Little Fly Fishing Hacks that Make a Big Difference

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.

2 Replies to “Little Fly Fishing Hacks that Make a Big Difference”

  1. Hey guys, love your podcast. Wanted to chime in on the waxing of your ferrules. If you’re getting ready to fish and realize that your ferrules might get stuck (ie, you haven’t waxed them), there’s a makeshift option in the field. It sounds a little gross, but you can use your finger to wipe some of the oil from the sides of your nose and/or forehead, and put it on the male end of the rod piece to give it a better chance of not sticking. Not ideal, but better than a broken/stuck rod!

    Also wanted to let you know I mentioned your podcast on a list of best fly fishing podcasts on my website. Thanks for the great content!

    1. Katie,

      THAT is a terrific hack. Wow. Had never heard of it. It is definitely a “Great Stuff from Our Listeners” comment.

      Thank you! Look for your comment in the next couple months!

      And thank you for referring and mentioning our podcast. Very grateful.


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