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The Manual: Backcountry Fly-Fishing

Find fish-jumping action, spot streamside sanctuaries, and--if you're allowed to keep your catch--pull divine meals from pristine waters.
skills fly fish 445x260Illustration by Supercorn

Accustomed to anglers, frontcountry fish often feed in plain sight—making them easy to see and cast to. But fish in high-mountain headwaters are stealthy and skittish. They hide from predators (like hawks) beneath undercut banks, in deep pools, and in the eddies of submerged rocks and logs, which also provide respite from pushy currents. Polarized sunglasses (like the Smith Riverside, $219, can help you spot them, but don’t always rely on a preview of your specific quarry. Use these tricks to find trout
and avoid spooking them: 
>> Walk at least six feet from the water’s edge. Tracking any closer creates vibrations that put fish on high alert.
>> Mind your shadow. Backlight makes fish spotting easier, but casting a silhouette onto the water scares them into hiding.
>> Cast from behind natural obstacles (such as boulders) and crouch low when there’s no cover. Sharp-eyed trout can spot tall objects better than short ones.
>> Drift your fly down currents that skirt fish hangouts instead of fast, midstream ones.
>> Cast across and upstream to keep your line from landing directly above fish and spooking surface dwellers.
>> Explore for productive water. Natural obstacles segregate fish, so some river stretches will be empty while others teem with trout.

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