May 16th, 2005

Sinking Flies
By James Castwell

At the Fish-In last week I had a chance conversation with one of the guys who was bemoaning a certain fly he had been fishing. A dry fly, little thing, about an 18 BWO type. The conditions at Rocky Ford are varied, some slow ponds, then small dams, then some tail water leading into more ponds. This water bubbles out of the ground (spring creek) and holds a fine head of rainbow trout. The water contains the normal weeds and grasses usual to such water.

Fishing the ponds and the moving water provided the angler with virtually any type of water he might like. Sometimes the fish are feeding on emergers, then duns and then spinners. You must pay a great deal of attention to several factors to make things work the way you might like. Certainly the right fly is a must, or at least darn close. That will change, of course, as the day moves along. What may have hatched in the morning in one of the upper ponds will not be hatching all day long. However the hatch may move downstream for a few hours as the types of water change the farther it runs.

Some insects like slower water to hatch from and to lay their eggs in. Others prefer faster moving stuff. The trick is to figure out where the fish will be eating at any given time of day. This is not too difficult but does take some time to figure out. During the mid part of the day feeding slows down as the sun gets high and bright. Some feeding does occur on scuds though all through the day. Rather impressive too, from any of the small bridges to watch very large fish jam into the vegetation, twist off a gob, swim a short ways and spit it out, retaining the scud.

Some die-hards (like me) will continue to fish a dry all during the day and so need to be even more aware of what the fish and insects are doing. These fish get pounded, day after day, by some fairly decent fly fishers and are not easily fooled. That part makes it even more of a challenge to present a fly which might fool them, and present it correctly. Like... it needs to float and not drag. And it needs to do it for a proper distance. It needs to drop ahead of the vision of the fish (not counting caddis here) drift exactly into his feeding lane and look as good as a natural.

With the widely varying conditions it is not always easy. You are not allowed to wade in the stream and it's all catch and release. Gently sloping banks, mostly rocky with scattered bushes to make sure your back-cast is very high. Add the nearly high-desert breeze (wind sometimes too) and you have a more than interesting outing. With that many conditions to meet it is often claimed that the fish are 'selective' or uncatchable. And for many, that is true. Most new to the game come there lured by tales of huge fish and easy casting conditions only to go home skunked and humbled. And really, they need not be.

First the fly must be right, the drift figured out for each and every cast. Yes...each and every cast. I watched so many rather fair fly fishermen casting over and over with zero results. Some would remember to mend their lines, and most of the time they were mending in the wrong directions. They will learn how to improve on that as they continue to fly fish. They must learn to look for the tiniest ripples and wiggles of current on the surface before they make the first cast. They need to be able to present a fly to exactly where it must go and be able to control the drift of the line and leader during the drift.

I often watched as their fly would land, then sink immediately, followed by a short jerk on the line to get it back on top, and then they tried to follow the fly with the rod tip. You might get a fish to take once in a while that way, but the odds are not in your favor. Present the fly so it stays on top, period. If it does not, you have done something wrong. Yes, wrong. Fix it. Do not smack another cast right back exactly like the last expecting different results. That is the definition of insanity. Look again. Study the current seams and flows. There will be a way to get the fly where it needs to be and not have it drag or sink.

Sometimes it can be your leader. If you suspect so, see if lengthening the tippet will give you more free drift and keep the fly from going sub-surface on arrival. Some guys like the leader to sink, others want it to float, two schools on that, take your pick. I want mine on top. And I love a tippet that has a lot of stretch. I can't state it more firmly than that. Most guys just do not try to make each and every cast do exactly what they need it to do. Why not?

Because they do not know what that is supposed to be, that's why not. It is too easy to dash out to the stream and start flinging flies. Getting the line in the air and getting the fly on the water. Careful thought ahead of time will separate you from the rest of them - if you want it to be that way. Does this make you smarter than they are? No, just that you know more about what you are there for and what you are trying to do.

For instance, this. It is approaching mid-day, the 'bite' seems to be off, not much happening, no rises, only a few tails wiggling as some are into scudding. You want to stick with dries. What should you do? The fish have been feeding for a while on the top but not now. I look for some fast water. Anywhere. If I can find some fish, or even one holding in fast water, why is he there? Not because he likes to fight the current for a living. Right, he is feeding... on something, but he is either feeding or looking for something to feed on.

What has he been feeding on? Well, for the past several hours perhaps it was those tiny dries. In this case, for me, it was. When the 'bite' went off, I moved to the faster part of the stream, looked for holding fish, offered them the same bug they had been seeing all morning (but none on the water now) and gave them a chance at my fly. I would have had three for three at one point, but the second fish missed the fly. I hooked the third fish, but it decided to preform an acrobatic stunt and in its enthusiasm jumped head first into a rock. True, I had witnesses.

Just before that one of the fellows asked me to check out his rod. It was not a fancy one but he wanted my opinion on the whole rig, rod, line and reel. A few of us were around one of the upper ponds and I said sure, I would be glad to. I am a sucker for playing with other guys equipment when I get the chance. The 'bite' had been off for a while but I saw a bit of fast water entering the upper end of the pond. Now, I could have just made a few casts onto the pond where we were standing, but wondered if there might be a fish or two in the narrow slip of water.

I walked about a hundred feet or so and after a few false casts to measure the line in the air, laid out a cast and let it drop. Nothing happened. The fish did take the second cast though. Yes, it was presented right, did not sink or drag and was exactly where it should be. And that is the point. I had not fished that place before, but in just a moment, looked for the things that might make the difference between failure and success.

I took some ribbing from them about catching a fish on the second cast while just checking out a rod, but, why not? You can do these things too, if you want to. But you must really want to. ~ JC

Till next week, remember . . .

Keepest Thynne Baakast Upeth

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