Monday, January 4, 2016

4 Lessons from 4 Days

I ended 2015 and began 2016 by visiting the same big pool on a Lake Erie tributary for a few hours each day for four straight days. Four things I learned (or re-learned):

  • Line Control is Key -- Swinging flies with a two-handed rod is still more much more art than science for me; and I'm a terrible artist. But I'm learning. There are three ways to get a swung fly to the right depth: alter the weight of the fly, change your sink tip or use the rod's length to adjust the swing speed. When it's 30 degrees changing flies or sink tips is not an attractive option. More importantly, the best way to manipulate swing speed and depth is to mend, adjust the rod angle and walk downstream during the swing. It's easier to simply cast and let the current do the work, but when the water is high and current speeds varied that's not a very effective technique. On New Year's Eve the water was high and my fly wasn't touching the bottom through the heart of the pool. Even after big mends the fly swung through the pool without disruption. I tried to slow the swing by keeping the rod high and slowly lowering it. Then I added a few small steps downstream to create a little more slack and give the sink tip more time to find the bottom. Finally the purple and black marabou tube dragged along the bottom early in the swing. My hope was that as it moved into the main flow the fly would stay close to the bottom and entice a steelhead into striking. Two drifts later I felt the tug I had been waiting for.
  • Nymphing Works -- I'm hooked on the swing, but drifting nymphs and eggs under a strike indicator is deadly. A friend joined me one day and three other anglers joined us in the pool (including two spin fishermen rude enough to squeeze in and dumb enough to risk their lives by fishing under a rock-slide prone cliff on the far side of the pool) so swinging was out of the question. My friend and I each hooked a fish within our first few casts and while the action wasn't hot, it was steady. I'd still rather swing.
  • Wait for the Weight -- Nymph fishermen learn to set the hook at the first sign of a strike. That approach doesn't work so well when the steelhead hits a swung fly. Raising the rod too quickly simply pulls the fly away from the fish long before the hook finds its way into into the fish's mouth, particularly when the fish are moving slowly in cold water. Instead of reacting quickly to set the hook, the angler needs to wait a moment for the fish to grab the fly and turn to return to its holding spot before setting the hook. It takes awhile to get used to waiting.
  • The only bad thing about fishing four days in a row is not being able to fish five days in a row.
   Happy New Year.

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