When I was a kid and didn’t catch fish on a particular trip, my father used to say, “There’s a reason it’s called ‘fishing’ and not ‘catching.’” As an adult, I still recognize the wisdom in these words. After all, some days the fish just won’t bite no matter what you throw at them, and even the most experienced anglers can get skunked.
Over the years, however, I’ve learned there are a few things that can dramatically improve your chances for success every time you’re on the water.
Whether you’re a novice angler who’s just getting started or a more experienced fisherman who’s simply facing a summer slump, here are five tips to help you catch more fish and have more fun on your next outing.
1. Fish Early or Fish Late
When it comes to fishing, timing is everything. Most fish, particularly cold-water species like trout, are the most active in the early morning or late evening — especially during the heat of the summer. Mornings and evenings are also when fish move into the shallow water to feed, making them more accessible to anglers. Although you can sometimes get lucky and catch the occasional cruiser during the heat of the day, midday is one of the worst times to have a line in the water. If you want to catch more fish, save 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. for rigging-up rods and getting your tackle ready for evening. If you’re a night owl, grab a flashlight and burn the midnight oil. Species like brown trout, walleye and catfish are nocturnal and will feed aggressively after dark.
2. Pay Attention to CPW’s Fish-Stocking Report
If you want to catch more fish, you should keep tabs on Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Fish Stocking Report — but not for the reason you’re probably thinking. Sure, you can catch your limit of catchable-sized rainbow trout by fishing waters recently stocked by one of CPW’s hatchery trucks. But, in addition to catching stocker rainbows, this is one of the best times to fish for large pike, bass and trout. Like ringing a dinner bell, these bigger predators will move in to feed on the newly stocked hatchery fish. This is a prime opportunity to cast Rapalas, Rebels and other lures that imitate small rainbow trout. The Savage Gear Company also makes an excellent rainbow lure, which produced a big brown trout for me earlier this spring. I caught the bruiser brown about an hour after a stocking truck had planted several thousand catchable-sized rainbow trout into the reservoir. Coincidence? I think not.
3. Purchase a Fishing Kayak
The popularity of kayak fishing has exploded in recent years and for good reason. In all my years of angling, I don’t think there’s been a single fishing-related item that I’ve enjoyed more than my kayak. Not only has owning a kayak helped me to catch more fish, it has given me a renewed sense of enthusiasm and an additional reason (as if I really needed one) to get out and fish more often.
These days, a variety of manufactures produce a full range of kayaks that are specifically engineered for fishing. It’s best to try out several models and see which ones work for your style of angling. Last summer, I purchased FeelFree’s Lure model. This kayak is ultra stable and the adjustable “Gravity Seat” is so comfortable that I can spend an entire day on the water without getting a sore back (or backside). Additionally, the flat, open-deck area is perfect for fly fishing because there are no unnecessary accessories or rod holders for fly line to tangle around.
In addition to its great features and design, “Feelfree” is the perfect name for a kayak. When I’m on the water fishing, I truly feel free. Without getting too philosophical, kayaking takes me to my “happy place” where I can unplug from the rest of the world for a while. And, unlike fishing out of larger boats, there’s no engine noise or exhaust fumes to disrupt nature’s solitude — just the calming sound of my paddle pushing through the water. The lightweight, portable design also makes kayaks the perfect vessels for car-top loading/hauling and for fishing Colorado’s small lakes and ponds.
4. Learn How to Fly Fish
Although you can catch plenty of fish with bait and lures, learning how to fly fish will open up an entire new world of enjoyment and angling opportunities. In my opinion, it’s also one of the best methods for fishing many of Colorado’s Gold Medal waters or locations that are restricted to catch and release angling. A fish that is lip-hooked with a fly can be released quickly and safely back into the water.
Over the years, I’ve caught more fish on my fly rod than any other method of fishing. Here’s why: A fly rod allows you to perfectly match/imitate many of the food sources (aquatic insects, fish eggs, crayfish and minnows) that make up a fish’s diet. More importantly, the casting techniques and unique strip-strip-pause retrieve of a fly rod brings to life dry flies, nymphs and streamers by mimicking a natural floating or swimming action. This “buggy” presentation is what makes fly fishing so productive and it’s almost impossible to replicate this with a traditional spinning rod.
The good news is that these days you can purchase a beginner’s rod/reel combination for around $100-$150. There are also great bargains to be had on Craigslist for used fly rods. I like the Temple Fork Outfitters (TFO) line of fly rods for their quality and affordability. A 5-weight rod/reel is a perfect size for most waters in Colorado. Check out this blog post for a guide to help you get started.
5. Attend a CPW Fishing Clinic
If you’re new to fishing, one of the best ways to get up and running quickly is to learn from more experienced anglers. CPW offers a variety of fishing clinics throughout the summer that teach equipment basics, knot tying and casting instruction. There are even a few “Fly Fishing 101” classes to get you started down the right path. Check out CPW’s website for a calendar of available clinics and events across the state. As they say, knowledge is power.
Do you have some summer fishing tips of your own? Share them in the comments section below.
Written by Jerry Neal. Neal is an information specialist and videographer for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. He is also the editor of Colorado Outdoors Online.