Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #3 — Fish New Waters

by | Aug 13, 2017 | 5 comments

I’m a wanderer. On the water, I’d rather explore a new section of river than visit a familiar one — almost always. There’s excitement and an expectation of the unknown in and around every trout stream. I’ve found too many remarkable things around the bend to expect anything otherwise. Waterfalls, broken bridges, beaver dams, rock slides and huge trout in small waters. All of this I’ve seen because I kept walking, because I kept wading and fishing beyond what’s familiar, beyond what is already known.

On many of these local watersheds, I have, at one point in time, covered every open section of water from the mouth to the headwaters, and I’ve reveled in the discovery of each new pocket and riffle. I’ve learned to savor the search of what lies around the bend, because eventually you get to the last bend, the last legal access, or the last good island. And then there’s nothing new left on the water. That can be a somber moment. — “The Last Good Island.” Troutbitten (2014)

Within a two hour drive of my home there are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of miles of trout water. Some of the rivers are full of big wild trout, and some harbor only a few dinks, but I’ve never been disappointed by exploring new water. The adventure is addicting — the planning, the wonderings, the plotting and (sometimes) the payoff.

Likewise, there’s a satisfaction in attaining another piece of the puzzle — the giant map you can feel inside you, where all wild trout within striking distance are waiting in cool, unbroken water, just living, breathing the river, feeding, growing.

Those are the ethereal reasons for fishing new waters — because it’s good for the soul and for an adventurous spirit. Exploration quenches the curiosity of human nature.

But there’s an alternate reason for fishing new waters too, one that’s a little more tangible. When we fish new water, we learn new things.

With every mile absorbed we have some idea what mysteries the river may hold, not only in that stretch of water, but above and below it as well.

And when we explore unknown water, we face a new set of challenges: deep sections with fast flows pushing our flies out of the zone, bouldered runs with endless snags, flat and calm stretches with spooky trout cruising and judging our best offerings under a glassy ceiling.

New water forces us to use fresh tactics, to adapt, to think and solve the riddles of a trout stream.

Rarely do I catch as many trout when fishing new waters as I do when casting into my old haunts. But I always return as a better angler, with more data that my fishing brain chews into bite-sized bits that make some sense, fitting and mating them together with thoughts and theories about rivers and fish, ready for the next time.

Photo by Austin Dando

So you know what’s coming next, right? Because fishing is full of dichotomy, next Monday’s tip #4 of fifty is about fishing familiar waters until you know every angle and inside seam from the outside lane — because that’s great too.

Enjoy the day.
Domenick Swentosky
T R O U T B I T T E N
domenick@troutbitten.com

Share This Article . . .

Since 2014 and 600 articles deep
Troutbitten is a free resource for all anglers
Your support is greatly appreciated

– Explore These Post Tags –

Domenick Swentosky

Central Pennsylvania

Hi. I’m a father of two young boys, a husband, author, fly fishing guide and a musician. I fish for wild brown trout in the cool limestone waters of Central Pennsylvania year round. This is my home, and I love it. Friends. Family. And the river.

More from this Category

The Nine Essential Skills for Tight Line and Euro Nymphing

The Nine Essential Skills for Tight Line and Euro Nymphing

Here’s an overview of the essential skills for tight line and euro nymphing. A good grasp and facility for these techniques prepares an angler for all the variations available on a tight line.

These skills are best learned in order, as none of them can be performed without the ones that precede it. So too, these are the steps taken in a single cast and drift, from beginning to end . . .

The Fundamental Mistake of Tight Line and Euro Nymphing Anglers

The Fundamental Mistake of Tight Line and Euro Nymphing Anglers

The critical tight liner’s skills must be learned up close before they can ever be performed at distance. There are no shortcuts.

Your next time out with a tight line, be mindful of your casting distance. Stay within two rod lengths and find a rhythm. If you feel like you have to fish further away, then you’re in the wrong water. Relocate, get close, and perfect your short game. Even for advanced anglers who can stick the landing at thirty-five feet, if the action is slow, fishing short is almost always the best solution. Get back to the basics and refine them . . .

Never Blame the Fish

Never Blame the Fish

When everything you expect to work produces nothing, don’t blame the fish. Think more. Try harder.

When your good drifts still leave the net empty, then don’t settle for good. Make things perfect. Never blame the fish . . .

Fighting Big Fish With Side Pressure — Not With the Rod Tip Up

Fighting Big Fish With Side Pressure — Not With the Rod Tip Up

Side pressure pulls the trout from its lane. While the fish faces the current and tries to hold a seam, side pressure moves that trout from its comfort zone and forces it to work against the force of our bent fly rod — all while keeping the trout low. And while we never want to play a trout to exhaustion, the art of a good trout fight is in taking them to the point where we have more control over their body than they do.

You Already Fished That

You Already Fished That

If you’re committed to working a section of river, then once you’ve done your job in one lane, trust what the trout tell you. Don’t re-fish it, and don’t let the next cast drift down into the same spot again either. Sure the water looks good, and that’s why you fished it in the first place. But you’ve already covered it. So let it go, and focus on the next target. Trust the next opportunity . . .

Natural vs Attractive Presentations

Natural vs Attractive Presentations

. . . Let’s call it natural if the fly is doing something the trout are used to seeing. If the fly looks like what a trout watches day after day and hour after hour — if the fly is doing something expected — that’s a natural presentation.

By contrast, let’s call it attractive if the fly deviates from the expected norm. Like any other animal in the wild, trout know their environment. They understand what the aquatic insects and the baitfish around them are capable of. They know the habits of mayflies and midges, of caddis, stones, black nosed dace and sculpins. And just as an eagle realizes that a woodland rabbit will never fly, a trout knows that a sculpin cannot hover near the top of the water column with its nose into heavy current . . .

What do you think?

Be part of the Troutbitten community of ideas.
Be helpful. And be nice.

5 Comments

  1. Domenick, I agree 100%. Exploring is the best part. Discovering and seeing new wild water for the first time has a sense of wonder on it’s own. Then fishing it successfully is like a test of one’s skill. Excellent fun. But, as you said — you learn so much more pushing the boundaries. Great tip. Can’t wait to read more on your series.

    Reply
  2. Yes! I started exploring some new waters this summer and I definitely learned a great deal. There’s something special about seeing a place for the first time and the calculus of figuring out where the fish might be and how to catch them. Great tip!.

    Reply
  3. Domenick, thanks for your advice to try out new waters to fish in and explore sometimes! I like how you said that that may bring up new challenges and difficulties, but it also allows you to learn new tactics and strategies to use while participating in this recreational sport. My husband and his brothers love fly fishing, and we are looking into outfitters for them to get prepared. Thanks for the tips; they will love them!

    Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent Articles

Recent Posts

Domenick Swentosky

Central Pennsylvania

Hi. I’m a father of two young boys, a husband, author, fly fishing guide and a musician. I fish for wild brown trout in the cool limestone waters of Central Pennsylvania year round. This is my home, and I love it. Friends. Family. And the river.

Pin It on Pinterest