1) Don’t speed on the road in to the boat ramp! There are a number of government agencies with jurisdiction in the area and they are serious about the speed limits on the road. Speed limits vary from 45 mph to 25 mph and it’s easy to get caught up in the scenery and excitement about getting to the river and boat ramp. Watch your speed!
2) Watch your back cast! With a double nymph setup that is used much of the time at Lees Ferry, it is common to experience frustrating knots from poor timing on your cast. Add a split shot and things can become tangled quickly. I regularly encourage anglers to watch their back cast when casting as it will improve your arc, timing, and will reduce tangles.
3) Bring a camera! And have it readily accessible as you will see many unique rock formations (like balancing rocks) and wildlife (herons, eagles, osprey, condors, and big horn sheep among others). You should also expect to see toothy grins with gorgeous rainbow and brown trout!
4) Quick hook sets- when I coach people on the river I always tell them to watch for subtle takes on the flies below the indicator. If you see the strike indicator pause, hesitate, bobble, or sink, by all means set the hook! Many fish are missed by anglers missing the take, and the worst thing that happens when setting the hook if there’s no fish is that you recast. You’ll be amazed at how often you’ll be surprised that there was a fish eating the fly! Subtle takes are the norm.
5) Drag-free drifts- regardless of whether you’re fishing a dry fly, dry/dropper, or nymph rig, a key to success is having a drag-free drift, meaning the flies are floating through the current naturally. If your flies are dragging through the current unnaturally, trout pea-brains do not recognize it as food. Imagine if you were dining at a restaurant and your burger started moving across your plate…. Not likely you’ll eat that burger!
Some currents require an upstream mend while some need a downstream mend. Your guide will help you understand when and which direction to mend.
6) Limit your false casts! If you’ve ever had the frustrating experience of repeated knots either with a double nymph rig or a dry/dropper combination, reduce the number of false casts and you will reduce the knot rate. It is common to see anglers using false casts to dry a fly or indicator, but all too often I see false casts creating problems in the line. On a dry/dropper rig or just a big dry (cicada, stimulator, etc.) too many false casts twist the fly and tippet so that it won’t settle properly on the water. A good friend of mine often observes that he catches more fish with his line in the water!
7) Put your cell phone on airplane mode! I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had guests interrupted on the water. Service is spotty at best, and you’ll be able to relax better if your phone is not alerting you about emails, texts or calls. Additionally, if your phone is not on airplane mode it will continually search for a signal and drain your battery faster. Give yourself a well-deserved break from technology and enjoy the magic of the Canyon Experience! (Your camera will work in airplane mode) Anyone fishing with you will appreciate the quiet.
8) Sink Tip lines- a very effective approach at Lees Ferry is to use a sink tip line to swing streamers or double nymph rigs. Interestingly, when setting the hook, fight the urge to lift the rod as you would normally set the hook on a drag-free drift. Instead, keep the rod tip pointed at the fly and set the hook by pulling the line (called a strip-set). You’ll find more fish will be landed using this approach.
9) Watch the water level. Standard water releases from the dam include increasing the flow in the early morning hours and tapering the flow later in the day. It is not unusual for the river to rise several feet. When wading, keep an eye on the water level; focusing only on the fish could put you in a dangerous situation when you try to wade back to shore.
10) Watch the water before wading in. I often see anglers get to a bar, park the boat and start wading out to where they believe the fish are, when the fish are actually quite close to the shore, sipping midges and other tasty morsels. Taking the time to spot fish will allow you to sight- cast to active fish and improve success.