This is an excellent article written a few years ago by the author on non-technical fly fishing. Man, it sure fit me and it provided some very helpful information tha fits my style. I found the article on another forum.
NON-TECHNICAL FLY FISHING
BY Cliff Hilbert
Are you confused or intimidated by all the technical aspects of fly fishing? Do you think you can't catch fish unless you know 15 different types of knots, 12 different types of casts, understand everything about stream entomology, tie your own beautiful flies, throw perfect 90' casts every time, understand everything about leader and tippet size? Then this article is for you. I am probably one of the least technical fly fishers I know. I can tie about three different knots, have never taken casting lessons, I have never tied my own flies and I still think about leaders and tippets in pounds instead of X sizes. Yet I have 12 Texas State fly fishing records, over 150 lake fly fishing records, and people will tell you that I catch more fish than almost anyone they know. And I've never considered myself more than an average fly fisherman, surely not an expert and most definitely not technical.
Many years ago I was given an old fly rod of my uncle's and I began to fly fish for perch in park lagoons in New Orleans, never knowing that your cast had to go from 10:00 - 2:00, mine was probably 8:00 - 4:00. I had no idea that fly fishers used anything other than store-bought popping bugs. I used straight monofilament for leaders, never having heard that you need a tapered leader to get your fly to turn over correctly. I probably used some knots that I learned in the Boy Scouts. But I still caught fish.
For most of my life I fly fished very little until about seven years ago when I bought my first good fly rod, a 9', 6/7-wt St. Croix Imperial and, no, I didn't read up on all the rods available, nor did I ask many people what they'd recommend. I simply went to the local fly shop, Backcountry in Tyler, and asked the fly shop manager, Jim Green, what he'd suggest for a good, all-around, medium-priced fly rod that I could use for bass and bream fishing. He suggested the one I bought, I still have it today and use it most of the time. I have since bought a 7', 3-wt. St Croix Imperial and an 8 1/2', 4-wt St. Croix Avid. These are not extremely expensive, top-of-the-line rods. They are more expensive than the $25 Walmart rod I had before, but they're not the $600+ rods that are available out there. I am extremely pleased with these rods and don't think I'll ever care to buy anything more expensive, these suit my needs. There are rods out there that cost less than mine that are great rods for the average fly fisher. You don't need $200 rods to catch fish, and you don't need to understand fast action or slow action rods, which ones load the best, which ones shoot the best, because I don't.
At 59 years of age I still don't tie my own flies and don't want to as long as I have my sanity, lol. I buy most of my flies at the local fly shops ( I like to support those who give me the advice and service I need), a few from the internet, and have friends who have given me flies to try out. But the fly that Ive caught the most bass on (including a 9# and 7.9#) is the venerable Peck's #1 Popping Minnow, a big balsa-wood popper that's been around for about as long as I have. Bass love them! I've also caught a lot of bass on clousers, wooly buggers, pistol petes, zonker-type flies and a variety of other flies I've picked up over the past few years. I don't use poppers for bream, I use trout nymphs because bream feed mainly on insects under the water, and I catch more bream than anyone I know. I catch a lot of crappie on clousers and wooly buggers. I've even begun using soft plastics on my fly rod in heavy timber or heavy vegetation, they are the only things I've found that I can fly fish lily pads with. No they're not flies, but so what, I catch fish with them. The first time I tried a soft plastic on my fly rod was last year and I caught a 5.5# bass on it. Who cares whether the purists like it or not, the fish do.
Six years ago I started trout fishing. I picked up a couple of books about the subject, asked a few questions at the fly shop, bought all the necessary equipment for wading, about twenty different flies and off to Mountain Home Arkansas I went to fish the White and Norfolk rivers. I even caught trout up there on my first trip, about 15 rainbows. I think I used a small wooly bugger most of the time. I've been back there 3-4 times a year since then and usually catch trout each time I go wading. My trout box probably has 200 flies in it now, and I could probably tell you what half of them are. How do I know which ones to use? I ask the local fly shops and the other fishers on the river what the trout are biting on at that time. I might also take a stream sample with a seine to see what's in the river. Do I understand runs and pools, tailing ends, etc.? A little but not much, but I still catch a fair amount of trout - I've caught 40 or more trout per day on more than one occasion up there. I rarely use dry flies when trout fishing, 90% of the time I use nymphs under a strike indicator. That way you don't have to be an expert to get a good dead drift.
As far as knots go, I know three, a palomar knot, a clinch knot and a double surgeon's knot. I have no idea what they are, or how to tie the other knots that a lot of fly fishers talk about. If forced to, I can tie a nail knot for tying the leader or mono to the flyline, but I much prefer the Orvis or Cortland braided loops that go on the end of the fly line. They last forever and are easy and fast to use. I HATE those little eyelet nails that you insert into the end of a fly line.
The only time I use tapered leaders is when I'm trout fishing. When warmwater fishing I only use straight monofilament on the end of my fly line, I never use tapered leaders for this purpose. When bass fishing I use 17# test mono, for bream fishing I use 5 - 8# tippet material because it is smaller in diameter and sinks faster than regular mono. The length of the mono will vary from 3' - 9', depending on what type of terrain I'm fishing. My casts get where I want them to and my flies seem to turn over just fine without tapered leaders.
As I mentioned earlier, I've never taken casting lessons. Over the years I've picked up a few tips which have helped me cast better, but I'm sure that if a casting instructor saw my style that he would keel over from a heart attack or just throw up his hands in dismay. But the fish don't rate us on casting ability or style, and I'm not out there to impress anyone other than the fish. The fish could care less whether I have a tight and perfect loop or not. They don't care that I don't know how to throw a curve cast, a parachute cast, single haul or double haul, or any of the myriad of casts that experts throw. I do virtually no false casting, it is unnecessary usually. All the fish care about is that you put something that'll fool them somewhere near them so they can eat it if they want it. I couldn't cast a fly 90' to save my life, 95% of my casts are only 20' - 40'. The only time I practice casting is when I'm out on the water fishing.
The line I use 95% of the time is a Scientific Anglers Mastery Series GPX Weight-Forward Floating Line. That's what works the best for me. For basic fly fishing that's all you need. I have a full-sinking line that I use on occasion, but that's only when I want to fish 8' or deeper. I couldn't tell you how long the tapers are on my lines, how big the bellies are, how long the lines are, etc. I can cast them and catch fish with them, that's all that matters to me.
It is my opinion that there are two main types of fly fishers. There are those who are in love with the art of fly fishing, they love the beauty of the perfect cast, they love the tricks you can do with the line when you really get good at casting, they love to make 100' casts lay out just perfectly, they know all about the different types of rods and reels out there and what the technical aspects of each are, they know all the knots, all about leaders and tippets, all about stream entomology, probably tie their own flies - they enjoy these parts of fly fishing, and that's great. Then there are the others, like me, who love to fish and consider fly fishing to be a very enjoyable part of the sport of fishing, but are not interested in all the technical aspects of fly fishing, they're mainly interested in catching fish There are probably others who fall somewhere in between. Which way is the best? Whichever way you're most comfortable with and makes you happiest. Find where your interests are, go out and enjoy yourself and quit worrying about all the technical aspects of the sport and what the experts and purists think. You don't have to please them, you only have to please the fish.
The rest of the story......
... and here's part 2
If I see a log lying down in the water, I’ll work my fly alongside that log for as far a distance as I can. The fish will be under the log many times, it is a place for them to hide. The state record longear sunfish, .44#, I caught on Lake Jacksonville last year was under a fallen tree I was casting to in the back of a little cove. If I see a big tree or brush pile in the water, I’ll cast as close to it as possible, let the fly sink as far as possible without tangling in the brush, then slowly twitch it away from the pile. Many times the fish will come out of their hiding place to attack the fly. If one comes out, then usually more will come out. If I get tangled in the pile, then I’ll go get the fly if possible. I don’t worry too much about messing up that particular spot because there are many more places to fish on the lake. If I see a stump in the water, I’ll cast to the stump and let the fly sink next to it. Stumps are hiding places for fish.
I fish boat docks for bream and I catch a lot of bream from around the docks. I try to side-arm cast my fly up under the docks and let them sink for several seconds. Much of the time when a fish hits it you will see just a very slight twitch in the line as it’s sinking (I try to watch the leader as opposed to the fly line) or you’ll just see the leader moving in a direction it shouldn’t be moving. And, many times, you won’t even know you have a fish on until you begin to twitch the line to give the fly a little action and you notice a little tension on the line which shouldn’t be there, it may be a fish. I cast alongside boat docks also and let the fly sink for a few seconds, depending on the depth of the water, then begin to twitch it towards me. I will cast into the boat stalls as well, as far up into them as I can, then let the fly sink. Sometimes I will use a #14 beadhead Prince Nymph, Zugbug, scud, etc, other times I will use a #10 or #12 beadhead nymph, just depending on how fast I want the fly to sink.
If you were to ask me how I choose a different size fly over another one, most of the time I would tell you that it is just a feel I have for a certain size or fly at that time. Sometimes I’m right, sometimes I’m wrong, fishing is a trial and error thing. If I find a fly that is working for me, I’ll stick with it. If it’s not catching fish, then I’ll try something else. If I try several flies and nothing is working, then I’ll try and change my tactics from a slow retrieve to a fast one, from fishing shallow to fishing deep, from one color to another one. There are times when they simply aren’t in a feeding mood and nothing you throw at them will work, that’s when I go home (hey, I’m not a glutton for punishment).
Bed fishing during the spawn is, without question, the most fun time of the year for bream fishing. Most of the beds you’ll never see, usually because they are too deep for you to see, except in very clear water lakes. But when you do find them in shallow water the fishing is usually fantastic. My favorite is using live crickets but, since this is about fly fishing, I’ll discuss that instead. If the beds are very shallow I’ll use a smaller and lighter fly, if they are 3’-6’ deep I’ll use a larger, heavier fly to get it down much quicker. I find that in bed fishing, generally the fish like it on the bottom, being worked slowly across their nests. That’s not always the case, but I’ve had most of my success like that. When I’m fishing like that I rarely watch the line. Instead, I know the fish has taken it because when I’m working the line in there will be a tension on it that shouldn’t be there. The easiest way to tell you have a fish on is when they take the fly and run off with it, that’s usually a pretty good indication you have a fish, lol.
This year, for the first time, I used dry flies some of the time while I was fishing the beds. It was fun and I did catch a lot of fish like that, some very nice ones. But most of the time they would just come up and slap at the fly to kill it, those are typically smaller bream. I’m sorry guys but when I see a fish hit the fly, I’m simply not patient enough to wait until I feel the tug on the line to set the hook. I set the hook when it slaps at the fly, or at least try to, thus I miss most of the topwater strikes. With sinking nymphs I don’t miss near that many, and I catch many, many more and bigger fish with wets than I do with dries – this from a guy who had never used anything but dries until about four years ago. I’m not knocking using dry flies, but I’ve found that, personally, I am much more successful with sinking nymphs than with dries.
Now when I do use dry flies, I don’t let them sit motionless while I smoke a cigarette, mainly because I don’t smoke. I give them a fair amount of action on the surface. Many times when a dry fly hits the water it will immediately be hit by a bream, which throws out the notion that you have to let it sit motionless until you die of boredom. I don’t let my topwater bass bugs sit still for more than a second or two, and I don’t let dry flies for bream sit motionless for long. I’m aggressive in fishing just like I am in most others things, and I like to see action in the flies. I’m not going to sit around and let spider webs grow on me just to give the bream time to decide if he wants my offering or not. But that is my personality, others are different and like slow fishing – if that’s what they enjoy, well that’s great for them, each to his own.
Many people like to use spiders when fishing for bream. I’ve had several given to me by friends who tie flies (I haven’t taken up that addiction yet and never will – there is a fine line between a “hobby” and a “mental illness”, just kidding guys), and I’ve used these spiders, the sinking variety mostly, and have caught some very nice bream on them. They are an excellent fly and do work well. Bream seem to love those things with plenty of legs dangling all over the place.
Before I close let me add this, my third rod is an 8 ½’, 4-wt. St. Croix Avid, which I bought for trout fishing. But when I know that when I’m going bream fishing on a windy day, I take this rod along because it handles the wind better than my 7’, 3-wt. If I know that I am going to be fishing deep for bream all day and using larger and heavier flies, I also use my 8 ½’, 4-wt. That way I won’t come home with welts all over my back and the back of my head from the fly hitting me (that hurts you know!)
One last thought. We have all heard of those “wily old bream” who have gotten large in their old age because they are so smart. Bull!! Fish are stupid, they are not wily, nor are they smart. They feed on instinct, they react quickly to a disturbance in the water – if they didn’t, then they would go hungry because the others bream would beat them to the punch. If they haven’t been caught yet, it is simply because no one has ever thrown a hook their way with something that interested them. When was the last time you saw a big yellow spider with long white legs crawling across the top of the water? Yet you fish with yellow poppers and spiders with white legs and some fish will hit them, others won’t. Does that mean that some fish are smarter than others? No, it simply means that that fly didn’t trigger the feeding instinct in some fish at that time, the next day it might. Why did that wily, wise and discriminating 9 lb bass at Fork this year hit my chartreuse popping bug (which looks like nothing she has ever seen before) after living all these years? Because she was so wily and smart? No, she hit it out of instinct, a reactionary strike. She was lucky, because I kissed her then let her go back home, but she sure wasn’t smart. (She gave me a real sweet kiss too, mmmmmm.)
None of the above are hard and fast rules. These are the tactics that I like and that work for me. If you do things differently and catch fish, then good for you, keep using what you’re comfortable and successful with.