S3:E30 What Your Strike Indicator Tells You

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Your strike indicator gives off some important signals, the most obvious being whether a fish is working your nymph. In this episode for newer fly fishers, we discuss the various kinds of strike indicators – and how to read whether your nymphs are down far enough in the feeding zone. Nymph fishing is a high-interest topic of our audience, and going back to the basics now and then can help you find more success on the river.

Listen now to “What Your Strike Indicator Tells You”

Great Stuff from Our Listeners. At the end of each episode, we often include a feature called “Great Stuff from Our Listeners.” It’s the last segment of each episode, where Steve reads one of the comments from our listeners or readers. We enjoy hearing from you, and appreciate your advice, wisdom, and fly fishing experiences.

What kind of strike indicator do you like best? Or do you even use one? Please post your comments below. We’d love to hear from you!

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The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists

We’ve published a book for regular-Joe-and-Jane fly fishers called The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists: Life is short. Catch more fish.

One person who purchased the book called it “Cliffs Notes” for fly fishers.

To switch metaphors, perhaps it’s more like a handful of potato chips. It’s an entire book of lists. The goal is to help you find practical help quickly and in an easily digestible format!

Buy it today on Amazon for only $16.99!

A Primer on Mending for New Fly Fishers

Now mend your line.” Those words from Bob Granger, one of my fly fishing mentors, still ring in my ears. I needed all the help I could get on mending for new fly fishers.

Curtis, another fly fishing guide, recently said: “Better menders catch more fish than better casters.” I am convinced he is right. So here is a quick primer on mending for new fly fishers.

What is mending?

Once your fly line is floating down the river or stream, mending is simply flipping the mid-section of the line upstream of your fly line.

So if the current is flowing from right to left, flip the mid-section of the line to the right. The end result is that your fly line should resemble the letter “C” as it floats down the river — with the back of the “C” on the upstream side of the current.

Why is mending for new fly fishers important?

Mending is critical because it eliminates drag.

If the mid-section of your line gets ahead of your fly, it will drag it through the current. Your dry fly will resemble a water-skier, leaving a wake that will send trout scattering for cover. Your wet fly will zoom through the current more quickly than any nymph normally drifts through it.

The point, then, is to get a natural drift. Your fly should look like a normal morsel floating freely on top or underneath the surface.

When is mending important?

The answer is, almost every cast. Every cast needs to be mended at some point.

It’s possible to put a mend in the line during your cast. On your forward cast, simply draw the letter “C”—normally if the current is going from left to right or backwards if the current is moving from right to left. Otherwise, you will almost always need to mend your line once it lands on the water.

How can I avoid disturbing fish while mending?

First, do your mending well before the fly enters the hot zone. If you are casting a dry fly to rising fish, cast well above this spot. If you are nymph fishing or even dry fly fishing when nothing is rising, then cast well above the zone where you figure the fish will feeding.

Second, practice mending so you don’t disturb your dry fly or your strike indicator. The first few times you try to mend your line, you’ll probably jerk your fly or strike indicator a couple inches.

Of course, that’s not the end of the world if you’re mending well before your fly reaches the hot zone. But it’s best to eliminate this. You’ll get a feel for it with more practice, but the key is to lift up as much fly line as you can from the water before you make your mend.

How can I mend longer casts?

The more line you have on the water, the more difficult it is to mend it effectively with a single mend. Longer casts require multiple mends, depending on the current. By multiple, I mean two or three — not seven or eight! Instead of trying to mend the entire line in one flip, concentrate on moving the section closest to you. Then move the rest of it in another mend or two.

What is stack mending?

You can also use the technique of multiple mending to create “stack mends.” Stack mending refers to the creation of successive loops of line on the water. This allows for a much longer drift before your fly ever begins to drag. You might be surprised at how many trout you’ll catch towards the end of a long drift. Stack mending makes longer drifts possible.

So don’t just stand there after you make a cast. Do something. Mend that line.

The fish will not thank you, because you’ll fool them more often. But you will be a more satisfied fly fisher.

Fly Fishing’s Most Important Letter in the Alphabet

The most important letter in the alphabet for fly fishers is the letter “C.” If you can draw the letter “C” with the tip of your fly rod, you can manipulate your line in some important ways.

C is for Mending

Once you have cast your fly upon the water, you’ll want to mend it to get the middle part of your line upstream—behind your fly. If the middle section of line is in the lead, it can drag your fly through the current. No trout with any sense will give your fly another look.

Mending essentially puts your line in the shape of a “C.” Picture your fly at the top tip of the letter and the point where your fly line first touches the water at the bottom tip of the letter. If the current is moving from left to right, you will want to create a normal “C” shape. If the current is moving from right to left, you will want to create a backwards “C” shape.

The way to perform the mend is to draw the letter “C” with your rod tip shortly after your line lands on the river or stream. Draw this letter quickly. You’ll figure out with some practice how to do this without disturbing the fly on the surface.

C is for Looping

Another option is to create a “C” loop which your fly line is still in the air. At the end of your forward cast, quickly write the letter “C.” This will put a loop in your line so it falls in the surface in a “C” shape, requiring little or no mend.

Remember to use a backwards “C” if the current is moving from right to left.

C is for Feeding Line

Once your line is floating downstream, you want to get the longest drift possible. This is true whether you are nymphing or dry fly fishing. You will need to feed more line. The best way to do this is to keep writing the letter “C” to feed the extra line you have available. You could actually close the loop and make the letter “O.”

Again, you can learn to do this motion in a way that does not disrupt the line that is already on the surface.

C is for Line Pickup

Finally, you can pick up your line by writing the letter “C” with your rod tip. Gary Borger has perfected this technique. He says it needs to be a quick flip of the rod tip. According to Borger, “The curl introduced by the ‘C’ movement will flow down the line and snap it up off the water.” But it doesn’t stop there. Immediately after writing the “C,” continue right into your backcast.

Borger says not to hesitate between the two movements.

Who knew that learning to write the letter “C” in your first grade classroom could make you a better fly fisher!

S2:E43 Casting Upstream or Downstream?

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Casting upstream is the default mode for newer fly fishers. It’s how we are taught: stand in the river or on the bank near the bottom of the run, and cast upstream. And then mend your line as it drifts in the current. That’s certainly one approach. But there are other ways to catch fish than just casting upstream.

Listen now to “Casting Upstream or Downstream?”

Great Stuff from Our Listeners. At the end of each episode, we often include a feature called “Great Stuff from Our Listeners.” It’s the last portion of each episode, where Steve reads one of the comments from our listeners or readers. We enjoying hearing from you, and appreciate your advice, wisdom, and fly fishing experience.

Do you default to casting upstream when you fly fish? What are some situations in which you like to cast downstream?

Here is a related article to this week’s episode:

    Fly Fishing Streamers on Smaller Creeks

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S2:E36 Fly Fishing Physics 101

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Fly fishing physics are always at work if you’re at work on the river. From casting to striking to reeling to mending – the laws of physics won’t be denied. And the better you understand fly fishing physics, the more fish you might catch. Click now to listen to “Fly Fishing Physics 101.”

Listen to our episode “Fly Fishing Physics 101”

Great Stuff from Our Listeners. At the end of each episode, we often include a feature called “Great Stuff from Our Listeners.” It’s the last portion of each episode, where Steve reads one of the comments from our listeners or readers. We enjoying hearing from you, and appreciate your advice, wisdom, and fly fishing experience.

Which laws of fly fishing physics do you violate most often? Which laws did we miss? Please post your comments below.

Download a Podcast App on Your Smartphone

Be sure to subscribe to our podcast feed. You can do that on your smartphone or tablet by downloading a podcast app. The most common app used by 2 Guys feed subscribers is “Podcasts.”

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Subscribe to 2 Guys and A River2 Guys and A River

To see every episode that we’ve published, click on “Every Episode” on the top navigation.

S2: E7 Fly Fishing Made Simple

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Fly fishing made simple is big promise. If you’re just starting out, learning how to cast, read water, and grasp a modicum of entomology can feel overwhelming. We’ve wanted to publish an episode on keeping fly fishing simple, and a recent post by a listener pushed us to make it happen. In this episode, we discuss fly fishing made simple by identifying four ways to reduce its complexity and help you enjoy the sport.

Listen to our latest episode:”Fly Fishing Made Simple”

At the end of each episode, we have a feature called “Great Stuff from Our Listeners.” We read a few of the comments from this blog or from our Facebook page. We enjoying hearing from our readers and listeners, and appreciate your advice, wisdom, and fly fishing experience.

How have you kept fly fishing simple – and enjoyable? Please add your ideas to the creative mix.

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View some of our most recent podcast episodes on iTunes or on Stitcher, if you have an Android.

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That helps fellow fly fishers make a decision whether the podcast is a good fit for them.

S2:E3 The Basics of Nymph Fishing

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The basics of nymphing are never as basic as they seem. It takes time to learn the language of this aspect of fly fishing, and it takes a lifetime to become proficient at it. However, it’s worth the effort for most fly fishers. It’s said that 85% of a trout’s diet comes from beneath the surface of the river. As you master the basics of nymphing, you will likely catch more fish.

Listen to our latest episode:”The Basics of Nymphing”

At the end of each episode, we have a feature called “Great Stuff from Our Listeners.” We read a few of the comments from this blog or from our Facebook page. We enjoying hearing from our readers and listeners, and appreciate your advice, wisdom, and fly fishing experience. Please add your ideas to the creative mix.

Are you a veteran fly fisher with advice for those just starting out? We’d love for you to post your recommendations on the basics of nymphing.

What would you add?

Download a Podcast App on Your Smartphone

Be sure to subscribe to our podcast feed. You can do that on your smartphone or tablet by downloading a podcast app. The most common app used by 2 Guys feed subscribers is “Podcasts.”

View some of our most recent podcast episodes on iTunes or on Stitcher, if you have an Android.

Rate and Subscribe to the 2 Guys Podcast

We’d love for you to rate our podcast on iTunes.

That helps fellow fly fishers make a decision whether the podcast is a good fit for them.

Teaching Your Kids to Fly Fish

So you want to teach your son or daughter to fly fish. How can you make that happen? The truth is, you can lead a child to water, but you can’t make them fly fish.

I have a few suggestions, though, to help along the way:

Get them on the river early and often

I still remember the first time my dad took me to the Kilchis River near Tillamook, Oregon. He was fishing for steelhead. I was four years old, mesmerized by the smell of the river — as well as by the smell of the fish. The experience was formative, creating in me a love for rivers.

Last summer, our family stayed in some cabins on Montana’s Boulder River. I watched my two sons-in-law fly fish while toting their little kids in backpacks. Now my sons-in-law were not wading, nor were they near deep water. So my 3-month old grandson and my one-year old granddaughter were safe! I was proud of the guys for getting their young children into the great outdoors at the river’s edge.

The time to introduce your kids (or grandkids) to the river is even before they are old enough to fish.

Get them hooked on brookies

When we lived in Helena, Montana, in the early 1990s, we occasionally made the 40-mile trip over MacDonald Pass and then up the Little Blackfoot River to a national forest campground. We fished the river—not much more than a little stream at that point—and caught quite a few brook trout.

My technique was to get a brookie on the line, hand them the rod, wait a couple seconds, and then say, “Hey, I think you’ve gone one!” Later, when they were old enough to go solo, I taught them to fish with a spinning rod and drown a worm. They eventually graduated to fly fishing.

Brook trout are a beginner’s best friend. They can be wily at times, but they are often forgiving of sloppy casts. If you do not live near a trout stream, even blue gills or sunfish will do. It’s important that your youngsters catch some fish.

Get them started on nymphing

Once your kids are ready to handle a fly rod, nymphing is a great way to get them started. Their casts do not have to be as precise as in dry fly fishing, and it’s easy to teach your kids to watch the strike indicator (I like the small plastic bubble) as it floats down a run.

About the only thing your kids need to learn is to mend their line. I’m surprised how early my boys caught on to this technique. Both of them caught some nice rainbows in the Madison River with nymphs. Later, when they became more proficient, they graduated to dry flies.

Make it fun, not too technical

Most six-year-olds are not going to respond well to a lecture on tippet size or your instructions for tying an improved clinch knot. Nor will they care much about the difference between a copper john and a prince nymph. Just let them fish.

This is also not the time to refine their casting. Be patient, and be prepared to take some deep breaths—and to spend time untangling lines and leaders.

Give them a break and let them explore

Don’t be upset if your child loses interest in a hurry and wants to explore. Encourage it. My youngest son, Luke, would often stop fishing after a few minutes—even if he was catching trout!—so that he could look for frogs and garter snakes. It’s all part of the outdoor experience. Your child’s love for fly fishing may develop later, after they first become enamored with all the cool things they find along the river’s edge.

There are no guarantees, but if you teach your kids to fly fish, they may continue it or even pick it up again later in life.

A funny thing happened last summer when we were camped out on the Boulder River. My sons-in-law taught my daughters how to fly fish. My daughters remembered the days we spent catching brookies on the Little Blackfoot about 25 years earlier and decided it was time to try fly fishing.

Meanwhile, my older son taught his wife to fly fish. Then, in the biggest surprise of all, my youngest son taught his mother (my wife). He was there when she caught her first trout on a fly rod. At first, he felt bad that he didn’t let me teach her how to fish. Both my wife and I reassured him that it was for the best. He was more patient with his mom than I would have been!

Later, as we watched the sun set from the porch of our cabin, we realized that we were seeing the results of a commitment to teach the kids to fly fish.

Give your kids a video game, and you’ll make them happy for a few hours. Teach them to fly fish, and you’ll make them happy for a lifetime.

Fishing with a Sage

All I really need to know about fly fishing I learned from Bob Granger, a veteran fly fishing guide and fly tier.

When you ask him how many flies he tied last weekend, and he says “twenty,” he means “twenty dozen.” Bob tied for Orvis for many years. Then he worked for Ted Turner, supplying Turner and his friends with all the flies they used. The people Bob has guided in his drift boat reads like a “Who’s Who” list:  Ted Turner, Jane Fonda, Jimmy Carter, Hank Aaron, and Mikhail Gorbachev.

Yes, Mikhail Gorbachev, the Russian leader.

The list makes me laugh, because Bob is politically conservative. Yet he speaks graciously, if not diplomatically about the people he has guided over the years. When I asked him about Jane Fonda, he said, “She was a very good fly fisher.” Hank Aaron? “He was a better baseball player than a fly-fisherman.”

Bob’s Pearls

I met Bob in the winter of 1996, the year I finally decided to get serious about fly fishing. My buddy, Brand Robinson, and I had signed up for a fly tying course at Montana Troutfitters, a fly shop in Bozeman, Montana. For about eight Saturdays in a row, Brand and I drove eighteen miles into Bozeman to learn the art of fly tying. The name Bob Granger meant nothing to me at the time. But he turned out to be a sage—a profoundly wise man when it came to fly fishing and to life. I can’t remember how much I paid to take the course, but the lessons I learned were priceless. Here are a few of the pearls Bob communicated.

  • Nymph fishing is most productive since eighty-five to ninety percent of a trout’s diet comes from below the river’s surface.
  • Like the rivers, you can always nymph on the spring creeks.
  • The best weather for fly fishing is an overcast, cool day. A sunny day is the worst. If you want to catch the “big boys,” try a streamer on a dark, overcast day or during times of low light in the early morning or late evening.
  • An old extension cord will provide you with a lifetime of copper wire for fly tying.
  • If you want to fish during a mayfly hatch, the best time is mid-day, between eleven and two. But if you are fishing during a caddis hatch, the evening is when the majority of these flies emerge.
  • Tie your nymph and streamer patterns with bead-heads. This will create a natural drift when your fly is in the river. If you insist on weighting your flies in another way, use a different color thread for your weighted flies to tell them apart from your non-weighted flies.
  • The more you fly fish, the fewer flies you will use! For dry fly fishing on the Yellowstone or Gallatin Rivers, an Adams or an elk hair caddis will work most of the time.
  • If fish are refusing your fly, change the size before you try another pattern. Also, check your tippet size. You may need to go smaller.

Now Mend Your Line

Thankfully, when I got my Certificate of Achievement for completing the Beginners Fly Tying Course—signed, of course, by Bob Granger—it did not mark the end of our relationship.

In the fall of 1996, my podcast partner, Dave Goetz, and I scraped together enough money to hire Bob to take us on a day float of the Yellowstone River in Paradise Valley, south of Livingston. It was a perfect October day. The weather was cool, overcast, and drizzly. We floated a stretch which took us right by my parents’ home on the banks of the Yellowstone near the Mill Creek bridge.

This stretch of river had a healthy population of cutthroats and rainbows, with a smattering of browns. With Bob as our guide, I was sure it was going to be a thirty or forty fish day. Instead, it turned out to be a three or four fish day, and there were whitefish involved. Nothing seemed to work. Still, I gained more wisdom. Bob kept after me all day during the float. “Good cast, now mend your line.” Those words still ring in my ears after a cast. I repeated them to my two sons when I taught them to fly fish, and I expect them to pass on this bit of wisdom to their children as well.

The lesson in all of this is, don’t try to be a self-made fly fisher. Find a sage, a guide for the journey. That guide might be sitting behind the cast register or the fly tying bench at your local fly shop.