Knowing how to choose where to go
For those of us fortunate to be on the water more than we are not, our decision of where to fish is predicated more on personal experience than seeking out up-to-date intel and taking a leap of faith.
However, there are times when even the “fly fishing regulars” need a little helping hand. When I’m at a loss for accurate, “been-there-yesterday” knowledge, I get to work. And by work, I mean pre-planning and information-gathering. Here’s what to do.
Fly shops provide accurate fishing reports. Information is all around us…deciphering what information to use or discard is key. Create a list of fly shops that post daily fishing reports. Make note how often they are updated, and if you notice lack of updating, keep searching until you find the most recent report and if you don’t find an updated report…
Call your local fly shop. Local shops build, and keep, their reputations by providing accurate information. Online reports and Facebook posts good resources, but, if you truly want today’s skinny the pick up the phone and call. It’s always a good idea to ask the staff on the other end of the line “if you were going fishing today, where would you go?”
Check multiple weather reports. As I’m preparing for a guided trip, I check the weather in at least four locations: Ennis, Emigrant, Livingston, Big Sky, and perhaps Bozeman. Our geography creates many micro-climates. The forecast for Livingston might be calling for 50 degrees and southwest winds of 20 MPH, but twenty miles south near Emigrant the forecast could be for calm and 60. Smart phones make this very easy—just do it before you venture out because behind the wheel is no place to browse weather reports.
Talk to friends. People live in our area of Montana because of the lifestyle it allows. If you have not been fishing in awhile, chances are you know someone who has. Call them. Pick their brain. Be sure to invite them along and offer to drive and be prepared if they say “yes, I’d love to come.”
How do you want to fish. This may ultimately determine where you go. If you want the best shot at a brown trout of a lifetime and don’t care about fishing to rising fish, then perhaps you better hook up the boat and head to the Yellowstone downstream of Livingston. If you want to find some fish eating midges, or even better, Blue Winged Olives, perhaps consider the Lower Madison or Gallatin. If you want to get away from the crowds, oh yeah, it’s March…there are no crowds.
Social network. If you’re struggling to find a friend who has been out recently, hit the digital highway. Your local fly shops are still your best source for free and honest information, but, with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and a myriad of blogs out there, there are always people who are happily kissing-and-telling. Be sure to still get out there and fish and don’t get caught surfing all day…even if you do, that’s ok because someone else will have turned-off their phone and will be enjoying a little time unplugged.
Join your local Trout Unlimited Chapter and go to their monthly meetings. This is a win-win for all. Your membership dollars help preserve coldwater fisheries in our area, and you are guaranteed to meet some new fishing friends who are happy to share information. One of my current life-long angling companions I met at a Trout Unlimited monthly meeting. We met, talked, learned neither of us had nothing going on the next day, and have been fishing companions for nearly twenty years.
I sometimes feel for the clients in my boat—they’re getting a guide who is juggling two fly fishing businesses, two kids at home, and most nights doing so on minimal sleep. That can add up to not always having “been-there-yesterday” fishing knowledge. Fortunately, I’ve been doing this long enough that most days I can draw from personal experience. If the wads of tip cash I’m given at the end of the day are proof, then I must be doing ok. It’s a good thing, because Pampers ain’t cheap and college funds don’t save themselves.