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 that 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.

READ: Troubitten | Tight Line Nymphing With an Indicator 

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 trout give chase. Then I went home, in time for the yellow bus.

I like fishing this 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.

** Donate ** If you enjoy this article, please consider a donation. Your support is what keeps this Troutbitten project funded. Scroll below to find the Donate Button. And thank you.

 

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 700+ 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

Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #43 — Two Ways to Recover Slack

Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #43 — Two Ways to Recover Slack

Much of what we learn about fly fishing comes from instinct. Fishing, after all, is not that complicated. It does not take a special set of talents or years of study to figure most of this out for yourself. It just takes a tuned in, heads up approach out there on the water, and a good bit of want-to.

There are two ways to recover slack after the cast: stripping in line or lifting/moving the rod tip. Use both at the right times . . .

Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #42 — Work into the Prime Spots

Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #42 — Work into the Prime Spots

The trout were on. They started with nymphs, but as soon as the emerging tan caddis popped to the surface, a green summer morning turned into something special.

Steve was the first to switch to dry flies. Around 9:30 a.m. I leapfrogged his position again and stopped to visit for a moment. Steve spoke as I approached.

“Man, these are the days you dream about,” he said while casting.

Standing in the creek, not far off the bank, he glanced over his left shoulder in my direction, judging the length of his fly line against the back casting space I’d left him. And I continued wading closer to my friend in the ankle-deep water.

“You switched to dries?” I used the statement as a question . . .

Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #41 — Face Upstream

Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #41 — Face Upstream

I’m not sure why, but it seems to be part of an angler’s DNA to face the stream sideways. Some guy with a rod walks up to the creek, faces the opposite bank and watches the water flow from left to right. He casts up and across and drifts the fly / bait / lure until it’s down and across from his position. Everyone does it. Repeat ad infinitum and catch a fish once in a while. To catch more trout, face upstream.

Most of this applies to dead drifting things to a fish, which if you’re fishing for trout, is arguably the most effective and consistent way to put fish in the bag. Dries and nymphs (and often wet flies and streamers) are most useful when delivered upstream and allowed to drift along with the current, without much influence from the line and leader that carries it. The dead drift is the first and most basic lesson of Fly Fishing 101.

And the easiest way to get that dead drift happening is to face upstream . . .

Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #40 — The Trout is Upstream of the Rise

Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #40 — The Trout is Upstream of the Rise

Anglers love to talk about trout rise forms. There’s the subtle sip and the tail tip, the splashy swirl and the sideways swipe. Surely, all the various ways trout rise to the surface indicates something about what they’re actually feeding on. But regardless of the rise form, one primary rule (usually) applies: The trout is holding upstream of where you saw it rise.

Let’s imagine a trout holding in two feet of water with a medium current — a speed that matches a comfortable and casual walking pace. The trout lies on the bottom, with its nose in the flow, watching for available food drifting downstream toward it. Perhaps the trout is keying on Sulfur mayfly duns, and it’s rising confidently to most of the half-inch, yellowish insects that drift into view of its seam.

Here comes the next dun . . .

Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #39 — Look Upstream to Find the Seams

Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #39 — Look Upstream to Find the Seams

The river is in motion. It carves a path that erodes its rocky bottom and gnaws at its bordering banks. It cuts lanes and moves channels, constantly shaping the valley into something new. And within the river’s path is structure — all the things that give a river character: logs, tree parts, rocks, boulders, gravel bars and rootsy banks. That structure forms seams where trout live. (Find the seams and you’ll find fish.) And the best way to see them . . . is to look way upstream.

The structure in your favorite large river or small brookie stream creates seams extending well beyond what is obvious. The two distinct lanes running along each side of a midstream boulder create a third zone, a stall, right in the middle. It’s easy to see those three water features up close to the rock, but the further downstream the water travels, the more those features fade and blend into each other. And such is the beauty of a trout stream.

Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #38 — The Fly Line and Leader Need a Target

Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #38 — The Fly Line and Leader Need a Target

Look at the water. Your target is two feet on this side of a current seam that’s drawn downstream from the tip of a gravel bar. Three trout are steadily rising within casting distance, lined up and distributed in the riffly, bubbly seam. Golden noses poke through the surface and slurp Blue Winged Olive duns without reservation, with early-season, confident rises and none of the skittish hesitation that you’ll see in a month or two. It’s as if a long winter erased the trout’s memory of all present dangers — of anglers and shadowy herons.

Yes, these trout should be (almost) easy. Your leader is well designed, tapered to a long soft piece of 5X nylon. Your position is downstream. Behind the trout’s vision and just off to the side, you stand in ankle deep water on the soft, inside part of the seam. You mentally process the targets and plan to pick off the most rearward riser because he’s closest to your position. And with luck, you’ll hook him on the first few casts. You’ll set the hook and use his upward momentum to pull him sideways and downstream, away from the top two risers. The other trout will be undisturbed — hopefully.

What do you think?

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

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

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

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