Articles in the Category Commentary

Who Knows Better Than You?

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 . . .

Eating On The Drop — How and Why Trout Eat a Falling Fly

Convinced or curious? Sometimes, it’s that intersection of the two states that elicits the irresistible urge from a fish. And trout eating on the drop is one of those times. . . .

The Red Amnesia Problem

It’s not red anymore. It’s burgundy, but it “might” be red again someday. I’ve been alive long enough to know that when something you love leaves, it’s best to start moving on. And yes, I’m a leader junkie . . .

Asking the Best Questions to Catch More Trout

Fly selection is important, but it’s one of the last questions to ask. There’s no denying that catching a few trout helps lead us to the promise of catching a few more. One trout is an accident. It’s just as likely that you found a maverick as it is that a single fish can teach you the habits of the rest. Two fish is a coincidence, but three starts to show a trend. And at a half dozen fish, there’s enough data about who, what, where, when and why to build the pieces of a puzzle.

To the die-hard angler, adaptation and adjustment to what we discover is one of the great joys of fly fishing for trout . . .

The Knot Strength Thing  — Can knot strength be calculated? Does it matter?

The Knot Strength Thing — Can knot strength be calculated? Does it matter?

Knots are personal. I don’t believe in any of the knot strength tests because there are too many variables. And what I know about the performance of my favorite Davy, for example, conflicts with the (I’ll say it) myth of its inferior breaking strength. My Davy’s are strong. But I don’t know about yours. That’s for you to find out . . .

What to Trust

What to Trust

Of the good fishermen I know, one thing I see in all of them is how easily they can reach conclusions about fish habits. They have a knack for knowing what to trust and when to trust it.

The damned thing about a river is that it changes every day, and the habits of trout follow. If you’re observant enough to see the dynamics of a river, you can predict how the fish will respond, just by correlating their behavior patterns with the changes in water level, clarity, food availability, etc. Often, though, that’s a big leap to take. And it requires trusting in your observations enough to act decisively on them . . .

Thirty-Inch Liars

Thirty-Inch Liars

Every fisherman in the parking lot seems to have a thirty-inch fish story, don’t they?

You know what I hear when someone says a fish was “about two feet long?” I hear: “I didn’t measure the fish.”

Bass guys don’t put up with this stuff. My friend, Sawyer (a dedicated bass and musky guy), is dumbfounded by the cavalier way trout fishermen throw estimates around. In his world, if you didn’t measure it, you don’t put a number on it. They take it seriously. We trout fishermen embarrass ourselves with estimates.

In Defense of Catching and Counting Fish — Why numbers in the Net Matter

In Defense of Catching and Counting Fish — Why numbers in the Net Matter

As we pursue trout and aim for perfect presentations that convince, it certainly matters if we catch one, five, ten or twenty.

One trout is luck. Three or four signals that we’re doing something right. And a few more trout starts to be enough data to dial in a tactic, or a water type, or a fly pattern. This is the true joy of fishing for numbers. With enough response from the trout, we can honestly learn the trout habits. We aren’t lucking into a couple fish. Instead, we’re refining a system that meets the trout on their own terms. What are those terms? Catching more than a few trout is the only way to find out . . .

May We Have the Hook Dimensions, Please?

May We Have the Hook Dimensions, Please?

So, if there will be no industry standard on sizing and strength for hooks (and there won’t be), can we at least have the dimensions for each hook that we’re sold? Give us the measurements: hook length, wire diameter, gap width. Why is this so hard?

. . . Given the proliferation of hook brands — many of high quality — this seems the only logical thing to do. Give your buyer the information. Tell them what they are buying. This is the information age, friends! Yes, we can handle this!

Are We Taking the Safety of Trout Too Far?

Are We Taking the Safety of Trout Too Far?

At some point, our worry about the perfect protection of the animal we pursue becomes so involved, so extreme, so overbearing, that the only logical step is to stop fishing altogether. I don’t want that. And I don’t think you do either.

If we’re not careful, one thing will lead to the next. I think we’ve taken the safety of trout far enough. Let’s educate every angler to these standards and stop moving the goalposts.

Fish cold water. Fight ’em fast. Handle gently. Release quickly . . .

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They Don’t Have to Eat It to Learn to Reject It

They Don’t Have to Eat It to Learn to Reject It

You’ve probably heard this a lot: “These trout have been caught on that fly before, so they won’t take it.”

Or this: “Once trout are caught on a fly a few times, they learn that it’s a fake.

But trout don’t have to be caught on a fly to learn that it isn’t real. In fact, just seeing one bad drift after another is enough to put trout off of a particular pattern . . .

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Never Blame the Fish

Never Blame the Fish

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 . . .

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Super Fly — The Story of a Squirmy Wormy

Super Fly — The Story of a Squirmy Wormy

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 . . .

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How the Bobber Hurts a Fly Fisher

How the Bobber Hurts a Fly Fisher

Don’t be a bobber lobber. Bobbers are an amazing tool in certain situations. But learn to cast it with turnover first. Avoid the lob.

Instead of using the bobber as a shortcut to getting the line out there, first learn a good casting stroke — with speed, crisp stops and turnover. Then, attach the bobber and see the supreme advantage gained when the fly hits first and the bobber comes in downstream, with the fly and indy both in the same current seam. Oh, hello dead drift. Nice to see you . . .

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Why Everyone Fishes the Same Water — And What to Do About It

Why Everyone Fishes the Same Water — And What to Do About It

For every big name piece of water that’s overcrowded, there are hundreds of miles of trout water that are rarely seen by any angler. If ten percent of the water sees ninety percent of the fishermen, then be that small percentage angler who finds wide open places in a high percentage of water.

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