Photo of the Month: Autumn Slab of Gold

Photo of the Month: Autumn Slab of Gold
Showing posts with label Fishing Tips. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Fishing Tips. Show all posts

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Be Patient, Don't Cast Too Often

Today I'll share another quick tip. There are lots of things that I see as a guide, both good and bad, that tend to fall under the category of habits that anglers have picked up. Some of those things are personality driven. For example, I fish fast, often faster than I should in fact. Guiding has been wonderful for my own fishing in this regard because it has made me slow down and seek to understand. Often, a lack of success is not as simple as the fish not being hungry (hint: they are always hungry). A good angler or guide can find plenty of things to blame the lack of success on, but ultimately slowing down and understanding what the fish are trying to tell you will bring success.

Fishing fast in the Smokies is often helpful. There are plenty of fish around and eventually you'll find a few that will eat what you are throwing. In other words, one strategy is to simply cover water as fast as possible until you find those few trout that are a little less smart if you know what I mean. However, this approach won't help you grow as much as angler. Instead of blazing ahead to try and cover a mile of water, slow down and focus on just three hundred yards of water or less. The fish are there and can be caught with the right combination of technique, drift, and fly selection.

On tailwaters, this urge to hurry really starts to hurt your fishing. If you are satisfied with only catching smaller stockers, then hurrying will keep the numbers moving. Those stockers will hear your flies splashing down and come running to eat. So, cast away as often as possible, again and again. However, if you are interested in finding the monsters, the ones that you daydream about or have recurring nightmares about when they get away, those fish will require that you slow things down and be patient. 

Often, from the rowers seat in my drift boat, I'll watch an angler pick up their line and recast. The following cast often lands in exactly the same spot as the flies were when the angler pulled them out to cast. Every cast should have a purpose. If you are casting to reach another spot, that is one thing. However, if you are just casting because you are getting too impatient and can't stand to watch your flies sit there any longer, force back the urge to cast and wait a little longer. The very largest brown trout that I have hooked every year often come after an extremely long uninterrupted drift. When strike indicators and nymphs start raining down from the sky, those big fish immediately know something is up and won't react well. However, when the flies stealthily drift into the strike zone, the fish doesn't know anything is out of the ordinary and feeds readily.

So, in a nutshell, here is my tip for the day. On big tailwaters like we have here in the southeast and across the south, don't recast unless your fly will change positions by a minimum of 10-15 feet. That's it. If you are going to splash back down within a few feet of where you ripped the flies out, you are probably going to do more harm than good by recasting. Both pulling the flies out of the water and putting them back in will spook fish. That "spook" radius is several feet at minimum and can be as much as 20 or more feet on flat ultra clear water under a bright summer sun. Shoot, on the Clinch River, fish will spook from false casting at 40 or 50 feet or farther at times. 

Now, are there some caveats? Sure. I'm mostly talking about big flat water. Fast broken riffles and pocket water will have a different set of rules. I'm talking about suspension nymphing primarily as well. We blind drift a lot of flies through likely lies. That is the main scenario I'm referring to. I'm also not talking about sight fishing situations which is an entirely different ballgame. If you are on flat water on big tailwaters, however, just remember that the longer your drift, the more likely you'll catch a good fish. 

Friday, May 07, 2021

Fish Within Your Strengths For Success

This short article idea came from many years of observing anglers as a guide, but I was reminded about it several times this spring. Over the years, I have noticed a pattern with many anglers. They always want to do well when fishing in front of a guide, and often end up pushing beyond the limits of their skill set. Specifically, I am referring to fishing distances. What do I mean by that?

Well, first of all, people obviously will find the most success casting at a comfortable distance. Once you start casting too far, then your cast breaks down and you have fewer successful "fly in the water" moments. In other words, if you cast 60 feet of line, but 30 of that lands in a pile, you are not fishing successfully. Try to get a clean hook set with 30 feet of slack. It is not happening. 

As a guide, I often find myself saying, "cast over there to that log," or "cast to that dark spot," etc. This is where an important element of fishing with a guide comes in. If you cannot comfortably do what the guide is asking, say so. It will save time and frustration in failed cast attempts. As a guide, I would much prefer knowing that a client doesn't think they can make the cast and maneuvering them into a better position or angle, than for them to try to force a long cast that doesn't end well. 

The flip side of that is that we are here to help anglers improve their skill set. If I think it is time for an angler to push their skill set a bit, I'll tell them to go ahead and try anyway. That is how you grow as an angler. That said, don't push your abilities too far all day. You'll end up tired with far less success than you could have had. Strategically pick the moments to attempt more.

Another reason to not fish too far is to make sure you can get clean hook sets. One reason I enjoy taking new anglers fishing in the Smokies is that we are rarely fishing very far out. Getting a hook set with two feet of fly line and a leader is much easier than with 50 feet of fly line and the leader out on the water, at least for new anglers. Line management is usually the real culprit for failed hook sets at distances, but regardless of the cause, you still missed that fish. If you have been struggling with hook sets at a significant distance, then fish shorter. It is better to get fewer chances to hook up because you are closer to the boat, but to seal the deal on the majority of those chances, than it is to cast farther and get more chances to hook up but fail in most of them. In other words, you'll catch more fish even if you don't get as many bites.

One other major reason for not casting and fishing too far is the ability to mend. I'll do a future article or even a video or two on mending, but for now, just consider that you need to be able to mend all the way into your leader to the strike indicator. Most people struggle to do that more than 30 or 40 feet out. The key to a good mend is the ability to lift the line off the water before executing the actual mend. Thus, in a situation where you need to do a significant mend, don't cast farther than you are able to do that.

That is all of my words of wisdom for the day. I'm sure I'll think of some other tips that fall within the category of fishing within your strengths, but I'll keep those for another day. 


Saturday, June 28, 2014

Summer Smokies Tips and Strategies: Part 1

Spending a lot of time on the water with clients as I did this previous week will get you thinking about how to help someone catch more fish under conditions that, while not optimal, are not yet truly terrible.  Anyone who remembers the drought years of 2007 and 2008 can remember the Smokies streams being a trickle.  Little River got down around 25 cfs at the Park boundary.  Compared to a normal spring time flow of around 300-450 cfs and a normal summer flow of perhaps 100-150 cfs, 25 is a really small number.  This year we are seeing water conditions that are less than the long term average but thankfully not dangerously low...yet.

So, what's a fisherman to do when the conditions get tough out there?  Answering this very question for several clients this past week got me to thinking about all the little things that a veteran Smokies angler does without even thinking, but without doing them the average angler will catch only a few trout.  That's too bad because this time of year can be as good as any if you focus on a few things that you should be doing differently as compared to earlier in the year.  Having already addressed this topic for the Little River Journal a few years ago, I suggest you read my thoughts here and here.  I'm going to revisit some of these items as well as address some new ones.

For this particular post, I'm only going to focus on one issue: stealth.  Now, I'm going to guess that if you have read this far, you are probably nodding your head in agreement.  However, I'm going to approach the question of stealth from a different angle than usual.  You see, being stealthy often means sneaking around on the trout stream, making sure the fish don't see you, keeping a rock between you and that next fishing hole, always approaching the fish from behind, and I could go on and on.  All of those things are great, and I've written a lot in the past on the importance of each of those.  Here's the shocker: the difference between a good fisherman and a great fisherman is not in any those things.  Oh sure, a great fisherman will do all of those things, probably without even thinking about it, but they are very easy to learn and even a beginner can pick it up very quickly.  Will doing those things increase your catch rates?  Of course.  However, hear me out on this one.

Let's say that you are pretty much a beginner and would consider an outing in which you caught 5 trout to be a great trip.  By adding in the above mentioned items whose sum is basically being stealthy, that beginner might move up to catching 10-20 trout.  If you're a beginner you are probably salivating at that.  As soon as I tell you that the great fishermen are likely catching 50-60 fish or more (100 fish days anyone?), 10-20 fish is no longer good enough.  What else can you do to catch all those extra trout?  Right flies, right place, right presentation.

Sounds simple enough, but consider that the last two both hinge on your ability as a fly caster and your line control once the flies have been cast.  Presentation and getting your flies in the right place involve many things, but if you do not have exceptional line control and great casting ability, having the right flies is nearly useless.  Improving as an angler means you have to become a competent caster and have impeccable line control once you have made your presentation.  These things do not come easily.  They are born of many hours of practice, both at home on the lawn or casting pond and on the streams.

To excel at mountain fishing, it is rare that you will ever need to cast a long distance, but the ability to cast a long distance will make you better at line control and overall presentation.  In fact, while most anglers are sneaking as close to a run, pool, or other section of stream as possible, I'm fishing the same water from 10-25 feet back, allowing my longer casting distance to keep me far enough from the trout so they don't spook.  Here's the best part: becoming better at line control and better as a caster will only happen through a lot of practice, so clearly you need to get out and fish more if these are areas in which you need to improve!  There it is, the perfect excuse for more time on the water.  Guess what? I have to fish more, because I realized I need to become a better caster...  I can hear the conversations now.

Once you decide to make the jump to fishing big water like tailwaters or large freestone streams out west, that ability to cast and have great line control will shine.  On rivers like the Caney Fork where I guide, most anglers miss opportunities for large trout on dry flies because they cannot make the required cast.  If you don't mind only catching smaller fish then don't worry about it.  That will leave more nice fish out there for me to target...