Articles in the Category Tactics

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

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? . . .

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 . . .

Beyond Euro Nymphing

Euro nymphing is an elegant, tight line solution. But don’t limit yourself. Why not use the tight line tools (leaders and tactics) for more than just euro nymphing?

Use it for fishing a tight-line style of indicators. Use it for dry dropper or even straight dries. And use it for streamers, both big and small.

Refining these tactics is the natural progression of anglers who fish hard, are thoughtful about the tactics and don’t like limitations. I know many good fly fishers who have all come out the other side with the same set of tools. Because fishing a contact system like the Mono Rig eventually teaches you all that is possible . . .

Dry Fly Fishing — Back Door, Side Door, Front Door | When the first cast matters most: Part Two

Dry Fly Fishing — Back Door, Side Door, Front Door | When the first cast matters most: Part Two

When fishing dries, the cautious angler has many chances to fool a rising trout. Start behind the trout at the back door. Next move over and try the side door, beside the trout. Then try going right down the middle and through the front door.

Making consecutive casts with a dry fly produces often enough to believe that the next cast will seal the deal. But there’s a lot more to it . . .

When the First Cast Matters Most: Part One — Streamers

When the First Cast Matters Most: Part One — Streamers

While fishing the long flies, accuracy is paramount. In a recent conversation with my friend, Bill Dell, he made an excellent point that changed the way I fished streamers again. Bill’s thoughts forced me to rethink the habits I’d fallen into. And that hammered me back into shape.

Bill told me he doesn’t make a cast until he’s in the ideal position, until he can deliver the streamer to that sunken log near the bank with exactly the angle he considers best. He refrains from any lead-up casts. Rather, Bill saves the initial cast for when he can deliver the knockout blow — no jabbing on the way in. Here’s why . . .

How to Easily Avoid the Mono Rig Coiling Problem

How to Easily Avoid the Mono Rig Coiling Problem

Monofilament fishing line tends to hold the curves of its home. Whatever spool it’s stored on, it peels off in roughly the same diameter as that housing. All monofilament has this tendency, but some brands hold their memory much more than others. This line memory — this line coiling — is a problem. But the fix is very simple . . .

Nymph Hook Inversion — And the Myth of the Jig Hook

Nymph Hook Inversion — And the Myth of the Jig Hook

Would you believe it if I told you that jig hooks don’t change the way a nymph rides in the water? You don’t need a jig hook to invert the nymph. In fact almost all nymphs invert, especially when weighted with a bead or lead. Furthermore, nymphs built on a jig hook probably aren’t inverting the way you imagine. And how you attach the knot is much more important than the hook itself . . .

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 . . .

Tight Line Nymphing — How Much of this is Feel?

Tight Line Nymphing — How Much of this is Feel?

Smith was still puzzled, and I suspected I was about to join him. He held up his rod, with the long Mono Rig leader, two nymphs and a sighter, and pointed to it.

“But if strike detection is mostly visual, what part of this is feel?”

Smith had asked a question that I’d never fully considered. Then I answered. “At the rod tip you can feel when you’re in contact with the flies . . .”

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Tight Line Nymphing — Strike Detection is Visual

Tight Line Nymphing — Strike Detection is Visual

Smith set up over my right shoulder and watched for a while, quietly examining my backhand drifts and spitting sunflower seed shells on the water. I landed two trout and missed another . . .

“Did you feel those strikes, or did you set the hook because the sighter twitched?” Smith asked . . .

“They rarely hit hard enough to feel it,” I told him. “And if you’re waiting for some some kind of tug or tap, you’re missing a lot of strikes.”

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Streamer Presentations: Land With Contact

Streamer Presentations: Land With Contact

Streamer fishing provides limited opportunities to put fish in the net. There are fewer takes on a long fly than we expect with smaller flies like nymphs or dries. So we cannot afford to miss these chances. Lack of contact with the streamer is a common error, but it’s easily corrected . . .

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Fly Casting — Shoot Line on the Back Cast

Fly Casting — Shoot Line on the Back Cast

For better casting, for more options after the power stroke, for more available adjustments regarding where the line will end up, shoot most or all of the necessary line on the backcast. And if you’re really good, do it with no extra false casting . . .

Here’s how and why . . .

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Fly Fishing in the Winter — Egg Tips

Fly Fishing in the Winter — Egg Tips

Smith and I found ourselves on another late December, post-Christmas fishing trip. But Smith was fishing and coming up empty, while I was catching trout . . .

. . . “Alright, Dom. What the hell are you doing?” he demanded boldly. Smith takes pride in finding his own path and solving his own puzzles. But like every good angler I know, he’s humble enough to ask the right questions at the right times . . .

The predictability of the winter egg bite can be excellent — if you’re nymphing skills are tuned up. It also takes some extra refinement . . .

. . . So here’s what I told Smith . . .

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Where to find Big Trout | Part Four: The Permanent Structure

Where to find Big Trout | Part Four: The Permanent Structure

Rivers are built from just a few parts. While the sand and soil of a streambed is fluid, the framework — the shape of a river — is directed by roots and rocks. Time and the tenacity of flowing water changes the shape of the hardest rocks, eventually carving granite into a new form, eroding and molding a riverbank toward a new course. And while nothing is eternal in a river or its floodplain, there’s enough permanent structure in a stream — the immovable objects — that good trout take notice. So does the big fish hunter . . .

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