Secrets of the Guides

Secrets of the Guides

Two dozen ways to fish better this summer

Keep Moving
Whether you are fishing a river, lake or on the beach, always be moving. As Jack Gartside says, "Don't be a barnacle." The fish will move depending on the tide, the river flow and the bait, so you will also have to move to find them.
David Skok

Train yourself to see fish underwater
Whenever a fish swims away slowly after you release it, try to observe it for as long as possible. The more familiar you are with what fish look like underwater, the more of them you will see.
Jeremy Gilbertson

Control your line
One of the differences between a novice and an advanced saltwater fly fisherman is line control. Whether you are in a boat or wade-fishing, the first thing you want to think about is how much line you can handle given the conditions. If the wind is blowing 20 knots and you can only cast 40 feet there is no need to strip 60 feet of line off your reel; that extra line will only cause you headaches.
Carter Andrews

The Pheasant Tail is your friend
The one fly pattern that you can always count on is a Pheasant Tail Nymph, so don't leave home without it. A Pheasant Tail looks like a lot of natural nymphs, Ephemerella genus, Hendrickson, Sulphurs, and a large-enough one can even pass for Isonychia. There's bound to be some of these present in the stream. I carry them in size 20 to size 10.
Jerry Hadden

Make one good presentation
Big fish in clear, slow-moving water rarely make mistakes in their food selection, and one shot is all you get. Think about it like you are setting up to kick the game-winning field goal. Here's what I do: I try to get upstream and across from the fish as quietly as possible. I then make quartering casts anywhere from 20 feet to as far away as 60 feet or more if the water allows for the never-ending drift with a slack-line feed. The goal is to get the fly to the fish before he sees the line. I cannot stress how important it is to get the fish to see the fly first.
Brian Kimmel

Step down when the wind is blowing
When I am flats-fishing from a boat and the wind is blowing hard I step back toward the cockpit and strip my line onto the lower deck. This helps keep your line from constantly blowing into the water and tangling in the trimtabs or getting in the way of your guide's poling. When it is time to cast to a fish, step forward to the bow to make your cast.
Carter Andrews

It's not the wind;
it's your backcast

Having a strike indicator on your leader doesn't make a person tangle, nor does the wind. Weak backcasts cause tangles.
Jeremy Gilbertson

Always be ready to cast
When fishing on the flats always have 20 feet of fly line out of your rod tip. The 20 feet of fly line is usually enough to load the rod (although 25 feet works even better). With a couple of good double hauls you can quickly cast to 60 feet.
Carter Andrews

Stay comfortable
Dress in layers. In Montana the weather can change in a heartbeat. I usually wear a polypro undershirt, a fleece and a thin rain shell. I can take off or put on layers depending on the weather. I've also been turned on recently to fast-drying wading pants that I wear underneath my waders in the cool morning and then wear when wet-wading in the afternoon.
Craig Larson

Maybe it's Maybelline
Maybelline Make-Up Remover makes a great dryfly flotant: it is non-toxic and won't damage your line.
Keith Wilson

Have some coffee
To make guide coffee, pour ground coffee into a pot, add one whole egg (cracked), perk, pour and serve.
Jeff McEvoy

Tie strong knots
Use a single, firm pull on your leader or tippet when you are seating a knot. Slow, tentative pulls create friction, which generates heat and weakens the mono. A quick pull on a lubricated leader, though, will finish the knot with minimal weakening.
Alex Nixon

Don't forget your sunglasses
Polarizing sunglasses are not only a must for spotting fish but are also a good way to protect your eyes from an errant hook. When you are in a drift boat with two people and there is a little bit of wind, things can get dangerous.
Craig Larson

Less is more
A lanyard and fanny pack can hold just about everything you need in terms of tackle and supplies and will cut down on the clutter.
Sean McCormick

Make a hatch chart
Keep and maintain a personal hatch chart for the rivers you fish most often. Most of the hatch charts you see on the Internet are crap--they are copies of copies and are highly inaccurate. If traveling to a destination, call a local fly shop about the hatches that will be coming off during your trip.
Jerry Hadden

Picture it first
You need to visualize catching the fish in your head long before making your first cast to the target.
Brian Kimmel

Tippet tip
For nearly every situation you are better off with a shorter leader. I always use a 81/2- to 9-foot leader with a 16- or 18-inch tippet tied to it. The length of the leader and tippet aren't as important as the diameter of the tippet. The key is proper drag management, especially when fishing over pressured fish.
Jerry Hadden

Don't forget the current
Most people can effectively spot areas where fish will be sitting, but then they forget to factor the current into the equation. Casting three feet farther upstream and letting the current pull the fly into feeding lanes will show your fly to more fish and increases your chances of hooking up.
Drew Rush

Don't crush those split-shots
If you use pliers to squeeze split-shots onto your tippet, be aware that too much pressure will flatten and weaken the monofilament, possibly causing a break that will cost you a good fish.
Mark Caines

Get under the wind
If the wind is bothering you, tip your rod to the side and make your cast parallel to the water's surface. This will help you "get under" the wind.
Mark Hyde

Hitting bottom
The most common mistake I see when people are nymphing is a reluctance to tick on the river bottom. If you aren't ticking the bottom, you aren't showing your fly to fish.
Jeremy Gilbertson

Give your indicator a brush
If your fibrous strike indicator is mashed together and sinking, use the hook portion of a hook-and-loop strap to comb it back into shape. It'll float a lot better afterwards.
Brian Kimmel

Don't eat…
Here's one I wish my guide in Belize had told me: "Don't eat the lettuce."
David Skok

A word about cats
"Did you pet a cat this morning? You did? That's why you're not catching any fish."
Sean McCormick