Reading glasses

Reading glasses

Gary Meyer | Tuesday, 20 November 2018

A few weeks back I pitilessly needled a fishing friend for his unconscious reaction of lifting his flyrod when attempting to set the hook into the case-hardened mouths of small tarpon. It is a habit he has ingrained from years of trout fishing, and one that is unbelievably ineffective to the uninitiated.

Once the flexible rod is introduced into the equation it doesn’t matter how many times you “sock it to ‘em” – the rod/line system just absorbs the jabs and very little extra pressure is applied at the hook point. Meanwhile, you are actually helping the tarpon with realizing that whatever it just ate is not a tasty little morsel, but some strange throbbing alien thing. At that time the small tarpon goes ballistic, flying into a series of acrobatic jumps and head shakes that throw additional slack into the line. The results are predictable: the fly is flung free and the tarpon swims off to calm down and wonders what the heck that was all about!

Don’t get me wrong… I am not suggesting that simply keeping the rod down will guarantee a good hook set every time. The tarpon will go into the same effective histrionics, but the percentages of hook-ups are significantly better and, more often than not, if done correctly the hook takes hold of some solid real estate. On the other hand, if a bent rod is immediately visible, the angler or spectator can almost guarantee only a short glimpse of the fish. Which leads to much frustrations or laughter depending upon where you are sitting.


To be sure, it is very strange indeed to consciously submerge your rod tip while stripping the fly. You point your rod as straight down the line as possible while extending the rod arm out straight too. Also, you consciously position yourself so that the line hand is clear to make as long of a haul as possible. And, the toughest part, you do not begin the strip strike until you actually feel tightness in the line.


It is all very logical. It just takes a long time to overcome one’s immediate reaction. I get it right most of the time, assuming I am silently screaming at myself to remain calm in my head. Counter-intuitively, it usually works much better when sight fishing. If you see the fish tracking the fly you have time to gather yourself. Blind casting, when you seldom know when to expect the bite, is a much tougher time to keep from reacting spontaneously.

Even though I know better, I still often find myself futilely yanking on what feels like an impotent stretchy rubber band. When that happens I know immediately that the fish will most likely get off. But, if I feel like I am dragging the fish through the water before I set the hook, I am pretty confident of a hookup.


It is the myriad of technicalities such as above that makes fishing so attractive to me.  


On my most recent trout fishing trip, I found myself staring at the roiling glassy surface of a stream of dark confusing currents and wondered how in the hell I was going to find, entice, and catch a fish that is completely at home in such a mysterious environment. My most enjoyable moments came, not when fishing, but when standing high above the stream on a footbridge, where the darkness was magically converted into crystal clear water and discernable flows. Below me were visible trout ducking in and out of the current and feeding happily. But, while I had gained at least then some insight, I had no clue on how to fish them. And I still really don’t.


So, as I write this, on the table next to me lays “Prospecting for Trout” by Tom Rosenbauer. Supposedly, after reading this book, I will hopefully have some clue as to how to “read the water”, and we will go on from there… one technicality at a time.