By Sheila Anderson
If you have a question about fly fishing, click the “I have a question” button, and our Fly Fishing Enthusiast will be happy to help you!
Dear Fly Fish Enthusiast,
I am a recent (just starting my 4th yr in TX) transplant from Southern CA and would love to dust off my fly gear.
I am currently located in Bellville, TX. Where is my closest group of organized fly fishing enthusiasts that I can get involved with for activities and outings?
Thanks for writing and welcome to Texas! I hope you’ve been enjoying yourself since your move. You’re always welcome to join Texas Women Fly Fishers; we meet at our outings about 6 or 7 times a year.
One of our members lives in the Houston area and is active in several clubs out that way. I believe she belongs to Montgomery County Flyrodders, Texas Fly Fishers, and she also belongs to our group. Here are a couple web sites for you to look up: montgomerycountyflyrodders.com and texasflyfishers.org. If you like, I can put you in contact with our member in Houston.
We are going to have a fabulous outing at Purtis Creek near Athens in April, and you are most welcome to join us there. We usually have some sort of teaching/learning at our outings, from fly tying to casting and rigging. You can always e-mail me with any questions you may have, as well.
Thanks for your interest!
The Fly Fishing Enthusiast
Dear Fly Fish Enthusiast,
I have two questions.
1. When you catch a large fish, how do you hold on to it? I caught a large trout (maybe about 3 pounds) up in Broken Bow, and a man came along and helped me get it into a net. He put his fingers through the gills to hold it up and told me to do that too, so he could take my picture. This happened on Saturday afternoon, and that night, several of the ladies told me I should never put my fingers in the gills of the fish! I felt terrible afterwards. What should I have done to hold the fish securely without hurting it?
2. Which hand should I hold my wading stick in if I have to cross a fast-moving stream? Is the stick supposed to always be on the upstream side when you wade, or is it about which hand you hold it in?
Thanks for writing, I appreciate your interest. What I know about gills is that sometimes the gill plate is sharp, and it may be easy to slice your finger. I avoid placing my fingers there. The gill is the breathing organ for the fish; I think your friends may have been correct. When I was on a guided trip to Alaska fishing for trout, we were instructed to kneel and hold the fish firmly around its girth with wet hands. While kneeling, if the trout wriggles out he cannot fall far and get injured. Leave the fish netted in the water until the camera is ready, then take it out for the photo. Here’s how we held the fish as we posed for photos:
Large bass are held differently. Texas Parks and wildlife has a pageon how to correctly hold big bass.
Your second question is also a good one. Jesse King of Three Rivers Fly Shop in Broken Bow provided some good advice about wading: Avoid it if possible. Walk along the bank to your desired fishing spot; then enter the water if you must. However, if you do find yourself needing to cross the water, find a spot downstream from your position that you can safely get to and wade toward it, downstream, with your staff in the downstream hand. The water wants to push you, and the staff in your downstream hand may prevent you from being pushed over.
Perhaps we can expand the answer to include the following referenced material.
The author of the chapter on “Fly Fishing Safety” in The LL Bean Ultimate Book of Fly Fishing advises to use the wading staff as a searching “foot” or foundation as you take each step. If you are wading with your body perpendicular to the current in a downstream direction, you would search in the downstream direction for a safe place to place your next step. Logically, your wading staff would be in your downstream hand. I would recommend wading like this: search with your staff for the placement of your downstream foot, place your downstream foot forward to the safe stepping spot, bring your upstream foot even with your downstream foot – not ahead of it.
Dana Rikimaru, author of Fly Fishing: A Woman’s Guide, is photographed in her chapter on “Personal Safety” with the wading staff in her downstream hand. She recommends using the staff as a “feeler” pole to test for water depth. She states that a staff works as a third leg would, the same way as putting a hand down instinctively when you feel unstable on your feet.
Joan Wulff describes the wading staff as a bit of insurance. She would never try to wade with a staff anywhere she wasn’t sure she could wade without one. She says, “It’s like a third leg, but it’s not a replacement for the other two.” It can be helpful in unfamiliar water when you’re looking where to step.
The TWFF Fly Fishing Enthusiast believes it is the personal preference of the fisherman, whichever hand helps you feel the safest. It’s important to rely on your own sense of balance and foot placement, and not completely on the wading staff, when crossing streams.
By the way, LL Bean and Dana Rikimaru recommend we avoid wading if possible. Joan Wulff finds it adventurous.
Please let me know if you have any additional questions, I hope this information helps.
The Fly Fishing Enthusiast
Sheila Anderson is a past president of TWFF and the current Fly Fishing Enthusiast for our web site. She has been a member of TWFF for many years and is currently studying to be a certified casting instructor.