You know those infomercials where that weird specialty product is awesomely perfect for what you do? I'm always the guy coming up with invention ideas... after the fact; in my circle of friends I'm usually answered with a "they already make that..." sarcastic barrage. That being said, I'm going to share some practical tips that I've learned or figured out along the way in my angling pursuits that may be of use to you. It's not possible for me to list every tip, it's probably inevitable that as soon as I publish this post I'll have a "you should have put this moment" in my head, but here it goes.
(PS: comment or email me to update the list if you have a variation or a flat out awesome tip to share)
1. Roll Casting to get un-stuck from logs/debris
If ever you find your fly lodged into an unseen branch or log on or near the water's surface try a looping roll cast and tug. Simply gather some slack line and perform a lofty hard roll cast straight over your fly, then, once the roll is surpassing the stuck fly, give a sharp tug. This puts weight opposite the hook point and wedges your fly out of being stuck, I've saved a lot of flies and spooked less fish using this one.
2. Casting while under short cover/tree branches
This is just another way to fish more water. Those times when you want to wade a little closer and get in some cover yourself can turn out to be great fishing opportunities, and if you've ever bypassed a good fish stronghold due to low hanging branches then you should try this one. Simply turn your single handed rod into a two handed one by grabbing up behind the first eye. This allows you 3-5 extra feet of casting space and you can simply roll or spey your fly out into fishing waters. Not easy with a "shorter" rod but has that ever stopped you before?
3. Tandem with Spin Gear
If you have a buddy that fishes the open reel then why not take advantage of time spent fishing and help each other out. Toss a popper on your open reel and give it some good action, meanwhile, troll that clouser or woolly bugger in nearby. What you get is the action and attention grabbing from the popper as well the more subtle baitfish/crayfish presentation from your streamer combined to catch the wary fish on the fly and the actively feeding monsters on the popper. Everybody wins.
4. Cover open water: grid-style
Don't overkill the same stretch of water over and over. Sometimes the angler gets locked in on animating the lure/fly and forgets to actively search out the open water hole, no matter how sweet your presentation may be there has to be a fish to see it in order to hook up. To make sure you do this I systematically cast right to left each cast moving my presentation a couple feet at a time. I'll also start closer and work further out to help prevent from spooking fish. Once you latch a few smallies then hone in on what they're biting.
5. Label your fly line
6. Hold your panfish/crappie like this
The hold is surprisingly easy, just lay the fish across your palm. Most of the time the fish lays quietly and balanced without flopping. It also makes for a pretty good photo op for your catch.
7. Steering fish from cover
Fish don't like their snouts to be pulled down, that's why this tip works. When a fish is making a run and heading for trouble under a log or around a boat dock pillar, instead of horsing the fish back with a giant tug and risk a break off try inverting your rod tip so that is in or near the surface of the water. While keep a solid arch in the rod position the tip to the side you want the fish to travel. The fighting fish will turn out to whichever side you lead it.
8. Be patient with poppers!
9. Shoe Goo is a must for waders
10. Grab a canoe
For fly fishing? Yep. I love these things, I grew up canoeing and fishing so I had my sea legs early. You can sit and fish but you can also stand, which is preached as a no-no in canoes. Standing does significantly raise your chances of tipping but you really can't beat the view. What's great about the canoe is the versatility you get. You can haul all kinds of gear, fish basically anywhere, and fish stealthier than any bass boat. Just cruise on in a foot of water and lay those dries out there. Accessories to make it the best ever: Outriggers and some sort of anchor, comfy seat cushions, casting deck (only do this with outriggers down).
11. Pre-Soak your wet flies
Throw a few of the small zip lock bags in your fishing pack and your set. Doing this you can fill them with water at the stream and place the flies you want wet inside. After a few shakes the water will saturate your fly or streamers and you can bet on that first cast it's sinking to an awaiting smallie instead of fluttering on the surface and possibly spooking a fish.
12. Guard your shadow
As covered in my wading article your shadow can give you away to wary holding fish. They won't bite or even stick around if your shadow is present. Walk along the shoreline keeping your falling shadow either on the bank, behind you, or just stay in the shade. You'll up the stringer count with this tip.
13. Keep the water at your casting side for ponds/lake fishing
This may be too common sense, but, keep your casting arm side to the water when possible to decrease snags from tall grass, bushes, or trees from the bank.
14. Polarized sunglasses and a short billed black hat
Polarized sunglasses and hats are popular among many anglers already but for fly fishermen how about trying a short billed hat. What you get with the short bill is sun blockage but you also get more of a glance of your line and fly traveling while casting. Unless you've fished at night you probably don't realize how much you correct each stroke of your cast by sight, give yourself more accurate casts by increasing your ability to see a little more of your line with the short bill. Of course you could just go without a hat... but that just wouldn't feel right.
15. Always place your gear on the hood!
Fish don't kill fishing rods, cars kill fishing rods. Think about your broken rods and rod tips, how many involve a car somewhere in the story?
Place your gear on the hood of your car to prevent slamming them in trunks, rolling them up in windows, or even driving off with them on top of the car! You'll notice them bouncing off the hood when you get in. This is probably the most practical'est tip and money-saving tip on the list.
16. Stretch your line or leader
We've all been annoyed with curls in our lines or leaders at one point or another. Some people heat their leaders up and tug on them, some hang them up the night before, I like to just tug on them. Over a bent up knee I'll work the line or leader over with both hands every 6 inches or so. After a few tugs and repeating down the top ten feet of line and especially leader I can usually fish without worrying much about my line.
17. Don't Stand on your line!
18. Follow your drift with the rod tip
If your fishing any type of moving water always follow or point at your fly with the rod tip. This decreases the amount of slack line in your drift and powers up that hook-set when the time comes. Slack is bad on the fly line, and makes for un-natural drift.
19. Wax up your ferrules
The best kind of wax I've found for seating graphite ferrules has been cheap old candle wax. The ones I use are small ones often put into pumpkins. Those graphite sections can become pretty frustrating when you're packing up for the day and you can't take your rod apart. About once a season give both joints of your ferrules a good scrub with candle wax to keep them running smoothly.
20. De-Barb your hooks
If your releasing your catch then might as well allow for the fish the best chances of survival and least stressful option of a de-barbed release for obvious reasons. Just use your hemostats or pliers to mash down the barb.
If you plan on frying your fish up, then by all means keep the barb.
20.5 Keep those de-barbed hooks sharp!
21. Wade upstream
Fish don't like swimming backwards, just the same as we don't walk backwards, why not use this knowledge to sneak up on holding fish in a stream by wading upstream. They'll predominantly be facing upstream to swim so sneak up and present your tackle by roughing it and traveling up current. Read more about this with this article.
22. Fish structure in a parallel fashion
This is probably pretty common sense but place your retrieve so it's in front of fish the longest amount of time. A holding bass may have no choice but to strike when you creep a clouser pattern past it's nose and through its field of view.
23. Safety Pins for similar small fly storage
I caught this on Pinterest for bait style hooks. Place the point of the safety pin through the eye of each hook and you can untangle and maximize space in your tackle box since the hooks stack in a flush manner. I thought this could be adjusted to saving space in my fly box as well. Those small midge and scid patterns that seem to take up a dainty amount space can be stacked in a single box slot by using a tiny safety pin. Just hook those size 18's through the eye and allow the last midge of the pack to hook normally into the box's slot and your good to go. 15 size 16 midges stacked in one slot!
24. Hang your net like this...
Hanging the net with the handle down makes it a lot more accessible as well as keeps it up out of the brush when hiking in. It's also nice not to have slack line wrap around the net when the current carries it downstream.
25. Customize some gloves for cold weather wading
One of the first things to go when you're fishing in freezing temperatures are the fingers, you can save some fingers with this easy trick. When I'm fly fishing for steelhead in the winter I trim up some gloves so that my right index and left index, middle, and thumb are free to feel the line. This allows me to keep my hands much warmer but retain some dexterity and stand to fish a little longer. Just don't get the gloves wet. (Or just make 3 or four cheap pairs to keep on you when you need them!)
26. Water-proof the hat
27. Get some creekin' shoes
Old tennis shoes work just fine for wading through small warmwater rivers and creeks while fishing but I prefer my cheap slip on swimming shoes. These are those mesh shoes with the rubber soles. Small particles of sand silt will inevitably get into any shoe you wear in the water and cause them to rip and wear out. I can usually go through about 1 or 2 seasons with the cheaper water shoes but I spent a whopping 20 bucks and bought a decent pair that have lasted for 5. (If you wait until early winter you can practically steal these shoes at Wal-Mart, I once bought a cheap pair for a dollar...)
Well 27 sounds o.k. for now, but for sure I'll be back to update my practical list with more things I couldn't think of for the moment. Most of these tips you probably have used or heard of before, (piece of styrofoam cup as a emergency strike indicator.... I knew I'd forget one) but hopefully you may be able to use one of these in your fishing adventures. I haven't come up with any of these on my own (well the Pinterest variance I kinda did) which is what is so great about sharing what you love. We're all in this together, and not just fishing.
Let me know if you have some awesome trick or tip that you think would help others, I'll add it up here to the list as well as be grateful for helping me out!
If you could give WF a like on Facebook and I'll try to not to dissappoint with the media and articles on the horizon.