Fly fishing hacks – they are legion. In this short post I offer seven. A few years ago, I was struggling to thread a tiny (6x) tippet through the tiny eye of a tiny (#20) dry fly. My fly fishing friend — and I honestly can’t remember which friend— said, “Here’s a little trick I’ve learned. Use the river as a backdrop. This makes it a lot easier to see what you’re doing.” Presto! I had tried using the sky, the green grass, and even a light-colored branch as a backdrop. I had not considered the river.
It worked, and it’s been life-changing. Okay, it has not been life-changing. But it has certainly made it easier to tie tiny tippets to tiny flies.
Here are a few other fly fishing hacks I’ve learned over the years that have made my time on the river bit easier or a bit more effective:
Use a candle to wax your rod ferules
This prevents the end-of-the-day frustration of having sections of your rod stuck together. When this happens, the danger of breaking your rod increases as you try to pull it apart.
Keep a piece of carpet handy to stand on when you put on your waders
Make sure you always have a small piece in the back of your vehicle. It’s more comfortable to step on carpet instead of gravel when you are standing on the stocking feet of your waders. It’s even more helpful when there is mud or snow on the ground.
Wet your leader knots before you tighten them
If you don’t do this, you risk weakening the knot you’ve tied. When you pull it tight, the friction causes heat, which weakens monofilament. Yes, a little bit of saliva might be the difference between landing an 18-inch rainbow and losing it.
Stand at the river’s edge for a minute before you cast or set foot in it
Okay, this might not be so much a fly fishing hack as it is common sense. There might be a feeding fish right in front of you. Or, you might spot one feeding at a place you did not intend to fish.
On bigger rivers, take the time to fly fish up from where people take out
Fly fishers in a drift boat will often ignore the final hundred yards before they get out. They have rods to put away and gear to stow. So fish upstream to see if there is a run or two which has not been fished.
Use a larger dry fly as a strike indicator for a tiny dry fly
Do you have difficulty seeing size #20 PMD or BWO pattern?
Join the club.
One remedy is to carry a pair of binoculars. Just kidding. What works great is to tie on a larger fly first—something you can see like a size 12 or 14 tan elk hair caddis or Royal Trude (which has a tuft of white in it). Then, tie on about 10-12 inches of tippet and then the fly you’re going to fish. When the larger fly takes a nose dive into the water, you have a strike.
When fighting fish, pull them from side to side rather than up
Pulling fish to the side makes them use muscles which will tire them more quickly. This enables you to release them before they are too tired and stressed out to recover easily.