On the Fly – Part 2

by Bryant J. Cochran, Jr.

I received a reality check just a few weeks ago, while fishing the toughest shoal on my favorite tail water river. I had changed flies twice. Added length to my leader and changed to the smallest tippet I had with me, which was 6x. I had changed tactics, starting with across and down, then up and across, then down and across, then down and across with a lessenring lift at the end. This last casting pattern makes a nymph rise to the surface film as if it were ready to emerge. The brown trout I was after rose to my #20 brassie but turned back down. Another cast and lift and the brownie came to my fly again. He was a good one, about 5 lb. but once again he refused to take. I knew I was doing things right because he was rising, but something was wrong since he wasn’t taking my fly. I changed flies: to a #20 gold ribbed hares ear, to a #18 brassie, to a #18 GRHE, then to a #20 pheasant tail nymph. Every one of these flies brought the same results, a great rise and then the refusal. I was getting frustrated. The only comfort I could take was in the fact that the other ten fishermen I could see were even getting fish to rise to their offerings.

By noon my fun meter was pegged and I left the river for the day. On the drive home I stopped to visit a friend who is a guide on this river. I lamented about my days fishing and then pulled out my notebook with the days data in it. We searched for the missing link, why had I not been able to produce one take. I make good entries, with only the pertinent data about each fishing spot. There in blue ink I had noted that I was stopping the lift when I saw the fish rise to my fly. Bingo! This was my fatal flaw! The lessenring lift is complete when the fly breaks through the surface film. I had stopped the fly from doing this and thereby made the fly appear un-natural. If I had completed the lift, I most probably would have gotten every fish I had presented my fly to, to take my fly. On the one hand I was very put-out with myself. On the other hand I was very glad I keep a stream diary and make complete notes. With out my diary I might never have realized That I was making a flawed presentation, and I would have remained clueless as to the reason I had missed all those good trout. Now I kicked my self and I will not make that blunder again – I hope!

How, you may wonder, does an experienced fly fisherman, or any experienced angler, make such a blunder? The answer is simple: in our pursuit of our chosen quarry, we become students of several disciplines. We study biology, entomology, physics and the art of fly tying. We become skilled in all the areas we must be, and some we don’t, just for fun and enjoyment. We might become experts in each of these scientific disciplines, and the art of fly tying can be carried to the extreme also. All this knowledge gives us a high level of confidence which, if we aren’t careful can lead to complacency and over-confidence. When we reach that point, we have set ourselves up for a major or minor (depending on our personal out look) disaster in angling. It’s not life or death, but it can deflate the confidence needed for angling success. Every angler goes through these reality checks, some learn from them, some might ignore them, some are so shaken they leave this sport of ours. I always seem to want these to be a learning experience. I hate making blunders, but I know that it’s because I’m human, and I’m certain I will feel like a boob many times more. I hope I can make all these situations a learning experience. Then some day I will become the expert I have been told I am.

Continue on to Part 3 of On the Fly >>