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 Fly Fishing Tips

Untangling fly fishing knots

By John Berry

It happens to all of us, from time to time, your fishing line becomes tangled. The frustrating thing is that you cannot continue fishing until you untangle it. You know what happens when this occurs; your fishing buddy hangs the big one while you are on the bank or hunkered down in the seat of the boat angrily tugging at the line trying to fix it. If it doesn’t come out easily you are tempted to cut the whole thing off and start off with a new leader and completely rerig your entire line.

The first thing to consider is to not tangle your line to begin with. As a guide, I see lots of tangles and most are due to operator error. One of the most common errors that I see is when an angler rushes the back cast and tails the loop. If you do not allow the fly line to fully extend behind you, the line hits the rod or itself on the forward cast, frequently resulting in a tangle. This can be easily avoided by letting the fly lie straighten out behind you on the back cast.

Another is to throw too small a loop when casting a heavy nymph rig. This is further complicated when casting double fly rigs. The problem is that heavy rigs like this tend to drop and can become tangled when casting a tight loop. The easy fix is to throw a bigger loop when casting heavy multi fly rigs with weight and strike indicators. Sage makes a specialty fly rod, the 9 9, which has a soft butt and a stiff tip which makes throwing a big loop effortless.

Excessive false casting can often result in a tangled line. When you are false casting a lot you have more opportunities to tangle your line. The only time that I false cast is when I am fishing dry flies and I want to shake the excess water from my fly. I always tell my clients to pick it up and put it down. The fish are not in the air, they are in the water.

An unexpected gust of wing can sometimes wreak havoc with your cast. There is not always a lot that you can do to prevent this. When casting in the wind, I generally try to cast a shorter line or fish with a technique that does not require much line, like high sticking a nymph.

The situation where I tangle my line is when I have a good fish on and it slips the hook. The line is under tension and the rod acts like a spring and the line flies back into the rod. There is not a lot that you can do to prevent this. It is just one of those things that happen.

Finally there is the ultimate tangle, the double. This occurs when two anglers, in a boat, cast at the same time and their lines cross, on the back cast. This one can get pretty gnarly, with double the complications. To avoid this situation, be aware of your fellow anglers casting and avoid casting at the same time. A variation on this occurs when one angler has a fish on and it swims into the other angler’s line tangling the lines in the process. To avoid this situation, all you have to do is to remove the other line from the water when a hooked fish gets too close.

Often, despite your best efforts, you have a tangled line. What do you do now? Stop casting and remove the tangle as soon as possible. If you continue casting a tangled line it will just get worse. Often it is just a matter of the hook catching on something like the loop to loop connection where the leader and fly line connect or a strike indicator. All you have to do is remove the hook from whatever it got caught and you are ready to go.

Then there are the more involved tangles that look more like a bird nest. Guides refer to them as job security. The first thing that I do is snip the fly off. The tangle will come undone much quicker without the fly constantly grabbing the line. I then trace the tippet back to the top fly or lead and tease the tippet free. If necessary I will snip off the top fly (I leave the tippet for the dropper attached so that I don’t have to reattach It.) and tease it out. This usually works but I sometimes have to remove the lead or strike indicator to get everything free. If there is a tiny knot, in the tippet, I will use the needle on my nippers to open the knot and untie it. Once everything is untangled, I tie the flies on, attach the other components to the leader and I am ready to fish.

On rare occasions, even this will not work and you will have to snip off the tangle leaving the butt section of the leader. I carry a spool of 2X tippet to tie on a two foot transition section and then add 4X tippet to make the leader its original length. I then rerig the rod.

Tangled lines are a fact of life. You cannot always avoid them but if you deal with them quickly you can be back to fishing in no time.

February 16, 2007 - Here are some tips on choosing a fly rod courtesy of the Beaver Dam Store crew! Read the Tips

December 8, 2006 - Here are some tips for keeping warmer while you're doing that winter fishing courtesy of the Beaver Dam Store crew! Read the Tips

July 14, 2006 - Beaver - G'day y'all from the Beaver Dam Store crew!

Heatwave conditions brough back something we haven't seen in a while, Beaver Tailwater up high and flowing hard. The heat is forecast to abate over the weekend before climbing back into the 90s midweek, so we thought it apt to rerun our generation prediction primer from last month. Complete Story

July 14, 2006 - Beaver - G'day y'all from the Beaver Dam Store crew!

Summer is the time most of us will travel seeking new waters - sometimes those close to home, across the State, out West or for some further afield. No work, no lawns to mow, carefree and relaxed - No worries.
But fly fishing travel does involve a little responsibility these days, specifically in making sure you don't bring home, or take with you some of the aquatic nasties like Didymo, mud snails, whirling disease or others.

June 18, 2006 - Beaver - G'day y'all from the Beaver Dam Store crew!

The crew at Beaver Dam Store talks about summer terrestrials.

May 18, 2006 - Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Tip - Many fly-fishermen use sink-tip lines to get streamers or nymphs down to trout feeding near the bottom in fast current. The sink rate and length of the sinking portion varies from line to line. The best combination for one situation won't necessarily be the best choice in another. You could solve the problem by carrying several different sink-tip lines. Here's a cheaper and more convenient way. Tie a section of lead-core trolling line between your fly line and a 3-foot mono leader. Use a short piece to sink a fly in shallow water, a longer one in deeper water.

May 4, 2006 - Beaver - G'day y'all from the Beaver Dam Store crew!

The crew at Beaver Dam Store shares how to get ready for stripers.

April 21, 2006 - Beaver - G'day y'all from the Beaver Dam Store crew!

The crew at Beaver Dam Store shares how to choose a fly rod.

December 23, 2005 - Beaver - G'day y'all from the Beaver Dam Store crew! email - Phone 479-253-6154 - G'day y'all from the Beaver Dam Store crew! - TIP OF THE WEEK

You know the scenario. You are catching fish after fish, its easy and your relaxed. Then comes a really good size fish, maybe a trophy and ping, the trout it gone. Such calamaties are all too common, but easily solved by getting into the habit of regularly checking the front end of your leader. Trout teeth, rocks and mixed casting can all put wear and tear on the business end of the leader, wind knots too can "appear" without you noticing, similarly indicators can sometime slip their way down. So pull the line in and check your depth. Then grab the leader between your forefinger and thumb and slide it down the length to the fly, windknots are easy to find as a small bump, but also feel for nicks and abrasion, which make your leader weaker. Any problems cut out the offending section and retie. Last thing on the checklist is the fly, look for weed or moss, make sure the hook is the right shape, the point isn't turned over and the bead is still there. You can check for hook sharpness by pulling the point across a fingernail, If it digs in its sharp enough. Now your good to resume fishing.

Tight Lines from the Beaver Dam Store staff,
Lisa Steve, Shirley, Tom and Kevin

December 16, 2005 - Beaver - G'day y'all from the Beaver Dam Store crew! email - Phone 479-253-6154 -


We all know the story about worn tapered leaders. You have changed flies long, enough, probably cut out a few tangles, lost a bit more to a streamside tree until finally you have something about 0x on the pointy end. Its too thick to tie to your normal 6x Beaver tippet. Don't throw these sections away. Loop them up and keep in a ziplock bag (twist the butt loop through around the rest of the leader as they come out of the packet to keep them tidy. Then next time you need a leader for streamers, largemouth or white bass, you have ready made short leaders. Add a foot or two of 3x or 4x and you are good to go.

Tight Lines from the Beaver Dam Store staff,
Lisa Steve, Shirley, Tom and Kevin

December 9, 2005 - Beaver - G'day y'all from the Beaver Dam Store crew! email - Phone 479-253-6154 - G'day y'all from the Beaver Dam Store crew! -


Probably the smartest move you can make in preparation for winter fishing in Arkansas is pack a second bag, with spare clothes. Yes we know it is just something else to remember but they don't have to be your Sunday best. Stick spare socks, underwear, shirt, old track pants, a pullover and a towel into an old gymbag and leave it in your fishing vehicle or with your fishing gear, so it doesn't get forgotten. You can get hypothermic pretty quick with the sort of air temperature and windchill we have currently if you take a spill on the river.

Tight Lines from the Beaver Dam Store staff,
Lisa Steve and Kevin

November 25, 2005 - Beaver - G'day y'all from the Beaver Dam Store crew! email - Phone 479-253-6154 - G'day y'all from the Beaver Dam Store crew! -

With cold weather coming _ sometime soon, we have a great suggestion to keep your tootsies warmer on the tailwater. Don't wear your wading socks on the drive up. Car heaters will cause your feet to sweat a little and damp socks in waders means cold feet. Instead change into your wading socks when your getting ready. Your feet wilkl thank you for your consideration.
Beaver Tailwater: Low water opens up plenty of wading, and with little generation now is the time to roam stretches away from the Catch and Release section or immediately below the Dam. Discover how pretty and how much of the tailwater there is away from the crowds. The best fishing has been in the mornings, though it picks up again towards dark.

Olive Woolly Buggers, zebra midges (black, brown or red); Razorback Midges; Charlotte's Redneck Midge and other patterns have been working extremely well. Egg patterns are performing well, Umpqua's superb low water Flashtail mini eggs, and the bead head Veiled Eggs for faster runs. Soft hackles are working well for fish feeding on emergers. Check out our first shoipment of Dale Fulton's Tungsten Wired Red Ass for fishing deep, faster runs. McLellan's Hunchback scuds and Woven V-Rib Sowbugs are also reliable bets.

As the cold weather increases watch for more early morning water releases, particularly on weekdays. Call 417 336 5083 for a real time recorded message (after the Table Rock report) on water releases.

July 29, 2005 - Beaver - G'day y'all from the Beaver Dam Store crew! email - Phone 479-253-6154 -


As you're all probably well aware fly fishing is probably one of the more active fishing methods. It seems we are always trying, thinking, doing something different to fool our quarry. But sometimes its actually more effective to do nothing at all! The "Do Nothing" retrieve on lakes, in the salt or broader pools, can be pretty hard to get used to. Even a dead-drift on a river requires some mending. But the "Do Nothing" retrieve takes a little more patience, whether you are fishing topwater patterns for bass or slowly sinking a wet fly.

Both techniques can be critical at times. Largemouth, and the whites currently, will often follow a splashy bug almost all the way to your feet. Just letting the fly sit for 20-30 seconds can draw the strike. The whites in particular are nosing up to topwaters like a trout taking a mayfly. A "Do Nothing" retrieve, or long pauses between strips, on minnow patterns, letting them slowly sink with a sinking line can also be particular effective for fish lying deep. This is a great way to fish the Gummy Minnow which flutters slowly down, sending out big fish attracting flashes off its sides. Mullet are often regarded as one of the toughest saltwater fish to fool, but a fuzzy "algae" fly dead drifted slowly can be very effective and these fish are great fun on light rods.

Tight Lines from the Beaver Dam Store staff,

Charlotte, Steve, Shirley and Bob.

April 14, 2003 - Arkansas River Spring Fishing - Submitted by Chris Martin -

This is an exciting time of year on the Arkansas River. In the coming weeks fishing starts to pick up. The River has risen to about 230 cfs recently due to a release from Twin Lakes. Initially there was some mud in the river but it cleared out quickly.
There are several different dynamics at work right now:

Status of the Blue Wing Olive Mayflies
-         Blue Wing Olive mayflies continue to hatch in good numbers on cloudy, cool, and humid days. The less wind, the better. This hatch is locally intense so if you find yourself among feeding fish, stay with them. Fish may not be feeding or the bugs hatching around the corner. You should fish this hatch with a large high visibility dry fly like a size 14 Parachute Adams as the top fly. Then hang a beadhead tungsten biot midge, beadhead micro-mayfly, or small black or green copper john under the Adams. If you see fish beginning to feed, switch the second fly to an unweighted emerger such as an RS-2, barr emerger, or Olive Emerger. Once you see adult insects on the water and/or rising fish, switch to a smaller parachute adams, gulper special, or other blue wing olive adult pattern in a size 18-20.
Caddis Flies and Stone Flies

-  Caddis flies have started hatching in Canon City. The hatch will move upstream into Bighorn Sheep Canyon this week.
- Stoneflies continue to shed their skins as they grow towards adult size. During these times, the Golden Stones are bright colored and vulnerable, often washing loose from their husks and washing downstream until they can attach themselves to a rock and crawl back into the substrate. We can't predict if the stones are going through this phase on any given day. However, with no other clues to guide you, you should use an epoxy back stone or other Golden Stone pattern as a search pattern. This will tell you quickly if the fish are keyed into this activity.
Nymphs are key this time of year

When you are fly fishing this time of year the majority of the fish you catch will be on nymphs.  But picking the right pattern to use may be confusing.  A good tip is to fish with two flies, thereby doubling your chances. Popular nymphs right now are the black and olive tungsten biot midge in a 16-18, beadhead micro-mayfly in 18, and an olive flashback pheasant tail in a 16-18.
After you tie on your first fly, usually the larger one, you attach an 18- to 36 inch tippet to the bend of the hook using an improved clinch knot.  Then to this tippet you tie the second fly and you're ready to go!

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