Tactics and Techniques

Right Fly. Right Drift. Wrong Water.

It felt good to be fishing and catching fish.  The past few days had been some of the best fishing I had experienced on the South Platte.  In my youth there had been many trips to the same waters with much less success.  This day was special because I was fishing with an old friend that I had not seen since we were making those trips together, twenty years ago.  Starting out and learning our lessons from the river the hard way. 

“It was great fishing here yesterday.” I said.  We were fishing a wide shallow section together.

He shrugged and smiled.  The river was enough. 

“I swear, man.  All through here.”

I chuckled as I spoke and thought about what to do.  I knew putting some nice fish in the net would complete the day.  We were fishing the same flies, in the same place.  What changed? 

Types of Water

We ended up moving all over the river that day.  The fast, shallow waters that had been outstanding fishing for me the day before, were not producing.  Eventually, we began catching fish in a section of the river that was mostly pocket water behind rocks and seams coming off large boulders.  For the rest of the day if the river did not have those rocks and boulders, we skipped that section altogether. A slow start ended in a great day’s fishing.

As anglers, we focus much of our energy on all the things that we can control. A natural presentation.  “Matching the hatch”.  Getting our fly down to where the fish are feeding.  The effort is all on our end.  The things we can influence with our fly boxes and casts. 

An often forgotten part of the equation is the fish.  Just as important as the type of fly we fish or the mending we execute is the type of water we fish. 

A river has all different ways that water flows downstream, and trout will move throughout them.  They might be holed up in deep, slow water and eddies.  Perhaps fast, shallow riffles.  Maybe they are sliding in and out of seams flowing off rocks or tucked in tight to the bank under vegetation. 

Being deliberate about what kind of water I fish has often helped me find trout.  Whenever a certain place that has been holding fish suddenly stops producing, I begin to seek out not different parts of the river, but different types of water in the river.  If fish are not in the riffles in one section, it is probable they will not be in the riffles just a mile upstream.  Methodically targeting different types of water can help locate trout through the process of elimination.

We See What We Want

One of the beautiful and exciting things about fishing the South Platte is how clear the water can be.  This makes for exciting sight fishing.  That summer I had been fishing mostly in Cheeseman Canyon and downstream from Deckers.  Sight fishing to beautiful trout had been a highlight.

READ: WADEOUTTHERE | Seven Tips for Spotting Trout.

The exciting times of casting to a trout that I could see feeding in the current should have been the obvious answer to our problems that day on the river.  The fish were simply not there.  If they had been, we would have seen them. 

The problem of being hesitant to seek out different types of water becomes exacerbated when you cannot see the fish because of self-doubt.  Do you have the right fly?  Is your presentation natural enough?  Is the fly down far enough in the water column?  The right size caddis?  Color?  Add to that the fact that you have had success catching fish in one type of water many times in the past.  We expect things to work again and assume the problem is on our end. And sometimes it is! This makes it mentally harder to give up on what has been working. 

But changing it up and choosing something that you would never expect to work is an excellent way to expedite growth and learning.  After all, if we continue to do the same thing and never challenge ourselves, are we getting better?

READ: WADEOUTTHERE | The Orange Scud Theory.

If you are not catching fish, it is possible that you need to fish different types of water in the river, not simply different parts of the river. If the fishing is slow in the riffles, try going deep. If it is poor in slack water, try faster sections. It takes confidence and an open mind. Confidence that you have a good fly and a solid drift and the thoughtfulness to realize that maybe the fish have moved to different types of water. Do not hesitate to Wadeoutthere and move with them.

Jason Shemchuk

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