Saturday, January 20, 2018

Stillwater Angler Fishing Report

Fishing season is in high gear

The passing of the 4th of July holiday signals the shift into high gear for the summer fishing season. This week we have a few comments along with some miscellaneous early summer season observations that we hope will help anglers be more successful.
In these parts, an angler always needs to be prepared to fish in wind. A little breeze is always a plus for hopper fishing, but a stiff Yellowstone west wind can humble most anglers; all the more reason to go with a big hopper and heavier leader. Leave the 9 foot 4 and 5x leaders in the gear bag. Start with a dropper nymph, but at the first sign of wind, or if unproductive, I’d put it back in the box. Also, making a big splat on the water and wiggling the fly to make it look like it’s struggling on the surface gives it a natural appearance.
Having fished with a variety of anglers of all skill levels thus far this summer, I’ve been able to make some observations that I think most of us can benefit from. First is the propensity to false cast. A well-timed false cast or two has its useful purpose, for everything from drying a water logged fly to gauging distance when casting to rising fish.
The problem comes when it’s simply a habit, particularly when float fishing. I’ve fished with anglers who make three false casts, put the fly on the water on the fourth cast, then instead of letting it drift, pick it up and start the whole process over again. On the lower Stillwater that has an estimated 4,000 fish per mile, that’s a lot of missed opportunities. A fly can’t catch a fish when it’s not on the water.
That brings me to the next point, which is the drift. Fly fishing basically boils down to presenting something artificial as naturally as possible to the fish. There aren’t many flies that naturally drag across the surface of the water at excessive speed. A decent mend can make up for a poor cast, but not the other way around.
The ability to produce a drift by mending the line is a prized skill. Drifting a hopper on swifter water like the Stillwater is also a much different skill than drifting a small dry fly to a rising fish in calmer water like the Missouri. An angler needs to be able to do both when called for.
My final observation concerns long line casters. Being able to cast 50 to 60 feet is great for showing off in the parking lot, but out on the river, is not only totally unnecessary, it’s usually counterproductive as well. Putting a lot of line out on the water almost always guarantees excessive drag, which is virtually impossible to mend. Also, in the unlikely event that a fish hits the fly, there’s no way the hook can be set due to all of the slack line that is on the water.
It’s hard to forecast what the rest of the summer is going to look like fishing wise. After a mild runoff and an early start, things have generally been fishing well. Flows are running well below normal for this time of the year, and water temperatures are starting to creep upward. There have already been some restrictions imposed on waters to our west. It’s recommended to get on and off the water earlier than normal, so as to avoid catching fish when the water is warmer and causes more stress, even proving fatal.
Play fish as promptly as possible and minimize their handling. As water temperatures climb, fish are likely to move into deeper, cooler water as well as more oxygenated water like riffles and tail outs. Target these spots accordingly. Also, as mentioned last week, it’s not too early to be throwing hopper patterns, as it’s always a good tactic to be on the leading edge of the appearance of a major food source.
Tight lines and keep ‘em wet!

Chris Fleck owns and operates Stillwater Anglers Fly Shop and Outfitters in Columbus. He can be contacted at 322-4977 or via www.stillwateranglers.com