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See This? Do That: 10 Tips for Approaching Trout in Glassy Water

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September 19, 2011

See This? Do That: 10 Tips for Approaching Trout in Glassy Water

By Kirk Deeter

We're starting a new series for Fly Talk called "See This, Do That." It's a simple idea. We'll show you a situation (might be bugs, a fish holding in a difficult spot, tricky conditions, etc.), and then explain how to effectively tackle that situation when you fly fish. I'll start off with a scenario that's appropriate for this time of year-- glassy, slow moving water.

Spring creeks and still ponds offer some of the most exciting and challenging fly fishing opportunities of all, especially if you are into sight fishing (and who doesn't like that). But if you bull your way into this situation, you're only setting yourself up for a frustrating lesson on spooking trout. When I see water like this, I immediately go into stealth mode. Here are the 10 tips going through my mind:

1. You'll notice that this photo wasn't taken from the edge of the bank. I'm going to stay away from the water and watch it for a good five minutes before I decide to do anything. I'm looking for fish, of course, but I'm also looking for bugs. Are fish rising? In this case, I see no rings on the surface, so I'm already leaning toward using a small nymph fly.

2. I'm thinking about where the sun is. I don't want the sun in my face, because I can't see my targets in the glare. That said, I'm worried that having the sun directly at my back is going to exaggerate my shadows, especially when I start casting that long rod. I'm going to put the sun off to the side, or maybe at a slight angle behind me.

3. I'm looking for an ambush casting spot. You can probably guess where I'm going to make my cast from. I'm going to slink down the bank as low as I can, and nestle up into that tall grass, then cast from my knees.

4. With water this glassy (and not much wind) I'm going to add a few extra feet of tippet to my leader. I'm NOT going to size down to 7X. I'm going to make a clean, drag-free drift with 5X.

5. I'm also going to opt for a downstream presentation.

6. I'm going to false cast as little as I possibly can, and those false casts are not going to happen above my target, rather, off to the side.

7. I'm going to use less weight (so I cause less of a "plop" when the fly hits the water), and I'm going to cast more upstream from my target fish than normal, giving my fly more time to sink naturally. In this case, I'm just going to use a beadhead fly.

8. I'm going to forget about a strike indicator... if I use any indicator at all, it will be another fly, probably a small (#16) parachute Adams, and hang the nymph fly off the hook shank of the dry (the length of the dropper depends on the depth of the water-- in this case two feet).

9. I'm going to time my casts far apart, waiting minutes, not seconds between presentations, and I'm always going to let my fly drift through the zone before gently picking it up from the water (especially if I'm not happy with my cast).

10. If I know the fish had a reasonable opportunity to see my fly, but didn't eat it I am going to change the pattern, right then.

This run actually produced a 19-inch brown trout, on the third cast and the the second fly pattern, a size #18 black Zebra Midge with a small tungsten bead (trailed below the Adams) at a distance of about 25 feet.

Comments (16)

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from Sayfu wrote 2 years 31 weeks ago

Deeter...you stealthy devil you....good tips, and where the ave. fly angler gets separated from the good fly angler.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Brian W. Thair wrote 2 years 31 weeks ago

Excellent strategy from 1-10.
#1: Wait and watch, don't go near the water. Sometime in the first 10 minutes, fish will do something and reveal themselves. That advice, you can take to the bank.
I often make the mistake of starting to false cast quite close to the water, only to discover that the fish are almost under my feet.

I hope that one scenario will be a big river with gentle current, flowing past a backwater where you can see the current line on the surface.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from kirkdeeter wrote 2 years 31 weeks ago

Thanks guys. We can do that, Brian.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Koldkut wrote 2 years 31 weeks ago

I cannot for the life of me dead drift those glassy pools without a dry/dropper. Great tips!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Pinedale27 wrote 2 years 31 weeks ago

Thank you. As a beginner In Arizona I would have blown that one for sure. Their are a couple things i would love to hear about. First how do you go through the process of choosing a fly when fishing a new area. In bass fishing you have your staples that always tend to work no matter were you fish when it comes to fishing the top or bottom.I understand in fly fishing you try to match hatches but are their fly's that seam to work all year in most rivers and lakes. Maybe a "top ten fly's you should always have in your box". I also would love to hear how you approach and fish a lake.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sage Sam wrote 2 years 31 weeks ago

Great advice Deeter. I've finally started to employ some of the things mentioned (I'm impatient by nature) and they definitely help.

Another request, maybe a scenario where you have a very fast freestone river with exposed rocks midriver (e.g. numerous currents) and fish holding the opposite bank.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from rdorman wrote 2 years 31 weeks ago

great tips, fortunately i don't see this senario very often as i am fairly impatient, beautiful scenary though

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago

Fishing glassy water can drive a man crazy.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Mark Orlicky wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago

Kirk, I'd make a minor mod to #1 or #3. On a small stream, especially in the summer months, many times you'll find the fish right where you're trying to cast from. Unless I clearly can see that there are no fish near the bank, I always fish a good 20-30' below where I think the fish are and I fish the two sides of the banks first.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from M_Rothwell wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago

Now if I'm after supper and don't want to concern myself with being worried about scaring the trout, I'll just break out my ugly stick with my spinnin' reel, 4# test and a silver Li'l Cleo, cast as far as I can right into the center and twitch 'n reel. I'll have supper for 4 in less than 5 minutes from a stretch like that! Then I can get on with some serious beer drinkin' and lie tellin' by the fire, lol!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from shane wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago

Good binoculars aren't just for hunters.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from fflutterffly wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago

BINGO! Now this is talking fly fishing.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ruger wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago

Very good info. Thanks! I think I might have tied on a hopper or a hopper dropper rig given the time of day.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago

And here is my tip for fishing the water in the photo, IF there is not a hatch going on removing the wariness of the fish?.....show up before the sun gets on the water, or show up after it goes off the water...time in between?...nap time, and a few cold ones.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from joaxe wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago

Finally! An article with some good useful fly fishing information in it (not just some advertiser-biased article on new gear).

Thank you F&S!

Joe

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Flytieflyfish wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago

I do most of my fly fishing on lakes. I started catching more bass after learning step #1 years ago. By the way, my first cast is usually from 20 feet behind the shoreline and it's a 25 foot cast, so my deer hair diver lands 5 feet into the water. That way it doesn't matter where the sun is, the fish don't see me or my shadow. I usually only get 1 or 2 short strips on each cast but it works. My fly sits for about 20 or 30 seconds between strips and I usually make 2 casts to the same spot before moving 10 yards down the shoreline, observing for a few minutes and casting again.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from Sayfu wrote 2 years 31 weeks ago

Deeter...you stealthy devil you....good tips, and where the ave. fly angler gets separated from the good fly angler.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Brian W. Thair wrote 2 years 31 weeks ago

Excellent strategy from 1-10.
#1: Wait and watch, don't go near the water. Sometime in the first 10 minutes, fish will do something and reveal themselves. That advice, you can take to the bank.
I often make the mistake of starting to false cast quite close to the water, only to discover that the fish are almost under my feet.

I hope that one scenario will be a big river with gentle current, flowing past a backwater where you can see the current line on the surface.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Pinedale27 wrote 2 years 31 weeks ago

Thank you. As a beginner In Arizona I would have blown that one for sure. Their are a couple things i would love to hear about. First how do you go through the process of choosing a fly when fishing a new area. In bass fishing you have your staples that always tend to work no matter were you fish when it comes to fishing the top or bottom.I understand in fly fishing you try to match hatches but are their fly's that seam to work all year in most rivers and lakes. Maybe a "top ten fly's you should always have in your box". I also would love to hear how you approach and fish a lake.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sage Sam wrote 2 years 31 weeks ago

Great advice Deeter. I've finally started to employ some of the things mentioned (I'm impatient by nature) and they definitely help.

Another request, maybe a scenario where you have a very fast freestone river with exposed rocks midriver (e.g. numerous currents) and fish holding the opposite bank.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from M_Rothwell wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago

Now if I'm after supper and don't want to concern myself with being worried about scaring the trout, I'll just break out my ugly stick with my spinnin' reel, 4# test and a silver Li'l Cleo, cast as far as I can right into the center and twitch 'n reel. I'll have supper for 4 in less than 5 minutes from a stretch like that! Then I can get on with some serious beer drinkin' and lie tellin' by the fire, lol!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from kirkdeeter wrote 2 years 31 weeks ago

Thanks guys. We can do that, Brian.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Koldkut wrote 2 years 31 weeks ago

I cannot for the life of me dead drift those glassy pools without a dry/dropper. Great tips!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from rdorman wrote 2 years 31 weeks ago

great tips, fortunately i don't see this senario very often as i am fairly impatient, beautiful scenary though

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago

Fishing glassy water can drive a man crazy.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Mark Orlicky wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago

Kirk, I'd make a minor mod to #1 or #3. On a small stream, especially in the summer months, many times you'll find the fish right where you're trying to cast from. Unless I clearly can see that there are no fish near the bank, I always fish a good 20-30' below where I think the fish are and I fish the two sides of the banks first.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from shane wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago

Good binoculars aren't just for hunters.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from fflutterffly wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago

BINGO! Now this is talking fly fishing.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ruger wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago

Very good info. Thanks! I think I might have tied on a hopper or a hopper dropper rig given the time of day.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago

And here is my tip for fishing the water in the photo, IF there is not a hatch going on removing the wariness of the fish?.....show up before the sun gets on the water, or show up after it goes off the water...time in between?...nap time, and a few cold ones.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from joaxe wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago

Finally! An article with some good useful fly fishing information in it (not just some advertiser-biased article on new gear).

Thank you F&S!

Joe

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Flytieflyfish wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago

I do most of my fly fishing on lakes. I started catching more bass after learning step #1 years ago. By the way, my first cast is usually from 20 feet behind the shoreline and it's a 25 foot cast, so my deer hair diver lands 5 feet into the water. That way it doesn't matter where the sun is, the fish don't see me or my shadow. I usually only get 1 or 2 short strips on each cast but it works. My fly sits for about 20 or 30 seconds between strips and I usually make 2 casts to the same spot before moving 10 yards down the shoreline, observing for a few minutes and casting again.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

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