Articles With the Tag . . . reading water

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 . . .

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!

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 . . .

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.

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...

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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Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #48 — Fish the Other Stuff — Fish the Weird Stuff

Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #48 — Fish the Other Stuff — Fish the Weird Stuff

There’s a canyon stretch on my home stream with a gated, gravel access road used by dog walkers, runners, hikers, bird watchers and crazed fishermen. It’s a wonderful three-mile walk up into the canyon or down from the other side. In some sections the path bumps up against the towering limestone walls, and you can feel crisp cool air pushing aside the heavy heated blanket of summer.

There are huge chunks of those same rocks that have broken off through time. They remind you how many centuries this place was here before you were, and how long it will remain after we’ve all turned to dust. The eternal boulders were separated from the crest of the cliff through the earthly power of spreading hemlock roots that infiltrated every available crack, until eventually an enormous boulder fell to the forest floor and rolled into the river, providing a landmark and a constant reminder of how small your space in time really is.

So it’s a good walk up in there. And lots of anglers make the trek. But here’s the funny thing: people stop and fish the same places, day after day, year after year. All of us do it.

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Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #45 — The Dry Fly is a Scout

Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #45 — The Dry Fly is a Scout

The fly is an explorer tied to the end of a string. It bounds along with the current, making discoveries and telegraphing its collected information back through a line. Whether nymph, streamer, wet or dry, our fly is an investigator sent forward to probe the water and search for trout — and to collect more information than our eyes can see.

Standing riverside, pinching the hook of a caddis dry fly between forefinger and thumb, with slack line and a rod poised to send our fly on a mission, we scan the water for signs. We look for rising trout and likely holding lies. And we look for  much more than is easily visible. The currents of a rocky, rolling river are a converging and confusing mix. And what we may decipher through polarized lenses is a mere scratch of the surface. So we send a pioneer.

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Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #42 — Work into the Prime Spots

Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #42 — Work into the Prime Spots

The trout were on. They started with nymphs, but as soon as the emerging tan caddis popped to the surface, a green summer morning turned into something special.

Steve was the first to switch to dry flies. Around 9:30 a.m. I leapfrogged his position again and stopped to visit for a moment. Steve spoke as I approached.

“Man, these are the days you dream about,” he said while casting.

Standing in the creek, not far off the bank, he glanced over his left shoulder in my direction, judging the length of his fly line against the back casting space I’d left him. And I continued wading closer to my friend in the ankle-deep water.

“You switched to dries?” I used the statement as a question . . .

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