Our Man In Canada
November 5th, 2001

The Absolute Beginner
The Art of Being Sneaky


By Piscator

There are two basic components to streamcraft:

    1. Locating fish

    2. Approaching fish without disturbing them.

While the first applies equally when targeting any species, the last varies dramatically between species. Some species, such as trout (brown trout particularly), tend to be more skittish than others. Therefore, we'll focus on streamcraft for resident trout.

Because approaching trout without disturbing them is much easier to teach and to learn than locating the, we'll deal with this first.

We'll also focus mainly on tactics for streams rather than big rivers, for, although most of the basic principles apply whatever the size of the water, sneakiness is much more important on streams, where it's usually a major advantage to get as close to the fish as possible.

Making the Approach

This amounts to little more than basic common sense and controlling the natural urge to rush up to the water and start flailing away. It's a matter of seeing without being seen, heard or felt.

First of all, dress appropriately: go drab. Resist those bright designer clothes and shiny embellishments on your gear and accessories. Wear muted greens, blues and earth colors - anything which blends with the natural colours of the stream bank and vegetation.

Current issue

Approach the stream carefully, staying back and taking a good look so that you can plan ahead where you intend to make your first cast from. Count to ten, then slowly work yourself into position. Keep as low a profile as you can, crouching - crawling, even. Whatever you do, don't break the trout's horizon behind you with your silhouette. Use all the cover you can, especially bankside vegetation. You don't have to actually hide behind the bushes and trees: it's just as effective to huddle up in front of them. It's equally important to tread softly. Trout have a very sensitive organ called lateral line which picks up vibrations transferred though the bank and into the water. If you tread heavily or stumble, they'll feel it and be instantly aware of danger. Don't worry about talking or even shouting, as trout are much less able to detect sound. Because trout are particularly sensitive to vibrations in the water, try to avoid wading as much as possible - especially in very small streams. should also avoid sudden movement. Even if you're well camouflaged, trout with detect these.

Presenting the Fly

The idea is to get as close to the fish without being detected, so that you can present your fly with the shortest possible cast. Not only does this allow you to present the fly more accurately; it also enables greater control, as you'll have less line on the water. An approach from downstream of the rising fish or holding lie allows the closest approach, as trout always hold their heads into the flow. By crawling and kneeling to cast (often in the water at the edge of the stream), you'll find that you can usually approach to within less than 20 feet of the target. If you're casting across and swinging a wet fly or a streamer downstream, you won't be to approach as closely. In these situations it helps if you can find a strategically placed bush to lurk behind if the stream is running through open terrain. On streams with tall trees along the banks, you can usually work your way down a run or riffle by wading right at the edge of the stream with your back tight against the trees. You'll have to use a roll cast here, as there won't be enough room for a backcast. You should also wade very carefully, moving just one foot at a time slowly, and try not to lift your foot out of the water, rather slide it gradually forward beneath the surface. This creates far less vibration than bringing it back into the water with a splash.

It doesn't matter how well you can cast or how effectively you can match the hatch and present your fly, if the fish become aware of you, your chances of catching them are hugely diminished.

Sneakiness comes first - and it's not hard to learn. ~ Piscator

We thank the Canadian Fly Fisher for re-print permission!

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