Use these fly-fishing tactics to hook a big one

rphillips@idahostatesman.comFebruary 28, 2008 

Fly-fishing and gear fishing - sometimes it's a Ford vs. Chevy thing. You're one or the other.

Fly fishing originated by imitating bait fishermen, and since then it has evolved into a different sport.

Many similarities remain. Both are trying to entice a fish with food and imitation of food, but an imitation fly doesn't have scent, so fly anglers must put the fly in close proximity to the fish in a natural-enough way that the fish confuses it with food.

Gear anglers can catch more fish by borrowing similar tactics from their long-rod peers.

Here are some ways to do it:

Naturally drift your bait

Trout are like fine diners. They don't just want a meal, they want a good presentation.

If you drift your bait instead of anchoring it, not only will it look more natural, you're more likely to get in front of fish because it's constantly moving through different water.

Use only enough weight to cast and get your bait down to where the fish are found.

Don't overload your hook with bait. Use a small piece of worm, or a small earthworm if you want to use the whole thing.

Hook it so it looks natural while it is drifting. Same goes for salmon eggs. A string of eggs on a hook won't necessarily attract more fish than a single egg on a single-egg hook.

Float a hopper

This is a really fun and effective method of drifting bait on a river or small stream. Use a small hook and put it through the hopper's back or legs so it stays alive. Don't add any weight to your line.

Get upstream from a good-looking trout spot, then open the bail on your reel and flip the hopper into the current. Leave your bail open and let the hopper drift downstream. When a fish swims up to the surface and gulps the hopper, quickly spin the reel handle to flip the bail and simultaneously set the hook.

This is especially fun because you get to see when the fish comes to the surface and gobbles the hopper.

Use smaller lures and spoons

Remember, bigger isn't always better. Trout eat tiny things all the time, and fly anglers do well with miniscule flies and nymphs.

If you're not catching anything with your lure, try a much smaller version. You may have to add some split shot to cast them.

A really fun way to catch trout in small streams and rivers is to use tiny spinners and spoons with an ultra-light spinning rod, which makes a 12-inch trout feel like a tuna.

Use flies

To overcome the obvious challenge of casting a fly with spinning rod, use a torpedo bubble or split shot.

Classic streamer patterns like woolly buggers, muddler minnows and bunny leeches work fine. Fish them like you would a spinner, but vary your retrieve with occasional jerks, twitches and pauses.

You can also use large attractor flies behind a torpedo bobber. Try hopper patterns, stimulators, elk hair caddis and other large, high-floating flies.

Don't try to match any hatch. Just cast a big, buggy-looking fly out there, and an aggressive fish will probably take it.

Tie the torpedo bobber to your mainline and run about 24 to 36 inches of leader off the other side of the bobber and tie on your fly.

Cast into current and let the fly drift. Watch for the fish to rise and take your fly. If you wait until the bobber goes under, the fish will have time to spit the fly.

Fish the fast, shallow riffles

Trout will feed and hold in ankle-deep water. You have to pick a lure or bait rig that's light enough to stay off the bottom. Cast directly across the stream and let your lure swing through the riffle. Cover the water well. See below.

Keep moving

Lure anglers will often see a prime fishing hole and then stand in one place and cast over and over. If a fish is going to strike your lure, it is probably going to do it in the first few casts. After that, you're into the law of diminishing returns. Keep moving and fish as much different water as you can.

Vary the speed of your retrieve

Trout will often follow a lure, but not strike. Making your retrieve more erratic will often entice them into striking.

Quit trying to cast across the river

You know that perfect spot you're trying to reach across the river? There's probably another one just like it on your side. Look for slots, seams, eddies, rock faces and other features and fish upstream or downstream to them.

Ditch the treble hooks

Replacing treble hooks with single hooks has several advantages.

Rig them with a single hook with the point riding up and you can fish over logs, rocks and ledges and snag less often.

Fish are easier to unhook, and your lures can also be fished more effectively.

Roger Phillips: 373-6615

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