Sara Low on fly fishers’ most common mistakes:
There are two areas that I think are most problematic. One is in casting. A lot of times I see that people could improve their cast by shortening their casting stroke. A lot of people just have too long a casting stroke, and when they’re not casting long distances, what happens is they lose speed in their cast then aren’t able to present the fly properly.
Second, when you don’t have the speed, you can’t control your line. The issue becomes presentation of the fly, which and that’s where it gets all over the place. Your fly will immediately be affected by the current, and people don’t necessarily compensate as well as they could for it. And it makes the fly float unnaturally and then the fish aren’t interested.
Correcting client mistakes:
If someone’s a brand new beginner, and they say they would like help, that’s easy. Those people who have experience can be trickier, especially because I’m a woman and a lot of fly fishers are men. It’s hard for some men to take fishing instructions from a woman. So that’s where I then have to tread a little carefully.
Usually, though, I’ll let somebody cast and watch a little bit and make suggestions. You know, “Here’s another way you could do something thing.” Or, “Try this, that, or the other.” And try to do one thing at a time, so it’s not too confusing. But essentially I try to make gentle suggestions.
But people are out there for a lot of different reasons, not always because they want to improve what they’re doing. Sometimes they just want to forget and want to have a little feather floating down the river, and that’s all they care about. You really have to just gauge what they want.
On choosing the right equipment:
Until your skill level is up there, at least until you feel comfortable evaluating your own skill level, you don’t really know what rod would be comfortable. I once worked a corporate junket up in the Catskills in which one of the banks in New York City would come every year up and bring up their clients. One of the guys I guided had everything brand new. Just beautiful, beautiful rods, everything perfect, even with the price tags on them. He said he’d never fished before, he had no idea, but he had absolutely the best of everything. He walked right in to where the fish were, spooked them, and said there are no fish here. Finally he handed me the rod and said, “You catch the fish. I’m president of the company, and I take credit for what my employees do. You catch the fish and I’ll take the credit.” I said, “No, you’re going to catch the fish.” I’m not sure he’ll ever fish again.
Rods have different flex points, tip, medium, or full flex. People can spend a lot of money on for a stiff, or tip-flex rod, for example, without knowing that it’s the most frustrating kind of rod to cast when you’re not familiar with it. That’s a turnoff. A lot of people with very stiff rods say, “I can’t do this anymore,” and when you put a different rod in their hand with a different flex, it becomes an enjoyable sport.
Teaching your muscles how to fly-fish:
There’s very little if any muscle memory that carries over from other sports or activities to fly-fishing. You put a rod in your hand, and if you’re used to spin fishing, you think you know what you’re doing, and it just doesn’t work. You have to teach your muscles a totally different style.
Why she fishes almost exclusively with dry flies:
I’m a dry-fly fisherman. I fish with nymphs periodically so I can keep myself sharp on that and because there are people who love to nymph fish and there are times when conditions call for it. But if I’m out for myself, I’ll put a dry fly on, I don’t care what’s going on. I’ll start with a dry fly and usually end up with a dry. I can’t help myself. I love seeing the fish come up to the surface to take a fly.
Why she’ll fish a streamer before a nymph:
I’ll put a streamer on before I put a nymph on. Because if nothing’s happening, I want to do something. I think nymphing is an incredibly difficult and challenging way to fish. The reason I’ll put a streamer on will be in part because I love to cast that streamer, but the retrieving lets me be active.