Posted by John Hudgens on Jul 10, 2017 9:57:00 AM
Five tips from Yellow Dog’s South America program director, John Hudgens:
For the past 20 years, I’ve been a guide on the Railroad Ranch section of the Henry’s Fork River, a tricky piece of water that requires all anglers who fish it to truly bring their “A-Game.” This is a fishery that almost always demands perfect presentations, long leaders, light tippets, and exact fly patterns. And while the Henry’s Fork is known for having some of most selective trout around, it is by no means the only place where tough, picky trout are found.
As a species, trout are spooky by nature, constantly aware of their surroundings and all potential threats, especially true when they are rising in clear, shallow waters. When you find a rising fish in these situations it takes– the right cast, the perfect drift, all made on the very first presentation to actually “feed” that fish. Getting them to “eat” is the real accomplishment, landing the fish actually becomes a bonus. In order to increase your chance on rising, picky trout in difficult situations, here are five things to keep in mind.
1. Getting into position: Once you’ve located the specific fish you want to catch, you need to get into position, which is a skill in itself. Check out the surroundings, and think about the best casting angle to achieve a drag free presentation. While making your stalk, make sure to be extra stealthy on your approach. Don’t create any ripples, and whenever possible stay low and avoid profiling your body. Work on getting as close as you can without spooking the fish. Your cast needs to be perfect, so don’t set yourself up for a long shot if it’s not necessary.
2. Selecting the right fly: Selecting the right fly is a challenge, but there are far more important things to learn and think about than fly selection, such as positioning, presentation, and timing. When pondering the right fly to tie on, watch the fish feeding, they will give themselves away by their body posture and rise forms, allowing you to decipher whether they are feeding on emergers, duns or spinners. Of course when you finally do figure it out, they may have already switched to something else – a common trait of truly selective trout. They will keep you guessing on complex hatches with all different stages of bugs to choose from.
3. Getting it right the first time: Timing is everything when trying to feed a selective trout, much like trying to talk to the one girl that happens to be in the bar in Last Chance, Idaho on a Friday night (You can figure out for yourself why many of the locals call it “No Chance”), you have to get it right the first time or they’re gone. Be patient and look for a “happy” fish; one that is active and looking to feed. Wait for the moment that it eats a natural and is looking for another, and then take your shot.
Often times they will let quite a bit of food drift before eating, falling in and out of what we call feeding rhythms. Avoid casting when they are down, and instead study the feeding rhythms and wait for that fish to start actively feeding once again. The first shot at a wise, selective fish is easily the most important cast of all. If the fly drags unnaturally, or you “line” the fish by throwing a shadow, it’s probably time to start looking for a new target because the fish is on to you.
Once the fish spooks, you’ll notice an immediate change of behavior, and many times the fish will simply disappear. When this happens, move on or at the very least give yourself a “time out.” Take a break, maybe change your fly pattern, and give the fish some time to forget what you just did.
4. Presentation beats everything: I once heard a client ask his guide, “What are those guys getting’ ‘em on?” The guide replied, “A drag free drift”, this is probably the best advice for anyone fishing to selective trout, because a good presentation can sometimes make up for bad fly choice. Presentation is the most important step of all! What you’re trying to do is present a drag-free drift, a term used when your fly drifts exactly like the naturals, looking unattached to a leader.
There are many ways to achieve a drag-free presentation, such as a down and across reach cast, straight down bounce cast, straight over the top, or by throwing an early mend in the drift. I prefer to present the fly down and across whenever possible by making a reach cast to get the fly to float first, showing the fish no leader.
5. Un-matching the hatch: If you’re on the water during a “blanket” hatch (PMD’s on the Henry’s Fork, for example, or Tricos on the Missouri), you will find yourself in a situation where the fish have a lot of food to choose from. If you simply cannot figure it out, and you’re about to walk away, as a last resort try throwing something like a large ant, foam beetle, or anything else you think they’ll eat. Un-matching the hatch takes creativity, and something that worked once may not work for you again. Mix up your patterns, show the fish something totally different, and you never know what can happen!
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