Our Man In Canada
June 13th, 2005

Presentation...the moment of truth
By Chris Chinn

Most of us have been there, ...Sight fishing!! That is casting to a fish we can actually see. (or at least saw rising) The trepidation is part of the thrill...

Actually, the presentation of the fly to our quarry is the sum of all the actions we do (or don't do) from the time we approach a lie, up until that moment of truth. To get an idea of what I'm blabbering about,...Here's how I like to spend a Saturday morning...

I come down the trail as the morning sun is starting to stir the mist up through the spruces. No breeze, no sounds, just the hushed and muted sounds of the river which is flowing left to right. Mom and Vincent are sleeping late, so I'm in no hurry.

As I approach, the sounds become information... Gurgling out of the rapids upstream, gliding silently through the deep run on the #43 and babbling away as the bottom rises up to form a deep riffle. The stereo sounds are an onslaught of information to assimilate.

I know from the auditory feed back from my favorite pool that the river is at a "normal" level. If it were lower, the sounds of the riffle would be louder than the tail of the rapids,...if it were any higher, the riffle would have a deeper sound. I know I will be able to cast from the beach. (good)...the water is too cool to wade deep anyway.

Over the symphony of nature's best, I hear that sweet punctuation like a good rhythm guitar, the soft "swoosh" of a large trout taking something off of the surface of the run. I'm still ten yards from the river but just from the sound and urgency of the take, I know that the trout is in the run and not on the far side in the back eddy.

Instead of hurrying up, I slow down (trying to calm my heart rate). I need to listen.

I stop on the trail a few feet back from the gravel beach where I gingerly remove the tote bag from my shoulder and slip off my vest. If I don't find any action here, I'll take a nap propped up against the big Yellow Birch, so may as well not drag all my gear around.

I slowly move forward to look at the run, shielding my approach with a big spruce. I lean my shoulder up against the trunk after checking that the sun isn't directly behind me. (I know this can't be so, but habits are habits).

Slipping polarized glasses off my hat and awkwardly pushing them up my nose, I pull down the brim of my hat to cut the glare. The surface of the water loses a bit of shine, but the low sun in my face is helping the river to keep its secrets. I bob and weave my head trying to cut the glare, but to no avail. The trout that's active could be anywhere along the 200 ft run, so I don't want to go charging in. They like to hold sometimes a mere three feet off the beach, so just walking on the gravel could spoil a nice opportunity.

There!!...A swirl dead center, 40 ft out.

I quickly get my bearings, comparing the position of the swirl with the snag on the far side and the big boulder on this side. Now what to do?

The take wasn't right on the surface so I suppose it was just under the surface. Let's try something subtle. I add a few feet to my leader and straighten everything out with a patch of inner tube. A #12 Partridge 'n Green is in order. Small enough to not scare the big buck, but big enough for him to want to move. (I assume it's a buck because the hens are already farther upstream spotting out beds). Now how am I going to do this?

I know where he rose, but I don't know where he lies. We'll have to wait. Observation is the first element that helps us to make an appropriate presentation. I like to take the time to scout out a run to find the fish (or at least try to guess where they are). The parts of the presentation then start to fall into place:

  • Do I have a choice of casting positions?

  • Will casting positions limit my choice of flies and technique?(upstream dries, down stream wets, swings, popping, skating)

  • Can I position myself to limit the distance I'll need to cast?

  • What do I do with him when he takes?

I look at all these factors. Taking in the information at a glance and synthesizing an attack plan, pretty well automatically.

Jack Crawford scouting out the #23 on a chilly August morning.

As I want to use the wet on a tumbling dead drift, my options are starting to get limited.

  • I can't get a long enough drift that far out so I can't cast straight away.

  • I don't want to swing this wet,...not yet anyway, so I can't cast across and down.

  • I WANT to dead drift because I don't really know where the trout is holding.

As the run has a very uniform current, I assume the rise I saw was directly upstream from the trout's current lie. By dead drifting, I can cover a long lane over a zone,...Pretty well assured that I won't be picking up the fly off his nose by accident.

I can also cut lanes in the run, casting progressively farther and farther out into the run. As I know within about 10-15 feet WHERE the trout is holding, I won't prospect my way up from down stream. Too much of a risk that I'll land my fly ON the trout. I want my fly to drift to him,...not bomb him.

Carefully making my way down the gravel beach, I hug the alders (even thought the beach is 15 feet wide). When I get to the large boulder on this side, I move another ten feet down, then slip quietly out to the water's edge. Man... This is the life.

I strip out 30 ft of line and let fall to my feet. I don't false cast to pull out line. Too much movement is created. I'll strip out another four feet at a time with each new drift. This way, I know I'm not going to over shoot the lie and "line" the trout.

I'll cast upstream about 30 degrees so that the fly will drift back towards me. I'll strip out line on each successive cast until I'm casting pretty well across the river into the back eddy. After that I'll spool up, move upstream 15 feet and start over. No use casting 85 feet UPSTREAM, with the fly drifting back towards me, I'd never be able to set the hook. Because, the trout too will be coming back towards me if he takes the fly, setting the hook on a LONG upstream presentation can be an exercise in frustration... Keep the casts as short as possible.

The first two casts are more to unlimber my shoulder than anything else, but my heart is starting to race anyway. I know these first two lanes will be in pretty shallow water, gliding along the beach, but,.. you never know.

On the third cast, I'm about ready to jump out of my waders with anticipation. This will NEVER get old. I false cast once to strip out 3-4 more feet of line. The fly lands with my customary plop, but no harm is done as I'm casting probably 15 feet upstream from my real target. No mending here. I strip in line as the rig descends towards me.

THERE!! The take,... I see him turn and start towards me! I haul line with my left hand to pull in the slack that had been put in the line. At the same time I pull the rod tip up and to the left gently.. If I pull straight up, the fly will be pulled out of his mouth. Moment of truth...The line goes taught and the big buck pulls hard straight across towards the back eddy, setting the hook by himself in the process.

I let the slack at my feet feed through my left hand and get him onto the reel in the blink of an eye. From the back eddy, he stays with the reverse current and pulls out 15 feet of backing. I know what's next...He wants to come back into the main current. This will put him UPSTREAM from me and he'll be heading downstream,...I'll never be able to keep the line taught. Holding my rod at arms length straight up into the air,...there is no hope. The rod unloads, the trout is in the main current straight across from me now and the fly line is laying in loops 10 feet out in front of me. Because of the way I set the hook, I know the first time he turns to his right, game over. And Voilà.

Three seconds later and I reeled up the slack line and inspect my fly. Well, it was after all my choice to go with an upstream presentation. Next time I'll move farther upstream, scout out his lie better and swing something big and Irresistible his way.

Time for a nap... ~ Christopher Chin – Jonquiere Quebec

About Chris:

Chris Chin is originally from Kamloops, British Columbia. He has been fly fishing on and off ever since he was 10 years old. Chris became serious about the sport within the last 10 years.

"I'm a forest engineer by day and part time guide on the Ste-Marguerite River here in central Quebec. I've been fishing this river for about 10 years now and started guiding about 5 years ago when the local guide's association sort of stopped functioning."

Chris guides mostly for sea run brook trout and about 30% of the time for Atlantic Salmon. "I often don't even charge service fees, as I'm more interested in promoting the river than making cash. I like to get new comers to realize that salmon fishing is REALLY for anyone who cares to try it. Tradition around here makes some of the old clan see Salmon fishing as a sport for the rich. Today our shore lunches are less on the cucumber sandwich side and more toward chicken pot pie and Jack Daniel's."

Chris is 42 years old as of this writing. He is of Chinese origin although his parents were born and raised in Jamaica. He has a girlfriend, Renée. "She and her 12 year old son Vincent started fly fishing with me last October 2002."

To learn more about the Ste-Marguerite River, visit Christopher's website http://pages.videotron.com/fcch/. ~ Christopher Chin

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