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 . . .

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 . . .

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 . . .

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 . . .

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 . . .

Fly vs Bait

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 . . .

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Natural vs Attractive Presentations

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 . . .

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Angler Types in Profile: The New Expert

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 . . .

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You Need Contact

You Need Contact

Success in fly fishing really comes down to one or two things. It’s a few key principles repeated over and over, across styles, across water types and across continents. The same stuff catches trout everywhere. And one of those things . . . is contact.

. . . No matter what adaptations are made to the rig at hand, the game is about being in touch with the fly. And in some rivers, contact continues by touching the bottom with something, whether that be a fly or a split shot. Without contact, none of this works. Contact is the tangible component between success and failure.

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Find Your Rabbit Hole

Find Your Rabbit Hole

Understanding the ideas of other anglers through the decades is how I learn. It’s how we all learn. The names change, but the process remains. We build a framework from others. Then we fit together the pieces of who we are as an angler . . .

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Test Without Bias

Test Without Bias

Of all the reasons why I fly fish for trout, two captivating things keep me coming back: refining a system, and breaking it all apart.

Go into any new exploration with a clear head and without expectations. Remove your prejudices and forget your preferences. Achieve this, and you may well be surprised by what you find with a fly rod in your hand. Ignore this, or fail in the attempt, and you’ll likely learn nothing. Worse yet, you may learn the wrong thing.

Let the river teach. Let time be the gauge. Let the fish have their say. Forgo conclusions and look instead for certainty in trends. Test honestly and without bias — always . . .

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