Search Month: May 2019

Some days are diamonds — Some days are rocks

Austin and I left at dawn. We crossed the wide river at a tailout and entered a dense forest of hemlock and sycamore trees. Walking through dew and morning shadows, we quietly moved downstream toward a favorite, brushy island section for one final fishing trip.

Austin graduated from Penn State a few days before our trip last week, and he’s moving to North Carolina next week. And while many farewells are accompanied by a sincere “I’ll be back soon,” neither of us were willing to tell each other that lie. Sure, life may bring Austin back sooner than later, or ten years from now I may be talking about a good friend whom I miss and haven’t seen for a decade. It’s hard to predict.

I like that. A good life is unpredictable. If you have enough lines in the water, something unexpected is bound to happen. We might label those events good or bad, but I for one am happy for the variety. I’m glad this life is full of surprises.

How to Hold a Trout

You can’t stop fishermen from holding their trout. All of the Keep ‘Em Wet campaigns and the Ketchum Release tools will not stop anglers from reaching into the water and lifting their prize. It’s a desire to complete the act, to finish the catch, an instinct to hold the creature that we set out to capture.

And why wouldn’t we want to hold a wild trout — to touch the majesty of Mother Nature — to feel a fleeting, darting, irrefutably gorgeous animal and admire it, and to look upon that which eludes us so often and for so long? No, you’re not going to stop fishermen from holding their trout.

Instead, let’s spread the word about how to safely handle trout without harming them. What follows is a real world, riverside understanding of how to hold a trout, all from a fisherman who’s held a few trout, large and small . . .

Fly Fishing Tips: #54 — Don’t let a good bite teach bad habits

Fly fishing provides so much variety in presenting flies to a trout that a good and well-rounded fly angler can make something happen, even on the slowest days — usually. And so, we spend our time on the water learning and refining these various techniques with dry flies, nymphs, streamers and wets, waiting for the trout to turn on, but fishing always with persistence and hope flung into each cast.

I’ve been around enough long-term fishermen to understand one primary character trait — we all approach the water with an effort to learn. That’s what keeps things fresh year after year. That’s what keeps a man fishing from childhood to the grave. It’s not the trout, but the process of discovery, the perfection of tactics that will never be good enough to make a sure thing out of a day on the river.

Every angler finds moments when the fishing is easy, when seemingly any decent presentation of the fly brings a fish to hand. Even the most difficult rivers give up a good bite once in a while. And the easiest rivers, with eager trout, produce great bite windows that last for hours or even days. But what should we learn from that? . . .

Three Styles of Dry Dropper: #2 — Light Dry Dropper

Fishing a nymph under a dry is not as simple as looping on a nymph and casting. And some forethought into what your objectives truly are, measured against your options for rigging and fly selection, goes a long way toward filling the net with trout.

Do you want to fish the nymph or the dry? That’s the first question to ask. Of course, each style allows the opportunity to catch trout on both flies, but only the light dry dropper style is tuned in for good drifts on the dry.

While bobber dry dropper and tight line dry dropper are great for fishing the nymph first, light dry dropper is perfect for offering the dry as a primary choice. And sometimes, the frequency of takes on the nymph is stunning . . .

How to Hold a Trout

How to Hold a Trout

You can’t stop fishermen from holding their trout. All of the Keep ‘Em Wet campaigns and the Ketchum Release tools will not stop anglers from reaching into the water and lifting their prize. It’s a desire to complete the act, to finish the catch, an instinct to hold the creature that we set out to capture.

And why wouldn’t we want to hold a wild trout — to touch the majesty of Mother Nature — to feel a fleeting, darting, irrefutably gorgeous animal and admire it, and to look upon that which eludes us so often and for so long? No, you’re not going to stop fishermen from holding their trout.

Instead, let’s spread the word about how to safely handle trout without harming them. What follows is a real world, riverside understanding of how to hold a trout, all from a fisherman who’s held a few trout, large and small . . .

Fly Fishing Tips: #54 — Don’t let a good bite teach bad habits

Fly Fishing Tips: #54 — Don’t let a good bite teach bad habits

Fly fishing provides so much variety in presenting flies to a trout that a good and well-rounded fly angler can make something happen, even on the slowest days — usually. And so, we spend our time on the water learning and refining these various techniques with dry flies, nymphs, streamers and wets, waiting for the trout to turn on, but fishing always with persistence and hope flung into each cast.

I’ve been around enough long-term fishermen to understand one primary character trait — we all approach the water with an effort to learn. That’s what keeps things fresh year after year. That’s what keeps a man fishing from childhood to the grave. It’s not the trout, but the process of discovery, the perfection of tactics that will never be good enough to make a sure thing out of a day on the river.

Every angler finds moments when the fishing is easy, when seemingly any decent presentation of the fly brings a fish to hand. Even the most difficult rivers give up a good bite once in a while. And the easiest rivers, with eager trout, produce great bite windows that last for hours or even days. But what should we learn from that? . . .

Three Styles of Dry Dropper: #2 — Light Dry Dropper

Three Styles of Dry Dropper: #2 — Light Dry Dropper

Fishing a nymph under a dry is not as simple as looping on a nymph and casting. And some forethought into what your objectives truly are, measured against your options for rigging and fly selection, goes a long way toward filling the net with trout.

Do you want to fish the nymph or the dry? That’s the first question to ask. Of course, each style allows the opportunity to catch trout on both flies, but only the light dry dropper style is tuned in for good drifts on the dry.

While bobber dry dropper and tight line dry dropper are great for fishing the nymph first, light dry dropper is perfect for offering the dry as a primary choice. And sometimes, the frequency of takes on the nymph is stunning . . .

Fly Fishing Tips: #53 — Nymphing: Set On Anything Unusual

Fly Fishing Tips: #53 — Nymphing: Set On Anything Unusual

On a first drift through the lane, you may very well set on anything. But maybe that line hesitation was just the flies ticking the top of a rock. Good. Now you know.

Don’t set on anything. And don’t wait for a sixth sense to kick in and grant you the superpower of sensing trout takes. Instead, pick a lane and learn it. Use the nymph as a probe to draw a mental map of a specific lane. Refine the drift. And all the while, set on anything unusual.Let’s break it down real quick . . .

What about the wading staff? Thoughts on choosing and carrying a wading stick

What about the wading staff? Thoughts on choosing and carrying a wading stick

I always thought wading staffs were for the retired crew, something to lean on as you wait for the spinner fall — a third leg, when the left one has knee issues and the right one has had its hip replaced. However, one of the hardest-fishing guys I knew at the time was a guide on the Yough. Twenty-something, athletic and a strong wader, he carried a ski pole tethered to the bottom of his fishing pack, and he waded whitewater like a Grizzly bear.

So the day before our pre-dawn, westward departure to the Yough, I cut a wooden broom handle down to about four feet, zip tied a long-and-strong shoelace to the top and looped it to a carabiner on my wading belt.

I learned two things on that trip — a third leg makes you a faster wader and more efficient angler. And a broomstick makes a lousy wading staff . . .

Fly Fishing Tips: #52 — Clip it, unravel it and retie it

Fly Fishing Tips: #52 — Clip it, unravel it and retie it

It shocks me how many good fishermen think they’re saving time by untangling a maze of monofilament and flies. They use forceps and fingernails. Some even carry needles specifically for the job of picking out would-be knots.

Most guys see their options as a pair of choices: either cut off the whole thing and re-rig with new lengths of tippet, or try to salvage it all by spending enough time working the messy knots and tangles free.

But I promise you, there’s a third option. And it’s much better than the other two . . .

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The Dorsey Yarn Indicator — Everything you need to know and a little more

The Dorsey Yarn Indicator — Everything you need to know and a little more

The dark truth is that upgrading your fly fishing gear rarely catches you more fish. Rods, reels, fly lines, expensive tippet and overpriced hooks hardly improve your catch rate. And the marginal improvement you might see is probably a result of confidence and concentration rather than the performance of new gear.

The Dorsey yarn indy will catch you more fish.

Here are the details . . .

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Three Styles of Dry Dropper: #1 — Bobber Dry Dropper

Three Styles of Dry Dropper: #1 — Bobber Dry Dropper

Commonly, we find trout feeding on multiple stages of a hatching insect. And we easily adapt to this behavior with multi-fly rigs. A pair of nymphs or a brace of wets covers two or three zones under the water, reaching interested trout through the water column. And when both flies are under the surface, the rigging, casting and drifting is straightforward.

But mixing fly styles — fishing both a dry fly and nymph on the same line — requires a different mindset . . .

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Fly Fishing Tips: #51 — Limit the line in and on the water

Fly Fishing Tips: #51 — Limit the line in and on the water

Whatever line touches the river will drag. Start there. Assume it as reality. The currents take your leader, pushing and pulling it downstream. This wouldn’t be so bad if the current could be even all the way across, from bank to bank. But it isn’t. It never is. Even long flats and pools have microcurrents tugging on the leader and tippet, destroying all hopes of a dead drift and complicating the lives of fishermen . . .

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Let’s Rethink the Wading Belt

Let’s Rethink the Wading Belt

Seems to me, the last piece of gear many anglers think of is the wading belt. Often seen as an add-on, an accessory, or even unnecessary, some guys will tell you to tie a rope around your waist and be done with it. The wading belt provided with your new pair of waders perpetuates this notion. Every fresh box of breathables I’ve opened has a thin, flimsy belt thrown in as an afterthought. It’s good for helping you not drown as you go ass-over-tee-cups into the river, but not much else.

So I propose a rethinking of the wading belt. I treat mine as a utility belt — a place to carry heavier things. It’s an integrated part of my system for having everything I need right and ready at any moment, while keeping the weight and resulting fatigue of that gear to a minimum.

My belt system is designed for the wading angler who covers a lot of water, who walks away from the parking lot and hikes in a bit, who spends long hours pushing through heavy river currents and returns at dark. Of course, I don’t have the hours to fish like that all the time, but even on short trips, this wading belt system serves me well . . .

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