It's the end of a long day of hiking. You're sitting by a lake on a rock, your fishing rod in your hands. It's beautiful enough just enjoying the scenery and the quiet sounds of wildlife. Then it happens. A slight tug on the line. Then another. What do you do? Is it time to pull in the line? Or do you wait for another bite?
If you happen to be visiting a national park, you can usually buy a license that permits you to fish throughout the park. In some cases, nonresidents have to pay more for their fishing licenses than do residents. People caught fishing without a license may find themselves stopped by the local warden and slapped with hefty fines!
One of the easiest ways to find live bait is to buy worms or minnows at the local tackle shop. What if you forget or you're in the backcountry without bait? To find earthworms, uncover large rocks or logs and gently probe the earth underneath with a stick. Use a flashlight and look for them at night sliding through the grass.
First, you must be able to distinguish between a nibble and a bite. This is not always easy to do at first; it comes with time and practice. Imagine your line with your bait or lure at the end. If the fish just toys with it, without putting the whole thing in its mouth, that's a nibble. If you're using a bobber, it will dance up and down a bit, but it won't be pulled under the water. It usually takes one or two nibbles before the fish really tries to eat the bait or lure. Now, that's a bite-which feels like a more serious tug on the line. Usually, a bite pulls the bobber on your line all the way under the water. This is the time to pull the rod back and set the barb of the hook (the jagged part) into the fish's mouth. And timing is everything. If you don't set the hook at this time, it may fall out and the fish will get away. If you try to set the hook when the fish is merely nibbling, you'll just pull away the bait or lure, and possibly scare off the fish.
Just because you've got ultralight gear doesn't mean you have to catch ultralight fish. You can reel in lots of respectable-size fish if you know the secret: setting your drag on the reel. The drag is like a brake that controls the tautness of the line. If you set the drag for maximum tension, no matter how hard the line is pulled, it will not slip off the line spool. If you set the drag for minimum tension, it will slip a little. This is especially important when you're using ultralight gear with line that is only two- or three-pound test. If you set your drag to maximum tension, you risk breaking the line if a fish pulls hard on it. If you set it on minimum, the line will slip a little when the fish pulls, lowering its chance of actually breaking. Set the drag on your line before you begin fishing. When you buy your reel, ask a knowledgeable person at the store how to set the drag on your reel. Learn the joys of giving up a little line- and in return, getting back a fish!
Fish tend to be more plentiful just prior to rain because the low-pressure system in the atmosphere dislodges food from the bottoms of streams and lakes, letting it rise to the surface. Before it rains, the fish will come.
Even after you've set your drag, it's still not a great idea to reel in the fish right after you've set the hook. If the fish makes a mad dash for it and tries to escape, you still risk breaking your line. The best thing to do is to cut the fish a little slack. Reel in some line, let the line go, and then let it run a little, and then reel it in again. It may take a little longer to land it this way, but your patience will pay off. Learning this technique will permit you to catch fair-size game fish using just your ultralight gear.