Fly fishing, even for those with a few years of experience, can be very frustrating and for those beginners, a total blackout when it comes to fishing in certain conditions.
Today's fly patterns and so numerous that it's pretty hard to categorize them into the old four distinct types - dry, wet, streamers and nymphs. But that's a good start for beginners and with more experience you can split those categories into dozens of sub-categories, as to your liking.
But one thing remains clear and should be noted. There seems to be no real set way to fish with all of those four common categories.
Let's start with dry flies, often thought of as the epitome of fly fishing. A drag-free drift seems to be the absolute necessity of luring a fish to take a dry fly. Nothing could be further from the truth. Fussy trout and salmon feeding on a hatch of mayflies or caddis may need such a drift but plenty of fish are caught on dry flies by imparting some motion or drag to the fly, especially some of the larger flies such as hopper or cricket patterns.
And a big trick for those that are fishing with flies that imitate a mouse (yup, you got it right) will purposely let that mouse fly create a wake coming across a current. Big brown trout and in the instance of fishing for northern tundra brook trout or lake trout, go nuts over a waking mouse pattern.
As fussy as Atlantic salmon anglers, some Canadian Rivers guides and anglers will often promote ways to skim wet flies across the current, with a way they tie a knot around the head of the fly called a hitch. The wet flies don't sink so technically they are fishing a wet fly as a surface fly.
A vast majority of dry fly anglers will use an upstream cast and mend their line to try to avoid drag. But that's not the only way.
It's just as easy and in some instances works best on certain fish lies to get downstream of the fish holding water and make an upstream cast. Just before the fly line drops, a quick jerk on the rod and then a drop of the rod's tip will put slack into the leader. The result will be several feet of drag free drift and often a smashing take. This technique is easier to learn than the downstream or across cast.
Wet flies and streamer flies can be the easiest way to break into fly fishing. A typical wet fly or streamer fly cast is down and across stream, letting the fly swing around on a tight line to directly downstream of the angler. After a cast or two, often a couple of steps downstream will give the angler some new water to swing the fly through.
A productive but much harder way to hook a fish when it takes your wet fly is a drag free drift. This can be done by casting across stream and then throwing an upstream curl in your line - known as mending. You can also make a mend downstream that will slow down your drift and then speed it up as the current straightens out the line.
The big rage right now with nymph fishermen is to use a strike indicator. To a bait angler that means a bobber but that name isn't sophisticated enough to suit most fly anglers. The strike indictor is usually fished about a stream depth (as in a few feet) above one or more nymph flies. Double nymphs seem to all the rage currently, with a heavier nymph being the terminal fly with a smaller (sometimes tiny) nymph tied on the bend of the larger fly's hook on a separate piece of leader materiel. The length of this dropper leader is usually a couple of feet or less. A simple seven twist fisherman's knot tied loosely around a finger and then slipped onto the larger fly's hook is a very easy way to accomplish this double nymph rig.
Just know fly fishing is not rocket science. Unless you're fishing over some very difficult fish that have been worked over a lot, you'll find that catching a few fish will come easier and easier as you gain your confidence and experience with each type of fly.
Dick Pinney's column appears weekly in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Email him at DoDuckInn@aol.com.