Search Month: February 2019

Save the Discovery

Burke had been traveling.

North, south, east or west I cannot share because I’ve been sworn to secrecy. You see, the best river spots are enhanced by our conviction of their rarity, believing that they are special enough to be protected, even if they aren’t all that far off the radar.

Week after week, Burke had returned with stories of catching large brown trout and the photos to prove it. Not club fish, because he wouldn’t bother with those. And not private water with trout fed from the banks and kept like zoo animals. That wasn’t our game. Ours was the unremitting chase of wild brown trout, and perhaps a fundamental urge for discovery . . .

Troutbitten Fly Box — The Jiggy Streamers

With the Jiggy tied in, I quickly learned that nothing rides the bottom of the river like a ball jig. It bounces, canters, pivots and tap dances around rocks and gravel like nothing else. The ball itself is the key. It allows for some very unique presentations and movements. And when you really want to hug the bottom, you can set up your rig to feel those taps, as the Jiggy glides and scratches along the river bed.

That’s not to suggest that I constantly present a Jiggy deep down and glued to the rocks. Not at all. But when I do want to touch the bottom, to feel the rocks, hold a position or reach into the depths with precision, a Jiggy is the perfect vehicle. That is the key. That’s the special sauce of the Jiggy . . .

These Hooks Bend Out

Competition hooks are most often designed with penetration as the primary goal. When you’re scoring fish, one nine-inch trout can put you at the top of the leader board, (I think that’s what they call it). So super-sharp hooks with wide gaps and long points are the norm. While the standard nymph hook for many years has been 1X or 2X strong wire, competition style hooks are most often designed with medium or even light wire, under the belief that thinner wire penetrates easier. Of course it does. But oh my, the difference is slight. And the trade off is not worth it (for me).

That lighter wire is where the cheaper companies get into problems . . .

Fly Fishing in the Winter — The Secondary Nymphing Rig

Every winter our rivers go through changes, and the trout follow suit. Regardless of how much water flows between the banks, I encounter a predictable slowdown in trout response at some point. Call it a lack of trout enthusiasm. Or call it hunkering down and waiting for warmer water. However you look at it, the trout just don’t move as far to eat a fly.

For some, the solution is a streamer — to go bigger. Get the trout’s attention and add some motivation to peel itself from the river bed and move to a fly. It works — sometimes. (everything works sometimes.) But just as often you’re left with an empty net and more questions than answers. I do love fishing streamers in the winter though. I use it as a chance to build body heat, to warm up by walking and covering more water. But my standard approach is a highly targeted pair of nymphs, right in the trout’s window. Served up just right, you can almost force-feed a trout that didn’t even know he was hungry.

Troutbitten Fly Box — The Jiggy Streamers

Troutbitten Fly Box — The Jiggy Streamers

With the Jiggy tied in, I quickly learned that nothing rides the bottom of the river like a ball jig. It bounces, canters, pivots and tap dances around rocks and gravel like nothing else. The ball itself is the key. It allows for some very unique presentations and movements. And when you really want to hug the bottom, you can set up your rig to feel those taps, as the Jiggy glides and scratches along the river bed.

That’s not to suggest that I constantly present a Jiggy deep down and glued to the rocks. Not at all. But when I do want to touch the bottom, to feel the rocks, hold a position or reach into the depths with precision, a Jiggy is the perfect vehicle. That is the key. That’s the special sauce of the Jiggy . . .

These Hooks Bend Out

These Hooks Bend Out

Competition hooks are most often designed with penetration as the primary goal. When you’re scoring fish, one nine-inch trout can put you at the top of the leader board, (I think that’s what they call it). So super-sharp hooks with wide gaps and long points are the norm. While the standard nymph hook for many years has been 1X or 2X strong wire, competition style hooks are most often designed with medium or even light wire, under the belief that thinner wire penetrates easier. Of course it does. But oh my, the difference is slight. And the trade off is not worth it (for me).

That lighter wire is where the cheaper companies get into problems . . .

Fly Fishing in the Winter — The Secondary Nymphing Rig

Fly Fishing in the Winter — The Secondary Nymphing Rig

Every winter our rivers go through changes, and the trout follow suit. Regardless of how much water flows between the banks, I encounter a predictable slowdown in trout response at some point. Call it a lack of trout enthusiasm. Or call it hunkering down and waiting for warmer water. However you look at it, the trout just don’t move as far to eat a fly.

For some, the solution is a streamer — to go bigger. Get the trout’s attention and add some motivation to peel itself from the river bed and move to a fly. It works — sometimes. (everything works sometimes.) But just as often you’re left with an empty net and more questions than answers. I do love fishing streamers in the winter though. I use it as a chance to build body heat, to warm up by walking and covering more water. But my standard approach is a highly targeted pair of nymphs, right in the trout’s window. Served up just right, you can almost force-feed a trout that didn’t even know he was hungry.

Mid-Season Form

Mid-Season Form

Sawyer isn’t afraid of the cold. He’s like a polar bear in waders — doesn’t even wear gloves on his paws. And I don’t get guys like this. I don’t understand where their warmth comes from. Is it a higher tolerance for pain or a motor that just runs hotter than most? Who knows, but Sawyer’s always up for anything, and he’s fun to fish with.

The first batch of winter roads had people a little skittish on Tuesday morning. Even the plows and salt trucks showed some unusual caution. Later in the season, they’ll be cutting close lines and motoring at top speed, plows laid flat, shooting sparks with bare steel on rock. Before long, they’ll be in a mid-season rhythm. But at 7:30 am on Tuesday morning, the highway traffic formed a line behind the yellow diesel beasts, and everyone unanimously and silently agreed to be a little extra careful. So I was late.

When I finally stepped out of line and steered left onto the winding creek side road, I was eager to accelerate. So I took my new freedom with some aggression, pushing snow with my 4-wheel drive and generally driving the way a ten-year-old boy rides a sled. You gotta love fresh snow . . .

Patience vs Persistence

Patience vs Persistence

A good angler doesn’t need patience. He needs persistence.

I forget who said this to me, and for that I apologize. But the message has endured. It’s a guiding theme for me, not just on the water, but in everyday life. The distinction between the two states of patience and persistence is a maxim that carries over, well beyond the river.

In some ways they are opposites. Patience is waiting for something to happen. And persistence is making something happen.

Over time, patience has been pinned to fishing, as if the two go hand in hand. And I think that’s a mistake. It’s an attached stigma that doesn’t fit — not for Troutbitten anglers, anyway . . .

Quick Tips: See beyond the sighter

Quick Tips: See beyond the sighter

New to tight lining? Then staring at the bright piece of colored line is a good place to start. But as soon as you gain some skills for reading the angle and speed of the sighter, when you can quickly gauge contact with your nymphs by glancing at the sag of the sighter, then it’s time to look ahead. Get to the next level.

. . . We do everything possible to improve the visibility of the sighter section in our leaders. We leave tag ends, add backing barrels and use super-bright opaque colored material. Good anglers also learn to fish from the best angles for visibility — usually with the sun or brightest light at their backs. So it’s easy to be mesmerized by those colors. And I think most nymph fishers catch themselves staring at the sighter too often, missing all the other available signals.

. . . What are those signals? Most of them are beyond the sighter — past the last visible piece of yellow, red, orange, etc. and into the water . . .

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The Big Rig: The Two Plus One — Two Nymphs and a Streamer

The Big Rig: The Two Plus One — Two Nymphs and a Streamer

Multi-fly rigs are nothing new. We pair one nymph with another all the time. Many of us fish two streamers, and most of us cast a dry fly with a nymph for the dropper once in awhile. But the pairing of a streamer and a nymph is less common. And maybe that’s because the typical presentations for each fly type are quite different — we tend to think we’re either streamer fishing or nymph fishing, but rarely both at the same time.

The Big Rig combines two nymphs and a streamer. With some minor leader adjustments and some outside-the-box thinking on tactics, you can kinda have it all . . .

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That’s Not An Olive

That’s Not An Olive

I’m guarded about my fishing partners. I always have been, I suppose, and I think that’s alright. I grew up fishing mostly by myself, and that’s still the way it usually turns out for me. Sure, I love hanging out with fishy friends before and after, but when we hit the stream, I’m usually the guy who takes off and says I’ll see you at lunchtime. But on occasion, all of that changes for a day . . .

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Three Styles of Dry Dropper

Three Styles of Dry Dropper

Adding a nymph to a dry fly rig produces, even if you don’t think much about how to set it up. But in my world, there are three distinct styles of dry dropper fishing. And within each of these types, the elements of fly, nymph and leader are arranged, balanced and modified toward unique objectives.

In most cases, adding a nymph affects the drift of the dry. Worse yet, the weight of the add-on nymph can take away the enjoyment of casting dries in the first place. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

And so, I argue, there are three styles of dry dropper fishing. And when I break it down for my guided clients this way, they fall in love with the idea because it makes sense. The angler first decides what elements are most important — not just for fooling fish, but for his own fishing enjoyment. He then chooses the style of dry dropper that suits the moment . . .

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Angler Types in Profile: The Numbers Guy

Angler Types in Profile: The Numbers Guy

I could barely make out the shape of a man fishing through the fog. A dense cloud hung over the water that morning, wrapping everything in a white shroud, and I felt water enter my lungs with every breath. Eventually, the rising sun punched holes through the white sheet, further decreasing visibility with mirrored reflections. Then within the next half hour, solar warmth provided enough heat to turn the big cloud into vapor. And as the fog dissipated over the river, Mike’s thin form came into view.

He moved like a machine in rhythm. He zigged and zagged across the pocket water, casting and catching, netting and releasing one trout after another. The machine paused to catch its breath only when Mike spent thirty seconds tying a knot. From my perspective downstream, it was perfection . . .

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