The Law of the Instrument and the Intermediate Line

I recently came across a reference to the Law of the Instrument, and it reminded me of fly fishing with an intermediate line in surf and current — especially since I recently used an intermediate line for two days on Cape Cod.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Law of the Instrument, it’s basically this: If all you have is a hammer, you see everything as a nail.

And why, you may ask, was I fishing with an intermediate line? It was the ideal taper and grain weight for my new two-hander. For test drive casting, it was aces. For fishing, it reminded me why I never choose an intermediate line for current or surf. (For more on this, read Mainly Misunderstood: Five Myths and Realities About Using Floating Lines for Striped Bass.

“The fundamental thing about fly fishing is presentation. It means that you control what’s going on, so that you can bring your fly to the fish. You’re in control. Not the line. Not the accident.” What Ken is saying is simple: use the right tool for the job.

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Perhaps the Law of the Instrument explains so many of the misconceptions about intermediate lines: they are less affected by surf, they are good for presenting deep, they are versatile. (D: none of the above.)

Expand your toolbox with a floating line — and you’ll begin to notice all the screws and nuts and bolts around you.

A Simple Drop-Shot Nymph Rig (Revisited)

After last week’s Nymph-o-Mania! post I received a lot of questions about drop-shot nymphing: how to build a rig, can you use it with an indicator, is it better for a tight line presentation, etc. Let’s start with the rig.

A drop-shot nymph rig with sighter for both indicator or tight line nymphing.

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And a PDF of the same diagram: SighterDropShotNymphRig

So: I’ve been drop-shot nymphing for quite some time now. Being the curious sort (and a confirmed autodidact and DIYer) I tend to change things around until I find what works best for me. What you see is my current default trout nymph rig. I’ve been using 6X for the drop shot tag to make it the weakest link in the system. I’m lazy, so I build a sighter into the system whether I’m going to indicator nymph or not. Maxima if the water is high or off-color, 5x if it’s skinny and clear. (Please, use your favorite material to build this rig. It will work whether or not you use Maxima, P-Line, or Stren.)

When to tight line and when to indicator? Chapters in books have been written on this. Here are some of my thoughts in brief.

When to indicator:

  • When I want to cover longer stretches of water
  • When I want to reach pockets and runs farther than a rod-and-arm’s length
  • When I want the nymphs to swirl around in a mixer-like pocket
  • In conditions where takes may be subtle/difficult to feel (winter, windy days, just to name two)
  • When the wind is blowing upstream

Note: The distance from drop shot to indicator on the leader is about 1.5 times what I estimate the deepest water to be. I use my own home brew yarn indicators almost exclusively. They are light, denser that store-bought kinds, don’t spook fish (it seems that every season I have at least one trout hit my indicator) and I am very dialed in to their nuances.

When to tight line:

  • When I’m fishing in close
  • When the water is low and clear
  • When I feel the indicator is difficult to manage/adversely speeding up the drift

Hope that helps. I’m sure there will be more questions and as always, I am happy to answer them.

 

“Mouth of the Housatonic River” from Eastern Fly Fishing

Gadzooks! Ten years since I wrote this? How amusing to sift through the archives and find stuff that came out of your brain when nobody knew your name. “Mouth of the Housatonic River” is a quick-read primer on the spring striper bite. There are a few almost-funny jokes, and much of the information is still pertinent. The article first appeared in the July/August 2009 issue of Eastern Fly Fishing. You can read it by clicking on the link below:

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Book Review: Fly Fishing Guide to the South Platte River

I’ve never fished the South Platte. I have no immediate plans to do so. But dammit, now I’ve read this book. And the gears are turning.

Such is the power of the second edition of Fly Fishing Guide to the South Platte River. Although Pat Dorsey is listed as the author, contributors to the book are many, and the list reads like a western U.S. fly angling who’s who: Landon Mayer. Greg Blessing. Just to name a few.

The book is neatly organized into three sections. Part 1 is The South Platte System, which divides the water into geographical sections. You get details like maps, access points, water descriptions, and seasonal strategies. The chapters are sprinkled with sidebars like “High Water Season,” “Etiquette,” and “Year-Round Strategies to Find Trout.” These are  informative and they don’t intrude on the reading experience. I’m impressed by the level of detail, and the intrepid reader receives enough comprehensive information to DIY the South Platte.

Next up is Important Hatches and Fly Patterns. It’s just what you’d expect: hatch charts, monthly descriptors, and — my favorite — fly patterns. As a fly tying geek I am always on the lookout for inspiration and intel, as well as the hot local pattern that will work the same wonders here in the eastern U.S. (Yeah. Pale Olive Midge Larva. I’ve got my eye on you.) It’s no surprise that as a tailwater, much of the focus is on midges. Last, we get Techniques and Strategies on how to attack the river. As with the entire book, this section is richly illustrated with photos of trout and breathtaking scenics.

Quibbles are few. As is the norm for many contemporary fly fishing books, wet flies and wet fly fishing are conspicuously absent. (I’d love to swing a team of three through some of the water illustrated in the book — or give trout rising to PMDs a look at The Magic Fly.) And the only featured mention of wet fly presentation (the Leisenring Lift) pertains to nymphing — and it gets the technique wrong (the angler does not physically raise the flies — the angler checks the rod and lets current and tension do the work.)

Nonetheless, Fly Fishing Guide to the South Platte River is highly recommended. Pat Dorsey should be commended on his skillful blending of situational river specifics and general trout knowledge. If you’re heading west to fish the South Platte, you’ll be glad you invested in a copy.

“…lush valleys, meandering meadow streams, and rose-colored, boulder-filled canyons.” Where do I sign up? Just south of Denver, Colorado, this world-class trout fishery comes to life in Pat Dorsey’s Fly Fishing Guide to the South Platte River. If you’ve never fished the river, this book is a must have, with new maps and updated river, access, and fishing information. Fly Fishing Guide to the South Platte River by Pat Dorsey, Stackpole Books, ISBN 978-0-8117-3818-7.

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Book Review: “Tactical Fly Fishing” by Devin Olsen

To fully understand the genesis of Devin Olsen’s Tactical Fly Fishing, you need to include its subtitle: Lessons Learned from Competition for All Anglers. If you’re like me — someone who views competitions as a joy-of-fishing buzzkill — letting the C-word put you off would be a mistake. If you’re interested in becoming a better, more well-rounded angler, Tactical Fly Fishing is jam-packed with information you can use to catch more trout on your next outing.

Some of the best teachers I know take an “I’m not right, and I don’t know it all — I’m just showing you how I’d do it” approach to learning. Olsen nails this throughout the book. It’s particularly evident in the chapter, “Gear and Rigging.” He gives you an honest, broad overview, and leaves it to you to make equipment decisions.

Olsen divides river sections into water types: Pocketwater, Riffles, Runs, Pools, Glides, and Bankside Lies. He devotes a chapter to each, and this is where the book shines. He includes a few case studies, complete with photos, detailing how he approaches each water and situation. It’s almost like you’re tagging along for the lesson. With Olsen’s competition experience and success, you get the sense that there’s not a lot of water he hasn’t seen. Fish with confidence!

Regular readers of currentseams know that I don’t Euro-nymph, and given its competition roots, Euro-nymphing methodology plays an extensive role in this book. That doesn’t mean the information is irrelevant to us non-Euro nymphers — you just need to work through it as it applies to how you fish. Reading water is reading water, and since that’s such a huge part of catching, we all would do well to study the water type chapters. There’s also a short chapter on proven fly patterns; as a fly junkie I wish there were more (what, no soft hackles?).

Despite the Euro-nymphing emphasis, a consistent theme emerges throughout Tactical Fly Fishing: there is no one best way — and the best anglers take a fluid approach to the situations they are faced with and the methods they choose. In some stretches the book can get a little technical, but I’d rather have more information than not enough. (I first heard of Devin when I saw a picture of him weighing nymphs on a tiny scale. I remember thinking: this is a detail-oriented angler.) Olsen’s style is nonetheless conversational and easy-to-read. Tactical Fly Fishing is one of those references that I will be going back to on a regular basis.

It may seem like an easy gig — people send you books, you read them, then write about them — but it isn’t. You should know that I take this seriously, and if I didn’t like something, I’d tell you. So I’m telling you. This is a good one. All I ask of a how-to angling book is: teach me stuff I don’t know. Remind me of stuff I’ve forgotten. Don’t write like you’re trying to impress me with your knowledge of the thesaurus. Tactical Fly Fishing delivers. Tactical Fly Fishing — Lessons Learned from Competition for All Anglers by Devin Olsen, Stackpole Books, ISBN 978-0-8117-1982-7.

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Housy Trout & Smallies in the March/April issue of Eastern Fly Fishing

Hot off the presses: “Upper Housatonic River, CT — The Smallmouth River That Thinks It’s A Trout Stream.” You can read it in the March/April issue of Eastern Fly Fishing. You’ll find a little river history, a little reconnoiter, some trout and smallie basics, and a couple of my favorite Housy fly patterns. Oh. It’s also a pretty good read (said the author modestly). I believe you can get a copy at matchthehatch.com.

Where we set out to prove the O.W. Holmes quote, “There’s no tonic like the Housatonic.”

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Book Review: “The Hunt for Giant Trout” by Landon Mayer

Well now — who doesn’t want to catch a giant trout? My first encounter with such a creature came in the early 1970s on CT’s Salmon River: twenty-three and one-half inches of malevolent brown beast. Its perfectly formed paddle fins and striking colors indicated that this was a holdover of at least several seasons. I just happened to be the kid who stuck it.

Yes, I’m addicted. Not quite as big as that Salmon River fish, but within trophy range. Farmington River, September 2018.

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Catching a giant trout changes you, and once you decide to pursue them you realize that big fish really are different — one of the many instructive points author Landon Mayer makes in his new book, The Hunt For Giant Trout — 25 Best Places in the United States to Catch a Trophy.

The Hunt For Giant Trout is divided into two sections: Strategies & Techniques, and The Fisheries. Strategies & Techniques is loaded with information on giant trout behavior and how-to (from reading water to fighting tactics). As a seasoned angler, I often judge fly fishing books from the perspective of: tell me stuff I don’t already know. There’s plenty of that in the first section, and I’m always delighted to discover how much I still have to learn.

The Fisheries takes you on a tour of 25 locations where you can fulfill your quest. I like that Mayer involves locals (some big names in there!) in each writeup; who knows the water better than someone who fishes it a hundred days a year? Included are favorite patterns and recipes, from bulky articulated streamers to midge nymphs. (As a fly tying nerd I’m always curious about what other people are tying and throwing.)

Mayer’s style is conversational and easy to read. Everyone learns differently, and there’s a ton of visual reference, from photos to diagrams. Even if there weren’t pictures of Landon holding giant trout, you’d still come away with the notion that this guy knows what he’s talking about. Minor quibbles? Only three of the twenty-five fisheries are within driving distance of New England; the list skews heavily western U.S. Still, there’s more than enough quality information here for me heartily recommend The Hunt For Giant Trout. Now I’ve got to go back and read it again. Summer’s coming, and that two-footer is lurking under a logjam, waiting for the opportunity to strike.

One of the coolest parts of doing presentations at places like the Fly Fishing Show is that you get to meet people who have caught way more big trout than you. Like Landon. He’s also one of the nice guys in our sport. So get this book and read it. The Hunt for Giant Trout by Landon Mayer, Stackpole Books, ISBN 978-0-8117-3719-7.

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