What’s the next step?

ThatMrF

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I’m ready to add another technique to my fly fishing skills box, but I dont know what the next logical skill should be?

My goal main goal is to catch bigger fish and then catch more fish.

A little background...I’ve gone about this sport all wrong, but I’m getting some of it figured out. I’ll catch close to as many fish as any of my fishing buddies, but I’ve yet to pull in a 20+ incher. I’ve had them on the hook, but I didn’t get them in. We all fish the same way, so I’d like to learn a new approach.

I typically fish a tandem nymph rig (pheasant tail then midge, for example) under an indicator in local Arkansas and Missouri tailwaters, a state trout park, and a few small wild streams.

In order to advance my skill and to start catching bigger fish on these types of waters, what do I learn next? Streamers? Dry fly? Dry/dropper? No-indicator nymphing? Or is there a different path I should consider?

I realize there is a time for all of these methods, but I guess I’m seeking some guidance on what would have the greatest impact on my game going forward? I want to learn new things, but I don’t want to buy a bunch of new stuff. I’ve got a 9’ 5wt. and lots of different flies.

I appreciate insights you can share on what method and any tips you may have.

Thanks,
Ben
 

bumble54

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When I first started fly fishing, long ago, it was all about catching any trout, no matter what the size. Then it became about numbers, the greater the number of trout the greater a fly fisher I thought I was. I moved on to wanting the biggest trout, before seeking out the most difficult. Over the years there can be few fly patterns I haven't tried at one time or another, a whole host of rods, reels and every accessory you can imagine has been carted around with me over the years.
Now?, I find I just want solitude and the freedom to wander and fish. There are perhaps now just half a dozen flies I rely on, just one or two account for the majority of the fish I catch, I only fish one fly at a time and never use any indicators other than the greased leader to signal a take. Numbers and size no longer matter and it is the act of fly fishing itself that brings me the greatest pleasure.
Fishing, like life, is a journey and the final destination is for you to decide or find, if bigger fish are what you seek first learn where they are and how they behave, what are the best times to fish for them and what are their main prey. Sheer persistence is often not enough nor is the latest never fail fly or technique. Knowledge is everything.
I probably spend more time watching fish and how they react to different things than I do actually fishing, when I do cast it is for a purpose and over the years my catch to cast ratio has got to the point where if I cast to a fish I expect a reaction most of the time, I hate flogging the water for no reward.
Lets be completely honest with ourselves and admit that fish are not the Einstien's of the animal kingdom, if they were I would have to concede defeat and take up some other pastime, if you do the right thing at the right time they will fall for your deception, more often than not
As for losing those 20"+fish, it happens, and learning how to play and land/net a fish is as big a part of fishing as getting them to take the fly in the first place so learning to play the fish correctly is the "new technique" you should concentrate on for now, a new rod or fly will not solve that one for you.
Don't be too eager to reach the journeys end, just enjoy the trip.
One thing I have learned is just how delicate the bigger trout can be when taking a fly and, from memory, almost all the bigger trout have taken the fly dead drift, "on the drop" or when it is motionless on the bottom. To move the fly, unnaturally, resulted in a refusal.
 
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ThatMrF

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Wow, Bumble. I never anticipated this kind of wisdom in response to my post. I am honored and grateful that you shared your experience and understanding with me in such a profound way—I feel like you read beyond my words and into my soul. Much of what you said doesn’t just apply to my fly fishing life. I’m on a journey of recovery, and your words are a powerful reminder of the kind of peace I seek.

In the water, I will focus on presentation and playing fish. But the rest of what you wrote, I will reread many, many times. This is one of those rare conversations where I am immediately awed...and I know it is best to be present and to listen.

Thank you,
Ben
 

Ard

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I've only ever had a couple people I fished with outside of clients who hired me as a guide or outfitter. All my life I avoided people who somehow considered fly fishing as a competitive activity. That may be what is holding you back, you may be just doing what the heard does and expecting some greater result, that's what some call 'luck'. What I do has nothing to do with luck and I don't watch 'indicators'. I know fish, I know their habitat and their behavior, I cast well and I catch fish when they are present. None of what I've learned about this came easy, I spent more time than anyone I've ever known observing nature and fish in this particular focus of my outdoor activity. If that sounds like a guy story the only evidence I can offer to how I spent my life would be that I didn't marry and settle down until I was 50 and that happened when I met a woman who thinks fishing is cool here in Alaska. Prior to that (going on 15 years ago) I wanted freedom to spend my life fishing as much as possible and I guess I still do.

If I were to say what a next step could be I'd say get past watching an indicator to know if you have a biter and refine your casting and knowledge of fisheries habitat and the species you fish for. Learn as much as you can take in and spend as much time observing and learning as you do trying to catch them. That's how I did it and it worked, Whatever you choose I don't think fishing in the completive atmosphere of friends who want to see who catches more or bigger will be helpful unless they have something to teach others.

I've probably said enough to be offensive by now so I'll stop. Some of what I wrote is what I call good advice.
 

flytie09

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Nymphs definitely work for big trout.... but the old phrase “big baits.... catch big fish” might apply. Try ripping some streamers on heavier tippet and hang on. Big trout change their eating habits as they age/grow, they also come out at night and become predators....

Kelly Galloup wrote they book on unlocking that predator instinct in big fish with.... big streamers.


My favorite quote from Kelly... which many won’t admit.... is big brown trout..... don’t really fight all that well. I agree 100%. They don’t jump and they kinda pull a bit..... but they sure get lazy in their old age.

But bumble offers some sage advice. Don’t worry about it. Enjoy the moment. And enjoy every fish, big or small.
 

bumble54

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After I wrote that I was sat spooling a new line when I realised something, that new line is the most expensive part of my fishing outfit, all £30 of it. All the fancy and expensive tackle might be nice to own but it won't catch fish, that is down to the angler. I carry one rod but several lines to cover the different situations I find myself in, I no longer want to complicate things and if I fail I know that is also down to me, not my gear. I do own several old rods, expensive ones at that, but they stay in the rod cabinet, they hold memories but also remind me of the time when I thought I needed the best to be the best, now, I hope, I am older and wiser. As the old saying goes, "a bad workman quarrels with his tools".
 

JoJer

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You might want to try this if your eyesight is good;

Nate Brumley fishes dry flies all year and catches huge fish, especially during winter often on our tailwaters. This is a teachable technique.
I thought I was going this route, now I've turned to the idea of tying and fishing streamers. Something new for me and I can see the flies.
 

ThatMrF

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I've only ever had a couple people I fished with outside of clients who hired me as a guide or outfitter. All my life I avoided people who somehow considered fly fishing as a competitive activity. That may be what is holding you back, you may be just doing what the heard does and expecting some greater result, that's what some call 'luck'. What I do has nothing to do with luck and I don't watch 'indicators'. I know fish, I know their habitat and their behavior, I cast well and I catch fish when they are present. None of what I've learned about this came easy, I spent more time than anyone I've ever known observing nature and fish in this particular focus of my outdoor activity. If that sounds like a guy story the only evidence I can offer to how I spent my life would be that I didn't marry and settle down until I was 50 and that happened when I met a woman who thinks fishing is cool here in Alaska. Prior to that (going on 15 years ago) I wanted freedom to spend my life fishing as much as possible and I guess I still do.

If I were to say what a next step could be I'd say get past watching an indicator to know if you have a biter and refine your casting and knowledge of fisheries habitat and the species you fish for. Learn as much as you can take in and spend as much time observing and learning as you do trying to catch them. That's how I did it and it worked, Whatever you choose I don't think fishing in the completive atmosphere of friends who want to see who catches more or bigger will be helpful unless they have something to teach others.

I've probably said enough to be offensive by now so I'll stop. Some of what I wrote is what I call good advice.
I think you shared some great advice, Ard, but reading other parts of your response makes me think that I did not represent my intentions or my fishing buddies well, and I think the power of this sport/hobby/way of life leads to a variety of interpretations and perspectives. I think some of what you and Bumble shared address both the practical aspects of the sport as was the greater fulfillment of the life.

My friends and I don’t compete for anything more than the opportunity to heckle each other, but how many fish I can net in a day of fishing with them is the only data I have to determine if what I am doing is working and to what extent. I’m ashamed to admit it, but I fished for months without being able to catch a single trout, so I have learned a lot, but I have picked up some bad habits as well.

I’ve read multiple books, articles, and posts, spent hours watching videos, went on a few guided trips, etc., but most of the real experience I’ve gained in the water has been through indicator fishing because my local fly fishing crew mostly fishes this way. I just wanted to reach out to others, like you, who have much broader experience to see what approach I should learn next in my evolution as a fly fisherman. I like the advice about ditching the bobber, refining my casting, and learning more about my fisheries. Thank you.

I’m not looking for quick fixes. If I were, I would’ve given this up four years ago when I started. I want to build on my journey.
 

ThatMrF

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Nymphs definitely work for big trout.... but the old phrase “big baits.... catch big fish” might apply. Try ripping some streamers on heavier tippet and hang on. Big trout change their eating habits as they age/grow, they also come out at night and become predators....

Kelly Galloup wrote they book on unlocking that predator instinct in big fish with.... big streamers.


My favorite quote from Kelly... which many won’t admit.... is big brown trout..... don’t really fight all that well. I agree 100%. They don’t jump and they kinda pull a bit..... but they sure get lazy in their old age.

But bumble offers some sage advice. Don’t worry about it. Enjoy the moment. And enjoy every fish, big or small.
Thanks for this, FlyTie. I’m definitely going to learn how to correctly strip streamers. I’ll check out that video later with fresh eyes. It’s an approach I have used some and with little success, but I need to start trying new approaches with the willingness to walk away blanked. That happened for so long when I started fly fishing, that I am now realizing it could be a big reason why I have relied on indicator nymphing for so long. I don’t want to get blanked.

I went to a fly tying convention about eight months after I started fishing. I remember one of the presenters making the joke that “if you can’t catch a trout on a wooly bugger, then you probably ought to give up fishing,” and everyone laughed. I sat there knowing I’d never caught a trout on a wooly bigger despite trying quite a few times. 😁 I eventually figured our that I nearly always had too much line out, and that kept me from hooking up. That seemed like a revelation from on high.

I’m going out tomorrow to enjoy the moment and try what I’m learning in this forum.
 

ThatMrF

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After I wrote that I was sat spooling a new line when I realised something, that new line is the most expensive part of my fishing outfit, all £30 of it. All the fancy and expensive tackle might be nice to own but it won't catch fish, that is down to the angler. I carry one rod but several lines to cover the different situations I find myself in, I no longer want to complicate things and if I fail I know that is also down to me, not my gear. I do own several old rods, expensive ones at that, but they stay in the rod cabinet, they hold memories but also remind me of the time when I thought I needed the best to be the best, now, I hope, I am older and wiser. As the old saying goes, "a bad workman quarrels with his tools".
That’s a great quote. And I agree with you. I’m not seeking different tools, just some guidance in how to use them better. I’ve always been interested in learning technique.
 

ThatMrF

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You might want to try this if your eyesight is good;

Nate Brumley fishes dry flies all year and catches huge fish, especially during winter often on our tailwaters. This is a teachable technique.
I thought I was going this route, now I've turned to the idea of tying and fishing streamers. Something new for me and I can see the flies.
Thank you, JoJer. I’m grateful that my eyesight is still decent. I do not know about Nate Brumley or this technique, so I am going to check out the link. I appreciate you taking the time to share.
 

ThatMrF

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I have a few. I’ve never been night fishing. I’m adding that to the list for this summer if I can find some wadeable water.

And thanks for the link, Trev. I’ll look into the club.
 

trev

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Eventually the Corp will draw down Table Rock and you can fish under the 62 bridge, but you can practice on bass and dry flies are a bit of fun with sunfish.
I don't know if you are aware of this forum, but they are White River oriented and some fly fish- http://forums.ozarkanglers.com/
 

dennyk

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Hi Ben, don't put any unnecessary pressure on yourself, just enjoy the ride and learn as you go. Fly fishing is a lifelong pursuit of perfection which no one attains. The fun is in the experience gained, new things learned and the pure enjoyment of the outdoors.

Give that streamer fishing a good try, a great read is Strip Set by George Daniel. His book addresses all aspects of streamer fishing and is very well done.

Have Fun!

Denny
 
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