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 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?

Two Percent — Penns Creek Needs Your Voice

Two Percent — Penns Creek Needs Your Voice

Just two percent of Pennsylvania’s 83,000 river miles receive the state’s Class A Wild Trout designation. Two percent. Wild trout are rare. They are rare enough to be special, to be highly valued and protected. In short, we must be careful with the resource.

If we’re objective about the meaning of “Exceptional Value,” if we stand back and decide what’s best for the stream, separating ourselves from tradition and ingrained culture, it’s clear that Catch and Release regulations are the next step for this section of Penns Creek.

Now, the PFBC is accepting public comment on the proposed Catch and Release regulations for this area of Penns Creek. The comment period ends on September 1st, 2018. The motion will be voted on in October . . .

Angler Types in Profile: The I’ve been doing that forever guy

Angler Types in Profile: The I’ve been doing that forever guy

Fly fishing is full of it — full of anglers who take themselves too seriously, and full of others who support it. Everyone knows everything.

So as fly fishing churns out newish concepts like articulated streamers and euro nymphing, it’s no wonder there’s some resistance to it all. No wonder  at every turn we find guys with arms folded, shaking their heads and saying, “Nah, I’ve been doing that forever. . .”

Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #50 — Fish Hard

Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #50 — Fish Hard

Here we are, at the end of fifty tips. Just two weeks shy of a year ago today, I started this series with a plan. Determined to publish every Sunday, I wrote these tips to be a little different, trying for something unique, and with a new take on some stuff many of us may not have considered for a while.

. . . What brings us back is the trout. Fishing without catching only goes so far. It only lasts so long. We dream not just of the woods and the water, but the trout too. And catching those fish brings in another art, another appreciation for the challenge and a new way to be creative. It also fulfills our human need to learn something. And without a trout on the end of your line once in a while, you’re just hiking through the water with a ten-foot stick . . .

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.

Back to Basics — Back to Buggers

Back to Basics — Back to Buggers

Bill texted me at 2:00 pm.

“How’s the fishing, and where should we meet?” he wrote.

The day was changing from a perfectly cloudy and drizzly cool day to a pure washout. More dark sky slid over the horizon as I hustled back to the truck. Patches of heavy rain were dumping buckets throughout the region. In a few hours the whole river would muddy completely.  Some sections were still fishable, but not for long.

Under the shadow of the rear hatch, I stashed wet gear into the truck and changed into a drier shirt as another SUV arrived from upstream and turned into the dirt pull-off. The side windows slid down, and I saw three fishermen inside.

“How’d you make out?” they asked. “Is it muddy down below too?” The driver gestured in the direction of the rising river, just out of site beyond the hemlocks.

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Front-Ended: Can We Stop Doing this to Each Other?

Front-Ended: Can We Stop Doing this to Each Other?

There are two types of people who will front-end you on the river: the rookie who honestly and innocently doesn’t understand on-stream protocol and the guy who knows exactly what he’s doing but doesn’t care, so he front-ends you anyway.

Pity the first type and forgive them. The second type are despicable bastards, and no amount of reasoning, arguing, cursing or pleading is going to change their behavior. If you encounter the second guy, just walk away. If he’s bold enough to cut you off intentionally, then he’s bold enough to stand his ground no matter what reasonable sense you try to make . . .

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Angler Types in Profile: The Rookie

Angler Types in Profile: The Rookie

I’m consistently surprised by the lack of river sense that’s missing in so many anglers. I mean that literally and not condescendingly. Just as a city kid marvels at the sight of deep darkness on a moonless night, fifty miles deep into a state forest, the country boy doesn’t give it a second thought. It’s experience. And that’s all it is.

People who are new to fishing just don’t know much about rivers. And I never really get used to that. Because so much of what a river does, and what fish do in response, is organic to me. I grew up fishing and playing in small streams. As a kid, I was drawn to every runoff ditch within walking or biking distance. I couldn’t stay away. And like anything else, you grow into your surroundings. I don’t think that can be changed, whether we’d like it to be or not.

Anyway, those without that same history with rivers see the water differently, and sometimes I have trouble remembering it.

On a cool April morning, Sam and I hit the water with all his new gear . . .

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What to Trust

What to Trust

Note: This article was published to Troutbitten in January, 2016. It's revised and revisited here today. The tall man crossed the old railroad bridge above me. He paused at the midpoint, lingered and watched me cast for a moment, then he bellowed downstream to me with...

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