I saw the flash in the current below the surface and knew it was a nice fish. Big brown if I had to guess. That’s what I told myself, at least, as I thought of how to reach it. It had risen, rolled over and back down to the pool that swirled behind the boulder that made the seam across from where I’d been fishing.
We've all been there. Sometimes it's hard to remember our beginnings in fly fishing. We can forget the things we take for granted. When I began fly fishing I was "dry or die" out of ignorance, not preference. The mechanics of fly line, leader, and tippet were foreign. Tactics were nowhere in my crosscheck. I wish I had learned so many things, so much faster. The importance of a natural drift. Getting my flies down while nymphing. When to switch flies, or just switch water. And so many other tools I have picked up and am still gathering. About the only thing I had going for me was reading water (thanks Pop). But that's part of the journey isn't it? Filling the toolbox. Still, being in that place, and seeking progress, made a kind word of advice from another angler that much more special.
The cutbank of a river is a storied location in the realm of fly fishing. Flies are broken off on gnarled root balls, thick grasses, and precarious branches. Anglers are often left stumbling, slipping, and snagged. The evidence of their efforts can be seen in the tangled tippet and lost flies that look back at those of us who imagine brute-like brown trout lurking in the tight close seams below a hard to reach cutbank. Particularly difficult to reach cutbanks may seem like more trouble than they are worth but armed with some tactics for penetrating these tight spots, cutbanks can bring many a memorable trout to the net. Here are three I use when the opportunity presents itself.
Getting to know the river is important for finding your own spots that you know will produce fish. Even if it is a short stop at the stream, every little bit of time on the water counts. If you are fortunate enough to live close to a trout stream, but short on time, stopping to wet a line even for fifteen to thirty minutes can add up and help build experience.
“Hey! Keep it tactical Shady.” And a smile. I miss it dearly. Talking tactics is one of life’s great joys. I learned this from years in a fighter squadron but looking back I understand why talking tactics was so special. I realize that while the endeavors and communities are different, the men and women who move through them seek similar goals. Progress. Knowledge. The betterment of the whole. And, yes, a touch of competitive spirit that pulls us forward and requires our best. Engaging these “tacticians” in the fly fishing community and sharing those experiences has become one of the great joys of my journey with Wadeoutthere. Talking tactics with dedicated fly fishing men and women who passionately share their knowledge and listen for those ideas they know will move them forward. People like Domenick from Troutbitten.
“There’s four nice fish in this hole.” He said it as we pulled over along the side of a narrow dirt road. I did not ask how he knew. I am a bit envious of the fly fisher who knows a stream inside and out. Those that have re-caught fish. That know all their spots. Where they tuck in behind rocks or sway downstream from dead drifts. That name the trout they catch. Each day on the river is still discovery for me. Maybe someday I will know a stream that well.