Stillwater Angler Fishing Report
“To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often”-Winston Churchill
I’ve been fortunate to spend some time around some excellent anglers, and one thing I’ve observed that they all seem to have in common is an understanding of, and a willingness to make change. It’s a concept that sometimes seems a bit foreign to most of us because we’ve grown up with the common idea that fishing is about patience, and an angler’s reward is directly proportional to the amount of patience expended.
I guess this is true to a degree, but I haven’t met an angler yet who, through desire and determination alone, has been successful in imposing his will upon an unsuspecting trout. Change can be as drastic as trying a completely different technique, such as throwing a nymph instead of a dry fly, or it can be as subtle as adding or removing split shot to alter the depth in the water where a nymph is drifting. I think a common mistake we all make from time to time is to get locked into a single method, presentation or particular fly, and insist on sticking with it. (Isn’t that how it is with most things in life though?)
My suggestion would be for an angler to develop some sort of logical progression that makes sense to them given the conditions and type of fishing for the day.
For example, if, after looking at the river for that day, it makes sense to fish dry flies, before completely changing over to another method such as nymphs or streamers, I’d suggest first making a change in how the fly is being presented to the fish.
That is altering the presentation. If satisfied with the presentation, then it may be time to make a couple of changes with the dry fly instead. Usually this would be switching to a smaller size of the same pattern, or to a pattern that presents a slightly different silhouette on the water. Particularly when fishing calmer water, a longer leader or finer tippet may be necessary.
Perhaps the adult insects are evident, but instead of feeding directly on the adults on the surface, the fish are feeding sub-surface on the emerging stage of the insect instead. Maybe all that is necessary is to tie on a small emerger nymph as a dropper off the back of the dry fly, and voila, fish on!
My point in all of this is to add emphasis that understanding the importance of the concept of change is critical to fly fishing success. If the correct fly is properly presented, it should draw immediate attention from the fish and produce at least a refusal, if not a strike.
Repeating the same drift with the same fly in the same piece of water over and over is going to work once in a while, but for the most part fish act instinctively or reflexively when feeding and if they didn’t like it the first time they saw it, chances are they won’t like it after seeing it presented the same way multiple times. Repeating the same thing, yet expecting a different outcome, is a recipe for failure in any endeavor of life, and in that regard, fly fishing is no different.
I can’t support it with any statistics, but experience tells me that particularly in a new section of water, the majority of hook ups occur during the first drift or two. The likelihood of success seems to decrease in direct proportion to the number of drifts. However, before completely giving up and moving on to the next spot, it may make a difference to make an adjustment or two and see what happens.
The angler who embraces the idea of change and includes it in his or her arsenal of fishing tactics will, without a doubt, prove to be consistently successful under a wide variety of conditions.
Chris Fleck owns and operates Stillwater Anglers Fly Shop and Outfitters in Columbus.