Flies. One of the first mistakes you can make when fly fishing is choosing the wrong flies. While it is important to try to match the hatch, it is also important to keep trying different flies until you find the right one. It’s best to cast for a few minutes, if after a few minutes you haven’t received a bite its time to change flies. This can be very difficult if you cannot see anything hatching. That is why one of the best things that you can do is stop at a local fly shop and ask what fish are hitting on, or you can read updated fishing reports from the area.
Line Mistakes. a) Mending the line is so important when fly fishing. Mending the line helps the fly to drift naturally down the river and keeps the fly line from spooking the fish. It is also important to mend the line gently. If you pull up too hard then the fly bounces or moves in an unnatural motion. b) Setting the drag wrong. If a fish gets on the line and you do not have the drag set appropriately the fish will get off. Either the drag will be too loose and the fish will take too much or the drag won’t be set at all the fish will snap off the line due to sheer force.
Bad Casting. Casting is detrimental to fly fishing. If your cast does not straighten out onto the water or slaps the water too violently, then your cast has failed. If you cast too often your cast is failing. It is important to let the cast drift and then re-cast again. This is especially important in a big open river. If you are fishing a narrow stream with a lot of undergrowth and a small area. It is understandable that you will have to make more casts to hit the water correctly. Try to make every cast count and remember to pause on your back cast. It may feel awkward, but if you watch your line on your back cast you will see exactly how long of a pause you need rather than guessing and erring on a cast.
When you go. The day and time of day plays a large part in when you should go fly fishing. It is important to do your research and find out what times of day there are hatches, as well as monitor the temperature of the water. Trout prefer colder water. If it is late July and 100 degrees and you are fishing a small stream, that water has warmed up and the fish will be lethargic. It is best to fish early in the morning and at dusk in the hottest summer months. However, I have seen fish go crazy at a mid afternoon grasshopper frenzy. Just be sure to watch the hatch and get out fishing early enough to enjoy the cooler water.
Not being Stealthy. Fish get spooked. If you are able to fish over a mound or are able to fish from a location that gives you a low profile, you have a better chance at catching a fish since the fish cannot see you. This is especially important in those small streams in an open field. Try to fish far enough from the bank so that the fish will not see you as well as making sure your shadow is not unnaturally over the water. This little stuff really does make a difference.
If you can avoid these mistakes, you are already on your way to being a better fisherman or woman. Of course there are plenty of mistakes that can happen on the river, but these are 5 that are easy to avoid and learn from.
This post seems a little silly, nonetheless it will teach you to do the opposite of what it says. Everyone has experienced those moments on the river with other fishermen and women where we question why they are being so inconsiderate of people around them and the beautiful environment that encompasses them.
Here is how to be one of the worst fly fishers on the river:
To be a river jammer means that you are a fisherman who chooses to fish right next to, too close to, or in-between a set of people fishing. This is the easiest thing to choose not to do. Fly fisherman’s etiquette says to give everyone their own space and try to find your own place to fish. Personally, I find it most amazing when I can look on all sides of me and there is not another person on the river, but I am also a realist and know that this cannot happen at rivers such as the San Juan. If you are capable always try to avoid other people on the river and find your own place to fish. It is a much more rewarding experience for all people involved.
You know who you are. When you cut your tippet off or leader off, are you throwing it in the water or stuffing it in a pocket in your vest? Even 3 inches of scraggly old tippet in the water is litter in that eco system. Stick it in your vest and throw it out in a trashcan. ALWAYS pack back in whatever you unpacked, water bottles, beer cans, granola bar wrappers, napkins, anything!
3. Party Pooper
If you are on a fishing excursion with a friend or family member and you get tired of fishing, don’t be a poop. Be prepared and bring a book or something to do so that you can wait for your fellow fisher person. I always try to be very good about this, especially when I was younger I would get tired a lot quicker than my dad. I would sit and watch or bring a book to read in the car, but I never tried to rush him. He deserved to have his fishing day the same as I now expect when he is catching nothing and I am catching everything (hee- hee).
4. Kid Bringer
If you are bringing your kids out on the river, teach them to respect the river the same way you do. Don’t let them throw rocks in the water while people are fishing around them. Don’t let them run around where they could endanger themselves on someone’s backcast. Also if they or you catch a fish, teach them how to handle it properly.
5. Bad Knot-Tier
While you can’t always get the perfect knot and there will be plenty of times when the line simply breaks, it is important to be confident in your knots before you head out on the river on your own. First, it is good for you, you will catch fish and not get utterly frustrated. Second, good for the fish. I can’t imagine having a fly stuck in my lip with tippet trailing off the end. I get it! Tt has happened to me plenty of times, but to be a good fly fisher you need to be able to tie good knots!
6. Mean Ol’ Grouch
Don’t be the Grinch of fishing. When people walk by and ask how the fishing is going do not ignore them. If people ask what you are using don’t lie or ignore them, the fish are going to bite regardless most of the time. Fishing has always been a friendly and arms-wide-open sport for me and that is why I love it so much. Fly fishing is a community sport, share your secrets to continue growth of our beautiful community.
7. Be Accepting
Men should accept women into the fly fishing world and not act as though the sport is exclusively for men. Women do not condemn or hate on men because they happen to be the majority in this sport. Work together, teach children and continue to grow this community of fly fishing.
8. Fish Killer
This is probably the most serious. Keep your hands wet when handling fish. Keep them wet as much as you can. Pinch down the barbs on the hooks. If you fought a fish for a long time and they are stressed and exhausted set them loose as soon as possible.
9. KEEP KEEP KEEP
If you eat trout and only catch what you are going to eat, good for you, but in protected waters it is imperative to catch and release. If you want to keep fish, go fish the bait waters. There is a reason that there are protected waters and bait waters, follow the rules.
Don’t quit just because you didn’t catch a fish on your fist time fly fishing. Never give up. Practicing every chance you get will make you so much better. Take a casting or beginners class if you need to, but don’t quit because it is challenging. The challenge is what makes it worth it.
There you have it, those are ten ways to be a horrible fly fisher. Take my advice and avoid those ten things in order to become a good fly fisher person.
As always feel free to contact me via the comments, my twitter or instagram @kylieflygirl, or e-mail email@example.com
Thanks for reading and I wish you all tight lines!
First and Foremost, I apologize for not writing in so long. The month of October was a bit crazy for me. I went on vacation then came back to 5 midterm papers and two exams. Also I started planning my wedding and booked all of my main vendors! It was such a relief. I hate planning anything, at least anything but fishing trips.
One of my favorite things about this beautiful place I live in, is the transition the from the hot green New Mexico summer to the beautiful golds and oranges of the fall. The greatest craving I get during this transition is a great bowl of green chile stew as well as a full day of fishing. So if you are a winter lover like me, get out there and catch some fish! Here are 10 of my reasons why I love to fish in Fall and Winter:
1. Cold Water and Fat Fish Trout prefer colder water. Towards the end of summer the fish are lethargic and existing in minimal numbers due to the dangerously warm waters that we see in late July and throughout August. By the time the weather cools off and the water cools with it, the fish are ready to start biting again. The fish have been eating all summer due to the mass amounts of hatches that summer monsoons bring. Catching a fat, 12+” brown trout in a tiny mountain stream is a blast!
2. Adios Warm Weather Only Fishers The weather is getting colder, and most of the tourists who fish are gone, and the warm weather only fishermen and women are headed back to their safe warm home while awaiting the warmer weather of the next summer. There is nothing wrong with being a warm weather only fisher-human. Fishing in the cold is hard. I never used to fish except in the summer. Now that I have the right gear, a stronger will, and the desperation to get out and fish, fishing in the cold weather is much easier. It’s not that I don’t love people, I do! I just prefer not to see people on the river while I am fishing.
3. Beautiful Fall The Weather is colder, the leaves are changing, and the summer rains are long gone. There is nothing more beautiful that the gold and bronze colors of the Fall here in New Mexico. The golden leaves against deep green of the pines as the leaves begin to change. The contrast of the golden dried out long grass against the earthy browns and greens of the stream. The Cebolla stream valley is one of the most beautiful places I have fished in the early fall. You can see from the picture here that the aspens are turning orange and that the grass is a dried sandy brown. This valley is located in the Jemez Mountains of New Mexico behind the Seven Springs Hatchery. It is the perfect place to begin your fishing adventures in the summer and end them in the late fall before the snow closes the road.
4. Snowy Scenery I’m not sure if it is only because I am a desert rat from New Mexico, but when I see snow, it makes me extremely happy. The cold is a monster for fly fishing. Keeping your hands and fingers warm is impossible, you dread every snag, and pray that you won’t have to reach your arm in and pry your fly off of a branch or rock in the river. My first time fly fishing in winter was in January at the San Juan and it was icy cold. There were so few fishermen in the braids I couldn’t believe it! Usually you see a person on your right and left, no matter where you are on the river. Fishing in January was a whole new experience. It was quiet, cold, and it felt like it was just my Dad and I on the river alone. Although it was cold for us, the weather was perfect for the fish. It was this January fishing venture where I caught my first fish over 12 inches!
5. Clear and Gentle Water Now that the mountains are cold, the summer run off is over, and the sediment has all settled, the water is clear as can be and the current is not too daunting. The clear and gentle water means you can say goodbye to the bulky strike indicator and use a dry dropper combo on its own. By taking off that extra weight on your cast, you can plan sneaky, beautiful, well-placed casts into the perfect eddy to catch that fat fish.
6. Fall Hoppers The weather has cooled off and the grasshoppers are slowing down, but the fish are still hungry. There is nothing greater than seeing a fish literally gulp at a big grasshopper dry-fly. I have seen tiny 5 inch fish grab at a big hopper. I have seen a big 20+ inch fish gulp at a hopper. Fall fishing with a grasshopper dry-fly is a blast if the fish are biting at the top of the water.
7. Post Fishing Reward There is nothing better than getting packed up after a long cold day of fishing and heading to the nearest place to get a beer or even a nice warm hot chocolate.
8. Football Keeps the NFL Fans Away Everyone who knows me knows that I would rather be out on the river than stuck at home. I am a Broncos fan, my grandparents live in Denver, they’ve had season tickets for centuries, my Dad watches every game,…. blah blah blah….. Take me fishing instead! I’ll put it on the DVR if I really want to watch it. A lot of other people are not like me. For example my fiancé hates having to watch games after they happen because he already found out the scores. People who are die-hard NFL fans will most likely spend Sundays at home. If you do not mind the cold of fall and winter fishing, go on a Sunday.
9. Sales Sales Sales In the winter most fly fishing shops and companies do big sales, whether it is just an off-season sale or the full on Black Friday blow out, fall and winter is the best time to find great deals on fly fishing gear. Also be sure to check Groupon, Living Social, and Amazon local for guided trips that are on sale during the off-season.
10. Fall and Winter are Just Better than Summer I may just be an anti-summer, cold weather loving, type of girl, but to me it is much better to be cold than hot, and I think the fish agree. I always catch more fish in cooler weather than warm weather.
Lastly, I just wanted to let you all know that I have convinced Diego to let us do a super outdoorsy and adventurous honeymoon. We will be driving to Yellowstone for a few days and camping either in a car or in a tent and the from their drive up to Glacier National Park and stay in a cozy cabin. I am curious if any of you have camped Yellowstone and fished, and if so where is the best place to tent/car camp near great fishing in August?
This weekend my Dad and I decided it would be a good weekend to drive from Albuquerque to Farmington, NM to fly fish the San Juan river. We left Saturday morning and fished through the afternoon, and fished all day Sunday. Our experience on each day was a little different because of the different locations at which we chose to fish. The difficult part about fishing the San Juan is technique truly does differ depending on where you fish, the quality of the water, and what the fish are biting.
First, I am going to tell you a little bit about the things you need to Fly Fish the San Juan. To fish the San Juan you need a light, long, soft, yet durable rod. I fish with this 9′ Sage Rod I got from my Dad. It is soft, that means it bends well with a fish on, it is light, but it is also designed to cast well through the wind.
I can tell you first hand that this rod is one of the best rods you can have to bring in quality water sized fish! I fought a fish for half an hour, on a drift boat, with a guide back in February with this rod. I tell you it was on a boat and with a guide because those conditions and that help make fishing easier. If I had been wading and without the extra pair of hands/ ability to follow the fish, I’m not sure I would have landed it. All of us (Dad, the guide, and me) believed that if I had not been using my sage, this fish would have snapped off my line.
Secondly, flies are super important! On the way up it is important to stop by a fly shop near the San Juan and ask them what seems to be working fly wise. My dad and I have always stopped at Abes. They are friendly, have a large array of flies, and they know what is doing well. At Abe’s, we bought about $80 worth of supplies including, leader, tippet, and teeny- tiny flies. I always find it kind of funny that these big fish can be caught on such tiny flies.
The last few things you need are waders, sunscreen, and drinking water. You cannot fish the San Juan without waders. Also, New Mexico weather is so ridiculous it can be hot sunburn weather in February all the way to the end of October. On that note, I am not good about drinking water when I fish, and I need to be better. One of the things that helped this trip was my Dad brought his water filter. This was nice because we didn’t have to weigh our vests down with bottled water. I was nervous at first, but the water tastes delicious, and truly is clean after filtering with this bad boy.
This trip to the San Juan was a lot different than our February trip. This time we waded both days, and we were not with a guide. I did not catch the catch of the week, but every fish I caught was over 15 inches. It was an absolute blast!
On Saturday, our first day, we decided to fish below the Texas Hole at the Muñoz campground/ day site turn off. It is easy to recognize this spot because at the parking lot there is a giant green pump house. This site does require quite a walk to the great fishing on the back channels. At this fishing site you have the choice to fish the main channel or the back channels. We chose to to fish the back channels, and we chose right.
While fishing the back channels at the Munoz site, I started with a dry dropper combo. I set the two flies 16-18 inches apart and used one split shot at the knot of the leader and tippet to give it some weight and get it to the bottom of the river to the big fish. Above that, I put on a small strike indicator. A strike indicator is absolutely necessary. You WILL NOT feel these fish bite. This is a lot of weight to cast out. The first few casts will probably be sloppy, mine were, but after a few casts it will begin to feel normal. The key for me is to be sure to pause when I bring my cast back behind me, so that the line can fully straighten before casting forward into the river. The picture here on the right gives you an idea of how small the flies are in comparison to my finger nail.
After a one mile walk and some wading, my Dad and I found a good spot with plenty of fish. The water quality was superb, we could see the fish at the floor of the river, which of course means, they can see us. The best part of the back channel spot we found was the bugs. You grow to love these annoying little creatures as a fly fisher. The midge hatch was going crazy the minute we got started fishing at 12:00. This picture doesn’t even do it justice, they were everywhere and the fish were going wild!
Notice how clear the water is, you can clearly see my boot.
Although the fish were biting off the top more and more as the hatch continued, I was not tempted to switch to a dry fly. I was getting plenty of bites from the bottom. We fished for 4 hours, pretty much in one area. In that time I caught and landed 5 fish. That is not too bad considering the fish I was catching were big fish! Every fish I caught was taking on average, 8-10 minutes to bring in. I have a lot of patience once I hook into a fish. I let them tire themselves out rather than reel them in quickly. My Dad is the opposite. He lets them run a bit and then gets them in quick. I like love fighting a fish. I am pretty good at it, and love the feel of that line zinging out as the fish runs and the sound of the reel spin when I am reeling. Letting the fish run and taking my time is how I have become a successful fisherwoman on the San Juan. Stay tuned for a video of me fighting a fish!
At around 5 we finished fishing and decided to begin the long walk back to the car. We could not find anything but game trails to follow, which led to us bushwhacking our way through reeds taller than me, and bogs stinky as can be. Eventually, a very sore Mike and Kylie arrived at the car and decided that we needed beer. My Dad had a fantastic idea that we should drive from Farmington to Durango and get dinner and beer at Steam Works Brewery.
They had my favorite type of beer, a sour beer. Their sour beer is called the Ale Sabor and it was AMAZING! At a pretty high percentage of alcohol, I felt all my soreness go away after 2! I could have drank the whole barrel it was so good! The food was equally as fantastic. We had the nachos as an appetizer and I had the fish tacos, which were magical. After dinner we went back to out hotel in Farmington and prepared to wake up early the next morning and fish some more.
Day 2– Sunday
On Sunday, we decided that we should fish somewhere else, and continue learning how to fish the San Juan. We still had enough of our teeny tiny flies to keep fishing. Our starting point was at the Texas Hole, WHICH WAS PACKED! The Texas Hole is the most popular fishing spot at the San Juan. It is where every guided trip starts, where all the boats can take off, and has something like 10,000 fish in less than 1/2 a mile (according to a guide we used). We were not able to fish this spot and decided to go above the Texas hole into the braids. I did not have any luck in the braids. I waded on, finally my Dad and I got to the main channel and we were able to find a good spot. We could see the fish in the shallows right ahead of us. I was practically on the bank fishing. I was using roll casts so as not to get snagged in the bushes and trees. Suddenly, my Dad started catching fish before me. Let me make myself clear– this is miraculous, he never catches a fish before me! As you can imagine I was pissed! I could not figure out what he did that I wasn’t already doing. His answer was just as frustrating. He told me “I guessed. I just lift my rod every few casts to make sure I don’t have a fish on.” Yes, my Dad caught the first fish by guessing. At that point I too tried this ridiculous strategy. I had zero luck. My Dad caught two more.
Completely frustrated I set up a cream colored dropper on my line, and decided to cast into a little bit deeper water right off the shallows. I saw my strike indicator stop moving just a tiny bit and set the hook! BAM! Fish on!
Here is the crazy thing, the strike indicator never left the surface of the water. It barely moved, in fact, my clue was the strike indicator DID NOT move. I could not figure out how the fish could do this. The size of this fish and the size of the flies gives me the answer. These big fish simply wrap their mouths around the fly and when they open back up, the fly isn’t in their lip because I didn’t set the hook. Their big mouths can just gulp bugs.
In a sense you do have to guess which strike indicator movement is a bite. On this second day of fishing, the fishing was so much harder, and before I caught this fish and figured out what to look for, I was so frustrated. Day 1 we caught a big fish an hour. Day 2 I had caught 1 fish in four hours. Now I was ready for them! I had figured out the strike indicator clues, and I was ready to catch fish.
My plan worked and I hooked into a big fish! I was fighting the fish so long my Dad took the chance to video tape it on his phone so that I could post it here. The video quality and filming isn’t the best, but my Dad’s commentary is pretty funny.
Lastly, I want to recommend Rainbow Lodge and Resolution Guide Service for anyone interested in taking a guided trip to the San Juan. Steve Gill is the amazing guide that we used back in February. He was so unselfish and knowledgable about fly fishing the San Juan. Also, I am pretty sure there is a picture of me and my record fish on the wall!
Thanks Everyone for taking the time to read, and hopefully watch the video. Please continue to share and tell people about my blog. I love seeing new readers everyday!
Take a look at the video to see how to tie a couple of important fly fishing knots. I will be going over the double surgeon’s knot and the clinch knot. These are the two knots I use most frequently and the only two I am absolutely confident teaching people to tie. After learning these two knots in the video, read on about the dry fly/ dropper fly set up, and when it is a good option to fish with.
The Dry Fly/Dropper Fly set up is not as difficult as it sounds. Yes, its an extra hook in the air you have to worry about casting, but it also gives fish a bigger menu. The dry fly can be used as a strike indicator or as a floating meal for fish feeding off of the top. The dry fly alone is how I do most of my fishing in the smaller mountain streams here in New Mexico. The dropper fly is a smaller, weighted down, sinking fly that is great for catching the big fat lazy fish who feed off of the bottom. Using a small dropper and a strike indicator is how I caught my massive 26.5″ rainbow trout on the San Juan in New Mexico. The dropper is usually a tiny bead head nymph of some sort. I’m not kidding, its tiny! I caught that 26 incher on a black bead head smaller that my pinky nail.
Both the dry fly, and the dropper fly can be used independently. as I’ve said, but they can also be used together in what many people call the dry/dropper combo. The combinations that I use most are the dry fly and emerger combo, and the attractor dry fly and nymph combo. When you are not sure what the fish are biting, you are getting sporadic and infrequent bites, or simply not landing any fish on the dry fly alone, this is a great time to try the dry fly/ dropper fly combo in any of its forms. It is also a great way to fish when the fish are only wanting to eat tiny flies. It is really important that when you are fishing a dry dropper setup that you have floatant to keep your dry fly on top of the water. You do not need to add a bobber or other strike indicator, that is more weight on your line than you need. Your dry fly is your strike indicator.
When you are making the decision to two-fly it, you need to assess what type of fishing situation you are in, and then make decisions about the way you want to fish. For example if you are wading near the bank into some faster moving water, you will want to set your dry fly closer to your dropper on the tippet. When there is a strong current, having your dry fly and dropper 8-12 inches (20-30cm) apart gives you a lot more control. This is also a great option if you are casting toward shallower banks. The harder part is when you are casting into deep, slower moving, wide water. In this case, you will want to have 18- 24 inches (45-60 cm) of tippet in between your dry fly and your dropper. While there is less control of your line, there is no fast moving water to misguide and entangle your line, just be sure that you are casting up stream.
Before all of this, you have to decide which type of flies to use. The best way to do this is to pay attention to what is hatching, and what is in the water. Take a moment to turn over a rock and see what is there and whether any adult aquatic insects are emerging (emergers) toward the surface. If you can’t see an active hatch, emergers, or other signs of surface life. Then use the attractor fly and nymph combination since the nymphs are not usually on the surface. I hope this gives you a beginners introduction to the dry dropper combo. The best way to learn is to get out there and do it. That is the best way of learning to fly fish–DO IT!
Most of the places I fish and write about are locations that really only need single dry flies. I am still learning and gauging when it is the appropriate time is to use each method of fly fishing. Like everyone else, I’m still learning more and more every time I get my line in that water. If you have more questions than the ones I’ve addressed please ask your question in the comments, and I’ll answer to the best of my knowledge! I’m truly loving writing and sharing my fly life with all of you! Stay tuned, and please follow the blog by leaving your e-mail so that you can get an update when I’ve posted something new!
Valles Caldera National Preserve, located in the Jemez mountains of New Mexico is a prime spot for outdoor activities. The preserve is an amazing place to go for the day to hike, fish, drive, or bike. The cost is $20 a vehicle for a back country pass, and it is so worth it! The only time of year I have been is during the summer. Its up higher in altitude so it remains relatively cool, and there is always the chance of an afternoon rain. The sights and views are nothing short of fantastic, even with the burn scar the preserve suffered back in 2011.
My first visit to Valles Caldera was June of 2014, my Dad and I went to try it out after hearing about the beauty of this place. We chose to fish the San Antonio, which starts in the northernmost part of the preserve and flows west. It starts out as a narrow stream, not more than a a yard or two wide, at times even less. Further down the stream it widens and gets a little more shallow. In order to fish this small stream you have to feel comfortable casting into a small stream. Your cast will make or break your fishing in the small streams. Stealth and accuracy are your best friends.
First thing you’ll notice is the width of the stream, although it is narrow, there are good enough holes, up against the banks, for the fish to hide out. The key is casting from further away from the stream, and longer upstream than you typically would in such a small stream. My Dad won’t agree with me, and neither will “expert fly fisherman,” but I don’t think you need to let your fly drift to far downstream. I tend to only hook fish the minute my fly hits the water. Keep in mind I have only fished Valles Caldera in the summer months. The fly needs to be dry and big enough for you to see it, but not so big the small brown trout can’t grab the hook. You WILL NOT always feel the fish bite, there are some small fish in there! Watch the water, watch your fly, and wait for a fish mouth to gobble it up. Polarized sunglasses are a must have when you fly fish anytime any where so that you can see the water and that fish mouth.
When I fish the Valles Caldera I use a dry fly. Usually a grass hopper or a mayfly. Honestly though, if it has a tail or legs, and you can see it, give it a try. If after 20 minutes you haven’t had a single bite, switch it out for something different.
The best fishing I did in Valles Caldera was this summer, and I was fishing with different variations of elk-hair caddis and mayflies, all dry. One of the reasons the fishing was great was the time of day. I always try to start fishing before 10 AM. I think of it this way, the fish like to eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner just like us, and of course they’ll take a snack if it is prepared beautifully. In the morning they bite, and at around 2-3 PM something is usually hatching, and that is prime time fishing. I’ve also heard, but not yet tried, night time fishing. Apparently brown trouts turn into voracious hunters when the sun goes down. Okay, back to my trip, the other reason it was such great fishing was the weather. Rain brings fish. I don’t ask questions, I just know that I catch fish when it rains. The dark clouds, the blazing lightning, the roaring thunder, and the cool rain scared people off, but not me. I came to fish, and I was not ready to quit. I put on my poncho, prayed that the lightning didn’t hit the bright yellow girl holding a nine foot metal rod, and kept fishing. It was so worth it! I was catching fish after fish. They were all average 8-10″ browns. They were hitting quick and hard.
Later in the afternoon, post rain, a hatch opened up. I couldn’t tell you what it was. My insect education isn’t quite there yet, but what I can tell you is that it had a tail and was most likely a may fly. Now, most people will tell you to match the hatch to your fly and you will catch fish, but I get a little more creative than that and usually do okay. These small stream fish are not too picky, and do not see as much action as the big river, quality prize fish get. I matched the color, and cast my dry elk haired caddis into the stream. It is bigger and bushier than a mayfly, and the fish loved it! It would hit the water between a pile of a drowning mayfly, also known as a fish all you can eat buffet, and the fish would choose the elk hair caddis instead! It was a NY strip steak versus a filet!
Anytime I have fished the Valles Caldera I have caught 10-30 fish ranging from 4 inches to 12 inches. If you are looking for size, Jemez stream waters are not the place to fish. If you are looking to catch fish back to back to back, and have a hell of a view while you are doing it, then Valles Caldera is the place to go!
I know I need to stick to my strengths, and mainly tell you about fly fishing, but I think I have told you enough of my Valles Caldera fishing secrets. I have to show you a few other reasons why visiting the Valles Caldera is such a rewarding thing to do. I live in New Mexico. I was born and raised here, and I had no idea this diamond in the rough existed. New Mexico is just one of those places, it always has something more beautiful, more special, and more unique around every corner.
When we went to the Valles Caldera it was Elk calving season. All the elk mamas were having their babies. Valles Caldera has one of the largest, if not the largest, elk population in New Mexico. We had the chance to see a baby elk and a mama grazing, and when that mama elk saw our car she took off running to draw us away from her calf and the calf dove into the long grass, to hide until she returned. It was a beautiful moment to witness.
There are also a ton of grazing cattle who call the preserve their home in the summer. Believe me when I say, they are not afraid of people, or cars. They will invade your space while you fish, and take over the whole road while you are walking or driving through. When I got close enough to moo at them on foot, they did eventually run away. Also, notice that this is a dirt road. It is not always a smooth ride, and if it perchance rains, you will need all-wheel drive. Plan on an hour drive from the ranger station to the stream.
Now the best part of my 2014 trip to the Valles Caldera with my dad was not the fishing. Wait! Don’t curse me, The picture explains it all! On our way back to the entrance from fishing there were three horses waiting for us at the gate. My Dad and I are horse crazy, well animal crazy.
We want all the animals to be our friends, and when we saw those horses we couldn’t resist! We rolled down the windows to give the horses apples and breakfast crackers, and it was an amazing mistake. One of the horses would not leave me alone after his apple treat, and stuck his entire head in our car, and nudging my head for more apples.
Needless to say, Valles Caldera is a magical place. If you are a nature lover, if you need
some rest and relaxation, if you want to catch and release a ton of fish, then the Valles Caldera is a place you need to go visit. I encourage everyone to be a tourist in your own state, province, country, and even city. Doing things like this make for a great adventure!
Thanks again for reading, and please continue to share my blog. I am really starting to get excited when I post and see more and more people who read about little old me, and little old New Mexico fly fishing!
Last bits of important fishing advice: when fishing protected waters always use single barbless hooks. This is better for the fish and gives other people the chance to catch the fish you return to the water! Always have a state fishing license, and lastly, I wish you good fishing, cast your heart out, curse when you miss a bite, and smile when you hook ’em!
I thought I would do a different kind of piece this time. Rather than write a how-to, or a description of one of my fishing ventures, this time I am sharing a creative piece I wrote describing why I love to fly fish.
Last semester I was taking one of the most challenging and rewarding classes I’ve ever taken, called Stylistic Prose. One of the challenges my professor gave us was to write a short paper without using any of the forms of the verb “to be.” That includes the words “is” and “was” and “are”. Can you imagine talking that way?! What an enormous challenge! I wrote that paper and found out my writing was immensely improved and action-packed. Alright, alright, enough geeking out! The point is this is my fly fishing piece in this style.
Here it is, why I love to stand in that cold water all day fly fishing:
Fly fishing succeeds as a stress release and a quick escape for people worldwide. The sport of fly fishing revolves around the use of your wrist, cautious finesse, and understanding the river. The fly should never whip the water, instead, it floats through the air and falls gracefully on the water. This positioning of the fly on the water replicates the moment when a bug would fall from the tall grass above, onto the river beneath. The fly line, carried by the ebb and flow of the water, moves from eddy to eddy awaiting a bite from below. Ah-ha! You see the fly dive beneath the water, and the time comes to set the hook. At the elbow, bend the arm back away from the water in order to establish a firm snag on the fish’s mouth. While holding the rod in one hand, use the other hand to manually pull the fish on the line towards you. As the fish pulls, jerks, and leaps, release line, and gather it again. To achieve ultimate success without losing the fish, or your fly, you must tire the fish and force him to exert all his energy. At last, after precious time and energy elapses, the fish sways in the water close enough to net. Finally, you grasp the fish in your hand, and gently remove the hook from its mouth. This small victory lasts less than a minute. A few short moments and the fish bolts from your hand into the river ahead. The river calls and beckons, and you cast the line back into the water, re-casting and casting, until the next fish bites.
Gear is the second most important part of fly fishing. The first and most important is the respect and love of the outdoors. If you love the outdoors and respect all that it bears us, then you have the first key ingredient to becoming a successful fly fisher. After you have that down, you do have to invest in your new found hobby, and buy some pretty important gear. It is no secret that fly fishing is an expensive hobby. Lucky for me, I started young enough that my dad was the person who took the hit to his wallet. However, I have mastered finding good deals for myself and my Dad when it comes to gear.
First and foremost I am going to start by telling you the places where I find the best gear and deals. Number one on the list is Orvis. Orvis always has a sale, and their women’s waders are SUPER reasonable compared to places like Cabelas and Bass Pro. Number two is Charlie’s Sporting Goods, right here in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Charlie’s is not only local, but they are also great about keeping up to date with the local fishing, what is biting, and where the fish are. I LOVE supporting them. Third is Bass Pro. I can almost never find women’s outdoor clothing for a reasonable price, but Bass Pro always has a sale rack that has decent clothes and accessories for a decent price.
Now, not all of the gear I have is from these top three locations. My Dad and I have found gear all over the internet, even E-bay! I am not going to tell you about all the gear I carry, because it is six years worth of gear, and some of what I started with isn’t what I use currently. What I am going to share with you is my list of the top ten “must haves” for beginning a fly fishing journey.
Number 1 Rod and Reel (w fly line)
My first rod was not this sage. It was a much smaller rod, and it is still the one I use most in the small New Mexican streams, but this is my all time favorite rod. It is technically my dad’s, but I have commandeered it! This baby is what I use when I fish the big river in
New Mexico, the San Juan . This 9′ sage rod is the best rod, and I have chosen this particular rod to post, because it really is a perfect, use anywhere, rod. Just keep your eyes out for sales because sage rods are no joke! Sage rods can get all the way up in the $700 range! Yikes! The picture here shows the rod info in case people are wondering dimensions.
With your rod you need your reel and the reel needs to be hooked up with fly line. It is actually the fly line that is the most expensive. Orvis fly line is pretty pricey, but the brand White River is a great option. It is not the cheapest, but also not super expensive. My Dad has purchased Lamson reels more than any other reel, and they’re the reels that I have the most experience with. They average about $60. Not bad at all!
As a beginner, your best bet is to avoid buying everything separately and get a fly rod starter kit, you can find them starting off at about $60. They include the whole shebang: fly rod, reel, and fly line!
Number 2 Leader and Tippet
Now this is where it gets super fishy and complex, the leader and the tippet are really similar, but are for totally different things. The leaders are the monofilament strands that allow the fly line to connect to the fly. The tippet is the thinner strand that connects the fly to a dropper. A dropper is a smaller fly that will sink (ideally) beneath the water for the hungry fish at the bottom to gobble up.
There is a lot to learn about what leader to use when. Here is how I remember it: fish in shallow water, like small New Mexican streams, are far more easily spooked by a fly line landing on top of them than a leader landing on top of them. Using longer leaders in shallow water is better. Not what you would expect, but true. Here is why New Mexico is really difficult, we have shallow water and small streams! Typically in small streams you want shorter leader, but if it is shallow you don’t want the fish to spook. I tend to always use a nine foot leader. When in doubt go to a local fly shop and ask which would be best.
Number 3: Vest and Attachments
Trust me you want need a vest to hold all the gear you will have for fly fishing. The attachments are easy, you are going to want forceps and nippers. Forceps tighten to your hooks to help you get a grip on the hook when you need to, for instance to get a hook out of a fish that your fingers just can’t get to. Nippers look and act like nail clippers. All you need to know about vests and attachments, is they are cheap. Places always have these items for really reasonable!
Number 4 Fly Box and Flies
This part is expensive, but simple. Buy a sale fly box from a place like Orvis and then go buy the most popular flies from discountflies.com. When you get close to the place you are fishing, stroll into the local fly shop and ask what the fish are biting and BUY THOSE. The shop owners usually know the secrets! Flies are serious business. Those little suckers sell for a buck and some change. Ya, a hook and fuzz costs that much, but hey, if it catches me a fish it is worth every penny!
Number 5 Wading Boots and Neoprene Socks
Now this is arguably not a necessity, but I feel that for safety reasons they are absolutely necessary. Wading boots are designed to keep your feet grounded on those slippery rocks. Simple water shoes and sandals do not have that. For this reason alone it is on my “must invest” list. Again with these, look for deals. Some boots can get pretty pricey. These Simms boots with metal spikes are my favorite (the other pair had felt bottoms). With wading boots you need neoprene water proof socks. These keep your feet dry and happy! Excuse my dirty boot picture, but now you know I do actually use them!
Number 6 Hat
Sun and water with a glare, trust me you want to keep the sun and your hair out of your face.
Number 7 Polarized Sunglasses
These help you to see the water so that you can gauge when a fish bites.
Number 8 Safety Gear
As my safety gear I always have waterproof matches, my Bear
Grylls flint and steel lanyard, and my Bear Grylls knife. Can you tell I think Bear and I should be friends? Along with this gear I also have sunscreen in my vest. I AM a girl, and I AM really picky about what sunscreen I put on my face and body. I love coola sunscreen. I actually received these cute samples in my monthly birchbox and stuck them straight into my vest.
I also have some oil free sun bum sunscreen for the body. All of these smell nice ( not nice enough to attract bugs) and are gentle on the skin. Lastly, you can’t predict the weather, always have a poncho in your safety supplies.
Number 9 A Giant Duffle Bag
This will keep all your gear in one safe place! Seriously, plan on it being giant. Here is the one that my dad and I use. I could fit in it!
Number 10 Floatant
This is how you catch fish. Your dry- fly needs to stay on top of the water and not sink. Floatant gives those top-feeding fish a tasty looking morsel. To treat those fish to your fly, you need to keep it dry with floatant. After every 5-10 casts you will be adding floatant to your dry fly dry. I personally do not like anything but this powder kind. The liquid ones are a pain because you have to brush them on. Try finding the floatant that you can just shake.
Optional Number 11 Waders
Now Number 11 is ONLY if you are fishing a big river that may require you to get in the water waist deep. If this is your fishing location, invest in some waders. Orvis has waders under $200, which is an AMAZING price for waders. I am so oddly shaped (short, curvy, little feet) that my dad bought me some custom sized Simms waders as a gift when we first started fishing. If you can’t find your size AND you are truly serious about fly fishing then the Simms Custom Fit Waders are a perfect choice!
That concludes my top ten (eleven) must haves for fly fishing. If you are interested in fly fishing, my hope is that this list gives you an idea of the investment that fly fishing requires, as well as easy and reasonably priced options to help get you started. If you have questions leave a comment and I can respond to the best of my abilities. I hope I have sparked your curiosity to the wonderful world of fly fishing.
I’m Kylie from Albuquerque, New Mexico, and I am a fly girl. Fly as in fly-fishing, but also as in pretty cool. I decided to start a blog to share my love of nature and my passion for fishing. For me, my goal in writing this blog is to gain a readership of people who love the outdoors, all fishermen and women, and people who want to read my crazy stories. I also want to provide a voice for women in this male dominated industry. I have a lot of tips and tricks that will really help women get a jump start on their outdoors-womanship. I have experienced first hand the struggles, awesome perks, and unique experiences that come with being a woman in a male dominated outdoors industry. I have faith that this blog will provide everyone, men and women, with a greater love, a growing curiosity, and a silly grin anytime they think about the outdoors.
Fly fishing is what most of my blog posts will be about, but I figure I should start from the beginning of my fishing career. In the beginning there was no fly rod and reel, but rather a long drive, a lake, and shiny lures. As a desert rat from New Mexico, you would never think that I would find enough water, enough fish, or enough time to find good fishing, but the secrets of this state are sure to surprise. My family and I live in Albuquerque, and 100% off the time fly fishing requires a drive. Surprisingly, New Mexico is not where I got my start fishing. It required a much much longer drive. My family of five drove from Albuquerque to Minnesota to escape the desert and enjoy a cabin by the lake.
It was summer of 2007, and my Dad decided it would be a fun idea to take the whole family, five of us, on a guided fishing trip to a lake in Minnesota. This was not our first fishing experience, but it was our first trip away from a well-stocked kiddie pond. My Dad and I are the only two people in our family who absolutely adore the outdoors, but he never lets any of us run away from adventures. It was a cloudy day (perfect for fishing), and we were all loaded onto a boat with an amazing guide. While on the boat we caught, large mouth bass, small mouth bass, crappie, and northern pike. This may not seem like a super impressive fishing story, and by all means it was not the biggest fish ever, or the coolest fishing ever, but it was the first fishing trip we took as a family. We ALL had an amazing time, it was so fantastic! After this trip I was definitely hooked (pun-intended).
This picture to the right shows the exact moment when I discovered that fishing would forever be my passion. I hooked into a largemouth, once it was out of the water the guide taught me how to remove the hook and hold the fish with my thumb in its mouth. Feeling that fish, holding it, and releasing it was the moment that I fell in love with the sport of fishing.
Not 48 hours later comes my favorite fishing story of all time. We were standing on the dock of the lake and my Dad and I wanted to try to catch a few more pike off the dock. I was not catching anything, but tiny little sunfish. They were so voracious that they would swallow the hook, which was way too big for them to survive. After I pulled the hook, I would throw the bleeding ones back into the water. Every time that I threw one in, a giant, eel-like, black fish, around 3 feet long, would gobble them up. The next sunfish I hooked into swallowed the hook, and my dad said “throw it all in, just to see if he bites.” Oh boy, he certainly bit it! Sitting at the top of the water was the little sunfish and all of a sudden I see a giant mouth grab the whole thing. My rod tip bent nearly in half, and I yelled for my dad. It was immensely heavy! I couldn’t believe it. I reeled in with all my might and I could see the long, sleek, slimy, body. It saw me too. Just then, it darted off, pulling line, and almost pulling me along with it. It did the one thing a fisherman dreads, it pulled the line (and my rod tip) under the dock. I reeled and reeled trying to get him out from under the dock, but right then the hook shot out of its mouth. The hook was now as straight as an arrow. My dad and I burst into tears of laughter and it will forever be one of our favorite fishing stories to tell, and believe me, we have quite a few.
I’ll try to keep this blog updated with new fun stories, tips, and tricks. Friends and family please feel free to share it and tell people about it. I really would love for this blog to take off. There is not enough information out there for fisherwomen!