Articles in the Category Commentary

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.

Fly vs Bait

I know this is a minority opinion. The average angler assumes that bait will fool more trout than an artificial. Just yesterday, I came across the frequently repeated assertion that bait outperforms flies. I saw it in print and heard it in dialogue on a podcast. It was stated as fact, as though no one could possibly argue otherwise. But it’s wrong. It’s a common wisdom that isn’t very wise. And I think those who believe that bait has the edge over flies have probably spent very little threading live bait on a hook and dunking it in a river . . .

Natural vs Attractive Presentations

. . . Let’s call it natural if the fly is doing something the trout are used to seeing. If the fly looks like what a trout watches day after day and hour after hour — if the fly is doing something expected — that’s a natural presentation.

By contrast, let’s call it attractive if the fly deviates from the expected norm. Like any other animal in the wild, trout know their environment. They understand what the aquatic insects and the baitfish around them are capable of. They know the habits of mayflies and midges, of caddis, stones, black nosed dace and sculpins. And just as an eagle realizes that a woodland rabbit will never fly, a trout knows that a sculpin cannot hover near the top of the water column with its nose into heavy current . . .

Angler Types in Profile: The New Expert

. . . Most often, a reckoning comes for the New Expert, as failure eventually catches up with every angler who wets a line. So, humility is either accepted with a broader perspective gained and a fresh look at the future, or the New Expert gives up, falling on the pile of anglers who’ve come and gone, learning that the mountain of unknowns is a lifelong climb . . .

A Comprehensive List of Fishermen’s Excuses

A Comprehensive List of Fishermen’s Excuses

Fishermen are full of excuses for failure — because we get a lot of practice at not catching fish. Mostly, Troutbitten is here to share better ways to catch trout, but here’s a big list of explanations for when you don’t. Why’d you take the skunk? This list of reasons will help explain it all away.

These excuses can roughly be grouped into three classes:

Conditions — where you blame the weather or the water.
Fish’s Fault — where you blame the fish for not eating your flies.
I Wasn’t Really Trying — these excuses are centered around the inference that if you really wanted to, you could have caught more trout . . .

The Mismanagement of “Class A” Wild Trout

The Mismanagement of “Class A” Wild Trout

It’s time for the fish commission to truly protect, preserve and enhance our wild trout streams, whether that is easy, or whether it’s hard. Stop stocking over all Class A wild trout stream sections.

It’s the right thing to do. And sometimes, that’s where government policy should start . . .

Local Knowledge

Local Knowledge

You know the water level, clarity, the hatches, weather and more. That’s great. But local conditions are different from local knowledge. Here’s what I mean . . .

What Are You Working On?

What Are You Working On?

It’s a question I ask of my friends and those whom I’ve just met. What are you working on? Because, whether we realize it or not, we’re all working on something.

“What do you do for a living?” is a common small-talk question. But I don’t ask that one much. I save it for later. What do you love? What are you passionate about? And what are you working on? Those are the more interesting queries that get to the core of each person.

So I’ve asked these questions for years. And it surprises me how often the answer is a blank stare. Some people simply don’t know what they love — yet. And that’s alright. Maybe they’re still searching for some passion in life. But inevitably, it’s those who light up with enthusiasm that I connect with. Tell me what you’re into. The topic hardly matters. I can listen for hours to someone who knows their craft from every angle, who understands what they love, why they care about it and what they plan to learn next.

How to stay in the fly fishing game for a lifetime

How to stay in the fly fishing game for a lifetime

I know what the game of chasing trout has given me. For over forty years, I’ve had a wonderful purpose, a focus, endless challenges, and a reason to set my feet on wooded, watery paths often enough to call these places home . . .

Fishing is as big as you want it to be. From the beginning, I’ve been in it for the long game. And in the end I plan to wade upstream, toward the light at the end of the tunnel.

Sight and Feel

Sight and Feel

While all five senses blend together into the rich, unmatched experience of fishing through woods and water, only two are necessary for catching trout — sight and feel. These two senses combine to tell us a story about each drift. Some of our tactics require both, while others require just one. But take away both sight and feel, and the angler is lost . . .

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Angler Types in Profile: The Old Expert

Angler Types in Profile: The Old Expert

Backed comfortably into a corner and sitting contently beside a crackling fireplace is the old expert. For sixty of his seventy-plus years, roaming the woods and water, he has fished for trout — fifty of those years with a fly rod, and thirty more dedicated to sharing his vast, accumulated knowledge.

The old expert helped shape an industry, but he remembers a time when there was no fly fishing industry — no fly shops or umbrella companies in a niche market, a time when a breathable raincoat meant unzipping at the collar and loosening the drawstrings of a yellow vinyl hood.

The old expert reminisces about flies purchased through a mail order catalog. Some were also selected from a cedar box, separated into four-inch-square bins inside a gas station that sold a handful of wet flies and two dries — one dark, one light, both #10 . . .

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Satisfaction and Success

Satisfaction and Success

For most of us, feeling satisfied with a fishing trip comes from a bit of success. And we measure that success in big trout landed or high numbers to the net. But are those stats really our best gauge? Probably not. Instead, I suggest finding satisfaction in fishing well, knowing that you improved your technique and you took steps toward being a better angler. Then, on the best days, in the process of refining your skills, trout will come to hand frequently. That’s fishing hard . . .

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The Inefficiency of Inexperience

The Inefficiency of Inexperience

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 . . .

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Play It As It Lies

Play It As It Lies

The shifts and evolutions that a river succumbs to is captivating to watch. It’s a slow motion reel in your mind, spanning twenty years of fishing around the same small island. Until one day, after the flood waters recede, you walk down the trail to find the whole island gone.

I want an experience as close to what nature intended as possible on this twenty-first century planet. And messing with a river’s placement of things just isn’t for me.

It’s the river’s decision.

Keep it wild . . .

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How to Hold a Trout

How to Hold a Trout

You can’t stop fishermen from holding their trout. All of the Keep ‘Em Wet campaigns and the Ketchum Release tools will not stop anglers from reaching into the water and lifting their prize. It’s a desire to complete the act, to finish the catch, an instinct to hold the creature that we set out to capture.

And why wouldn’t we want to hold a wild trout — to touch the majesty of Mother Nature — to feel a fleeting, darting, irrefutably gorgeous animal and admire it, and to look upon that which eludes us so often and for so long? No, you’re not going to stop fishermen from holding their trout.

Instead, let’s spread the word about how to safely handle trout without harming them. What follows is a real world, riverside understanding of how to hold a trout, all from a fisherman who’s held a few trout, large and small . . .

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