Having been fly fishing for many years and experienced all manner of fame and folly in pursuit of Salmo Trutta across this great country, I find I am constantly acquiring new experience and proficiency in one subject rarely discussed in the fly fishing community. It is a topic perhaps thought by some experts or guides as too elite or important to be put on exhibit in the public arena. And while I respect the merits of “the quiet sport” as it is often described, my duty to you, my virtuous readers, requires me to share my profound expertise in this necessary topic. What is universally understood as fact and roundly not up for debate is that every fly fishing man or woman worth their salt must ultimately master these tactics if they wish to progress in their honorable pursuit of trout on the fly. Therefore, although I acknowledge entering this realm almost certainly will muster controversy and perhaps ostracize me from some fly fishing circles, I think it equally obvious that I must proceed, as I ultimately consider it my duty. I present to you, then, the specific methods and techniques for falling in the river while fly fishing.
The Out Too Far
The Out Too Far is arguably the most advanced technique on the river and my personal favorite. It requires the fly fisherman, or woman, to gradually “Wadeoutthere” into the river until reaching a point that their mass no longer sustains the weight required to offset the force of the river’s current. The Out Too Far is a classic example of physics and mathematics integral role in the natural world. At first, it seems odd that one would consider wading up to their chest in robust currents, so that even casting becomes difficult and any valuables tucked away in the chest pockets of waders become vulnerable to waterlogging and ruin.
As a fly fisherman gains experience though, the desire to wade just a bit further to reach a rising trout becomes etched into their nervous system and the Out Too Far makes perfect sense.
The true sign that the Out Too Far is being executed correctly is when each step further results in the current swiftly lifting the body and moving it ever so slightly downstream, until eventually the angler is completely swept away. The Out Too Far nearly always results in total submersion and being drenched from head to toe is the best indicator that it was executed correctly.
The photo in this blog post’s featured image shows my brother returning from a flawless execution of the Out Too Far. I remember watching him from the shore as he proudly edged out into the river. Quickly up to his waist at first and then slowly pushing beyond. I knew when I saw the river inevitably pull him under that he had reached the next level. A true fly fisherman. You can see from his expression the joy he experienced in this special moment. He too understood that he had arrived. Notice the trout in his net. A proud day for both of us.
The Hop Skip and a Jump
The Hop Skip and a Jump is generally introduced early in a fly fisherman’s career, but with limited success. Generally, I like most, have increased proficiency in this technique with age. The young fly fisherman simply does not have the reduced flexibility and diminishing depth perception that is truly necessary for mastering the Hop Skip and a Jump. Also, the youthful fisherman still believes that moving faster along the river has some benefit and that rushing amongst the rocks that border many rivers and impede swift relocation can be overcome with agility and adaptation. Thus, the jumping from boulder to boulder provides a solution to the impatient angler.
Normally, it is in this transition from young and athletic, to old and shriv-like, that the best Hop Skip and a Jumps are performed.
When executing this maneuver, the person leaps to a rock and ends up on their ass in one of three ways. One, jump too far, teeter on the rock due to momentum, and fall forward. Two, come up short and slide down the short side of the intended landing zone. Three, land perfectly on a stone only to discover it is precariously balanced on another rock and then fall hopelessly in the direction where gravity is strongest. All three techniques have one of two outcomes. You can end up in the river, wet but generally less injured, or you can end up on the rocky bank, almost certainly injured on the appendage that first encounters the granite below.
The most advanced Hop Skip and a Jumps result in the person recognizing they are in this precarious situation and then taking control of the scenario by purposely leaping to their demise by choice. This requires enormous stubbornness and is rarely seen except among true artists of the sport.
My father demonstrated to me what I would consider could only be described as an Olympic level athletic performance of the Hop Skip and a Jump on the Gallatin River in Montana over a decade ago. I, being younger then, was moving downstream, bounding from stone to stone along the famous trout stream without yet having developed the ability to perform this method of falling in the river. I turned to view my father who was leaping equally fearlessly until I watched in awe as he landed, faltered and then with eyes wide as saucers, showed true mastery as he fell straight back, smacking his `elbow so loudly, I saw another fly fisherman 100 yards upstream startle. He still has a disgusting scar, and bulbous knob on that joint, as well as intermittent pain depending on the weather. Perfection.
The Boulder Slide
If it is true that courage is being scared but going anyway, the Boulder Slide is the most courageous act a fly fisherman can aspire to execute while falling in the river. The Boulder Slide involves disregarding the patience and logic that would suggest reaching either the other side of the river or a fishing hole that might hold a fish, would be better accomplished by wading up or downstream to a safer crossing location and instead rushing into whitewater sometimes categorized as class four rapids.
The immediate fall is prevented by turning the body completely upstream and leaning at a 45 degree angle against the current. In this position the person takes baby sidesteps and places their hands on boulders for balance.
Because it would not normally, occur to “newbies” to eek across white water by maintaining their balance by placing their hands on the very boulders that create the dangerous river scenario, the Boulder Slide is also an advanced technique. I can be counted on to perform this act at least daily on most mountain streams.
The Drift Boat Splitz
The Drift Boat Splitz can sneak up on a fly fisherman that is introduced to fishing from a drift boat too early in their career. At that stage most aspiring fly fishermen maintain a level of awkwardness and caution when entering and exiting a drift boat that prevents them from mastering this graceful fall. This is because the Drift Boat Splitz is best executed after the fly fisherman, and especially the drift boat fly fisherman, has reached a level of complacency that combined with rushing causes them to push off into the current with one foot in the boat and one foot out.
Sometimes accomplished with a hopping motion, the true masters of this technique slowly spread their legs between the boat and the bank as if placing one foot onto a moving escalator with the other planted firmly on static ground.
The legs separate until a point that depending on flexibility spans the gambit of immediate to up to 12 seconds later in the best examples, followed by plunging into the water.
The North American record Drift Boat Splitz was recorded in 1979 on the Deschutes River in Oregon and lasted 2 minutes and 14 seconds.
The side effect of a well-executed Drift Boat Splitz is that the fly fisherman generally, accomplishes it at the beginning of the day so they spend the rest of their time on the river in and out of shivering fits as the boat floats through the shadows that block sun from their vessel.
In summation, in this blog post I covered the techniques that I recommend for falling in the river for the more advanced fly fisherman or woman. My intent in introducing the difficult maneuvers first, is to show you what is possible if you continue to work hard and remain positive while learning to fly fish. Experience plays an important role in falling into the river and I believe we should respect that experience that is required to progress optimally.
CAUTION: The methods discussed in Part 1 should not be half-halfheartedly explored. Early entry often results in misapplications, and what the International Association of Fly Fisherman Pursuing Falling (IAFFPF)Note 1 has dubbed “non-falling falls”.
In Part 2 I will delve into the more beginner tactics that can be adapted into any early fly fishing adventure. In addition I will discuss universal variables that can enhance all falling in the river methods, the art of combining different techniques for falling in the river, and finally what the future holds for this emerging endeavor of falling in the river while pursuing the sport of fly fishing we all love and cherish. I would love to hear where you are on your journey into this wonderful world in the comments.
Note 1. The IAFFPF is a fictitious organization. Any attempt to contact them is folly. Wadeoutthere.