This Week's View

by Deanna Lee Birkholm

August 4th, 2003

Stick or Automatic

My personal fishing preference is dry fly on moving water. Yes, we fish other methods but if there is a choice I really love seeing a fish take the fly on top. Upstream and dry.

When you really enjoy a fishing method, you probably work a little harder at figuring out the things necessary to make it work. In time, (don't ask how long, it varies) you know what works. It isn't a matter of having to check the water flow speed, where the fish are, which fly, leader length and type, what kind of a cast - slack line, curve cast or whatever.

Instead of having to work through each part, you shift into automatic and make the cast...because you can. Experience is the key. The difference between driving a stick-shift and an automatic transmission.

This became evident at the Central Oregon Fish-In when Al Roberts, (who is a terrific saltwater and lake fly fisher) asked for some help with stream fishing. The fish were picky, they've been fished to by everyone, so I knew it wasn't going to be easy. Al had tied a nice stonefly, it was on his rod, and he challenged me (nicely) to catch the fish they knew was in a particular pool.

The catch was I had to explain what I was doing and why.

So we walked upstream a short way and he and a couple of the other guys who had been fishing this pool explained where the fish were. After trying to catch one without success, they had gone a bit upstream and floated some Cheeto's over the pool. They marked where three fish laid.

LadyFisher, 1st cast, Al watching

The river runs from left to right, a fast riffle with a pool at the base of the riffle. The fish lay, one close to the bank, one in the middle and one at the shoot at the right hand-side of the riffle.

I chose to cast first to the fish on the right, hoping if I hooked it I could move it out of the pool and not spook the rest of the fish above it. I should mention I had mentally figured out where the fish would try to go, and how to best manage it. That should be part of your thinking before you cast or hook one.

The fast water was at the end of the cast, so I made a slack-line upstream cast and immediately threw some slack upstream with my rod tip. The float was good and the fish rose to take the fly on the first cast.

I missed it. Turns out I can't talk and focus on the fly at the same time. My fault, but the lesson was a good one. The first cast CAN take the fish, and probably should. The changes of a hook-up go downhill from there.

I cast next to the middle fish. No rise. Ditto on the one next to the bank. I did manage to snag a branch from an underwater snag at the top of the riffle. (No, of course that never happens to me.) But obviously I was trying to get my cast as close to the bank as I could.

We waited a few minutes, and moved about 20 feet closer. Several casts and no fish.

The attempts from farther downstream were actually better because of weeds and bank-side growth to help hide us from the fish. I was fishing from the bank and not wading, (actually it was too bloody hot to be in neoprene waders anyway,) so I could have used a side-arm cast as well as a normal over-head cast.

The longer cast, accuracy, mend and float (drift) were the keys to getting the fish to rise. The fact I didn't catch it was my fault. I don't believe moving closer would have worked if it was my first cast, stealth, especially in this situation was very important.

A final thought; the stonefly I used did have an orange body - and who knows, maybe the fish took it as a Cheeto! ~ The LadyFisher

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