Tip of the Week: Change it up

One of my favorite old saws from my days in advertising creative was, “You cannot bore someone into buying your product.” The same could be said of fly fishing: you cannot bore a fish into eating your fly.

I was recently reminded of this — twice, actually. Both times I was fishing over water that I knew held good-sized fish. Streamers was the method, and although I had induced some bumps, there were no wholesale takes. Even a variation in presentation or resting the fish did not produce. In both cases, what did produce was changing the fly. Fish are curious, often to a fault. Off with the old, on with the new, and Ka-POW!

Sometimes it’s the simple, little things that make the difference between fishing and catching.

I’m giving the above advice an enthusiastic striper thumb’s up.

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Farmington River Report 11/30/16: What’s all that wet stuff?

Not since the heady days of July have we seen this much water in the Farmington. 240 cfs! I fished in and out of the permanent TMA for 3 1/2 hours today. The water was somewhat stained — the closer to the Still, the greater the color — and 40 degrees. I saw midges and some really small BWOs, and even a few risers in some of the classic dry fly water. Streamers were the plan today, and things began well with several bumps and one mid-teens wild brown to hand. Then it got slow. Real slow. The last three places I fished were all blanks. I must confess to being a little surprised, given the warmth of the day, the height and color of the water, and the deep overcast. But such is life on the streamer edge.

For those who care about these things, I celebrated blowing off responsibility with an El Rey Del Mundo Flor de Llaneza. Like the fishing, it did not suck.

More rain is on the way, so whatever rain dances you’ve been doing, please carry on. I had most of the water to myself, but I would think that will change this weekend.

Excuse me, do I have something on my lip? The Deep Threat in olive/grey comes through again. The trout hit the fly three times over the course of two casts before delivering the kill shot.

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Currentseams Q&A: streamer fishing for trout

Today we have two questions about streamer fishing.

Q: I am not strong on streamer fishing. Do you have any quick hints on how to improve?

A: It’s hard to offer suggestions when I can’t see where you’re “not strong.” Here are some observations that may help.

 When you’re streamer fishing, you’re targeting aggressive fish. If you’re not catching, and you know there’s a candidate nearby, change flies, change presentations – say, from fast strips to slow strips, or to a swing and dangle – and if that fails, move on. Cover water. Cover water. Cover water. The spot on the Hous where I caught a bazillion trout on streamers last month is a submerged rock field that stretches about seventy-five yards. I got nothing in the upstream fifty yards. The lower twenty-five was loaded with trout. Sometimes it’s as simple as that.

Fish will move as the seasons change. As winter approaches, trout often transition from faster water to slower, deeper pools. Having said that, I have caught Farmington River trout in January in brisk currents as well as languid black water.

 Bigger streamers often mean bigger fish, and fewer smaller fish.

Don’t get caught up in streamer hype and jaunty names. Many of the streamers I fish are semi-haphazard creations I make up as I’m tying them. Articulated streamers are all the rage right now. They work. So do unarticulated streamers. A lot of people get amped up about streamers that “push water.” Those streamers work. So do ones with slim, non-water-pushing profiles. Find your own truths.

This streamer doesn’t have a name like “The Dominatrix” or “The Skull Crusher.” It’s just a cone-head soft-hackled streamer in Mickey Finn colors. Trout don’t read magazines or hang out in fly shops, but they still manage to find plenty of things in the water that look good to eat regardless of nomenclature.

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When the bite is on, I have yet to find a color (or colors) that the trout won’t hit.

 Know where your fly is. Does it need to be deep? Or near the surface? This is a good segue into question two:

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Q: I wondered if you had some streamer fishing tips i.e.: weight /sinking line?

 A: Let’s start with some more questions. What do you want your streamer to do? Do you want it to sink to the bottom of the river and stay there? How fast is the current? How deep is the water? Are you performing a strip retrieve? Answers to questions like these will help determine your setup and presentation.

I have a traditional saltwater/striped bass streamer background. I draw upon those roots when I fish streamers for trout. Many anglers mistakenly think a sinking line is the big answer to presenting deep. Not so fast. We need to take into account the effects of current.

 Even with a full sink line and a weighted fly, the fly will plane up near the surface at the end of a drift on a strong moon tide current. I can see the splash of the striper’s take before I feel the tug. So while part of the drift is deep, not all of it is.

 I have a Jim Teeny integrated sinking line – I lost the box, so I don’t know its name or model number – that I use on the Farmington, mostly in the winter, sometimes in the summer when the river is high. It has, say, thirty feet of full sink (7.0ips sink rate?) at the head, then a floating running line. That is significant, because you can mend a floating line. And mends help to sink your fly, and keep it deeper longer.

 My fondness for traditional streamer presentations – mending to sink the fly, mending to perform a greased line swing – is why I use a floating line for the majority of my streamer fishing. Even at 1,000cfs, I was scraping the bottom of the Hous after a few strategic mends with my floater. (I was streamer fishing for stripers today with a floating line in a fast-moving estuary. Moon tide. The fish were hugging the bottom. So was my fly. A beautiful thing, mending.)

 I usually incorporate weight into my trout streamers, whether with brass or tungsten cone heads, heavy wire along the shank, or dumbbell or bead chain eyes. How much weight depends on when and where I’ll be fishing. Faster winter water means a heavier fly. Summer, maybe it’s just a brass cone.

 If you’re using a sink tip or a full sink line, make your leader short. Two to three feet is plenty. Otherwise you’ll negate the effects of the sinking line. Conversely, use a longer leader with your floating line to sink the fly. I think my leader this fall was between six and seven feet.

 Hope that helps.