This year I have taken many trips with both beginner and intermediate fly casters. The one question I am often left with at the end of a trip is why one person catches more fish than another? Is it the cast, the mend, the fly, the drift, or just pure luck? Throughout the year I have made a small list of things that can dramatically improve your chances of catching fish. This isn't a list of major things like longer casts, matching the hatch, or even how lucky you are. This is a list of six subtle techniques that will improve your fish count.
1. Set the hook by pulling down stream from the fish - It's common knowledge that fish normally feed facing upstream into the current. Many fly fisherman make the mistake of setting the hook by lifting the rod straight up in the air when they get a bite. The problem with this is that you will frequently pull the fly out of the fishes mouth by setting the hook this way. One of the best ways to set hook is by pulling the rod down stream towards the fishes tail. You do this by pulling the rod in a diagonal motion away form the fishes mouth. This allows your fly to set right in the corner of a fishes jaw, instead of running the risk of pulling the fly out of the mouth. The direction you set the hook can dramatically improve your hook up percentage. Give it a try!
2. Stealth Matters - Trout are spooky little fellas. They see, hear, and sense danger in order to protect themselves from predators. When fishing for spooky trout (or other fish) it's important to do all you can to avoid spooking fish. Her are some things I do to stay sneaky. 1. keep a low profile - I like to hide behind grass, boulders, trees, etc. I often cast from a crouched position when hunting spooky trout. 2. Wear colors that blend into your surroundings. 3. Avoid a false cast if you can - Fish can see and sense your line in the air. 70% of my casting on freestone streams is a roll cast of some type. Learn to master the long roll cast. It can save the day in a tight space.
3. Get your fly at the right depth - While trout will of out of their way to feed, they mostly like to eat what is placed right in front of them. Most people think making a good cast is enough, but big fish commonly feed deep. You can place the fly directly in front of a feeding trout only to get the snub, because the fly isn't deep enough. Tungsten bead head fly's, split shots, fluorocarbon tippet can be lifesavers when it comes to sinking flies quickly. Next time a fish gives you the snub, try going deeper!
4. Keep your line wet - On slow fishing days people get frustrated. Common signs of frustration are changing flies numerous times, getting stuck on trees and branches (more than normal), wind knots, tangles, and too much time sitting on the bank. The best thing you can do to catch more fish is to keep your line in the water as much as possible. Keep casting, moving, and trying. Sometimes the fly isn't the problem, it's just slow. The more time you spend fishing, the more fish you will catch. I know this seem obvious and overly simple but too many fellas are stuck on the bank when they should be catching fish!
5. Go small - Small flies work. If I have the right fly but it's simply not producing I will often go the next size down. I do this with streamer's, nymph's, midge's, and dry's. Small flies work
6. Keep moving - Don't get stuck fishing the same hole all day. When I fish I like to move. I have no problem fishing miles of water in one day. Don't get me wrong I will stop and spend time targeting a particular fish, but coving more water is one of the best ways to catch more fish. The more water you can set foot in, the more fish you will come in contact with.
I hope some of those small tips help!