Maps – When hiking into remote mountain trout streams it is wise to have the topographic map for that area in your vest, pack or pouch. There are many trails throughout the mountains and it is easy to get lost. A friend tried to fine one recently without the map. It should have taken him forty five minutes to get to the trout stream, however he hiked three hours and never did find the trout stream.
Before the regular anglers around West Yellowstone got to know Charlie Brooks they called him Mr. Monotone. Brook’s, who was a very special friend told me one day when we were fishing the Madison that he finally figured out the name came from the camouflaged clothing he wore most of the time. Since Brook’s fished every day when he first moved to West Yellowstone, he was either on his way to the stream or on his way back when people saw him. Since Brooks was one of the most capable anglers I have ever known, I fully respect his desire to wear subdued colored clothing when fishing. To this day I always wear subdued colored clothing.
I really do believe this helps catch wary fish. For example, I was shocked the day a supposed well-traveled angler showed up for a bass float trip wearing a white t-shirt and white hat and insisted on standing up in the front of our Hyde Drift Boat to fish all day…nope, he caught no large fish.
Many natural nymphs move to the downstream side of the cobblestones in the lower sections of the riffles at this time of the season in preparation of hatching over the next several weeks. Any nymphs dislodged here are swept into the pool downstream where they are easy prey for the trout. A very effective tactic is to fish a nymph such as the Mr. Rapidan Dry size 14 upstream dead drift right below these riffles and into the runs on each side of the riffles. The Murray’s Nymph Leader with its built in Scientific Anglers Indicators is a great help in detecting these strikes.
A large trout comes up and looks at your dry fly but refuses it. There is a natural tendency to cast back to him right away to try him again. A ploy which works best for me is to hold my cast for five minutes until I am sure he is back on his feeding station before casting to him again. If he refuses the second drift I got to a smaller fly that creates an entirely different light pattern and this usually takes him.
Late last summer I drove a long distance to fish a mountain trout stream. When I arrived at the lower end of the stream, I was surprised to find it was very discolored as a result of recent rains. Checking my topographic maps I noticed that two substantial feeder streams entered my stream just a mile upstream. By hiking up the trail beside the main stream until I got upstream of the two feeder streams, I found clear water and had outstanding fishing.
On a different trip to a different stream the high stream level forced me to hike several miles upstream to where a nice little feeder brook entered the main stream. I had never fished this little feeder brook before, but that day I had one of the finest days of dry fly fishing I have ever experienced. Often you are rewarded with outstanding fishing after a short hike.
The speed of the current just inches below the stream surface is usually moving faster than the current on the surface where our dry flies drift. When the leader tippet is pulled by this fast current it can produce a subtle drag on the fly which may be difficult for us to discern, however, the trout quickly detect this and may refuse to take our fly. In order to prevent this drag I always dress my dry fly leaders frequently with dry fly cream floatant. This keeps the leader on the surface where it drifts at the same rate as the fly. This produces a natural drifting dry fly and the trout take it quickly.
Always land your trout with a net as quickly as possible to prevent stressing them. Revive your trout completely before releasing him. Choose water from one to two feet deep with a moderate current. I gently face the trout into the current, holding him upright tightly with my right hand around his tail and with my left hand under his head to balance him. I hold the trout in this position until I am sure he can hold this upright posture on his own. This is easy for me to discern as I slowly open the grip with my right hand, if he leans to the side I tighten my grip and hold him another two to three minutes until he can keep his balance. At this point I slowly remove my right hand and then my left hand and I know this trout will survive. Make all of your movement slowly because otherwise you will frighten the trout and he will lunge unto deep water where you can’t get him. Often a lunger will wobble on downstream and will turn bell-up and die.
I have been doing a great amount of experimenting this year with many different casts that are helpful in throwing slack line casts which are very helpful in achieving drag-free drifts with dry flies. These include the curve cast, reach cast, bounce cast and lazy-s cast, just to name a few casts. Vince Marinaro’s puddle casts and several variation were by far the most helpful in getting drag-free dry fly drifts.
One day as Vince and I fished the Letort, I asked him to show me how he was able to get long natural drifts with his “puddle cast”. He made a gentle cast up the Letort and I was amazed at the long natural drift he achieved.
Here is how I use Vince’s puddle cast: On my presentation cast I extend extra line on the forward part of the cast and stop the rod tip at a forty five degree angle over the stream. This allows the line and leader to fall in a puddle of slack line and the fly drift naturally.
I encourage you to read Vince Marinaro’s, Modern Dry Fly Code, written in 1950. It is a masterpiece!
Many beginning trout anglers are amazed to see a nice trout turn belly-up and die when they return him to the stream with good intentions for his survival. It is very easy to stress a large trout by fishing him an excessively long time. Therefore it is wise to land large trout quickly. To do this: (1) Get downstream of hooked trout so he must fight the current as well as the rod pressure when he runs upstream, (2) Apply the maximum rod pressure which the tippet will take, (3) Use a large landing net and lead the trout gently into it and (4) Be sure he is stabilized and that he can maintain his proper posture before releasing him gently facing into the current in knee deep water.
Now that the Trico hatch is in full swing on our trout streams you can rest assured that these trout probably have examined more artificial flies than most anglers. The trout know this hatch well and want to feed on the naturals as an exceptionally tough brown trout showed me one morning on a small Pennsylvania stream when he took 67 naturals in a measured 60 seconds.
Here are some of the ploys I use on this hatch that help me.
(1) I always get to the stream well before the time of the day when I know the hatch is due to start and stay well after it is over. Often the trout are easier to fool when the naturals are sparse.
(2) In order to get a drag-free drift over a steady riser I usually use a “puddle cast” which creates extra slack in the leader.
(3) Although I normally fish 7X leaders on this hatch i find that 8X leaders often renders a more natural fly drift.
When we are floating the smallmouth bass river or climbing the mountain trout stream we usually carry a lunch and drinking water in our vest. After fishing for several hours our hands may be grubby. I carry a small bottle of hand sanitizer in my vest and scrub my hands good before eating lunch.
My angler’s calendar is very large, having about two inch square spaces for each date. This allows plenty of space for me to write in where I fished that day, the water temperature, the hatches, water level, my catch and any other important information. Each January when I get a new calendar I write in the above information from previous years. This brings back wonderful memories as I record these previous trips. It also helps me plan future fishing trips as I correlate the present stream conditions and hatches with what I did on past trips under similar conditions. Great fun!
For many years a Cricket Dry Fly has been one of my most dependable flies all across the country in all types of trout streams. I have experimented with many different ties but Ed Shenk’s Cricket has given me many more large trout than all of the other patterns. I believe the reason Ed Shenk’s Cricket is so effective is because when he designed it he was able to use materials and a style of tying which effectively mimicked the light pattern of the natural cricket. Ed Shenk’s Cricket can also be fished with a very realistic kicking action when desired.
Ed Shenk has been a good friend for many years and he still ties his Crickets and Letort Hoppers for me to sell in my fly shop, Murray’s Fly Shop in Edinburg, Virginia.
I have a good friend who injured his right shoulder badly. Since he cast with his right hand he was very disappointed that he would loose a season’s fishing while he recovered from surgery. I encouraged him to just switch over and cast with his left hand which he did and he was able to fish the whole season.
In my fly fishing schools I have always had to cast with both hands to help all of my students. If you have not tried this give it a go. You will be pleased how well you do. After all you already know the proper casting technique.
“I am new to fly fishing and need advice on rods for freshwater fishing”. This question came in as email and I believe many anglers are at this point. In order to answer this in a meaningful way I will discuss the outfits I use in various types of fly fishing and why. I will break this down into four separate blogs and post one each week:
(A) Small Mountain Streams
(B) Large Eastern Trout Streams and Western Spring Creeks
(C) Large Western Trout Streams
(D) Bass Streams and Lakes
(A) Small Mountain Trout Streams
These streams require rods that give good accuracy and delicacy from twenty to thirty feet which are short enough to cast under the overhanging tree limbs. In rod design this calls for a rod with a delicate tip and a butt section that is firm enough to turn the tip over. Three weight rods are excellent for this delicate fishing with flies from size 22 up to size 10. Rods which are 6 foot 10 inches long up to 7 1/2 feet are ideal. My favorite is the Murray/Scott Mountain Trout Rod which is 6 foot 10 inches long, 3 piece and 3 weight. This approach will help you select the correct tackle to use on small trout streams all across the country.
The next section of these blogs will be posted next Thursday!
At this time of the year caddisflies are very active. Frequently each evening there are adults returning to the streams to deposit eggs as well as emerging adults from the stream. For every adult we see drifting along the surface of the stream there are possibly a dozen pupa drifting just below the surface of the stream preparing to hatch into an adult.
A good way to cash in on this great action is to attach a Mr. Rapidan Delta Wing Dry Caddis to the leader and then attach a two foot strand of tippet material to the bend of the dry fly hook with an improved clinch knot. To this attach a Murray’s Caddis Pupa. On large trout streams and smallmouth rivers I fish this rig across stream with a slow twitching action. On small mountain trout streams I fish this rig upstream dead drift.
I have a good angling friend who consistently gets very good trout fishing. In order to accomplish this he simply says, “I walk away from the roads.” He uses this ploy on both stocked streams and wild brook trout streams. Fortunately one can easily achieve this on the mountain streams. The National Forest and National Parks have provided good roads to the access points at the heads of these streams. By parking at these trail heads on the tops of the mountains and walking in a mile or two you can often find great trout fishing. I have covered many of these trail head access points in my book, Virginia Blue Ribbon Streams.
Many trout refusals of dry flies result from one of two problems which can be easily corrected. First the fly may be too large for his liking. Here we simply switch to a smaller fly. A dragging dry fly is another cause for refusals. Here a slack line cast, or a different presentation position, or a different presentation angle or dropping your dry fly closer to the trout’s feeding station will enable the dry fly to drift naturally and the trout will take it solidly.
Fly Fishing Report for Smallmouth Bass & Trout–May 2014
In this fly fishing podcast Harry Murray discusses the streams conditions plus the techniques to use at this time of the year on our smallmouth bass rivers in the first part. The second part includes the conditions of the trout streams and what flies and techniques to use.
Jeff Murray likes this time of the year because the large trout feed well. Just remember the Brook Trout are well underway with their spawning by mid-October here in the mid-Atlantic area. Please refrain from fishing the native Brook Trout streams until late February (the eggs have hatched by then).
As the trout streams start getting colder an easy way to stay warm and comfortable is to wear a 200 weight pair of polartec pants under your waders.
Large trout feeding on natural trico mayflies are very selective on the artificial flies they will take and the way they drift during the main part of the hatch. However, if you get to the stream before the hatch is heavy and stay after the spinner fall is sparce you can often catch a few easy trout.
Many of our best stocked trout streams in Virginia such as Big Stoney, Mill Creek and the Bullpasture have gotten very high from heavy rains in the past two weeks. This can actually help the flyfishing when the streams drop back to normal levels because the trout become distrubuted throughout the streams.
Frequently the most productive sections of the streams for flyfishing will now be the deepest pools from a mile to five miles downstream of the areas that are normally stocked. Fish these thoroughly with the Murray’s Betsy Streamer and Pearl Marauder both in size 10.
Many of our large trout streams such as Big Stoney, the Jackson River and the Bullpasture are still carrying full water levels. The fishing is good and we’re taking some of the trout on the surface, but the large trout are being caught by fishing deeply with streamers.
Due to the water volume I use what I call an “Upstream Bounce Retrieve” to help me get my streamers deeply and still impart a realistic minnow-swimming action to my fly. To use this method I wade upstream and cast upstream at no more that a 40 degree angle. I allow my streamer to sink deeply upon presentation then get tight to it with my line hand. As the current pushes my streamer downstream I produce bouncing streamer-swimming action by lifting my fly rod to a 45 degree angle then dropping it back down to a parallel to the streams surface. Keeping a tight line with my line hand and imparting this lifting and dropping action every five feet of the drift produces a teasing minnnow action that many large trout cannot resist.
Earlier we covered how to catch large brown trout in the riffles at this time of the year (late fall/ winter). Today let’s look at a very effective method for flyfishing to trout in the deepest parts of the large pools when using a floating fly line when the basic across stream tactic will not get our flies deep enough. Many of these deep pools can be flyfished effectively with a floating fly line using a technique I call “Sweeping a Streamer” with sculpin minnow imitations such as Shenk’s Sculpin and Murray’s Black Madtom/Sculpin. In fact, this technique will enable you to get your streamers deeper than any method you can use with a floating fly line. Set yourself up right beside the deep water you plan to fish. Your first cast is made 20 feet long up and across stream at a 45 degree angle. The streamer is allowed to sink deeply on a slack line. Once it is close to the bottom and at a 45 degree angle take up the slack line with your line hand. Now you swing the rod downstream and by staying tight on the streamer with your line hand you will quickly feel the strike as you sweep the streamer along the stream bottom and it is easy to hook the fish. Successive casts are made two feet longer at this 45 degree angle upstream and the streamer is swept along the stream bottom in the same manner. By gradually lengthening your casts in this way each drift will swim your flies along the stream bottom a little further out in the pool. Once you feel you have covered this water just wade downstream pausing at ten foot intervals to repeat this technique. You may not catch every big trout in front of you but you know they have seen your streamers.