The nymphing was good. Although trout ignored caddis on top, they were eager underneath, darting and swirling in multiple levels of the water column. An occasional wild brown trout broke the surface, but Dad and I knew better than to switch to dries. The rise forms were nothing more than the backs of trout poking through the surface after taking emergers a few inches underneath. It was a fun morning.
I stood midstream, watching rays of scattered sunlight highlighting a haze of pollen from budding plants. They’d finally found enough warmth to make a break for it in this late spring season, and the air had the sweet smell of blossoms, mixed with damp earth.
After a few perfect(ish) drifts in likely water with no takers, I brought in my line, clipped the tippet and adjusted, creating the tag for my upper nymph a foot higher than it had been. As the trout grew more active, it seemed their swirls of activity were happening higher in the column.
I tied the knots and watched Dad fishing thirty yards upstream. A few good drifts, and Dad set the hook among the dancing caddis. But the hook found a rock underneath rather than any trout’s jaw. He waded a few steps upstream to get the rod tip ahead of the flies and then pulled. The flies popped out, followed the flexing rod tip and landed in a leafless tree limb. Dad’s frustration showed as he now tugged the rod tip back down toward the water. A few pulls later, two nymphs and a Dorsey yarn indicator wrapped around Dad’s rod tip and fouled up.
From his shaking head and dropped shoulders, I could tell Dad was into one hell of a mess.
He walked the rod back to the bank, laid the reel on a stone, peered through his glasses and started working on the muddle of line and tangled flies. I kept fishing but was distracted enough by Dad’s struggles that I lost track of my goals. Five minutes later Dad hadn’t moved, so I waded upstream to meet him.
“I know, I know,” he said as I approached. “I should just cut the whole thing off and start over. But I almost have it.”
Dad tugged on a dangling piece of line among the swirled mess of tippet. I walked up to him with my nippers in hand, grabbed the first nymph and clipped it off. As he began to protest, I clipped off the second nymph, then slid the Dorsey and rubber band away from the line, storing each of them in the working box attached to my vest.
“Hey, come on, Dom,” Dad objected. “I said I almost had it.” But when I unraveled the line, tied the flies back on and reattached the Dorsey in about a minute, Dad nodded.
“Crazy how you do that so easily,” he chuckled.
But that’s what he always says.
I see this all the time, and 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.
Snip off the flies. Remove any split shot, and take off the indy, if one is attached. Get everything off the line, leader and tippet, and it all works free pretty easily — usually. Fluorocarbon especially seems to have a magical ability to unravel in the face of even the nastiest mess, once all the attachments are removed.
It works. I promise. It saves material and time. Lots of it.
Tie the flies back on with a Davy and wade back into the flow to fish among those dancing caddis.
Fish hard, friends.
Enjoy the day.
T R O U T B I T T E N