Pro Tips: 5 Keys to Stealthy Fly Fishing

Anglers sneak up on a small mountain stream to avoid spooking the trout. That orange bag should be left far behind on the bank, though.
Photo by Sandy Hays

Watch a heron stalk its prey in the shallows of a pond or a river, and you can clearly see why stealth is so important to anglers of all kinds. Yet many fly fishermen still act as if the fish were deaf, blind, and stupid, which keeps anglers from having the kind of success they desperately want. A good fly fisher is always aware of his surroundings and how his place in them may be tipping off the fish that something’s amiss. Here are five ways you can be more like that heron:

1. Blend in

This starts with your fishing clothes. Try to wear stuff that’s drab and won’t set you off against the streamside background. You don’t need full turkey-hunting camo, but wear both a shirt and hat of neutral colors.

2. Don’t be flashy

That hemostat looks great dangling from your vest, but it reflects the sun on a bright day. If anything on your person is sending out such signals, tuck it in a pocket or attach it under your vest.

3. Keep a low profile

Trout can detect movement along the banks, so if you crouch (or even crawl, when necessary) as you approach a good lie, you’ll increase your chances of moving under the radar.

4. Watch your shadows

Don’t let your shadow, or that of your fly line, fall over the fish. Since many of their predators come from above, fish are terrified of shadows. Position yourself relative to the sun to keep shadows away from good lies.

5. Slow Down

If you walk, wade, and move more slowly, you’ll make less noise and less commotion in the water, and you’re less likely to alert your quarry of your presence. 

2 thoughts on “Pro Tips: 5 Keys to Stealthy Fly Fishing”

  1. The first Rule of Stealth:
    “Wade like a heron” (Very slowly and very deliberately)

    The second rule is just as important:
    “Wait like a heron” (Completely motionless and with complete patience)

    Waiting like a heron is a non-threatening behavior that allows the angler to
    lull a trout into a false sense of security. It’s a form of passive learning by prey
    called habituation.

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