Articles in the Category Commentary

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 . . .

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 . . .

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 . . .

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.

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.

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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 . . .

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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? . . .

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Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #35 — How to Fish With Friends

Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #35 — How to Fish With Friends

Fishing with a stick and line is a solitary endeavor by nature. It always comes down to the two hands of one angler: one on the rod, and the other in control of the line. Sharing the water with friends is great, but fishing, inherently, is not a team sport. It’s more like pole vaulting than a baseball game. It comes down to individual performance. And at its root, fishing is just a contest between one man and a fish.

. . . But we fish together to share our experiences, to learn from one another, to catch up with old friends and make new ones. We choose to fish together because the bonds formed on a river are like none other, and because flowing water and shared moments can heal friendships and mend grievances . . .

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The Dirty Fisherman

The Dirty Fisherman

I walked around the bend and saw his blue truck, but I couldn’t see Gabe until the lean man sat up. He stretched and slid slowly off the tailgate, onto his feet and into his sandals. The climbing sun made the blue paint of his pickup bed too hot, and when the shadows were gone, the dirty fisherman’s rest was finished.

Gabe leaned back on the hot paint again and grabbed the duffel that he used for a pillow. The faded bag was stuffed with clothes: some stained, some clean, and most half-worn-out. He pulled a thin, long-sleeved shirt from the bag and changed, tossing his wet t-shirt toward a damp pile of gear by the truck tires. The long sleeves were his sunscreen; the beard protected his face; the frayed hat covered his head, and the amber sunglasses filled the gap in between.

Gabe was a trout bum. Not the shiny magazine-ad version of a trout bum either, but the true embodiment of John Geirach’s term: authentic, dirty, and dedicated to a lifestyle without even thinking much about it. He fished on his own terms. He was a part-time fishing guide for the family business and a part-time waiter. We never talked much about work, though. I just know that Gabe’s life was fishing, and everything else was a cursory, minor distraction.

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