In my youth I fished a trout stream with reckless abandon. Wading fluidly with balance and precision. Leaping from boulder to boulder with confidence. Wading out, deep and often. When I spied a nice piece of water across the river, I went there, fished it, and moved on without thought to the why of it. Fishy water on the other side? Cross back, of course. Passing on a potential hook up for mere convenience seemed a waste. In my eyes, every spot, regardless of which side of the river it lay, held not only the possibility, but the probability that I might hook into a monster trout. I could persistently zig zag trout waters like this with a carefree foot and a smile on my face on every outing.
Looking back, my confidence in maneuvering a river far outreached my ability to catch the fish beneath. But that is part of the learning I suppose. I still love the discovery and adventure of wading a river, but I now know not all the trout are bigger across the river.
Optimism is an excellent quality for a fly fisher to have. When I am not catching fish, every new piece of water brings new hope. Every cast, a new beginning. However, this optimism can mask the problem solving skills required in catching fish on the fly and leave us with wishful thinking. If only I had a drift boat. If only stopped at the other pull out. If only I could reach the water across the river.
The more we fish, the more we know “if only” is a trap. We almost always have what we need to catch fish on our side of the river.
The “grass” (or water) may seem greener (or fishier) on the other side but keep moving upstream and you will almost certainly find water you would be wishing for had you been fishing the opposite bank.
Time on the Water…
There is an aspect of fun to the movement on a trout stream that ties me to the exploration and experiences that helped me fall in love with the waters that hold trout. Why temper that excitement? What is the real problem with wading back and forth all day?
One answer is time. Time spent crossing the river is generally time spent not fishing. The old adage that you cannot catch fish if your fly is not on the water holds true in the methods we apply to fishing a river as much the frequency that we cast to it.
Efficiency is a key ingredient in hooking up with trout. It ups the odds.
The more you are fishing the more you catch fish. Crossing the river without critical thought lowers the odds for a payout that is usually based in perceived versus actual advantage.
Mark Your Spots.
Whether you walk it or drive it, taking note of the places where you would like to fish on the other side of the river is a good way to decide if and how you will fish it. It could be that you never need to cross, but if you decide it is worth it, a touch of patience can pay off. Mark the sections that look good, cross the river in a convenient location, and fish back to those good spots. This helps keep you fishing to spots that may be less pressured as well.
Some Truth to It.
There are valid reasons to cross the river. If it seems painful to cross a trout stream, chances are the majority of fly fishers have passed. This can be a natural deterrent to fishing pressure. If the path is well worn, the fish are seeing more flies and could be spooked.
Different rivers present different crossing opportunities. It may be easy to cross a small stream with frequent sections of shallow water. Or there may only be a few bridges across wide, deep water. If it is hard to reach, the odds it is fished less increase. Considering the hows and whys of the fishing pressure a river receives may help drive you to fish it differently. To discover less targeted sections.
Sometimes even the idea of exploration can be enough to bring us across. It may not always make sense, but that is okay. After all, often just the movement along a trout stream can be enough to etch out relief and bring peace. The trout are there, but maybe that is not what is needed.
I still cross the river. Though, I would like to think there is more experience built into those carefully placed steps in fast currents these days. More intention in my movements. Sometimes there are. Sometimes I know it is the other thing that pulls me. The thought of what lies waiting for me. The trout that is waiting around the bend. In every pocket. On every side. Wadeoutthere.