Archive for April 2015

Come To Your Senses…..   4 comments

Hidy Ho Good Neighbors,

“Did you hear that?” My client says, “Hear what?”. “I thought I heard a fish eat on the surface downstream to our left”, I reply. “Nope, didn’t hear a thing”, he says. This conversation, and many like it, happens often while I’m guiding.

Fly fishing is mostly about sight. Being able to see what is happening while following an indicator or dry fly is easy. It’s directly observable. The ability to “feel” underwater and hear peripheral happenings on the surface is the next step in becoming an accomplished angler.

I find the best anglers, fly fishers, are those that have the whole package. They can pick up several clues about what’s going on around them while concentrating on the “sight game”. The ability to multi-task while getting great drifts is paramount because it helps you “see” what’s going on around you.

Seeing adult bugs fluttering over the river is important, but hearing fish eat on the surface without a visual clue is deadly. Also, the ability to discern by sound how the fish are eating on top, and the ability to make appropriate changes to your rig, without a visual clue is huge.

One of the best days of fishing I ever had was on the Arkansas River near Salida, Colorado, during a caddis hatch. During daylight hours, it was easy to see my offering and the subsequent splashy takes on the surface. Where it really got fun was when the sun went down and I continued to fish in the dark throwing dry caddis imitations to eager fish. Having a general idea of where your flies where in the drift, and setting on the sound of the fish eating, was an absolute blast. I think that day went a long way in teaching me how to dial into a river without being able to see. I have done it several times since on various rivers in the Rocky Mountain West.

If you do it enough, you can tell the difference between a sip, a flush, and a splashy take. Splashy takes are easy to recognize, but sips and flushes aren’t so easy to discern. Splashy takes are a good sign that trout are eating Caddis, Stoneflies or other bugs on the surface that skitter, skate, or hatch in one fluid motion. Sips signify fish that are eating duns, spents, or cripples on the surface in a peaceful cadence. You have to really listen for sips, but I often hear those before I see them because the fish may only expose a nose and part of their back. Flushes are fun. For those of you that have ever thrown mouse patterns in the dark, you know what I mean when I talk about a flush eat. It’s the sound of a fish attacking something on the surface. Usually, it’s a big fly eaten by a big fish. It’s a large circular take with an unmistakable sound.

Often times, I will hear a fish eat on top, and quickly look in that direction for the telltale ring or floating air bubble that shows broken water surface. At this point, using my experience and sight to determine which flies are hatching comes into play. Figure the type of take, where the fish ate, and finally the adults that are hatching, to formulate your plan and next move.

The other sense I mentioned earlier was feel. In most fly fishing situations, the “feel” comes after the hook-up. If I’m Czeck nymphing, feel is a sense that comes in handy as there are very few visual clues that tell you when you have a fish eat. Sometimes when fishing soft hackles under and indicator you also get to feel the fish eat on the swing portion of your drift. Another chance to feel a fish eat is when you’re chucking streamers. Streamers and Czeck nymphing are unique in that you can not only feel fish takes, but you can feel the water. You feel differences in water speed, depths, and hydraulics. In other words, you can feel without seeing what’s going on with current sub-surface. It’s pretty cool, and will teach you volumes of information that you can apply to all disciplines of fly fishing.

As a guy that’s bow hunted nearly his entire life, I’ve learned what it takes to get close to game to seal the deal. A lot of my successes have come from secondary senses. Although I rely on sight predominately, I am constantly striving to bring my other senses into play as I fly fish. Give it a try!

My sense of smell tells me dinner is ready……Fear No Water!

Let the force be with you....

Let the force be with you….

 

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The next step……   Leave a comment

Hidy Ho Good Neighbors!

Last time I talked about the systematic approach in attacking the river. We discussed reading the water, fish and bugs, and how to formulate a plan. This plan is flexible, but is always cut out of the options cloth, and not the guesses cloth. Just like one roll cast should set up the next roll cast, one drift leads to and sets up the next one. Sytematically….

Let’s break this down further and discuss just the drift. Everyone knows the 4 basic tenets of a drift: Depth, Speed, Profile, and Color. Most folks think that these are only nymph drift specific. I don’t think so, I think those 4 basic tenets apply to pretty much every type of fishing in general. Whether you’re chasing Tarpon in salt or bluegill in a pond, they are complimentary. You still have to present your offering at or above fish level (most often), at the right speed, size/profile, and color.

I can remember as a kid catching tons of bluegill on a flyrod in Arizona. My dad would drop me off at the city lake where I would spend his entire work day menacing those panfish. That 9’ rod came in real handy as I would simply reach out and dangle the fly right in front of those fish. They couldn’t resist it, especially if it was a small black wooly bugger. That was my first experience with depth, profile and color. As I learned to overhand cast that summer, I began to learn about speed as I would strip in the bugger in hopes of hooking up.

Ah, but as I learned about stripping in flies, I was also learning valuable lessons about the relationship between depth and speed, and how they can effect one another. Once I began to let the fly drop to fish depth, and strip at an appropriate cadence and speed, I began to hook small largemouth with regularity. Too fast, and I lost depth, too slow and I sunk below the feeding zone.  And as I began to make and fish my homemade bass poppers on the surface, I began to really get a taste of the importance of depth, speed, profile, and color.

So what is depth? Depth is where the fish are. Do I have to nymph fish to catch fish subsurface? Nope, you can work them over with a streamer at proper depth and speed, or if they are eating in the film, you can throw the skinny rig at them. Did just that last week. Several fish were eating dun baetis on the surface, instead of going to dries, I removed all weight, slid the indicator up to the leader/butt knot, greased the tippet sections with floatant, and turned my folks loose. We hooked and landed several fish this way because we focused on depth of the feeding fish, speed of our offering, and the proper profile and color of fly. It is akin to my first brushes with bluegill, put the fly in front of the fish.

Speed is the rate of travel of our flies. We always want them to be cruising at the proper behavioral drift or flow. Naturally. If I’m nymphing under an indicator, I want the INDICATOR travelling half of the speed of the surface water. This ensures my FLIES are traveling at the proper speeds subsurface. If I am tossing dries, I want clean, accurate drifts of proper speeds as I travel over the feeding fish. With streamers, I need to experiment with retrieves until I dial in proper speeds and feeding fish depths. Folks that streamer fish a lot, develop an inane ability to predict depth and speed without too much experimentation. It’s a thing to behold. They can “feel” depth and speed.

As for profile and color, well honestly, a lot of that is observable. Don’t wish to oversimplify here, because it is critical to success, but a rudimentary knowledge of entomology can help you dial in very quickly. However, I believe you can throw the right bugs at wrong depths and speeds and not catch fish. Conversely, you can throw the wrong flies at proper depths and speeds and still pick up a few. So, in my mind, profile and color are important, but not as much as depth and speed.  Once you master the 4 basic tenets of fly fishing, there’s no turning back.  Your game will escalate.

Used the skinny rig on this nice Eagle River Brown.

Used the skinny rig on this nice Eagle River Brown.

Well, folks, that’s it for now. Feel free to chime in with questions or comments, AND thanks for buying my latest book. It’s doing well.

Fear No Water.

 

 

 

Depth, speed, profile, color.

Depth, speed, profile, color.

Deep, dredging nymph rig earned this fine fish.

Deep, dredging nymph rig earned this fine fish.

Parachute Adams at the proper speed brought this fish up.

Parachute Adams at the proper speed brought this fish up.