I been taking a few less experienced folks fly fishing lately. I love getting out on the water, but I also loving sharing what experience I have. I was in the same boat once – I knew nothing about catching trout, and several people have given me their brain dump over the years. I continue to learn from others, and will continue to pass techniques and prime spots on whenever I can.
In that regard, I received a kind “thank you” note from someone I took out the other day. They were no newbie, but had taken a bit of a sabbatical from fly and rod. We had a good day. They’ve since decided they’re going to do a bit more fishing, and made a few inquiries. Here are the answers (not an all inclusive how-to-catch-’em dissertation)…
River flows for the US as a whole are tracked by the USGS, and some states have additional markers of their own. State-by-state links to gauges can be found here, and if you’re in Colorado the Division of Water Resources publishes additional data of interest here.
What’s good and not good regarding river flow is a matter of experience, and it’s all relative. For example, the San Juan River below Navajo Dam gets pretty crowded while running 750 cfs, but I’d be hard pressed to wade the Blue River below Green Mountain Reservoir at that level (in fact, I do not wade it above 350 cfs). Meanwhile, Maryland’s Gunpowder River would be completely blown out at 500 cfs, and a number of people would avoid Cheesman Canyon at that level too. But I’ve had good luck at Cheesman at even 540 cfs, because I don’t mind casting three tandem nymphs accompanied by five No. 6 bead weights…into eight foot deep pools.
The rule here is communication. Talk to fellow anglers, and talk to folks in fly shops (particularly if you’re new to an area). Record your experiences at different water levels until you find out what suits you. One man or woman’s knee deep heaven can be another’s drift boat horror, and visa versa.
Some Additional Tidbits
I spent a lot of time cutting my teeth doing ridiculous stuff like tying knots until I was blind, casting in my front yard while people passed by snickering, and dropping full boxes of flies in the river. Much was learned which makes for smooth goings on the water now.Knots – Hardly anything is more important, and hardly anything is easier to get lazy with. I’ve lost a number of outsized fish as of late – knots became so second nature to me that I quit paying them the attention they deserved. I’m now a reborn knot-obsessor, and for those still in infancy, I’ll suggest some reading material. While I picked up Practical Fishing Knots by Lefty Kreh and Mark Sosin for it’s excellent Bimini Twist explanation, it also provides a good foundation. You’ll review great technique, and wind up with a stable of “knot-ledge” for particular situations.Casting – Every fledgling fisherman’s dream is to cast tight 50-foot loops like Brad Pitt’s double from A River Runs Through It. Unfortunately, it’s both a lot easier seen than done and relatively useless until you’re chasing spooky bonefish around Andros Island. For most trout water, being able to handle ten to twenty feet of line is all you’ll ever need to catch big fish – I’ve barely pulled fifteen feet of line out of my reel in the past month, and have caught plenty of healthy-sized aquatica. Practice makes perfect, and a single casting lesson doesn’t hurt either. I provide the latter for beer and #18 beadhead WD-40s.Gear – You don’t need a $1,000 rig, but you do need a hemostats, a clippers, and a flybox that secures the buggers in foam (those clear plastic boxes mean many loose flies will eventually wind up dropped in the water, much to your’s and your wallet’s chagrin). You might also wish to invest in a reel with an adjustable drag. Reels with heavy duty cork drags are a must for stopping hundred-pound tarpon migrating though Florida Bay, but are not particularly necessary here – most trout aren’t going to strip you into your backing. An adjustable drag is more of a line manager for the human, IMHO – it prevents backlash when stripping line out of the reel. A decent reel finish, however, is useful. I go for hard-anodized wherever possible – it resists scratches, which in turn aides you in resisting the desire to buy a new reel every time you find a scratch.
A Final Recommendation Loaded With Grand Wisdom
If you are strolling along the river and see a porcupine the size of a medicine ball hiding in the bushes, take a quick picture of him and then keep moving…