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See This, Do That: Fly Fishing a Textbook Fall Trout Scenario

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September 18, 2012

See This, Do That: Fly Fishing a Textbook Fall Trout Scenario

By Kirk Deeter

Okay, time to revisit some "see this, do that" lessons. Here's a textbook fall trout scenario: The water is low and clear. It's a bright cool day. We have some caddis flying around. The fish are rising sporadically.

I actually caught three trout from the water shown in this photo — two 10-inch rainbows and a 14-inch brown. Can you guess where I caught them, and how I did it?

Okay, I'll tell you.

As you have probably noticed, I was looking upstream when I took this shot (admittedly after I had caught the fish). The sun was high overhead, so there really isn't a shadow factor that would benefit one approach over another. I was fishing a size #14 elk hair caddis single dry fly.

The first shot was almost a no-brainer. The white water in the riffle fell into a pool under the log. There's a round, table-shaped spot under the end of that log. I made a short cast into the fine bubbles, right where the chop ends, and the fast water transitions into slow water. Within a second, one of the rainbows swam up and ate the fly.

That one was simple. Look for the transition water and the color change near structure, and drop the fly right there. Keep the fly line off the water so the current doesn't cause your fly to drag. Too far left on the cast and you flirt with the log and/or your flies sweep too quickly. Too far right, and the flies will stall in the wash. Drop it right in the bucket, and it's either going to get bit, or not. This is a two-cast pool. If it doesn't happen in two casts, it isn't going to happen at all.

Next was the bigger brown trout. See that dark spot next to the deadfall under the bush further upstream, where the water is green and glassy? That's where he was. However, I couldn’t make an upstream cast because the branches of that bush hung far enough over the stream. So I backed out of the river, walked upstream on the shore, got back in position and made my cast downstream. I probably walked a couple hundred yards to put myself in position for that cast, even though the river distance between target one and target two was only about 20 yards. I actually bounced my fly (same one) off the bank, just below that forked branch that's sticking into the river, and the trout ate it right as it entered that shadow, no more than six inches off the shore.

Fish three, was a "what the heck" shot. After I landed the brown, I made another downstream cast, this time below the bush, and I hooked another rainbow in the slack pool just above the whitewater in the riffle. Could I have used nymphs? Sure, but why? The fish were eating dries. Could I have used a streamer, and just worked that opposite bank, upstream-down. Sure, but in water this low and clear, I'm not so sure chucking big bugs would have worked. (And the fish were eating dries.)

Here's the lesson: Three fish, three different shots. Had I caught the first fish and then plowed my way upstream on the same course, I definitely wouldn't have caught the brown. And I probably would have spooked the second rainbow by splashing and casting at the same time. That upstream-down dry fly presentation — tight to the bank and adjacent to deadfall — is more often than not the money cast, especially in low, clear, fall conditions.

You can do more to help yourself with your noggin' and your feet than you can by trying to stick a hero cast into a tight spot.

Comments (7)

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from Koldkut wrote 1 year 30 weeks ago

I had a plow it and miss the fish moment the other day, should have gotten out at the bridge and looked at the water before just plowing downstream with a streamer. The streamer was the right choice, but I should have walked down and then worked up the cover I only saw as I walked through it.

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from buckhunter wrote 1 year 30 weeks ago

After fishing the first run that gravel bar would have been calling my name. No fishy for me today.

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from Sayfu wrote 1 year 30 weeks ago

Ran up through some hairy slots in my jetboat that looked like that picture. Sure can see where the fish were caught, but could have been just off that log, although a tough presentation. I like swinging the soft hackles, and where they take doesn't have to be where they were initially laying. If BWO's late Cahills, Mahoganies are on the water then it is presenting the dryfly. And fish more than likely will be in the shallow riffle water. But no surface activity?..cover water in the riffle, or near it. First stop last Fri. after running for 7 miles we got out, and I hooked, and landed an 18" brown, very large around on a softhackle cast along a log...two big surface swirls at it, and he took on the third swirl. Then we pulled two older women off a log jam that had capsided a conoe..canoe pressed them up against the jam. Canoe was gone, all their belongings. I waded out as far as possible threw them a rope after talking them into climbing up the jam, and then having them tie the rope around their middle, and getting them to jump in.

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from dleurquin wrote 1 year 30 weeks ago

I would have walked along the gravel bar too. It would have been a slow day.

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from tkbone wrote 1 year 30 weeks ago

Really like these "see this, do that" posts. Like others have said, when I'm fishing dry flies upstream, I'm exclusively in upstream casts and presentations mode and don't think to approach lies from upstream. Great tips.

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from SamPerry wrote 1 year 30 weeks ago

Sam Perry to KD - "This fly is called an Elk Hair Caddis"

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from Sayfu wrote 1 year 30 weeks ago

Here is another reality when the water gets that low. In the sweet spots you think fish are it may be too clear, the day too sunny, and they will hide behind a rock right in that fast water. The current is broken by the rock they are behind.

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from Sayfu wrote 1 year 30 weeks ago

Here is another reality when the water gets that low. In the sweet spots you think fish are it may be too clear, the day too sunny, and they will hide behind a rock right in that fast water. The current is broken by the rock they are behind.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Koldkut wrote 1 year 30 weeks ago

I had a plow it and miss the fish moment the other day, should have gotten out at the bridge and looked at the water before just plowing downstream with a streamer. The streamer was the right choice, but I should have walked down and then worked up the cover I only saw as I walked through it.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 1 year 30 weeks ago

After fishing the first run that gravel bar would have been calling my name. No fishy for me today.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 1 year 30 weeks ago

Ran up through some hairy slots in my jetboat that looked like that picture. Sure can see where the fish were caught, but could have been just off that log, although a tough presentation. I like swinging the soft hackles, and where they take doesn't have to be where they were initially laying. If BWO's late Cahills, Mahoganies are on the water then it is presenting the dryfly. And fish more than likely will be in the shallow riffle water. But no surface activity?..cover water in the riffle, or near it. First stop last Fri. after running for 7 miles we got out, and I hooked, and landed an 18" brown, very large around on a softhackle cast along a log...two big surface swirls at it, and he took on the third swirl. Then we pulled two older women off a log jam that had capsided a conoe..canoe pressed them up against the jam. Canoe was gone, all their belongings. I waded out as far as possible threw them a rope after talking them into climbing up the jam, and then having them tie the rope around their middle, and getting them to jump in.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from dleurquin wrote 1 year 30 weeks ago

I would have walked along the gravel bar too. It would have been a slow day.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from tkbone wrote 1 year 30 weeks ago

Really like these "see this, do that" posts. Like others have said, when I'm fishing dry flies upstream, I'm exclusively in upstream casts and presentations mode and don't think to approach lies from upstream. Great tips.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from SamPerry wrote 1 year 30 weeks ago

Sam Perry to KD - "This fly is called an Elk Hair Caddis"

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