Articles in the Category Commentary

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 . . .

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.

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 . . .

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 . . .

A Christmas Story, and a Troutbitten Thank You

A Christmas Story, and a Troutbitten Thank You

Growing up, my wish was not for a Red Rider BB Gun (Ralphie) It was for a flowing trout stream in my backyard. I wanted more trout at the end of my line, but it was more than that, too.

With limited trout fishing opportunities in Armstrong County, Pennsylvania, I’m not quite sure how I attached myself so deliberately to trout fishing. It was a springtime thing for us, mostly. But oh my, the places we would visit. We traveled through the predawn frost over unlined two lane roads, with the steamy scent of Dad’s hot tea filling the warmth of the old Buick. We camped within earshot of the riffles, along small streams in Pennsylvania’s northern tier. And every time we arrived, it felt like someone plugged me back in, like a piece of me was rightfully back in place . . .

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 . . .

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 . . .

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 . . .

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 . . .

Angler Types in Profile: Goldilocks

Angler Types in Profile: Goldilocks

On the sweetheart days, the Goldilocks angler is there. Any other time? This morning? Not so much.

It seems that some fly fishermen are constantly looking for reasons not to fish. Provide them with a logical reason to stay home, and they will — and they’ll feel good about it.

read more
Is your new fly really new? What makes a fly original?

Is your new fly really new? What makes a fly original?

When is a fly original enough to deserve its own name? And do a few material changes result in a new fly, or is it the bastardization of an existing pattern?

“That’s just a Woolly Bugger with flashy chenille, bigger hackle, rubber legs, and dumbell eyes. Oh, and it’s two of them hooked together.” That’s the first comment I heard about Russ Madden’s Circus Peanut. And to that I say, sure it is. But aren’t there enough material and form changes there to be a unique fly? When we think Woolly Bugger does it really look anything like a Circus Peanut? No, not really. So I’d say the Circus Peanut deserved a name, and it got one.

I have a similar fly stored in my own meat locker. I call it a Water Muppet, but it’s mostly a Circus Peanut. I tie it smaller, dub the body instead of wrapping chenille, and I use a tungsten bead instead of dumbbell eyes. And while I have my own name for the pattern that amuses me, it’s pretty much a Peanut.

But I think there’s a genuine desire on the part of many fly tyers to get this right. We want to give credit for inspiration, and we know that all good ideas stem from somewhere. At the same time, we’re proud of the material or form changes we’ve made that catch more fish in our own rivers. And sometimes those innovations define a genuinely new fly pattern, so they deserve a unique name . . . . .

read more
The Trouble With Tenkara — And Why You Don’t Need It

The Trouble With Tenkara — And Why You Don’t Need It

The advantages of a Tenkara presentation are not exclusive or unique to Tenkara itself, and in fact, the same benefits are achieved just as well — and often better — with a long fly rod and (gasp) a reel.

I bought a Tenkara rod for my young boys a few years ago, because the longer a rod is, the more control the boys have over a drift. And the lighter a rod is, the easier it is for their small arms to cast. Long and light Tenkara rods flex easily, allowing them to load with minimal effort. That’s great for both kids and adults.

I’ve used the boys’ Tenkara rod extensively — long enough to understand exactly what I don’t like about Tenkara and to understand that a fisherman can achieve the same things with a standard, long leader (long Mono Rig) setup.

read more
The Aquaculture Culture (from Dirt Roads and Blue Lines)

The Aquaculture Culture (from Dirt Roads and Blue Lines)

This is too good to let pass. My friend Chase Howard restarted and rejuvenated his blog, Dirt Roads and Blue Lines. And recently, he penned a short commentary on the state of the stocked vs wild trout situation in Pennsylvania.

Chase calls the stocked trout syndrome “The Aquaculture Culture,” and his choice of words is appropriate. There truly is an ingrained culture. Many Pennsylvanian’s have grown to expect (and feel they deserve) stocked trout in their local creeks, not because the creek can’t support wild trout and not because there isn’t already a wild trout population that would thrive if given a chance. No, the Aquaculture Culture expects and downright demands stocked trout in the creek because that’s the way it’s always been, in their lifetime.

As I’ve argued countless times here on Troutbitten, stocked trout do have a place in Pennsylvania. Our state hatcheries should continue to raise trout and stock them in streams that cannot and do not already support wild trout. I’m thankful for stocked trout. I caught my limit of stocked fish today . . .

read more
Catching Big Fish Does Not Make You a Stud . . . Necessarily

Catching Big Fish Does Not Make You a Stud . . . Necessarily

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? . . .

read more

Pin It on Pinterest