As a beginner fly fisher one faces many difficult challenges. It can be the ultimate test of patience and dedication as you are constantly tying, and untangling knots. After spending 15 or 20 minutes rigging up a simple flick of the wrist can leave you with a bird’s nest that requires you to start again from square one. Or, after 15 or 20 minutes of rigging up that first cast catches just enough of the tree across the stream to leave you with no option other than breaking off. I get it, it’s frustrating, and trust me, I’ve been there. The simple truth is that nothing will get you to your goal of being a self sufficient angler that doesn’t get tangled, quickly changes rigs, and consistently catches fish, other than time on the water. As you are putting in that time, here are a few tips I’ve come up to help you on your way to less headaches and hopefully more fish in the net.
If you’ve visited a particular stream before and have an idea of where and what to fish, rig up your rod ahead of time. This will theoretically get you in the stream before being frustrated by rigging up streamside. I say theoretically because we’ve all had those run-ins with flies in your car seat or tangling up in a bush on your walk in. You also might want to pre-tie some tandem fly rigs and store them on a tool built for exactly that or wrap them around a small piece of cardboard so they don’t get tangled.
- Eliminate false casting as much as possible.
This is one thing I have witnessed first hand that many anglers struggle with. False casting really only serves 2 purposes: to shoot out more line to extend your distance, or to air out a dry fly to keep it riding nice and high. When I see beginner anglers unnecessarily whipping those flies back and forth I always explain this and add that it’s just asking for trouble. Along with this I see beginners get fixated on one spot they really want to cast and they will pick up casts that don’t land just where they want it. Go ahead and fish it! Remember as a general rule, expect fish anywhere, and keep in mind the fish have no idea that you think you’ve made a bad cast. Line hitting the water and being ripped back off is also a good way to spook fish in the area.
- Check your flies frequently.
Another thing I often see is that beginners don’t always have a knack for detecting that they have a tangle or that there is debris on their flies. It’s important to check your rigging frequently for either of these two situations because in either situation, you will not catch fish. Also, a very minor tangle can be easily made into a very major tangle with one or two extra casts.
- Spend very little time trying to untangle.
Sounds crazy right? I think often times beginners are so intimidated by tying knots that they spend far too much time trying to work out a nasty tangle. If the end is not eminently within sight after 30 seconds or a minute, just start chopping. Even for people who struggle with knots, this is almost always a faster way to get those flies back in the water. You will be surprised at how easily that tangle comes undone when you subtract a fly or two from the equation. If you have a tandem fly rig, maybe spend some time trying to keep both flies attached. Cut above your first fly and see if you can avoid having to cut off both flies.
- Even if it takes longer, take the time to get it right.
Taking shortcuts or the easy way out is almost always a detriment to your presentation and fish catching potential. Don’t just tie another fly onto what’s left of your leader. If you’re at 0x diameter but want to be at 5x, taper down to 5x. Don’t keep fishing a dry fly even though it’s not floating anymore. If you know there is a little bit of moss on your fly don’t keep fishing it, take the time to get it off. If the thought occurs that you may want to add split shot, adjust your strike indicator, or change flies, do it! The only way to get to the point where you can make these adjustments quickly and easily is by practicing.
My final piece of advice is to sit back, take in the scenery, and embrace the process. Each one of those moments of frustration is getting you one step closer to that final goal. ~ Ryan Kaufman