Lose a few flies, catch more trout.
Finding trout on a stream in #CentralNewYork and #UpstateNewYork often means fishing tight to boulders, logs, bushes, and overhanging trees. Fly casting in this environment is rather conducive to losing a few (dozen) flies. There are thousands of other streams and rivers across the world that steal flies just as ours do. However, fishing tight to cover means catching fish, and lots of them. Don’t be timid about invading the personal spaces of those boulders and logs. In between stealing flies, these tight areas produce trout.
As buying #flies has gotten to the point of requiring a small fortune, tying your own helps choke down the effects of losing a half dozen #flies or more in a day. I’ve seen anglers stop casting where they should be #fishing because they don’t want to break off and lose flies. Sometimes these anglers manage a fish or two, and other times they walk back skunked. Trout live, eat, and hide in the places that are more difficult to fish. If you’re not losing some flies now and then, you’re missing out on trout.
Try bouncing the fly (or flies) off the back of the boulder you’re attempting to find fish behind. Many times, trout will hit the fly as soon as it hits the water. This is especially true when using bigger flies that imitate stoneflies or when using terrestrials like grasshoppers. Snacks frequently fall off rocks. Whether it’s a stonefly crawling up a rock, a grasshopper that lost its footing, or a mouse going for a swim after dark, large meals fall from boulders, logs, and trees. I advise against trying to bounce flies off a log or tree branch, however. Fly return rates are generally pretty low when they are wound around a branch. I recommend precision bow and arrow casting around logs, trees, and boulders alike. Then, have a plan for battling a fishing and how to land it.
Log jams and root balls are major culprits in stealing flies. Get underneath them. Try swinging a heavier fly or streamer under the cover. Straight up and down presentations don’t always allow the flies to get close enough to the trout’s living room, while they also tend to snag some of the smaller branches sticking out. Letting a fly drift to the bottom and letting it swing under the debris is a very effective way of hooking fish that don’t want to move from the hiding area. If the log jam is submerged and it’s tough to get flies down under the mess, try skating a big fly, such as a muddler minnow or grasshopper, over the top.
Trout are not always on the hunt or prowl for a meal. They are not always hanging under a nice little foam line actively sipping bugs. As a matter of fact, most of the time they are not. What trout are however, is opportunistic. When trout are hiding and lazily lounging in the shade of a boulder or log, they are still willing to eat. They just don’t have interest in going to the other room for their snack.
It’s really comparative to many of us while watching a game or race from our reclining chair. If someone brings us a beer and a plate of nachos (God bless their soul), we most certainly wouldn’t turn down this most generous and gracious act of hospitality, but we certainly were not going to get up and get it ourselves. Bring the snack, the flies, to the trout.
I should include the bottom of the stream or river in the “tight to cover” category. The deepest cuts in the rocks and boulders provide hiding and ambush areas for trout. Again, trout are not always interested in coming up to meet a snack. Bring it to them. Heavy tungsten beads are great for getting your nymph or streamer to the bottom and they do it quickly. When trout are holding deep, it’s important to have the fly slowly tumbling across the bottom.
This is where the effectiveness of tight-line #nymphing comes into play. Using this method, anglers are able to feel their flies bump each rock and boulder they touch. It enables them to feel and see the lightest and quickest of bites by maintaining direct contact with the flies at all times. Tight-line or contact nymphing also allows the angler to lightly jig their fly slowly down stream, which can be very effective. In any event, fishing tight to the bottom naturally increases the odds of losing flies, but this is where the fish are.
If you find yourself playing a game of tug o’ war with a boulder, branch, or log, that’s okay! Practice makes perfect. Not many people pick up a fly rod and drop a cast under a tree branch and 2 inches from a moss-covered boulder without having done it a few times prior. During the summer months, you may be able to reach the fly. If it’s during higher water, break it off and come back in the summer on scouting trip and you might find them then. If it’s been a tough day and you’re tired of losing good flies, use crappy ones or the flies you don’t care if you lose. We all have boxes with flies in there we’ve never cared to use or don’t use.
The next time out, try fishing tighter to structure. If you see feeding trout, by all means fish to them. But when things appear slow, try fishing deeper and tighter. Bring the flies to the trout. Don’t be afraid of losing flies. By making more precise and accurate casts into cover, catch rates will go up. Don’t think you can make that cast with that kind of accuracy? The first bow and arrow cast I ever attempted was launched at Mach 152 into the tree I was attempting to avoid. No fly angler can make a cast they haven’t attempted.
Thanks for reading and best of luck the next time out!
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