There’s something meditative about standing on the side of the Saugeen River and letting the weight of the fly rush out across the water. Southwest of Owen Sound and about an hour and a half drive from the popular tourist destination of Tobermory, this dark and lazy river is so out of the way that you can forget about the existence of the rest of the world while that rod is in your hands.

It’s something that Ancaster’s Stephen Gleave recommends everyone try at least once. Though fly fishing can seem like a difficult hobby to get into, there’s a few tips and tricks that he’s learned that can save you time and effort best left to enjoying the pastime.

Here’s Stephen Gleave’s best tips on the secrets of fly fishing.

Don’t approach the river with your line strung up and a fly ready to cast

For Gleave, adaptation is the name of the game, and arriving at the spot you intend to cast with a fly already on your rod means that you’ve picked a fly without thinking of the circumstances of the spot you’re fishing in. Gleave’s best practice approach is to arrive at the site with your tackle box and analyze flow of the water, the kind of the water, the holes that fish may be most likely to hide in, the kind of bugs in the area and especially the weather. This optimizes your chances at catching something and also helps cement the real reason that fly fishing is such a great hobby – it’s a great chance to slow down and appreciate the small things.

Don’t Get Too Close to the Bank

One of the most misunderstood parts of fly fishing is just how many fish are right by the shore. Gleave says this is a common rookie mistake that can cost you some serious catches.

“That bank offers the kind of structure that all fish big and small love,” he explains. “If you’re ten feet from the bank, you’re already too close.”

Though it might be tempting to climb into the water and get your waders wet, Gleave recommends that fishing start much further back on shore. It seems somewhat disappointing to not get up close and personal with the river, but that can come in time once the bank’s seen enough action with your rod. In the meantime, you can enjoy the excitement of catching dozens of quality muskie, largemouth and smallmouth with ease.

Keep Your Hooks Sharp

Ancaster’s Stephen Gleave can still remember the last time he lost a hefty trout to a dull hook. The problem is that even the most experienced fly fisher may not realize how often you need to sharpen them. Every time a hook gets lodged onto a log or rock, it gets a little more dull and makes it just a little harder for that fish to lath on. Even sitting in your tackle box for a while can cause that metal to dull. It’s important to keep a hook sharpener in your kit and keep track of the flies you use. Every one of them should be just as sharp as the day you got it so as to prevent that big catch from getting away.

Enjoy Yourself

Fly fishing might be an intensive hobby at times, but at the end of the day Gleave stresses that he does this for fun.

“It’s a hobby that’s meant to be enjoyed,” Gleave explains. “It doesn’t matter if you’ve been doing this for years or if you’re a beginner. No matter how you do it, you’re getting out of the house and having fun.”

And when you feel that line suddenly fight for all its worth and get yourself a four-pound largemouth bass on the other end of the line, well, that’s a great feeling too.

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