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Boundary Waters Quetico Forum
   Group Forum: Flyfishing BWCA
      Newbie questions     



senior member (62)senior membersenior member
05/16/2018 09:36AM  
I'm planning on taking a fly rod to the BW this year for the first time. I've been on several BW trips and fished a little here and there, but never with a fly rod.
I'm excited to try it - I hear it can be addicting! I've got 2 "newbie" questions:
First, is a 6 weight, 9 foot fast action rod going to be a decent choice? I know a 7 or 8 wt would throw bigger flies, but I'm hoping a 6 would be a good "all around" rod for everything from smallmouth, to largemouth or even crappies.
Second, how do I "fish" a typical BW lake with a fly rod? Head to weedy or rocky areas with some surface flies? I'm just wondering what areas of the lake to start on and how to attack these areas....may be a dumb question, but I'm a first timer!
Thanks for the help!
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distinguished member (267)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
05/16/2018 11:37PM  
Welcome to the fly fishing section! We really should be more active in this topic area, especially as the BW season approaches.
I posted a few thoughts to your question on the fishing thread.

I would really encourage you to practice casting sitting on the ground. If you typically cast standing, it takes some adjustment to cast seated and also to keep your back casts from slapping the water (ground for practice).

Have some realistic expectations. I didn’t catch anything on the fly rod my first trip taking it, but it was also a rough fishing trip all around due to late ice out and trying to use the same pattern from the year prior that had an early ice out (spinning gear didn’t catch fish that year either). The advice of weeds for small pike and rocky areas for SMB is fairly accurate. SMB on top water is actually what got me to finally buy a fly rod, and that is the most fun way to fish, IMO. You can also try to imitate crawfish in the rocks, but I get hung up a lot. A big bead head wooly bugger is a decent crawfish imitation and usually easier to find and less expensive than the crawfish specific flies.

I have tied a bunch of Clousers for this year, and I plan to throw them around rapids. I also like a neutral buoyancy streamer because they stay out of the rocks better.

If you are going later in the summer, I have also caught meals of perch in lily pads with a small streamer. That’s a fun afternoon too.
distinguished member(1528)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
05/12/2020 08:06PM  
I think a 6-wt is too light, especially for a beginner. Abbey is right about casting from a sitting position in a canoe. You can't cast as far for several reasons. Wind is another issue with a lighter rod. Also, the best flies to use for smallies are poppers which can be wind resistant (e.g. deer hair). I use an 8-wt. I think if you were a really good caster (I have not seen many up there) and wanted a challenge then a 6-wt would suffice.

I fly fish only therefore I always take a spare rod in case I break one. So I prefer to standardize on a single size for BWCA/Q trips and take 2 8-wts.

More important than structure I think is time of year. If you can time it right in June you will do well with topwater smallies. If too early, they are still deep.

I always use a small wire bite tippet. The last thing you want is to watch a chance at a big topwater pike end with a limp line and a lost popper!
distinguished member(918)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
06/01/2020 07:51AM  
Jerold’s points are bang on. 8wt by far the best all around rod size...but if all you have is a six, then go ahead and take it. You will suffer a bit though both from wind and fly air resistance but it will handle the fish fine.

As for the fishing, it’s really the same as spin fishing, just a different presentation. So if you are a good spin fisherman and do well, the same locations and tactics will work with the fly rod. Like jitterbugs and zara spooks etc? Use poppers. Like jigging? Use clousers. Like casting rapalas? Use streamers. I most always have a streamer pattern on one rod, with a clear intermediate sink line. I can cast shorelines or troll with it. It’s a deadly line/presentation. I also have a floater on another rod. Poppers, big streamers, various nymphs etc along shorelines.

Different trips I take different set ups as the mood strikes me. I literally have over 40 fly rods lol. Occasionally I might be targeting big pike only and will bring a ten weight and an 8 weight. Casts big flies effortlessly.

Honestly your main challenge will be handling the line, casting and dealing with the wind. Trolling will be your friend and can be very productive. It can be frustrating at times, especially if you are just starting out in the sport so maybe also take some spinning gear. If practice casting in your yard etc use the same flies you will use on your trip, as the air resistance between different flies will really surprise you, and you will see the 6wt handle some flies okay and others it will be underpowered. You will love your first smallie on a fly rod though that’s for sure!


distinguished member(1528)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
06/01/2020 09:39AM  
I guess canoe handling should be mentioned. If you are going solo, then the challenge is much more because you are just floating around at the mercy of the wind and it can be difficult (or even unsafe in rougher water). If it is your first time fly fishing, I think it would be much better tandem paddling.

When tandem paddling, I would start with just one person fishing from the front and the second person handling the canoe from the back. If the person in the back is not a fly fisherman, he tends to go t0o fast in my experience. When fishing a shoreline, the ideal is to hover the canoe in one position and point the bow so the caster has the best angles. Then move the canoe slowly between spots. The idea is not to simulate an electric trolling motor cruising a shoreline while a guy with a baitcaster blitzes the shoreline. It is a slower process. It is a challenge to learn how to hold the canoe in the wind and current.

Once the person in the back has figured out canoe handling, then he can start fishing too realizing that the guiding position in the rear is the sh@t duty. Ideally, you will trade off front and back during the day, or day by day. I tend to go with people who are less experienced so I stay in the back. I get to fish less but it is very annoying to be in the front with someone who cannot handle the canoe from the back.

You also need to be mindful of handedness. Ideally, you approach a shoreline so that the caster in front can comfortably cast with the dominant hand. Usually, people are right-handed so you go clockwise around the shoreline (and counterclockwise for a lefty). The ideal pair is one left handed and one right handed caster so each can use the dominant hand.

Another thing I have found is that it is a good idea to have a talk with your partner (many) about casting etiquette. The guy in the back cannot easily cast at 90 degrees to the side of the canoe. He is facing forward for the most part and will be casting at maybe a slight angle to directly in front of the canoe. Just sit in your chair and simulate casting to see where your arm can comfortable cast. The guy in front can adjust the seating angle more easily. In my experience, the guy in front invariable wants to cast at 90 degrees to the canoe, basically cutting off the guy in the back from fishing.

Don't let an inexperienced caster in the front cast through the middle of the canoe and always verify that he has pinched barbs, every time he changes flies. It is a good practice for safety.

Keep in mind that the canoe is almost 20 feet long. If the caster in the front is the stronger caster, then if can be difficult for the caster in the rear to throw it far enough to really fish. That is a reason to put the stronger caster in the rear.

Moonman says that he takes multiple rods. That is another degree of difficulty as well. It can be difficult to manage multiple rods in the canoe, especially if both guys are doing it. Easy to break rods that way so just be careful. I take two 8-wt rods on the trip, but just one while fishing. I used to take a spare in the canoe but I have yet to break one so I quit doing that.

If possible, go fishing locally for a practice run with your partner before the actual trip to work the kinks out. Try going once when calm and once when windy.
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