Written by: Bryan Eldredge
[Editor’s Note: Falcon’s Ledge guide Bryan Eldredge wrote this piece in March, but it’s just as relevant on the first of May.]
It’s snowing outside right now. In fact, it looks like we may get enough snow to require some shoveling. It will be only the third time all year, and it’s the middle of March. Temperatures last week got downright balmy here in Utah. Mid 60’s left little doubt that spring is on the way, and tonight’s new snow isn’t going to quell that hope.
A warm snap like that in March does a couple of things to fly fishermen. Obviously it signals the beginning of another season, and that brings a certain excitement, to be sure. Most of us spend a fair amount of time during the winter piddling around with gear, fly boxes, flies, and waders, but when spring’s arrival becomes apparent, it seems like there is always more to do. This year is no exception. So, I’ve spent the occasional free moment futzing around, channeling my anticipation into action.
Sometimes my March preparations actually end up being productive, and sometimes it’s just, well, futzing around. That got me thinking about some tips that might make this year’s fishing more enjoyable for others. I’ve come up with five unrelated tips for the new season. Here goes:
1. Get some clear glasses (with magnifiers built-in) for low light.
Recently, a photo was floating around Facebook and in emails that illustrates the importance of wearing eye protection while fly fishing. This gruesome shot shows a fly lodged in the eye of a very unfortunate angler.
A lot of us recognize the importance of good eyewear, not just as a fishing aid but also as a crucial piece of safety equipment. Polarized glasses make wading safer and protect the eyes from UV rays, errant flies, and vegetation, particularly in our area the dreaded Russian Olive trees, with their three-inch thorns.
The irony is that although in every fly fishing class I’ve taught I’ve stressed the need for eye protection, I’ve been guilty of fishing unprotected a number of times. It almost always happens late in the evening and into the night. The sun goes down, and I get all worked up. I know I need the protection, but the dark lenses diminish the experience, and so next thing I know there am I, exposed to who knows what.
I’ve finally wised up, and I now carry a pair of clear protective glasses. I bought my current pair for $9 at the checkout stand of a hardware store. The clear lenses are fine in low light (polarization isn’t an issue at night), they are comfortable, and as a bonus they even have a bifocal magnifier that makes tying flies to tippet much easier.
The chances of catching a fly in the eye has to go up a little at night, but more often these glasses will keep you from taking a tree branch or string of barbed wire in the eye.
2. Replace the shoelaces in your wading boots.
No shoelaces wear out as fast as those in your wading boots. If you’ve had your boots for a season or more now, just get some replacement laces and change them out now in the comfort of your own home. Every parking lot at every fishing access point in America has wading bootlace ends on the ground, and a broken lace can take the shine off a day in a hurry.
3. Make a junk box.
When you are organizing your flies into tidy collections of whatever this year’s system will be, set aside one box as a “junk box.” This one medium-size box should contain a variety of flies to cover many situations. You’ll just need a couple of each, except for those that you fish the most. Stock up on those. I find that on most days only ever open this one box. (Of course, I usually end up carrying somewhere between 3 and 10 others.)
I far prefer a compartment box for my junk box. I can clean out a compartment of say, BWOs when the PMDs come on, for example. Being able to drop in a handful of flies without the need to insert each one into foam slots saves time and keeps this box full.
As for organization, I will dedicate a few compartments to go-to flies, such as small parachute dries (e.g. Adams or Klinkhammers), PMXs and Bugmeisters, Hare’s Ears and Higa’s SOS. Most of the others are a mixture of flies only roughly grouped by size and purpose. I find that most of the flies from my drying patch go straight to the junk box. If they are flies I’ve used recently, there is a good chance I’ll want them again soon.
4. Make a toiletries pouch.
This one is simple but VERY important.
Step One: Get a quart-size ziplock bag, preferably a freezer bag.
Step Two: Pull about twenty or so yards of toilet paper off a roll and fold it until it fits nicely in the bag.
Step Three: Insert a small tube or bottle of hand sanitizer.
Step Four: Insert a travel-size bottle of Gold Bond Medicated Powder. (It’s for chafing! If you don’t know what I mean, count yourself lucky and then go Google it. Enough said.)
Step Five: Squeeze out as much air as possible from the bag and zip it shut.
Step Six: Put the pack into your vest, pack or waders. If you use a variety of bags and packs like I do, you should just make one for each.
Do this, and sooner or later, you’ll thank me.
5. Practice casting to ropes in front of a large object.
Finally, we all know we should practice casting before we head out to the water. Those of us who do usually buzz over to the local park or school and throw some paper plates or other round objects on the ground for targets and then commence trying to cast as far past them as possible. This lasts for a few minutes until the effort required to disentangle ourselves from our line and leader while not calling attention to ourselves suggests that maybe it’s time to go make more toiletry pouches.
Still, as we all know, practice makes perfect. . . . The hard part is figuring out how to make practice come anywhere near perfect. Here are a couple of simple suggestions:
First, in addition to your plates or hoops, lay some lengths of rope roughly parallel to each other in the target zone. These rope sections should suggest seams in the current, places where the water on either side moves and different speeds. Now cast to hit these seams and then cast to land your line and leader in ways that the imaginary currents won’t drag your line. Practice for no more than 3-4 minutes and then change your position relative to the targets to create new angles and distances.
Second, always practice this kind of casting facing a wall, a tree or other large object that is just a few feet beyond your targets. It’s the only way I know to keep accuracy casting from morphing into “I’ll-bet-I-can-throw-this-3-weight-70-feet” casting in 42.3 seconds or less. Someone out there might have the self-discipline to stay on task when the opportunity to attempt a hero cast calls, but I know I can’t. Physical barriers work much better than psychological ones.
Okay, that’s enough. After all, I gave six tips when I only advertised five. Now put on your waders and Let’s get ready to stumble!