This is a topic that is rarely written or talked about, but it should be! It really is fairly simple, and it can make the difference between a slow day and a great day.
Most of the time, trout are likely to be hanging out at the bottom of a stream or river. Probably the most important reason for this is because the bottom is where most of the food is, but it also offers safety from predators. Aquatic insects live amongst the rocks and gravel on the bottom, and on occasion they become dislodged and drift with the current while they struggle to get back to the safety of the rocks. One exception would be when there is a large enough hatch of insects that are emerging towards the surface; in this case, trout can be found suspended in the water column chasing emergers.
Whenever we are fishing a nymph rig, we want to make sure that our flies are getting down to the bottom. However, there is a fine line between having too much weight and not enough weight.
So, if we have the correct amount of weight, we should be getting hung up on every 3-4 drifts, roughly speaking. It is very crucial to have the correct amount of weight when we are nymph fishing, or we might as well be playing golf!
Keep in mind, whenever you are casting to a new location, or if you move even just a few feet up or down stream, you may need to adjust your weights. The amount of weight you need depends on two main conditions; the depth of the water where you are drifting, and the speed of the current. The deeper the water, and the faster the current, the more weight you will need.
Every day of the year, all around the world, anglers of all ability levels head out on the water with a professional fly fishing guide. One thing that remains true, no matter where you are in the world, is that nothing beats local knowledge!
The basics of fly fishing are pretty much the same wherever you are:
I am not downplaying the importance of the basics, as they are critical to your success, and you should not hesitate to ask your guide for advice whenever you are not sure if you are doing the correct thing. However, your guide brings an essential element to the game that only a fool would overlook.
Allow me to share a personal experience that will help me make my point…
Early in my guiding career, I was fortunate enough to participate in a charity fly fishing tournament in Colorado that brought fly fishing celebrities from around the country to our neck of the woods.
The celebrities were paired up with folks who made donations to the charity. In my case, I desperately wanted to be paired up with a celebrity from Central PA who I worshipped from a young age (I am a PA native). By the way, I basically taught myself fly fishing by wearing the cover off one of the celebrities books on fly fishing.
Our client was a beginner fly fishermen from Miami, not exactly trout central. For reasons unknown to me, I had the confidence in my young abilities to suggest that I should be the one to guide our client, and the celebrity reluctantly agreed. At first, the celebrity looked at my rig and made a couple of questioning comments about the size and pattern of flies that I was using.
After the first couple hours of the first day, our beginner client was outfishing the celebrity by about 10 fish to one! Much to the celebrity’s credit, he pretty quickly realized that the river we were fishing was finicky, and the methods he was using were not likely to produce a lot of fish to the net. So, he quietly pulled me aside and said something to effect of, “you have any more of those da*% little flies? I should know better than to question a man on his home river.”
Of course I had more of those little flies, which I gave him (I should say traded him for some of his flies that are prized possessions of mine to this day), and over the course of the next couple days, we proceeded to have a wonderful time. We all became friends, and the celebrity never questioned my knowledge again.
His comment about not questioning a man on his home river has rung loud and true to me ever since, and I hear him saying it in my mind whenever I am on a new piece of water.
So, what does this mean to folks who are paying for a guide?
I truly believe that it means you should trust your guide no matter how unorthodox or odd a particular rig, method or location may seem to you. Your guide wants you to catch fish and have a great day… trust me on this. Any true professional guide should be able and willing to teach the basics of fly fishing. What you are really and truly paying for, is the guides local knowledge of his home rivers, flats, lakes, streams or ocean.
If you want to maximize your day fishing with a guide, always have faith that they know the water they are guiding on and use the tactics, methods and flies that they suggest without hesitation. You may have some hesitation at times, but why not let the fish decide if you are doing the right thing!
One of the best things about fly fishing is that we get to practice our addiction outdoors and on a stream, as well as on the lake or on the ocean. For many of us, our time outdoors is limited and precious, so we are always hoping for sunny skies and warm air. In reality, we can be faced with a multitude of conditions, including: rain, snow, wind, and the cold. If we are at our favorite tropical saltwater flats location, all of these situations are a big disadvantage and can even result in not being able to fish at all and we may be forced to spend the day reading a book or taking long naps. Trout fishermen need not fear, because much of the time, the best fishing can be had when the weather is at its worst.
Fish don’t have eye lids, so they are not big fans of bright sun. On sunny days, trout also feel exposed to predators as it’s much easier for predators to see them in the water. Mayflies also tend to hatch more heavily when the weather is cloudy and rainy. So a rainy, cloudy day can be one of the best times to be on the water, especially if there is a May Fly hatch. In areas of the world such as New Zealand and Patagonia, trout are non-native and have no natural predators. For this reason, sunny days in locations where trout have no natural predators are one of the exceptions to the inverse correlation rule. In our area, there is still hope for fishing on sunny days, because caddis flies are more likely to hatch on sunny days, but you may need to focus on areas with faster and deeper water where trout will feel more secure.
Wind can be a real bummer while fly fishing, there’s no doubt about it. But, in certain situations it can be a big help. If the water levels are low and clear and the wind is calm, the stream can look like a fish aquarium. If you add a little wind, the surface of the water can become broken and choppy and make it harder to see into the water. If it’s harder to see in, it’s also harder to see out, so the fish will feel more comfortable under a broken and choppy surface. Fly fishing in windy conditions on a flat on the ocean is very difficult due to casting and also because you are usually sight fishing. Wind can also add a natural action to our flies by creating movement if we are fishing nymphs under an indicator.
Rain is a real bonus. It means it’s cloudy for one thing. For another, it breaks the surface of the water much like wind. Rain can also wash in lots of food into the stream that fish like to eat like worms and terrestrial insects.
If it’s snowing, the sun is not bright and it has to be cloudy. Remember, clouds are always good while trout fishing (unless you are trying to sight fish).
If it’s cold out, no matter. The water is probably warmer than the air (especially on the Club’s spring creeks). At some point in the day, the air temps will likely be rising, which will make our cold blooded quarry more active. A little sun in the winter time can sometimes be a blessing by helping to raise the water temps. This is one of the times I like to see the sun when on a trout stream.
The next time the weather forecast is not looking sunny and warm, please don’t let it stop you from fishing, because you may well be missing out on some of the best fishing of the year!