Crucial moments - part 1

Carlos, deep in thought Many fly fishermen would be inspired and learn if they could just find a valid answer to this key question: Why do some anglers regularly catch more fish than other anglers? Risking an over-simplification of something that is bound to require deep analysis and a lot of thought, the answer must be something like: because they always do something better than the others.

As soon as you get out of the car, you get caught up in a fast and fury decision-making process that will directly affect the outcome of your fishing day. You have to start discarding a whole bunch of alternatives and options before you get to the climax of your endeavor (if you do): the release of the elusive fish. What reach and which bank to fish, how and at what pace, what mode, what fly, what type of presentation, tippet, leader, line manipulation, etc.

No stage of this long process is more important than another and the key to success as well as the ticket to failure can lie in any one of them.

In order to analyze some of these stages and arrive at some conclusions, I spent a whole fishing day with an expert angler and good friend of mine, Paco Lizarraga. The idea was to photograph some crucial moments and observe how much of a difference they can make between regularly catching fish with a well-thought-out approach and making only sporadic catches almost always by accident.

1- Silence

PacoAfter taking stock of the situation and noting a rise or two to some small Baetis, my friend ties on a dry fly and makes his first casts from the bank.

The advantages of fishing outside the water are evident. Hardly any noise, zero surface disturbance and better visibility (careful—for the trout too).

The only drawback is the backcast, which has to be faster and rather high to avoid hooking bushes. A simple trick from Paul to achieve a high backcast: when you start the backcast, drop your elbow down and back (pull it in towards your side). It's a simple matter of anatomical mechanics. Your forearm will stop higher, casting the line directly upwards.

A trout's sense of hearing
The lateral line along the trout's body works likes a sound-detecting organ. It is the receiver in charge of perceiving vibrations. This nerve system is a fine line that runs all along the side of a fish's body. When it gets to the head, it arches up over the eyes and lower jaw.
Sound travels five times faster (and is more audible) in water than in air. When you're wading and clomping on the gravel, you're being heard loud and clear by all the salmonid inhabitants of the neighborhood. In all likelihood, by the time you make your first cast, a great many of the fish will be at a high level of wariness and nervousness. Although they may seem to be feeding unaware of your presence, their actual behavior and predictability will seriously reduce your chances of deceiving any of them.

2- The wisest option

This is a clear picture of the formation of a forward loop. In a place with no obstacles, no wind and very slow current, Paco opts for a conventional vertical open loop.

This is the loop most fishermen generate. It isn't the best for casting against wind, for casting the farthest, for accuracy or for penetrating vegetation. It's perfectly valid for basic, over-head casts in this type of scenario. You can catch fish with it but it won't do you any good in knotty situations. It's a good, general-use loop, easy and very comfortable to execute.

Varying circumstances and types of cast determine the execution and use of one type of loop or another. Here is the complete, technical description of this loop:

Plane of the loop from bottom to topfrom top to bottom from left to right from right to left
Size wide semi-wide narrow
Trajectory ascending horizontal descending
Loop speed slow fast
Shape of the point round pointed


Keys for controlling the parameters of the loop

Plane of the loop: Your wrist must be in a perfect vertical line with your forearm on the stop.
Size: The path of the rod tip must be as straight as possible for a narrow loop.
Path of the line: the path of the line is determined by the path of the rod tip.
Loop speed: The loop speed depends on the tempo of the cast. Tempo is simply the speed with which you execute a complete cast.
Shape of the point: There are three keys to getting a sharp point on your loop (Paul´s tips):
1- Tighten your grip on the rod butt at the instant of the stop.
2- Loosen your grip an instant later.
3- If you want a very sharp point, execute the stop with a very small but energetic rotation of your wrist inwards.