Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #17 — Pick One Water Type

by | Nov 19, 2017 | 2 comments

If the objective is to learn something while you’re on the stream, then focus on one kind of water — just nymph the riffles, for example. And if the objective is to catch the most fish, then be sure to choose a water type where trout are feeding. Either way, being aware and purposeful about what type of water you’re fishing can make all the difference.

More than anything, I enjoy wading upstream and fishing all of the river in front of me. Well, almost all of it — some of the water will never hold a trout, no matter how much I wish it could. So, really, I like to fish all the trout water in front of me — not just the prime stuff, but the B-water too; not just the riffles and runs, but the pools and flats. Anywhere that I expect to have a fair chance to hook a trout, I like to see if the river will produce.

Photo by Pat Burke

Change is work

But to make that happen, I need to adapt to the changes the river throws my way. I may go from tight line nymphing to suspension nymphing while working the middle and sides of a heavy run. I might switch over to a dry-dropper rig for the pool above, followed by a single dry fly near the head of the pool, picking off rising trout in the smooth glide. And as I work up into a braided island section, I may swap my rig out for a pair of streamers, just to poke and prod around the abundant woody banks and the accompanying shade from a distance. Fishing all the water requires a lot of work. I change and adapt leaders, cut tippet and tie on new flies, not to mention all the extra wading. But I like it.

I’m to the point where I enjoy the transition between styles. I remember streamside moments, years ago, when I felt like every fly change, every knot and leader adjustment, came with wasted time. But I don’t believe that anymore. I now think that I waste more time by not adapting, and so I’ve made peace with the expiring minutes as I clip monofilament, and I wrap and twist and pull to form the knots and make the adjustments.

So don’t change

Fishing all the water ahead of me is my favorite way to fish, but I don’t do it all the time. In fact, I probably don’t fish that way even half the time. Instead, I often stay with one rig for hours on end, and I skip all the water where that rig isn’t the best option. Here’s why.

When I learned to tight line nymph, when I was dialing in nymphing with the Mono Rig, I spent two or three years fishing only the pocket water, the riffles, or the runs. I ignored half the water on most rivers — I just walked up past it to the next run. Tight lining with the Mono Rig was working, and I wanted to learn all the nuances, to understand all the possibilities of one rig in the right water. So I made no time for flats and pools, no time for the deep, slow stuff. If my tight line rig didn’t fit the water type, I just moved on. And it really worked. Eventually I learned all the strengths and limitations of that rig. Then after a couple years, I shifted my focus to fishing with a suspender, and I spent years learning that system on the water that suited it best.

Photo by Ty Loomis

I’m not suggesting that you need to spend years doing just one thing. That’s certainly a great way to learn something completely, but most of us don’t have that kind of time on the water. However, setting aside a day, or even a long morning, to work with one rig in one water type, skipping over everything that isn’t a good match, really pays off.

READ: Troutbitten | One Thing at a Time

I still do this when my time on the water is limited. If I know I have just a couple hours before my boys get off the school bus, I like to use one rig, focus on a water type that suits it best, and jump over all the water that isn’t a good fit.

This one time . . .

Yesterday, I chose to do the old-school streamer thing, only near structure that bordered good riffles and pocket water. I guess I’ve fished long enough to understand that my choice of rig and location was a decent one, and I knew it gave me as good of a chance at fooling trout as anything else — probably better. So I stayed with the rig for two hours, caught a bunch of fish, and had a lot more give chase. Then I went home, in time for the yellow bus.

I like fishing that way because it makes decisions easy. I fish up through one section, then maybe I skip the next two sections and put in at the third because it matches my rig.

Honestly, one of the worst things you can do is to fish all the water ahead of you without adapting. For example, plowing ahead with light streamers in deep and heavy water, just because they worked in the tailout a half hour ago, is lazy. And it won’t work. It’s far better to jump to the next tailout and work that light pair of streamers, then move on to the next tailout, then the next and the next and . . .

Fish hard, friends.

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

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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.

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2 Comments

  1. Tip #17 is very intriguing. As a former bass fisherman, I am continually surprised how the idea of “pattern” fishing works on streams and rivers – especially or Brown trout.
    Large bass and large browns are similar in many ways. This tip is interesting because it hints at the idea of working up patterns for trout. Thanks again for going where no other trout bloggers have gone before.

    Reply
    • Cheers. That’s a cool compliment. I DO try to post about things that others may not cover.

      Reply

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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.

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