots with saliva or water prior to tightening your knot. This helps reduce friction and heat buildup when tightening the knot and allows your knot to slip and seat properly.
*Seat your knot with a continuous motion and make sure your knot is fully seated. Test it by pulling on both ends of the line to make sure the knot holds.
*Trim your ends carefully and as close to the knot as possible without damaging the line or knot. Use a pair of sharp nippers to trim.
*Check the knot again after trimming just to make sure it holds. You don't want to lose that big fish because of a bad knot!
As a ‘rookie’ I would encourage you to ‘do your homework’ researching the waters that you plan to target and the species of fish that reside in those waters. One recommendation are the Freshwater Fisheries Society publication GoFishBC, and as far as books on Interior BC fly fishing, I strongly recommend any book or article written by my fly fishing guru, Brian Chan. His field book, ‘Fly Fishing Strategies for Stillwaters’ is probably the most read and reread fly fishing book in BC.
My ‘fly fishing bible’? The ‘Gilley: a Flyfisher's Guide’, edited/compiled by Alf Davy. It’s out of print, but still around in used book stores and libraries.
NOTE: Chan's ‘Fly Fishing Strategies for Stillwaters’ has been out of print for 10 years and is a very valued and collectable publication. Used books are listed on Amazon.com for over $100! However, I do have a limited source of these brand new books, signed by the author, if anyone is interested.
QUESTIONS? Just ask. The only ‘dumb’ question is the one you didn’t ask.
Next week: ‘research’ the winter: an indoor activity that ensures success during fishing season.
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