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Resist the Urge to Re-Cast When Fish Don't Bite

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October 02, 2012

Resist the Urge to Re-Cast When Fish Don't Bite

By Kirk Deeter

Sometimes, the angler has to resist the forces of instinct.  Here's an example: You make an errant cast, maybe miss the strike of a fish, and you soon find your leader and tippet tangled around the end of your fly rod. So what do you do? You give that rod a few spins and shakes—as if a flick of the wrist will magically untangle the knotted mess.  We all do it, even though that's one of the dumbest moves we can make. Honestly, how often does a knot get better, rather than worse, when you try to untie it by shaking the rod? Maybe once in a hundred shakes?

The same is true with re-casting at fish. You make a nice presentation. The fly floats perfectly into the run. You see a fish move on the fly, maybe splash at it, but no dice. You've been refused. So what do most of us instinctively do at that point? Of course... we pick up the line and fire that fly right back at the fish. And when it doesn't eat the bug that time, we cast again, and again, and again.

Sure, we all have heard the old adage, "if at first you don't succeed, try and try again." But that seldom pays off on the river. At least not in the context of firing off repeat casts within seconds at the same fish.

I have seldom, if ever, seen an angler successfully beat a trout into submission.  And yet, the most common presentation mistake I see—among newbies and seasoned anglers alike—is that repeat shot.  Sometimes presentation has as much to do with timing as it has to do with placement, especially after a refusal.

To fight off that natural instinct to shoot again right away, try some tricks to slow things down. Recite the alphabet in your head, forward and backward a few times. Sing "God Bless America." Go sit on the bank, take off both your boots, and put them on again. Whatever it takes to create a pause of a few minutes.

Here's what I like to do whenever I see a fish that's interested enough to check out my bug, but unwilling to commit: I go to the bank, sit down, and change the fly. Remember, the fish refused for a reason. I figure that my pattern is pretty good, just not good enough. So I size down. Switch a size #14 dry fly to a size #16 or #18. Wait a few minutes, and go again. Give that a try, and you'll catch more on the second cast. I promise.

Comments (10)

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from stick500 wrote 1 year 27 weeks ago

when spincasting lures for any fish, after a missed strike I usually cast out the other way a few times to let the fish that struck it settle down a bit before hitting the same spot again

Kirk is right- delaying the next presentation does help

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from stick500 wrote 1 year 27 weeks ago

when spincasting lures for any fish, after a missed strike I usually cast out the other way a few times to let the fish that struck it settle down a bit before hitting the same spot again

Kirk is right- delaying the next presentation does help

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from buckhunter wrote 1 year 27 weeks ago

Great advice, Deet. I am guilty of everything you have mentioned above. (Even guilty of many other things I'd rather keep secret) Unless there is a steady hatch, I find I catch more fish the more often I change flies. No use beating them to death with the same presentation. Cast less, catch more.

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from clinchknot wrote 1 year 27 weeks ago

But Deeter. You had say a 4x on your #14, do you leave it a 4x, and tie on a #18? Along the lines of casting to fish, just to be a contrarian. I, and others have created a hatch by casting time and again through a riffle. No takes the first 10 casts, and then you get a take. I believe you just turned on the fish by presenting bug after bug. That has only happened to me in broken riffle water.

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from kirkdeeter wrote 1 year 27 weeks ago

Yes. I tie a #18 on the same 4X. And you can try to create your own hatch if you want to, but I'm going to wait and switch bugs, riffle or not.

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from clinchknot wrote 1 year 27 weeks ago

Could be your problem. Too big of tippet tied to too small of fly. I'm just sayin. Creating the hatch in a riffle can be another approach. Assessing the situation based on expience, then selecting an approach is priceless. And you don't always get it right unless you are a writer of course.

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from wisc14 wrote 1 year 27 weeks ago

first paragraph is so true of me ha ha. the shake of the rod is usually followed by me cursing to myself about what the hell i was thinking.

good article. when flyfishing for bass and pike i swith flies a lot. with trout i usually stick with the tried and true. think i need to start changing flies more for trout as well

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from Rhythm Rider wrote 1 year 27 weeks ago

So you're saying be patient, deliberate and thoughtful. Good advice.

Then if that doesn't work throw a rock in the hole, swear, and move on :-)

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from clinchknot wrote 1 year 27 weeks ago

Rythm...Know a guy very well who is well known for his throwing a rock in the hole, then catching the steelhead, or Salmon. Articles have been written ON Jim Teeny's techique of doing just that, and why it works.

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from jaukulele wrote 1 year 26 weeks ago

Good advice. We ought to be going fishing to relax anyway. Why not take our time? And, what's the definition of insanity, again?

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from stick500 wrote 1 year 27 weeks ago

when spincasting lures for any fish, after a missed strike I usually cast out the other way a few times to let the fish that struck it settle down a bit before hitting the same spot again

Kirk is right- delaying the next presentation does help

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from stick500 wrote 1 year 27 weeks ago

when spincasting lures for any fish, after a missed strike I usually cast out the other way a few times to let the fish that struck it settle down a bit before hitting the same spot again

Kirk is right- delaying the next presentation does help

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 1 year 27 weeks ago

Great advice, Deet. I am guilty of everything you have mentioned above. (Even guilty of many other things I'd rather keep secret) Unless there is a steady hatch, I find I catch more fish the more often I change flies. No use beating them to death with the same presentation. Cast less, catch more.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from clinchknot wrote 1 year 27 weeks ago

But Deeter. You had say a 4x on your #14, do you leave it a 4x, and tie on a #18? Along the lines of casting to fish, just to be a contrarian. I, and others have created a hatch by casting time and again through a riffle. No takes the first 10 casts, and then you get a take. I believe you just turned on the fish by presenting bug after bug. That has only happened to me in broken riffle water.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from kirkdeeter wrote 1 year 27 weeks ago

Yes. I tie a #18 on the same 4X. And you can try to create your own hatch if you want to, but I'm going to wait and switch bugs, riffle or not.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from clinchknot wrote 1 year 27 weeks ago

Could be your problem. Too big of tippet tied to too small of fly. I'm just sayin. Creating the hatch in a riffle can be another approach. Assessing the situation based on expience, then selecting an approach is priceless. And you don't always get it right unless you are a writer of course.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from wisc14 wrote 1 year 27 weeks ago

first paragraph is so true of me ha ha. the shake of the rod is usually followed by me cursing to myself about what the hell i was thinking.

good article. when flyfishing for bass and pike i swith flies a lot. with trout i usually stick with the tried and true. think i need to start changing flies more for trout as well

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Rhythm Rider wrote 1 year 27 weeks ago

So you're saying be patient, deliberate and thoughtful. Good advice.

Then if that doesn't work throw a rock in the hole, swear, and move on :-)

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from clinchknot wrote 1 year 27 weeks ago

Rythm...Know a guy very well who is well known for his throwing a rock in the hole, then catching the steelhead, or Salmon. Articles have been written ON Jim Teeny's techique of doing just that, and why it works.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from jaukulele wrote 1 year 26 weeks ago

Good advice. We ought to be going fishing to relax anyway. Why not take our time? And, what's the definition of insanity, again?

0 Good Comment? | | Report

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