What I Learned This Week on the River - Episode #4

I must admit I learned nothing ON THE RIVER this week.  Not because I am so smart, but because I was not able to GET OUT ON THE RIVER this week.  I am not bitter about  it, but I do hate taxes, and let's leave it at that.  To make matters worse I heard two different reports from my home water this week and one said he "caught the most fish in a day he has ever caught on that river" and the other one said he "actually got tired of catching fish."  So it sounds like I really did miss out.

But in my conversations with other fly fishers this week, I was reminded of a little tip I will pass along here in lieu of the usual tip from an actual trip on the water.  This little reminder was mentioned when I was discussing fussy trout and overlapping hatches and ways to figure out what a fish is really eating, with a friend.  As the weather warms up we are going to start seeing more and more types of insects hatching through the day, and this issue of overlapping hatches is more and more likely to occur.  This may be more of a Summer time issue, but it can arise in the spring as well.  My friend reminded me of a little tip I have used, and it has worked for me in the past.  It is simply this:  carry a small pair of binoculars with you on the water.

It is simple, but it does help close the gap and bring you up close and personal to a rising fish, and you really can often pick out what bugs a fish is eating without crowding it.  It won't always work, if the fish is taking emergers just under the surface it is still going to be tough to see, but if nothing else it's nice to have a pair of binoculars on hand when that nice mule deer wades into the river a couple hundred yards upstream.

So that's all for this week and hopefully next week the only problem I will have will be typing up Episode #5 because my arms are so tired from landing fish!

Tight Lines.

What I Learned This Week on the River - Episode #3


The lesson of the week for me was that, as the heading states, a downstream presentation can make all the difference when the fish get spooky.  

The river I fished this week is at very low flows, so the fish are often in some skinny lies.  Add to this fact that this river happens to be about the only game in town right now for a decent sized Metropolitan area with many fly fishers, and you get a lot of pressure on these fish.  Add a few of these factors all together and you get some very discerning fish. 

This week I was fishing a trickle cascading down through a bit of a rock garden, and my first instinct was to start at the bottom of the run, and work up, casting my fly from below a feeding fish.  The problem with this presentation is that the first thing the fish may see, before they even see the fly, is the leader, or tippet.  There are casts you can make to minimize this such as some type of curve cast, but it still won't eliminate the problem.  Usually I don't find this to be a major problem, but there are times it will make a difference.  Fish on the same river can be more leader shy one day, and seemingly not the next.  In my opinion, here are a few factors that will make fish more leader shy.

1.  Water level and clarity - skinny water means fish are more wary, because they are more susceptible to predators.  They can be more on guard and skeptical.  

2.  Sun angle - Line, Leader, and even your  6x tippet can cast a shadow and even if the fish doesn't see your leader, if it sees the shadow, it probably won't eat.

3.  Sporadic, or non existent hatch -  Here is one that I am a believer in, but there is some room for disagreement, so feel free if your experience tells you any different.  I think that fish can be a little less leader shy in the midst of a heavy hatch.  I mean one of those hatches that has many fish up feeding on the surface in a run.  I think they get into a rhythm and their focus becomes on simply eating the buffet floating down to them, and they may get picky about the stage of the bug, but less concerned with seeing the tippet.  When I find leader shy fish it seems to be when there isn't really a hatch going on, but when you see a few sporadic rises here and there.  Maybe there are a few bugs hatching and a fish or two has decided to feed on the top, but there aren't really enough bugs for them to get into a rhythm.  

4.  Angler pressure

There are many other factors, but those are the conditions I encountered this week so I will focus on that for now.  Now lets get back to my trip to the river.  I fished up the run a ways, spotting several fish, some even were rising occasionally, but not often, but every one was ignoring my offering.  About halfway up the run, I turned around and spotted a fish I hadn't seen on the way up the run holding on the far side of the river behind a submerged rock.  I decided to make a presentation down to it, and what do you know, on the first drift...bam...that fish jumped all over the fly.  That little moment changed the way I fished the rest of the run.  After landing the fish, I walked out of the river and up to the top of the run, and fished it with a downstream presentation.  Nearly every fish I made a downstream cast to took the bug, and every fish I tried to catch fishing from below it, didn't.  I don't call that a coincidence.  

Now a book could be written on the subtleties of a downstream presentation and how to do it right, but I will just put a couple main highlights in and spare the verbiage.

1.  Keep a low profile - the fish will spot you much easier when you fish from above them.  

2.  Don't position yourself straight upstream from a fish, cast from a slight angle to one side or the other. 

3.  When you set the hook, don't use an upward motion.  This is a case of do as I say, not as I do, because my thick skull has never been able to get this bit of advice through it.  This week, I would say I missed about 50% of the takes because I would jerk the rod up, and yank the fly right out of the fish's mouth.  If you can, try and remember to set the hook with a sideways motion and you will actually hook more fish.   

I think I will let it be at that for this week.  There is a lot that can be added to this subject, I think I bit of a little more than I intended.  If you have any further questions or want me to clarify anything here feel free to email me at b.sorenson@jumpcreekflies.com.

Now get out there and do some fishing!

What I Learned This Week on the River - Episode #2

Already two weeks in and I am wishing I had named this feature something else.  But alas I feel the need to stick to my guns.  

I only made it out once this week, but it was an amazing outing.  The fishing was outstanding.  I guess the tip I can pass along here is that if you look out your window and it looks a little damp and cool, leave work ASAP and head to the river.  Those little bugs we refer to as Blue Wing Olives seem to love these conditions, and thus so do the trout.  And no, I won't be held responsible for whatever consequences your receive from skipping out on your job. 

Last year I wrote up a little piece that I posted on my "Getting Out" blog but don't think I ever posted it here about the joys of spring, and BWO's.  Hey at least I didn't steal it from someone else right?  So week 2 and I am already taking the easy way out, but it is timely.




The Joys of Spring, BWO's, and....Popcorn?

I will admit in the past Spring has never been my favorite season.  I know the ideal image of spring brings to mind thoughts of fresh sprouting green grass, soft gentle rains, budding willows, and freshly bloomed daffodils, but it seems that the reality is often closer to dull gray skies, harsh winds, and sticky brown mud...everywhere.   Okay that may have been the pessimist in me coming out.  But in the past I have always felt that Spring was a bit overrated as a season, and just a necessary transition that must be endured until summer finally arrived.  As a fly fisherman though I have garnered a whole new found respect for that formerly overrated season, thanks to one tiny bug.  The Blue Wing Olive.  

A freshly hatched BWO rides along the calm surface.

The reality is that BWO's can have a presence throughout the year, and make a strong reappearance in the fall, but their spring time arrival is about as welcome an event as you can have for both fly fishermen and fish alike.  Other hatches get all the hype, but these little bugs can make fish go bonkers, and in weather conditions that used to rank right up there with the reason I felt spring was over rated, these bugs flourish.  If you ask me now what days in the spring I look forward to it would be a fairly cold 45-50 degree day with overcast skies spitting a few rain showers, with even a little breeze thrown in.  Of course not enough of a breeze to make casting a fly rod difficult, but just enough to push those little sailboat profile mayflies around on the water, and concentrate them between a swift current seam and a grassy bank.  Natures way of creating an all-you-can-eat buffet for hungry trout coming off a cold lethargic winter of snacking on whatever requires the least amount of energy to get to.

As I stood in the midst of a frenetic river last week watching one of the most amazing hatches of Blue Wing Olives come off, it reminded me of watching popcorn, except, unless you really like popcorn, a bit more exhilarating.  There is the quiet calm where the kernels sit quietly in the slowly heating oil.  It can be hard to tell when this stage starts as all the action is underwater, hidden from the anglers eye.  It may look like the water is quiet, but underneath  the surface things are starting to happen.

A nice fish that came early in the hatch on an early stage emerger pattern.
Then the oil starts to sizzle and pop.  Like when you start seeing those first few intermittent rises.  Usually just dorsal fins, or tails as the fish take the rising nymphs as they head for the surface.  Things are getting more heated now.  And the first kernels are starting to crack.   You hear that first pop in the pan, or you see that first dun on the surface gliding slowly along drying it's wings.  A fish here and there begin rising for emergers, and  a couple are even up on the few duns floating down river.

This fish fell for a more standard upright wing pattern mimicking the BWO Dun
Suddenly, like that moment that the kernels begin exploding, not one at a time, but  at a constant thunderous rate, things get bananas.  In that run you could have sworn was void of any fish just minutes before there are more rises than you can count.  One look at the water and you see exactly why.  The evidence is littering the surface as the small sailboat profiles are everywhere.  Where once a sporadic bug or two drifted alone, there are literally hundreds...no thousands!  It gets crazy.  You hope this crescendo lasts for a while.  The fish are going nuts and so are you.  In the right conditions (see my new favorite spring weather above) this stage can last quite some time, and when it does I count my lucky stars or what ever that saying is.

One of those fish spotted after the hatch sipping cripples that collected along a shallow grassy bank.
Then just as quickly as they started popping things subside.  Again you can only see a couple duns drifting on the surface.   Some of the stragglers, like those half popped old maids in the popcorn bowl, are struggling to make it off the water.  Something has happened in  this process for them and they aren't going to make it.  Like those old maids that settle  and collect in the bottom of the popcorn bowl, these wounded and battered bugs get pushed helplessly by the current into protected pockets or up against a grassy bank where they become more concentrated.  Much of the surface activity has subsided as well, but a few of the wiser and larger fish are still around.  Tucked into those little nooks where those crippled and half drowned mayflies have been rounded up against their will they sip away quietly.   It's the tail end of the action, but the careful eye of an observant angler knows there is still action to be found in seeking out these protected areas and keeping a keen eye out for those stealthy rises.  Then the river is quiet, waiting silently for the next out burst. 

I am not an entomologist by any means.  I just know I love to watch a good hatch develop and reap the rewards that come along with it.  There are plenty of frustrating moments in this process for myself. But it is what keeps me coming back.  If things were always easy, then what would be the point?  These BWO hatches have given me some great study material this spring.  I have learned, and I have gone back to the drawing board.  Many times, but it's all part of the process.

What I Learned This Week on the River - Episode #1

Most weeks I get out fishing at least once. And every time I go I learn or in some cases relearn something. So I hope to pass on these little items on a somewhat weekly basis. These tips can be about pretty much anything related to fly fishing and some may help you, some may not. Take them for what they are worth.

So on to this weeks items.  Two things happened that were "light bulb" moments when I was on the water this week. Lets start with an, "oh duh" moment to establish that I can be pretty blockheaded at times.

 #1)For a long time I have fished with fly patterns that use CDC and thus my favorite floatant to carry on the water is of the powdered desiccant variety, such as Frogs Fanny or Doc's Dry dust. These types of floatants do a great job with CDC, but  when you open the bottle and apply it to the fly, the fine powder tends to stay airborne a long time. To avoid inadvertently breathing any of this stuff in, which I can't imagine would be good for you, I have always turned my back to any wind or breeze, and applied the powder to the fly, thinking the breeze would carry the powder away from me. However, I still managed on occasion to somehow breath a little in and it was getting old. Finally I realized the swirling current coming around my back was not always carrying the powder away from me but in fact sucking it right back into me. I was creating an eddy and we fishermen know what eddies do.  Well ***ding*** the light bulb went on yesterday, and I figured out that the best way to make sure the excess powder gets blown away from me is to turn sideways to the wind when applying this product to a fly. It works much better.

Well now I feel silly as that was probably pretty obvious, but my lungs thank me today for finally thinking of this.

#2)Now on to an a actual fly fishing item. Fish can be feeding in a spot, but it's good to ask yourself, where is the food they are eating coming from?  Another pretty obvious tip, but one that is good to remember on the water, so I don't feel bad bringing it up. Here is what I mean by that.

Exhibit A

Refer to the above rudimentary drawing to visualize this scenario.  This week I was fishing  to a lonely riser that was feeding in the very center of a 2 foot by 2 foot area in the midst of three boulders in the stream. My only real approach to the fish was from the rear right of the fish, just because of the way the rocks were situated. Because I had this defined area that the fish was in, between these rocks, I just assumed that any fly that flowed through this area would be on the fish's radar. The way the rocks were situated, and the way I had to approach the lie, the easiest way to fish this was going to be to cast just to the right of Rock 1 in the picture, and let the current push the fly through the middle of the area. It seemed logical that if the fly floated right through the center of the area the fish was rising there was a good chance it would see my fly and hopefully rise to it. After making several fruitless casts I wondered about my fly selection, but as is usually the case, it is often more about our presentation than it is about the fly we are using, so I stuck with it.

Then I noticed that while the fish was in fact feeding in the middle of this area, where my fly had been floating directly over, there were two currents coming together here, and it occurred to me the fish may be positioned to feed on bugs coming from the current pushing off of the left shoulder of Rock 2 (again see above picture). I had cast to the current flowing off the lead rock because it was easier to get my fly drifting from there, to where the fish was feeding, and this current coming from the right was a much tougher cast. The window of where my fly could land without spooking the fish on one side, and getting caught up on Rock 2 on the other side, was much smaller. It was worth a shot though.  I loaded the rod and some how managed to drop the fly in that little window on the first cast, and sure enough the fish was all over it. Lesson learned, or relearned, and I will probably have to be reminded of it again one of these days.

It was a rewarding week on the river and with these reminders I hope we all can keep our lungs clear of "Frogs Fanny" and our flies in the correct feeding lane of hungry fish.

Tight Lines.