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How do we handle tough days? How can we turn it around and start catching fish? When the going gets tough, how do we fix it? What are the strategies?
On a tight line rig, things are different. We keep line off the water — so it’s the rod tip that dictates the actions of the fly. Direct contact with the fly lends us ultimate control over every variable. With line off the water, it’s the rod tip that charts the course, the actions and all the movements of the streamer. And that . . . is a very big deal . . .
All trout continuously adapt to their surroundings — they learn what to expect, and they spook from the unexpected.
So, stealth on the water and understanding what spooks a trout is foundational knowledge in fly fishing. Trout are easily scared. Are you spooking fish?
Anglers cling to the stories and accounts others. We believe in the experts. We want masters of this craft to exist and to tell us the answers.
Sure, you might have a group of wild trout dialed in for the better part of a season. Maybe it’s a midge hatch every summer morning, or a streamer bite on fall evenings, for one hour on either side of dusk.
But it will end. That’s what’s so special about chasing trout. Like the wings of a mayfly spinner, predictability is a fading ghost . . .
The churning waves, the cuts, troughs and sandbars of beach water mimic the flows of a good river that is full of structure. And tearing apart the differences to find the similarities between the two water systems is a challenge that’s renewed with each trip to the salt . . .
“Your first job is to find some accuracy. You’ll see the fly every time, once you can hit your targets.” I nodded at the fly again. “There’s enough visibility built into that fly that you can find it quickly, as long as the fly lands where you’re looking . . .”
Some anglers seem resigned to the notion that more flies, split shot or drop shot inevitably bring more tangles. But multiple nymphs on one rig won’t tangle if the cast is right and the rigging is solid.
A good fight starts with a solid hookset. We want it fast, sharp and — here’s the key — downstream, as much as possible . . .
Trout eat the fly or they don’t. Remember, it’s tough to convince a trout that has already said no. Don’t force it. Just fish it.
I don’t guess, because I might ruin my best chance. I also do everything I can to be in contact or just slightly out of contact with the nymph, whether that’s on a tight line to my rod tip or under an indicator. And I trust my skills this way, more than I trust my instinct to set on nothing . . .
This is an absolute keystone to understanding all the information out there about long leader systems. I hope you enjoy it.
Just like the fly lines that these long leaders substitute for, the range and variety of leader formulas leads to a lot of confusion.
Mono Rigs, euro rigs, tight line or contact rigs: Yes, there’s a difference in those terms. But everything we’ll consider here applies to them all. Basically, if what is outside of your rod guides is the leader only (or even just a thin euro fly line), then it helps to understand how the leader build affects our possibilities for how we might fish . . .
What we at Troutbitten have affectionately called the Dorsey has undergone a few changes over the years. I use less yarn, two colors for better visibility and smaller bands. I pre-bunch the yarn at my tying desk with minimal wraps of 8/0 Uni-Thread, and sometimes . . . just once in a while . . . I add a small piece of split shot to the line above the indy.
By mixing jigging into our streamer presentations, we add a new dynamic. We no longer just slide and glide, cross currents and hover. Now we dip and rise, dive and climb through the column. It’s another dimension to be explored. Offer it to the trout, and let them decide.
You do not need a jig hook to jig streamers. Can you jig a big articulated fly? Absolutely. And while the up and down motion may not be as pronounced as a smaller, thinner, head-heavy fly, jigging works with big and bulky flies too.
Rolling the bottom, gliding mid-current along a knee-deep riffle and slow-sliding off the bank — these maneuvers are just as enticing and catch just as many trout as do flashy retrieves. But we tend to forget them. Or rather, we might not have the discipline to stay with an understated look for very long, because the modest stuff isn’t as exciting as the razzle-dazzle.
This handful of subtle moves requires an angler with restraint and commitment. Otherwise, the rod tip and line hand are back to big motions and brash, bold movements in no time . . .
Make that fly swim. Give life to the streamer. Convince the trout that they’re looking at a living, swimming creature.
That’s what this podcast conversation is about. How do we move the fly with the line hand and the rod tip, with strips, jigs, twitches and more? We talk about head position, depth, speed and holding vs crossing currents and seams. We touch on natural looks vs attractive ones. Should we make it easy for them or make them chase?
ANGLER TYPES IN PROFILE
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“You look at where you’re going and where you are and it never makes sense, but then you look back at where you’ve been and a pattern seems to emerge.” That’s from Robert M. Pirsig. And man, does it ever apply to finding big trout.
Just downstream of a run, right where it blends into what can fairly be called a flat or a pool . . . is the spillout.
I suppose you can point to a spillout every time a run dumps into the neighboring pool. The feature is always at the transition. But for our purposes — for seeking out big trout — only a small percentage of these spillouts are good targets. So let’s talk about that . . .
It does not take exceptional technique or skill to catch big trout. It takes an understanding of where they are and what they eat. It requires some forethought and persistence.
. . .Ninety percent of what you hear about most rivers is probably bullshit. Explore and learn these places for yourself. Try to forget the rumors. Discover the truth.
. . .Now I go to certain water types and river structures to target big fish. Every watershed that harbors the big ones has a few of these locations. It’s up to you to find them and fish them well . . .
A top-tier river trout is a beast. The inherent nature of a river, with the endless obstacles, rocks, tree parts, current breaks, high gradient runs and undercut banks challenges the angler at every bend. So when you finally hook up with a Whiskey, a new game begins. It’s a match up between trout and fisherman. Who will win that fight?
Bringing a trout to the net requires a series of accurate calculations, thoughtful moves and a good dose of luck. But with a few guiding principles and a bit of experience, you can minimize the luck required and get a good handle on the outcome. One of the best of those principles, is to keep ’em down . . .
It’s important to have a mental picture, to feel where you are among the surroundings, so the casts are accurate and the drifts are effective. Otherwise, you’re just flailing around in the dark, hoping for some good luck . . .
The response of a trophy trout hooked in the daylight may seem predictable after a while — we expect him to head for deep water, or toward the undercut. But big trout after dark are never predictable. And they give you everything they have — right now.
I lost many good trout early on because I wasn’t ready for all this. I wasn’t prepared for the eruption happening just ten feet in front of me. I let them run when I should have held on and tightened the drag. And I kept my feet stuck in the sand instead of chasing them. I can take you to each river and point to the spots where I lost one of these legendary fish. The errors were mine. It’s a fisherman’s memory. We all have it.
And I lost trophy fish at night because I was playing around with light tackle. Once hooked in the dark, trout are unpredictable. They pull hard, and we have to be ready to pull harder . . .
On the luckiest nights, large and medium sized trout move to the shallows, searching for an easy meal. Trout visit thin water because they feel protected by the cover of darkness, and because they find baitfish of all types unguarded and ready to be devoured. But this is also when trout are most vulnerable to the skilled night fisher.
I have a bank-first approach on most nights, hoping I may hit it right and find actively feeding fish near the edges. On some rivers I wade to the middle and fish back to the boundary. And where the water is too deep to wade the center, I may stay tight to the bank and choose to either work down and swing flies or work upstream against the bank and drift them. Regardless of the method of presentation used, bank water is my first target . . .
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