There’s a guide buddy of mine up on the Missouri River who owns the informal nickname of “Super Guide.” When we call him that in his company, he scoffs a bit, but then he smirks in a Chesire Chat kind-of-way as if he knows something we do not.
Whenever Super Guide and I work together it is common his boat out-fishes mine. Despite my short-comings stacked against the Missouri River’s Super Guide, I still enjoy working side-by-side with him because I tend to learn something new—and even after guiding for nearly twenty years, there are still many things to learn.
In my time on the water, I’ve seen a lot of people have a lot of success. But the times when success is less than failure, it is usually a result of a few missteps along the way.
Here Top 5 Things In Which Most Anglers Can Improve
Not properly “loading the rod” on their cast. This principle of casting is easy to explain, yet hard to master. It is best described as a gradual acceleration and quick stop at the end of both your backcast and your forward cast. A crusty saltwater captain once told me say “wuuuuump!” as you power the rod back-and-forth.
Not mending enough. A mend, either downstream or upstream, is 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 the fly line is the only way to accomplish a natural drift.
Paralysis by analysis. Fly fishing is a sport of many variables and that is part of its appeal. But, keep it simple: stripped down to its brutal truth you are trying to fool one fish into eating one fly. Keep your fly selection to proven patterns and proven sizes. When matching a hatch consider size first, profile second, and color third.
Teaching a spouse or son or daughter to fish. Professional guides pay the rent by guiding and teaching neophytes. Do not put yourself, but especially 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 regions’ best guides, take advantage of their knowledge, patience, and good humor.
Too hell-bent on fishing. Leisure time is precious, as the father of two kids I know that fact well, and we all 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 the bugs in the air or on the water? If the bugs are in the air fluttering around, caddis flies are probably the hatch. Read the water a little? Is it really shallow or fast and deep? If shallow, maybe crouch down to reduce your profile. Is the weather bright and sunny? If so, exercise even more caution as fish tend to be more spooky 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 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. He and his wife own Gallatin River Guides in Big Sky. Along with a partner owns Montana Fishing Outfitters.