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 . . .

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 . . .

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 . . .

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 . . .

The River Doesn’t Owe You Anything

The River Doesn’t Owe You Anything

The river doesn’t owe you anything.

It’s been here for millennia. It has bent and grown, widened and shaped the surrounding mountains and carved the bedrock beneath. It will outlast you and everyone who carries your name hereafter. The river is a rolling time machine, carrying a history of the earth, the evolution of life, and yes, even the stories of fishermen . . .

Trophy Hunting: Meet Jercules

Trophy Hunting: Meet Jercules

. . .I’ve gone through a couple phases of trophy hunting, but I’m always careful to return to my roots before the obsession overtakes me. I don’t want to lose my enjoyment for the simple things on the water: the friendships, the forests, the mountains, the mysteries and the way thick, cool moss on limestone feels like a sofa cushion for a mid-stream lunch. Those are the good things that are available every time I put on my waders, even though the big fish usually aren’t.

While going in and out of these phases of trophy hunting for wild browns, I’ve learned that I was looking for big trout in the wrong places. I had to seek out new rivers. And sometimes, I simply had to find new places on my old rivers. Point is, I learned that trophy hunters need a target. It’s not enough to go to the same places and fish the same ways as you always have. You have to learn where the big fish are, go there, and put on your patience pants — because Whiskeys don’t come easily . . .

The shakes, and why we love big trout

The shakes, and why we love big trout

. . When I hooked him, I felt a tremendous release of emotion. Satisfaction merged with adrenaline. My yearning for such a moment finally came to a close as the big wild brown trout slid onto the bank. I killed the trout with a sharp rap at the top of its skull, because that’s what I did back then. I knelt by the river to wet my creel, and when I placed the dead trout in the nylon bag, the full length of its tail stuck out from the top.

. . . Then I began to shake. The closing of anticipation washed over me. The fruition of learning and wondering for so many years left me in awe of the moment I’d waited for. I trembled as I sat back on my heels. With two knees in the mud of a favorite trout stream, I watched the water pass before me. I breathed. I thought about nothing and everything all at once. I felt calm inside even as I stared down at my wet, shaking hands.

. . .When a gust of wind pushed through the forest, I stirred. Finally my lengthy revery was passed, and I stood tall with my lungs full of a strong wind. Then I walked back to camp . . .

read more
Penns Creek Catch-and-Release Miles Doubled — Yes, You Did It

Penns Creek Catch-and-Release Miles Doubled — Yes, You Did It

You probably voted this past Tuesday, right? You walked into the booth and cast a ballot in this midterm election cycle for your state and local representatives. Or maybe you voted early. Maybe you mailed in a ballot. However you voted, it’s pretty easy to think that your one, single vote didn’t matter much, because even close state elections are often determined by thousands of votes. It’s understandable to feel like your vote doesn’t make a difference. It does, but that’s another discussion . . .

By contrast, you can personally have a direct influence on the way wild trout policy is directed in Pennsylvania. And many of you have.

On October 16, 2018, the Pennsylvania Fish Commission voted to add 3.8 miles of Catch-and-Release regulated water on Penns Creek. This
“Section 5” water now doubles the miles of C&R river available to anglers, and it protects the Class A wild trout population within. This is an enormous success, and many of you are part of it . . .

read more
Redd Fish — Should we fish for trout through the spawn or stay home?

Redd Fish — Should we fish for trout through the spawn or stay home?

We don’t target spawning trout, but is it okay to fish during the spawn? And if you choose to stay off the water, do you know what to look for when you return?

Here’s an in-depth look at trout spawning habits and some opinion about fishing around the spawning season. If you plan to fish during or after the spawn, there’s a key point to understand . . .

read more
The Nymph Angler is Sustainable

The Nymph Angler is Sustainable

I fish flies and a fly rod because it gives me the best chance to meet the fish on their own terms. Trout eat big meaty five-inch streamers as baitfish. But they also eat size #24 Trico spinners and everything in between. They take food from the streambed and from the surface of the water. And no other tackle allows me meet trout in all these places, with all manners and sizes of patterns, with as much efficiency as a fly rod.

So then, being well-rounded is a unique advantage available to fly fishers. And the best anglers I know are adept at every method of delivery. They carry dries, wets, streamers and nymphs, and they fish them all with confidence.

With all that said, most of the die-hard anglers I run into are nymph-first fishermen. Or at least their nymphing game is strong, and they don’t hesitate to break it out. That’s because nymphing catches a lot of fish — more than dries and streamers combined, over the long haul.

Nymphing is sustainable. Here’s why . . .

read more
Pattern vs Presentation | Trout eat anything, but sometimes they eat another thing better

Pattern vs Presentation | Trout eat anything, but sometimes they eat another thing better

The other day I was listening to a podcast with Charlie Craven; I was dreaming of fishing while raking another giant pile of leaves in the backyard when something Charlie said caught my attention: “Trout are not very smart. They eat everything down there.”

It’s a point I’ve heard repeated time and again — that trout brains are small, and they eat sticks, leaves and rocks all the time. Ironically though, the next piece of the podcast interview rolled into what an excellent fly Charlie’s Two Bit Hooker is.

Does that duality make any sense? Sure it can. I think Charlie’s thoughts in the interview match what a lot of us think about fly selection — that trout will eat anything, but sometimes they eat another thing better.

read more
The I’ll just lay my rod here for a minute mistake

The I’ll just lay my rod here for a minute mistake

People do the same things. The instincts of fishermen find identical paths upstream through the river — watery trails lead to the best water with the greatest efficiency. You can easily see where everybody else fishes. And I guess the flies and tippet-tangles in streamside branches signal that we all make the same casting errors too. Presented with the same problems, fishermen come up with the same solutions, and we make the same mistakes.

That’s all pretty harmless and kind of fascinating. But then there’s that thing we (all) do where we leave our rod on top of the vehicle and drive away. WTF?

read more

Pin It on Pinterest