My first rainbow trout. Photo credit: Kevin R. Kosar
I tried fly fishing for the first time yesterday. Boy is it different from chucking for bass or going deep for catfish.
To give me half a chance of succeeding, I hired an Orvis-trained guide from Allegheny Activities in the Homestead, a grand old hotel in Hot Springs, Virginia.
I was outfitted with chest-high waders and an Orvis 8’6″ 5-wt Clearwater rod.
We fished the Cascades Stream in five different spots. I scored a young, wild rainbow trout, and got hits a half-dozen other times. I had a big trout on my hook for 45 seconds or so, but lost him because I had the line too tight. (He swam upward and popped the hook out.)
The pointers I picked up up from Chris, my unbelievably knowledgeable guide, include:
- Trout eat year round and can be fished year round.
- Trout love bugs, especially the bugs that are alive and active at the time of year when you are fishing. (Different bugs, different stages of life—hence oodles of flies in the fly fisherman’s arsenal.)
- Fishing on cloudy days is preferable — trout have very good eyes, and if they see you they won’t bite.
- The thinner the line at the end, the less visible it is to the trout. So a fly rod will have three different lines: the thick very visible fly line, the much thinner leader and the still thinner tippet (to which the fly is tied).
- Trout like heavily oxygenated water—which can be found right after a rapids area. They almost inevitably face upstream, waiting for the current to bring them something tasty.
- Throw your fly upstream and the trout will charge forward for it or watch it go by and double downstream to chase it.
- After you cast upstream, flip the line to create a pocket of line that will float the fly downstream. When the fly has drifted by, slowly lift it from the water and keep an eye out for pursuit strikes.
- Try dry flies if the trout look like they are biting at the surface; try nymphs to see if they want to hit beneath the water. (Again, pay attention to the bugs—are they hovering over the water? And turn over some rocks in the stream to see what nymphs are under them, and choose a nymph fly that looks like them. If a bee or yellow jacket nest hangs above the water, don;t be surprised if you see trout hanging out beneath it waiting for a stinging bug to bumble into the water. Try a fake bee or yellow jacket fly.)
- Streamers are used when you want to elicit an underwater bite through busy action. (Here is a good primer.) To create movement and rises and falls in the streamer, one strips (pull in) line with the left hand (use your right index finger or pinky to keep the slack line you’re bringing in from fouling the reel.
- Dry flies can get soaked with water and start sinking. So, false-cast the fly quickly through the air, whipping it back and forth.
- When fishing nymphs or streamers, you the newbie should use a strike detector—a small float place a good ways up the line. Seeing an underwater fly is very tough—hence the strike detector, which will dive or jerk sharply when there is a hit.
- Speaking of a hit, when it happens quickly pop your wrist upright to set the hook, and maintain some tension as you wear the trout down as it runs. The fly line at the end is very lightweight and can snap if you yank it.
- If the stream is running quickly, it may be hard to get the nymphs or streamers down low to where the trout are. So, tiny split shot lead sinkers may be added up the line.
- I imagined that fly fishing for trout inevitably meant casting into shallow waters. This was not entirely right. My guide Chris had me work one spot that was 18-foot deep. We used a hefty streamer and splits shots and we let the fly drift then sink 6 to 10 feet down. I got bites during the initial drop, and also deep down. That’s where I got hold of a big trout that I kept on hook for 45 seconds or so.
- Wet your hands before handling a trout—it has oil on its body that can be damaged by dry hands. Lift the fish with your palms up. Return it to the water promptly with its face upstream, and hold it above the tail until it is strong enough to take off.
There are innumerable other tips and such, but this is what I presently recall from yesterday’s trip. If I got anything wrong or if you want to share any tips, please post below.