You really need to try fly fishing

Every year about this time, I talk to folks who are keen to start fly-fishing for trout.

Most of them already enjoy trout fishing and desire to expand their opportunities, especially after the first weeks of the season. Sometimes, they were on their favorite stream during a hatch of mayflies or caddisflies, and trout were feeding greedily on the surface while ignoring most types of bait and lures. Such an experience has inspired many converts to fly-fishing.

When it comes to trout, fly-fishing offers a tremendous amount of versatility along with the ability to make the right presentation required under most stream conditions.

And contrary to what many folks might believe, fly-fishing for trout is not all that difficult or expensive. The first hurdle in fly-fishing is learning to cast. On the average trout stream, casts of 15 to 30 feet are more than adequate, and almost anyone can learn to throw that distance after an afternoon or two of practice in the backyard.

When teaching others to fly-fish, I usually start with some method that is close to the type of fishing they are familiar with. For those who fish live minnows or spinning lures, streamer fishing is the natural transition.

Marabou streamers in black, white or yellow have great movement in the water to provoke strikes. Woolly Buggers in black, olive or brown are also good bets. Small Clouser Minnows can be deadly as well.

Streamers and Buggers can be fished in almost the same manner as a minnow or lure, casting it across or slightly downstream and retrieving it steadily or with a stop-and-go motion. If the fish are not inclined to chase the fly or merely follow it without striking, try dead-drifting the fly. Cast the streamer up and across the stream, allowing it to drift naturally with the current through the area where fish are holding. This subtle presentation can extremely effective in clear water.

Nymph fishing can be the deadliest method of catching trout under almost any kind of water conditions, and although some fly fishers might bristle at the comparison, it is an awful lot like bait fishing.

The basic and most useful nymph fishing technique is to cast the fly upstream, allowing it to sink and then drift along the bottom naturally with the current.

Achieving the all-important natural drift and learning to detect the often subtle takes requires time and experience to master. But those who become proficient with the technique will catch trout more consistently than with any other method.

Some proven nymph patterns to try would be the Pheasant Tail, Gold-Ribbed Hare’s Ear, Walt’s Worm and Prince Nymph. It’s a rare occasion that at least one of these won’t produce on any given day. Other basic patterns to try would be some simple caddis larva imitations in dark olive, green or tan. I also prefer weighted or bead-head style nymphs for these and most other nymph patterns.

To be most effective, nymph patterns need to fished right on the stream bottom. Even in low water, this might require a small split shot or two on the leader to get the fly down quickly. Another point to remember is that if you are fishing nymphs on the bottom as necessary, you will get snagged frequently and lose a few flies. Most good nymph fishermen consider this a small price to pay given the effectiveness of the method.

Dry-fly fishing can be the most fascinating aspect of the sport for many fly anglers. Watching a trout sip your fly riding along the surface is a special experience indeed. And that situation is not limited just during a hatch when lots of fish are visibly rising. On small to medium-sized streams, I love to “fish the water” with a dry fly. When I was learning to fish dry flies, I wasn’t trying to “match the hatch.” I knew where the fish were, so I repeatedly cast to any potential trout lie and soon found it was possible to coax fish to surface throughout the day, whether anything was hatching or not.

A good basic assortment of dry flies would include buggy-looking patterns an Adams, a Blue Quill, Light Cahill and a Sulphur. Other good searching flies would be a Deer Hair Caddis or a Stimulator, but almost any pattern that floats well and is easy to see is a good choice

A great spot to fish dry flies between hatches is where a shallow riffle tumbles into the head of a pool. The broken water here gives the fish some overhead cover and often draws them from the pool into this prime feeding area. On a long pool, many anglers will often ignore this section in favor of the more inviting water downstream, so the fish taking up residence there may also see less overall fishing pressure.

If you have never tried fly-fishing for trout, don’t be intimidated. You might just discover what so many of us already have. Fly-fishing is not only a most effective method of catching trout all year long, but it is also the most enjoyable way to do it.

Fly-tying time

The John Kennedy Chapter of Trout Unlimited will feature local fly tier Father Clem Gardner as the guest speaker at their regular monthly meeting this Tuesday at 7 p.m.

Father Gardner has been a priest for 50 years and a fly tier for 65 years. He enjoys tying with unusual materials. One of his specialties is using craft foam to make different types of flies and that has earned him the nickname “Father Foam.” Father Gardner will demonstrate tying techniques using foam along with some of his own fly patterns.

The public is welcome to attend this worthwhile and informative free program at the Allegheny Township Volunteer Fire Department located at 651 Sugar Run Road, Altoona.