Call them educated. Say they’re picky, experienced, touchy or selective. The wild trout that many of us target are efficient feeders, and they don’t buy lousy presentations of a fly.
In many regions, the rivers are so rich with bug life and baitfish that these trout have options. They eat what they want. In some places, like the spring-fed streams of limestone country, trout feed all year long, with no pause for water that’s too warm or too cold. It isn’t, so they eat whenever they want. There is no “feeding season,” because it happens 365. And when a trout can feed on what it wants, when it wants, that trout doesn’t eat poor presentations of a fly. The cast and the drift — our presentation — must be perfect.
From the Start
I know experienced anglers who believe that if the fly is drifting naturally as it approaches the trout, it should be enough. But they’re wrong. It’s not enough.
A dry fly angler may cast well above a rising trout and drop the fly in the same lane at long distance. But if drag sets in quickly, the cast is useless. Can you mend to feed enough slack above the dry and set up a perfect drag-free look as it passes over the rising trout? Sure, if you’re handy with the fly rod. But selective wild trout rarely buy it. Because, before the dry settles into the drag-free drift, our trout has already seen the fly dragging far upstream. And the fly is refused before it ever gets close to the trout.
I’ve met anglers who’s nymphing strategy starts with long casts, well above their target water. They believe in giving the fly time to drop through the column by casting further upstream of the trout, eventually setting up the right level and speed of drift before it reaches the fish. But this is another mistake. Because the extra line on those far-off casts causes drag, and the trout see it coming further than most of us estimate. Then, just like the dry on the surface, trout refuse the dragging nymph long before it approaches them.
These are wasted casts. And they are long moments spent drifting flies that will never be eaten.
What’s the solution?
Stick the landing.
We must make casts that show a perfect presentation from the start. And for dry flies and nymphs, that means providing a drag free drift at the beginning.
Much of our success, in whatever we do, goes back to refining the basics. And fly fishing is no exception.
Choose shorter casts over longer ones, for the extra control. Wade as close as possible. Stay mobile and take two steps over rather than stripping off another six feet of fly line.
And remember, perfect presentations on a dry fly are often set up in the air rather than mending line on the water.
Likewise, the best dead drifts with a nymph include a tuck cast, turning over the line and the leader to poke our flies through the surface with only the tippet that must enter. The rest stays above the water. Yes, we tuck cast, even in shallow water.
Sometimes, longer drifts cannot be helped. But it’s up to us to make the presentation perfect from the beginning, or at least as soon as possible.
Never underestimate how far away a trout can see upstream. And never underestimate how far away a trout will refuse a fly. It might drift perfectly, right past the trout. But the decision — the refusal, may have already been made with the fly twenty feet upstream.
Make it perfect from the start.
Fish hard, friends.
Enjoy the day.
T R O U T B I T T E N