There is an old saying among fishermen: You can’t catch fish unless your line is in the water. I believe this is one of the reasons for this fewer When I guided in Yellowstone National Park and Alaska, avid anglers often out-fished their more experienced partner on raft trips. While the ‘experienced’ angler recognized every large trout hole the boat drifted past and felt the need to cast in all of them, the novice angler was generally happier with maintaining a particular current for as long as possible. Every time the avid angler picked up his rod and started to miss, he took himself out of the game.
Beginners in fly fishing should take this to heart. . . and take it to the extreme. Unless you throw or change flies, Leave your fly in the water. If you need to adjust your sunglasses, take off your jacket or blow your nose, don’t stop fishing. Just let your fly float, swing and hang in the current. Whenever the fly is in the water, a fish could eat it.
This is true even if you move to another location (as long as it doesn’t involve difficult wading). Cast your fly and then work your way up or down. As you walk upstream your fly will trail behind you and every longtime angler has a story of catching fish this way by ‘dragging’ them. When running downstream, stay a few feet behind the fly and let it float naturally for as long as possible. When it starts pulling, throw it again and repeat until you get to the next spot.
The first bow tie I ever tied was a traditional Maine pattern called “Devil Bug” that I was taught by Jim Thibodeau, a fellow guide Hubbard’s Yellowstone Lodge in Montana. I was incredibly proud of my new creation and immediately took it for a test ride on the Yellowstone River. However, after about 15 minutes of unsuccessful casting, I decided the pattern was crap and I should change flies. While sorting through my fly box, I let my line hang in the current just downstream. Before I could decide on a spare sample, a 17-inch brown slammed into the dangling Devil Bug and hooked itself. Not a bad fish for my first self-tied fly and I would never have caught it if I had my fly in hand.