6 tips on the importance of using stealth while fly fishing

One of the most overlooked techniques of being a successful fly angler is the ability to stalk or employ methods of stealth while fishing, especially while wading. Fish can be easily spooked by a shadow, motion (induced by casting), or sound and the ability to employ a visual and auditory slyness can often times be advantageous to the angler searching out those crafty fins whether they be in a mountain trout stream or bass in a warm water creek.


Here are some simple tips for making the most of a few hours standing in a small stream and waving a stick with the ever optimistic hope of landing a fish or two.


  1. Wear muted colors such as olive, dark green, or shades of gray.

Sure, your hero pictures won’t look as amazing as those national geographic shots but the ability to break up your outline or reduce the amount of reflective light will give you a leg up on the guy standing in the creek next to you wearing blistering, bleached white or candy-apple-corvette red outer garments. The intent here is to blend as best you can with your natural surroundings and minimize your presence in the stream.


  1. Walk or wade quietly.

Sound is often overlooked amongst our angling community. Reduce putting the fish down by wading carefully and thoughtfully through still water. Walk carefully without overturning stones, loud foot –splashes, or crunching gravel under foot. Remember, if you can hear your own travel, I think the fish could certainly hear it and for a greater distance than you and I would care to admit. Try to minimize announcing yourself to the underwater inhabitants. Use naturally occurring objects such as fast moving riffles or log jams to mask your travel through the water. See a pool or line worth casting to? Try a stealth approach from a different line—consider approaching from the faster water or behind a naturally fallen log as to minimize the Godzilla size foot stomps that resonate like sonar waves to everything under the water.


My wife and I have even developed hand signals and short clicks/whistles/grunts to effectively communicate while on the water. Fishing with us is like fishing in a church.

  1. Pay attention to your shadow!


Fish of all kinds are constantly looking for predators and those predators come in many, many forms. Have you ever seen a trout or bass dart away at the passing shadow of a bird? Be aware of the sun’s position and your relationship to it and the fish you are targeting; the larger the profile you cast will directly impact the area and fish around you.


  1. Land a fish with your leader and fly!

If you’re lucky enough to hook a fish (like me) or good enough (like my wife), take the time to work the fish with your leader and fly only. Keep your fly line, if possible, off the water. The line creates noise, agitation, and shadows. None of these described properties are exactly calming to a fish.


  1. Delicate presentations are important!

See previous post regarding unattractive qualities to fish. Presentation should be quiet and thoughtful, try to keep your fly from splashing like a brick or river stone thrown in to the water. Important note here: Don’t be a brick.


Unless, of course, you are throwing a mouse or frog pattern and employing the strategy that it should fall with a gregarious “thump” on the bank and then falls/splashes into the water. Laugh if you will, but this crafty procedure has worked for me on several occasions. Of course, the first few times it worked was simply due to a poor cast.


On more than occasion I have received the dubious and unconvinced look from my wife whose facial expression said, “Did you really mean to do that?”


  1. Use natural camouflage when available.

Breaking up your profile is important. Always look for alternative casting angles and positions when targeting spooked fish. If there is a promising pool or feeding run, look for naturally occurring camouflage that might assist in breaking up your profile. Log jams, bushes, and bank side trees which might normally be considered a casting onus should be treated with a different perspective—use them to your advantage! Especially when wearing eye popping fashion items like mentioned in tip #1. Don’t be afraid to belly crawl if needed!


I might suggest that you simply take a few pieces of string and attach as many tree branches or clippings to your legs, torso, and hat to help break up your lines. Go overboard with this strategy and attach as many as you can so that you resemble a shrub in the stream.


And, if you do this, would you please send me a picture?