So you’re tired of chasing the same old fish in the local hole and you’re ready to up your fly fishing game? Perfect, we’ve got you covered.
Knowing where to go, when to go, and how to fish a certain stretch of water is a great advantage. But, sometimes, you need a little spice in your life. The good news is, the lower-48 has it! Here are four species to add to your easy-bagging bucket list this year and some tips and tricks to help you bring them to the net.
One of my favorite native trout to chase is Pennsylvania’s state fish, the brook trout. This is the only native fish to PA and it’s a gorgeous one, with dark green/brown marbling, gorgeous flashy spots and a splash of red on their fins. “Brookies” depend on cold, clear freshwater streams for their survival. To find them, seek out shaded creeks and spring-fed waters within a tall overstory forest or along rhododendron patches. To catch them – and to find out how shark-like they are – use a lighter rod (like a glass 3-weight) and try throwing a small elk hair caddis.
The prey-drive of these fish is awe-inspiring, but to actually land them, you need to be prepared. Pike call more than half the states in the lower 48 home with the north central and northeast being prime locations. Fishing for pike takes some prep including stringing up a heavier weight line (7-weight is a great option). You’ll also want to load up with large flies – like, 7-12 inch streamer-style flies and frog or mouse top water patterns – and tie them onto a wire leader. Why wire? Because these toothy beasts will tear up your monofilament in a heartbeat. Fish for them along ponds and lakes, in grassy habitats.
Rio Grande Cutthroat
If you’re lucky enough to get some insider tips on where to find “cutties”, you’re lucky enough. These green/grey and brightly spotted fish have an unmistakable red hue to their belly and cheek and live in cold freshwater creek and high country lakes in the west. Originally prevalent across the Rio Grande drainage in Colorado and New Mexico, they’re unfortunate decline now has them in only 10% of the waters of their original range. To catch this life-list fish, use a lighter 3-weight rod with a tandem rig (small mayfly and zebra midge dropper) in creeks and a 5-weight rod with a streamer pattern (like the hothead bugger) in lakes.
This underrated fish takes persistence to find and land. Found in ponds, lakes and slack water in rivers across the country “freshwater bonefish” require heavy rod setups (like a 7-9 weight) and stealth. To try your luck at catching these omnivores, throw your fly directly in front of their faces and use patterns similar to crayfish, leeches, and some nymphs. While you never know what you might find under the downtown bridge, it could be worth it to find out it’s a carp!
Based in southern Colorado, Ryan is a photographer, outdoorswoman, fish chaser, and proud mama to two wild Outdoors-loving kiddos. When not wrangling little ones or cattle dogs, you’ll find her on the water, on a trail or on the road looking for the next piece of water and (hopefully) high country trout.