Presentation...the moment of truth
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...
By Chris Chinn
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
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
I look at all these factors. Taking in the
information at a glance and synthesizing an
attack plan, pretty well automatically.
- 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?
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.
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'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.
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
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
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,
~ Christopher Chin
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