Our Man In Canada
December 27th, 1999

The Absolute BEGINNER, Part 2
The best way to learn to fly fish
is by doing it.

Chris Marshall

By Piscator


You'll find this is the most productive techique. The simplist is to just cast upstream from the place where you think bass might be holding (fig #1), Figure #1 and let the fly drift down and swing across the stream. The fly will swim just beneath the surface. This means that when a fish hits, you'll both see it and feel it. Point the tip of the rod toward your own bank. This will keep the line at an angle to the current rather than parallel to it, making the fly swim across the current towards your bank. As the fly swims towards you, gradually move the rod tip closer to your bank, keeping pace with the swing of the fly, maintaining the angle between the rod tip and the fly (fig #2). Try to avoid Figure #2 letting the fly simply dangle directly downstream. Once the fly has swung in close to your bank, give a few twitches (just in case), then lift it off the water and repeat the process. Practice doing this with as few false casts as possible, as the fewer you make, the less water will be shed from the fly, making it sink more quickly when it hits the stream.

After a few casts in one place, take a few steps downstream and do it all over again. You can work your way all the way down a pool, run, or riffle like this, covering all the likely holding places.

Dry Flies

Smallmouth also hit dry flies. Like trout, they'll feed freely on hatching flies floating down the stream, but they're much less selective. This means that during a hatch you can use almost any fly and have fish take it. Smallmouth will also readily rise to dry flies when there is nothing hatching. All you have to do is put the fly upstream of them and let it drift down.

You'll find that smallmouth are rarely put off by drag. In fact, skittering the fly about a bit will often provoke aggressive hits. However, once you've had the fun of catching a few, it's a good idea to practice getting a drag-free drift to prepare you for when you go after trout.

A selection of smallmouth flies:
Streamers/lures (sizes #6 - #8)

Wooley Bugger
Mickey Finn
Black Nose Dace
Muddler Minnow

Dry Flies (#6 - #10)
Hairwing Caddis

You can catch smallmouths on a dry fly by casting it across the stream and by letting it swing downstream, skittering on the surface. However, if you're interested in improving your trout stream skills, you should practice an upstream approach. This means casting a couple of feet above where the fish are and letting the fly drift down to them. This is more difficult than downstream fishing, as you have to retrieve the slack line as the fly drifts towards you. To do this, keep the rod tip up with as little line on the water as possible, hold the line loosely over the first couple of fingers of you rod holding hand and take up the slack with the other hand. Practice doing this at just the right speed so that you're always in touch with the fly without pulling on it. You'll find it awkward at first, but it won't be long before you get the hang of it. ~ PISCATOR

Fall Issue
We thank the Canadian Fly Fisher for re-print permission!

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