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Trout Fishing In The West - A Natives Inside Scoop-Part 5

Updated on May 23, 2015

The Fly Fishing Article

I will talk about the things I know about fly fishing the west as well as the tips and tricks others have contributed. This is definitely my favorite way to fish, but I started with spin casting and still enjoy that equally as much. I wrote about spin casting in a previous article and you may find my other articles by going to my profile page or the links on this page. I hope you enjoy my article and would appreciate support by using the "like" buttons and becoming a blog follower.

The photo is of a friend of mine who caught this trout the day before I wrote this blog. He hauled this one in while trolling but, turned around and caught a bigger one from shore on a fly rod, wish I had a photo of that, nice catch JD.


Fly Fishing Flow

I have been waiting for this segment of the trout fishing series I have been writing. Fly fishing is just so much fun and rewarding that I just can't get enough. I remember trying out fly fishing for the first time and how much trouble I had and how I had zero fish action. After that I had decided that fly fishing was more trouble then it was worth and I would just stick to what I know. I don't like to lose or fail at things I try to do, so I went back to the drawing board. I discovered several things wrong with my approach to this mode of fishing.

Author's Fly Fishing Picks

Match It Up

The first thing I learned was that the line needs to match the pole, which mine was all wrong. It started to look like fly fishing was really complicated with a lot of different line weights and types. You need a matching rod to line, you need backing on the reel, you need a leader, you need tippet, and then you need a fly and all must work together mostly based on weight. My first trip to the fishing store to purchase a proper weight rod per my newly attained fly fishing gear knowledge floored me, 800$ rods! Right there I knew I was not going to get into this rich mans sport and I could buy 10 spin casting setups for that and the price on fly reels reinforced my decision.

I didn't try fly fishing again for several years until I bought some fishing gear at a garage sale. In the lot of gear was a fly rod setup so I decided I would give it a go. The line was old and cracked and the reel was a 1960's model that had seen its fair share of use (worn out), but the setup did cast reasonably. I talked to some workmates and got some tips on flies and presentation so I gave it a shot. I chose a fishing hole that I had known all my life and always had success at.

I began trying to cast and either snagged on everything behind me or wadded up in a bundle in front of me, but I was determined to get that fly out there somehow. The more I tried the easier it became to move the line and awareness of the stuff behind me helped to avoid snags. I was actually doing it, not well, but getting the line to flow and the fly out there. Then it happened, fish on, a few lightning wiggles and a full on panic of what do next and the fish was gone. Now the determination switched from trying to fly fish to attaining an actual catch, I was hooked (good pun).

I have been seriously hooked on fly fishing ever since and enjoy it to no end. I also found out that fly fishing is not expensive and you do not have to spend 2000$ to get geared up. Granted, top of the line equipment is amazing but not required and a great setup can be obtained for $100 to $200. You can do well looking into garage sales and online sites like ebay, amazon, or craigslist for low priced equipment. You find that fly line can be pricey, but when you think about its construction and that it can last a long time if taken care of, the price is not so much an issue.

You definitely need information before you start into fly fishing like how to match all the components so you have a properly functioning fly rod. Everything you could ever want to know about this is on the web or in books already. And you can find fly fishing classes about anywhere, many fish and game departments will put on clinics. You can learn yourself if you chose to, but make sure you have a full understanding of exactly what you are supposed to be doing and how a good fly cast is supposed to look. I have included a real good video series below on fly casting, it is well worth watching and they have more videos on youtube.

I Know What You Ate Last Summer

So at this point I will assume that we all know how to fly fish, but want better results. In earlier segments I discussed stalking fish and reading water, these are the first crucial steps to increasing your results. So I will further assume that you know how to get to the fish and where they are hanging in the water. So now you have the issue of choosing a fly that they will go after. This is as simple or as complex as you want to make it. The simple version is either just trial and error or may be some flies that worked in the past. The complex method is understand the entomology of the region and knowing what bugs are hatching at specific times coupled with fishing site observation.

Your exceptional fly fishermen know what each insect in the area looks like and in each different stage of their development. These insects we will discuss and I will split into two categories-water borne and land borne. What I mean by this is that some insects begin life under water and later emerge to live a life out of water. Other insects are born on land and live a life around water or on it. Our fish feast on these water borne insects constantly, but also take advantage of insects above the water. Insects above the water are like any creature on this blue ball and require water to live.

I had explained in an earlier segment how animals conserve energy and insects are no different. have you ever wondered why the bugs fluttering on top of the water at dusk weren't there at all during the day? It is not prudent for insects to expend energy during the heat of the day unless they are highly specialized to do so or the reward is worth the effort, like bees collecting nectar. Funny how the fish do not look to feed on top of the water except for specific times of the day, the fish are in tune with insect cycles. This is crucial to understand for success at fly fishing, what feeding cycle are the fish in right now or are they saving energy.

Midday I am not expecting much action on the water and also not expecting fish to tear off after my bait. I generally work a bait I can rest in front of them and make it as easy as possible for them. Early morning I am following the insect action above the water and trying to act like one of the crowd. I watch this action carefully and when those insects start to wane I change tactics, usually trying to emulate a subsurface emerging bug that I know is either hatching right now or that I have found attached to a rock in the water. Many fly fishermen bring a small net, like a aquarium net, to catch either creatures in the water or above to get a good close look at what is around. If you are keeping your fish to eat you should gut the first fish immediately to inspect the stomach contents.

This sounds like a lot of work and study, but it is actually very easy and doesn't take much time at all. Also, the water in your area that you frequent, often has the same basic patterns repeat year after year with only the timing of hatches shifting a little. There are circumstances that can effect these patterns such as weather and other insect infestations. I found that I was able to go online to my regional or local college and look into the entomology department for insect hatch information. Also, many fishermen and fishing magazines have hatch charts. Old reliable though, is the fishermen's eye and senses about their surroundings, all the information you need is probably within a ten foot circle around you.


There are some tricks fishermen use with flies to make them more presentable to fish. There is a substance known as floatant that is used to keep flies on top of the water, but this stuff has other uses. When water insects are emerging, detaching from rocks and rising to the surface, they have air sacks and bubbles attached to them. Using a bead head fly will make it sink, but if you put a small amount of floatant it will still sink with air bubbles attached. This technique is very effective and anything that helps to disguise your bait the better.

Other flies are made to represent feeder fish in the water and they are called streamers. long flies with long tail material will swim like a fish in the water if they are played right. Fish are looking for small darting fish and this triggers their bite reflex better than anything else I know of. Aside from fishing with some engineered stink bait that mesmerizes fish into biting, streamers are one of the few baits that can get a non interested fish to act.

Major Bummer Dude

You have to put together your fly box carefully so it will function with your rod. I am guilty of having a poorly put together fly box as I have everything in there, like a bunch of flies that are way to heavy for the rod and line I am using. The line carries the fly to the fish as flies do not have enough weight to carry the line like a metal lure does with a spinning setup. Having line and rod heavy enough to carry big heavy flies is generally reserved for saltwater fishing or really large fish like steelhead. So your gear is arranged around the average mean size of the fish your after and using a rod way to heavy or to light for your purpose detracts from the art and enjoyment of proper fly fishing. I am guilty here too as I do not have gear for every circumstance and sometimes make due with what I have, but I definitely know that I am missing out on the real pleasure that I should be experiencing.

I really wanted to get out on this lake like the other guys and catch the big trout like they were. I took the light gear I have for fishing the rivers with my floating line. I basically could not fish at all as I needed a longer rod with a higher weight and sinking shooting line to even make a descent effort to catch fish. I was very disappointed and more determined to get it together so I could get in on the action. I bought a relatively cheap 9 weight pole with matching weight line to give it another try. I approached the water with my new gear and a lot more knowledge of exactly what I was supposed to be doing. The first cast was like butter and I was fishing properly and producing, I was ecstatic at this point. I wound up breaking that pole on a snag on a different trip and I felt as sad as if I had just lost my dog.


Man That Is Awesome

I can not express how enjoyable fly fishing really is when you have everything together, sun on your shoulder, your best buddy just downstream, and nature. I am, by no means, a top notch fly fishermen and regularly get shown up, but I have caught a heck of a lot of fish and did do a lot of studying on the subject. There are some real greats out there from the present and the past, check out Lefty Kreh's story sometime. He is a legend in the fly fishing world and has an interesting story. There is a fly fishing federation and world championships and generally a whole other world out there when it comes to fly fishing.

For me, I am not a registered fly fishing teacher (although I'd like to be), but I was good enough to teach several of my kids and several friends. I had made a new very good friend at work who told me he had been living in this area for over twenty years but had never been fishing. I asked him why not and he said he had come from the Michigan area and there were fish everywhere and there isn't any fish here. I said I beg to differ and you need to come fishing with me, do you have a fly rod. He said "Oh I didn't know you meant fly fishing, I don't know how to fly fish". I said "I have extra gear so lets go try this weekend". The magic worked again as he was hooked instantly even though he had trouble in the beginning. He told me afterward, that even though he wasn't doing very well at it, just watching me lay that fly out there and catch a trout had fired up his desire to learn. He just can't believe now that he didn't fish for twenty years when there is so much great fishing around here.

That particular story really gives me joy as he is a great friend and a great fishing partner. Its at least double the enjoyment of a fishing day if you have a good friend with you or your family, just not too many because they will scare the fish away. I started my kids on spin casting and the boys eventually on fly fishing, my daughter unfortunately went girlie on me and never has fly fished, but she will some day.


Presentation is everything. You will hear this from any fly fishing teacher and any good fly fisherman. So what is presentation in the first place and are you doing it right. If you have fish actively or semi-actively hitting insects on top of the water and you are hitting fish as soon as you fly hits the water then you are doing it right, well at least for that circumstance. If you are fishing subsurface and you barely feel the trout take your fly you are doing it right in that circumstance. If you are striping a streamer and a fish gently takes your fly during a pause and its hooked in the mouth then you're doing it right.

If you are hitting the water hard and the fish are very active on top of the water and no fish... you are not presenting properly. Of course you can have a good presentation but the wrong fly and you won't hit fish. One way to tell is if you should be hitting fish but keep getting bites after you have drifted a while and the fish are actively hitting the top of the water, then your bait is right and your presentation is bad. The fish are watching insects dropping to the water's surface to take a drink and they are going to get the bug while the get'n is good, the moment they touch the water. The drifting fly in this situation generally yields the smaller fish that can not compete with the bigger fish in the active feeding zone and settle for floaters. If you can land a fly right in a fishes mouth then you have it perfect and that fish cooperated because he totally believed your fly is his food.

Drifting a fly should be taken on the drift and if taken when it hits the water when the fish are not actively hunting top water than you got lucky. When you go back to the drift and nothing else happens then you will know the first one was lucky and you should evaluate your bait as the drift does not have much presentation, well as long as you aren't slapping your fly into the water. There is a aspect to the drift that does have to do with presentation and that is when you are trying to emulate a drowning insect who occasionally struggles to live. Tiny tugs timed apart just enough to trigger a bite is the presentation, jerking the line hard or using the pole to create movement is the wrong presentation.

Subsurface striping is a presentation to represent a darting fish, darting fish are fast and dart quickly than pause then dart again. Presentation here is a learning curve where you get a feel and a timing for how it should be done. Sometimes long strip with medium speed works, sometimes short fast burst followed by a long pause, and a million combination in between. My favorite is a bunch of false cast above the fish that captures their attention then when the fly touches the water it is gulped down, even better is when the fish comes up out of the water to gulp it. When this happens you have achieved a special level in fly fishing and you can pat yourself on the back for that catch, completely fooled em.

To Know The Fly Is To Love The Fly

There are a lot of flies out there and a general set of trout flies can be purchased in a package. I am not knocking these because the truth is that they do represent the mainstay of trout flies, but I would encourage you to go deeper into this subject. There is a lot of information out there and having a clear picture of what the actual insect looks like is very important. You can go to a fishing store and pick flies that represent the hatch that will be going on strong for the next few weeks, but in that bin are some flies that are better than others. I save pictures of the target insects in their different stages on my cell phone and compare at the fishing store.

I, many times chose a fly that is suppose to represent something else because it represents the target insect much better. There is a lot of information online about hatches and I suggest you type in the area name followed by insect hatch. Someone has already done this leg work for you, but feel free to go as deeply as you wish into this subject. I knew a fisherman who has been preserving insects and categorizing them by area and time of year for about fifty years, this is farther than I am willing to go. Its a simple notion of knowledge is power and the more you understand about the fish and there eating habits the more successful you will be.

Soul Fish

I have a best friend who has very little patients and I would have never expected the he would enjoy fly fishing. I don't think its boring or monotonous at all but, for someone with little patients it could be. I was really surprised at how relaxed and patient he became while fly fishing, good for the soul I guess. I know I find it to be extremely relaxing and recharging activity, I just feel great after a day fly fishing. I don't get the same level of satisfaction from trolling or bait fishing so I really hardly ever do it.

It blows me away when the guy with the hyper kids gets them to the fishing hole and they are calm and concentrated on catching fish, the dad usually says these are not the same kids that were in the car somebody switched them. I like to suggest that people take their kids to small streams full of brook trout for their first time fishing. The waters are not dangerous and the fish are not big or scary, the odds are very high that they will catch a few, they will be hooked from that day forward like I was.

Author's Request

I do have a request and that is to take a look at some of the items that I have chosen to list below. I do not choose all the advertising on my blog but anything listed as "Authors pick" are quality items that I recommend. I'm not pushing sales just asking that you take a look and if you enjoyed this article please let me know by using the "like" buttons at the top and comment section at the bottom, I would appreciate it.


Fishing Expertise

David Millingar pictured here and elsewhere on this this blog deserves some recognition for his fishing prowess. I can not run into this guy without seeing a picture of his latest fish victim. He is an amazing fisherman and fishing guide and one all around super guy. Thanks for letting me use the fish pics Dave...and your face ain't that bad either!

Dave runs a guide service to the Klamath River and teaches fly fishing as well as fly tying. I tease him all the time about how I could fish circles around him, but he and I both know its all talk, I only wish it was true.

Author's Fly Fishing Video Pick - Basic Of Fly Casting

This series is very basic but very good for beginners and veterans.

Fly casting part 2

Fly Casting Part 3

Feed It Back

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    • Spoonjr profile image


      6 years ago

      When bait fishing, just tossing some crap out in the water, let it sit and hope something comes along, takes a lot of patience, more than I have. Fly fishing eliminates the need for patience. Here is how I see it. Maybe its an ADHD thing, I dont know for sure, but have lots of patience when it comes to fly fishing as I am always doing something. Back cast, front cast, roll cast, watch the damn bushes, pay attention to where I am standing, watch the fly, peel line off. I get to do something. Trolling for fish, I get to drive a boat or be in a boat, watch the fish finder to see if we are going to run aground, whats the depth? Is the downrigger set to deep, something to do. Stop to bobber fish, game is over.

      I remember some years back I was at work and we were talking about fishing. The discussion came up of bait fishing, and of course, I expressed my opinion of just sitting there waiting for something to happen. George asked me if I fly fish, said no, its to expensive for some of them poles, I dont know how to do it either. Look, here is what you do, he said, you go to kmart or walmart and buy one of those $19 fly rod package deals, take it home, set it up. Now, dont go to the river or lake, go to a football field or a parking lot and practice your false cast and technique for laying the fly down softly. That lines up with the videos you posted. I was hooked. Sad part is after 25 years I think I still have the real that came in that package. Have found, like you, that I can cast and fish just as well with a $100 set up as I can with a $800. Even better actually as the chance of breaking a high dollar pole is not on my mind.

      Great article, enjoyed reading it.


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