This Week's View

by Deanna Lee Birkholm

January 3rd, 2005

It's In There

Every once in a while I'll receive an email from a new fly fisher and the question will be something which I expect 'everyone' probably knows.

It's not a put-down on the new fly fishers at all - the problem is when you've been fly fishing for most of your life, there are some things which are just 'in there.' Sort of like the old Prego television commercial where a person asks if a particular ingredient is in the Prego spaghetti sauce and the spokesperson in a chef's hat says "Trust me, it's in there!"

Here's an example: We were visiting with some friends on a hot summer day on the Metolius River in Oregon. One of the guys said they had not been able to raise a fish in an area where he was sure there should have been fish. Now, this friend is not new to fly fishing. He is an accomplished saltwater and lake angler, but not experienced in stream fishing. The Metolius is a cold water spring creek, with some very nice trout (and bull trout) and is heavily fished. It has some good hatches as well.

We were about a quarter mile below the Sherman Camp Store, the water is running from left to right, mid-day with some shade on the far side of the stream. I've already said it was a hot day. There is a bit of a riffle, three feet wide at the most, near the bank on the far side, about thirty feet upstream. On the near side, about ten feet above where we are standing, there is some brush and some broken branches extending into the water. The stream is perhaps forty feet wide where we are standing.

Our friend asks if I would show him where he should be fishing. He has a fine 9 ft. custom rod, a proper floating line, and leader/tippet without any wind knots (yes, I checked) and a nicely tied dry fly of the proper size.

Do you have a mental picture? Where should you put the dry fly? Why? What kind (type) of cast should be used?

If I had handed you the rod and had you make the cast, could you? Or, would you have to think about it? In fact, how long did you have to think about it just now?

No cheating, don't tell me to use a wet fly or a nymph either. It's dry or nothing.

I should add there are very large Ponderosa pines behind and next to us on the left, other brush on the bank and the cast is going to have to be a bit off to the side.

Ready to cast?

Since I had not cast the rod with this particular set up in this situation, I did make a 'test' cast at about five feet to the left of my target so as not to 'line' (cast my fly line directly over) the fish I expected to be lying in the position I selected. The spot was the riffle water, in the shade, on the far side of the stream, close to the bank.

Why there?

It was a hot, bright day. The fish would feel safer in broken water, (riffles) as well as the safety factor being nearer the undercut bank. It was also the shady area, which on a hot day would be cooler water. The water would hold more oxygen was also faster, shaded, but a place to hide out of the main current.

The cast laid out nicely, no problem.

Time to go for the real thing.

I made the cast, canting the rod about 20 degrees to the right to avoid the brush, and put a little punch into the tip at the very end of the cast to throw a little slack recoil at the end of the cast. The cast landed above the riffle, unrolled and floated down almost through the riffle perfectly... fish rose exactly on cue - just as I turned to explain what and why I had done to my friend and I missed it. No harm done, he saw the whole sequence.

In all it took less than one minute to execute the whole thing.


Because it was "in there."

So what's the point? Just this - it takes time, and a lot of time spent fishing for it to be "in there." A lot of time making mistakes. Casting badly. Making the wrong cast. Having flies drag, having leaders sink, having flies land sideways or not roll out properly - or not being able to see the fly on the water to know when you've made the right or wrong cast at all. For some it comes easier - for others it seems to take forever. It doesn't happen over night. Not for anyone.

It's knowing your insects, matching the hatches, learning presentation, learning to wade and be stealthy, reading the water - just one thing after another. And for each thing you learn there's another waiting to be added to the list.

It gets "in there" by continuing to stuff it in there by doing it. You aren't going to get it right all the time, but some of the time, when you need it, eventually it will be in there.

My first fly casting lesson was at age 11. One should never ask a lady her age, but I will tell you that was 57 years ago. I've pretty well got the casting part down, but trust me, I'm still learning the rest of it. ~ DLB

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