Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Rehersal, and More

Image at left from wikicommons extracted from Fishing and Shooting  by S. Buxton (1902). Clearly, the Amber Liquid crew could use a little work on their outing wardrobe.

I'm not sure silks and buckles give great traction in the Manistee.

I'm going to make a proclamation.

Hear All: I do not believe in the magic fly.

There. I said it. I don't believe that the key to catching lies in "the magic fly."

There is a great belief among current fly fishermen in the "educated" trout. We call these selective trout after the book Selective Trout by Richards, Swisher, and Whitlock.

I say I believe none of it.

Trout are roughly in the same intellectual class as frogs.  If you look into the morphology of the trout nervous system - as I have - you find the parts of the brain responsible for analytic decision making underdeveloped even for modest vertebrates.

There it is. The fish is stupid. He learns poorly. Exceedingly poorly. His capacity for memory function is almost non-existent.

Further, most of what a trout eats ( 80% even 90% ) is subsurface, under 5/8ths of an inch in size, and brownish.

A trout lives in a flowing stream and feeds in current where he has less than two seconds to decide "food" or "not food." He gets it wrong a lot of the time, too.

In short, the fish is a trial-and-error feeder with a genetic impulse to consume items that are roughly equivalent in appearance to "buggy" subsurface invertebrates.

I don't think a fish cares between dull green and dull brown. I don't think he cares between an Antron body and a hare's mask body.

SO. You might disagree. Go to it. Free county - so far.

What do I believe? Ahem. Proclamation, please.

Hear All: I believe presentation matters most to a trout given a reasonably topical food-resembling imitation.

Fishing a Griffith's Gnat in a Hex spinner fall isn't going to do much for you. A "switch" has gone off inside the trout brain and his pattern recognition software is stuck in "Hex spinner" mode. Good luck with that.

However, when the prevalent food is the the bug soup mix most of our streams enjoy day-in and day-out, the trout is going to say "buggy"  or "not buggy."

The trout does a pattern recognition routine, says the fly is "food", and then proceeds to eat the imitation unless the angler screws it up.

Let's consider our imitations as "flies." Nymphs, flymphs, soft hackles, dries - we'll leave out streamers which are bait fish imitations - we'll call them all "flies" here.

If the fly looks generally like food and acts like food, the trout will consider it food and eat it.

Bugs are almost always at the mercy of the environment and not the master of it.

Flies don't move on the water faster than current. Flies don't swim upstream well. Flies don't swim across currents well.

Flies tumble, drift, and struggle. Flies move by currents and not against currents.

In the superhighway bug sushi conveyor which is a trout stream,  the trout has a lot of comparison objects. Plus, it seems one of the little bits of instinct he does have in the forebrain is "swims right" versus "swims wrong."

Presentation matters. The drift and mend matters. It isn't that you have a size 16 Fippity-Foppity in Chartreuse with a Yeti Belly body.

It's that your pheasant tail nymph drifted naturally in the mid one-third of the water column for all of the nine feet in front of the trout.

So - presentation matters. (Trust me on this). How to make a good presentation? Cast well.

Cast well for the presentation you intend. Optimize your drift over water you think best holds trout who might be feeding.

We'll start rehearsal with casting. It's the logical first step in getting line and lure to water.

What casts? Let's review a hierarchy of casts and their uses. It's be a good thing to have these down before season so you can react to whatever environmental obstacle you encounter.

It's no fun moving because of a bush or sweeping tree. I know.

I suggest this list as a hierarchy from basic to advanced skills to master:

  1. The Water Haul - reverse direction, no backcast : multi-fly rigs on upstream drift.
  2. The Roll cast - constant direction, no backcast : obstructed backcast.
  3. Overhead cast - constant direction with backcast : wide open, babes on bank.
  4. Belgian cast - - side cast with backcast: overhead obstruction.
  5. Parachute cast -- overhead cast with backcast: soft drag-free presentation.
  6. Pile cast -- overhead cast with backcast : induced slack for drag-free presentation.
  7. Reach cast, close and far -- roll or overhead cast technique - delivery mend.
  8. Single Haul in Roll, in Overhead -- roll or overhead cast technique: line acceleration, distance.
  9. Double Haul in Overhead -- overhead cast technique: line acceleration, distance.
  10. Snake Roll -- change of direction, no backcast: light rigs.
  11. Snap-C/Snap-T and Roll -- change of direction, no backcast: all rigs.
  12. Single Spey -- change of direction, no backcast : upstream loop
  13. Double Spey -- change of  direction, no backcast: downstream loop.
If we're going to move from fishing to catching, our presentation has to improve. In order to maximize the opportunities we have at presenting our fly to fish, we need to have a solid arsenal of casts to employ.

It's about incremental improvement. It's about practice and accomplishment.

It's about a rehearsal for the main event.

Have you practiced you casting, lately?

Too bad you're not here at the Golden Gate Angling and Casting Club.



  1. Spike, classy, unique journal. Fresh, stream-informed (I can tell) narrative. Love the way it looks as well.

    Presentation really is the game.

    I think SHJ readers would love this (& they do need to be reminded). I'd like to introduce you & put up a link to your journal, with your permission.


  2. Steve -

    Sure. You should know the classy bit is just the product of a short history. We're irreverent, vulgar, frequently blasphemous, and pretty much embody the type of fishing group that make guides shudder when we pull up in the morning.

    I actually made a guide groan last fall when on a float with one of the Amber members, the guide put me on a fish and I proceeded to rip the errant cast from the water twice in a row from right on top of the fish putting him down.

    Happy day when you make a guide groan. It has however stayed with me all winter and I'm not going to get excited again when the chance comes back around. Seriously. No. I mean it.

    Anyway, we're at the bottom end of the amateur ranks typing to move from "fishing" which we really enjoy to "catching" of which we do very little. We fish like drunken bears with clubs for rods.

    One of our members actually is a bear (ear tag WSU8993). Another last changed a fly when on the water in 2008. One might have used an Adams in a Hex spinner fall (dim light, hard to tell ... certainly wasn't a hex spinner out there). Yet another member is so adept at aerializing his line, I cannot testify in truth that I've ever seen it on the water for a five count.

    We're not good. Nobody in the group has a reel held onto a rod by duck tape. That's how you know we're no good. Oh, and with all the gear, we sound like a herd of Tinmen coming through the woods. Trout love that.

    We epitomize the phrase "more money than brains" and we haven't that much money, either. Only two guys have Sage rods they ineptly use. A better funded outfit would all have Z-axis tubes stacked in the back of the truck like a box of spaghetti. Not once have we managed to shut a door on a bamboo rod. We're working on it. Maybe this year.

    So, we're looking to get better just like everybody else. Sometimes our frustration might get the better of us. It is then we remember: we're the Amber Liquid guys. Handy coincidence, that.

  3. Spike, consider a link almost done.

    Any guide who is not looking to get better is not worth fishing with. And, as a guide, though I admit to some irritating moments, the only time I actually shuddered was when a dude pulled up looking exactly like Dick Cheney. Almost lost some amber liquid there. Turned out he wasn't Cheney, just a closet pothead, in Washington for the legal weed. Good angler & a fun guy.

    Money? I'm bragging about still using the same Pflueger reel I got for high school graduation. I wish gear manufacturers would give me more free stuff.

    As for the presentation proclamation, I see opportunity to take issue on a couple points, but I won't, prefering to be amused rather than argumentative. I'll be cool long as you promise not to tell those UC redbands who love to hit a fly on the dangle that they are operating outside proclamation guidelines.

  4. My lifetime best fish - on the dangle as I messed with a reel off the reel seat. I really gave the old presentation some intense concentration there! Every belief has a hole. Mine might have more than one.


  5. Yeah. For sure. The technique works better with the reel off the seat.