One skill/technique that many trout anglers neglect, is learning to fish streamers effectively. Streamers are imitations of bait fish, leaches and other bigger forage that larger fish prey upon on a regular basis. These larger imitations provide larger fish with high calorie meals and enable growth rates that pale in comparison to eating small insects, one at a time.
I believe, that recognizing the water types on a trout stream where streamers can be most efficiently be fished is the first step in learning to build confidence in this skill. Throughout the day trout anglers walk and wade through miles of water looking for that perfect spot where they feel the trout will live. Some like the long riffles of gravely runs, some like the plunge pools and deep drops of highly oxygenated water and some like the long glides of even speed boulder strewn water. Trout anglers are confident in these places because they have caught fish there before. They know how to fish the water using dead drift, swinging and dry fly techniques and generally are happy with their success. Time and time again I watch anglers walk by the slow moving, long, mid-depth flats which are abundant on our trout streams. This type of water is difficult, if not impossible to implement the standard drift techniques so commonly used in the faster water situations. Consequently these areas receive very little fishing pressure, and yes, the fish go there for rest, relaxation, and to HUNT.
Streamer fishing involves imparting action to the fly. Generally speaking, casts are made quartering down stream. Accurate casts are made to the far bank(12” from the bank is not close enough). The line is retrieved in a Strip.....Strip.....Strip fashion in which the length and abruptness of the Strips can be varied. Start moving the fly right when it his the water.
Heavier tippets are needed when fishing streamers because of the violent strikes and size of the fish. Don’t do yourself the disservice of not changing to a heavier 3X or 4X tippet. The fish you encounter in these stretches will be the ones you dream about. Getting lazy by not having enough tippet strength to control them, will enable these fish to take you to the cleaners.
Give streamer fishing a chance, or don’t and leave the big fish for me.
At this time of year, as the temperatures rise and spring begins to push towards summer, the aquatic insects that inhabit our trout streams actively continue their cycle of life. In greater variety than at any other time of year they begin transitioning from crawling and clinging insects that live below the waters surface to fully winged adults. Fly anglers refer to this transition of stage, or emergence, as a “Hatch”.
Hatches occur on the streams with regularity, with each insect having its owns set of requirements to morph from one stage to the next. Mother Nature controls these cycles that repeat year after year, similar to the blooming of plants. It is these insects and their vulnerability during their transition from water to air that for the most part feed our trout. These insects are fish food. The trout go wild as they see what amounts to a buffets line of T-bone steaks and Quarter Pounders with cheese, Chocolate Blizzards and Apple Pies floating down the river, all free for the gorging. They must eat now, for soon enough, free meals will be hard to come by.
Fly anglers tend to react with wild elation to these hatches because all becomes visual. The fish are all showing their position, their noses poke out of the watery flow and slurp the insects with the same fervor as the anglers cast. The flies are cleverly crafted with hook, fur and feather to imitate the natural and the greatest predator prevails.
Fly anglers also react with deep despair to these hatches because all becomes visual.....and they can’t catch a fish. Their fly is not a good match. Their drift is not right. They are rejected time and time again by a fish with a brain the size of a pea. The fly anglers will often cry.
The next time you hear a fly angler talk about “The Hatch” you will undertand more about this complex relationship between fish, fly and angler. You can bet there will be a story...... but few will tell about the time they cried.
Last week I had the pleasure of guiding three generations of fly anglers on the Kinnickinnic River in River Falls, Wisconsin. The trip was the result of a donation I made to the Kinnickinnic River Land Trust, an organization dedicated to protecting all life that exists in this incredible watershed. Sheldon, Greg and Niklas represented three generations of fly anglers from the same family that had come to stalk the wild trout of the Kinni.
Most of my day was spent with Niklas, the youngest of the three. We talked of sport and girls and fishing, of course. Nik was polite and a good listener, all traits learned from his elders I’m sure. Many times on the Kinni, your catch rate will relate directly to your desire to listen. The Kinni does not always give up her fish easily and not listening to your guide only makes catching harder. Nik caught many trout.
The “fish bowl” as it was named that day, is a large bend pool and was the last stop of the day. The pool, littered with limestone boulders that long ago fell from the bluff towering above it, held more than 100 trout that we could clearly see as we stood on the overlooking hillside. The chance to watch the behavior of this many trout at one time is rare.
In a Gallery format, each angler took a turn at casting to and catching these trout while the others looked on. Nik was up first and took full advantage of his chance to show his father, grandfather and his guide that he had learned the lessons they had taught him about fly fishing. Every detail of the drift, the take and the fight was viewed and discussed. They each rotated through numerous rounds, catching about a dozen fish in all from the fish bowl. The day ended with laughs and smiles and lessons learned.
Fly fishing, as with many disciplines, takes great pride in its tradition of passing knowledge and experience down through family generations. This chance to see all three of them fish together was a treat. It was as it should be. Judging from the skills and lessons that had been learned, the legacy of fly fishing will run long and deep in this family.
Thanks guys, for letting me be part of it.