I like the easy days - I really do. But I also like the difficult days, days when the fish are hard to find, when they’re picky, when the wind is wrong and when your physical surroundings pose challenges of their own. The latter was the case this past weekend, when I joined my old friend, Michael, and headed up to one of the small streams I fished as a child, which happens to be Michael’s home water.
It’s a small stream, running through woods and farmland and it requires intimate knowledge. Most places you can fish 150 meters and then you need to move, because you encounter a huge bush, trees or something else that prevents you from going further.
Small streams are hard to fish with wet flies. If you want to swing them, a cast across, 45 degrees at least, it best. But casting 45 degrees or more on a small stream puts you close to the fish. Casting further down stream puts more distance between you and the fish, but also slows the swing significantly. But it also gives you some line to retrieve, stripping the fly home along your own bank. The eternal compromise…
No matter which method or tactic you choose, approach must be very, very careful, because no matter how far you cast down stream, you’ll never cast far, so fish are easily spooked. The banks can be soft and putting your feet down too hard will spook every fish several yards up and down stream.
You can forget 95% of the river if you can’t spey cast. Precise, delicate casts, being able to place the fly close to the opposite bank opens up much more of the stream. If you can control your loops well enough to cast through branches and under them, even better. When fishing a sinking line, fish it short enough that you can lift it out of the water and bring it straight into the D-loop. By all means, avoid placing the line of the water unless it’s to fish the cast. The water is slow and fish spook easily. It might sound a bit counter intuitive, but I fished short (6m long) triple-density shooting heads on this day. Short, light lines on a 5-wt rod that allow me to re-cast without having to roll-cast the line to the surface first. Even with a fast sinker, the short line can be brought straight into the D-loop.
Sneaking down stream, stalking carefully, concentrating on landing the casts soft and delicately, constantly adjusting swing-speed by retrieving or slipping line, fish your own side, crawling carefully to cover a particularly promising lie. It’s one of the types of fly fishing I enjoy the most. Almost everything about it is a challenge. Even staying patient and taking the time to get into position can be a challenge.
And don’t wear bright clothes - on a stream like this, I really believe it makes a difference.
Today I'm challenging myself not falling off the boat as I'm trying to catch a sea trout.
Have a great weekend!
PoD: Just a few days away from the closed season, the woods have all but thrown their leaves, the sun is low, even in the early afternoon and I’m trying my best to place the fly 5 inches from the opposite bank, every time. Even succeeding every once in a while.