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.