“Being stupid should be painful” – Unknown
This past weekend’s trip I was reminded of a very valuable lesson that I have learned many times over throughout my years of fishing. It is a lesson that I have shared with many people, both experienced and new in relation to their level of experience. I committed a cardinal sin and didn’t have my head in the game the entire day while fishing. As a result I paid dearly for it.
We got on the river around 8:30 AM and within the first 30 minutes into the day I was into what I thought at first was a steelhead. The bobber on my indy rig dropped, I quickly set the hook and something big and heavy began to move. At that moment a familiar feeling of elation quickly overwhelmed me as line began to quickly peel out of my left hand and come tight to the reel all in the matter of about 4 tenths of a second.
The feeling of elation quickly turned into grave disappointment when I realized all that had happened is that I had inadvertendly dislodged a piece of lumber from the bottom of the river, and it immediately was caught in the current, displaying many of the same characteristics as a hooked steelhead. In my frustration I immediately started to “horse” the log in so I could unpin it and get back on with my day. The stress placed on my rod was substantial and quickly resulted in the rod snapping with a sound similar to that made by the .22 caliber gun my father used to hunt small game with in the days of my youth.
So, it wasn’t a fish, I broke a rod, and now I have to walk up 144 steep and icy steps back to the truck to re-rig another rod? Now I’m pissed, but mentally chalked it up to some sort of necessary penance required by the Fish God’s – a toll I’d gladly subject myself to if it resulted in a great day of fishing.
Only it didn’t result in that.
On a river that I know relatively well that had been holding several steelhead as of late, in several cases being the first angler through sections of particular runs, with a good selection of proven flies would usually result a decent outing. All it resulted in for me throughout the day was losing about $467 worth of flies lost and a helluva of a lot of knot tying. I’d rather have walked down to the river, opened my wallet, pulled out $467 and thrown it straight into the river (from the top, not the bottom of those damned stairs of course), and turned around and went home.
After about 7 hours of no fish encounters, Dan questioned whether or not I had the correct depth set on my indicator – stating that I might not be fishing a run not quite deep enough. At this point my head was someplace else other than focusing on what I should have been, I was more or less going through the motions. I turned to Dan and assured him that I had the correct depth and to further prove my point I said “watch, if I cast a few feet closer I’ll drag bottom”.
Upon casting in closer to me the bobber lurched towards the river bottom as I had previously, indicating that my rig was set too deep for the water I was fishing. I turned to Dan and smugly said “see, I told you”.
My confident assertion was met by him emphatically screaming “FISH!”. I quickly turned around and quickly recognized my bobber nearly a foot below the river’s surface, screaming towards the opposite bank with a large silver steelhead not far in front of it.
I lifted the rod and came tight on the fish. The physical attachment to that fish lasted about as long as my mom’s apple pie at a family dinner. All because I was being an idiot and not paying attention, it was over as quickly as it started.
Instead of having an opportunity to land a beautiful January steelhead and erase all of the hardships THAT I CAUSED myself during the day, I added to it because I committed the substantial crime of not having my head in the game at all times.
Koz at True North Trout reflects back on 2015 and looks forward to 2016in his most recent writings.
Fontinalis Rising offers a a look back at the year that was for him.
The Fiberglass Manifesto details in words and incredible photos a trip to the Pere Marquette.
Persistence pays off at Gink and Gasoline.
Nomad Anglers announces the 2016 Brews and Bugs lineup at all 3 of their locations.
If you care about our waters you should read this article by Josh Greenberg on A Tight Loop.
FrankenFly put together a rad pictorial of his 2015 – highly recommend looking through the awesome photos.
In my latest readings of the book by Jason Randall, titled Trout Sense, a work that is subtitled “A Fly fisher’s guide to What Trout SEE, HEAR, & SMELL” the author draws an extremely interesting comparison. He compares fly fishermen in a sense to door to door salesmen – putting the entire act of chasing trout on the fly into an entirely new perspective. He writes:
We are marketing our wares to a skeptical consumer, one that is often not quite convinced it wants what we are selling. To help us make the sale, we need the equivalent of market analysis. A good salesman considers two things: the target audience and how the product appeals to the target audience.
Simply put, what can we do as anglers to cause an “EAT” reaction, instead of “DON’T EAT” response? With streamer fishing we are knocking on a lot of doors throughout the day – there are a extreme multitude of factors that play into enticing an “EAT” response that we must consider.
Size, shape, and color of the streamer often times plays an extremely important role in triggering a desirable response. Does the pattern that we are presenting to our ‘customers’ match or resemble what they want to ‘buy’? Also, action of the streamer plays an enormous role – does the pattern move or act like potential prey? Does the fly act like a fleeing or injured food item, making it an easy target?
The product that we are selling is ENORMOUSLY important – as any salesman will tell you, if you don’t have a good product that is marketable, it makes selling it much more difficult. However, I’d argue that at the very least equally important to the product – probably even more important – is the number of doors we are knocking on. In many sales type roles, it becomes a numbers game, streamer fishing is not any different. Simply put, the more doors you knock on the better your chances to make a sale. Even if your product is not the perfect offering, if you present it to enough fish the odds tip in your favor.
Get your bugs in the water and pull them around…..the more times the better. Don’t waste time making several false casts, don’t get caught up with frequent bug changes, and don’t waste time doing other things that prevent your flies from being in the water.
Nearly 1 full year ago I picked up a book from Glen Blackwood, owner of Great Lakes Fly Fishing Company. He highly recommended this particular read as a counterpoint to many of the other recently published writings that highlighted fish, trout specifically, as highly intelligent and evolved beings capable of semi-cognitive reasoning. The book is called What Trout Want (Link to Amazon for more info).
While I’m no where near completion of the book, I already have plans to re-read most if not all of the sections presented as it is certainly a very different perspective than we as fly fishermen have grown accustomed to. The author of this work is Bob Wyatt – and simply put he states that trout, while indeed highly evolved creatures, are still trout and they have no idea of what is going on in the world outside of their watery ecosystems. He goes on to explain that trout are unlike humans in many ways – most significantly that their consumption of food is solely for survival, not pleasure. Therefore, unlike most theories – trout are not as discerning consumers as we’d often paint them to be.
To be fair there is a helluva lot more thought and development that goes into that philosophy, certainly more than I’m capable of writing out here. However, there is one thing that I read yesterday that really struck me and made me really start to re-think my thought process when fishing, in particular when pulling streamers for trout – “FAITH IS BETTER THAN HOPE”.
Fishing, whether it’s floating a dry fly past rising trout, indicator fishing for steelhead, casting 1,000,000 repetitive times for musky, or pulling streamers in moving water for trout, is a lot about confidence. If you are fishing with confidence, you are fishing to the best of your ability.
How many times have you caught yourself saying “I hope the fish are feeding today” or “I hope we hit a bite window” or “I hope we find some players” or “I hope that we see some action”? Hope is not faith. Fish are going to be feeding – thats what they do, they have to.
Just because they are not reacting in a desirable fashion to your offering, does not mean that they are not willing to eat at all that day. All it means is that you are not giving them the type or size of food they are interested in, in the fashion that they are keyed into.
Have faith that the fish are willing participants, change your perspective and your success rates will probably change as well. Know that fish are going to eat at some point during the day – it maybe only for a short window, or it maybe a causual all day grazing. Understand that it is up to you to figure out what they want and how to best present it. Keeping the faith that ‘something’ can happen at anytime will make for a more enjoyable day for you and everyone else in your boat, and will lead to more success.
For more thought provoking ideas, look up What Trout Want – please be sure to check with your local Fly Shops first.
Ok, this is pretty RAD – PBR drinkers get in here.
True North Trout has all your F3T info.
Photo Contest at Gink and Gasoline is always awesome. You need to at the very least follow this one as there are some uber talented picture dudes out there.
Let’s get rid of damn dams
2 of the best damn days I’ve ever seen at Dally’s Ozark Fly Fisher.
Some day I’ll get around to doing a Smith River trip.
The genuis of Pat Cohen and Matt Zudweg together? Buckle up Bass you’re in troubs.
And just because it’s the most read story in the history of Michiganfly – if you missed Tuesday Bananas, you’ve got to see where Michgan’s salmon have gone.
This is my list and only my list. Not everyone will agree with everything that is on here, that’s cool – we all have our own favorite patterns. The important thing is that you are fishing a pattern that you have an extreme amount of confidence in. Having the confidence in every cast is important to anyone’s success. Here are the bugs that give me the most confidence:
- Galloup’s Heifer Groomer (Yellow). Big fish and streamer aficionado Kelly Galloup created this relatively simplistic pattern that imitates an enormous variety of food opportunities for fish. It’s easy to see, it’s easy to cast, and it moves and darts around and can simulate either a fleeing or injured baitfish or sculpin. Find them here.
- Danny Ward’s Double Deceiver (Cotton Candy). Truth be told, I was a bit dissapointed at how this bug swam when I first started to fish them. It didn’t give that long side to side swimming action that most other Double Deceivers I’d fished before. But then, magic started to happen! This pattern was responsible for more 20″+ fish, in the group of guys that I fish with, throughout 2014 than all others combined! The thing that I realized is this – this bug swims exactly…EXACTLY…how a bait fish would swim. Quick twitch, short bursts – its perfect. Just adds to the age old question of, “do your flies catch fisherman, or do they catch fish?” Connect with Dan on his Facebook page. there is not a nicer, easier guy to do business with.
- Strolis’ Headbanger Sculpin. Pure and simple – it looks realistic, it moves realistic, and it fishes deep just like a real sculpin would. In higher water this is a bug of choice. In deeper pools and runs, this is a bug of choice.
- Galloup’s Boogie Man (White). A big wool head that pushes a lot of water, and a large mallard flank on the rear hook creates a realistic swimming action to this pattern. Once again, this fly is general enough that it simulates a multitude of different food sources for trout. I carry 4 different color combos in my box.
- Cohen’s Slop Mop. Pat Cohen really pisses me off – he does things that are absolutely un-natural and seemingly impossible with deer hair, and makes it look so easy that it instills in me a false sense of confidence and hope. I will then sit down and try to re-create exactly what he does step by step and it comes out looking similar to a 3 year old’s coloring book – messy and all over the place. Pat has an unbelievable amount of creative talent and he spins up wild streamer patterns that look like works of art and fish even better. See the link here for more color combos.