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PostPosted: Wed Jan 04, 2012 10:17 am • # 1 
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NON-TECHNICAL FLY FISHING
BY Cliff Hilbert

Are you confused or intimidated by all the technical aspects of fly fishing? Do you think you can’t catch fish unless you know 15 different types of knots, 12 different types of casts, understand everything about stream entomology, tie your own beautiful flies, throw perfect 90’ casts every time, understand everything about leader and tippet size? Then this article is for you. I am probably one of the least technical fly fishers I know. I can tie about three different knots, have never taken casting lessons, I have never tied my own flies and I still think about leaders and tippets in pounds instead of X sizes. Yet I have 10 Texas State fly fishing records, over 60 lake fly fishing records, and people will tell you that I catch more fish than almost anyone they know. And I’ve never considered myself more than an average fly fisherman, surely not an expert and most definitely not technical.

Many years ago I was given an old fly rod of my uncle’s and I began to fly fish for perch in park lagoons in New Orleans, never knowing that your cast had to go from 10:00 – 2:00, mine was probably 8:00 – 4:00. I had no idea that fly fishers used anything other than store-bought popping bugs. I used straight monofilament for leaders, never having heard that you need a tapered leader to get your fly to turn over correctly. I probably used some knots that I learned in the Boy Scouts. But I still caught fish.

For most of my life I fly fished very little until about seven years ago when I bought my first good fly rod, a 9’ – 6/7-wt St. Croix Imperial – and, no, I didn’t read up on all the rods available, nor did I ask many people what they’d recommend. I simply went to the local fly shop, Backcountry in Tyler, and asked the fly shop manager, Jim Green, what he’d suggest for a good, all-around, medium-priced fly rod that I could use for bass and bream fishing. He suggested the one I bought, I still have it today and use it most of the time. I have since bought a 7’ – 3-wt. St Croix Imperial and an 8 _’ – 4-wt St. Croix Avid. These are not extremely expensive, top-of-the-line rods. They are more expensive than the $25 Walmart rod I had before, but they’re not the $600+ rods that are available out there. I am extremely pleased with these rods and don’t think I’ll ever care to buy anything more expensive – these suit my needs. There are rods out there that cost less than mine that are great rods for the average fly fisher. You don’t need $200 rods to catch fish, and you don’t need to understand “fast action” or “slow action” rods, which ones “load” the best, which ones “shoot” the best – because I don’t.

At 66 years of age I still don’t tie my own flies and don’t want to as long as I have my sanity, lol. I buy most of my flies at the local fly shops ( I like to support those who give me the advice and service I need), a few from the internet, and have friends who have given me flies to try out. But the fly that I’ve caught the most bass on (including a 9# and 7.9#) is the venerable Peck’s #1 Popping Minnow, a big balsa-wood popper that’s been around for about as long as I have. Bass love them! I’ve also caught a lot of bass on clousers, wooly buggers, pistol petes, zonker-type flies and a variety of other flies I’ve picked up over the past few years. I don’t use poppers for bream, I use trout nymphs because bream feed mainly on insects under the water, and I catch more bream than anyone I know. I catch a lot of crappie on clousers and wooly buggers. I’ve even begun using soft plastics on my fly rod in heavy timber or heavy vegetation, they are the only things I’ve found that I can fly fish lily pads with. No they’re not flies, but so what, I catch fish with them. The first time I tried a soft plastic on my fly rod I caught a 5.5# bass on it at lake Fork. Who cares whether the purists like it or not, the fish do.

Twelve years ago I started trout fishing. I picked up a couple of books about the subject, asked a few questions at the fly shop, bought all the necessary equipment for wading, about twenty different flies and off to Mountain Home Arkansas I went to fish the White and Norfolk rivers. I even caught trout up there on my first trip, about 15 rainbows. I think I used a small wooly bugger most of the time. I’ve been back there 3-4 times a year since then and usually catch trout each time I go wading. My trout box probably has 200 flies in it now, and I could probably tell you what half of them are. How do I know which ones to use? I ask the local fly shops and the other fishers on the river what the trout are biting on at that time. I might also take a stream sample with a seine to see what’s in the river. Do I understand runs and pools, tailing ends, etc.? A little but not much, but I still catch a fair amount of trout - I’ve caught 40 or more trout per day on more than one occasion up there. I rarely use dry flies when trout fishing, 90% of the time I use nymphs under a strike indicator. That way you don’t have to be an expert to get a good dead drift. One of the best things I did was to take Rob Woodruff's course on stream entomology, I learned a great deal from that.

As far as knots go, I know three – a palomar knot, a clinch knot and a double surgeon’s knot. I have no idea what they are, or how to tie the other knots that a lot of fly fishers talk about. If forced to, I can tie a nail knot for tying the leader or mono to the flyline, but I much prefer the Orvis or Cortland braided loops that go on the end of the fly line. They last forever and are easy and fast to use. I HATE those little eyelet nails that you insert into the end of a fly line.

The only time I use tapered leaders is when I’m trout fishing. When warmwater fishing I only use straight monofilament on the end of my fly line, I never use tapered leaders for this purpose. When bass fishing I use 17# test mono, for bream fishing I use 5 – 12# tippet material because it is smaller in diameter and sinks faster than regular mono. The length of the mono will vary from 3’ – 9’, depending on what type of terrain I’m fishing. My casts get where I want them to and my flies seem to turn over just fine without tapered leaders.

As I mentioned earlier, I’ve never taken casting lessons. Over the years I’ve picked up a few tips which have helped me cast better, but I’m sure that if a casting instructor saw my style that he would keel over from a heart attack or just throw up his hands in dismay. But the fish don’t rate us on casting ability or style, and I’m not out there to impress anyone other than the fish. The fish could care less whether I have a tight and perfect loop or not. They don’t care than I don’t know how to throw a curve cast, a parachute cast, single haul or double haul, or any of the myriad of casts that experts throw. All the fish care about is that you put something that’ll fool them somewhere near them so they can eat it if they want it. I couldn’t cast a fly 90’ to save my life, 95% of my casts are only 20’ – 40’. The only time I practice casting is when I’m out on the water fishing. On the water I do as little false casting as possible.

The line I use 95% of the time is a Scientific Anglers Mastery Series GPX Weight-Forward Floating Line. That’s what works the best for me. For basic fly fishing that’s all you need. I have a full-sinking line that I use on occasion, but that’s only when I want to fish 8’ or deeper. I couldn’t tell you how long the tapers are on my lines, how big the bellies are, how long the lines are, etc. I can cast them and catch fish with them, that’s all that matters to me.

It is my opinion that there are two main types of fly fishers. There are those who are in love with the art of fly fishing – they love the beauty of the perfect cast, they love the tricks you can do with the line when you really get good at casting, they love to make 100’ casts lay out just perfectly, they know all about the different types of rods and reels out there and what the technical aspects of each are, they know all the knots, all about leaders and tippets, all about stream entomology, probably tie their own flies - they enjoy these parts of fly fishing, and that’s great. Then there are the others, like me, who love to fish and consider fly fishing to be a very enjoyable part of the sport of fishing, but are not interested in all the technical aspects of fly fishing, they’re mainly interested in catching fish There are probably others who fall somewhere in between. Which way is the best? Whichever way you’re most comfortable with and makes you happiest. Find where your interests are, go out and enjoy yourself and quit worrying about all the technical aspects of the sport and what the experts and purists think. You don’t have to please them, you only have to please the fish.


Last edited by Cliff Hilbert on Mon Sep 22, 2014 6:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Wed Nov 14, 2012 9:16 pm • # 2 
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Hear hear.I am fairly ignorant of all the technical details or should I say very ignorant but after nearly 40 years fly fishing for troutI seem to still keep fooling those fish who fortunately seem to be just as ignorant of all the technical stuff as well.Fair play to those who love all the art of the sport but I just like to be out on the river using the gear I like and am comfortable with.


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 31, 2014 10:59 am • # 3 
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Too Funny.....Opposite sides of the same coin.....I am working on a book titled "The Tailwater Technician". I can't name all the reels or rods but I do LOVE the technical side of fly fishing. I love to develop flies to match the hatches I encounter, I have developed leader designs, build and design rods, basically I am the complete opposite of you and yet in the wonderful sport there is room for all.


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 31, 2014 1:56 pm • # 4 
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What makes it even better is when we all catch fish.


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 22, 2014 12:37 pm • # 5 
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Cliff, that is a wonderful comment. I'm with you on this one. We get so caught up in all of this technology that we forget to just go out and have the same joy catching fish we had as younger people. I have been guilty of owning so many flies, rods and gear that I waste my time just trying to deal with choices. No, this is not meant to sound like bragging. Instead, it's the sad and pathetic lament of a gear junky who has seen the error of his ways these last few years. Simplify...simplify! Have fun!


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 24, 2014 10:42 pm • # 6 
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I'm in the same camp, willie bob; I hate making the decisions necessary for me to go fishing; too much stuff. But, I can't/won't change-p-


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PostPosted: Fri May 30, 2014 7:39 am • # 7 
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I'm with you, Cliff. I do occassionally throw tapered leaders, though, as I do notice an increase in bites. Why do I seldom use them? Because I have never gained confidence in a knot to add tippet :lol . Line lingo confuses the heck out of me. My casting would make Lefty Kreh cringe! But like you said, it works.


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PostPosted: Fri May 30, 2014 9:36 am • # 8 
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Cliff is a non technical fly fisher, but he does catch fish.
The article is just a cover because he can't cast, but he does catch fish, more than most.


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PostPosted: Fri May 30, 2014 9:48 am • # 9 
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Lefty Kreh would have an heart attack if he saw my casting!! But the fish don't care about the style or the cast, all they care about is that you put something near them that looks like food.


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PostPosted: Fri May 30, 2014 10:55 am • # 10 
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Right on, Cliff. Know what else they don't care about? How much you paid for your reel, whether your reel seat threads up or down, who manufactured your hat/vest/nippers/shirt/waders/boots/staff/rod.
Now, I do value quality equipment and effective gear, and all the things that increase MY enjoyment of the sport, but knowing what fly to use and how to present it is, in my ill-informed opinion, about 95% of the game.
Brent


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PostPosted: Fri May 30, 2014 12:25 pm • # 11 
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I agree 100%, Brent.


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PostPosted: Fri May 30, 2014 6:23 pm • # 12 
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Cliff,
Excellent read and excellent outlook... Couldn't agree with you more... My first fish caught on a fly rod many years ago was on a inexpensive Wright & McGill fly rod combo from old Gibson's sporting goods store in Mississippi fishing Betts Bluegill Popper Assortment ....That was absolute pure fun catching those wonderful bluegills...
Recently, went to a fly fishing show; now this is my observation strictly; many of today's Fly fishermen/fly tiers have become so A-type, obsessed, highly status-conscious, technical, competitive junkies... truly they are a lot of fun, I love these guys...listen, learn and watch them explain, describe and demonstrate why their ways is the best...Don't get me wrong .... I do like my fly fishing toys and do have a few, and I do tie flies cause it soothes me... catching one of gods creatures on something I made is very rewarding....but some of the new stuff/tackle today is too specialized and $$$ out of sight....I am an old throw back...I still fish with old glass Wonderod's and Fenwicks.... I have re-read your post often, keeps me grounded on the ridiculous cost factor and loss of sight of some of this stuff now a days... on the essence of catching fish....Kind a reminds me of the story of the Texas rancher with Big Cowboy Hat with,no cattle vs rancher with Small hat lots of cattle...who is better off?
But what really worries me, I find very telling from my observations at these fly shows...90% of the crowd are men my age, 40-60 y/o, very few, if any young kids at the shows ... Why? Look at the Bass-Masters and numerous Bass TV fishing shows on Outdoor channels... they solicit huge audiences and crowd following....Better marketing? better fishing? Better gear? Fly fishing industry is missing out.... You hit the nail on the head... fishing should be fun, not elitist, not complex....Young kids don't seem to have the interest and are missing out on having the fun and simplicity and enjoyment of fly fishing...thank you again for your good post... I will get off my soapbox now


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 02, 2014 7:49 am • # 13 
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gillbuster wrote:
But what really worries me, I find very telling from my observations at these fly shows...90% of the crowd are men my age, 40-60 y/o, very few, if any young kids at the shows ... Why? Look at the Bass-Masters and numerous Bass TV fishing shows on Outdoor channels... they solicit huge audiences and crowd following....Better marketing? better fishing? Better gear? Fly fishing industry is missing out.... You hit the nail on the head... fishing should be fun, not elitist, not complex....Young kids don't seem to have the interest and are missing out on having the fun and simplicity and enjoyment of fly fishing


I don't know if 23 is still considered a kid or not, but here I go.....

Most of my friends fish, and do so a lot. I have one that fly fishes. The rest won't even consider it. One in particular, who I've tried to convince to pick a fly rod up numerous times, constantly replies with the same thing: "when there aren't millions to be made bass fishing, I'll quit chasing it." Of course, this guy catches more skunks than anyone I know, and doesn't seem to have as much fun on the water as one should. He has since moved to South Florida, and since catching a few Mayan cichlids and other cool fish, he seems to be coming around a little.

Bass fishing is glorified to an extreme extent. And it is fun, don't get me wrong. I have thousands of dollars of casting equipment and tackle and I enjoy it. Had I not had good bluegill fishing close by growing up, I might be fly tackle intolerant as well.

Finally, I don't mind being in the minority when it comes to fishing. I've seen my own dangerous backcasts. Last thing we need is a whole generation of bad casters out there at once. The hospitals would become overcrowded rather quickly :P .

Ross


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 02, 2014 9:12 am • # 14 
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[quote="ross91690"][quote="gillbuster"]
... One in particular, who I've tried to convince to pick a fly rod up numerous times, constantly replies with the same thing: "when there aren't millions to be made bass fishing, I'll quit chasing it." Of course, this guy ...... doesn't seem to have as much fun on the water as one should. Ross/quote]

Well, in my opinion, those two statements are likely related.
I recently saw some video of a Fly Fishing Tournament, and the first thought that crossed my mind was: "well, that would pretty much take the fun out of it for me".
brent


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 02, 2014 5:46 pm • # 15 
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They just held the 5th Bass On The Fly tournament on Lake Fork here in East Texas. If you'd like info on it you can check it out at bassonthefly.org. When fish are caught, they must be photographed on a measuring board and immediately returned to the water. Judging is done by the photos for the length of the fish, and not by weight. Total length, for five fish, is used in determining the winners. They also have a big bass and big bluegill category. It is a fun tournament according to those who have participated, and the camaraderie is first class. The gentleman who started it and promotes it is a world class fly fisherman and also sells flies tied in Nigeria by tyers trained through a church ministry to promote employment.


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 03, 2014 12:00 pm • # 16 
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GordoB:
HEy, thanks, pal. I LOVE fly fishing for bass. I'm gonna check that out. never too late to learn something or to change one's mind. As I age, I try to avoid idiosclerosis.
(gotta say, though, that watching video of the international fly fishing competition, somewhere in Europe, I didn't sense any 'fun' happening til they were off the water and back at the lodge.)
Brent


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 04, 2015 8:43 pm • # 17 
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This is the best article I have ever read. It brings me back to when I first started fly fishing. Now all I want to do is fly fish. I could really care less if I take a spinning or casting rod with me when I go fishing. I love tying flies, casting in my yard when I can't make it to the river or testing new line on rod. I see to many people worried about the biggest or the most fish. I have always been happy with just catching a fish.

I fished a Heroes On the Water kayak tourney a couple years ago and caught the biggest fish of the tourney on my fly rod. That made me feel so good to out fish all the spinning and casting guys.

I love this site and great articles like this.

Dan


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 04, 2015 10:19 pm • # 18 
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Welcome to the forum glad you are hooked into fly fishing.
Your praise of Cliff is going to give him a fat head but yes he knows how to catch fish with the fly rod. He will catch fish out of a mud puddle in the road.


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 05, 2015 3:16 pm • # 19 
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Eric, you're right on about Cliff's fishing abilities. I've often said he's a cajun that could catch fish out of wagon ruts if they held water. Sure miss fishing with him, but we're hoping to get together in the near future.


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 05, 2015 5:46 pm • # 20 
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Cliff has been good to me shown me places to fish and tips on catching them.
Problem is he outfishes me by a large margin every time.
He is a fly fisherman that has plenty trouble forming a loop, yet fish rush to him?


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