Search Month: March 2019

Fighting Big Fish — Work with a trout and not against it

Day six on the water. Given the timing (end of March, pleasant weather) and considering the tendencies of cabin fever fishermen, I knew I should think outside the box to find any solitude. So I managed a pre-dawn alarm, and I brewed strong black coffee to open my eyes, to kick-start some motivation at the chemical level. Meat on bread, water bottles filled, rods loaded, truck packed, garage door up and headlights burning into the dark morning, I set out on a Saturday adventure. Within forty minutes of the ringing alarm, I crested the second of three mountains. And on the other side, I saw the first sliver of sunrise from the east.

. . . After the initial surge and downstream run, my big trout turned. He was forty feet below me and angled to the far bank. I was in no position to wade much further without going for a swim, but I needed the trout above my position — upstream — so I could finish the fight and land him quickly. At the critical moment when he slowed, my trout and I worked out an agreement . . .


Just after one-o-clock, I glanced up from my notebook and saw the rhythmic taillights of a small USPS Jeep outside my studio window. Its red lamps brightened and dimmed rhythmically through a misting rain and a spring fog which the afternoon couldn’t shake off. The mail carrier stopped at each mailbox, and the lights pulsed, all the way down the long hill of my cul-de-sac.

I typed but a few more words before I remembered — Sawyer’s line should arrive today!

Moments later I jogged down the hill of my driveway with untied boot laces. I pulled up the hood of my sweatshirt just before exiting the carport and aimed for the mailbox with the excitement of a kid at Christmas.

And there it was. Mixed in with a few articles of junk mail and a bank statement, I found a small standard-white envelope which Sawyer had addressed as such: Domenick Swentosky, Esquire (a long-running inside joke that the mailman unlikely found amusing). On the way up the driveway I fingered the circular wraps of monofilament underneath stiff envelope paper . . .

Streamer Presentations — The Endless Retrieve

. . . Remember that Mark taught me to keep the streamer moving downstream at one pace, without pause. Now think about the way you fish a streamer. You strip it, right? Strip, strip, jerk, strip, strip, jig, strip.

And at the end of every strip, there’s a pause when you let go of the line and re-grasp it further ahead (preparing for the next strip). That pause, and the look that it gives the streamer, is completely different than what Mark showed me at fourteen years old.

Like anything else in fishing, you can get the tactic pretty close and have some success, or you can dig deep into the details, refine it and triple your production . . .

Upper Honey

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

You gear up, lock the truck and hike down the ravine. Following the path of a shallow ditch, you enter the water where the spring-seep trickles in, and you cross the river where it’s wide and shallow. On the far side, you navigate over a maze of zig-zagging deer trails and around fallen timber for about a half mile. You climb the hillside to the railroad tracks and walk another quarter mile, scanning the river below for the spot — the one you and your fishing buddies refer to as Upper Honey.

In the off season like this, there are no leaves on the trees, and you can usually spot the ancient sycamore teetering bank-side, leaning about thirty degrees over, patiently waiting, month after month, year after year, for the day when it slips the bonds of its streamside earth and crashes into the water.

And oh my, those roots. Underneath the massive sycamore sits an exposed tangle of underground limbs — wet, flexible pipes as thick as your leg, with a shadowy cover where no sunlight penetrates . . .

The Boat

The Boat

It was constructed by four muscular hands over two days and with one purpose — to float. Built to the specs of intricate line drawings printed on rough paper, the boat came to match the blueprints ordered from an ad in the back of a Popular Science magazine.

The builders used it for two seasons, and then it sat. The boat collected rain and bred microscopic life, providing food for mosquitoes and midge larva which hatched in their own time and fed the swallows nesting in the rafters of a nearby farmhouse turned post-war residence.

Year after year the boat sat, unused, lonely and forgotten.

Then it was sold — bartered actually — for enough groceries to fill one large brown bag. The hands of a builder passed ownership to the hands of a fisherman, having his own purposes for a boat . . .

Seven Different Ways On A Mono Rig

Seven Different Ways On A Mono Rig

I took my new friend, Marc, out on the water today for a guided trip. We were focused on dialing in long line techniques and enjoying a day on the river. The trout were cooperative, but the day was challenging. And that’s a great combination for someone like Marc. Because every new condition required another adjustment, another approach, and sometimes new tactics that Marc was more than eager to employ. Every change yielded results (trout in the net) almost immediately. And at the end of the day, on the long walk out, we realized that we’d caught trout in seven different ways on the Mono Rig. Fun times.

Here are the seven ways . . .

Learn to Love Rigging

Learn to Love Rigging

There are precious few situations where one leader setup does the trick all day long. And taking the middle of the road approach leaves you average at both ends.

Take the time to make the changes.

Use the moments while tying knots for breathing a little deeper — for reflecting a little on where you are. Because trout take us into some amazing places. Look up at the swaying hemlock boughs as you make those five turns in a blood knot. See things and enjoy them. That kind of time is not wasted . . .

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

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

I’ve often said that my best strategy for catching a big 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 lot 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 . . .

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