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Dispatches from Canada: 6 Tips to improve your fly fishing this winter

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.

Sign up for twitter here and check out #FishChat or #CastingChat on Tuesdays & Thursdays, and say hello!

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

4. Practice.

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.

That being said…it’s not always cheap to do. And sometimes it’s a hassle. That being said, a few of my tips for traveling can be found here, here, and here, too.

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.

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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.

 
1 Comment

Posted by on February 16, 2012 in Fishing

 

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Dispatches from wherever: Travelin’

Give 'er...

So you want to be a traveling angler?

There’s quite a few different paths one can take to reach this goal:

  1. Become really, really good at fly fishing;
  2. Inherit the family carpet business, sell it, and become really good at fly fishing;
  3. Become a commercial airline pilot and become really good at fly fishing;
  4. Become really good at both fly fishing and photography;
  5. Become really good at writing about fly fishing;
  6. Have a trust fund or win the lottery or have a large inheritance;
  7. Marry rich;
  8. Become a geologist;
  9. Work hard, live simply, save money, research your butt off, and just do it!
If you didn’t know already, I do a combination of #8 & #9. I don’t really recommend #8 to many people, however, so I’ll dish out a few tips for #9.
1. Quit making excuses & sacrifice a little.
How does this tie into traveling? Well, count how many times you have said, or heard someone else say, “I don’t have any time to do that” or “I wish I could afford that.” Funny thing is, with a bit of sacrifice, many people could have the time or money to travel & fish.
How much TV do you watch in a week? Knock a few hours from that to get caught up on nagging chores or assignments. Or research potential travel deals online. Or start a side-gig to make a few extra bucks.
Speaking of TV, do you have cable? Get rid of that money-pit. Our cable bill was over $80/month. Times that by 12 months = $960/year. That’s real cash right there.
There’s lots of other ways to save some cash: cut down on takeout; grow your own veggies; walk, ride a bike or take public transit. It all adds up. Google is your friend on this.
My little life motto is this: Live Simply. Fish Hard. Have Fun. It’s amazing what you can do with that.
2. The internet is your friend.
Sense a recurring theme? The internet is truly your friend when it comes to finding travel deals.
Bookmark Kayak, Travelocity, Expedia, Orbitz and the like. Also check out the websites for the airlines themselves. Check frequently.
(Side note: I’m from Canada, where we essentially have a monopoly on air travel: Air Canada. If you book a ticket with them, they immediately send Bruno & Gino to your house to grab you by the ankles and shake you upside down until ALL of your money falls out. You fine Americanos have Southwest Airlines, which permits you to fly anywhere through the USA for approximately $7, from what I can tell. So suck it up a little bit. I kid, I kid…sort of…)
Ok…got that part? Now it’s time to dive a little deeper into this whole internet thing…ready?
There is a not-so-secret internet society called Travel Hacking. Start there.
To put it into real numbers, in less than 12 months, doing a really half-ass job as a travel hacker, I’ve managed to hoard up over 100,000 frequent flyer miles. That total doesn’t include what I collected flying; add those miles, it’s up to 140K.
There are some folks that get five or ten times that amount in the span of a year.
Alright, I’m not going to hold everyone’s hand through this. Turn off the TV and hit the inter-tubes.
Besides, I’ve said too much already; I’m expecting Bruno & Gino to arrive any minute…
3. Pack smart.
So you’re all booked & ready to go now? Here’s a few quick packing tips:
  • Pack light. Figure out the climate/weather & go from there.
  • Carry on your rods & reels. I use this (it’s in the pic at the top). It’s carry-on approved, and fits in overhead compartments on every plane I’ve flown on (that’s quite a few, btw…)
  • Pack light. Seriously.
  • Check your flies, forceps, pliers, multi-tools, etc. in check baggage. Or you’ll lose it forever.
  • Pack light. I’m not kidding you. Some people use the “take half your stuff & double the money” rule, but we’re trying to keep this on a budget, right?
  • Use the internet. Remember? It is your friend.
  • Pack a Mooseknuckle Lanyard (sorry, had to 🙂  )
4. Keep your wits, an open mind & a positive attitude.
Trust me, s**t happens. All the time.
It could be minor, like a slight delay on a layover.
It could be moderate, like having an officer of the National Security Force of Burkina Faso pocket your passport & hand you a signed slip of paper with a dollar amount, in CIFA’s, written on it, and not having your passport in a weird & exotic place for four days, until he is paid & returns it.
It could be major, like a hurricane hitting your destination.
All you can do is keep your smarts about you, figure s**t out, and move on.
Because, trust me, those are the parts of the story you’ll tell, laugh about, and remember forever.
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These are just a few tips & pointers to get you thinking about hitting the road (or air). I could write a 500-page book on this stuff, so this is very much the very top of the tip of the iceberg. So do your own research. And have fun.
Happy trails.
 
3 Comments

Posted by on October 28, 2011 in Fishing

 

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