Fishing Tips by Dave Whitlock

Casti and Dave Whitlock

Dave Whitlock throws a stream of local trout. F&S

My parents fished bait or used very large wooden lures on metal rods to cast bait. This did not interest me as a child. I learned about fly fishing when I was about 8 or 9 years old from my grandfather Field & Stream and its LL Bean catalogs. I saw these beautiful feathered seductions and thought it was so beautiful to fish with something so beautiful.

I started catching fly fish before I became a fly fisherman. As a child, whenever I ran out of bait, I would put thread, grass, or cloth on the crochet hook. I would paint it in water and those sun fish would hit it.

Trout is for fly fishing. It is very easy to catch them by other means.

My wife, Emily, she is my fishing best friend. I learned it when we got together. We have been married 19 years now.

The person who does an accurate 35 or 40 foot cast will overweight the boy who is throwing 80 feet.

When I got into nymph fishing in the late ’50s, everyone kept saying that the blows were very difficult to detect. You had to look at the line to see if it was shaking, so I learned to use a very visible line. The next thing I did was paint a fluorescent tip at the bottom of the flight line. Then I went to use fluorescent materials for my guide, which we now call indicators. I caught all sorts of hell because people said I was only using bobbers. But when they saw how much better I could catch fish, it did not take long to convince them.

Hopper and Dave it probably took six or eight attempts before I understood it properly. With a new fly, over the years you simply gradually see how things work, or new materials become available. Occasionally, someone will give you really good advice that makes the fly the best. And that’s what we all do if you stop thinking about it: We build everyone’s knowledge. This is the interesting thing to do.

Now, people use such large indicators and so much weight for their leaders. A rudeness has been created towards the nymph that does not interest me at all. I fish flies that sink effectively because of the leader it uses or the joints it binds and the very small indicators that the fish really do not see.

I like to walk or canoe versus motor boat and all the things professional bass people do now. I like to be an outdoor player and not a foreign object.

The best way to create a new fly is to jump into fresh water and see what the fish are eating. From that instant experience, go to a fly binding area you created and start creating a fly. Then go and fish the fly in the same period. Finally, get back to your desk and get what you have learned from experience to improve your flight. This is the most interesting thing to do because what you are doing is observing, creating and testing.

I grew up in bass country, and I realized early on that I was not a good bass cheater, which required a whole different set of techniques. With trout, you are fishing a small fly in a light leader and catch fish that lure in open water. With bass, I learned to fish a big fly with a bit of animation and aggression, because you aim for a fish that hits to kill.

I have invented close to 350 or 400 flies now. The Red Fox Squirrel Nymph, Dave’s Hopper, Dave’s Diving Frog and Waker Shad Minnow are probably my favorites.

If you sit down to eat lunch, and just as you are about to bite for the first time a car hits the building, you will immediately lose your appetite. You would not be interested in eating until you get back to a safe position. The same goes for fish. The more fish you do not notice your presence, the more chances you have of getting them.

A cell phone is good to hold in your fly vest for emergencies, but I leave mine off. I do not want the thing to sound like I’m fishing.

A common problem I see that fly fishermen make fishing very late. If this line is not right when you try to do something with it, laziness creates all sorts of mechanical problems that cause fishermen to fail.

Keep your cell phone leave even when making love.

I am not a famous fisherman. Fishing is personal. I like to do it with someone I care about on a very private basis. I think most of us are like that. If not, we have a problem.

This story was first published in 2010.

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