This Week's View

by Deanna Lee Birkholm
March 31st, 2008

The Learning Curve

Fly fishing has many faces, and learning how to function successfully can be a very long task.

Not an unpleasant one, but indeed long. That in fact is part of what makes fly fishing such an interesting adventure. No matter how long you practice it, you will not ever know everything.

However, there are guides around who will lead you in the directions you need to go, if indeed you wish help. Some right here on FAOL. And of course there are loads of articles on fishing, and lots on fishing different places. Something can be learned from all.

Sometimes we find a person, perhaps a writer who seems to click with us. If that is the case with you, collect the writings and learn everything from them you can. If you find you are lacking in a particular area, such as reading the water, insect identification, rise forms, pick one which seems to trouble you the most and work on that for the season.

One of the areas which really can be tricky is presentation. By that I mean exactly how you present the fly to the fish. What does it take to get the fly to the fish in a way the fish will see the fly as a natural and take it? What does slack do? How does one mend, and what is it used for? Which is a slack-line cast? A reach cast? A puddle cast? Does it make a difference if you mend upstream or down? Can you hook a fish better upstream or downstream? Why? Do you know fish do not always face upstream? They face into the current. If there are back eddies the fish may be facing where you don't expect. Foam, debris on the water can help you see the various currents.

Here are some sight-fishing secrets by Landon Mayer, excerpt from the new book 1001 Fly Fishing Tips.

The more fish you see, the more you catch.

Look, then fish Before you start casting, look for targets, casting blind may spook wary fish.

Get high. Elevation helps you see into the water. If you can, climb a high bank, but keep a low profile while you scout the stream.

Double team Working with a partner is fun and effective. One person spots the fish from on high and calls out directions to the angler in the stream. Plan ahead how you will mark the fish - "two feet upstream of the big boulder." Switch after each fish.

Wear polarized glasses Good glasses matter and can mean the difference between success and failure. Polarized glasses remove glare from the water's surface and provide a better view of the river bottom. They come in different tints to help you see better under a wide range of conditions.

Fish at high noon. From 10 o'clock to 2 o'clock, the high overhead sun illuminates the streambottom, allowing you to easily see into the river.

Put the sun at your back so that you can see better, but be aware of your shadow.

Look for water windows. In broken, turbulent water, intermittent flat spots move downstream with the current. Look through these windows as they move downstream and scan the river bottom for fish.

Know what to look for. Trout take on the color of their surrounds. Instead of looking for an entire fish, look for signs that betray their presence – shadows on the stream bottom, a waving tale, flashes as the fish feeds on nymphs, or certain species – specific features such as a brook trout's white-tipped fins or a rainbow's red sides.

Look for feeding trout. They are the easiest to catch. Signs trout are feeding include rises, white mouths, flashes, and fish suspended in the water column. Trout hugging the bottom, fish not moving, or fish that are swimming away probably have lockjaw.

These are just a few to work on. The best thing you can do is to realize you have areas where you don't know much, yet. And then concentrate on improving your skills in that area. This can be just great fun. Enjoy! ~ The LadyFisher

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