Why You Should Keep a Low Profile While Fly Fishing

I know you've heard me say it before, but I will say it again: The number-one trick to catch wary trout in calm waters has nothing to do with how far you can cast, or even how well you might choose a fly pattern; it has everything to do with concealing yourself, and making a natural presentation.

This is a photo of me fishing a spring creek in southwestern Argentina a couple of weeks ago. It was a great experience, since the rainbow trout in that particular creek hadn't seen a cast fly in months, if not years. They were working solidly. But, that said, they weren't dummies. The slightest shadow, or slap on the water would put them down.

And that reinforced a very, very important lesson for me: Look at the landscape. There weren't any trees to be found. The water was gin-clear. And, sure, the trout were blissfully naive to the threats any angler might pose. But I still crawled on my belly to take a look, and, I promise you, when it was time to cast, I never got taller than three feet—it all happened from a kneeling (sometimes prone) position.

Mind you, that was in an ideal setting, in a far corner of the world where the trout weren't used to having anglers cast to them. Back in the United States on your favorite little trout creek—which may or may not get pressured much—the odds are that the fish see a helluva lot more anglers and flies than those fish in Argentina do. What I am suggesting, then, is that should you go striding up to the riverbank and fire away with scattershot casts and then wonder why you don't catch many fish, well, that's on you.

You may have great presentation skills. You might be able to punch a 60-footer and drop it on a dime, in a spot no larger than a placemat on the dinner table. And you might even have the most whiz-bang fly pattern ever created. But none of that matters for a hill of beans if you barge around the riverbank like a plow horse and try to enforce your will on a smart, big trout.

It all starts with stealth. No matter where you fish; no matter when you fish. And you can either take my word for it or spend the next 20 years learning the hard way.