This week we’re excited to share some Guerrilla Fishing backcountry tips with backcountry expert Ryan Weaver.
Tell us a little about yourself and how you got into fishing?
My dad fished professionally for trout and bass when I was a kid and he taught me a lot over the years. We always fished in the rivers and lakes of Texas Hill County as kids, and he got me hooked on sea fishing when I was a teenager. We now professionally fish for bass in Gulf Coast tournaments and have just won our second IFA tournament since 2011.
I recently started an adventure travel company that offers adventure and exotic fishing trips to unusual places. One of the main benefits of owning Paragon Expeditions is that it allows me to travel quite a lot. I have fished all over the world, from Patagonia to Ghana and the remote Pacific coast of Nicaragua. I spend almost all my free time fishing in remote areas around the world.
What tactics do you use when fishing in the backcountry or in unfamiliar places?
First of all, I always try to study water in order to understand what I am working with. My approach always depends on the transparency and depth of the water. If I’m fishing in a muddy stream, I often slow down and focus on certain areas. I prefer nasty lures and flies when the water is colored and I often throw in a big topwater or popper to wreak havoc on the surface and hopefully initiate a bite.
For the most part, I try to avoid colorless water and focus on clear sections of the river. This is really where I thrive. I love using my eyes as a weapon, covering the water and catching fish. I call it “guerrilla fly fishing” because it’s all about stealth and mobility.
When looking for the perfect fishing spot, are there certain characteristics you look for?
“Fishing” zones vary greatly depending on the type of fish you are hunting and the particular body of water you are fishing in. Generally speaking, fish will stick to places where they can ambush prey, but also have some sort of structure nearby so they can evade potential predators.
If I’m fishing for big trout or smallmouth, I always look for an area with small, deep pockets with structure and close access to moving water.
On the other hand, largemouth bass, pike and a number of other species often prefer slower water, so you really need to know in advance what you are targeting and how this species behaves.
What precautions do you take when fishing in the backcountry?
No matter where you are, there are always some dangers if you are fishing in the backcountry. Large rattlesnakes swam up to my kayak, and I came across 100-pound mountain lions while trekking along the outlying cliffs. Needless to say, there are many potential dangers in the backcountry and I always try to be careful.
I always have a lot of water and a first aid kit in my backpack. If I’m fishing in the mountains, I carry a can of bear spray with me in case I get between a large female and her calf.
Could you tell me a bit about your “guerrilla approach” to fly fishing?
In combat, the guerrilla is stealthy, stealthy, and extremely mobile. I use the same “guerilla tactics” when fly fishing when I’m in a stream or river with clear water. Armed with state-of-the-art polarized glasses, I walk along the riverbank, keeping my eyes on the water until I find a fish.
In clear waters, fish know that predators of all kinds are constantly chasing them, so staying undetected is essential to being an effective angler. Whether you’re catching 24″ cutthroats deep in the Teton Wilderness or ferocious smallmouthers in the backcountry of the Devils River, stealth is key. Often I climb to the top of the ledge, keeping my eyes on the water, studying the current and looking for whirlpools and bays where fish can ambush prey.
Also read: Fishing in Kamchatka: A Story of Beautiful Fish and Hungry Bears
As soon as I see a fish worth targeting, I drop to the ground to make sure no one sees me while still keeping an eye on the fish. Then I plan my next maneuver. If I’m fly fishing and I’m surrounded by bushes and thickets, often the most strategic approach is to just wait and see if the fish move to a better casting position. On the other hand, if the fish are hunting in shallow water, it is best to catch the fly in the water as soon as possible while the fish are within reach.
This guerilla fishing tactic is effective on almost any clean water vapor for almost any kind of game fish. Remember that your eyes are your greatest weapon, so be sure to buy a good pair of polarized glasses before heading out into the wild. You are a cripple without them.
Do you take a different approach or change your fishing style when you hunt monsters?
Many times I have specifically used the guerrilla approach to hunt trophy fish. On trophy hunts, I traverse the river for miles, often avoiding countless smaller fish, and sometimes going for hours without casting a single one. However, perseverance pays off and I almost always run into big fish sooner or later.
When I spot a trophy, I am often very secretive and try not to be noticed. There is nothing worse than spending hours hiking and failing when you finally hit the trophy.
It is also important to remember about the fly. While dry flies and poppers can be a more elegant and sophisticated way of catching fish, guerilla fishermen know that streamers are the most effective weapon if you want to catch trophy fish. And size matters. Big fish love big flies, so I often throw in meat whistles and big hairy bugs. A good friend of mine has caught 25 species of fish to imitate a mouse. If you are stealthy and make a good cast with a formidable object, the fish are more likely to inhale it, no matter how cute the fly looks. I’ve even heard stories of fly fishermen tamponing huge pike in the Northwest Territories.