When I sit around the house during dull winter afternoons (like today's) all there is to do is drink coffee, sift through fly boxes, make a "hit list" of places to fish this coming season, and ponder the nature of fly fishing. That being said, it can all get a little daunting, and too much brooding is not going to get productive...
So while I was sitting at the vise today, I got to thinking about some common mistakes/things a guy can do that will improve his fishing and equal more success. Here are a few of them...
1. A "Tuck Cast" will allow your nymphs to sink quickly to the bottom, even with marginal weight. A cast that lands with a tight line take at least twice as long to reach bottom as the same rig cast to land with slack that allows the flies to sink quickly, such as the Tuck Cast.
2. Strike indicators and flies used for strike detection miss a large portion of strikes because not every take will register above the water. If possible, especially in shallow-ish water, look for movement from the fish itself to signal you to strike.
3. Expensive rods catch more fish. Okay, that's obviously not quite true, but there are definitely better rods that others out there, and you should get the rods you like best, as long as you can afford it. Your consistent accuracy and confidence will get you more fish.
4. Soft rods catch large trout. This summer I did a lot of fishing with my moderate action Hardy Marksman 2, 9' #4. I can cast reasonably tight loops into a moderate breeze (maybe shorten the leader a bit), cast accurately into tight spots, and play large trout. A benefit of the soft rod is the light resistance trout feel; it may be anecdotal, but I caught a lot of big trout on the Bow that didn't run far, perhaps because the soft rod didn't freak them out too badly. And the light action protects tippets well.
5. 5x tippet can actually haul a trout around pretty forcefully. Don't pussy-foot around. The more time a trout is in the water, the more time it has to wrap your line around weeds, a root, or to slip off the hook. Learn the limits of your tackle, and use them.
6. The elk hair caddis in a #10 is a kick ass searching fly. For some reason, even in the dead of summer, I can get good fish from famous rivers (and not cutthroat rivers, either) on this fly.
7. Small nymphs catch at least as many trout as large ones in the streams I fish most often. The reasons should be obvious; there are always immature versions of the bugs in question present in the river, and there isn't a law that says you must imitate the largest version of the insect. I like to use a #18-22 beadhead pheasant tail as a dropper fly, or maybe a #14-16 with a heavy bead if it needs to get down quickly.
8. A long butt section on your leader helps turn the rig over, even in a bit of a breeze or with a slow rod, by transferring energy effectively right down from the line to the tippet. I usually tie on an additional two-feet of Maxima.
9. All things being relative, lakes produce larger trout that streams. If you want a grip and grin with a big trout, learn to lake fish. Even if you're not strictly a trophy hunter, lakes offer exciting fishing and new challenges, and don't get muddy for 6 weeks each spring...
10. Make sure you don't fish with idiots. Seriously. If you fish with nut-jobs, not only will you probably become one, but you'll be frustrated, and he'll probably spook fish too why acting like a moron. There are plenty of nice people out there to fish with, so you don't need to submit yourself to 8 hours of torture.