“It will soon be possible to transmit wireless messages around the world so simply that any individual can carry and operate his own apparatus.” - Nikola Tesla, 1909
Tesla might have predicted the portable phone some 70 years before it’s time. But the brilliant physicist could never have imagined the extent to which it has evolved.
Since the introduction of the smartphone a decade ago, it has emerged as the Swiss Army Knife of electronics: a camera, camcorder, computer, dictaphone, GPS tracker, movie player and much more in one pocketable unit.
While fishing on a trout river out west, I observed one angler constantly playing with his phone.
Blame social networking. Now it’s all the craze to take a photo of you and the fish, upload it to Facebook, tag it with a location and write some details about your catch.
By the time all that is done, the morning is half-over and the fish have stopped biting.
But for some it’s not about catching numbers: It’s about sharing the experience. And smartphones make it happen with tremendous ease.
Smartphones are proving valuable to fly-fishers in many other ways. Whether it’s learning to cast a rod, tie a knot, tie a fly, plan a trip, identify a fish — the list goes on — it’s easy to look up tips.
With a smartphone, there are two ways to enter or get information. One is via a browser, the other is through an app.
When you click on a web page in a browser, it goes to the host for that site. The web server grabs data from a database and maps it to the screen format, and sends the mapped data to your phone.
With an app, the mapping software is already on your phone. The request simply gets the data from the host. For that reason, the app is more efficient.
In some cases, the app might cache (or store) the data on your phone. In other cases, the app might not even require getting data from the internet. That means those apps works anywhere, at any time.
The type of phone determines where you get your apps from. For example, Apple phones from the Apple store, Android phones from Google Playstore.
Many apps are free, but some have a nominal one-time cost to download.
Besides being more efficient and often having offline access, another advantage of an app is something called “push notification.” A severe weather alert to your phone is an example.
One disadvantage of an app is that it uses valuable storage space on your smartphone. Another is that many apps are simply links to web pages — they provide none of the added functionality a true app offers. In those cases, you’re better off bookmarking that website in your browser and going there.
One more caution about apps: Often you get what you pay for. Most free apps bombard you with ads or turn off the best features. For the small cost — usually $5 or less — I suggest going with the top-rated choices.
So what apps should the fly-angler consider loading to his or her smartphone?
For weather, the best apps have lightning or storm alerts based on your current location. The list includes weather.com and WeatherBug.
For saltwater trip planning, I like GPS Real Tide. It quickly loads tidal charts for various spots, either bookmarked or close to your current location.
When going for rainbow or brown trout, the Trout Stream GPS app comes in handy. It gives river information, fish regulations, access points and conditions for dozens of popular waters.
For keeping logs on your fishing trip, consider an app that allows you to post your smartphone pics along with the GPS location of where you are fishing.
If you participate in the Louisiana Marine Cooperative Tagging program (Tag Louisiana), there’s an app that allows you to post info on your tagged fish in real time.
Apps are not just for trip planning or logging, however; they also can help educate. For example, there are dozens of apps for knot tying and/or building leaders.
If you fish trout waters, the Virtual Flybox apps are like having an entomologist in your phone. It lists the types of insects specific to a river or region.
For fly tying, the current list of apps leaves much to be desired but it’s getting better. My favorite is the Fly Tying Bible series.
Beginners to our sport will greatly benefit from the Fly Casting Analyzer, which uses the accelerometer inside your Apple phone to help you mimic your casting stroke. It then records and graphs the results, allowing you to self-analyze your casting.
Finally, if you’re looking for an app that covers a lot of bases, it’s hard to beat Orvis Fly Fishing. This one includes a glossary of terms, instructional videos for casting, tying flies and knots.
And best of all, it’s free.