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Beginner or not this may make sense.

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From my experiences I gave some fly fishing 101 advice. It seemed good enough to preserve so I'm putting it here. Maybe it can help you too?

A member posted this...

[Quote] My situation....first off I'm still very green, like sub 2 months of experience. Fishing the tailwater of the Jackson river in the Hot Springs Virginia area. I throw every dry in my box and have trout after trout reject them at the last second. I thought it was a hookset timing problem so I searched around the forum and found that yes I was setting wayyy to fast so I started giving it the old "god save the queen" and when I did that i noticed the fly was still floating every time a fish "hit" it.
My leaders are all hand tied harvey slacklines 5x and 6x that appear to me to be working great, I mend if/when needed and my flies are all tied by Jerry aka hairwig???, so they are great quality. I've tried to match the hatch, heck I've tried them all in every size almost.
So I'm getting them off the bottom to come up to my flies but cant get them to commit, like at all, haven't caught one yet. They are all mostly 10 inch or less rainbows, if that makes a difference in this scenario. What am I doing wrong, trout fishing in August?
I have no problem catching bass, pan fish and suckers in the headwaters, even though I'm trying to catch trout. I know that one could have worse problems but still very frustrating nonetheless. [Quote]

There were lots of replies but I had a little different view of possible causes.

[Quote Ard] Post #9 from highplainsdrifter echoed my first thought. I've seen places where the fish seemed impossible myself. There are 2 ways to deal with the issue. One is become obsessed with cracking the code and if successful you catch a ten inch rainbow. Option 2 is to find another fishery where there are converging currents swift enough to create seams and other desirable holding spots for trout and fish there. Trout who live in smaller environments where food items are at a premium don't have the luxury of selective behavior. I'm not saying to always choose the low hanging fruit but sometimes it makes perfect sense.

Now if you insist on staying in this tailwater then you must examine all the good feedback you've already received. I would add something I'm not sure was mentioned, I acquired certain habits from years of fishing some challenging spring creeks. I'll try to bullet the thoughts to make this easy to follow.

> False casting: If you must engage in multiple false casts then you must learn to be able to do these 'false casts' at a sharp angle away from where your target is at. I mean that if your target is straight across the water from you do not make repeated false casts over the fish. Learn to do all false casts in an area you are not targeting and then to make the final forward / presentation cast directly to your target. Fish become conditioned, they are not smart, they are conditioned. If they have seen thousands of fly lines soaring overhead they are conditioned to be cautious when they see this happening. That caution alone in some cases will put them down but in some instances they respond to the instinct to rise but under caution. That may be what leads to refusal of fake insects. I say "may be" because there are no absolutes in this scenario. What I can say with certainty is that I have fished in places where trout were wary enough to bolt for safety at the sight of a brightly colored fly line sailing overhead, that's how I adopted the practice of keeping all casts away from the fish and attempting to show only leader & fly on presentation.

> The "bad cast". I would go as far as to say that 100% of anglers I have fished with share the same tendency which is... People tend to want a perfect cast presentation and I get that. It doesn't matter whether they are casting with a 9 foot 5 weight using dry flies or a 14 foot Spey rod using a tube for salmon or steelhead, they want that cast to land a certain way. When it does not they rip it up off the water and start over. Does that sound remotely familiar?

If nothing else my years have taught me this, if it lands in the river or creek, it's a good cast so leave it alone!

Why is that? Quite simple actually, where you cast has meaning. You place a cast to areas you believe there will be fish. You may have seen evidence of one fish in the area but there could well be many yet unseen. So when you make that dissatisfying cast and then instinctively rip it off the waters surface to retry, you create a considerable disturbance. Remember what I just said about fish being "conditioned"?

When you rip up a cast simply because you don't like where it ended up or the 'turn over' wasn't like the one on You TUbe you risk alerting all the fish of your presence. If there are unseen trout directly where that bad cast landed they no doubt took notice to something landing on the surface, that's what they do for a living. If that line just drifts away then it may well remain as something that landed on the surface to the fish. Think about this if you will, in the course of a day or several days how many things do you guess a trout sees land on the surface? Bugs, leaves, dust, tree branch's large and small... get what I'm saying? Now imaging the line landing, it's just another "thing" just another thing until we unceremoniously rip it off the surface with that resounding slurp noise and the spray of water...

That changes the line from being just another "thing" to being something alarming and the nearest fish will run for safety. When alarmed trout and many species exhibit behavior that affects any other fish who witness the fleeing fishes and the fish release a pheromone under stress or alarm which serves to a species wide alarm for those who didn't see the fleeing fish but are no less put on guard.

If it lands in the water leave it float until well away from the target period. Some of the most impressive fish I ever caught were had on a 'bad cast'. I could go on at great length but always defer to a short version, I've offered some pointers drawn from hard won experiences in some very demanding fisheries, I hope you read what I offered and can gain something from it. [Quote Ard]

There was another also that I had a little different take on than other members, here's that post & my reply.

[Quote] I'm getting frustrated !!! The last couple times out I started with some foam hoppers & beetles. I fished a 100 yard section that I've fished before and had about 20 takes with one hookup. I've always caught fish on stimulators & dries in this same section without all the missed fish. Is there some technique to using the hoppers & beetles that I'm missing. [Quote]

Old Mister Know it All had something to say about that one too.

[Quote Ard] The question seems to be well addressed by all the answers provided already so I'll say something omitted thus far. The word technique was mentioned in the post above from flav but I'll delve a little deeper on that topic.

Are you 'trying' to set the hook?

I've seen people who get so wired when fishing dries or streamers that they simply 'go off' when a fish grabs at the surface fly or they feel a strike subsurface.

I don't have many opportunities to use dry flies here in Alaska but my memory is fine when I reflect on all the years prior to my move to the north. When I was young and only beginning this long journey I fished with dry flies as if it were a carnival game. Once the fly was floating along I watched with my eyes but every other part of my being was wound tight as a mainspring waiting for that pesky fish to show. When the fish grabbed at they fly I went off often times with enough energy that the fly and line came hurling toward me...

If any of that sounds even remotely familiar to you then you may be having a technique problem. I can't tell you how long it took before I realized that what was happening was that the problem was that I was missing the fish not the other way around.

Reflex actions can be hard to control but in some instances until we gain control in a mind over matter sense we may continue to miss. Just a week ago I experienced a situation where my own frustration reminded me that trying to hook a fish was almost always the wrong approach to catching that fish. I was fishing for grayling. I put some miles on that day and had not caught a single one larger than perhaps 11 inches if I gave it a little stretch but I knew there had to be a Granddaddy in one of those deep spots. The water was clear and with glasses to aid in seeing I finally spotted a big brown looking fish creeping up on my wet fly as it neared the end of the swing.

I don't know what happened but I lost control. I could see it grabbing at the fly, I could feel the tapping transmitted through the line and rod and I knew what to do. What to do was to do nothing, to wait until that fish found its way onto that hook point but.... For whatever reason or lack there of I unconsciously decided that this one needed some help, I was going to have to 'hook it'. SO I did what I have told a hundred people not to do when I was their fishing guide, I struck!

I didn't get that fish but I'm sure that I pricked it real good and that was that. No more follows, no second chance. I don't know why you have so many fish hit the fly but very few getting hooked. I'd have to be right there watching or even trying myself. But if we go right back to where mentioned the fly line and leader etc. hurling back toward you after one of these missed opportunities and if that is happening to you, I'd say you are missing them, they aren't missing you.

That day last week? Prior to my momentary lapse of reason (wasn't that a Pink Floyd cut?) other than that single break in a continuity that has run solid for years a very large percentage of the fish that hit my flies hook themselves leaving me to just give a little tug to finish the job and then to reel them in.

All that just to say, could be technique [Quote Ard]

Just me trying to pass things on to the new guys and maybe some not so new.


  1. ia_trouter's Avatar
    Very useful and uncomplicated advice. I am still a novice fly chucker. I found it easy enough to learn to fish it where it lands. Ugly casts do catch more fish than a pretty cast after you have already raised the fish's "wariness with the initial cast". Not setting the hook was a little tougher to unlearn. I think it's safe to say a fair percentage of us got our start in fishing by other methods. Your advice could be titled "How to not catch a LM bass on spinning gear. It does become instinctive. It's infrequent, but I still toss lures at bass now and then, and I catch myself not setting the hook because I have grown used to fly fishing. You really have to pay attention to how you are fishing. I've definitely lost some trout because I set the hook on first contact, when all that was required was a strip set, if even that.
  2. Ard's Avatar
    Hey Dewayne

    Here I am in the land of the dry. When I got up this morning and made coffee I had time to think while the coffee maker did its thing. Something crossed my mind. I thought, "am I in danger of being depressed"? I never say that, not even as a joke. But looking at the lawn which is essentially dead I realized there's nothing to do. No yard work, no trip to the cabin, no fishing not even if we fly somewhere, I'm kinda lost here.

    I was on the phone with a guy who lives and works on the North Umpqua yesterday for nearly 45 minutes. I have not booked a flight yet because it's dry down there too. He was reporting low water conditions and he's not catching trout or steelhead at anything close to a normal level. That didn't help things at all. Today I'll talk to a guy who guides on the Dechutes and my friend Bob who fishes the Rogue several days each week. I have no idea how wide spread the low water conditions are in Oregon so must find out soon and decide what to do.

    The fishing tips? I copied and moved them here where someday some new fly fisher might stumble into them or if I see a post that fits I can link them to the entry. Seems a shame to relate all the things I've seen on a thread then forget where or when it was........... As you know, none of this stuff as from what I read, what I found online or from a you tube video. it's just stuff that a guy who did something a lot figured out by both watching others do doing myself.

    I think the whole Strip Set thing is being overdone by many. They have replaced the whipping of the rod with an often frantic ripping backward of the line. Jeez, they're just fish. They aren't the enemy that we must somehow subdue by force! I'm going back grayling fishing and will combine the trip with fossil hunting for at least half a day

    If this keeps up I'm going to look for work at Home Depot.
  3. ia_trouter's Avatar
    LOL, don't do the big box retail job thing unless it's the dead of winter, or you'll be stuck there when the fishing suddenly gets good for a couple weeks.

    Back to the fishing tips, yes the hook set thing is overdone. Certain warm water species require it, but it's a very short list, and it does migrate it's way to fly fishing where it causes far more harm than good.

    I hope the PNW has sufficient water for a quality trip. After our seemingly bi-annual 100 year flood in the Midwest, we are back to normal.
  4. Albertine's Avatar
    You can, try and try, happy fishing everyday
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