To become a good fly fisher you need to be able to cast. As an angling instructor I teach a lot of people and I'm still amazed at just how many anglers have bad techniques or habits when casting - this is nothing to be ashamed of as it can always be fixed. It really does pay to find a good casting instructor or coach to help you with this. Although I have now been a fly fishing instructor for many years I took some lessons when I was sitting my instructor courses and it helped me a lot. I have now showed thousands of anglers including many that had been fishing for years how to cast better. So once you can cast proficiently here are seven of my top tips for fly fishing that will increase your catch rate.
In pole position try and be as silent as possible and walk softly. Fish are as sensitive to noise and vibration as they are to visual warnings. Walking lightly on the river banks and trying to wade slowly and quietly are very important tactics. On stillwaters or loughs noisy or rocking boats also scare fish - remember you are trying to fool a wild animal. I recall when I was young fishing with my father and he taught me a valuable lesson about being stealthy. I was excitably running along the riverbank while we were fishing and he shouted telling me to walk lightly - Trout can hear! I thought he was mad - Trout don't have ears I have seen them! I didn't know back then about lateral lines - the sense organ fish use to detect movement and vibration in the surrounding water. Later that night while I was having a bath he came in pushed my head under the water and banged the side of the bath with his fist before of course letting me up for air. Trout definitely hear and feel vibrations. I'm not saying you half drown your children when teaching them to fish but that lesson stuck in my head and it definitely made me catch more Trout!
Tip two. Use your eyes to see what insects are in or on the water. If you can see what is the most
abundant bug on the river or lake it's a good chance that's what your Trout are eating. However remember it's not
always the case as it could be a time of year they are on small fish or they are maybe being selective perhaps picking
out a certain insect sometimes even at a stage of life say for instance an emerging fly. That said match the hatch or
find what the Trout are eating and try to copy it and you'll certainly do much better. There are many books and
information on the internet now to help you with this. I remember as a youth looking at an excellent book Trout Fly
Recognition by the late great English fly fisher John Goddard and this really helped me. I was lucky enough to meet
John in later life and tell him. Finally remember the size of fly is important and although my favourite type of
fishing is dry fly fishing at times we must think subsurface for Trout. At least two-thirds of the diet of Trout is
taken under the water not on it. Even if you prefer dry fly fishing like me knowing what nymphs larvae and crustaceans
are available beneath the surface with help you decide on fly selection.
Leader length. When learning to cast 9' leaders are perhaps the standard. As your technique improves some situations can often call for longer leaders for example when fishing dry flies on stillwater's loughs and rivers or wet fly fishing from a boat. You'll need 12 to as much as 20 feet at times. That said at times a shorter leader is also useful as on rivers when fishing streamers this often requires no more than 7-8 feet and shorter leaders make casting heavy flies easier. Also when you're using a sinking line on a river it often pays to get your flies down at a similar speed. So experiment with your leader length from time to time.
Tip Four. On large rivers and stillwaters when fishing from the bank search the close water first. A regular mistake is to cast over fish in the excitement of making a long cast. Lots of my fish are caught with quite short casts. At times we do need to cast long but more often than not short casts catch the fish. It's also a lot easier to set the hook.
Tip Five. Avoid being broken. Many anglers complain about this and it's happened to me a few times in my life - I
could tell you some great stories about ‘the one that got away'. Most anglers use far too stiff a rod and don't let
the fish run while playing them. Playing a good fish takes practice the trick being to remain firm but not overly.
Practice keeping your rod at a 45-degree or slightly lesser so you are playing the fish with most of the rod and not
just the tip. When you think about it a fly rod is just a spring and acts as a shock absorber while hooking and
Tip Six. When stalking fish approach low use any cover you can like long grass rushes and bushes. If possible try to keep a low profile especially on high banks with the skyline behind you. Remember fish that are deep can see you from farther away than fish that are close to the surface. This is due to how they see - fish have amazing vision. Their ability to see is uniquely adapted to locate food and distinguish predators from above both things that anglers should consider. I also recommend not wearing bright or vivid fishing clothing - try and blend into your surroundings.
Tip Seven. Always stay safe. I could list so many things here but most are common sense. Make sure you wear sunglasses and a hat to protect your eyes. Good quality polarized sunglasses also help with spotting fish and most importantly help me when I'm wading spotting rocks deep holes and underwater structure. I remember last year while hosting a trip in Norway fishing a big river in sunny conditions my sunglasses cut though the glare of the sun reflecting on the water and identified many obstacles. Always be careful wading - I cannot stress that enough and I only wade if I need to. I see a lot of anglers wading unnecessary. Finally always use a wading belt - it may save your life someday.
I hope these tips help you enjoy your fishing. Tight lines.
Hardy ProTeam member and Game Angling Consultant Stevie Munn works full time as a fishing guide writer and qualified game angling instructor in fly casting and fly tying. He has also appeared in many angling books magazines and DVD's and given casting demonstrations at angling events all over the world. Stevie has fished many places and grew up fishing on the rivers and loughs of Ireland where he often guides. Stevie runs teaching courses in Ireland and hosts groups to fish in BC Canada Norway Argentina and other parts of the world.