Imagine catching a rainbow, brown, brook, golden, cutthroat, and lake trout all in one day. To some this is just a whole lot of fish. To anglers it is a dream—a dream that can come true in the Wind River Range, where all six trout species thrive in abundance. And fall is the season to find them. If you’re in the mood for some fly fishing this fall, here are ten tips that will set you on your way to becoming a hotter angler than Brad Pitt in A River Runs Through It.
1. Know the anatomy of your gear.
Educate yourselves at a fish and tackle store. You’ll need to know how to put your fly rod together, what a line, leader, tippet, reel are, and how to tie the appropriate knots between line and leader, leader and tippet, and tippet and fly.
2. Get a fishing license.
Fishing licenses are required on many public lands, including Forest Service land. In some cases, you need to carry your license on you (not leave it in your car).
3. Fish where the are fish.
In lakes, fish will most often be at inlets and near shelves by deep drop-offs. In moving water, look for fish at the margin of slow and fast water and hiding in eddies behind logs, rocks, and vegetation. Trout also prefer cool water because it is rich in oxygen, so in a warm stream look for them in swift water.
4. Fish when there are fish.
Fish most often feed early in the morning and late in the evening, when insects are active. Look for the telltale sign of fish rising—small concentric circles, the “bloop” sound, or, in some cases, a fish jumping straight out of the water.
5. Use a dry fly.
Wet flies are used for fish that feed below the surface or near the bottom of streams and lakes. Fall in the Wind River Range is when creeks turn into trickles and the water is “gin clear,” as some anglers call it. Since streams and creeks are low in the fall use a dry fly to fish at the surface.
6. Match the hatch.
Fish with flies that imitate the insects that the fish are eating at the time, as well as the phase that the insects are in (eggs, nymph, larvae, emerging adults, mature adults). Since fall is dry fly season, you just need to look at which insects are landing on the surface of the water, and pick a fly that matches those insects.
7. Fish like a ninja.
If you can see them, they can see you. Trout have evolved to be successful evaders of predators, and are especially sensitive to vibrations, changes in light, and smells. So walk softly on the banks, tie your flies with clean repellant/sunscreen-free hands, and crouch low to avoid catching their eyes.
8. Don’t air-fish.
The motion of casting a fly rod can be addictive and meditative—especially because you know you look amazing with your line whipping gracefully in the air above you. But remember that the fish aren’t in the air—they’re in the water. Your line should spend more time in the water than in the air.
9. Be humane.
Don’t fish unless you know how to release a fish or kill it immediately. In some areas you are required to release fish that are below a certain size. If you are ready to make some trout for dinner, you should e ready to kill the fish as quickly and humanely as possible. If you are going to catch and release, use a barbless hook. And always tie the best knot possible so fish do not escape with flies stuck in them.
10. Make something yummy.
There’s nothing worse than catching a huge trout and not knowing what to make with it. I myself don’t savor the simplicity of plain fish, so I’d make a fresh trout WIZNUT.
This is not to say that I know diddly squat about fishing. In fact, I would recommend taking a NOLS/Orvis Wilderness Fly Fishing course, where you get to fish both in the backcountry and on a drift boat.