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 . . .

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 . . .

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 . . .

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 . . .

Nymphing: The Top Down Approach

Nymphing: The Top Down Approach

The biggest misconception in nymphing is that our flies should bump along the bottom. Get it down where the trout are, they say. Bounce the nymph along the riverbed, because that’s the only way to catch trout. We’re told to feel the nymph tick, tick, tick across the rocks, and then set the hook when a trout eats. With apologies to all who have uttered these sentiments and given them useless ink, that is pure bullshit.

. . . Here’s how and why to avoid the bottom, fish more effectively and catch more trout with a top down approach . . .

Stick the Landing While Tight Lining

Stick the Landing While Tight Lining

. . . Think of it like this: Tight line anglers should stick the landing at the end of the cast. Only the line that must enter the water should go under, while everything else remains above the surface and in the air. The leader should be tight, from the water’s surface to the rod tip, in a leading angle almost immediately. Stick the landing! Learn what angle the sighter eventually takes through the drift, and that’s the angle you should start with . . .

Tending your tags and point flies — A DIY hack for multiple hook keepers

Tending your tags and point flies — A DIY hack for multiple hook keepers

One of the more irritating trends in the fly rod market these days is the absence of a hook keeper above the cork. Plenty of us think it’s an oversight. And I’m tired of the worn out excuse that there’s a hook keeper at every guide. Rod guides aren’t the same. Give me that thin little u-shaped hook keeper just above my cork, please.

Even with a hook keeper for the point fly, those of us who use tags for a second fly are often frustrated by the tangling tag while walking to the next honey hole.

Solution: mini rubber bands.

Here are a few tricks to get it just right . . .

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Streamer Presentations — The DEATH Drift

Streamer Presentations — The DEATH Drift

What happens to a fish when it dies? It usually sinks to the bottom. And I’ve seen enough trout carcasses or half-eaten and decomposing fish on the riverbed to believe this as a first-hand fact. But what happens to a fish as it’s dying? What of the small trout, sculpins, dace and other baitfish that reach the end of life because of injury or old age? For all the thousands of baitfish that inhabit your favorite stretch of river, how do they meet their end?

Surely, most of them simply sink to the streambed and surrender to the circle of life, becoming sustenance for smaller aquatic critters. But sometimes, a dying fish floats and struggles for a bit. And that seems like a pretty good opportunity for a hungry trout.

Enter, the DEATH drift . . .

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Everything that touches the river drags — Everything underneath drags even more

Everything that touches the river drags — Everything underneath drags even more

This one is simple. Line, leader or tippet laying on the water drags. It’s a plain truth staring right back at us. Meaning, it’s pretty easy to see the results of drag on the water’s surface. It’s harder to see drag happening under the water and out of sight, but once you’ve put in a few thousand river hours, intuition mixes with experience and the subtle visual signals above the river reveal the same telltale drag.

. . . Only the line that has to touch the surface should be wet. Even more importantly, only the line that must go under the surface should disappear. Here’s how and why . . .

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The Full Mono Rig System — All the variations, with formulas and adjustments

The Full Mono Rig System — All the variations, with formulas and adjustments

There are at least seven different styles for fishing a Mono Rig. Here are all the adjustments and leader formulas for each method, all in one place.

These are the variations: Euro Nymphing, Tight Line Nymphing, Tight Line to the Indicator, Tight Line Dry Dropper, Crossover Technique, Streamer fishing on the Mono Rig, Dry Flies on the Mono Rig.

The base leader remains the same, and each of these variations require adjustments — mostly minor — to tippet or sighter sections. Let’s get to it . . .

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Streamer Presentations — The Crossover Technique

Streamer Presentations — The Crossover Technique

. . . The crossover is a targeted approach to fishing streamers. Instead of spraying casts and hoping, we bring the streamer right to the trout, with control.

. . . If you’re experienced with streamers — if you’ve spent a lot of time chucking meat — it will take discipline to perform the crossover correctly. Refrain from stripping, jerking and reverting back to the more common retrieves. Our average motions with streamers are usually large. We move the fly fast and far. Again, think small. Imagine a dying or disoriented baitfish bumbling along the riverbed and trying to get its bearings. Move your streamer that way.

. . . With the crossover style, I work the streamer through river lanes while focusing on structure: rocks, logs, gravel bars or color changes in the riverbed. All of these are excellent targets, and the animations available with the crossover style are a perfect way to maximize the fly’s time in these hot zones . . .

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Dry Flies on the Mono Rig

Dry Flies on the Mono Rig

For many years, I never much considered casting dry flies on a Mono Rig as a viable option. I enjoyed the art of casting a dry with a traditional fly line. And if you asked me about dries on a long leader system back then, I’d shake my head and tell you something about using the right tool for the job. But in the last few years, much of that has changed. And now, I suggest that a long Mono Rig is, in fact, the right tool for the job — sometimes.

There’s a time and place for everything. And fishing dry flies on the Mono Rig has become one of my favorite ways to approach trout, not just because it’s a convenient and quick variation when swapping over from a tight line nymphing rig, but because it is stunningly effective . . .

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