Fly Fishing Strategies

There are a myriad of strategies one can utilize when he or she approaches a lake, river, stream, coastline or pond. In a general sense some of the questions one has to cope with include: “What line weight should I use?” “Should I use top water or go with subsurface lures?” “Should I blind cast to structure or sight fish?” “Should I wade fish or employ the use of a boat?” “Should I hit the water at sun-up or wait till later in the day?” The possibilities are virtually endless. We will try to help you with these and others as time goes along.


Strategy No. One: What rod weight should I use?

This is an obvious question that is dependent on many factors. So much so that such questions can be perplexing to the novice fly caster. Many of us want one rod to do it all. Read the following carefully. Commit it to memory. Thinking you can purchase one rod to do everything is like playing Scrooge in a Christmas play. Ba Humbug ! It CAN'T be done. It would be like eating only 1 potato chip. Consulting with an expert is not out of the ordinary when such questions arise. Experienced fly shop personnel or instructors are very willing to assist novice casters with such dilemmas. Now, back to the question at hand. “What goes into determining what rod weight to use?”

In an effort to answer the above, many other questions must first be asked. What species are we after? How and how hard does the species fight? For what purpose are we purchasing the rod? Is the intention to over power the fish? Are we intending to enjoy as much of the fight as possible? Or are we intending to use the rod for instructional purposes? What type of lure will we be using to catch our prize fish? How far will we be casting? Will our casting be affected by the wind?

Personal choice has a great deal to do with choosing a rod. If we are conservation minded as I am sure you are and you happen to be fishing for redfish in the summer time, you may want to purposely over power the fish so the fight is kept short and the fish is landed with a minimum of exertion on his part. Landing the fish quickly will greatly increase the chances for his survival once released. When fishing in the winter in cold well oxygenated water , you may purposely choose a rod wihich will be more evenly matched to the species to enjoy a longer fight. With well oxygenated water, the fish still has an excellent chance of survival unless fought to complete exhaustion. Be careful to spend enough time to revive your fish before releasing him.

When choosing a rod for instructional purposes, this is a personal choice by the instructor, however, most instructors choose a 7 wt. for a couple of reasons. It is a “middle of the road” rod . It's line is of sufficient size to be easily seen by his/her students.

As a very subjective guide, one might consider the following:

Bream, small bass (less than 3 lb.), small freshwater trout (less than 3 lbs) 1 to 5wt.

Large bass, large trout, saltwater sea trout, red fish, snook , small tarpon , bonefish 6 to 9wt.

Large tarpon, permit 10-14 wt.

All of the above is fine a good, however, one must consider that the size of the fly we are casting will, also, play a major role in the size of the fly line needed to carry the fly to our intended species, hence, it will impact the rod weight we select.

Casting long distances or in the wind will sometimes necessitate using a rod weight one or two weights higher than we would normally choose.

Still thinking one rod will do it all?

Strategy No. 2 Choosing the Right Lure

There are many of considerations to choosing the perfect lure for the occasion at hand. A historical perspective of the body of water you are fishing, for example, is always helpful. If fishing an area for the first time, magazine articles of the creek or lake may yield useful information. For some reason known only to the fish, some lures work better than others in certain areas. The advice of a guide or outfitter service can be priceless. When seeking such advice from fly shop personnel, think about purchasing a few items from the store as payment for the advice.

The time of year as well as the time of the day can play a part in deciding which lure to use as well. In the winter months, don't bother with large mayfly imitations since the only bug likely to be hatching are smaller midges. Bass fishermen usually go deep during the winter and stay away from top water plugs as a general rule of thumb. Exceptions to the rule are always possible. Early and late in the day when the suns rays are low, I tend to go with darker lures with less reflective surfaces. As the sun rises, I then switch to shinny lures, particularly if the water is clear.

The clearer the water, the more I have a tendency to choose a lure which more closely resembles the real deal, a realistic type pattern. The murkier the water, the more I tend to gravitate to a fly which imitates many bugs but no one bug in particular, a search or attractor pattern, i.e. This is particularly true when bass fishing.

Once I have arrived at the fishing site, taking the time to watch and see what kind of activity is going on can be immensely helpful. A vast majority of cold water trout feed sub surface, however, if there is a hatch going on, you may have struck gold and can utilize a dry fly imitation to be successful. If, however, you don't see any rises in 10 min. or so, nymph or sub surface patterns may be your best choice for success. You may consider a small seine to see what insects are in the water at the time. When fishing points for bass, I am always mindful of bass busting shad at the surface. A quick response with a top water fly can bring schooling bass to the net.

So in review, consider what the locals and professionals have to offer. Pair this with the time of year and locale you are fishing, consider the current conditions and always pay attention to your surroundings. Now get out there and go fishing because there is no better teacher than experience itself.