Recently I had the pleasure to join a friend for a mid-May float of an eastern tailwater here in Pennsylvania. We worked up a pretty solid plan to hit the lower river early and then head upstream for the evening rise. The morning offered plenty of chances and was an encouraging prelude to the action that was to come. We had no shortage of bugs and feeding fish the entire day and we even managed to bring just a few beauts to the boat. That said, it’s days like this that make me realize many of the “little things” that come together to make for a great day. Here’s a few take aways from the day, I hope you’ll find them helpful.
- Clean your fly line regularly. If not before a trip, before dry-fly season. You’ll thank yourself when you cast further, your line floats higher, and you make better mends and presentations. You shouldn’t feel like you’re fighting your line. It should shoot smoothly and quietly through your guides. It should feel like your line wants to fly! I like Orvis’ Zip Juice and Rio’s Agent X although there are plenty other cleaners and conditioners out there. Whatever you do, DON’T USE DAWN! In my experience dawn removes the slickness treatment many companies put on their lines. Warm water and a wash cloth work fine. If you really want to use soap take a look at Dr. Bonner’s all natural liquid soap to add to your warm water.
- Match your line to your rod. True to weight fly lines like Scientific Anglers Trout taper and Cortland 444 peach are great for long to medium presentations. Many modern half-weight heavy lines are great for loading rods in close on smaller waters but I really enjoy casting a true to weight line when conditions call for being able carry and deliver 50-60ft casts accurately and delicately to discerning fish.
- Take your time, check your line. Build out your leader to match conditions. Learn to be comfortable casting longer leaders, 9ft as a minimum – 12ft/13ft even better. Check your knots and line periodically when you’re out. You don’t want to find out you have a bad knot or knick in your line when the big one gets away. Plus a fresh leader builds confidence just like tying on a new fly – and never, NEVER, underestimate the power of fishing with confidence! Believing you have the right stuff is half the equation.
Sometimes during this time of the year and especially during a float along many miles of river you will encounter fish rising to a variety of hatches and phases of bugs. It can be confounding when the bug you’ve used all day long stops working in the evening because the fish have seemingly keyed onto a new preferred meal. You could spend many precious minutes of the evening hatch rifling through your wide range of aquatic insect hatch phase variant imitations. And no doubt, you might come across the perfect fly – then again, maybe not. Before you go down the rabbit hole of matching the hatch don’t forget the generalist flies. We ran into such a situation the other evening only to fall back on Thomas E. Baltz’s Para-nymph, which I will hope Mr. Baltz forgives me when I say, looks little like everything and comes in all the right sizes. Instead of chasing the perfect imitation, don’t be afraid to go with the generalist.
Alright, that’s enough of me pretending I know what I’m talking about. Hope you’re all having a great season. Fishing has been incredible this year so far!