Steve’s Suggestions for New Fly Fishers

When I was a boy, I devoured every issue of Field & Stream magazine. The piece to which I always turned first was “Tap’s Tips” — an advice column written by H. G. Tapply. I had no idea that dipping wooden matches in nail polish would waterproof them. Nor did I know, until I read “Tap’s Tips,” that cutting an old rubber or synthetic sponge in cubes provides a supply of bobbers. Uh, make that strike indicators. In the spirit of “Tap’s Tips,” I’ve come up with five suggestions for new fly fishers:

1. Tie on your dropper ahead of time.

My son, Luke, has caught some big trout this spring on the South Platte River in Colorado with a two-fly combination. I talked to him the other day, and he told me that he puts together about three “two-fly” combinations while he’s watching sports on television. It saves time for him when he’s out on the river—especially on cold days when fingers tend to fumble.

What this means is tying on a piece of tippet to the bend in the hook of your lead fly and then tying on the dropper (second fly at the end of the tippet). Then, when you get to the river, you only have to tie on your lead fly. Such suggestions for new fly fishers can turn frustration as you start your day on the river to confidence.

2. Take along a old throw rug and a garbage bag

You’ll use the throw rug when you’re sitting on the bumper and putting on your waders. It beats stepping in gravel, wet grass, or mud. Then, you can throw your wet waders and boots in a garbage bag for the drive home. It keeps the back of your SUV or the trunk of your car clean and dry.

Make sure you removed the wet stuff as soon as you get home to clean it and let it air dry.

3. Use barrel swivels to connect your leader to tippet.

Sure, you’ll eventually want to learn a surgeon’s knot or something similar for tying tippet onto a leader. However, you can get by with the same knot you use for tying on your fly—an improved clinch knot—if you use a barrel swivel. Simply tie the leader to one end of the swivel and the tippet to another. Use the smallest barrel swivel you can find. This works best for nymphing since the extra bit of weight is not an issue.

If you are dry fly fishing, you’ll need a longer tippet since the barrel swivel may sink slightly.

4. Flick your wrists when making a cast.

Most beginners use too much of their body when casting. The trick is to make your rod do the work.

To accomplish this, all you need to do is to flick your wrist sharply when making a cast. Practice by making a “revolver” out of your hand (index finger pointed forward, thumb pointed up). Then flick your wrist up and down. You’ll use this same motion when you have a rod in hand.

5. Pull fish to the side when you’re fighting them.

I learned this tip from Gary Borger, whose many books on nymphing, fly fishing gear, flies, and fly fishing techniques are packaged as practical suggestions for new fly fishers.

You’ll tire out trout more quickly when you pull them from side to side. This forces them to use their muscles in a way that pulling up on your rod does not. This, of course, probably doesn’t apply to the 8-inch Brookie that you’re ripping out of a small pool. The technique works great, though, in larger runs with larger fish.

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4 thoughts on “Steve’s Suggestions for New Fly Fishers

    • Love the tip about pre tying dropper rigs. That will make my time on water more productive for sure! Tell me, any tips for how to store the tied dropper rigs so the don’t become a tangled mess?

      • Kevin, I have been trying different methods for this. One that has worked well is putting each combination into an individual small ziploc bag. I then put the bags into the same pocket as my fly box in my vest. May not be the best method but it has kept the different combinations from becoming tangled!

  1. Great tips. I have found that using a low-walled plastic tub is a great way to carry wet boots and waders. It’s convenient and usually keeps the mud and sand on the bottom and not spread about as happens in the bags.

    Also, Smith Creek makes a great keeper for handling the dropper rigs. Worth the few bucks it costs to avoid the frustrating tangles that can happen.