That’s Not An Olive

by | Feb 6, 2019 | 19 comments

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.

I met Jason in the parking lot of the most popular trout spot in this region — no sense giving up locations to a stranger. And as soon as we hit the water, I knew I’d made a mistake. Jason front-ended me about a half hour in. He’d started by telling me to take the water above him (as if it was his decision). And maybe he got restless when I landed a few fish. So before he stepped in upstream of me, close enough to spook every trout between us, Jason stopped to ask what fly they were “keyed in on.”

“Just a Pheasant Tail,” I replied. Then I watched him cut me off, and I wondered what to do next.

READ: Troutbitten | Front-Ended: Can We Stop Doing This to Each Other?

The creek was less than forty feet wide — really not the kind of place to fish behind another angler. So I shifted my focus to a thin strip on the opposite bank , a quick and shadowy seam perfect for tightlining. I missed a trout, but then nothing happened for a while.

I guess I’ve fished long enough not to let things like this spoil a trip. So I had a good bank-sit and chewed on some sunflower seeds for a while. I listened as the wind and the trees mixed with the water on the rocks, and it sounded like the flanger in Jim Hendrix’s Axis: Bold As Love. So good. I also watched Jason blow up every bit of pocket water for the next one hundred yards upstream. He waded roughly, zigzagging and hitting every prime spot with a couple casts. So bad.

But about halfway before the bend, Jason started to pick up some fish. Although I already knew this guy would never become my best fishing buddy, I was happy for him. I can be happy for just about anyone with a trout on the end of their line. Jason released four or five small fish before he rounded the bend, out of sight.

Photo by Austin Dando

I walked the path back downstream toward the truck. Then I waded in well below where we had begun, and I started over.

An hour later I heard Jason’s voice bellowing before I saw him bang through the brush.

“Hey man! Hey! I got them keyed in on Blue Winged Olive nymphs.”

“Okay, nice.” I said.

As I gave a little nod and the best smile I could muster, Jason came barging through the water toward me. With the enthusiasm of a Labrador Retriever, he made waves in every direction. I stopped fishing and looked down to watch those waves ripple and rush past me before they bounced off the far bank.

When I looked up, Jason stood before me. His left hand was thrust in my direction with its thumb and forefinger pinched together, holding what to him was a little bit of magic.

“Blue! Winged! Olive!” Jason said, panting and a slightly out of breath. “They’re just hammerin’ it.”

I squinted at the fly and tilted my head curiously. The fly was nothing more than an over-sized fluorescent-orange bead on a wide gap hook, with a few thin tailing fibers and some dark thread — it was probably olive.

“Nice,” I nodded. “So they like the orange today? Good stuff.”

The bead made up seventy-five percent of the fly, so I thought it was fair to say the trout were taking the bead.

I continued. “I have some similar orange stuff that . . .”

“No man!” He interrupted. “It’s a Blue Winged Olive nymph. It has a thin profile. See?”

He pushed his fingers a little closer to my face. And I could tell he thought I was an idiot. I bit my tongue, edited my thoughts and came out with a better version of my next sentence.

“Cool, bud. How many trout?” I asked.

Jason seemed satisfied as he stepped back. Then he stood tall and motioned upstream proudly.

“Six,” he said. “And I lost a bunch too.” (As if that was good thing.)

I nodded again, and Jason hurried back to the stream bank. Then he said it again . . .

“I’m telling you, they’re really keyed in on my Olive nymph.”

I nodded again and stared back at him while casting and drifting my own Pheasant Tail in the water he’d just blown up.

“I’d give you one of these Olives,” Jason yelled back. “But I only have three left, man.”

As Jason disappeared through the brush again, my thoughts retaliated with their previous mood. So I said it out loud to myself, just to get it out . . .

“That’s not an Olive.”

About ten minutes later I bailed on Jason and didn’t even feel bad about it.

I texted him a bit later:

“Had to leave. Got hungry.”


Enjoy the day.
Domenick Swentosky



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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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  1. Oh yea! I know guys like that. That’s why I fish alone.

  2. Would you please draw a diagram of front-ending and other rules for rookies? I don’t want to be a bother to other anglers on the river, but it’s hard to visualize etiquette rules without help from a diagram.

    For example, “Don’t do this (Diagram A), do this instead (Diagram B).”

    • I am only speaking for myself here as Domenick has his own thoughts. What advice I give to new fly persons is before you approach a bank with other anglers fishing, try to get an idea of which direction they are moving, up or down stream. If I am picking pockets or fishing dries on top, I am probably moving up. If I am swinging or fishing streamers in general, I am probably moving down.
      The key is to not jump in front of someone fishing. I like to think of it as similar to a golf course. Everyone keeps moving same direction to hole, then onto the next hole. Allow enough space between to hit your shots without hitting into the group ahead. If you do jump in front of someone, be far enough away, and keep moving the same direction to stay out of their way. Especially not to spook the fish.
      Of course there are some who fish by staying put. Bounce out of the stream and around them on your way. It is always the best idea to ask someone, to fish near them if there is any doubt. Sure some grumpy people will not engage you or put you off. This rarely has happened to me. I have been on many crowded streams for trout, steelhead and salmon and using these techniques I can gauge the mood of people around me 90 percent of the time. When you are respectful and polite, I find most people on the stream behave friendly to strangers.

      • I agree, Richard. Like I tell my teenage boys all the time, my job as a parent really boils down to a handful of things, primary of which is, “don’t be an asshole.” That’s it. If you’re respectful and defferential on the stream, you can actually have good conversations. What I think is funny about such streamside interactions is that they are like spy vs. spy, cat-and-mouse; you greet each other, looking for imperceptible signs of whether your “adversary” is gonna blab, give up some info, or if you even want his intel.

        • Totally get it, if I know someone’s there I try to give wide berth, stay away from the river, hit a trail around them, and try not to be seen by them or the fish near them.

  3. Domenick, I think I understand why you wrote this now. Please re-post this prior to opening day.
    My best friend and I can fish shoulder to shoulder because he is left handed. Even the 2 of us can only fish that close for an hour at best.
    Thank you, Rick

  4. Being a beginner (9 months ) I’ll often just sit and watch anglers as they do their thing.keeping my comments and questions to a minimum.i do get asked-why I’m not putting in I tell them I’m watching and learning and nine out of 10 times thier very helpful.someday I might have the chance to tell someone it’s not an olive and help him or her out .just sayin. tight lines

  5. Life’s too short to fish with “Jason(s)”

  6. I’m guessing someone set you up on a blind “date” or set you on a mission of charity when hooking up with Jason. Or maybe you knew what you were doing and volunteered? Either way, lasting as long as you did, you’re a saint.

  7. The worlds made up of 2 kinds of people,selfish and selfless,we a choice gentleman

  8. We call that being “Tinked”. That is named after a dear friend’s name who unknowingly can mess up a good fishing place without knowing. I do apologize to people who get to close to me and inform them that I have a tendency to get a little wild on my casting (on purpose) and if I hook them in the ear that it was a mistake.

  9. Tact, diplomacy, and discretion, are wonderful attributes to keep in your fly vest. Your ‘friend’ has no idea how lucky he was to be fishing with you. If he’s truly a friend then you need to apply some subtle situational awareness lessons. If he’s not, then lose the subtlety and apply a 2×4.

  10. That Jason guy’s a tough person to fish with. Why didn’t you say anything, Domenick? I know it’s hard, and sometimes futile. If the person is a jerk, I most likely won’t say anything (because he/she won’t give a shit anyway). But if I think the person simply doesn’t know, then it’s more likely I’ll try to educate with something non-confrontational like “Some people might be upset if you jump in the water so close to them. I’m not gonna yell at you, but some people might,” or something passive like that, like I’m giving him a tip. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

    Speaking of golf (yes, there are many etiquette paralells), the very first time I was on a course I was using a pull cart. I pulled it across the green of a par 3, and the guys on the tee were yelling at me. I had no idea they were even yelling at me, much less what for. My dad, playing with me, clued me in. Maybe it’s easier to “confront” someone from 150 yards away than face-to-face, but it was effective. I never did that again.

  11. The reality is that Jason is like this in all aspects of his life, not just fishing. It’s hard to be friends with some people, but sometimes those people might have your back when you most need it.

  12. Just to play Devil’s advocate, and partly because my name is Jason (not THAT Jason), I will weigh in. I always strive to give other anglers room to fish. However some streams or stream sections (special regs) are simply very small. Have you ever fished the “run” (Boiling Springs outflow) on the Yellow Breeches? Or even the main stem special regs section at Allenberry? Neither of these waters will afford you the luxury of declaring all of the water within sight of you as your personal domain, and having another angler enter the water ahead of you and begin fishing the pool or run you intended to fish half an hour from now doesn’t justify a confrontation or even a dirty look, in my opinion. It’s simply the nature of such waters to only offer you if at all, one pool or run to yourself at a time. I have seen other anglers become darn irritable because someone entered a stretch of water 150 yards upstream from them. I have never felt entitled to have that large of a stream section to my own. As long as other anglers give me adequate room to get my drift on and don’t behave moronically, such as sloshing through the best water with all the grace of a drunken elephant, I don’t mind them. Life is short. Fish on and enjoy each opportunity.

    • Good points. I was thinking about special regs too, when I read this. They shrink the best water to the point where you can’t give a guy 100 yards leeway. I think you have a good mindset for it, Good Jason, and I would be glad to have cats like you fishing where I fish.

    • I totally agree with you Jason. The same can be said of entire streams during the hyped-up “super hatch” period. There’s literally not enough room with the number of anglers around to stay out of sight of others. That said, the rules of politeness and of respecting others’ angling space still apply, but the distances of that space need to shrink. That’s just the way it is during those time periods and you have to live with it, or find something else to do until the hatches are over. Walking farther from the parking area helps somewhat. Things go back to normal though once the big name hatches are over.


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