I know, I know. You don’t like to fish with indicators, right? You think an indy removes the angler from contact with the nymphs. You believe a fly fishing indicator actually gets in the way of strike detection more than it helps the situation. Granted, there are big problems with the way most fly fishermen use indicators. And I know a lot of anglers who refuse to attach them to a leader.
But I also know many more good anglers who see the value of indicators, who reach for an indy (or a dry-dropper rig) when a tight line nymphing presentation fails, who recognize that an indicator is an amazing and useful tool that extends our effective nymphing range, balances out a drift and helps keep the flies in one current seam.
I think a lot of anglers miss the finer points of the indy game. Good indicator nymphing (or dry-dropper fishing) is not just a chuck it and chance it affair. Instead, careful attention to the indy itself, reading the water vs the position and behavior of the indicator, is a necessary skill if the tactic is to be productive.
During our lunch, I asked George when and why he chooses to float the sighter.
We then talked about a mistaken perception about floating the sighter. An angler may think he’s able to suspend a heavier fly with a greased sighter, just because it doesn't sink under the surface. But the sighter may simply not be in touch with the flies. It’s an easy mistake to make.
Sunup to sundown.
There’s nothing as simple and yet so full of variation as a full day on the water. The diversity of situations challenges the will of a fisherman: Exhaustion from the forces of water -- its speed, its numbing cold, the pressure of its depth. Weariness from the weather -- the endless wind, the heavy rain, and the consuming heat of the sun. We soak in all the stages and moments that one single day brings, and we are alive through each one.
The best thing about fishing streamers is how different it is from everything else we do on a fly rod. Precision dead drifts? Delicate casting and thin tippets? Forget that. Slinging the big bugs is the antithesis against what the rest of fly fishing is all about. Or at least, it can be.
Everything works sometimes. We can present a streamer at almost any angle or speed and have a fair expectation to fool a trout. This makes sense because streamers imitate baitfish, creatures with an ability to move — to dart, dive and swim through the water. And they often do so unpredictably, just like our streamers.
But there’s a particular presentation that I’ve come to rely on more than any other, lately. It mimics a more available food form for trout, but it’s not a dead drift. The line and rod hand adjustments are subtle, but the presentation is active. It’s a bank or structure approach; it gets the trout’s attention. And it’s deadly.
I call it the slow-slide . . .
John and I always keep count. He’s the only fishing friend who can pull me into such a race, and I’m not sure why.
Like all fishermen do at some point, I used to keep count of my catch. I even roughly calculated my catch rate at the end of the day, like this:
“Let’s see, I fished for five hours, but I took a twenty minute break around lunch. Walk in time was fifteen minutes, so subtract that too. I caught twenty-six trout, but I COULD have caught those couple of trout that came unbuttoned if I was more careful, so let’s add those in and say thirty. Multiply, divide and there’s my catch rate.”
But I don’t do that anymore. I don’t like to compete against anything but the river and the trout. And I don’t mind losing on occasion. Loss is a wonderful teacher.
John baits me back into counting every time we fish together. And there’s no fuzzy catch-rate-math involved either — just straight up fish counting . . .
Halfway down the flat, on the fifty yard line and right where the players meet for a coin toss, a small unremarkable nymph tripped over a stone and then recovered. It danced deep into the belly of a bucket, home to the largest and baddest brown in the river, and it paused . . .
One swift tail kick and an angled fin propelled the trout a few inches to the side. The hooked jaw open, captured and closed . . .
I watched the line, waiting for some indication of a strike and intently expecting a fish to eat the nymph. Then at the end of the drift I looked away, scanning for my next target upstream. When I lifted the line for the backcast, I was surprised to find a trout on the line. He bounced off quickly because I never got good hook set.
That’s happened to you a hundred times too, right?
Nymphing is an art of the unseen, and no matter the material attachments we add to the line for visual aid of a strike, trout take our flies without us knowing about it — probably way more often than we can imagine.
That’s why it’s best to end every underwater drift with a hook set. Do this with nymphs and with streamers, at the end of every dead drift presentation, and you’ll find unexpected trout attached to your line. The short set also prepares the line and leader for your next backcast. Here's how . . .
This winter I’ll begin writing a book about the Mono Rig, compiling much of the material written here on Troutbitten, organizing it into a cohesive presentation and filling in the gaps. As I look ahead to that writing, I’ve been reading back through all the questions I’ve received about the Mono Rig. Many of the same queries pop up time and again.
This short series of articles separates those common questions into groups. All of these questions and answers will eventually make their way to a full FAQ section on the Mono Rig page.
This first article is about lines, rigging and skeptics: What lines? How long? How to change? And what should all this really be called anyway? . . .