Articles in the Category Remix

Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #21 — Fear No Snag

Playing it safe saves flies. It even saves time. But it catches fewer trout. And whether drifting nymphs across a rock garden, punching hairwing dries into hazardous hidey-holes or slinging streamers into bankside slots, it pays to take risks because the rewards follow . . .

Quick Tips — When to Fish Just One Nymph

John and I always keep count. He’s the only fishing friend who can pull me into such a race. And I’m not sure why.

Like all fishermen do at some point, I used to keep count of my catch. I even roughly calculated my catch rate at the end of the day, like this:

“Let’s see, I fished for five hours, but I took a twenty minute break around lunch. Walk in time was fifteen minutes, so subtract that too. I caught twenty-six trout, but I COULD have caught those couple of trout that came unbuttoned if I was more careful, so let’s add those in and say thirty. Multiply, divide and there’s my catch rate.”

That sounds like fishermen’s math, right?

But I don’t count much anymore. And I don’t like to compete against anything but the river and the trout. I don’t mind losing to the river on occasion, either. Because loss is a wonderful teacher.

But John baits me back into counting every time we fish together. And there’s no fuzzy catch-rate-math involved — just straight up fish counting.

Streamer Presentations — The Deadly Slow-Slide

The best thing about fishing streamers is how different it is from everything else we do on a fly rod. Precision dead drifts? Delicate casting and thin tippets? Forget that. Slinging the big bugs is the antithesis against what the rest of fly fishing is all about. Or at least, it can be.

Everything works sometimes. We can present a streamer at almost any angle or speed and have a fair expectation to fool a trout. This makes sense because streamers imitate baitfish, creatures with an ability to move — to dart, dive and swim through the water. And they often do so unpredictably, just like our streamers.

But there’s a particular presentation that I’ve come to rely on more than any other, lately. It mimics a more available food form for trout, but it’s not a dead drift. The line and rod hand adjustments are subtle, but the presentation is active. It’s a bank or structure approach; it gets the trout’s attention. And it’s deadly.

I call it the slow-slide . . .

Admiration

Not many fish allow you to break off a fly on the hookset while they still take another fly just five minutes and three drifts later. It takes a special kind of stupid for that to happen.

Pat spread the mustard lightly this time. And the joy of all children, April fishermen, spinnies and hobbyists was firmly hooked.

Upper Honey

Upper Honey

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

You gear up, lock the truck and hike down the ravine. Following the path of a shallow ditch, you enter the water where the spring-seep trickles in, and you cross the river where it’s wide and shallow. On the far side, you navigate over a maze of zig-zagging deer trails and around fallen timber for about a half mile. You climb the hillside to the railroad tracks and walk another quarter mile, scanning the river below for the spot — the one you and your fishing buddies refer to as Upper Honey.

In the off season like this, there are no leaves on the trees, and you can usually spot the ancient sycamore teetering bank-side, leaning about thirty degrees over, patiently waiting, month after month, year after year, for the day when it slips the bonds of its streamside earth and crashes into the water.

And oh my, those roots. Underneath the massive sycamore sits an exposed tangle of underground limbs — wet, flexible pipes as thick as your leg, with a shadowy cover where no sunlight penetrates . . .

The Boat

The Boat

It was constructed by four muscular hands over two days and with one purpose — to float. Built to the specs of intricate line drawings printed on rough paper, the boat came to match the blueprints ordered from an ad in the back of a Popular Science magazine.

The builders used it for two seasons, and then it sat. The boat collected rain and bred microscopic life, providing food for mosquitoes and midge larva which hatched in their own time and fed the swallows nesting in the rafters of a nearby farmhouse turned post-war residence.

Year after year the boat sat, unused, lonely and forgotten.

Then it was sold — bartered actually — for enough groceries to fill one large brown bag. The hands of a builder passed ownership to the hands of a fisherman, having his own purposes for a boat . . .

Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #7 — Choose lots of fish, or choose big fish — You can’t have both

Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #7 — Choose lots of fish, or choose big fish — You can’t have both

I’ve often said that my best strategy for catching a big brown trout is to fool a bunch of trout, and one of them will be big. But I don’t believe that so completely anymore.

Let me say, right up front, that I have some friends who seem to accomplish high numbers and big fish in the same day all too often. My buddy, Matt Grobe, kinda tears it up out in Montana. But Matt’s always been a lucky bastard, so let’s just leave it at that.

In all honesty, Matt agrees with the premise that you can’t have both. I just checked. He said yes. So we have his blessing here to continue.

In the last five years I’ve shared the water with Burke a lot too, and I’ve learned some strategies about big fish fishing.

There are some truths, some guiding principles for targeting larger trout, and the list starts like this: #1: Stop trying to catch a bunch of fish . . .

Mid-Season Form

Mid-Season Form

Sawyer isn’t afraid of the cold. He’s like a polar bear in waders — doesn’t even wear gloves on his paws. And I don’t get guys like this. I don’t understand where their warmth comes from. Is it a higher tolerance for pain or a motor that just runs hotter than most? Who knows, but Sawyer’s always up for anything, and he’s fun to fish with.

The first batch of winter roads had people a little skittish on Tuesday morning. Even the plows and salt trucks showed some unusual caution. Later in the season, they’ll be cutting close lines and motoring at top speed, plows laid flat, shooting sparks with bare steel on rock. Before long, they’ll be in a mid-season rhythm. But at 7:30 am on Tuesday morning, the highway traffic formed a line behind the yellow diesel beasts, and everyone unanimously and silently agreed to be a little extra careful. So I was late.

When I finally stepped out of line and steered left onto the winding creek side road, I was eager to accelerate. So I took my new freedom with some aggression, pushing snow with my 4-wheel drive and generally driving the way a ten-year-old boy rides a sled. You gotta love fresh snow . . .

The Big Rig: The Two Plus One — Two Nymphs and a Streamer

The Big Rig: The Two Plus One — Two Nymphs and a Streamer

Multi-fly rigs are nothing new. We pair one nymph with another all the time. Many of us fish two streamers, and most of us cast a dry fly with a nymph for the dropper once in awhile. But the pairing of a streamer and a nymph is less common. And maybe that’s because the typical presentations for each fly type are quite different — we tend to think we’re either streamer fishing or nymph fishing, but rarely both at the same time.

The Big Rig combines two nymphs and a streamer. With some minor leader adjustments and some outside-the-box thinking on tactics, you can kinda have it all . . .

Where the Lines Are Drawn

Where the Lines Are Drawn

I’m fascinated by the arbitrary lines people create for themselves. Nowhere in life do I see the tendency to define and delineate so strongly as it’s seen in fishermen. Anglers constantly draw lines about how they fish, about what kind of fisherman they are, and more emphatically, what kind of fisherman they are not . . .

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Holding a Trout — Their Heart in Your Hands

Holding a Trout — Their Heart in Your Hands

Fish pictures are the grand compromise of catch and release. An Instagram feed with a full gallery of trout is replacing the stringer of dead fish for bragging rights. And that’s a good thing. They look better alive anyway.

Would a trout be better off if we didn’t take its picture? Sure it would. Moreover, wouldn’t a trout be better off if we didn’t set a hook in its mouth and drag it through the water? Yup. So I think we have to be a little careful how self-righteous we get. Point is, we all draw the line somewhere, and I firmly believe that a quick picture, taken responsibly (I’ll get to that), won’t hurt a trout.

Most of the fishermen I know who’ve spent a great deal of time with their boots in the water have caught on to catch and release. The bare facts stare you in the face pretty quickly if you start keeping your limit on every trip. You soon realize that a good fisherman can thin out a stretch of water in short order, and a group of good fishermen can probably take down an entire watershed.

So we take pictures instead . . .

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All the Things

All the Things

There’s the fly box with a broken hinge. Half of the pin on the backside is missing, and I don’t know how that happened. I do know I’ll be standing in fast water someday; I’ll unfold the box, and the open leaf will fall off. I won’t even have a chance for a proper goodbye to the drowned flies and wasted hours — no, the days — of ordinary time spent focused on one square inch of space (that’s what fly tying is). So I’ll fix the hinge today. I could transfer all the flies to a new box, but that would probably take more time.

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Tight Line Nymphing with an Indicator — A Mono Rig Variant

Tight Line Nymphing with an Indicator — A Mono Rig Variant

I dislike arbitrary limits. Placing restrictions on tackle and techniques, when they inhibit my ability to adapt to the fishing conditions, makes no sense to me. I’m bound by no set of rules other than my own. And my philosophy is — Do what works.

I guess that’s why I’ve grown into this fishing system. Most of the time I use what I refer to as the Mono Rig. It’s a very long leader that substitutes for fly line, and I’ve written about it extensively on Troutbitten. Tight line and euro nymphing principles are at the heart of the Mono Rig, but there are multiple variations that deviate from those standard setups. Sometimes I use split shot rather than weighted flies. Sometimes I add suspenders to the rig. I even throw large, articulated streamers and strip aggressively with the Mono Rig. All of this works on the basic principle of substituting #20 monofilament for fly line.

Tight line nymphing is my default approach on most rivers. I like the control, the contact and the immediacy of strike detection. But sometimes adding a suspender (an indicator that suspends weight) just works better . . .

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Perfect Peace

Perfect Peace

This is still one of my most memorable days on the water. It's burned in deep. Read: Perfect Peace

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Border Collie and the Thunderstorm

Border Collie and the Thunderstorm

The border collie sensed incoming weather before I did. Under the contrast of black on white, beneath mottled pink skin and between the ears, was a group of unknown senses, not just for the weather, but for a number of intangibles I never seemed to recognize. He...

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