Fifty Tips Tips/Tactics

Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #7 — Choose lots of fish, or choose big fish — You can’t have both

September 10, 2017
I’ve often said that my best strategy for catching a big bad brown trout is to fool a bunch of trout, and one of them will be big. But I don’t believe that so completely anymore.

Let me say, right up front, that I have some friends who seem to accomplish high numbers and big fish in the same day all too often. My buddy, Matt Grobe, kinda tears it up out in Montana. But Matt’s always been a lucky bastard, so let’s just leave it at that.

In all honesty, Matt agrees with the premise that you can’t have both. I just checked. He said yes. So we have his blessing here to continue.

In the last five years I’ve shared the water with Burke a good bit too, and I’ve learned some strategies about big fish fishing. There are some truths, some guiding principles for targeting larger trout, and the list starts like this: #1: Stop trying to catch a bunch of fish.

You won’t find Meatheads in every river. Some waters just don’t have big trout. To find the ones that do, keep your ear to the ground, and you’ll hear the rumors. Most are true to some extent. When a river gains an established big fish reputation from fishermen (liars), you know it’s well earned. Yeah, your buddy can tell you a tall tale about a fish or two in some offbeat water, but when a reputation builds over time from skeptics and cheaters (fishermen), you know there’s something to it.

So … the hard part is next. Luckily, a good challenge is what gets most of us out there in the first place. It can take years to nail down a tactic, a special fly or two and a water type that consistently brings those big river fish to hand — and it’s not always articulated streamers. Time on the water (years, really) will eventually lead you to the keys for the biggest fish in the river. It’s usually different for each watershed, and that’s why God made so many rivers — just to piss you off.

If chasing big fish isn’t your game, good for you. Somehow, you’ve escaped the disease. Maybe you avoided it altogether, or maybe you dragged yourself from the depths of addiction and wanton sickness like a street junkie finding redemption. Either way, again, good for you.

I dare say that catching a lot of fish is an easier goal than catching big fish. The opportunities are more available, the rewards are more frequent, and you have more control over the outcome. I recommend visiting any Class A, highly populated wild trout river, stringing up the Mono Rig and tight lining the shit out of some pocket water. That’s a good place to start.

Whatever your goals, I wish you all the best. I do think it helps to understand what you’re aiming for and only then go after it.

Fish hard, friends.

Photo by Austin Dando

Enjoy the day.
Domenick Swentosky


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  1. Reply


    September 11, 2017

    Next logical question; in what kind of places do big fish live?

    • Reply

      Domenick Swentosky

      September 11, 2017

      Two things …

      They don’t live in every river.

      Structure. That’s not a novel idea, but it’s the truth. Prime lies always have some structure. It doesn’t have to be a log or a bank either. Sometimes it’s an unseen trench or a pothole in the riverbed.

  2. Reply

    Alex Argyros

    September 11, 2017

    Of course, “big” is relative. In a tiny brookie creek, a 12″ fish is a monster. On the Guadalupe, where I do most of my fishing, a 12″ trout is
    an annoyance.

  3. Reply

    Rick A

    September 12, 2017

    Fishaholic ?
    Cursed with the dreaded disease Bigger-fish-itis ?
    Try finding a cure for Steelhead Fever!

What do you think?

Domenick Swentosky

Hi. I'm a father of two young boys, a husband, writer, musician and fisherman. I fly 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.

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