Articles in the Category Tips

Habits: Keep It On the Reel

Bad habits start easily enough, but they’re ingrained when an angler chooses not to make a change, instead staying with what is comfortable and convenient. We all do this at times. Instead of learning a better way, we do what is easier. In fishing, that happens a lot.

All line and leader not being used should be on the reel. Always. Yes, always, as in ALL the time.

Here’s how, why and what problems arise from doing it any other way . . .

Perfect from the Start

Never underestimate how far away a trout can see upstream. And never underestimate how far away a trout will refuse a fly. It might drift perfectly, right past the trout. But the decision — the refusal, may have already been made with the fly twenty feet upstream.

Here’s more . . .

What water type? Where are they eating?

Fast, heavy, deep runs have always been my favorite water type to fish. I can spend a full day in the big stuff. I love the mind-clearing washout of whitewater. No average sounds penetrate it. And the never ending roar of a chunky run is mesmerizing. I also enjoy the wading challenge. The heaviest water requires not just effort, but a constant focus and a planned path to keep you upright and on two feet. Constant adjustment is needed to stay balanced, and one slip or misstep ends up in a thorough dunking. It reminds me of the scaffold work I did on construction crews in my twenties. I always enjoyed being a few stories up, because the workday flew by. When every movement means life or death, you’d better stay focused. I always liked that . . .

Why do we miss trout on a nymph?

Late hook sets are a problem, as is guessing about whether we should set the hook in the first place. But I believe, more times than not, when we miss a trout, the fish actually misses the fly. However, that doesn’t let us off the hook either. It’s probably still our fault. And here’s why . . .

Loss of contact, refusals and bad drifts. All of these things and more add into missing trout on nymphs. So how do we improve the hookup ratio?

Perfect from the Start

Perfect from the Start

Never underestimate how far away a trout can see upstream. And never underestimate how far away a trout will refuse a fly. It might drift perfectly, right past the trout. But the decision — the refusal, may have already been made with the fly twenty feet upstream.

Here’s more . . .

What water type? Where are they eating?

What water type? Where are they eating?

Fast, heavy, deep runs have always been my favorite water type to fish. I can spend a full day in the big stuff. I love the mind-clearing washout of whitewater. No average sounds penetrate it. And the never ending roar of a chunky run is mesmerizing. I also enjoy the wading challenge. The heaviest water requires not just effort, but a constant focus and a planned path to keep you upright and on two feet. Constant adjustment is needed to stay balanced, and one slip or misstep ends up in a thorough dunking. It reminds me of the scaffold work I did on construction crews in my twenties. I always enjoyed being a few stories up, because the workday flew by. When every movement means life or death, you’d better stay focused. I always liked that . . .

Why do we miss trout on a nymph?

Why do we miss trout on a nymph?

Late hook sets are a problem, as is guessing about whether we should set the hook in the first place. But I believe, more times than not, when we miss a trout, the fish actually misses the fly. However, that doesn’t let us off the hook either. It’s probably still our fault. And here’s why . . .

Loss of contact, refusals and bad drifts. All of these things and more add into missing trout on nymphs. So how do we improve the hookup ratio?

Fishing Light

Fishing Light

You’ve probably been wading upstream on a favorite trout stream and seen another angler’s lost tackle. Maybe the whole mess was in the streamside trees, with split shot and bobber attached, or a misguided F13 Rapala with rusted hooks. Maybe you’ve snagged a pile of monofilament stuck in waterlogged branches and lodged against a rock. And when you’ve seen all that mess, maybe you were stunned by how heavy the tackle was. Are you with me? . . .

Nobody Home | Nobody Hungry

Nobody Home | Nobody Hungry

Nobody home means there’s no trout in the slot you were fishing. And sometimes that’s true. Nobody hungry suggests that a trout might be in the slot but he either isn’t eating, isn’t buying what you’re selling, or he doesn’t like the way you are selling it.

Does it matter? It sure does!

Be a Mobile Angler

Be a Mobile Angler

Wading is not just what happens between locations. And it’s not only about moving across the stream from one pocket to the next. Instead, wading happens continuously.

Many anglers wade to a spot in the river and set up, calf, knee or waist deep, seemingly relieved to have arrived safely. Then they proceed to fish far too much water without moving their feet again. When the fish don’t respond, these anglers finally pick up their feet. Maybe they grab a wading staff and begrudgingly take the steps necessary to reach new water and repeat the process.

This method of start and stop, of arriving and relocating, is a poor choice. Instead, the strategy of constant motion is what wins out . . .

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New Structure | Old Structure

New Structure | Old Structure

One of my favorite places in the world is a deeply shaded valley that runs north and south between two towering mountains of mixed hardwoods. The forest floor has enough conifers mixed in to block much of the sunlight, even in the winter. The ferns of spring grow tall, and thick moss is spread throughout. The ground remains soft enough here that all large trees eventually surrender to the valley. When they can no longer support their weight in the soft spongy ground, they fall over, leaving a broken forest of deep greens and the dark-chocolate browns of wet, dead bark. It’s gorgeous.

Fallen timber also dictates the course of this cold water stream. The fresh tree falls force the creek to bend away from the hillside. Rolling water carves away the earth and lays bare the rocks — these stones of time, as Maclean puts it. And when water cuts into a neighboring channel, previously dry for centuries, new river banks are undercut and fresh roots exposed . . .

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Dirty Water — Tight Targets

Dirty Water — Tight Targets

. . . If visibility is twelve inches or less, well then, things are pretty muddy.

Today, visibility was at least twice that. And I’m not saying it was clear enough for trout to make out details at two feet, but if you dunked your head under the water and looked upstream, you could probably see shapes coming from about twenty-four inches away. And if those shapes looked like food, you might be interested. Maybe not.

I have a bunch of tips for fishing this kind of water, and I’ve learned to enjoy the challenge. But all of my tips start with this . . .

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That’s Not a Dead Drift

That’s Not a Dead Drift

Fly fishers talk a lot about a dead drift. And why shouldn’t we? So much of our time is spent trying to replicate this elusive presentation that the concept of drifting flies without influence from the leader dictates a large part of what we do. It’s what we think about. We plan for it, rig for it and wade into position for it.

. . . If you just twitched or stripped your fly, it cannot dead drift next. Anything under tension drifts with some influence from the leader. And that’s not a dead drift.

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Eggs and Olives

Eggs and Olives

The early spring season is very much defined by the resurgence of the egg pattern. And by the time the suckers are done doing their thing, our hatch season is in full swing. Then, just like that, the egg bite turns off. Suddenly the trout favor mayfly and caddis imitations over the full-color egg options.

But as reliable as the egg bite can be in early spring, you don’t want to sleep on the Olives . . .

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Tight Line Nymphing — Contact Can Be Felt at the Rod Tip

Tight Line Nymphing — Contact Can Be Felt at the Rod Tip

. . . But Smith had also drawn out of me one thing that I’d never fully put into words before explaining it to him. Namely, that contact is felt as much as it’s seen. While tight line nymphing, I’d told Smith, an advanced angler can feel contact with the nymph on the rod tip. Essentially, you could very well fish with your eyes closed. And because Smith was skeptical, I’d suggested some after-dark tight line nymphing as a way to prove to my friend that he could feel that contact just as well as anyone . . .

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