First off, a clarification: I’m finally writing this in Mexico.
I say finally as this post has been batted around between a field book, a note book, my laptop and my brain for about 6 weeks; this is just the first time it’s being compiled in one place and finally (that word again) being posted.
If you’re a fly fishing addict like me that has to unfortunately deal with sustained temperatures below freezing and little to no chance of wetting a line for a few months, things might seem bleak right now…well, bleak for you. I’m sweating to death on a project site in Mexico…but it was bleak for me a few weeks ago.
But fear not, for there are ways for you to get through the midwinter blues and improve your fly fishing abilities. Here are six of them…plus a bonus tip.
1. Hit the books.
There’s a lot of books on fly fishing, both as literature and how-to, and typically there are several available for different species and geographic locations. Check in at your local fly shop, library or bookstore; most will carry a selection of both general how-to books as well as locally published works for regional waters. Another option is popping onto any local meesage board or forum. Worse case scenario, there’s Google and Amazon to find what your looking for.
I suggest asking your local fly shop or local independent bookstore if they can get the titles you’re looking for in stock & for what price; it’s always a good thing to support local business.
For books on specific species, here are a few I’d recommend:
Trout – Dave Whitlock – Trout and Their Food
Smallmouth Bass – Bob Clouser – Fly Fishing for Smallmouth: In Rivers and Streams
Atlantic salmon – Paul C. Marriner – Atlantic Salmon: A Fly Fishing Reference
Steelhead – Dec Hogan – A Passion for Steelhead
Bonefish – Chico Fernandez – Fly-Fishing for Bonefish
Tarpon – Don Larmouth, Rob Fordyce, Flip Pallot – Tarpon on the Fly
2. Learn a skill.
Try out fly tying, leader-building, knots; learning something practical along those lines will help improve your fly fishing.
Hop on to youtube or check out some other online reseources; there are loads of tips & techniques online to help you learn whatever you need to learn.
Learning better & efficient knots will save you time, allowing you to have your fly in the water more throughout the day. Plus you might learn a more appropirate knot for different fishing scenarios.
Teaching yourself to build your own leaders also saves time, but it also saves money. Adding fresh tippet to a leader can be a lot faster than replacing a full leader once you become proficient at the knots involved, and twenty-four inches of tippet material from a spool is a lot cheaper than most knotless, tapered leaders from the manufacturers.
Fly tying will NOT save you money, and anyone who says otherwise is either lying or kidding themselves. That being said, it’s a great method to learn about the flies you use, their names, and how & when they’re fished. It’s an intensive process, and (sadly) it can become as addictive as the fishing itself.
3. Make some friends.
Start hanging out a bit more at your local fly shop, meet some fellow customers and chat with the staff. Perhaps they host a weekly fly tying night, like mine does. Perhaps there’s a local chapter of Trout Unlimited or a local angling or conservation group that has monthly get-togethers.
Often shops or groups might put on seminars for casting, fly tying, or fishing techniques, too; they’re a great place to meet new people and perhaps learn a few things.
If you don’t have any of these options close to home, don’t despair; there’s loads of fellow fly fishing addicts online on forums and social media platforms. Twitter has been great for me for meeting new folks; I even met up with a few of them IRL (that’s tech-speak for “In Real Life”) to fly fish in Guatemala. GooglePlus (or G+) is a great place to meet up with fly fishing folk, too; I have over 300 outdoors-types in my fishing circle. In fact, G+ is how I came to be writing here on the Mooseknuckle blog.
Word of advice: Don’t just ask for people to tell you their spots, especially online. It’s called spot-burning, and it’s highly frowned upon. Two reasons not to do this:
- Some people have worked pretty hard to find their little honey-holes, and while they’ll probably share the locations with friends, it doesn’t take much for a spot to become over-run with people. Especially with the location now published on the interwebs.
- People will be outright MEAN to those who sign up on a forum & blurt out locations or questions for locations. Mean. Some of them live for the chance to call out some poor, unaware noob. Those mean folk especially like to congregate on the Drake Forum.
Yup, I said it. Practice.
Practice. Your. Casting.
I know, it sucks, being out on your lawn or an unused sportsfield or empty park, casting on grass if you’re lucky. Snow if you’re not. Being looked at all weird & stuff by onlookers.
Trust me, do I ever know. I’m going to do the exam for the Federation of Fly Fishers’ Certified Casting Instructor (CCI). It’s pretty in depth, and requires a lot of casting practice. Months of casting practice. We had a cold snap a few weeks ago, and it was -26°C (that’s -15°F, American friends) and I was almost glad I had a pinched nerve in my casting shoulder to keep me from going out on those days to practice casting.
But it was only the pinched nerve (and my lovely girlfriend nursingme back to health) that kept me from doing it.
You probably don’t need to practice multiple times per week (unless you want to do the CCI exam with me…?), but I do recommend trying to get out a few times before spring thaw & opening day, just to get back into the rythm of casting.
That way, your opening day won’t be spent snipping off windknots or digging a fly out of the back of your head.
5. Explore…from your couch.
Go to Google Earth. Download it. Get a local atlas or backcountry map book or similar, preferable with topography on it. Grab your GPS and/or fishing journals (you have fishing journals, right?) while you’re at it, too. Start “pinning” productive spots you’ve fished in the past, either by notes, memory, or GPS coordinates.
Next step: hop onto forums, or do some googlin’, to see what silly bastards broke the cardinal rule of “don’t spot-burn on the interwebs.” Yeah, I know what I said above. But some people don’t get it, and you might as well use the information available. Besides you’re going to look for the spots that are a little off the beaten path; anything over 15-20 walk from where the guys who fish within view of their parked vehicles are. Mark these spots on Google Earth, perhaps with a different colour pin. Figure out how to get there (safely) using your atlas or map book.
Being a better angler has a lot to do with knowing where the fish are.
6. Get off the couch.
A lot of these tips involve the couch or the recliner: knot-tying, reading, computer-based exploring & friend-making. So on & so forth.
This tip is to make sure you’ll have the physical capacity to get to these out-of-the-way secret locations you’ve found via Google Earth.
Walk, run, do pushups & dips, snowshoe or ski, shovel the driveway instead of paying someone to do it.
Just put down the Doritos and the Geirach book and get off the damn couch and do something.
BONUS TIP: Fly south.
Had enough of the cold? Bored of doing all the things I listed above? Book a flight, book a guide, and fly south.
Once you’re there: LISTEN to your guide and do what he says. He’s a guide for a reason, and if you don’t hook into the fish you’re looking for (*cough* my striper fishing in Maine *cough*), at least you can get some knowledge for your hard-earned cash.
You might as well check this out as well to show you that: A) it’s not impossible, and B) it’s always worth it.
I hope you enjoyed the list and find it helpful to get through the winter blues…even though it took me 6 weeks to post it & it would’ve been more useful in the first week of January.
Now I’m off to practice what I preach: there’s a bass fishing book & a couch calling out to me.