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Best Fly Fishing Techniques

best fly fishing techniques

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Tackle – get your set up ready!

For the purpose of this post we will assume you are already set up with a balanced fly fishing kit. If not then check out this posts here how to setup your fly line to get you started. This is not a definitive list of the best fly fishing techniques but a list of things I believe any fly fishing angler needs to learn and practice to become competent in the sport. 

Fly fishing casting – Perform them with grace

One of the main things to get right when fly fishing is the cast. Produce great delicate casts to present flies to trout and fish and you will have completed about 50% of the fly anglers program. Ones to learn well are the basic overhead cast, the snake roll, the roll cast and the single spey cast. With these four you will be well on your way to becoming a better fly angler and be able to cast to almost any target within any situation.

There are others that will get you of of trouble but I would recommend getting these four right from the start. It will assist you greatly if you can pay for some tuition or if you know a good consistent fly angler to ask for some help. It will speed up your progress and stop you getting frustrated when things are not going to plan. A lesson or two will not cost the earth but is well worth it when you consider the cost of loosing flies a damaging your fly fishing gear due to bad casting. 

Retrieves – There are more ways to retrieve than skin a cat!

There are many retrieves to use to bring the flies back to the fly angler. It is better to learn new ways to do this to make your fly fishing 1) more interesting to you and 2) more interesting to the fish. Learn to mix it up a bit. When fishing stillwaters that are heavily fished the need to do it slightly different to the fly anglers before you is all important.

These fish will have seen the same flies day after day moving in the same manner and they will learn that these are not real food and completely ignore it. To induce takes you need to produce a retrieve that makes your flies more interesting to them.  There are many types of retrieve including the slow, fast, figure of eight, the roly poly, the twitch and many combinations of these.

To perform a decent retrieve make sure to keep your fly rod tip low to the water no more than a foot from the surface and then as you retrieve make sure to keep constant contact with your flies. What I mean is don’t let the line slacken too much because you need to feel the takes as they happen a slack loop will allow a fish to take without you noticing to set the hook.  

This is more so when fishing drifting in a boat as you can be drifting towards your flies quicker than you can retrieve which can cause this slackline.  There are a few things to do to counteract this. Use a drogue to slow down the boat, retrieve fast enough to keep in contact with your flies  or fish from the other side of the boat.

Flies – Make them you prized possession, protect, check often.

Making good choices in fly patterns will greatly increase your catch rate. Know your target species, what do they normally feed on what times of the day are they most active etc. Knowing these before hand will help you get better take rates and better catch rates. Local knowledge is key, if there is a local tackle shop make sure to ring before hand or call in on your way to fishing.

These guys are an Aladdin’s cave of information. They will know where the fish are taking what they are being caught on and what times of the day etc. Make sure to thank these guys with a few purchases also, there is nothing worse for a tackle dealer to help guys out and get nothing in return so play nice and you will be rewarded well.

Make sure to keep your prized flies in good order, I usually carry a small plastic box to put my used flies into as I change over to new patterns this means they are not going back wet into the fly box. I take them home and put them out on to a sheet of kitchen towel this means they get nice and dry before putting them back into the fly box for another day.

Flies will rust very quickly when put back wet and it can spread to the unused ones if you’re not careful. Its not hard to do so protect them. Keep a hook hone on you and give any hooks you hit on a rock or hard tree a quick rub to sharpen them up again. Its so easy to miss a great trout because of a damaged point or rough hook.   

Water craft – No not a vessel for floating, but knowledge of how the water effects the fishing

Learn how to read a bit of water, look at the fishing spot for a while before stomping in, check to see if there is anything showing, look at the flow of a river, see where the deep parts of the pool are likely to be and work you flies to these areas. Again local knowledge is good here if you can find it.

A guide will be able to show you the places on a river or lake where there are likely trout or fish and place you within reach. If you listen and take notice of these places you can use this knowledge when you visit other pools.

I have been shown time and time again a place on a pool where I didn’t expect to find a fish to have fish because of a different flow rate on the river or time of day etc. Always be thinking about these situations and you will become a better angler.  

Practice, Practice, Practice!

Above all take time to practice. As they say practice makes perfect and this is so true for fly fishing. Its not always easy to cast to a particular lie when the wind is gusting around your head but if you put in the work before hand there is no reason that you cannot make that cast and still catch the fish.


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