Wildwood Outfitters Blog and Fishing Report
Fly fishing is what Brad Pitt did in that movie back in the early 1990's, right?...
The reality of fly fishing is just a bit different than what that movie portrayed. What we will try to do today is give a basic overview of what fly fishing actually is. Not so much the mechanics of things like the cast or hook set, but rather the thought process behind what's happening and what we are trying to achieve out on the water. Let's call it a fly fishing theory class.
I would argue that fly fishing is typically the most natural method for targeting fish, and more specifically trout. I understand that some trout fishers use bait that's alive, and how does it get more natural than that, but how many times have you seen a wax worm or butter worm drifting down a trout stream? Part of what makes fly fishing so natural is anglers try to examine what trout eat in their normal diet, then imitate that using natural and synthetic materials tied to a hook. Perhaps using peacock feathers, pheasant tails, and deer hair isn't as "alive" as using a shiner, but fly fishers can take those materials and present them to a trout in a way that mimics what they eat every day.
What fish eat can be a great place to start. For a trout, a large portion of their diet comes from the insect life found in the waterway they live in. That could be mayflies, caddis flies, stoneflies, or midges. They will then supplement that healthy diet of underwater bugs with things like grasshoppers, ants, other fish, fish eggs, inchworms, mice, and anything else that might float past! In fly fishing we will look at all those different things and try to imitate our patterns to the natural order of things.
Since the diet of a fish is the foundation of fly fishing, the next step is choosing flies that will do the trick. Go into any fly shop and it can be overwhelming looking at so many different options. How do you know what fly to choose for the stream you want to fish? One of the first things I do when arriving at a new stream is flip over rocks. In doing so I can see what natural insects are crawling around, and by extension what the trout are eating. I'll then go into my box of flies and choose something that looks the closest to the "natural" bugs.
Once you're armed with a fly pattern that looks close to what the trout are eating, you then have to look at where the fish are! On guide trips I tell guests that finding fish is half the battle and once we locate them, it's generally just a matter of time until we catch them. Typically in a stream or river, anglers should focus their efforts near swifter moving water. These "riffle" sections provide a conveyor belt of food for fish. The churning water moves rocks and pushes those insects into the current for the awaiting trout. It's for this reason that fly fishers spend so much more time fishing moving water than anything else.
The last part of fly fishing we will examine in this briefest of explanations is what to do once you find the fish and know what they are eating. One of the worst things that can happen to an angler on a given cast is drag. To put it simply, drag is when the water current pulls our flies in directions that are unnatural. If we are trying to fool a trout into thinking our fly is actually an insect, the fly has to move like an insect in the water. A bug that weighs less than a penny isn't going to be capable of traversing fast currents so your fly shouldn't be doing that either. When fly fishers work on the "drag free drift" we are trying to make the flies look as natural as possible in comparison to the speed of water we are fishing.
Books could (and have) been written on the basics of fly fishing. While this piece didn't go into the mechanics or any how-to of the sport (those will come later!), hopefully it sheds a little light on the thinking behind it all for all the beginners out there. If you have any specific questions, feel free to drop us a line and we would be happy to help you out! Until next time here's more "fly fishing footage"...