1. Tie your hook on your line. In fly fishing, tying the right knot is half of the sport. For the beginner, however, learning a simple clinch knot is the best way to get started. To do a clinch knot:
- Thread the end of the line through your hook, then wrap it 4-6 times around itself, going back toward the reel.
- Feed the end of the line back through the loop and pull it tight. You might need to use a little spit on the line to lubricate it and make sure it pulls tight.
2. Attach your weights and bobbers. If the water is quite swift, as in a river or stream, it is probably best to attach weights (sinkers) to your line about 12" above your bait. By weighing down your line you will keep your bait in place an inch or a few inches above the floor of the water—right where fish are likely to be hunting.
- For beginners, using a larger bobber that you can see from the bank makes catching fish much easier. With a bobber, the angler will be able to see a strike from a fish when the bobber starts to jerk and disappear below the surface of the water. Put on just enough shot (sinkers), however, to compensate for the larger bobber to prevent being too hard to see the action of the biting fish.
3. Bait your hook. While it depends on the kind of bait you're using, in general, you'll want to work the hook through your bait as many times as possible to keep it securely on the hook. Holding the hook securely in one hand, start 1/3 of the way from the bottom of the bait, and push it straight through. Bend the bait back toward the hook and pierce the bait again about halfway. At least two or three secured piercings should be fine.
- There's no denying it’s kind of gross to jam a hook through a worm three times, but you want to make sure the worm stays on and can't wriggle free when you cast.
4. Cast your line. Most beginners will cast side arm, using the same motion used to skip a stone across the water. Bring the rod back to your side and bring it smoothly in the direction you'd like to cast, releasing the line as you point in the right direction.
- Releasing the line depends somewhat on the type of reel you're using, but if you've got a closed push-button spinner reel, the job is fairly straightforward. Pushing the button releases the line and letting go stops it. When you cock the rod back, push the button, and when you point it, release it.
5. Wait quietly. Some fishermen will start reeling in very slowly, lightly jerking the bait to give fish the impression that it is alive. Depending on your experience and your bait, you might do this, or you might just sit back and wait. Experiment with different methods until you get a bite. Do not immediately start reeling back in as soon as you've cast, however.
- Fish are startled by loud noises and thrashing, so turn down the radio and keep the chatter to a low rumble. You'll anger other fishermen who might be nearby trying to catch fish, and you'll ruin your progress.
- You can tell if a fish is biting by touch, by watching a loose line or a bobber, or by attaching a bell to the end of your rod. Make sure with a slow movement of the rod that there is no more slack in the line when you try to hook the fish.
- If you wait for 10-15 minutes and you still haven’t gotten a bite, try casting somewhere else and wait again.
6. Hook that fish. Once you feel a tug on the line or feel the line start to be taken, you will want to "set" your hook. To do this, simply give your fishing rod (and consequently the fishing line) a quick and firm jerk backward and up. If you have a fish on line, it will fight back immediately and your line will follow the movements of the fish.
- It can sometimes be difficult to tell if you have a bite or if you’re just feeling the current or a fish bumping into the bait. Only practice can help you get a feel for it.
7. Pull the fish in by pumping and lifting the rod vertically while simultaneously reeling. Don't use the reel to pull in the fish, except for very small fish. Keep the line tight and use your arms to pull it toward you, then reel in the slack line.
- More fish are lost to loose lines than anything else. A loose line provides an opportunity for your fish to "throw the hook" right out of its mouth. Keep tension on the line and hold the rod tip above your head to ensure that the hook remains in the mouth of the fish.
- All modern reels have an adjustable drag but nylon lines drag can be adjusted by pulling with the hand. If you feel the nylon stretching, the drag should begin to work. Even very big fish get tired when pulling against a constant line pressure. Try to use the rod to steer the fish to open water.
8. Bring your fish in with a net.When you've got the fish tired out and reeled in, bring it out of the water and have a partner catch it in your fishing net, or carefully catch it yourself. Be wary of the fish's sharp spines and the hook, which might be sticking out through the fish's mouth.
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