The sun is slowly rising over the trees as a warm breeze radiates through the open window of our car. The aroma is nostalgic, a sweet summer scent leftover from last evening’s rain. As we crest the final hill and descend into our favorite trouting grounds, I let out a sigh of relief. I feel at home, and with no other cars in sight, my husband and I have already won.
As we unload our things from the car and stuff our gear into our packs, my attention drifts to a dancing insect above my head. The mayfly hatch is on. Their brown bodies and slightly white wings are a stark contrast as it lands on my bright red rod tube. A grin creeps over my face as I think to myself, I have the perfect fly in my box.
As we turn to head off down the trail for the long hike into the river, I jerk to a stop. “Did we lock the car?” I dig the key out of my backpack, hitting the button to check; not once but three times… a habit of mine.
We rush along the trail anxious to reach the river. Looking down at my feet I notice a large patch of wild wintergreen. Reaching down, I pick a few leaves and rub them between my fingers. A sweet minty aroma fills the air. Wintergreen has traditionally been used to make tea, relieve headaches, and calm the mind and body. As if on cue, I’m reminded to slow down and enjoy my surroundings. It is, however, all a part of the journey and the charm of the day.
Tip #1: Carry a Thermometer
I always carry one with me and check water temperatures before fishing, especially when we get into the warmer months. Know your temperature thresholds for trout and stick to your ethics when it reaches that limit. I usually put away my rod above 18 C or 66 F. If you still have the itch to fish, target a warm water species like bass.
Tip #2: Match The Hatch
Take a minute to observe the river, look for insects, and flip over rocks. Specific patterns don’t usually matter but be mindful of the size and color of any insects you find and pick something as close as you can from your box. If you want to really nerd out, pick up a book on Entomology (the study of insects). You can really go down the rabbit hole, but it just adds an extra layer of interest.
Don’t get frustrated! trout fishing is a game and you have to crack the code. When you are filling your fly boxes, it is good practice to carry three of each pattern. The worst thing to happen is to finally break the code, and immediately lose the fly in a tree on your next cast… speaking from experience here…
Tip #3: Observe Fish Behavior
If you are seeing fish rise, pay attention to their behavior. If they are porpoising and you are seeing their backs, they are likely taking something just below the water. If you can see their mouths, they are taking the fly off the surface. I will sometimes fish the same pattern, differently. For example, I might start by fishing my stonefly dry and suddenly notice a difference in their behavior and switch it up and fish it just under the surface with a tight line.
Tip #4: Fish Appropriate Gear
Fish gear that is appropriate to the area and species you are targeting. If you are fishing in a location with larger fish, make sure you are using a suitable rod weight. This will let you land the fish quickly, so you aren’t playing it to exhaustion. There are no prizes for the lightest gear in trout fishing. Match your fly size to your leader diameter. Trout can be extremely leader shy and the last thing you want is to be fishing a size 18 dry fly with an 8lb tippet. For the Streamer buff, it’s the opposite. You will want to have a heavier leader to turn over a bigger, heavier fly.
Tip #5: Be Stealthy
Think Matrix stealth. Trout are spooky. Try to sneak up to your spot quietly, and try not to splash too much when wading. Keep your casts off the water; aerial false cast to avoid splashing and “lining” the fish. Stand with your back to the Sun, if possible, especially in clear water to avoid being seen by the fish. Just because you can’t see them, doesn’t mean they can’t see you.
Tip #6: Practice Proper Fish handling
Always wet your hands before handling your fish. Barbless hooks make for a quicker and easier release. I usually pinch mine in the vice while tying. Use a knotless net whenever possible. This makes for easy hook removal while keeping the fish wet. It also comes in handy if you want to grab a quick photo of the fish. When taking a photo, try to keep your aquatic friend in the water. Quick pic and release are all you need and with all the waterproof camera phones these days, some of my favorite shots are of fish being held in the water.
Tip #7: Know Your River Etiquette
This one is important. Know the rules of the area you are fishing, written and unwritten. Be respectful of others. Silence shares no secrets, the best way to learn is to be polite and courteous to other anglers, engage with them and listen. There’s nothing better than meeting someone who has been fishing a specific area for years and is willing to pass on a few secrets. Share the river. Give others space, the river is for everyone. This includes others you may meet who may not be partaking in fishing.
Tip #8: Don’t Be Afraid To Hike
This tip could tie in with the last one. If you aren’t keen to fish shoulder to shoulder, don’t be afraid to hike to beat the crowds and explore a little further off the beaten path. When you go out make sure you have a pack that can hold all your gear but is sleek enough to not interfere with your fishing. My favorite is the TOPO Designs River Bag.
It’s all in the name of adventure after all. Just make sure you remember how to get back.
Tip #9: Know Your Invasives
Know the native species in your area and report any invasive fish you encounter.
Be mindful of the possibility of spreading invasive species through your gear. If you wear felt-wading boots, make sure to thoroughly clean them before your next fishing adventure in a new location.
Tip #10: HAVE FUN!
Remember, we all fish because it’s fun. Experience doesn’t dictate your passion. Get out, explore, and learn as you go. It’s not about how many fish you catch but the memories you collect. Join a river association or conservation group. It feels good to give back to the river or area you regularly fish.
We hope these tips help you have a better trout fishing experience. It is important to remember the last tip because whether you get skunked or not, it’s the small moments that make any fishing adventure worthwhile.
Thank you to TOPO Designs for making this educational piece possible through The New Outdoor! Go check out what The New Outdoor is all about HERE.