Becoming a Better Fisherman

Ten tips from a flyfishing master Lefty Kreh. Pay attention and you'll be prepared to hook and land more fish.

Field & Stream Online Editors

For more than 40 years, Lefty Kreh has flyfished around the world for a wide variety of freshwater and saltwater gamefish. In that time, he has developed a reputation as a caster extraordinaire; more important for anglers, he is a particularly observant and accomplished fisherman. When he talks, it pays to listen. The following tips have been excerpted from his masterwork, Presenting the Fly.
--The Editors

**#1 ** The angler who fishes carefully along the stream bank in deep shade is much less likely to be seen by the fish than the angler working in sunlight. Approaching from the shaded side gives you an advantage. This is often obvious when you're fishing streams in the East, but it might seem not to apply to bigger Western rivers. Most Western riverbanks are fairly light in color, however, as is the brush in many areas. By approaching from the shaded side you'll reduce the contrast between yourself and the bank, lessening the chances of being seen by the fish.

**#2 ** Before making that first cast, always consider how you'll hook the fish, how you'll fight it, and how you'll land it.

I've sometimes successfully cast and hooked a big fish in a rush. But when it came to landing it, I was in such a position that I couldn't.

**#3 ** Many anglers practice casting for greater distance, when they should first consider accuracy.

No matter how well or how far you can cast, if you don't hit the target, you've missed the opportunity. Set a loaded mousetrap on your lawn, then try hitting it with a weighted fly to improve your accuracy.

**#4 ** What breaks most leader tippets in fish fights is not steady pull but sudden jerks to the leader.

You can easily prove this. Take a length of 6-pound monofilament and grasp the two ends in your hands about a foot apart. Slowly spread your hands; you'll be surprised how difficult it is to break 6-pound line. Now take another length of line from the same spool and again grasp it firmly between your hands. Give a quick jerk; the line will snap easily. I like to say that it's the jerk on the wrong end that breaks the leader.

**#5 ** Darker or muted-color fly lines often spoil your accuracy.

Casting is a visual sport. Whether you realize it or not, most flyfishermen are monitoring the cast as it unrolls in front of them. For most casting where accuracy is essential, I believe the flyfisherman is best served by a bright-colored line that's easy to see.

#6 No knot breaks until it slips.

It's vital that all knots be drawn securely. If the knot is lubricated (dipped in water or moistened with saliva), it will draw down better.

Also critical is the number of turns you make around the standing line. The improved clinch knot, for example, should have five turns around the main line for lines testing roughly 8X to 6 pounds. If you use 6-pound line or less to tie this knot and make only four turns, you won't have enough turns around the standing line to keep the knot from slipping. And if you make six turns (I recommend five), you'll have too many turns to draw the knot properly to keep it from slipping.

**#7 ** Fish do not face upstream. They face into the current.

This is a very important factor to consider both when you approach fish and when you present the fly. If there's an eddy along a bank, the fish at its outside edge may be facing downstream. As the water turns in the eddy, its fish will be facing into the current. Some will be looking directly downstream, others either looking toward the near or far bank. This knowledge can help you approach your quarry while remaining unseen and help you place your fly so that it comes to the fish in a natural manner.

**#8 ** Most flyfishermen use a rod 81/2 to 9 feet in length. How do you make a tight-quarters cast?

Slide your rod hannd up near the butt guide. This will "shorten" the rod by as much as 18 inches. After the cast, return your rod hand to the handle.

**#9 ** When you wade on calmer waters, if you see small waves radiating out more than 18 inches from your legs, you're wading too fast.

When I'm approaching wary trout in a calm pool, I move my forward foot so slowly that it may take several minutes to progress just a few yards. I've spent 10 minutes wading slowly just to get into position to cast.

**#10 ** A minor movement of your rod hand on the handle results in a major movement of the rod tip.

Try a simple experiment: Hold the rod parallel to the ground. Brace your upper arm against your body and rock the rod back and forth with just your hand. Look at the label immediately in front of the rod handle. You'll notice that this label is moving maybe 2 inches. Now look at the rod tip-you'll see it's probably moving 8 to 12 inches. What this means is that any motion made with your rod hand will be greatly magnified at the tip. Failing to understand this principle can result in not throwing the line straight behind, opening your loops too much, and many other casting errors.