Outdoor Writers Association of America
This Week's View

by Deanna Lee Birkholm

September 13th, 1999

The Bulge

Catching fish is terrific fun - no argument. Second to that is sitting on a lovely piece of moving water and watching. This could be just enjoying your surroundings. But it could also be very instructional. Improve the heck out of your catching as well.

Al Campbell wrote a outstanding column on Check Your Surroundings For Better Fishing explaining what to look for along the stream - and on the way to it. If you haven't read it, do so. Your understanding of the insects, when and where, will be greatly improved.

What I'm talking about is watching the fish. They live in a very unique world. Some observation on our part allows us to share a little of that world, by watching the signs showing us what they (the fish) are doing.

Fish feed from the bottom of the stream to the surface of the water. Why? Because in their world, the food starts out on the bottom. As the nymphs mature, they migrate to the surface. Well, Stoneflies crawl out on the shore, but the rest pretty much make their way to the surface and hatch.

You need to recognize rise forms - or as Vincent Marinaro calls them, 'Rings of the Rise.' He was the author of a super book of the same name, I understand it is available again. One to put on your Christmas Wish List.

Not familiar with rise forms? Read Rise Forms for the basics. Each of the rise forms is explained, and I'm sure you will recognize most of them. But here is the toughest one: The Bulge.

This is tough to see because there usually isn't any break in the surface. No rings. No neat splashy take. It's just a bulge in the surface, sort of like there was a lump of dirt or a rock the water barely runs over. Even harder to see when there is a little wind riffle on the water, or in the broken water of a run.

But when you can see it, (having the light in just the right direction helps too,) it is a dead giveaway that the fish is taking nymphs. And probably just in the important couple of inches just below the surface. A floating emerger isn't the match. The fly has to sink - but barely.

Take a little break from catching. Even if it is Catch and Release, that doesn't mean you should catch every possible fish you can. Regardless of how careful we are, you will kill fish. Spend more time learning about how and why the fish respond. Try to put yourself into their world.

Find a nice place on a bank, perhaps a little mossy knoll, or an accommodating log. Take a deep breath, suck in the scents of the cedars and crisping leaves. Close your eyes and feel the sun and breeze on your face. Capture a little essence of the beautiful wild places for the times you can't be there.

When you've done that, start looking for the subtle bulges. See if you can figure out the fishes waiting station. Does it feed in about the same place each time? What is the time period between the feedings? Where exactly do you put your cast to get your nymph in the right place at the right time? And once hooked, where will the fish go? Can you play and land it there?

Got it all figured out? Check your leader and tippet for knots or nicks. Put on a fresh fly, soak it in river water, (you might want to massage it a little) so it sinks to just the right depth.

Now, go catch it! ~ LadyFisher

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