Articles With the Tag . . . reading water

What Lies Beneath

There’s a world unseen below the surface. The riverbed weaves a course and directs the currents, giving shape to its valley. Water swirls behind rocks. It moves north and south against submerged logs. The stream blends and separates, merges and divides again as vertical columns rise and fall — and all of this in three dimensions. . . . Eventually, knowing and admiring what lies beneath is as easy as seeing what flows above.

Cover Water — Catch Trout

John crossed the bridge with his head down. He watched each wading boot meet a railroad tie before picking up his other foot for the next step. Cautiously, he walked the odd and narrow gait required when walking the tracks. And with nothing but air between each massive railroad tie, he could see the river below.

I’ve never known anyone to fall on a railroad bridge. I suppose you couldn’t fall through. But you’d surely break a leg or twist an ankle with one wrong step on that slick wood.

So I stood by the “No Trespassing” sign, next to the edge of the bridge, and watched my friend slowly make his way toward me. He looked disappointed. And when gravel filled in the gaps between ties, when John was back on solid ground, his head stayed down.

“Did you catch a Namer?” I asked with feigned enthusiasm.

“Ha! Nope, I surely didn’t do that,” John said, waving his hand and brushing off my next question.”

Fly Fishing Tips: The Order of Everything

A lot goes into a good fishing trip. It’s a flexible framework of pieces and parts mixed in with a little fortuitous intuition. That first trout to the net is rarely luck. And when you start to lose count of how many fish have come to hand, you can be sure that luck has had very little to do with it.

We like to dig into the details of fly fishing. How fast should we lead a pair of nymphs on a tight line? What streamer-head-angle produces best for a medium retrieve in flat water? But the overarching principles of how to catch a trout — the headers of the outline — are these . . .

Fly Fishing Tips: Good drifts are about the leader — not the fly

Flies unattached to anything make for a great lesson. Drop a dry fly into the current and watch the endless dead drift. With no leader to change its course, the dry might go on, drag free, for miles downstream. But weighted flies are a little different. Drop a tungsten beaded Walt’s in the river, and it’ll find the bottom in a few feet or less, even in heavy currents — same thing with split shot. For underwater presentations, then, the leader keeps a fly on its path.

The line and leader is in charge of the flies. And regardless of the fly type, tippet or presentation, good drifts are all about what an angler does with the leader. Wherever that last section of tippet goes, so does the fly.

Therefore, placing the leader in the right water is the key to getting good drifts.

Let’s do it . . .

Cover Water — Catch Trout

Cover Water — Catch Trout

John crossed the bridge with his head down. He watched each wading boot meet a railroad tie before picking up his other foot for the next step. Cautiously, he walked the odd and narrow gait required when walking the tracks. And with nothing but air between each...

Fly Fishing Tips: The Order of Everything

Fly Fishing Tips: The Order of Everything

A lot goes into a good fishing trip. It’s a flexible framework of pieces and parts mixed in with a little fortuitous intuition. That first trout to the net is rarely luck. And when you start to lose count of how many fish have come to hand, you can be sure that luck...

Get a good drift, then move on

Get a good drift, then move on

Cover more water and catch more trout. It’s a common theme running through these Troutbitten pages and one that surely puts more fish in the net — if you’re committed to it. And while there’s certainly a danger of taking this concept of constant motion to counterproductive extremes, the core philosophy of showing your flies to more trout is hard to argue against.

There are a host of variables to consider, though. And walking upstream spraying casts in every direction is not the way to get things done.

Let’s talk about it . . .

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Pocket and the V

Pocket and the V

The river’s flowing at three times the average. So the merge point at the lower tip of the braid is indistinct, washed away in a mix of watery lines and lanes that blend together. It’s tough water to read at the surface. And yet, a close look with a trained eye — from someone who’s walked and cast through this slice of river countless times — reveals all that is needed. Imagination and memory does the rest.

Can I reach the middle break and fish to the pocket as usual? Let’s see . . .

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At the front door of every rock

At the front door of every rock

Before I could even offer the challenge, Smith had already accepted it. He shifted his pack high onto his shoulders and stripped out line, wading deftly through the first thirty feet of water. Now stationed in the hard and swift side seam of the pocket, Smith’s six foot frame towered over the same rock that had challenged me.

He ignored the stall behind the rock. He cast no flies to the edges of each lane, because I’d already covered them. His first shot was a measure of distance. His second cast was a gauge of depth. On the third cast he had all the information he needed, and he tucked the stonefly into the flow — five feet above the limestone boulder — and let it drift . . .

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Quick Tips: Hold the Seam or Cross the Seam

Quick Tips: Hold the Seam or Cross the Seam

If you could plunge your head underwater and see what the trout sees, you’d have a much better idea of how to drift your flies. I once bought a wet suit and snorkel, with full intentions of doing just that. The experience was a bust, and my wife has some favorite anecdotes she likes to tell about that short period of our life.

Some of the things that trout eat can only dead drift, while others have little outboard motors for propulsion. Most trout foods have at least some wiggle to them, but which things can actually move across current seams at will? Baitfish can, of course. So when we’re representing minnows, sculpins, small trout or crayfish with our streamers, crossing seams might be a good idea. Likewise, stoneflies have a lot more swimming power than most caddis and mayflies, but their ability to cross current seams is nothing compared to baitfish. All of this is something to think about . . .

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Quick Tips: See beyond the sighter

Quick Tips: See beyond the sighter

New to tight lining? Then staring at the bright piece of colored line is a good place to start. But as soon as you gain some skills for reading the angle and speed of the sighter, when you can quickly gauge contact with your nymphs by glancing at the sag of the sighter, then it’s time to look ahead. Get to the next level.

. . . We do everything possible to improve the visibility of the sighter section in our leaders. We leave tag ends, add backing barrels and use super-bright opaque colored material. Good anglers also learn to fish from the best angles for visibility — usually with the sun or brightest light at their backs. So it’s easy to be mesmerized by those colors. And I think most nymph fishers catch themselves staring at the sighter too often, missing all the other available signals.

. . . What are those signals? Most of them are beyond the sighter — past the last visible piece of yellow, red, orange, etc. and into the water . . .

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Quick Tips: Fish what you can, and leave the rest

Quick Tips: Fish what you can, and leave the rest

We’re in an extended high water period in Central Pennsylvania. Honestly, I love it. When the creek are full the trout are happy, and so am I. I’ve heard the lament of so many anglers across the region about unfishable conditions and poor results. But that’s not the reality I’m in. And if the water clarity is decent — if the trout can see the flies — I’ll take high water over low water every time. Success in such conditions just takes some discipline to fish what you can, and leave the rest.

Sure, blown out water is a bust, and there’s really not much you can do about that. But I’m not talking about muddy water and flood conditions. So far this fall season, we’ve averaged flows that are two or three times the norm for this time of year. But consider that our fall water is usually pretty low, and you might suddenly become thankful for the opportunity to fish a creek with some decent water coming through.

No matter the river or the flows, good fishing happens by staying within your effective reach. Fish within your means. If you are only comfortable in water that’s knee-deep, then find water below your knees and fish only what you can reach from there. Try hard not to fall into the grass-is-greener-on-the-other side trap.

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