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NEW!! Selecting a Fly Rod
Learning to Fish With A Fly Rod
Finding Places to Fish
Tying Flies With Beads and Cones
Using Eyeballs On Your Flies
Ending Flybox Chaos
Interpreting Stream Flow Data for Better and Safer Fishing
Using a Fishfinder in your Float Tube
The Two-Handed Line Retrieve
Fly Fishing Spots for Persons With Disabilities
Choose the Right Rod for You
Why I Still Prefer My Float Tube
On the Water Etiquette
Step - by - Step Flyfishing
Winter Gear Checks
Ten Tips For Women Who Want To Get Started Flyfishing
Using the Side Arm Cast
Wader Woes and How to Beat Them
Float Tubing 101
P.S. - Many of the pics on this page are from as long ago as 1996, when we were still learning to manipulate images. Please excuse the poor quality!
When starting out, many women are unsure about how to select a fly rod that is right for them. If you were lucky, the instructor in your beginning fly fishing class had several different rods for you to try out as you learned. (See my December article that refers to the three basic casts you should learn in a beginning fly fishing class.) Hopefully, you also learned that a fly fisher selects a fly rod based on what fish, and what weight of fish, she intends to catch with it. Besides what fish you want to catch, there are three basic rod characteristics that are important to consider. They are the rod’s length, its weight and its flex.
Even though fly rod manufacturers make fly rods of many lengths, it is pretty well agreed in the fly fishing industry that the best all-around fly rod length is 9-ft. That’s considered to be the most versatile length for the widest variety of fly fishing situations you’ll encounter. Some people who fish very small streams prefer a shorter rod, but you can still fish these streams just by casting up-stream or down-stream instead of across the stream with a 9-ft rod. Or, you can consider buying two fly rods, one for the small streams and one for your other fishing.
Next let’s talk about the “weight” of a fly rod. Don’t be confused. This does not mean what a rod weighs if you were to put it on a scale. Instead, the weight of a fly rod is determined by the diameter of the fly line that the rod is designed to cast. In your beginning fly fishing class you probably saw fly lines that were of different thicknesses. Those were lines designed to catch lighter or heavier weight fish.
Let’s start with what rod weights catch what sizes of fish. For instance, a 4-6 weight rod catches trout, bass, bluegill, crappie, etc, but would likely break if you used it for larger fish like steelhead or salmon. A 7-9 weight rod is required to catch larger fish such as redfish, stripers, muskie, most of the salmon species, and steelhead. If you’re fishing for marlin or tuna in the ocean or even king salmon in the rivers, you’ll need an even heavier weight fly rod, maybe even up to 14-weight!
So, the first answer to the question of “which rod” is for you is to determine what fish you’re going to fish for with the rod. Some of you will know the answer to that question right off, and others of you will find that you are not sure. If you know that you’ll be fishing primarily for fish like trout, then a 9-ft 5-wt rod is perfect for you. If you are one of those who say that you want a rod that you can use for both smaller and heavier fish, then I recommend that you buy a 9-ft 8-wt rod. You can always catch smaller fish with a heavier rod, but you can’t catch heavier fish with a light weight rod.
The third important characteristic of a fly rod is it’s “action” or flex. Manufacturers design fly rods to bend at different points along the length of the rod when you have a fish on. Some bend, or flex, only at the tip of the rod. These are often referred to as fast-action or tip-flex rods. These rods achieve greater line speed and distance in the cast but they do so by requiring greater power in the casting stroke. They often feel rather stiff to the beginner, who may find them tiring to cast in the beginning. Often they are a manufacturers’ most expensive line of rods.
A rod that bends about one-fourth of the way down from the tip is generally referred to as a medium-fast action rod. These rods can achieve quite high line speed and casting distance, but they are easier for a beginner to cast and are typically less expensive than fast action rods.
Medium-action or mid-flex rods bend about a third of the way down the rod. They are the easiest to cast for many anglers and help them achieve better accuracy. They rods are generally most effective with smaller fish. They are usually not as effective in fighting large fish because the butt of the rod is not as stiff is it is in the medium-fast or fast-action rods. Medium-action rods are usually in the mid range of a manufacturer's price line.
Full-flex or slow action rods may be difficult to cast, and they often have a "wobbly" feel to them because they bend fully half way down the rod blank. They are ineffective in fighting large fish because the fly fisher cannot use the stiffness in the rod butt to hold against a powerful fish. These rods are generally the least expensive in a price line.
Most women find that they prefer a medium action rod when fishing for small fish, but a medium-fast flex rod when fishing for larger species. You should know that a woman can cast any fly rod a man can cast, and do so just as effectively.
These days most rod manufacturers indicate which type of flex a rod has. Ask to see the catalog description and be sure to go out and actually cast any rod you're thinking of buying. It helps if you have the salesperson “play” the fish so you can see how the rod would bend if it has a fish on.
Cost is, of course, an important consideration in the purchase of a fly rod. As we discussed in the first Women Talk Fly Fishing webinar. if you are buying a 5-wt or 6-wt fly rod and reel for smaller fish, there are several good “combo” packages on the market in the $150- $250 range. With the 8-wt rods it is often better to buy the rod and reel separately except when the “combo” package says that the rod is a medium-fast or fast-action fly rod. (Sage Manufacturing makes such a combo where the Flight model fly rod included in the package is a fast-action rod.)
Be sure to take your time and buy good quality equipment to begin with. These rods & reels have good warranties and will be repaired or replaces by the manufacturer if they break. If you buy cheap equipment and break it, you’ll just have to go out and buy more equipment.
Unless you want to go fishing right away, you can always assemble your equipment over time or get it as gifts. I got my first fly rod for my birthday, my reel for Christmas, and my fly line for Valentine’s Day. Didn’t cost me a thing!
First and foremost, a class on fly fishing should help you understand the differences between conventional fishing rods and reels that cast either bait or metal lures and fishing rods and reels that cast flies. The weight of the bait or lure that conventional gear casts is what makes the line go out to deliver the enticement to the fish, but, since a fly has little or no weight to it, a person fishing with a fly rod has to get the fly out themselves by making a certain type of cast with the rod. That beautiful back and forth casting motion is what epitomizes the skill of fly fishing.
A beginning fly fishing class should discuss (and have available for you to look at) fly rods, fly reels and fly lines, and how they have to match up and work together to cast as well as to hook, play, and land a fish. The differences in a rod’s length and weight and how they are matched to different sizes of fish is essential information, as is the size and weight of the reel to balance that rod, and the correct type and weight of the line for the rod to cast in different situations.
Learning the graceful motion of casting so you can entice the fish with your tiny fur and feather concoction is the heart and soul of any fly fishing instruction. It’s not brute strength that makes it happen. Rather it’s learning a focused, rhythmic, technique that makes the rod stop at certain places so that the rod-tip sends the line and fly out to the water.
Most beginning classes teach three basic fly casts. First is the overhead cast, where the rod makes the fly line sail through the air creating beautiful forward and backwards candy-cane shapes with the line and ultimately delivers the fly to the waiting fish. The second cast is the roll cast, where the line casts only forwards so that the angler can avoid any obstructions lurking behind her. Third, is the side-arm cast, which prepares the fly caster to deliver a fly under overhanging bushes or other obstructions and to cast into the wind. Practicing casting should be an integral part of the class, whether on the grass or on the water, so that you have hands-on, one-on-one time with your instructor.
Learning to fly fish also includes learning about the various types and sizes of flies and what kinds of fish prefer one over another. You’ll learn about which flies are used on lakes, and which are used on moving water and why.
Knot tying can be another portion of a beginning fly fishing class so that you learn how to connect the length of monofilament called a “leader” to the end of the fly line, well as why a leader is necessary, and how to tie the fly onto the end of the leader.
Most classes also include information on other aspects of fly fishing such as how to locate places to go fly fishing in your area, differences between various types of waders and wading boots, how to wade in the water safely, how to release a fish correctly, and more. Ask to see an outline of what your class will cover.
Learning to fly fish can be frustrating, but it’s also fun. Give it a try!
Finding Places To Go Fly Fishing
When you start fly fishing you’ll need to know how to locate places to fish. If you’ve been fishing with a spinning or a bait rod, you’ll already know some of the popular places in your area. But, if you’re like most people, you’ll probably want to know how to locate spots where you can avoid the crowds and have more space to cast a fly.
Everyone wants to go fishing in places where they’re going to catch fish. That’s why you’ll often find crowds wherever the salmon are running, where the stripers are migrating, or on opening day on the lakes or rivers in your area. You’ll probably also want to be part of that, but, like most fly fishers, you’ll also want to find some solitude.
There are lots of ways to get information on good places to fish. The first one is usually the state Department of Fish & Wildlife (or an agency with a similar title) in your state. Since they manage the fisheries of the state, they’ll have the most complete information. Give a call to the regional office of that agency in your area and you’ll find that they usually have lots of maps, brochures, pamphlets, etc., that tell you about good fishing places in the area. They’ll also have personnel available to give you directions, answer your questions, and, often, even be able to tell you things like what time of the day or the year to fish, what flies they recommend you use, and more.
Novice fly fishers often join a local fly fishing club in order to be able to go along with experienced fly anglers on the clubs outings. That’s a great way to learn about various fisheries, flies, etc. with others who know them well. It’s like having some mentors who’ll help you see how they catch fish in a certain river or lake.
Clubs also have speakers at their monthly meetings that discuss specific fishing locations and how to fish them. Usually they’ll have photos, slides, and “props” for their talk that are very helpful, and they’ll usually be available after the program to answer questions.
There are several ways to locate fly fishing clubs in your area. For a listing of fly fishing clubs for women go to my web site www.womensflyfishing.net/clubs.htm to see if there is a club in your area. In addition to the women’s clubs two national fly fishing organizations have local chapters/clubs all around the country and in every state. The organizations are Trout Unlimited http://www.tu.org/about-us/council-chapter-search-1 and The Federation of Fly Fishers http://www.fedflyfishers.org/Default.aspx?tabid=4357 . These links will help you locate clubs in your area. Don’t be hesitant to attend a club meeting. All of them are quite welcoming to women. Find a friend to go along with you to a meeting or two if that helps you feel more comfortable. I think you’ll find that many women attend these meetings. Go introduce yourself to them and see if they might take you fishing.
Fly fishing shops or sporting goods stores are another source of information about fishing locations, flies to use, when to fish, etc. I know that it is often intimidating for women to go into these stores by themselves because they are oriented to male customers. I think you might be pleasantly surprised, though, if you give it a try. Go in with some specific questions to help get the conversation started. Ask about a certain lake near you, or ask about a river that you’ve heard other people talking about and you’ll get some pretty specific information. Of course, fly fishing shops are usually going to have more information about flies, fly lines, etc. than a sporting goods store, but if you don’t have a fly shop in your area, try the sporting goods store.
Another way to find places to go fly fishing is to use the Internet. Just type in the name of a river or lake near you and you’ll probably be amazed at what pops up. There will be names of lodges, camps, fishing guides, fishing shops and much more. It is a lot of fun to just call some of them up and say that you are a novice fly fisher and see what service they can offer you. When you are on the internet, you’ll find that there are lots and lots of books that will also help you find good fishing spots near where you live. Two wonderful series of fly fishing books cover a lot of areas of the country. They are http://www.nononsenseguides.com and http://www.wildadvpress.com/store/ Otherwise, just type in the name of your state along with the words fly fishing or fly fishing books and see what happens.
I know that lots of women are hesitant to just strike out on their own to go fly fishing-at least until they feel more confident and experienced. Usually, women just starting out will round-up a friend to learn with them so they’ll have someone to go fishing with. If that isn’t possible for you, then I’d suggest that you make your first few trips with an experienced woman fly fishing guide. Every state has information available on all of their licensed fishing guides, including their women guides. Often you can check the list right on the state fish and game web site, or, you can get the list by calling the department. Although it does not contain the name of every woman who is a fly fishing guide, a list of some women guides is also at www.intlwomenflyfishers.org/iwffguides/iwffguidepage.htm. (Don’t go out with a guide who is not licensed by your state unless licensing is not required.)
If, for some reason, you can’t locate a woman guide, then I suggest that you begin by calling some of the fly shops or fly fishing guide services listed on the internet for your area and ask if they have a woman guide that you can book a fishing day with. Be sure to let them know that you are just starting out in fly fishing, and that you want a guide who will help you work on your casting, your fly selection, your skills in playing and landing fish, etc. If they don’t have any women guides, keep calling around and you’ll probably find one.
Building a storehouse of knowledge about good fishing locations takes time. I think that half the fun of fly fishing is exploring new places or going to different locations to pursue a fish species that you haven’t caught yet. There’s a world of possibilities out there just waiting for you. Even Alaska, where I live and fish, and guide women and couples on great fly fishing trips. I’d love to help you get started too.
By: Pudge Kleinkauf
More and more people are tying with and fishing with a bead or cone or eyeballs at the head of their fly. All three of these add-ons give added weight and a special “look” to various flies, and many tiers use them to avoid the use of lead on the leader to sink the fly. (See one of my other Tips for a discussion of tying with eyeballs.)
In this Tip we’ll focus on tying with beads and cones. Beads come in a wide range of sizes. These days you’ll see bead-head nymphs from size 24 to size 8 or 10. You’ll also see bead-head streamers tied on size three and four/ought hooks. The same cannot be said for cones. Most cones heads are designed to be used on hooks of about size 8 or 10 or larger.
Tying with either beads or cones requires that the tier flattens down the barb on the hook or uses a barbless hook to start with. We attach eyeballs on top of the hook with thread, but beads and cones are inserted onto the hook. They must be able to go over the barb as well as around the bend of the hook. If the hook is an up-eye or “bend-back” style hook, the bead or cone must also slide over that extra wire in order to end up right at the hook-eye. Manufacturers drill the beads specifically for fly tying. Craft beads for the most part are not, and are not typically used for fly tying.
The tier inserts both beads and cones onto the hook by placing the point of the hook into the smaller of the two holes and then sliding the bead or cone around the bend of the hook and up next to the eye (before the fly is tied, of course.) Here is a chart of bead sizes and corresponding hook sizes to guide the tier. It is not 100% accurate because of different hook-bends.
- The 1/16" beads fits hook Sizes-22 thru 26
- The 5/64" beads fits hook Sizes-18 thru 22
- The 3/32" beads fits hook Sizes-16 & 18
- The 7/64" beads fits hook Sizes-14 & 16
- The 1/8" beads fits hook Sizes-12 & 14
- The 5/32" beads fits hook Sizes-10 & 12
- The 3/16" beads fits hook Sizes-6 & 8, and
- The 7/32" beads fits hook Sizes-2 & 4.
By: Pudge Kleinkauf
As many of you know, I love to tie flies. Because I tie so many salmon flies, I especially love to tie with beads, cones, and eyeballs. (See one of my other Tips for a discussion of tying with beads and cones.)
Eyeballs come in many different sizes and types of materials. Some are plastic, some are bead-chain, and some are lead. Different eyeballs lend different weight to the finished fly.
Getting the hang of tying eyeballs to the hook takes some practice. First, lay down a thread-base, then place the pair of eyes on top of the hook and hold the eyeball closest to you in your thumb & index finger’s fingernails. Make 15 or so thread wraps around the opposite eyeball. The one that is farthest away from you. Then switch and hold the eyeball opposite you in your “pincher” fingernails and make 15 thread wraps around the eyeball closest to you.
To help make sure the eyeballs don’t move side to side, make a few thread wraps in front of and in back of the pair of eyes. Next, make at least 20-25 figure-eights back and forth around the eyeballs. Be sure that each wrap goes under the hook and then over the eyeball farthest away from you and then under the hook again and over the eyeball closest to you. Intersperse the figure-eights with wraps over each eyeball separately. Continue until eyes no longer more around. I recommending tying off materials and finishing the fly behind the eyeballs.
(See my complete article about tying flies with Beads, Cones, & Eyeballs in the September, 2007 issue of Fish Alaska Magazine www.fishalaskamagazine.com)
by Pudge Kleinkauf
One of the things that fly fishers seem to discuss endlessly is the best way to organize their flies and their fly boxes. There are about as many methods and ideas as there are fly fishers. Some of the most common systems, however, usually boil down to arranging by size, by color, by type of fly, or by type of fish or fishing. Many anglers also organize certain boxes by the certain rivers or locations they fish the most. Each of these methods has its pros and cons.
Over the more than twenty-five years I've been fly fishing, and the twenty years I've been guiding, I've gone back and forth between the various methods and finally settled on arranging by type of fly-most of the time, that is.
Most of the fly boxes I have in my storage container hold only nymphs, or only dry flies, woolly buggers, or streamers. That seems to give me the best way of arranging flies. My thought is to be able to take along only certain boxes and know that I'm going to have the right assortment of the kinds of flies we're going to use on a specific outing.
Some people try to cover all the contingencies of the day's fishing by including a variety of types of flies all in one box. Invariably when I've done that I've ended up with not enough of one kind of fly or not being able to find the fly I want. Besides, it's hard to match the different sizes and types of flies in just one box. Either the box is too big for the dries and nymphs or too small for the streamers.
Sorting flies out by color can be important in many situations. As a result, I tend to coordinate both color and size within a certain box. Many of my nymph boxes contain rows of tan nymphs in size 12-16 and then other rows that are all olive or black. Some of my nymph boxes hold flies of one color and/or size on one side of the box, with the bead-head version of the flies on the other.
A couple of my boxes contain just lake patterns, so I don't have to fill up the pockets of my float tube with lots of fly boxes. One such box contains different sizes of primarily brown flies, woolly buggers and bead-head lake leeches in the preferred color for many of our lakes. Another box containing chronomids, nymphs, and emergers in different sizes and colors covers lots of different still water situations.
Steelhead fishing is another type of fishing that may be suited to fly boxes of a grouping of certain flies. Most of us who steelhead learn which patterns produce best in different rivers or under different conditions, and then we don our warmest clothes and waders and head out for the metal-sides, we take only fly boxes containing those flies.
Since Alaska's salmon don't routinely take either nymphs or dry flies, many of my fly boxes contain only salmon flies. For the most part these flies are large, heavily weighted concoctions with lead eyeballs that take up a lot of room in a box. Therefore, those tend to be large boxes. Luckily, several salmon species like the same type of flies so I only have to keep separate boxes for the sockeye. I just include a variety of colors to satisfy different species' preferences or different water or light conditions and then carry boxes containing different patterns.
It's amazing how often the type or style of the box dictates the type of fly I have in it. A smaller, flatter fly box is best used for nymphs, while boxes with higher lids hold dry flies without flattening out the wings. Larger, longer boxes hold streamers like woolly buggers and muddlers better.
Large boxes may not fit in the pockets of your fly vest, or stuff easily down the front of your waders. You may need to carry more boxes that don't contain as many flies or end up putting the large boxes in the back of your vest and deal with having to remove the vest to take them out. Some anglers use fanny packs or back-to-front chest packs to help solve that problem.
As you can see, there's a lot to think about in systematizing your flies and fly boxes. Take the time to sort yours out thoroughly some cold winter day when you can't fish, and you'll probably find your own system or at least acknowledge that you fish just fine with fly-box-chaos.
by Judy Graham
Have you ever been in a Fly Shop, looked at the fishing report board and noticed they have the letters "cfs" posted, with a number by it? You may have wanted to ask the gal working there what that meant, but were too embarrassed to ask. This is extremely important information to understand when fishing during the spring runoff. During this time of year the snow is melting in the mountains while farmers downstream need water to irrigate their crops. This means is the rivers are high and can fluctuate in volume hourly. Let's see if we can make sense of how streamflow is measured and why this information is important to fly fishers.
The amount of water in a stream or river affects a number of things you may face on the stream or river on any given day while fishing: How safe it is to wade? How safe it is to drift? Or even, where the fish might be holding? So, what's it all about?
There are two terms you've probably heard a million times living in western Washington related to water levels in streams and rivers. You've probably most often heard them associated with flood warnings. The terms are stream height and streamflow. So, how does the height of water in a stream relate to the amount of water flowing?
Stream Stage or Gage Height
The U.S. Geological Survey folks start by measure the height of water in a stream. This is called stream stage, or stage or gage height. To make it simple, just picture some gal going out to a bridge and bolting a measuring rod to the bridge and reading how high the water level is below.
In a possible flooding situation you may have heard a newscaster say "Dunning Creek is expected to crest today at 12.5 feet". The 12.5 feet the newscaster is referring to is actually the stream stage. The USGS refers to this as "basically the height of the water surface, in feet, above an established datum plane where the stage is zero. The zero level is arbitrary, but is often close to the streambed". Ok, there's a start, but determining the amount of water flowing at different gage heights is a little more difficult.
As you know, river banks are irregular, but they tend to be flat on the bottom, and then have rising banks on the sides that widen out at the edge of the bank, kind of like a cross section of a bowl. So, because river banks are irregular, the relation between gage height and stream discharge, or flow, is not linear. This means is that if a stream gage height doubles, say from 8 to 16 feet, the flow can more than double. This diagram from the USGS shows it better than I can explain it. As you can see, two feet in height represents a lot more water flow than one foot does and on up to four feet.
Streamflow or discharge depends on the volume (amount) and velocity (speed) of the flow (water). It's basically the volume of water flowing past a certain point in a fixed unit of time. This is where the term cfs comes in. The USGS expresses the value in cubic feet per second. One cubic foot of water equals 7.48 gallons of water flowing each second, so to understand streamflow value think about 76 cfs being about 568 gallons of water (7.48 x 76 = 568.48) flowing by each second.
Here are two typical flow charts for the upper Yakima River. I chose the upper Yakima by Easton because it's near my home-water and the chart I use most often. I also included a typical Stage and Flow Chart from Cle Elum. The monitoring station for this chart is located about 12 miles further downstream form the first chart and happens to be after the confluence of the Cle Elum River. Notice the difference in flow just a few miles and adding another river makes in terms of volume. Also note how much a river can change in flow both day by day and hour by hour.
Where I fish, I know I can safely cross the river if the flow is no faster than 330 cfs. When it gets much higher than that, crossing is dangerous, so I fish places where I don't need to cross. As you can see from the first chart, on April 28, I could have gone fishing in the morning, crossed the river at my favorite spot, fished a few hours, and then been in big trouble trying to get back across to go home. This is what you need to understand. These rivers are controlled by dams, and if you're not aware that a dam may be increasing its flow during any given day, you could find yourself in trouble.
How can you check the stream or river you're planning to fish?
There are a number of ways to check the cfs for rivers in your area. Probably the best is your local fly shop. Another great resource is the USGS real-time stream flow database. It provides data for many of the rivers in your area with he simple click of a mouse. Access the USGS site at http://waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis/rt, click on your state, and check it out! Top of page
by Ann Bounds
I use a fish finder on my float tube and pontoon boat and have found it to be beneficial in locating the fish. I seem to have a more successful fishing trip when I use one, as oppose to not using one.
So far, I have found 2 kinds of fish finders that are compatible with using on float tubes and pontoon boats:
1) Fishing Buddys are made by Bottom Line. These are mounted in a "side holder" and stored in a fish finder keeper. Prices range from $70 to $550 depending upon differences in models, features and pixel displays. A Fishing Buddy radiates sound waves on the side view finder, as well as, what's underneath you. It shows depth and bottom structures, large fish, small fish, and water temperatures. They run on three size C batteries. I'm pretty sure that the Service Charge is a minimum of $99.00 to fix it if they break...even if there's a loose wire. And you have to ship it back to Bottom Line in a box when it needs repair.
2) Hummingbird Fish Finders are made by Hummingbird. These can be mounted on a VERY HEAVY THICK piece of rubber (found at shoe stores). Mount the Hummingbird to a long rubber piece with screws, leaving a long side piece in order to stick the rubber under your frame (on pontoon boats); AND, tie the rubber piece down with a strap on your float tube and pontoon boat. So it should be very secure. These fish finders run on a one-12 volt battery. The battery can be stored in a side pocket....or in the back of your float tube. The finder structure can then hang down in the water between the tube and the seat. The price ranges between $130 to $500 depending on different models and features and pixel displays. It sends a 2-beam, or 3-beam sound wave down. It shows more of what's beneath you, depth, and bottom structures, large fish, small fish, water temperature and some, if not all, come with 'speed of the boat' so you can depict migration of fish, and water temperatures. You might be able to purchase a Hummingbird from a local bass shop. The Hummingbird can be stored in a hard plastic 6-pack ice cooler in order to keep it from getting banged around while traveling. I also believe that both models can be found in a Cabelas catalogue.
Also, just a note on something that has recently been brought to my attention, is that these fish finders can go to depths in fresh water to 240' , with a side distance of 120'. But if you happen to be fishing in 20' to 40' of water, you would probably like to "manually change" the depth range to maybe 60'. That way you can pick up more "contrasts" and the small blimps/images will become larger and clearer and more pronounced.
Hope this helps in finding those fish. Please drop me an email and let me know your experiences with using a fish finder.
Dame Julianna Anglers, Arizona
by Pudge Kleinkauf
As the lure of salt water flyfishing grows, so does the need for the flyfisher to learn what is known as the two-handed line retrieve. In traditional flyfishing the angler typically retrieves line with just her non-dominant hand while her dominant hand holds the rod. Even though you can retrieve quite fast with just one hand, it just isn't fast enough to imitate many of the species that become prey for one another in salt water.
Fish in salt water swim in an environment that has no boundaries and very few places to hide. They have to be fast, or they're lunch. Imitating them requires an equal amount of speed. When I was first introduced to salt water flyfishing, I'd entice a fish to follow only to see it turn away at the last minute. When I asked what I was doing wrong, the answer was always that I just wasn't retrieving the fly fast enough or that I was unconsciously slowing down in hopes that the fish would take.
The two handed retrieve greatly increases the speed at which the fly moves, but it takes a bit of practice to master. After the cast, the angler tucks the butt of the rod and the reel in the armpit of their dominant hand. Then, with their upper arm holding the rod close to their body, both hands commence a rapid hand-over-hand retrieve of the line. Excess line piles up in a stripping basket hung around the angler's waist or in a bucket sitting on the deck of the boat. The stripping basket is typically used when fishing the surf to keep the line from wrapping around your legs, although some people also use it on the boat.
The two-handed retrieve requires some finger dexterity and works best when the hands are kept close to the stripping guide of the rod. You just have to practice until you can keep your hands moving without letting loose of the line and not bumping into the stripping basket. Most people can get more speed with lots of quick, short retrieves rather than longer ones even though you're more apt to drop the line with short strips. Keeping the stripping basket loose enough that it sags a little on your waist also helps.
Setting the hook while performing the two-handed line retrieve is definitely more difficult. When they feel a fish, most everyone wants to take the rod butt back in their hand and loop the line over their fingers to "set up" as we're used to doing. But, by the time you get hold of the rod butt your fly has slowed down so dramatically that the fish lose interest. Besides, setting up often just pulls the fly out of the fish's mouth. Instead, saltwater fly fishers are advised to learn the strip strike.
The strip-strike technique enables you to "set" with the line and not with the rod. Because the fish is moving so fast, pulling the line straight back with a quick, sharp tug, while pointing the rod at the fish, embeds the fly in the fish's mouth more effectively than the up-ward thrust of the rod. Once again, this will take some practice, but it's not really very difficult. It's more a matter of re-training your brain to re-direct your arms and hands. The combination of the two-handed retrieve and the strip strike will vastly improve your success rate in the salt. Top of page
by Pudge Kleinkauf
All to often we forget that many people who experience a disability also love to flyfish. They may not, however, have the same capability to stand on the bank or wade that others do. Or, their casting ability may be limited. Regardless of these limitations, more opportunities to flyfish are available than many realize. Here's some suggestions on how to locate spots where people who experience a disability can flyfish.
First and foremost, governmental agencies now make a significant effort to develop locations where flyfishing for people with disabilities is possible.
With that in mind contact:
- Your state's 1) fish and game; 2) natural resources; or 3) parks and recreation department. They may have listings of parks, lakes, or campgrounds with accessible docks, trails, or wheelchair parks. Visit their offices or contact them via the internet and be sure to ask about any special permits for people with disabilities;
- The National Park Service headquarters in your area. They have information about parks with accessible fishing spots. Visit their offices or contact them on line at http://www.nps.gov. From there you can inquire about your state's offerings.
- The Forest Service cabin reservation system. Visit http://www.reserveusa.com for information about cabins all over the United States that are handicap accessible.
- Your local non-profit organizations that provide support and services to people who experience a disability. They often provide recreation programs. If they don't include fishing, see if you can help them get something started.
- Local fishing or flyfishing clubs or local chapters of Trout Unlimited or The Federation of Fly Fishers. TU and FFF can both be contacted online to find chapters in your area.
by Pudge Kleinkauf
Many women are unsure about how to select a rod that is right for them. Besides basing the decision on what type and size of fish you expect to catch with the rod, and how much you can afford to spend, consider the issue of rod flex.
Fly rods are designed to bend at different points along the length of the rod. Some bend, or flex only at the tip of the rod. These are referred to as fast-action or tip-flex rods. Fast action rods are designed to achieve greater line speed and distance in the cast but do so by requiring greater power in the casting stroke.. They often feel rather stiff to the caster and many find them tiring to cast all day. Generally, these rods will be the manufacturer's most expensive line of rods.
Some rods bend approximately one-fourth of the way down the blank. These rods are referred to as medium-fast action rods. They also provide for high line speed and casting distance, but are easier to cast over the course of an entire day. These rods are typically less expensive than fast action rods. Many casters prefer medium-fast action rods for fishing for large fish such as salmon, steelhead, pike, and muskie because they have the stiffness in the butt section of the rod that helps fight a large fish.
Medium-action or mid-flex rods bend about a third of the way down the rod blank. They are easier to cast for many anglers and help achieve accuracy better for the average caster. They are less effective in fighting large fish because not as much of the butt of the rod is stiff. These rods are usually in the mid range of a manufacturer's price line.
Full-flex or slow action rods may be the easiest to cast, but they often have a "wobbly" feel to them because they flex fully half way down the rod blank. They are ineffective in fighting large fish because the fly fisher cannot use the stiffness in the rod butt to hold against a powerful fish. These rods are generally the least expensive in a price line.
Most women find that they prefer a medium or medium-fast action rod for the majority of their fishing. Although there is no question that a woman can cast any rod a man can cast, and do so just as effectively, most women lack the upper body strength that men possess. Therefore, a woman may experience more fatigue when casting a fast-action rod all day.
These days most rod manufacturers indicate which type of flex a rod has. Ask to see the catalog description and be sure to go out and actually cast any rod you're thinking of buying. Top of page
by Pudge Kleinkauf
Lots of women ask me why I still use a float tube when there are so many other more sophisticated personal water craft on the market now. Although Iíve tried the u-shaped, v-shaped, and pontoon designs, for the still waters where I fish, I keep going back to the basic tube. As Iíve done so, Iíve constantly tried to analyze why. Here are some of the reasons.
The original attraction of the u-boat design was that a flyfisher could just back up and sit down instead of having to try to step in and out of a tube with fins on. But, actually, itís not that big a deal to get in and out of a float tube. You just put it on over your head. Sure, itís going to be wet when you get out of the water, but I donít think thatís reason enough to avoid using it.
Whatís more important than the in and out, however, is the way one device or another performs for the flyfisher. Itís probably a strictly personal reaction, but I believe I get a better, more powerful kick in the float tube than in any other design. Being fairly short, I find I sit back too far and too deep in most of the seats on the u-boats and too high off the water in the seats on the pontoon boats. As a result, I can only kick from the knee down rather than from the hip down, as I can in my float tube.
Kicking from the hip in my float tube, I have the strength and power of my full leg extension when I want it or need it and can achieve much more "push" in the water than when kicking only from the knee. In my tube, I have both options, but in the larger units, Iím restricted to just a knee kick.
Generally, I also find the larger water craft more work to propel. Perhaps itís because Iím not a 200lb (or even a 150lb) guy, but I seem to have to work a lot harder when Iím trolling in something other than my float tube.
And maybe itís just psychological, but I also like the security of having the tube completely surround me. I realize that, because of their width, the u-boats and pontoons are probably even more stable in the wind than a tube, but I just feel safer in a tube when the gusts come up. That width is probably also a plus for someone who is heavier or taller than I am and who may feel they need more room than the "donut hole" in a tube provides. But thatís not an issue for me.
The fact that Iím surrounded by the tube also enables me to lean on the front while Iím patiently waiting for a fish to find my chironomid, or while Iím trolling. I donít find that as easy to do in a u-boat.
Since I often take my clients tubing on lakes that require some hiking to get to, ease of transport is also of concern to me. A float tube is much more manageable for most women to pack in, as opposed to the larger craft. And, when hiking, people who are short often find that the tips of an inflated u-boat or the pontoons are nearly touching the ground or dragging in the brush along the trail as they hike. Thatís not a problem with a tube.
Because theyíre smaller and lighter, tubes even fit into a backpack if that makes transport easier. Now that most manufacturers make urethane bladders for the float tubes, as well as for the fancier models, the weight of the float tube has been greatly reduced. This, too, makes transporting the tubes extremely easy. When we go fly-in float tubing, itís a piece of cake to deflate the tubes and then re-inflate them on site with only a foot pump. And deflated, lots more float tubes will fit in a small plane than any of the larger options.
When all is said and done, oneís choice of water craft is a very personal decision. Even though some of my friends acknowledge the advantages of float tubing, they have yet to give up their canoes. Lake fishing with a fly is most enjoyable when done from a water craft thatís right for you, and for me, thatís a float tube.
by Pudge Kleinkauf
Weíre all quick to recognize impolite, rude, or discourteous behavior on the water. The folks who bring their boom-box and set it on the bank blaring away, or the angler whose dog barks loudly and then bounds into the water every time someone gets a fish on are as disturbing as the angler who wades right into the pool youíre fishing or gives you so little space that his or her cast crosses yours. So, hereís some suggestions about proper on-the-water behavior to help you set a good example.
- Always give an angler already in the water the right of way. That rule goes whether youíre floating or walking the bank. Try to move on up-river, if possible. Never intrude in front of another angler. Ask if you can enter the pool or run he or she is fishing, and if given permission, always enter up-river of the other angler, giving that angler plenty of space.
- Take your line out of the water for an angler that has a fish on to give that person plenty of space to land the fish. This rule holds especially true if youíre fishing down river of the other angler. Never move into another anglers space while they are on the bank landing or releasing a fish.
- Be quiet on the water. (Leave your radio and your dog at home). Not only do you want to preserve the peace and quiet of the river or the lake to avoid spooking the fish, but you also want to avoid disturbing other anglers. People are incredibly unaware of how sound carries over water.
- Be willing to help out another angler. Whether itís retrieving something of theirs that is floating down the river or lending them some tippet material, a friendly attitude makes the day more pleasant for all.
Now, having said all of the above, I must also advise women to be assertive when on the water. Itís o.k. to say to someone whose intruding right in front of you, "excuse me, but Iím fishing here. Will you move on, please?" Or to ask, "will you please take your line out of the water for a few minutes so we donít get tangled while I land my fish?"
All too often women who are reluctant to speak up are taken advantage of by other, more aggressive anglers. If youíre the first angler in the pool or the run, you do have the right to expect that others will behave courteously to you on the water, and itís o.k. to ask them to do so. Everyone has a better experience when we all follow some simple rules of common courtesy. Some people just need a small reminder.
by Pudge Kleinkauf
Every fly fishing class or school focuses on how to cast a fly rod, but the student often goes away without good information on how to actually fish with it. So, here's a series of steps that will help you to know how to put the fly on the water, what to do with the line, how to set the hook, and how to play and land a fish on a fly rod. Try it, and let me know how it works for you. Here are the steps:
- Cast to a spot up-river of the location where you believe the fish to be.
- Use the "stop-drop-drop" method of laying your fly on the water.
- When the fly hits the water, loop the fly line over the second and third finger of
your rod hand and hold it loosely next to the cork handle. Then take hold of the
line with your line hand just in front of the reel so you can strip (pull in) line as
- If youíre fishing on a river, make one or two up-stream "mends" (rolls) in your line to get the line and leader floating behind your fly.
- Point your rod tip right at the fly and follow it down the river.
- Strip in line as needed to keep a straight line between the fly and the rod tip.
- When the fish hits, tighten your fingers around the line and the rod handle and
raise the rod sharply to set the hook.
- Keeping your rod tip high, let the fish run as the line slides out over your fingers.
- Palm your reel to slow the fish down and gain control over it, but donít try to completely stop it. (Remember to keep your palm flat to avoid being hit by the wind knob).
- When the fish rests, reel in quickly. When the fish runs again, palm the reel.
Continue this palm/reel cycle until the fish tires and is ready to come in.
- If the fish runs toward you, stand on your tip-toes, raise your rod as high
over your head as possible, and put the line back over the second and third
fingers of your rod hand. Then strip in line as fast as possible to take up slack.
If the fish then turns and runs away from you, keep your rod tip high, let
the line slowly slide through your fingers, and prepare to palm the reel when all
the slack is gone.
- When landing your fish, keep it in the water and practice proper catch and release techniques.
Itís often said that the key to good fly casting is practice, practice, and more practice. Well, you really donít have to feel that you must become as proficient as the casters in "A River Runs Through It", but to develop control and accuracy you do need to practice. During the workshops, clinics, or classes we discussed in my previous column, your instructor probably will have suggested a practice routine for you to use on your own. Hereís mine.
In my classes and schools I recommend that students begin by selecting a wall on the outside of their house, or garage, or the building where they work that is free of obstructions. Now imagine that there is a clock hanging on that wall about shoulder level. Next put masking tape markers at the 11:00 oíclock and 1:00 oíclock positions (on the imaginary clock). Then spend about fifteen minutes every couple of days practicing your casting range there. Position yourself so that your casting arm shoulder is pointing toward the tape markers. That way as you cast, you can look over your shoulder to see if your cast is stopping at each marker. (And remember, keeping your wrist straight is essential to good fly casting).
Next I recommend students measure off different distance markers, either at home or at the park where youíll practice. Begin with twenty feet away from where youíll be standing. Place a garbage can lid, a hoola hoop, or some other large "target" at that point and then practice casting until you can hit it consistently (while still stopping at your 11:00 and 1:00 positions). Then move the target to twenty-five feet and so on until you are good at placing your fly on target. As you practice your distances, try using all three of the basic casts, the overhead cast, the roll cast and the side-arm cast (that we mentioned last time). As your accuracy improves, start shrinking the target to a pizza pan size and finally to a salad plate size. When you can hit a salad plate most of the time at thirty or forty feet, you can fish almost anywhere.
Common Casting Problems:
Almost everyone experiences several common problems when learning to cast a fly rod. Nearly all of these problems result from the caster bending her wrist when casting, losing her casting rhythm or timing, or failing to stop (or power the cast at the 11:00 oíclock or 1:00 oíclock positions). If you have access to a video camera tape yourself casting and then critique yourself. You can spot your casting mistakes.
Here are three problems and some tips about how to correct them:
- Problem: the fly line or the fly hits the water behind the flyfisher during casting. Cause: the caster is bending her wrist during the cast. Solution: try keeping your thumb pointed straight to the sky as you cast and relax your shoulder so that you can get your arm fully back to the 1:00 position. Or, loosely tie a soft scarf or a piece of yarn around your wrist and the reel seat of the rod to help remind you to keep your wrist straight.
- Problem: the leader wraps around the rod when casting. Cause: the caster is whipping the rod instead of maintaining the casting rhythm to let the line and the leader fly out. (Remember when the boyís father in "A River Runs Through It" goes in the house and gets the metronome to help the boyís establish their casting rhythm?) Solution: "talk to yourself" during casting to get your rhythm. Many people use the phrase "11:00 oíclock stop, 1:00 oíclock stop" to accomplish two goals, getting their rhythm and maintaining their power stops. Of, if you have a metronome, use it.
- Problem: the line and the leader pile up on the water instead of flying out. Cause: the caster is not stopping at the 11:0íclock position before lowering the rod toward the water. Many of you will have been a spin caster before taking up fly fishing and there itís common to "wind up and pitch" the lure to get distance. In fly casting, that technique has just the opposite effect because there is no heavy lure to carry the line out. Solution: go back to the set-up for practicing with the tape markers at 11:00 oíclock and 1:00 oíclock and re-establish your power stop at 11:00 oíclock. In my classes we practice the "stop, drop, drop" method for laying the fly on the water. The phrase stands for stopping the rod hand at 11:00 oíclock, letting the line begin to drop, and only then dropping the rod tip. You all know this as "follow through".
Since many of us can't fish yet, we take advantage of this time of year to do a gear and equipment check-up so that were sure to be ready for that first trip of the year. It's all too easy to put off these very necessary task until the day before that first trip. Then we scramble to get organized and get everything ready in time. So, here's a few tips to help you get started on your late winter flyfishing check-up.
- Organize your efforts around a) rods/reels/lines & other tackle, b)waders/boots/raincoat, and c) flies/split shot/strike indicators/etc, perhaps doing a check list to make sure you get to everything.
- Go out to the garage, basement, store room, etc. and dig out the items you're working on. If you have a heated garage, store room, etc. take a card table with you and spread out your items. If not use the kitchen table or in the family room floor. Regardless what area you use, make sure you have good light so you can see what you're working on.
- If your waders were leaking last summer, either box them up to send
to the manufacturer for repair, or, if your manufacturer doesn't repair
see if you and/or a friend can do it. You can check your waders for
leaks by filling them with water and hanging them up in the garage or
over your bathtub to see where/if water leaks out, or you can brush the
outside with soap suds, insert the hose of your vacuum cleaner or a
bicycle pump to fill the waders with air and see where the soap bubbles
up from the air leaks. If leaks are in just small areas, you can dry the
waders completely and then cover the holes with Aqua Seal or Simms Seal,
on both the inside and outside of the leak. If the waders leak along
the seams, it's more difficult to fix the leak with Aqua Seal, but you
can try. Your local fly shop may also repair (not too likely) or may
know someone who can help you repair. And if your waders have lots of
leaks or are just old, it's time to think about a new pair. (See
previous Women's Flyfishing® Tips on neoprene waders.)
- If the felt soles on your boots are work out or need replacement, set them out to take to the fly shop or a shoe repair shop for fixing.
- Now is the time to clean up your fly rod, take it in for repair of loose guides, thread wraps, cork handle goughes, etc. Also get some fly line cleaner and clean all your flylines. I like Greased Lightning, but there are several good brands on the market. Clip off all the old leader material and replace it after cleaning. As you run your fingers down the line, check for nicks and breaks in the line. They can weaken the line and even result in breakage. It may be time for new line. If the backing has been on your reel for several years, and you use your reel a lot, you may also need new backing. Also clean your reel of sand, etc. and grease and oil it, or take it to the fly shop and have it done for you.
- Take out all your fly boxes and empty them on to newspaper or paper towels. Then take each individual fly and see if it is worth putting back in the box. If the hook is rusted, or the needed repairs are not easily made, just throw it away. As you do this inventory of your boxes, keep a piece of paper and a pencil nearby so you can make a list of the flies that you'll need to replace or re-tie so that you'll be ready for the season with all your favorites. I keep an inventory of the flies I use most during different months or on different rivers so I can be sure that I sit down to tie those specific flies. It's easy to get caught up in tying new stuff and neglecting the old stand-bys that you use over and over.
- Check your raincoat for leaks and decide it it's time for a new one of those as well. There are a number of good short rainjackets on the market now for flyfishers. Some are spendy, but you can decide how much you can afford or start saving your money now.
Now that youíve finally decided to take up flyfishing you may be in a quandry about how to get started. Hereís a few helpful tips:
- Join a flyfishing club. Check your local phone book, by consulting the Women's Angling Resource Directory in the book, Reel Women, by Lylia Foggia. Attending the first few meetings can be intimidating, so go introduce yourself to a woman in the group to break the ice. Or, if you feel more comfortable, get a friend to go to the meeting with you.
- Identify women's flyfishing schools or classes. Some are privately run and some are offered by community colleges. Use the phone book or ask in the sporting goods stores.
- Identify women guides. When you want to go flyfishing just call around to flyfishing guide services and ask if they have a woman guide available. Then patronize those that do.
- Get lists of registered or licensed guides from your state department of fish & game or call and ask if they know of women's programs. Also ask if they sponsor a Woman Outdoors program, which are being offered in more and more states. Most such programs include flyfishing as one of the workshops they offer.
- Ask flyfishing specialty shops for referrals to women's flyfishing groups, women guides, or women's outdoors programs.
- Call your local women's resource or service center. They often have what are known as women's yellow pages that list a wide variety of women-owned businesses in a telephone book format and may include guide services or outdoor programs.
- Get out on the water and look around for women that you see flyfishing. Introduce yourself and ask them how they got started or if they know of resources you can use.
- Organize your own class and hire a woman from a nearby area to come in and lead it if there are no resources in your area.
- Attend an outdoor or sports show that includes workshops or demonstrations on flyfishing or casting clinics. Try to make contacts there to learn about resources either in your area or within a reasonable distance of where you live.
- And if nothing else is available, check out some videos or books from the library or rent them from shops that sell flyfishing equipment.
Using the Side Arm Cast
By Pudge Kleinkauf (Working at right with one of the next generation of women flyfishers!)
All too often we find ourselves on a river with trees or bushes overhanging great fish habitat. Attempting to put a fly on that water with the basic overhead cast is rarely successful. Instead, try turning your cast on its side. All that's involved is imagining that your 11 o'clock and 1 o'clock casting-arc positions are laying on the ground and you are looking down at them. (You're also looking straight down at the back side of your reel). Instead of facing the water, turn your body slightly sideways (with your non-dominant shoulder pointing towards the water) and proceed to cast as you would in the overhead position within the same casting range and with the same power applied to the forward and the back cast. Because your fly is flipped sideways, it doesn't land on the water in the same way as in the overhead cast, and you may need to be even more conscious of mending the line right away. But a little practice will have you able to place your fly where you want it and not in the bushes.
While it's the easiest to side arm cast on the side of your body that you typically cast from, you can also side-arm cast from the opposite side of your body, when conditions demand it. Just turn your body sideways (this time with your dominant shoulder facing the water), turn your reel over so that you are looking down at the face of the reel, and proceed to cast again looking down at your casting-arc positions.
Top of page
By Jody Baker
All too often flyfishers start digging around in their fly box for a different fly when they aren't catching fish. They do so under the assumption that the fish isn't interested in the fly they are using. Instead, the real reason they are fishless is often the size of the tippet they're using. Most fish (with the exception of salmon) are quite leader shy and will refuse any offering that is attached to a leader they can see. And they can see tippet that we can't, either because it casts a shadow on the water, or it sets up micro drag.
So, the next time you go to select a different fly, tie on a smaller tippet instead and present the same fly again. You'll be surprised at how often the fish will take the very fly they've been refusing. What may have happened if you're using a commercial tapered leader, is that you've cut off most of the tippet from constantly changing flies and you're now tying your fly to a leader that is much too thick. Just tie on a one to two foot section of the next smaller diameter or pound-test and you're back in business. If you're constructing your own leaders, just continue tapering down another diameter or pound-test before attaching your fly.
This tip won't always work, of course. You may already be fishing with the
tiniest possible tippet, or the fish may be refusing because they really
are taking something completely different than what you're using. But, just
put the suggestion in your memory bank and give it a try the next time
you're going fishless.
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Wader Woes and How to Beat Them
By Pudge Kleinkauf
Unfortunately, one of the greatest difficulty that women have as they get started in flyfishing is finding waders that fit. Iím talking about neoprene waders, not those giant wide rubberized ones that you sized to fit by cinching up a belt at the waist. Neoprene is more expensive than rubber, but a lot more functional and comfortable, if you can get the right fit. And itís important to get a good fit since good waders are an investment and something you will be spending a lot of time in as you pursue flyfishing. So, take your time and try to get it right the first time. Also buy the best you can afford. Take care of them and theyíll last you for years.
Until recently women had to settle for getting the best fit they could in waders manufactured for men. Finally, now we are beginning to see waders especially designed for women in the fly shops and in the catalogs. Our troubles are not yet over, however.
Just because a wader manufacturer says that the waders are sized for a woman, that doesnít mean that we can assume theyíre sized like the clothes weíre used to. Even the description small, medium, and large, may not be of much help.
Since every womanís sizing is different, the only sure way to beat the wader woes is to go into the stores and try them on and keep trying them on until you find ones that fit or until you decide that none of them fit. Be sure to try on several different brands of waders because theyíre all designed differently. Try them on with heavy wool socks to assure adequate foot room. Thereís nothing worse than cold feet while fishing. And donít hesitate to try on both menís and womenís. You may discover that the menís fit you best after all.
You need to remember that waders have to fit you from your armpits to your toes. Thatís a pretty tall order for wader companies, given that no two of us are shaped alike in all those parts of our bodies. Sometimes waders will fit at the top but the legs will be too long. Sometimes the rest of the waders are comfortable, but the feet are way too big. Probably the only way to get a perfect fit everywhere, is to order custom made waders. Most companies will, for an extra charge of between $50 and $75 customize waders to your exact measurements. For many women that makes sense. Obviously, if you decide to order custom waders, youíre going to have to wait for them to be made. So, if you want to go fishing now, you probably will have to select waders off the shelf. If thatís the case, then buy an inexpensive pair for temporary use while your custom ones are being made.
Now for what you should look for in waders. First, donít buy waders that fit too tight. You often need room to put sweats or other warm clothes underneath. You also need to be able to climb in and out of the boat easily, bend over or kneel down and release a fish, and hike comfortably to your fishing spot. You canít do that if you have form fitting waders. (Sorry, but this is not a glamour sport.)
Next, consider when and where youíll be fishing so you can decide whether to buy 3-millimeter, 4-millimeter, or 5-millimeter waders. If youíll be fishing early and late in the year as well as float tubing in cold water lakes, you should buy 4 or 5-mil neoprene because itís thicker and, therefore, warmer. If youíre going to fish mostly in warmer climates or lakes, then 3-mil waders are fine. Three mil waders will be cheaper but are not as warm and may not wear as well.
We canít discuss waders without setting out the pros and cons of stocking foot vs. boot foot waders. Some flyfishers prefer one and some prefer the other. Stocking foot waders require that you buy your wading boots separately. Many believe that you can achieve a much better fit in your boots when buying them separately. If you do that be sure to try them on. Donít assume that the sizing is what you expect. Try them on over waders with wool socks inside. That way youíll avoid buying boots that turn out to be too small when you are all rigged up. Be sure that the wader boots have felt soles. Felt makes walking on slippery rocks much easier.
The biggest advantage of boot foot waders is their easy on and off. Because of that many guides prefer them. The disadvantages come in when trying to get a good fit. Many women find that even with all their socks on and felt insoles, they slide around in boot feet waders because the fit isnít tight enough. Even custom boot foot waders can have this problem. Boot foot waders are also get heavy fast when youíre hiking the river or heading back to camp after a long day. The other problem Iíve had with them is that they are very bulky to pack. Many of the trips I lead require limited gear because of small plane or raft space. Boot foot waders can take up your fifty or sixty pound allotment fast and not leave room for much of anything else.
Other features that you should consider when buying waders are whether they have knee pads (again, remember releasing those fish) and whether they have a chest pocket. You can live without a chest pocket, but they are really handy for everything from your camera to your car keys. Knee pads, on the other hand are essential, I believe, and will add years to the life of your waders.
Float Tubing 101
By Pudge Kleinkauf
Lots of you have already started float tubing and have discovered how great it really is! But for those of you who haven't tried it yet, here's a few tips I hope will be helpful.
Besides your chest-high neoprene waders, you need flippers for your feet, a personal floatation device (a life jacket), and, of course, a float tube. Let's take them one at a time, with the float tube first.
The float tube was originally called a "belly boat" because when the tuber sits in it it appears to encircle her belly. These days, there are several different types of personal water craft that were spawned by float tubes. Float tubes consist of a truck tire inner-tube or a utethane bladder inside of a cordura cover, which buckles to create a seat in which the tuber sits. They are generally rounded in shape. Now, however, there are also u-boat styles that are not round but open in the front, in a "u" shape. The float tube and the basic u-boat are meant for use primarily on lakes. Now, some manufacturers also produce pontoon-style water craft that resemble a small raft for use on moving water. On some, the tuber paddles around with flippers, on others the tuber rows with oars, and on still others, the tuber can do either. Some u-boats also are built to accommodate oars for use on moving water.
As different styles of personal water craft have become available, fly fishers have debated the pros and cons of each. My personal favorite remains the float tube. I find it the least bulky for transport, the least expensive to purchase, and I get the strongest push when paddling in it because more of my leg is in the water. In the u-boat, one tends to sit farther back in the seat, and since, I have short legs, I find myself paddling only from the knee down in a u-boat, as opposed to my float tube, where I paddle almost from the hip down. I also have difficulty rowing because of an old arm injury, so that capability is of no interest to me. I'ts best to try out the different styles of tubes before purchasing if you can. At Women's Flyfishing® we hold float tube clinics to do just that, and so do many fly shops.
The best advice for flippers is not to try to use the flippers you skin-dive with. It only takes once for you to realize that they simply are not constructed for tubing. tubing flippers come in various styles and prices, from about $35 to over $100. Most tubers prefer flippers they can wear over their boots because of the convenience of being able to walk to and from the water without fear of cutting your wader feet on sharp stones or glass, or to just put their flippers on over boot-foot waders.
No matter which brand of life vest you purchase, just be sure it is short. Kyaking life vests are perfect for tubing. Regular vests come down past your waist, and tend to force your vest up under your chin when you're sitting down, as you will be in your tube.
The first time you go tubing you'll have to get used to rigging up in all the gear. Most people make sure they have a solid gravel bottom into which to launch their tube. That makes for solid footing. Then they get right to the edge of the water, put on their fins and their life jacket and prepare to get into the tube. The most important thing to remember, is that when you have your fins on it is extremely difficult to walk forward. You must back into the water. But that's just as well as it gets you used to the fact that in float tubing, you can only paddle backwards.
You can step into the tube or pull it over your head and then buckle the seat buckle between your legs. The difficulty in stepping into the tube was one of the main reasons manufacturers developed the u-boat, which you just back into and sit down. As you back into the water for the first time, hold onto the straps on each side of the tube. You're also smart to have an experienced tuber nearby, either to walk back with you, or to be floating just off shore waiting for you. You sit down when you're in water up to your knees. Sitting down in shallower water is extremely difficult. The first few times you launch, you might also want to have a friend hold your rod and hand it to you when you are safely in the water. Some unfortunate float tubers have learned the hard way how easy it is to break a rod tip while trying to manage both rod and tube until they're more experienced at launching.
Don't be surprised if your first few minutes in a float tube is rather scary. It's disconcerting to look straight down into the water with no more support than a float tube. We're used to doing that, but generally from a boat. Nearly everyone questions whether the tube will really hold them up. Paddle around for awhile in shallow water until you get used to the sensation of floting then take off, and discover why tubing has revolutionized flyfishing!
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