Nobody Home | Nobody Hungry

by | May 24, 2020 | 13 comments

Steve fired one more pinpoint cast with his Sparrow to the edge of the seam, tucking it beyond the shade line and deftly driving enough slack upstream of the large dry fly to grant it the necessary freedom. Bobbing and weaving downstream, the Sparrow drifted for twelve feet. It was a damn fine cast, and I stood back to admire my friend’s proficiency. This was his third delivery, all with seemingly identical presentations, because Steve had a plan from the beginning. I noticed that he added a little curve at the end of the last cast to place the leader’s butt section parallel with the seam and gain another six inches of drift before drag set in. Artful stuff.

When the Sparrow skittered across the surface and into the sun, Steve drew a quick figure-eight in the air and finished with a lift of the rod tip that delivered his favorite dry fly directly to the palm of his hand. Another magic trick.

Steve turned to face me. I’d been watching from his off side — out of range for average casting angles. And now my friend grinned, shrugged and waded my way.

“Nobody home,” Steve said.

It was one of his favorite expressions about a river when a trout didn’t eat.

“Nobody hungry,” I countered.

We hit the riverbank, crossed the bridge and started a  walk that would lead us over crunchy gravel before turning to dirt and ending in overgrown brush.

“Either one,” my friend replied.

Photo by Bill Dell

Nobody?

So, is there a difference between nobody home and nobody hungry?

Sure there is.

And does it matter?

Sure it does.

Nobody home means there are no trout in the slot you were fishing. And sometimes that’s true.

I meet a lot of people who have trouble believing that trout are holding in the area they’ve chosen for the cast. I sympathize with that, because I’ve fished a lot of water over the years that held very few trout. But long ago, I learned one key trick to good fishing — believe in every cast. There’s no point throwing the fly until you’ve convinced yourself that a trout exists. (The fisherman is eternally hopeful.)

READ: Troutbitten | The Fisherman is Eternally Hopeful

Nobody hungry suggests that a trout might be in the slot but he either isn’t eating, isn’t buying what you’re selling, or he doesn’t like the way you are selling it.

I tend to believe that nobody hungry is more often true. Usually, I think that one or more trout see my fly on every drift, or I wouldn’t have put it there in the first place. (And, the fisherman is eternally hopeful.)

If you believe nobody is home, it makes good sense to move on and cover more water. Look for trout in other areas and test new waters. And if you believe nobody is hungry then you really have a few options. You can change flies, change presentations or move on to find trout that ARE hungry.

So which one is it? Nobody home or nobody hungry? I don’t know. It’s your river. But I wouldn’t assume one or the other without a real good reason.

Fish hard, friends.

 

** Donate ** If you enjoy this article, please consider a donation. Your support is what keeps this Troutbitten project funded. Scroll below to find the Donate Button. And thank you.

 

Enjoy the day.
Domenick Swentosky
T R O U T B I T T E N
domenick@troutbitten.com

 

Share This Article . . .

Since 2014 and 900+ articles deep
Troutbitten is a free resource for all anglers.
Your support is greatly appreciated.

– Explore These Post Tags –

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.

More from this Category

Fishing Alone

Fishing Alone

I swear I fish best when I’m alone. I can’t prove it without a witness, of course, but I guess I don’t care to verify it anyway . . . and that’s the point.

Fishing the mountains always granted me the serenity of simple thoughts, a soul laid bare to the open wilderness and a peace of mind. Then usually, that’s where I left it — somewhere alongside the rocks and flowing water . . .

Respect the spots, man!  | A fisherman’s thoughts on friendship and spot burning

Respect the spots, man! | A fisherman’s thoughts on friendship and spot burning

There are two ways to tell the experience of an angler: how he holds a fish and how he keeps his secrets. The latter is probably more important.

My secrets aren’t your secrets. The places and dreams that I find sacred and worthy of protection are likely much different than your own. Among good friends, though, the respect for another’s treasure is given. It’s hard to find a good fishing partner who yields to this tenet — to find a friend who will protect your secrets like his own — because secrets are a burden to carry, and most choose to shed that weight and give up a prize that isn’t theirs.

So we come to accept that holding secrets is a lonely affair, and that’s okay for me and the other introverts — of which I think the majority of the fishermen’s gene pool is comprised. It’s the damned extroverts that you have to be wary of. It’s the gregarious guy whose off-hand remarks about a river can sink the best of spots.

As most of us quickly realize, good fishing friends are hard to come by . . .

Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #8 — Use the Davy Knot — Here’s why

Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #8 — Use the Davy Knot — Here’s why

I hesitate to include the Davy Knot as a tip in this series. There are a bunch of good fishing knots out there. They all work. Everyone has their favorite, and no one wants to be told what to do.

So I won’t tell you to change to the Davy Knot. I’ll just show you why I use it and why I switched to the Davy after I first saw it tied.

I use the Davy Knot because it’s super quick to tie, it wastes no material, and it has a small profile that allows for more movement of the fly . . .

You stink — It’s the wader funk | A letter to a lonely friend

You stink — It’s the wader funk | A letter to a lonely friend

Dear fishing buddy,

I considered slinking away quietly from our fishing friendship. But I’ve decided to give you a chance by addressing the issue head on, because good friends are honest with each other. You smell like old sauerkraut and raw sewage. Whatever vile rot festers inside your waders has decayed down to a new level of repulsion.

The three words that best describe you are as follows, and I quote:
“Stink! Stank, stunk!” — Dr. Seuss (You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch) . . .

Hatch Matcher

Hatch Matcher

It was the summer before college — before the real world started, they said. Although, college life never proved to be anything like the rest of the world. I was working for a printing company, spending three hot months in a delivery truck, shuttling press orders to the docks and doorsteps of western Pennsylvania corporations.

As I drove repetitive miles across the Keystone state, I was most attentive in the valleys. From my tall perch behind the worn-out steering wheel, I peered over each bridge crossing, wondering and dreaming about trout. I knew of Western Pennsylvania’s struggles to harbor wild trout. I knew about its troubled past with acid mine drainage, but I’d seen marked improvement in water quality over my young life. And I’d explored enough to expect surprises — trout can be anywhere . . .

Where the Lines Are Drawn

Where the Lines Are Drawn

I’m fascinated by the arbitrary lines people create for themselves. Nowhere in life do I see the tendency to define and delineate so strongly as it’s seen in fishermen. Anglers constantly draw lines about how they fish, about what kind of fisherman they are, and more emphatically, what kind of fisherman they are not . . .

What do you think?

Be part of the Troutbitten community of ideas.
Be helpful. And be nice.

13 Comments

  1. What about nobody comfortable? Does a trout ever get “full” to the point of refusing to eat? Maybe, but probably only rarely on freestones I would guess? I have fished lies that looked too good to not give up a trout, especially with prime water temps and conditions. I have found that if I sit or kneel down to lower my profile and then rest the lie for five minutes (set a timer, the longest five minutes of your life) I can often get a fish on the next “1st” cast. This is assuming that your initial wading into position didn’t spook and scatter the entire pool in which case it takes a lot longer than five minutes. but sometimes even when you very carefully wade in the fish can still tell that something is slightly wrong and will get temporary lockjaw I have found in my experience.

    Reply
    • In his book Dry Fly: New Angles, Gary LaFontaine reveals this same advice as his 10th and final rule for a “stealthy” approach and presentation. He referred to it as, “Relaxing the trout” (to your presence); he claimed that the minimum wait time for a trout to realize that you are not a threat was 7 minutes after which they would resume feeding. Jives with your 5 minute rule. Many predators catch their prey by habituating, that is relaxing their next meal to what seems to be a non-threatening presence. Greg, this is seldom talked about concept regarding stealth, but a money comment if there ever was one!

      Reply
    • I like it, Greg. Good point. Stealth is another good topic.

      Cheers.
      Dom

      Reply
  2. That’s one of the beauties with waters well managed for sustaining wild trout. In some stocked waters overcoming Nobody Home makes us follow the stocking reports for Nobody Thinks trout. Bad habits and loss of confidence can result.

    Its awful. I’d rather travel to such waters in support of those fisheries and their towns but that’s just me.

    Sorry for the rant must be the house arrest…. Thanks for your great articles Dom!

    Reply
    • Excellent point, Dan. I too have trouble believing anybody is home in a lot of stocked waters.

      Dom

      Reply
  3. Even your short articles provoke some very deep thought! “The trout doesn’t like the way you are presenting it!” It seems like this would be the most plausible answer. As a guide and casting instructor, I often see the fault in the cast. If the cast is made poorly, how can anything after that succeed with difficult fish? Changing flies, adding weight, adjusting the tippet, etc. will not improve your chances. I have watched anglers in frustration after repeated refusals. Sitting down and discussing the problem gives the fish to relax. Have you ever taken the anglers rod, with his refused setup back to the same fish and caught it immediately?

    Reply
      • This is great and I’d be happy for that experience as I learn lessons the hard way! I also agree that this short post has provoked exponentially longer thought.
        I have a feeling more often than not my casting is getting in the way of my success.

        Reply
  4. Great content as usual! Additional comments are very helpful as well. Off topic… just picked up trout fishing ( only fish streams) after a 10 year hiatus (got laid off due to corona and neaded a new hobby). Was very fun and became addicted through March and April. Fishing has gotten slow in May so my question is… do you still trout fish streams through summer or let it go till the steelhead run in October or November??

    Reply
  5. Ever had the experience of tying on a different fly without moving your feet in the gravel and hooking up first cast? It wasn’t the fly pattern – the trout hd relaxed due to the absence of that un-natural grinding noise in the water.
    Try submerging in your pool and have someone at the other end whack two rocks together underwater……..the noise is unbelievable! Water transmits noise much better than air.Now transfer that experience to the stream……..always wait a while after wading before you cast – what’s the hurry anyway?

    Reply
    • Have had that happen often. Fish familiar water so pretty much know where trout are but sometimes not interested in usual flys,so have been known to try up to 5,6 different patterns and pleasantly some will work instantly!! Never thought about the time elements involved.

      Reply
  6. Trout will strike a fly for any number of reasons: hunger, curiosity, playfulness, reflex, territorialism, anger, etc.

    They will also ignore or refuse a fly for a variety of reasons: satiation, lack of available biomass, clumsy approach (fast movements, shadows, noise, water displacement, wakes, mud/debris plumes), bad presentation (lining, drag, ripping line on the pick up), water/weather conditions, skittishness/mood, selectivity, having been recently hooked/pricked, prior angling activity/pressure, etc.

    The “nobody home” problem is easily solved by reading/covering the water.

    The “nobody hungry” is more likely a “nobody willing” to take your fly due to any of above possibilities. Aside from the annual spawn, trout only have two modes: resting and feeding – and they can be induced to strike a fly in either. We can avoid the skunk through fly selection, a stealthy approach, proper presentation, and covering a lot of water/fish. It’s really hard to avoid the skunk if weather/water conditions or angler activity has them shut down. Also good to know that trout behavior in any reach is not necessarily monolithic; if you keep moving you are likely to encounter some willing customers even in the toughest of conditions.

    Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Recent Articles

Recent Posts

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.

Pin It on Pinterest