HOW TO: get started on fly fishing

Learning how to fly fish is a true lifetime endeavor that will lead to many incredible adventures on the water. I first began learning the art of fly fishing in high school but still have so much to learn. I am very proud of how far I’ve come since my high school fishing club days. I have filled my freezer with some of the highest quality meat available on this earth with the satisfaction that I caught it all myself!

What is Fly-Fishing?

Fly-fishing is a style of fishing made popular in Europe and brought over to Canada as this beautiful country was founded. The idea is that you are trying to replicate both the behavior and appearance of a fish’s food with your hook ending in that fish taking a bite. A fish’s diet consists mostly of insects, through several stages as they hatch from the bottom of the lake/river and rise to the surface, where they spread their wings and take off from the surface. There are other food sources like: shrimp, leeches, scuds, etc… but for the purposes of this article let’s stick with their primary food source: insects.

How to begin?

You may be thinking, “I’d love to give it a try but I don’t know anyone who fly fishes and where do I even start?” The setup can be relatively simple and is available at nearly every major outdoors store you can find in North America (Cabela’s, Bass Pro Shops, etc). The rod/reel setup that I use almost every time I’m out on the water is a 4 to 6 weight fly rod with a decent reel. For an explanation on what the weight categories indicate, check out our blog on Canadian Products that we know and love.

When you are just starting out, it’s arguably best to start with floating line pre-spooled into the reel of your choosing, but there is a lot of detail in what comes next. At the end of your floating line is a specific length of translucent line that sinks below your floating line or strike indicator (if you’re using one). Anywhere along the translucent line, you can place a strike indicator. These are commonly called bobbers in the tackle fishing world. In fly fishing the strike indicators are smaller and simpler, made from just colored Styrofoam surrounding a long and skinny black plastic bead.

Once you have knotted your translucent line to your floating line, you’ll want to thread your strike indicator BEFORE you knot your swivel onto the line. One too many times we have skipped this step and had to re-tie the line. The next step is the swivel, which is crucial to avoiding knots when you’re casting and helping your fly to sink to the appropriate level in the water. Below the swivel, another strand of clear line is knotted on, called either tippet or leader line which doesn’t need to be very long, a few feet is plenty. This line connects to your fly and then you’re all set!

So to recap – starting from the bottom I like to have my hook (fly) about 6-8 feet of clear leader to a swivel, anywhere from 6-20 feet of leader again to my floating line. Somewhere along the leader knotted to your floating line while be your strike indicator. In order to control the depth of your fly (and to alert you when you’ve got a bite!) use a strike indicator that you can slide up and down your line above the swivel. Trust me, there is almost nothing more exciting than watching that indicator sink!

Stay tuned for our blog that dives into the different types of fishing line, swivels and strike indicators you can choose from!

Where to go?

Generally speaking, fish like to hang out in deeper water where the temperature is cooler and they’re safer from predators. They will come in to feed closer to shore occasionally throughout the day. Knowledgeable anglers will commonly fish the drop-off – the areas in the lake where the shallows break into the deeper waters. This is a great place to start and either a depth finder or a good map will be of great help in finding these prime locations. Try to cast your line along the edges of these spots, perhaps a foot or two from the bottom and you should be on the right track. Obviously there are no hard and fast rules in fishing, and you certainly can cast in shallower water and be successful for sure but for today, we are focusing on where to start.

You absolutely cannot go wrong with a Fishing Mapbook from Backroads Mapbooks. While they don’t include every single body of water you may want to try fishing on, but they will certainly help get you started. They include some seriously valuable information about fish quantity, quality, maps of the lakes and how to get there. An absolute must for any beginner or angler traveling to fish BC’s stillwaters. Available at many gas stations, outdoors stores and online at

https://www.backroadmapbooks.com/backroad-mapbooks/fishing-mapbooks !

Why does this work?

If you’re an avid tackle angler you may be curious how or why fly fishing is even an effective way to catch fish. Fish are predators and need to eat a lot of insects in order to grow to be 2 lbs all the way up to 20 lbs or more. The closer you can match your fly to what the fish are eating, where in the water they’re feeding and at what depth – the more successful you will be. This is a very big challenge but the journey is so much fun and tying flies all winter of different varieties can be a great hobby with rewards coming every spring and summer.

Get out there!

Don’t be intimidated by the complexity of this sport as everyone always has a ton to learn. Even your buddy who claims he always catches big fish and is a better fisherman than anyone he knows, still has much to learn about the sport and has days when he’s skunked out on the water. We all start somewhere and it doesn’t matter how much you know but how much you go! Grab whatever rod/reel combo you can afford and tie yourself some flies. You will have a hobby that lasts a lifetime and eat better, healthier fish than most of your friends. Especially if fly fishing for trout is the gateway to getting out on the ocean every year to catch big salmon! But more on that later.

Fly fishing basic equipment – what you need to get out on the water!

It seems to me that most often, folks used to get their start fishing by tagging along with their dads and using any extra tackle and gear he has handy or buys for his kids. Today, it seems to becoming less common that fly fishing is a family hobby and more people want to get started fly fishing but aren’t even sure what’s really necessary to have. If this applies to you, you might also be interested in boot-strapping or putting together the necessities on a budget. This list is here to help!

Getting out ON the water

When it comes to stillwater fly fishing, having a boat is key. This may sound like an expensive venture but it doesn’t have to be. Start with a quick search on Kijiji (or Craigslist). I can bet you’ll find an adequate boat that will fit nicely on the roof of your vehicle or in the truck of your bed for somewhere around $300. The great thing about small fishing boats is they hold their value quite nicely and are easy to look after. They rarely get leaks and when they do, you’ll find products to repair them for a good price as well.

When we were in need of our first fishing boat, after a quick search on Kijiji and a short half hour drive to pick it up, plus about $300 later – we had a boat, life jackets, oars and oar locks. Since then, we’ve taken the boat out probably hundreds of times, and she’s never done us wrong.

Get yourself a rod

The next step might be pretty obvious – you need a rod. What might not be obvious is which one to buy. The key is understanding how fly rods are rated. When searching for a fly rod, you’ll need to keep in mind the size of fish you’ll want to catch and – to a lesser degree – the water types you’ll be fishing in.

1-4 wt = small fish, small trout in streams

4-6 wt = trout of pretty much any size, in rivers and lakes

6-8 wt = salmon, steelhead or large trout, rivers or saltwater

8-10 wt = larger salmon or steelhead, saltwater

10-14 wt = pretty much anything bigger, saltwater

If you are going to be fishing in the BC Interior, it’s a safe bet to grab a 5 or 6 weight fly rod. My favourite is the Remington Crosswater or path combo sets. They have a decent warranty and I have no complaints after 5 years with my rod. Maybe treat yourself and upgrade the line and the reel.

Catch some fish!

The key thing to understand about fly fishing versus gear fishing is that camouflage is the name of the game with fly fishing, as opposed to the typical lure used in gear fishing – its intention is to be a flashy attractant. A fly is typically intended to closely mimic the pattern of the insects the fish are eating.

I once heard Brian Chan mention that in Roche Lake (the BC Interior’s infamous trophy fly fishing lake), there are over 2,000 types of chironomids (the phase of insect life that fish are often feeding on) that we know of. Yikes! This is super intimidating, as a single fly can cost $2-4.

I also heard Yvon Chouinard talk about how one summer he used only one fly and caught plenty of fish. I like this approach for its pure simplicity. It’s important not to over-analyse the fly you choose to use, you could spend all day throwing your entire fly collection out on the water and never truly learning anything. It might serve you best to not stick to just one fly, but have a few options. Start by buying 10-20 flies that have a good reputation in the area you are fishing, and then try tying some on your own. Tying your own flies will keep your costs quite a bit lower than buying flies.

Anchors don’t have to cost an arm and leg

You should never overlook the need for a good set of anchors. The last thing you want when you’re in the middle of bringing in a lunker of a fish is to be drifting around on the lake, landing in reed beds and who knows what else. The solution to finding good anchors can be as easy as a trip to Home Depot and grabbing 100’ of rope and two cinder blocks for a cool $12. They work a bunch better than fancy flimsy anchors anyhow.

And just remember… Oars never run out of gas!

You may be tempted to save yourself the added exercise of rowing your own boat, but I wouldn’t worry about a fancy motor when a set of oars never run out of gas. Going motor less will simplify your boat launching and maneuvering quite a bit. I still use oars and I find it gives you more time to really observe what’s happening on the water and catch a few bugs to match the hatch. By this I mean, try to pick a fly that is consistent with the insect activity happening in the water. Generally speaking, this is a good step in the right direction when it comes to catching more fish.

Do your research and practice.

All things considered, you can get a great setup for getting on the water for around $500 that will last you many years. Take your time to decide what would make your experience more enjoyable, and then pick up the odd item here and there to improve your boat and fly fishing.

Be prepared to have a few frustrating days at the start but stick with it. read articles, forums, blog posts and listen to podcasts to get even more ideas on what equipment you can acquire to expand upon your list of fishing basic equipment. Practice different techniques, especially your casting, to figure out what works for you. As long as you’re learning and catching fish, any day out on the water is better than a day at the office.

Follow us on Instagram for even more tips and tricks @thegillseekers and comment below if you think we missed any must haves!

Tight lines out there!

Spotlight on Canadian Fishing Companies & Products

Around here we are all about shopping local and supporting the amazing Canadian companies responsible for our favourite fishing products. From reels and rods, to knives and boats – here is a short list of the companies we know and love to support. All of these companies have gotten their start here in British Columbia, Canada – so you can be certain they know how to make a quality product that is sure to increase your level of success out on the water!

Scotty Fishing Products

The first on the list might just be the most recognizable – Scotty Fishing Products have been around for decades. In 1952, a husband and wife duo began this company on Vancouver Island, specializing in plastics manufacturing and has since has paved the way for the fishing products we anglers find most useful. They now sell thousands of products into multiple industries, from fishing and outdoors to firefighting – they do a ton, and they do it well.

Scotty’s downriggers and rod holders are top-notch, and considered absolutely vital to success when salmon fishing the coastal waters of BC. We can pretty much guarantee that even if you don’t own a Scotty product, you know and love someone who does. Their reputation precedes them, with reliability and affordability being the name of the game. You simply cannot go wrong with a Scotty Fishing product.

Check out their website and browse some of their best products below.

http://scotty.com/fishing-gear/

Islander Reels

Islander is a local company through and through, they design and manufacture their reels right in Victoria, BC. They have established quite a reputation in the world of fishing reels. Whether you fly, troll or float while you fish, they’ve got a product in their line that you won’t want to do without.

Quality and integrity is the name of their game. They are committed to producing an excellent product that any angler would be proud to bring out on to the water. Their products will run you a little more than pocket change, but rest assured you will not regret getting your hands on their beautiful reels. Once you go Islander, you may never go back!

If you’re a geek about seeing how things are made, check out their website in the ABOUT section for a video showcasing the manufacturing process. Holy crap, do those reels ever shine. Beautiful products made with precision at top of mind.

https://www.islander.com/how-its-made/

MOBYNETS

MOBYNETS are the pride of the Interior of BC. Their craftsmanship is of the utmost quality and the solid wood construction will truly withstand the test of time and the elements. These nets will hold their own even when well-used and abused. Endorsed by the legendary Phil Rowley, you know these nets will not let you down.

We have personally been stillwater fly fishing in a boat and had a net snap on us in the past. I can tell you for certain that is not a position you want to be in. It could very well cut your day or even your trip short, because without a reliable net, its a mighty stressful day out on the water. Now that we have switched to a MOBYNET we know we can rely upon the solid oak material that is steam bent into the perfect shape.

Check out their website for a video showcasing the toughness of these nets.

http://www.mobynets.com/about.html

North Arm Knives

Look no further for a quality knife with incomparable craftsmanship than North Arm Knives. Designed and manufactured in the Greater Vancouver area, the care and dedication of this company is forged into every knife. Their knives are capable of handling the many uses that each hunter, angler, outdoorsman and chef can throw at it. Knives for the kitchen, folding knives, outdoor knives and even engraving services round out their product lineup.

They use only the best stainless steel for every blade and offer laminate, carbon fiber and wood handle options. The North Arm Knives website goes into great detail about the construction techniques for each knife, so the purchaser can be well-educated about their knife purchase.

Check out their bio for a tour of the shop to learn more.

https://northarmknives.com/company/?c=e38de74562d1&v=3e8d115eb4b3

John Milner Reels

Another amazing Canadian reel company is John Milner Reels. Handcrafted in Cranbrook, BC. John Milner began crafting centerpin reels in 1964, and has since been perfecting the art of creating reels well-suited for steelheading in BC rivers. Over the decades, Milner’s work has evolved to include 7 different types of reels designed to cater to specific needs of the various types of waters Canadians may find themselves fishing in.

John Milner Reels, aka the World’s Finest Centerpin, can be purchased at many retailers across western Canada, the United States and directly through his website.

For more on these high quality reels, check out

https://www.johnmilnerreels.com/purchase/

Canadian Llama Co.

The Canadian Llama Co. is your one stop shop for all things fly tying materials. Everything from hooks and bead heads to dubbing and flashing, they have absolutely everything you might need to create every fly concoction out there. Over 25 years ago, the company got its start by dying and packaging llama products, and today they sell millions of fly tying materials every year, including bulk supply to your local fly shop.

This one-stop shop is the supplier of a long list of many well-known fly makers including Phil Rowley, John Kent, Dennis Gamboa and Justin Sander. There simply isn’t a better way to shop local and find every single product you’ll need to get started or continue your fly tying ventures.

See their site for the full list of products they provide and the fly tiers who utilize them.

https://www.canadianllama.com/

Journey Boats

Looking for the perfect flat-bottomed boat to get you on the illustrious stillwaters of the BC Interior? Look no further than Journey Boats. Designed and manufactured in Kamloops, BC, these high quality welded aluminum boats are made to meet your every need, and some you may not have even thought of. The boats are designed to fit inside the wheel wells of full-sized trucks and work well for any way you prefer to haul your boat (in the box, on the cargo rack or on a trailer).

Each boat comes ready to fish, but for the whole package – there’s several custom-built accessories to make your day on the water even more enjoyable. Cushioned seat mounts, assorted mounts for rod holders, outboard motors, fish finders and paddle holders, plus wheel kits, floor mats, tackle trays, and oar hangers are all available and would make excellent additions.

We’ll just go ahead and say it – these boats are perfection and you’d be hard-pressed to find a better Canadian made product for getting your line wet on those notorious stillwaters. See their website and get a quote today.

http://journeyboats.ca/purchase-quote/

PEETZ Outdoors

If you’re looking for a reel that is a true work of art, then look no further than PEETZ Outdoors. The company was founded by Boris Peetz in Victoria, BC over 90 years ago. The reels handcrafted by Peetz began on a foundation of constructing with quality materials that can withstand the intense demands of fishing the coastal waters of British Columbia, and that remains true today.

The ‘Artist’ series of reels features the hand-carved work of Kwaguilth artist Jason Henry Hunt and would fit just as well as a feature piece on your fireplace mantle as it will on your fishing rod.

Peetz also carries rods, combos, tackle and other gear to bring in an artistic touch to your entire gear collection. Who says quality can’t also be aesthetically beautiful?!

See the full gamut of gear on their site.

https://www.peetzoutdoors.com/

Shop Local. Support Canadian brands.

We hope you have enjoyed this collection of made in Canada fishing products. Canadians know what it takes to be successful out on the water, and the companies listed above prove that. Strongly consider supporting your friendly neighbors by purchasing Canadian products with your hard-earned Canadian dollars!

If you have another favourite Canadian fishing company you know and love, and they aren’t on this list – shoot us a DM on instagram @thegillseekers and we’ll be sure to include them in our next round-up of companies to get to know and love.

Salmon Fishing BC – A DIY Guide

Salmon Fishing the Pacific Ocean, and in British Columbia in particular, is an absolute must do trip for the good times with friends and the possibility of filling your freezer with the highest quality meat around. I feel in love with it a few years ago on a trip to the west coast of Vancouver Island with a few buddies of mine. We lucked out as my buddy’s dad was a fishing guide and we were able to boot strap the cost of that trip to about $500, and as a result I came home with enough salmon, ling cod and red snapper to keep feed my wife and I all year.

After my first coastal salmon fishing experience, I’ve made an effort to go back every year. Some years turn out to be more expensive than others but we have really dialed in a system for how to keep costs low, learn tons and come home with amazing stories and equally tasty fish.

Step 1. Pick your spot

There’re many places to go Salmon Fishing in BC from as far south as Vancouver, all the way west to Tofino and as far North as Haida Gwaii. You really can’t go wrong in any location but the more research you can do beforehand, the better. A generally accepted idea is the later in the summer you go, the more time the fish have to put on weight and the closer in to shore they will be. Keep an eye out for featured locations to do some coastal salmon fishing in upcoming posts, podcasts and videos.


Step 2. Find a boat

Your next big decision may very will have the biggest impact on the success or failure of your trip. You can always pay a guide around $1000 per day to get you on the water but I’ve had both good and bad experiences. Once you find a good guide, stick with them for as long as your willing to pay the price.

Your second option is to find a boat to rent. In 2019, we opted to rent a boat from a local fisherman for $300 per day which significantly brought down costs. You can also spend as much time on the water as you like with this option. You already traveled across the province or perhaps even the country, paid for the ferry and fought the traffic, so you may as well spend as much time as you can on the water.

We recommend using any connections you can make on the dock and in fishing stores to find people willing to rent their boat. Of course, boat rental can always be accomplished with a quick google search, but utilizing connections made for future trips may save you money in the long run. Learning to fish on your own can be much more rewarding than waiting for a guide to figure everything out and simply hand you a rod with a bite on. If you plan to make your salmon fishing trips a regular occurrence, we definitely recommend taking the time to learn the techniques and tactics to catch fish without having to have a guide with you every year.

Step 3. Get to know your gear

If you make the bold choice of renting your own boat, you will have to do plenty of research before your trip. The basics of salmon fishing will be to use a down rigger to bring your gear to the depth of choice. More than likely you will be using a flasher with swivels on both ends and some type of lure.

My favourite setup is to have your lure 6 feet from the flasher. It’s worked for me and is easy top measure. I’m 6’5″ so I use my wingspan for a quick guide and shorten it up a few inches from there. Every flasher I’ve used and would recommend using has a skinny end and a fat end. Always have the fat end to the back as this always your flasher to spin properly as you troll along.

ABOVE: my awesome wife with her first spring salmon, taken July 2019.

When selecting your lure and flasher, I recommend asking the friendly folks in the local fishing store as they will give you a few good options to start your trip. It can pay huge dividends to keep an eye and ear out for fisherman on the dock returning from a successful trip, as most fisherman tend to be pretty chatty after they’ve had a good day out on the water.

Lastly, ensure the boat you rent has a depth finder. These are crucial, as I’m sure you can imagine, for keeping tabs on where the fish theoretically may be hanging out, primarily the bait pods (schools of fish the salmon feed on) , and ensuring your lures and down riggers aren’t getting caught on seaweed.

Step 4. Get to know the tides

A surprisingly important detail when salmon fishing is to plan your trip around ideal tide conditions. I learned the hard way on our last trip that you want to fish on the tides with the largest discrepancies between high and low tides. The idea is the larger the tides the more flow there is which creates ideal feeding situations for the salmon. High tide is when the salmon will be traveling closer to shore, then as the tide retreats is when the salmon tend to hunker down in coves and behind islands for protection. The bait (salmon’s food) will travel with the tides as well and fish use this time to eat and store energy for their long journey from the ocean to the spawning grounds. You can use the below link to start doing your research.

https://tides4fishing.com/

Step 5. Processing your fish

Finally the last step to discuss is processing your catch. There will be a lot of services that can flash freeze and package your fish for you when you get back to the dock. This method is very convenient and I have certainly done it before. I don’t like vacuum seals as I don’t believe it lasts as long as other methods. It can also be about $2 a bag which will add to your cost quickly if you catch a few 20+ lb salmon. The last few years I have kept my fish frozen whole until I got home and spent a better portion of a day to thaw, fillet and package myself. Refreezing salmon that is this fresh is just fine. Filleting the fish and then using plastic wrap and butcher paper over top is an excellent and cost effective way to keep fish fresh in your freezer for at least a year.

Step 6. Take that trip!

Planning your trip is very time-consuming, but the more you can do yourself the more rewarding it can be. If you have any specific questions about planning a salmon fishing trip to BC, drop us a DM on Instagram @thegillseekers! I would strongly recommend using a guide at least once to build your confidence and learn a few tricks but work towards doing more and more yourself. There are plenty of fantastic salmon guides out there that will provide you with a trip you will remember for the rest of your life. The amount of knowledge I now have of my favourite fishing spot is 10x what I learned on a guided trip and this is what drives me to keep going back every year.

I hope you found this blog useful and would love to hear your feedback on other information you would like to see from the Gillseekers in order to help you have a better time on the water. If you’re reading this article, you’re only a few decisions away from creating a lifelong journey for you and your family that will create many memories around the dining room table. The fish you catch in the Pacific Ocean is a quality you won’t find in your average grocery store. I’ve said many times that I’ve never bought meat in the store and shared it with my whole family but every time I go salmon fishing, I get just as much satisfaction from the catch as I get from sharing it with whoever is willing to come over and share a meal and hear a few stories. Good luck out there and I hope to hear your stories soon.