Fish with the Bish
July 25, 2007
Shadows were brooding in dark water underneath a foam line.
They weaved in and out of the feeding column, disappearing for a moment then magically materializing. Occasionally, the white inside their mouths brightened the water as the predators gulped down another morsel.
A strong rapid churned water on the other side of the Green River, which twisted into a long eddy on my side that brought the water upstream, creating a frothy smoothie for trout.
There were lots of them. It was an easy lunch. The fish sat in calmer water as bugs flowed into their gaping mouths.
I sat in the shade of a large ponderosa pine in awe of the ecosystem, figuring out how to make a natural drift into the foam with my, size 14, orange stimulator.
Until I couldn’t handle it anymore.
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I stood up and jumped down the short hill to the riverbank and made a short cast. The current started taking the line out toward the middle of the river and upstream.
The stimulator, which resembled the yellow sally stoneflies that were abundant in the river, drifted in the current. I manipulated the line and gave it a little slack to keep a natural drift, and, surprisingly, something rose from the depths and nailed it.
A surge of adrenaline caused me to set the hook too fast, and I pulled it out of its mouth before it had a chance to bite.
It was the first of multiple strikes in that eddy. The key was getting a good drift with the fly.
The right "natural" drift is probably the most important part of any fly-fishing skill. More important than a tight, long, accurate cast and more important than the fly itself.
Trout are extremely wary in rivers that are fished often, such as the Provo, Weber and Green.
A couple weeks ago, I was fishing near dusk just below the Flaming Gorge Dam. I was standing in the river casting woolly buggers to the bank in an attempt to lure some large trout looking for small minnows. Little did I know I was providing fish a late dinner.
After a few minutes, I looked below my feet and nearly 10 large trout were chomping on small bugs being kicked up by my feet. Of course, I swung my wooly bugger in front of them to no avail.
The fish there are so accustomed to people they will feed inches from a wading boot in order to snatch up some small aquatic bugs.
I was being mocked. So instead of being made fun of by snooty trout, I reeled in my line and left.
Those fish have seen nearly every fly or lure that’s been created. Plus, the Green is one of the clearest rivers in the West, making it beautiful but also challenging.
To trick the fish, an angler usually needs a long leader and drifting skill.
A basic rule: if there is any wake (a v-shape current similar to that on the back of a boat) around the fly, then it’s likely the fish will know it’s fake. The fly or strike-indicator (a fly-fisherman’s fancy term for bobber) should move at the same speed as other bubbles or things floating on the surface.
Proper mending and a little bit of slack should eliminate that.
If the fly-line is too tight, then the fly will drag through the water. There are different currents in the river that will cause the fly to go faster or slower, making an unnatural drift. Mending means to manipulate the line in front or behind the fly to offset the differing currents.
An angler should anticipate mending before it’s necessary. That will avoid taking the fly out of its drift during the mend itself. There should be some extra slack in the water. Too much slack, however, will keep an angler from setting the hook quick enough.
There are times, though, when an unnatural drift can be the secret to catching fish, especially during a heavy hatch. But that’s a subject for another column.
E-mail Dan Bischoff at firstname.lastname@example.org.