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Show up on time, do your job and have a little fun while you’re at it. Then go home and do it all over again tomorrow. That’s a blue collar worker. It’s a Pheasant Tail with a CDC collar. It has a little disco for the rib and a hot spot collar. It’s simple, reliable and effective . . .
Success on the water starts with finding fish and not spooking them. No one ever caught a scared trout. All the tactics, the flies and the habits of river trout that we focus on mean nothing if the fish are on high alert and out of the mood to eat.
Don’t spook the fish. Achieving that is different from season to season. It’s different in various water types. And acceptable distances from the trout change even with the angles by which you approach them . . .
The way you move on the water, the way you carry gear and how you adapt, has a big impact on your experience out there. Yes, we all enjoy the scenery and solitude. We love the sites and sounds of a river. But when that novelty dulls a bit, the process of solving problems and seeing the results of our solutions is what keeps us in the game for a lifetime . . .
When everything you expect to work produces nothing, don’t blame the fish. Think more. Try harder.
When your good drifts still leave the net empty, then don’t settle for good. Make things perfect. Never blame the fish . . .
Occasionally (rarely) something comes along that makes trout go a little crazy. Why? Who the hell knows. But it trips some trigger in trout that makes them move further and eat more than they do for just about anything else. In my life there’ve been only four of these super flies.
In dark bars and seedy internet gatherings, I keep my ear to the ground for rumors of the next super fly. Because those who find one can’t keep a secret for long. And I want to be in on the next fly from the ground up again. I want long months of virgin trout that lust for something original yet familiar, the right mix of bold but non-threatening, curiously edible and irresistible. I want to fish another super fly . . .
Some of it winds and bends in line with the tall grasses in the breeze. This is meandering meadow water that glistens and swoons against the low angles of a fading sun. Trout thrive here, protected in the deep cool water, among shade lines that are artfully formed by long weeds that wag and flutter in the current. You could swear the tips of those weeds are trout tails — until they’re not. Maybe some are.
Calm river waters are a church sanctuary, requiring a measure of reverent respect — even if you don’t much believe what’s in there.
Ambition is the fundamental characteristic of every good night fisher. We wade into the darkness for the experience. And we quickly realize that the night game is an unwritten book, with just a few clues and an infinite room for learning new things. Each exhilarating hit and every trout in the net is a unique reward, because night fishing requires that you assemble the puzzle yourself.
In this episode, I’m joined by my friends, Trevor Smith and Josh Darling, for an overview on night fishing for trout . . .
Gaining the bottom, feeling that contact with the riverbed and then gliding over it, tap, ta-tap, tap-a-tap, maybe five to ten times throughout the drift is success. But I’ve noticed that anglers tend to get complacent. Tickling the bottom is only half of the job. And that’s not good enough. We still need to find the right speed for a drift and keep everything in one seam.
Drop shotting puts the angler in ultimate control. Be aware of every element of the drift, and make good choices, because all of them are yours. Control is the advantage of a drop shot rig. Remember this always — your rod tip controls everything . . .
A dead drift is the most common presentation in fly fishing for trout, because it imitates their most common food forms. We want a dead drift on both a dry fly and a nymph. But what is it?
It’s a one-seam drift that travels at the speed of the current without tension from the attached tippet. That’s hard to achieve, but it is possible by first understanding what a dead drift looks like, both on the surface with a dry fly and below the surface with a nymph . . .
Using the riverbed as a reference is the most common way to know about the unseen nymph below. Get the fly down. Tick the riverbed. Touch and lift. This time-honored strategy is used across fishing styles for just about every species I’ve ever cast to. Find the bottom, and find fish. Better yet, find the bottom and know where the fly is.
But how do we tell the difference between ticking the bottom and a trout strike? My friend, Smith, calls it the tap and the take . . .
The strike is the best part of fishing. It’s what we’re all out there waiting for, or rather, what we’re trying to make happen all day long. And the trout eats because we get so many things right.
We fool a fish, and we fulfill the wish of every angler.
When the fish strikes, we strike back. Short, swift and effective, the hook finds fish flesh. Then we try to keep the trout buttoned and get it to the net.
In the next article, this series concludes with the focus on putting it all together . . .
A simple piece of Dacron, tied in a barrel, is a visible and sensitive addition to your tight line and euro nymphing rig. The versatile Backing Barrel serves as a stand-alone sighter, especially when tied with a one-inch tag. Better yet, it draws your eyes to the colored monofilament of any sighter and enhances visibility threefold. The Backing Barrel adds a third dimension of strike detection, with the Dacron flag just stiff enough to stand away from the line, but just soft enough to twitch upon even the most subtle takes . . .
Over time, over endless conversation, cases of craft beer and thoughtful theories, we came to understand that our hook sets were rarely at fault. No, we set fast and hard. We were good anglers, with crisp, attentive sets. The high percentage of misses were really the trout’s decision. We summarized it this way: Sometimes a trout misses the fly. Sometimes a trout refuses the fly. And sometimes a trout attempts to stun the fly before eating it . . .
I had a great conversation with Dave Stewart on his Wet Fly Swing podcast. We talked about streamers, nymphs, the Mono Rig and how Troutbitten has grown into a fly fishing company and become my full time career . . .
There are a lot of ways to retrieve a long fly after the cast. And that’s really what’s so much fun about the streamer game. Fly anglers might spend hours fretting over the imperfection of a drag free drift on a dry fly or twice as long considering the depth and drift of a nymph, but when the streamer is tied on, it’s a chance to let loose. Nothing else in fly fishing allows for such freedom of presentation. “Everything works sometimes.” No other fly type fits that tenant so well.
But what will trout respond to most? That’s the question. And on many days — most perhaps — the answer is a cross-current strip. Here’s why . . .
ANGLER TYPES IN PROFILE
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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 . . .
Go ahead. Look back through the Troutbitten archives and you’ll find a bunch of photos featuring big, beautiful trout. Chasing the biggest wild browns is part of our culture. It’s a challenge, and it’s a motivator — something that pulls us back to the rivers time and again.
I have friends who are big fish hunters to their core. Nothing else satisfies them. For me, I guess chasing big trout is a phase that I roll in and out of as the years pass. And although I don’t choose to target big trout on every trip, I always enjoy catching them. Who wouldn’t?
Hooking the big ones is part of the allure of fishing itself, no matter the species or the tactics used. What fisherman doesn’t get excited about the biggest fish of the day? It’s fun. And it’s inherent in our human nature to see bigger as better. But is it? Better what? Better fish? Better fisherman? . . .
Multi-fly rigs are nothing new. We pair one nymph with another all the time. Many of us fish two streamers, and most of us cast a dry fly with a nymph for the dropper once in awhile. But the pairing of a streamer and a nymph is less common. And maybe that’s because the typical presentations for each fly type are quite different — we tend to think we’re either streamer fishing or nymph fishing, but rarely both at the same time.
The Big Rig combines two nymphs and a streamer. With some minor leader adjustments and some outside-the-box thinking on tactics, you can kinda have it all . . .
I’m not a big fan of summer.
It’s the heat. Thing is, you can’t really get away from it. If you want to be outside in all seasons (and I do) you have to somehow make friends with or tolerate the weather. Against the cold of winter, you can add layers to fend off most discomfort, but in the summer heat, once the shirt is off and the flip flops are on, your done — that’s as cool as you’re gonna get. So there’s no option but to mow the grass, play baseball and have the family picnic in a thick, wet blanket of summer heat. People still tell me that I’ll get used to it. I doubt it.
The same people also tell me how much they love summers. I don’t believe them. I think they like the idea of it, and they like the parties, the parades, the fireworks, the longer daylight hours and the lax work schedules. But the actual season? The weather? Nah. Bitching about the heat (like I’m doing here) seems like another common summer recreation from the list, and I see a clear majority looking for the next air conditioner, cold lake or swimming pool.
** Note: This January 2015 post is rewritten and revisited here. So many of our favorite waters are accompanied by railroad tracks, and walking the familiar but odd stride required by the spacing of the wooden ties has become instinctive to me. The tracks are a...
Night fishing requires some sacrifice. High catch rates are exchanged for a couple fish large enough to fill out the net — a hopeful bargain. Visual excitement is traded for an adrenaline rush, sustained by roaming among the unseen. And sleeping hours are swapped for...
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