Like many of us, you probably dream about fishing more than you get to practice your dead drifts.
One trick that’s guaranteed to increase your days on the water is to be prepared. Keeping your gear organized, with a pre-printed checklist at your fingertips, shortens your prep time and ensures you won’t waste precious daylight. Plus, having an “essentials” list is great prevention against arriving at the stream when strikes are hot and realizing your reel is still sitting on the kitchen counter. Of course it goes without saying that angling for different fish requires gear that caters to that species—and we’ll cover species-specific lists in the coming weeks. But this general overview should keep you on point.
Obviously this is a good thing to buy in advance, and you can generally get them online. Keep in mind that you may need an endorsement for specific fish (for example, in Oregon you need an addition to your license for catching salmon, steelhead, or sturgeon. Have your government issued ID ready. Sometimes you can print the license immediately for an added fee, or have it mailed. You can also buy fishing licenses at many fly shops, sporting goods shops, big box stores like K-Mart and Bi-Marts, and even hardware stores and gas stations. Do a quick search of your state’s fish and wildlife department website for specific details.
A Rod and Reel
If you are just getting started, consider a preconfigured package that includes the rod, reel, and line. This can take out some of the guesswork and ensure that your system works fluidly together. You don’t have to spend thousands to get your feet wet—but avoid the low-end starter packages as, to put it bluntly; they can be a waste of money. Plan on spending $100 to $150—a worthy investment that will improve the experience, both for you and the fish. The fish you are planning on catching determines the weight of the rod you’ll need. Bigger, stronger fish usually require a heavier, stronger rod. If you are fishing for trout or bass, you can get away with most any reel, but if you are fishing for bigger, more vigorous salt or freshwater fish, you’ll need something with a drag system. Visit your local fishing store and get some tips before you buy—anglers love to talk—and while they may tell some tall fish tales about their exploits, they’ll deliver the straight stuff about equipment.
A fishing vest can help you keep your flies, nippers, hemostats floatant, tippet, strike indicators, weights, and net organized. And don’t forget your zinger! Polarized sunglasses are a must for cutting the glare off the water. Sunscreen, insect repellent, and a lightweight rain jacket are smart additions to your pack. You could also bring along an old ski pole or wading staff for balance in rocky streambeds. Don’t forget UPF garments such as sleeves, neck gaiter, and fingerless gloves.
As you’ll soon discover, it’s far too easy to tangle line on a snag or tree branch, or have that legendary fish break it as its trying to escape. The right fly line makes a difference when it comes to catching fish. If you’re fishing for bigger catch, or in rough conditions, bring a heavier line. For clear water lake fishing, it’s a game of stealth, so bring something clear and light that will become nearly invisible in the water.
This is the piece that connects the fishing line to the fly. Often, the leader is a fine piece of fishing line that is easier to tie to the fly, and less conspicuous to the fish. Tapered leaders are the best.
You can get away with wading in a pair of old sneakers, but breathable waders keep you warmer and add protection. Water shoes are the best invention since the aluminum beer can—they are designed to get wet, without allowing in sand and grit. The lightweight mesh material drains quickly, and aggressive rubber soles have great traction in amphibious situations. Avoid felt soled shoes or boots as they can transfer invasive amoeba like the Whirling Disease, from stream to steam.
The Right Flies
When selecting flies choose them from the fish’s point of view and don’t just settle for the one your Uncle Wiggy gave you for your sixthbirthday. Drop in a nearby bait or fishing equipment shop and they should steer you toward the right ones. Or better yet, check the local fish and wildlife site for tips on what to buy or tie.
A Basic First-Aid Kit
Keep it small and simple: Band-Aids, Neosporin, gauze, ibuprofen, and roll of sprain tape should cover the basics of what you should encounter on the river or lake..
As with the vest, a good fishing hat completes the look—but it also offers key protection against the sun—a wide-brimmed design will keep the sun off your neck and ears, while baseball caps are good for cutting the sun’s glare (and hiding bedhead) for those early morning casts.
Based in Southern California, Conway Bowman is a man who loves to catch fish, and the fly rod is his weapon of choice. He has traveled the world in search of Atlantic salmon, wild trout, redfish, bonefish, and tarpon. Bowman currently holds the IGFA world record for redfish caught on the fly (41.65 lbs Redfish, Record: World Fly Rod, 20lb Tippet). We recently caught up with the man to ask him a few questions about his passion for fishing.
1. When did you start fishing and who taught you?
I started fishing at age three. My father introduced me to fishing.
2. You have become known as the Mako Shark Man. How did you get into fishing for sharks? Do you have a special rig/technique for hooking makos?
I started fishing for makos 25 years ago off the San Diego coast. I always wanted to target big saltwater fish on the fly rod but never had the money to fly around the world to do so. I would read all these amazing stories in magazines about tarpon, tuna and marlin. I found out later that I had one of the world’s best bluewater game fish and fisheries right out my back door. With the help of some commercial fishing friends, I figured out how to catch mako sharks consistently very close to shore off San Diego.
My rig is very simple. An eight-and-a-half-foot 14-weight fly rod, a very large fly reel with 500 yards of backing, a floating fly line, 30-pound test leader, and 60-pound stainless steel wire attached to a big orange fly called the Mako Bomb (10/0 hook). This is all I use to catch makos up to 300 pounds. Add a 24-foot bay boat, good tides, and some fresh tuna for chum. Oh, and a lot of patience.
3. You run Bowman Bluewater Guides & Outfitters out of San Diego. What are your essential items to pack for a saltwater fly-fishing trip?
It depends on what I’m targeting, but in general, this is what always stays in my boat bag in addition to my rod and reel.
1) Polarized glasses (amber lenses)
2) Sun protective clothing (face, neck gaiters, hat, sleeves, gloves)
3) Lip protection (a must)
4) Sunscreen (30 SPF w/ zinc)
5) Box of baitfish pattern flies (saltwater streamers)
6) Small bag of split shot weights
7) Duct tape (works for repairing everything)
8) Multi tool/knife blade and screw driver
9) Microfiber cloth (for cleaning camera lenses to sunglasses)
10) Small point-and-shoot camera (to document all the fish I say I catch and so my wife knows I went fishing)
11) Bottle opener (for obvious reasons)
12) Copy of passport/ID and emergency contact info
13) Handheld GPS (just in case I get lost or the guide gets lost. Yes, it happens.)
14) My St. Christopher medal (for good luck)
15) A good attitude (you catch more fish if you’re in a good head space)
4. Do you have any memorable “One That Got Away” stories?
I’ve had so many nice fish get away it’s difficult to sort out the most memorable.
How about the one I wish I threw back? It’s a great story, you’ll just have to wait to read it in another article.
5. What is the one fly any self-respecting fly angler should always have in the box?
If you are fishing for everything other than permit, I would suggest a Chartreuse Clouser Minnow. If you are fly-fishing for permit? A spinning rod and live crab! Just joking! For those who target permit on the fly, this most frustrating and humbling experience can leave even the finest of fly anglers with little self respect. Another joke!
When was the last time you threw line from the back of the boat? If you answered “I don’t remember?” We need to talk… http://bit.ly/18wEfhu
Get your last few flicks of the wrist in before the season ends. Where’s your favorite place to cast? http://bit.ly/1ekjaYw
Congratulations to Heath S. for reeling in $1,500 as the grand prize winner of our #PFG photo contest.
Thanks to everyone who voted. And a big thank you to George Poveromo, Chad Hoover, and Conway Bowman’s Fly Fishing the World for helping us find the best fishing shots around. http://on.fb.me/12JSVCJ