What were your fears when you started fly fishing? Here were my first three then, and still, now.
- Fear of what to wear
- Fear of what fly to use
- Fear of reading the water
- Fear of what to wear
We all have the stuff. Just put it on and get out there and when that big storm blows in, well, it’s all part of the game. But, as Coach Belichik says, “Fail to prepare, prepare to fail”. My hands and feet are always on my mind. I prefer fold over mittens and fingerless fleece gloves. I always bring two pairs, wear one and keep the other one in my waders WITH a bandana, or old kitchen cloth. Wet hands are cold hands. Dry your hands often and switch off wet gloves. Hand warmers are in the pocket with the gloves. This always reminds me of taking clothes out of the dryer and getting that nice warm feeling.
Then its layers. Layers. Layers. Layers. Start with merino wool closest to you. I remember a morning in the mountains where every piece of extra clothing in the truck that wasn’t claimed I put on. We hiked to an epic bull trout spot for the early AM fishing. Then on the late morning hiked back an and en route fished another spot. Every piece outside of my waders came off. Props to how light and effective everything with Primaloft is. Ties around the waist and can stuff into a sling bag, or be carried times 5 by your guide.
Feet are for toe warmers, liner socks, and thin wool socks over them. I have a second pair of boot bottom waders that have a really large bog boot that I can comfortably wear a thick pair of socks in. Anytime your boot is tight, your foot will get cold. So applaud the large foot bed in your wading boot and if you can spring for a second pair of waders, grab a pair with a bog bottom boot for those winter excursions with the really thick fluffy wool sock.
2. Fear of what fly to use
Fish eat in three places: Top, middle and bottom. So think Nymph, Streamer, Dry. And always carry your confidence fly. Mine is the Elk Hair Caddis. Big props to Al Troth, the recipe maker back in the 50’s for this excellent, solid moth imitator. It works as a triple threat, and I had my first ever rainbow take on the EHC.
Try to match what trout eat. Take notice of size, shape and color. Visit the local fly shop and more simply, ask SIRI! The internet is loaded with information. Take note of hatches, and what lives under the rocks. Those little black specks will give up some sweet caddis hints.
The night before any trip, I break down my fly box. I don’t bring every fly I own. I try to bring my game plan. Pack your confidence fly for sure. I arrange my flies by Top/Middle/Bottom (think nymphs, streamers, dries). Or, if there is a hatch happening, then I try to bring in what is on the menu. The Hendrickson hatch has its own page in my fly box.
3. Fear of reading the water
Remember to read the water- wait, what the heck does that mean? It’s observation so you can decide where to cast your line and where to present your fly.
I try to think like a fish. When trout eat they answer two questions. First, save my butt! Then feed my gut! So where is the cover? Shadow lines, boulders, seams, soft pockets. All hold fish.
I like the shadow line at the bank. I like placing flies in that sweet soft spot next to the seams. Big boulders are my friends, hit them and drop your fly to that calm water around them.
Remember to approach the river bank softly. The 50yard bomber cast is not required every single time. Fish near the banks first and remember not to walk over fish. Take notice of how a heron stalks birds. They stand and watch the water. So I started to watch, observe and just take it all in before I make that first cast.