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Thread: common mistakes by novice stream fly fishermen

  1. #1
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    Default common mistakes made by novice stream fly fishermen

    Having spent a bit of time with an accomplished stillwater but novice stream fly fisherman this past weekend, I could not help but notice a few glaring mistakes. In the interest of helping the 'would be' stream enthusiast, I thought I would share a few of these.

    The first error that I noticed was the incessant need to false cast in order to try and cover as much water as possible, which firstly increased the chances of hanging the fly up on an obtrusive branch by at least 300% and secondly spooking everything in sight. This improved as the day progressed when I made him a bit more aware of the various target zones, starting at the tail of the pool, where no more than a leader length cast was necessary before shooting out a few feet more line in one cast to the next possible lie.

    The next mistake was not moving above the lip of the pool before lengthening the cast to the next target zone, everytime having to contend with the current at his feet sucking away at his line and causing considerable drag as a result. I explained that the golden rule was to always move closer in favour of having to lengthen the cast too much. The least line on the water at any given time, the less chance of drag setting in.

    I lost count of the number of fish that he missed by not immediately trying to locate his fly after it landed on the surface and instead worrying about getting his line retrieval under control. I explained that his eyes should be fixed on the target area at all times, which seldom amounts to more than 3 or 4 feet of drift.

    Another mistake was to strip retrieve the line in too quickly, causing the fly to plop towards him every now and again, instead of dead drifting.

    At one point I noticed his fly landing very closely to his main line and told him to check his leader. My suspicians were confirmed by a holy shmolly tangle that would have made a weaver proud.

    And then there was the problem of presentation, and two factors contributing to his fly slapping the surface, namely, buggered up leader dynamics due to too many fly changes and at one point even losing the mid section of his leader and attaching tippet to the remaining butt section. He also was not elevating his cast above the lie, but instead aiming directly at the target. This improved as he concentrated on slowing down his action and opened up his loop.

    These are but a few of the more major errors and the rest just needed a bit of refinement here and there, but I am proud of my mate, he made the mistakes, listened to the advice, made the necessary adjustments, and went on to catch a lot of fish!

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    Last edited by Chris Shelton; 26-09-06 at 03:59 PM.

  2. #2
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    Cool Some more Pointers

    Thanks Chris, a nice little piece, but I know you won’t mind if elaborate on some of the points.

    1. False Casting – this is generally due to the inability to shoot line and that novices try and fish out every cast, instead of picking the line up when you are out of the “zone” and while there is enough line to load rod. The trick is use the water to help load the rod on the lift, without “popping” the fly, so the back cast is where it all happens. This should be fast and powerful, (a) to shoot line and (b) to get the excess water off the fly, reducing the spray on the forward cast. Then the forward cast should be smooth and accurate, aimed high above the target, the emphasis is on presentation.
    2. Look before you Cast – I think we are all guilty of this at times, but I am trying to get better. Pick where the fish should be, prime lies, then establish where it is easiest to cast from and that will afford you the best drifts, then fish the water you might spook while getting there, and then finally go for the GOLD.
    3. Line Control – I believe that this bad habit comes from trying to cast too far. The habit is to strip off ogles of line and then try to cast it. So even though the thought is to keep the casts short, there is too much line lying around. I try to strip off just the line I am going to cast, therefore, when the fly land I only have to reach for the reel and the line is under control.
    4. Wind Knots – I think we all still get them, from time to time. But they can be avoided by trying to concentrate on point 1. But step 3 really helps solve this little issue.
    5. Leader Construction – probably the most over looked item of kit. The shop bought leaders work great and because the one piece they tend to last longer. We all spend so much money on everything else, R20 to R40 on a leader, should be a given. Once “leader dynamics” are understood, then tie you own.

    But most of all, I see guys rushing the water. Slow down, relax and enjoy the stroll, you don’t have to fish the entire river in one day.

    Anyway, they are just my thoughts…
    Mike McKeown

    You're either fishing or waiting...

  3. #3
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    Default

    Hi Maximum. I could not have said it better myself. This is what makes a forum like this so great, sharing our common interest, and active participation by all members. The interaction between members like yourself, sharing ideas and giving advice and if needs be constructive criticism, all make for a very informative forum, and one that I for one am privileged to be part of. You filled in the gaps perfectly mate, thanks a lot!

    I tend to be guilty of point number 6, and that is moving too quickly through a particular stretch of water. I guess this was ingrained in me from an early age when I was towed up the kloofs by fitness fanatic father. It was a case of keep up or get left behind, and I would have none of the latter, so I learnt to fish quickly and selectively, picking out only the best lies. In the days before beats, this is how a we did it, having ample water at our disposal, but we also walked over and spooked a lot of fish in our haste to reach some or other destination, whether that be the overhang camp or the buchu ladder on the JDT's, or Knights cave on the Elandspad, fishing up from the road bridge all the way to beyond Gog and Magog in one day. Those were insane years, but we still caught the same amount of fish in a day as one would by moving a lot slower, we just got to cover a lot more water and only fished the best lies in search of the bigger fish.

    Having said this, I do agree that a lot of us tend to fish through our beats too quickly. The right approach in a limited stretch of water would be to approach each pool slowly and carefully, taking some time to just observe and try to pick out all the possible lies before prioritising them in order of closest first and not best looking lie first. As Maximum rightly says, save the gold for last!
    Last edited by Chris Shelton; 28-09-06 at 07:35 AM.

  4. #4
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    Default

    This is a great thread and I believe it can be of good value to fishers new to the streams. I guess we are all guilty of making some of the mistakes every now and then. A few things I've picked up:

    1. Line control - letting go of the line on the presentation cast, the fisher looks down to grip the line and the fish has already taken and spit the fly. Also taking up slack and mending when neccessary and mending in time. Quite often there is a short drag free drift as the fly lands, while the angler was looking down.

    2. Casting too far - instead of moving into a better position the angler wants to cover good lies from a distance.

    3. Moving the rod up/backwards as the fly lands (extending the casting arm as the fly lands and moving it back) - immediatly the fly is dragged from the target zone when there isn't sufficient slack.

    4. Walking in the water / walking to fast in the water - This creates shock waves spooking fish, especially in slower glides and pools. Fish the water from the bank if possible.

    5. Strike too hard / too late - trout don't eat flies they spit them out. Yanking the rod will break light tippets. Lift into the fish rather. If line control was bad at this point, too much slack has to be removed before the hook sets.

    6. Too much false casting over fish - this has been said, fish are very aware of outside dangers which moves fast and not in sync with their surroundings.

    7. Match tippet size to fly size - on the Cape streams 5X - 7X tippets are pretty much the norm when fishing from #12 - #20 flies. I've seen guys fishing 3X on small flies. When nymphing 4X can be used, probably 3x for streamers.

    8. Lifting the fly with a "plop" - When not hitting the target area rather finish the drift and recast. Lift the fly gradually with a smooth motion, don't jerk it from the water's surface.

  5. #5
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    I think that you can always spot an experienced river fisherman by watching his line control and what he does with his non-casting hand. Someone with less experience can still be a good caster but they just don't know what to do with all that line that needs to be retrieved. An experienced angler will immediately get in the slack once the fly lands, and always be in contact with his fly, all without taking his eyes off the water.

    A stillwater fisherman will often send out an impressively long cast, then look around to see if anybody was watching and then take 10 seconds to sort out the line. In river fishing you don't have that luxury, you need to be aware of where your fly and line is at all times.

  6. #6
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    Default

    Yip, Fred was telling me that when they take their students out for their practical, it is the biggest concern. The guys just don’t have that instant contact, and yes the first 5 seconds is the key.

    After reading Fish’s comments I had to think about what I do, and then realized that I let the line slip though my hand, and never actually let it go. It just second nature… but I do know how I got there, read my point 3.

    I have a little golf experience, and we use to video our golf swings for closer analysis latter. I wish some one had done that with me when I started fly fishing, I think that if you have a little camera, and a good buddy, it would be worth a shot, even if your just casting on the lawn.

    I hope experience fishers will take this tread further, it really could be awesome.
    Mike McKeown

    You're either fishing or waiting...

  7. #7
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    [QUOTE=Kevin Elliott;201]I think that you can always spot an experienced river fisherman by watching his line control and what he does with his non-casting hand.

    You have hit the nail on the head Kevin. I dont think enough emphasis can be placed on the importance of the function of the retrieving hand in stream fishing. One of Gary's biggest problems was, what to do with all the line that was coming towards him. This is something that he never had to contend with before on any still water.

    Perhaps we should take some time to elaborate on some of the effective methods of line control. For what it is worth, this is the way I do it.

    1) After casting, my eyes become actively engaged in seeking and picking out my fly
    2) my left retrieving hand grabs the line at the first eye, drawing it towards my rod holding hand and placing it in the crook of my rod holding index finger. My eyes are on my fly all the time
    3) I then proceed to figure eight retrieve my line at the speed of the current whilst gradually lifting my rod tip to keep the belly of the line from being sucked downstream in the quicker flowing water at my feet.
    4) As the fly reaches the end of it's drift in the target zone, I use the surface tension of the water on my line to aid the lift off into my backcast, shooting a bit of line off my thumb as the line unfurls behind me, and pinching the line in my retrieving hand again as the line straightens behind me and shooting the remainder of the line off my thumb on the forward cast back to target.

    This process is repeated over and over from target zone to target zone. My line is always neatly contained in my hand and becomes the least of my problems, freeing me to become fixated on the business end, where all the action should be happening.
    Last edited by Chris Shelton; 03-10-06 at 08:02 AM.

  8. #8
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    Chris

    Watch out for the figure of 8 retrieve when you hook into a decent fish! imo you'll struggle to relese line fast enough.

  9. #9
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    You are right Fario, it has happened before, but I have it pretty taped and 99% of the time manage to release a few coils as the fish takes and pinching and releasing the rest as the fish runs. I learnt the retrieve at the age of 10 and have used it almost exclusively ever since. I used to call it the John Beams retrieve, as it was he who originally introduced it to a few of his selected fly fishing friends in the early 70's. My dad was one of them.

    I submitted a detailed article on the retrieve, supplemented with step by step photos, in one of the earliest 'The Complete Flyfisherman". This was about 12 years ago. Prior to that, I never found a single fly fisherman using it. I have subsequently seen a few guys using it.

    In conclusion..... thanks for introducing me to it Uncle John, bless you and may you continue to rest in peace!

  10. #10
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    Chris

    The new FF or CFF magazine has an article in which they interview the top guys. One guy never fishes with more than a rod's length of line out (on rivers that is). Therefore not requiring a "retrieve".

    But, on dams, I think you've got a good idea going

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