On the fly: Keep it simple | AspenTimes.com
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On the fly: Keep it simple

Kirk Webb
Special to The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

BASALT – Working behind the counter at a busy fly shop, I often get customers coming in who simply overthink their flies and setups so much that it cripples their performance on the water. These customers are, more often than not, more knowledgeable than the average Joe who walks through our doors, yet their fish counts are often far lower.

I’ve always been a firm believer that knowledge is power. I try to read as much as I can about new flies, tying materials, new techniques and new equipment, learning as much as I can about the different disciplines within the sport of fly fishing.

I try to take all that I’ve learned and then decipher what works and what doesn’t work for the types of fishing that I personally do. It’s often just as important to learn what doesn’t work as it is to find out what actually does work. Take the best and forget the rest.



One of my fly fishing mentors, Randall Kaufmann, often said that it’s more important to simply keep a fly in the water and actually “be fishing” that it is to be constantly changing flies, adjusting your setup and not having your fly in the water. After all, you can’t catch fish if you’re not fishing. Randall used to keep a stopwatch handy while guiding clients and would literally keep track of the minutes they spent properly fishing. Within an hour’s time, most of his clients would only spend about 10 actual minutes of fishing.

Never before has there been such an abundance of fly patterns in this sport’s history. For most beginners, outside of learning knots, fly selection is often the most confusing and intimidating aspect of our sport. Stick to basic searching patterns like prince nymphs, pheasant tails, RS-2s, stimulators, sparkleduns and the like. More often than not, presentation is a bigger key than having the “right” fly pattern. Sure, most professional guides carry thousands of flies, but they also have their go-to flies that they use the vast majority of the time.



Keep things simple, stupid. Pay attention to what the fish are telling you to do. No, they won’t verbally talk to you, but they will tell you through their body language if you’re doing things right or wrong. Pay attention to this fact and your performance on the water will increase exponentially.


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