Anything Fly Fishing

What I Know About Trout Fishing

3 Mins read

A lot of experts know considerably more about trout fishing than I do. That admission comes as a result of humility learned on the trout stream.

Furthermore, at my age, I find I am learning new things more slowly than the things I know are continuing to leak from my memory. So, I thought I should write down the little wisdom still rattling around in my head before it also finds the exit door. Imagine my disappointment when it all fit in one short article.

We’re always told to fish early or late.

First, the experts typically have rules they offer beginners. These include things like fish upstream, go early or late in warm weather, use long leaders and fine tippet in low water, and an assortment of other tidbits. My experience is that these rules work until they don’t.

For instance, sometimes you can’t fish upstream. Overhanging brush may prevent your cast or the only path to the fish causes your line to land on it. I’ve caught too many fish simply by sneaking up and poking my rod through the brush, dapping my fly on the surface, to think this is an ironclad rule.

Big fish rarely bite when they are supposed to.

Likewise, while going early or late in warm weather makes sense, the largest wild brown I’ve caught so far bit in the middle of a hot, sunny July afternoon. He apparently didn’t read the same book I did.

On long leaders and fine tippets, the debate in my head goes like this: “Is it more productive to get fewer bites on heavier leaders and not break off the fish or get more bites on a fine leader and lose a few more?” Also, I have to factor in the impact on the fish from being played a long time on light leader. I’m still sorting this one out.

So, anytime you hear someone spout trout fishing wisdom with the words “always” or “never,” delete those two words and realize situations change.

Second, I’ve come to believe that the fly I believe in works better than the fly that I don’t. Sure, local advice can suggest a fly I eventually come to believe in, but starting out, that fly is on probation. After it earns its keep, it becomes one of my confidence flies.

Over the years, my go-to flies have condensed into a fairly short list. When the fish are picky, I put one of these on and it usually produces. I have favorites in certain conditions, of course, but I find I fish harder and better if I think I’m going to get a bite.

Never loan your best rod.

Third, I’ve learned the most important rule of fly-fishing etiquette is to neither loan nor borrow your own or your buddy’s best fly rod. Nothing good will come of it.

There must be a universal law similar to gravity that the more expensive the rod, the more likely someone other than the owner will break it. The corollary to this is that even if it’s under warranty and gets repaired at a small fee, it will never be the same.

Last, I’m sometimes asked by a beginning angler what’s the best way to learn to catch a lot of fish. I’ve spent quite a few decades thinking about this question and have concluded that the best way to learn to catch a lot of fish is by catching a lot of fish.

This sounds moronic but so many aspects of presenting a fly, setting the hook, and landing the fish come into play that you simply have to do it to learn how to do it. Perhaps finding a bed of bluegill or a creek full of wild brook trout can speed up the process, but every situation has nuances that cannot be explained in advance.

For instance, sometimes you want your fly to land softly with just a dimple in the water, or during terrestrial season, you might get a better response with a hard splash. And with different flies and presentations, you might improve your hook-setting by lifting straight up or pulling to the side. It differs with the angle and whether the hook is riding up or down.

The best fly is often the one you believe in.

So, my best advice is to go when you can, take all the fishing rules as suggestions, and be willing to experiment to see what works. When it does, remember to try it again next time and if it works twice, you now have a new skill.

Furthermore, only loan out your cheap rods and keep a box of confidence flies on you at all times. You would think I’d have more wisdom to offer after all these years. Probably at some point I did. I just forgot what it was. Jim Mize most likely knew a lot about fly fishing at one time, but he won’t swear to it. You can purchase Jim’s new book, The Jon Boat Years, at or buy autographed copies at

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