1. Scout – I try to know as much about a piece of water as possible before I step foot on it. The information available today is far more detailed than the topographic maps of yesteryear. Technology may be counter to fly fishing ideology, but given you’re reading a fly fishing blog, possibly by way of Twitter or YouTube, I assume you’re not above internet intelligence. With a Google account I created a fishing map and plotted it with points discovered and undiscovered. The map is available on my smart phone so when traveling I can add locations. I also spend time reading DNR and local fly shop reports for fish count, access points and popular patterns. Winter is a great time to take a drive and see the water in person without sacrificing a day of fishing.
2. Proper Conditions – It makes sense to fish new water at optimal conditions. Again I utilize technology by spending a lot of time on USGS.com and bookmark locations relative to where I want to fish. I like all my data in one place/I’m a nerd so I add these links to my Google Map. When the day comes I want to make sure weather, flow and water clarity are all in my favor.
3. Walk the Stream – It’s tough not to jump out of the car casting, but when I get to my destination I take time to walk the stream, usually downstream, and fish my way back up. I like to see the holes before I cast to them. I also don’t mind if I move fish while doing so, it gives me hope and some idea where they’re holding.
4. Fly Selection – When I fish new water I rely heavily on my most productive flies or those recommended by the local shop. For me, this isn’t the time to workshop new patterns. If I’m fishing for trout I’ll nymph a tandem rig of my favorites (Iron Lotus and HC Disco Duck top the list at the moment) unless there is an obvious hatch. I second guess myself enough on new water I don’t want to doubt my fly. Also, I fish good pockets with confidence, like I’ve fished them before and I know there are fish. Sometimes I’ll come to a pool or run and have a number in mind “I should catch 5 fish out of here.” I think about my favorite stretches and how many casts I make knowing there are fish to be caught. I try to give new water the same respect.
5. Go More Than Once – This is counter intuitive to my earlier point “if I don’t want to waste a day fishing why would I want to waste two?” As a fly fisherman I know I can go from hero to zero (and back) from day to day. My favorite piece of water today is one I wrote off initially as frog water before rediscovering it several months later.