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Coldwater Fly Fishing Trout, Salmon, Steelhead, etc...

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Old 04-14-2014, 06:02 PM
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Default How to Fish/Breakdown/Approach Waters Unfamiliar To You?

I think one of the most exciting things as a fly fisherman occurs when you step foot on a body of water that you have never fished before. While the unfamiliarity of the area does shift the odds against you somewhat, what are some of the things that you do to try to turn the odds in your favor?

Obviously, taking consideration some static variables can allow you to get some research done ahead of time, but how many times have we heard the "should've been here yesterday," and river conditions changing within a moment's notice. One of these obvious considerations is knowing your target species, but, even then, their behavior can vary from watershed to watershed.

I've only been fly fishing for two years, which is the primary reason I am still a neophyte when it comes to the approach on a body of water I have never fished before. I have a big upcoming trip to Yellowstone, and would like to refine my approach to being successful on bodies of water that are unfamiliar to me.

The few things I'm doing now are as follows:

1. Using Google Earth to check out the physical nature of the body of water. Reading contour lines and looking at satellite imagery gives you a physical layout, including where meadows are, where canyons are, etc. Once you figure out what area is which, you can then attach fish behavior to those certain areas that make up a river. This also shows you were your access points would be at.

2. Read reports from similar date ranges from years past.

3. Locate the fish. I used to be one of those guys that would already have my flies tied and my rod ready to go even before looking at water. I realized what a huge mistake that was, because I was prone to sticking to what I had tied on, because I'm lazier than my dog, and would not change my flies until I had flogged the water for a long time. By locating the fish, you can make assumptions on what they may be eating, then making your decision on what patterns to use.

4. Turn over some rocks. Even though most of the rocks I've turned over have had nothing present, I still do this to see if I can get a head start to what type of creepy crawlers are on the menu. I've never tried to suction the contents of a fish's stomach, but I don't really think I'd want to head down that route, considering how delicate our little guys can be.

5. Obviously, local knowledge is a Godsend. I hope these fly shops don't block my number from the countless fone calls I'll make trying to pick people's brains.

Anything else that people may recommend for a first time approach to a body of water (let's assume river/stream/creek) and how you choose what areas to fish, and even whether to make a major move up or downstream?
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Old 04-14-2014, 06:48 PM
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Default Re: How to Fish/Breakdown/Approach Waters Unfamiliar To You?

Whenever I fish any river or stream-- familiar or not --I do so with two things in mind-- stealth and patience. The stealth comes in a quiet, slow approach to the river, and the patience comes by way of finding a good place to watch the water for 30 to 60 minutes. You can learn a lot about a particular trout's feeding patterns by watching its movements over the span of an hour before you wet a line.

Such was the ways of my elders-- the men who taught me how to fish a fly. And, without fail, the aforementioned two-pronged approach always worked for them. In all of the years since they introduced me to the sport, I've strived to follow their lead, and it's proven to be a wise move on my part.

Besides, I've never considered hurrying my days spent fly-fishing. They're too far and few between to rush them. And, you'd be amazed at the things you'll notice whenever you take a seat and enjoy a "riverside watch..."

But, that's just me...
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Old 04-14-2014, 07:01 PM
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Default Re: How to Fish/Breakdown/Approach Waters Unfamiliar To You?

Google Maps & other Aids are good to show where Rivers Run Accesses etc however you have to virtually find The Fish.
Also lots of people don't realise Rivers are constantly changing everywhere from year to year as over the years especially with The Known places I've Fished in the past some places where I've previously caught Fish I've come up with a blank.
Even though I don't regularly Fish Rivers over here I tend to Fish any good looking Water & as The Old Saying goes "Fish are where you catch then & not where they are supposed to be".
Brian.
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Old 04-14-2014, 07:20 PM
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Default Re: How to Fish/Breakdown/Approach Waters Unfamiliar To You?

I grew up fishing in California my first trip to Yellowstone was an eye opener. The rivers were 2-3 times larger then my home streams. One of the hardest things was the bank feeders, huge fish right under the bank. I would suggest being very stealthy, practice casting as much as possible especially from your knees. When you approach a stream stay well back from shore always paying attention to your shadow. Get on your knees begin looking for signs of insect activity on the water, if fish are feeding try to find out their choice of insect, you will have multiple hatches coming off simultaneously sometimes. A fish in the next pool might be eating something different. I would read books by Craig Matthews, Mike Lawson and Renee Harop, these guys are the experts.


I would go out with a guide a few times on your trip you will have the fishing day of your life but more importantly will get a lot of insight. My first few trips to Yellowstone were learning experiences that were the building blocks for later success.
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Old 04-14-2014, 07:26 PM
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Default Re: How to Fish/Breakdown/Approach Waters Unfamiliar To You?

As smiling duck has mentioned it's a Real Eye opener when you visit a Large River or Lake for The First Time as I was quite young at The Time my thoughts were "Holy Mackerel how am I going to Fish this"?
Brian
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Old 04-14-2014, 10:46 PM
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Default Re: How to Fish/Breakdown/Approach Waters Unfamiliar To You?

LOVE Google earth. Been using it a bit to pre-scout an area I am moving to.

A local guide posted a video. The trail-head and parking area looked very familiar. So, I pull up Earth....there it is...... Dumb A$$e$ have to be smarter than that!

Good advise from all.

Remember, a trout is a trout. Don't over think it!

Nothing will trump your ability to read a stream and proper presentation.
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Old 04-16-2014, 10:23 AM
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Default Re: How to Fish/Breakdown/Approach Waters Unfamiliar To You?

One of the things that I look for on water, are the critters....
Two days ago while with a student (who's learning to see), we saw a flight of Robins, passing through....
Must have been thirty or so. Something you see once a year.....
They were all feeding the same way, right next to water.
We looked at our feet on our side, and there were BWOs clinging to wet spots. BINGO!!!
Local Robins will also "patrol" the shore for female Skwallas marching down to lay eggs....the only time I see this...
Another example, currently I'm looking for Stellar Jays to suddenly start acting like a "perch feeder", they do that during a Carpenter Ant emergence. (Maybe this week!) The trick is to know their preferred feeding style, then watch for a change....
Where ever you go, the locals know.........
There are many other examples of behavior that are helpful......
Swallows flying high or low, American dippers feeding on land, or underwater, or maybe seeing a Brewers black bird crash the water for a green drake, etc.
Of course I also look to see if flows have gone up or down recently, and look at spider webs to see what has happened yesterday.....

[Since the physics of running water is the same everywhere.....]
Looking for tips from nature is my choice on new water.
Learning to see is the most important part of fishing. (Followed closely by getting a drift with the right bug.....)
But.......first, we have to stop and look.

Jim
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Last edited by Bigfly; 04-16-2014 at 12:59 PM.
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Old 04-19-2014, 10:24 PM
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Default Re: How to Fish/Breakdown/Approach Waters Unfamiliar To You?

In considering trout streams, I've found that the only really significant differences are in size. I've fished rivers in Alaska, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Minnesota, Missouri, Arkansas, Michigan, and Connecticut for trout, and pretty much had success in the same types of water doing the same things in every one of them. And fortunately, I grew up fishing smaller streams in MO and then cut my western teeth fishing the Yellowstone, so I learned early on how to fish creeks and big rivers. Observation of what's hatching and what the trout are feeding on is one key, but if you can't see anything happening, just put on a nymph or two that look buggy and fish them where your experience tells you fish should be. I believe I could catch fish about anywhere on a Hare's Ear.
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