In Part I of Techniques to Land More Fish, we discussed proper tips to land fish in relation to reading water, proper hook set, playing, and landing a fish, in Part II the focus will purely be on rigging tips to increase your chances of catching more fish. By properly rigging it will result in more hookups and more fish to the net. Follow the tips and techniques outlined below to make your rigs bombproof so you can land that trophy trout of a lifetime!
If you need a quick refresh on proper rigging for fly fishing for trout check out this blog: Rigging Tips for Beginners.
Tip 1: Check Your Knots
This tip seems like an obvious one but I cannot stress the importance of good knots. Even if you tie a perfect knot at times, the knot will not set properly. It is important to assess each knot after rigging and give the knot a little pull to test the knot. At times a little lubrication in the knot can go a long way in properly setting the knot. Typically, I will wet the knot with some saliva or river water to make sure it sets. If you need to familiarize yourself with the common knots for fly fishing check out this blog: 8 Essential Fly Fishing Knots Every Angler Should Know.
Tip 2: Use Heavier Tippets
Forget about 7x tippet and even 6x tippet for that matter. If you hook a big fish on 7x tippet, you’re typically going to lose the fish or overplay the fish. While lighter tippets may result in more hookups it’s also going to result in more fish lost. Most guides here at VVA will rarely use 6x and stick to 3x, 4x, and 5x when targeting the trout on these Central Rockies rivers. Experiment with using heavier tippet sizes, you will be surprised by how fast and easy it can be to land larger fish.
Tip 3: Taper Your Tippets and Leaders
When building out your rig be sure to taper your tippet, meaning the lightest tipper should be at the very end of your rig. For example, if you are setting up a two fly nymph rig with a 9ft 3x leader. Your first fly should be tied onto 4x tippet and then your second fly on 5x tippet. This also helps save some flies if you end up snagging your bottom fly you don’t lose your hole rig and just the last fly that is on the 5x tippet. This will bombproof your rig.
Tip 4: Use Tippet Rings or Swivels
Tippet rings and small swivels are becoming increasingly more popular for many fly anglers and for a good reason. They make rigging faster and easier. You can effectively tie a tippet ring or swivel onto the end of your leader and then add on a clinch knot with whatever size tippet you would like. This creates a very strong connection between two different sized tippets. It also can save time rigging up, save money on buying a new leader, and provide some technical presentation advantages. Check them out online here.
For a more in-depth article about the advantages of tippet rings and how to properly use them check out this blog: Tippet Rings | Why and How to Use Them.
Tip 5: Set your Split Shot Above a Knot
When nymphing and using split shot or weight on your rig make sure to put the split shot above a knot (blood knot or double surgeons knot). The obvious purpose for this would be to prevent the split shot from sliding down onto your fly after casting the rig. When securing and clamping down the split shot on the line with your hemostats sometimes it can weaken the tippet resulting in a potential breaking point on your rig. You have maybe experienced this when you have been snagged and you pull everything tight to break free and it breaks right where your split shot was secured.
To prevent this and really not have to worry about split shot sliding or adding a weak spot into your rig simply put the split shot above a knot and clamp down lightly to secure without adding extra strain on the tippet.
Tip 6: Add in a Butt Section to Your Leader
By adding in a butt section to your leader it will create a stronger connection between your fly line and your leader. While many of the new age fly lines have welded loops that can be connected directly to a leader, these loops over time tend to crack and break. To better your rig create a butt section by adding a couple of inches-1 foot of thick monofilament like amnesia to the end of your fly line, secure with a nail knot connection at the fly line, and create a perfection loop or double surgeons loop to connect to your leader. The longer the butt section the more turnover power you will have as the butt section will make it a lot easier to turn over heavier flies like streamers or heavy nymphing rigs.
This tactic is common for saltwater flats fishing as it can help turn over a long leader that is needed for a delicate presentation.
Tip 7: Use Airlock Adjustable Indicators
If you haven’t tried out the Airlock adjustable indicators you should. The Airlock indicators have changed the indicator game. What makes them better than any other indicator on the market is that they are easily adjustable and do not kink the leader. They have a screw top that you unscrew and place the leader in and then screw tight with a washer in between. Once they are on you can easily adjust the depth by loosening and sliding the indicator and then tightening. They come in a new biodegradable foam material that has a softer presentation on the water. They come in three different sizes, ¾ inch (small), ½ inch (medium), and 1 inch (large). You can check them out here.
Tip 8: Don’t Use Cheap or Rusted Hooks
Nothing like losing a trophy fish to find out your hook broke or bent out. Especially after you thought your rig was bombproof. One way to prevent your hooks from bending out is to make sure you are buying or tying your flies on quality hooks. Most specialty fly shops like Vail Valley Anglers sell flies that are from trusted fly companies like Umpqua, Solitude, and MFC. Oppose to if you go to Wal-Mart or another big box store the flies in stock are typically commercially produced by who knows who and the hooks can be made of a cheap metal that will bend or break under pressure. So make sure you buy your flies or hooks from a trusted dealer.
Another point to make is to make sure that your hooks are not rusted, this can happen when water gets into your fly box and the flies are not dried out. The hooks can rust and a rusty hook is not only dangerous but will break easily under pressure.
Tip 9: Sharpen your Hooks
Along with using quality hooks, using sharpened hooks can improve your chances of catching more fish. After some time of fishing your flies inevitability, they end up scraping up against rocks and getting snagged on the bottom or on branches and the hook point gets dull. This is especially common with larger flies like streamers. Like a knife, the hook can be quickly sharpened with a hook sharpener like this one.
This is an essential tool for every angler that is using streamers or larger flies. A sharp hook point will result in more hookups.
Tip 10: Use Fluorocarbon Tippet When Going Subsurface
Fluorocarbon is 3x times the price of monofilament for a reason. More production goes into this material to make it more supple, stronger, and lighter. Fluorocarbon also sinks, so it is a no brainer to use when going subsurface. By using fluorocarbon on your nymphs you will see a drastic increase of hookups as the flies will get a more bug-like presentation than monofilament. So stick to monofilament tippets when throwing dry flies but when going subsurface fluorocarbon is a necessity.
The all-new Umpqua Phantom X Fluorocarbon Tippet is the strongest and most invisible fluorocarbon tippet on the market, a sure choice for every angler.
Bonus Tip: Change out Your Leaders and Tippet Frequently
If you are chasing trophy fish make sure to use new or like-new tippets and leaders as old materials can be susceptible to breaking due to heat/cold exposure or other external factors like little knicks in the material. If you want to properly prepared for each day of fly fishing use fresh tippets and a leader that is in good condition.
Hopefully by following these tips and techniques your days on the water will have more fish to the net and some trophy trout to talk about with your friends. If you want to learn from a professional about how to rig for the local rivers call Vail Valley Anglers to book a guided wade or float fishing trip.
Patrick Perry, Content Contributor, and Former Guide, @patperry