I like to begin my articles with a story, but the tales of woe I’ve gathered over the years of untangling knots in my leader are too many and too varied to attempt narrowing them down into a single memorable incident. I’ve come to accept that the endless tangles and twists in my leaders are the price of admission for this sport we love. There’s a sort of affection for these frustrating tangles we all must experience if we are to enjoy fly fishing that almost makes them special. Almost…
When confidence is considered in fly fishing, it is typically in reference to confidence flies. The list of articles on what confidence flies are and how to develop them is lengthy. I’m probably due for one myself at WadeOutThere. I have my fair share of confidence flies, but that list is for another article. Everyone has their own flies they believe will catch fish. They are our go-to flies and typically find us after some time on the water. More important than the flies themselves are what they do for us.
Tactics and Techniques
When I first started fishing to the middle of the water column, it was typically to trout eating just below the surface. The hopper dropper (or dry dropper) was my primary tactic. But the more I fished, the more I saw opportunities to fish the middle of the water column that were not best suited for the dry dropper technique.
“I’d say just time on the water. You have to put in the time, if you want to get better.” “I think it was when I started spending a lot more time on the water that I really began to improve.” “Time on the water is the most important thing. You have to put in the time” Time on the water. We’ve all heard it at this point. So many anglers attribute this single factor as the most important step towards improvement on their fly fishing journey. I’ve come to believe that making significant strides in our fly fishing abilities is not that far out of reach if we do what we can to make the most of our time on the water.
Getting your flies down is a requirement if you want to catch trout while nymphing. It’s just the way it is. I cringe when I think of all the hours I’ve spent with flies in the water and very little chance of catching trout because I didn't understand this concept. This article is an attempt to spare you some of those wasted hours, and perhaps introduce some new techniques.
If you change one thing at a time on the river you are able to assess and analyze how that one variable affects the results and be more certain about what is working. I say more certain because there’s no guarantees in fishing, but I think we can at least get closer to a reasonable idea if we approach it methodically.
Is there a fish in this water? Will I catch one? It’s these questions that bring hope and wonder to the process of fishing. Sight fishing changes things. We see a fish, cast to it, and because we have eliminated the one giant variable that we are constantly dealing with when fishing, we expect to catch the fish we see. Or at least our frustrations peak when we don't. It's called sight fishing for a reason, but the observation has just begun once we find the fish we’ll cast to, and there’s wonder in hope in that as well.
It’s not likely any of us will escape our fly fishing journey without arriving at the river having forgotten something. It’s more likely that, if you are reading this, you already know the pain. If not, remember there are those who have and those who will. Sometimes it's no big deal. Forgot our water bottle? Fish thirsty. A box of dry flies? Fish nymphs. Raincoat? Fish wet. But some items cannot be fished through. Some things are deal breakers. I’ll admit it’s been more than once I have reached a trout stream without a critical piece of gear. It was after one of these exceptionally deflating days that I finally decided enough was enough. I committed to solving the problem in the only way I knew how. Applying mental checklists in the way I did during my time flying fighters for the Air Force.