By Patrick Straub Explorebigsky.com Fishing Columnist
A guide buddy of mine on the Missouri River is nicknamed, “Super Guide.” When we call him that he scoffs, then smirks in a Cheshire Cat kind of way. He often out-fishes me when we work together, but even so, I enjoy working with him because I tend to learn something new every time we go out – even after guiding for more than 15 years, there is still much to learn.
In my time on the water, I’ve seen a lot of people have success. When they fail, it’s usually a result of a few missteps along the way.
Here are the top five places where most anglers could improve:
1. Not properly “loading the rod” on their cast
This principle is easy to explain, yet hard to master. It’s best described as a gradual acceleration and quick stop at the end of both your back and forward casts. A crusty saltwater captain once told me say “wuuuuump!” as you power the rod back-and-forth.
2. Not mending enough
Mends, either downstream or up, are essential to obtain a natural drift. Once your fly lands on the water, one mend isn’t enough; two might get it ‘er done, but constant mending and managing of the line is the only way to accomplish a natural drift.
3. Paralysis by analysis
Fly fishing has many variables, and that’s part of its appeal. But keep it simple: Stripped down to its brutal truth, you are trying to fool one fish into eating one pretend fly. Keep your fly selection to proven patterns and proven sizes. When matching a hatch, consider size first, profile second and color third.
4. Teaching a spouse, son or daughter to fish
Professional guides pay the rent by guiding and teaching neophytes. Do not put yourself or your loved ones, through the trauma of you trying to teach a challenging skill. Hire it out. Big Sky is home to some of the region’s best guides, take advantage of their knowledge, patience, and good humor.
5. Too hell-bent on fishing
Leisure time is precious. We work hard for the few hours or few days we get to fish. Before bursting into the stream and making that first cast, survey the scene. Check for a hatch: Are bugs in the air or on the water? If they’re in the air fluttering around, they are probably caddis flies. Read the water: If it’s shallow, crouch down to reduce your profile. Is the weather bright and sunny? If so, exercise even more caution as fish tend to be easily spooked on clear days.
For those new to the sport, fly fishing is a whimsical challenge that may or may not imbed itself in the psyche. For experienced anglers, it can be a passionate hobby filled with lifelong friendships, even if those friends are named Super Guide and live on the Missouri River and catch more fish than you.
Pat Straub is the author of six books, including The Frugal Fly Fisher, Montana On The Fly, and the forthcoming Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Fly Fishing* *but were afraid to ask. He and his wife own Gallatin River Guides in Big Sky.