April 23, 2004
Trout don't seem to appreciate 'luck'
Alpine fishing can be spectacular, but smart high country
trout require smart presentations, shown here by fly fisherman Mike
Paterniti on the upper Piedra River on Saturday.
in our wildest dreams are we going to be able to present flies to trout
with flawless casts every time. No matter how perfect we intended the
presentation, sometimes our efforts will result in drag, or will spook the
However, there is one thing that that usually works to the
advantage of fly fishers - persistence. If they spend enough time on the
water and make enough casts, sooner or later they may get a few seconds of
drag-free drift, and "ka-whamo" - get a hook-up.
Finally, the fly was doing the right thing in front of a
trout that was in precisely the right place at the right time. In fishing,
this is known as "luck." When novice fly fishers ask me, "Have you had any
luck?" - I always say, "No, absolutely none!" - irrespective of how many
fish I've released.
More experienced fly fishers will be able to execute a
higher percentage of effective casts. Therefore, they mostly have skill -
not luck. However, I do want to offer the consolation that we all
occasionally get "beat-up" by small-brained trout.
Part of my teaching syllabus alludes to how simple fly
fishing really is. It essentially consists of only two primary criterions
- fly selection and presentation. And I usually claim that I can't imagine
why academicians with doctoral degrees in entomology, wildlife biology or
maybe physics often have such intellectual debates about out how to catch
a stupid trout. Unless, of course, I am one of those that are not doing
It happened to me on Saturday. I had the fly selection
thing correct, but my presentations were not. After a bunch of alpine
trout had completely ignored me for a few hours - persistent or not, my
name sure wasn't "Lucky," - while my business partner, Mike Paterniti,
kept catching explosive wild brown trout right in front of me, it became
painfully evident that I needed to make some adjustments.
Different situations require different casts. This small,
fast, boulder-strewn creek required accurate presentations into small
pockets or holding lies. Tree lined banks precluded most conventional
casts and many of my repertoire of so-called tricky casts. Because we were
fishing large nymphs with weight and indicators, the rig had to be
presented without slapping the water or lining these wary mountain trout,
while simultaneously providing for immediate drag free drift.
For upstream presentations, the tuck cast was the perfect
method to deliver the fly into the critical zone - just big enough for a
10- to 15-inch sassy trout. When there was no back-casting room, I managed
to water load the wet rig downstream, and make an overpowered short cast
upstream with an open loop. As the loop begins the presentation turnover,
the rod tip is stopped abruptly, causing the weighted wet rig to flip
over, around and downward. The trajectory of the cast was delivered high
enough to allow the fly and leader to drop vertically into the water
slightly upstream of the fish. The fly was presented with just enough
natural drift before fast water grabbed the line. And, that was all that
Downstream offerings required alternative casting
techniques. Loop casts permitted the fly line to land upstream from the
wet rig, which then drifted downstream and into the trout's territory. The
fly came to the fish before the line and leader. Faster currents on the
surface propelled the line faster than the fly in slower water near the
bottom of the streambed, providing for natural drift and stealthy
presentations. Sometimes my loop casts were an amalgamated improvisation
that combined oversized roll casts with puddle casts, enabling a pile of
slack leader to land downstream from the line.
Amazingly, when I adjusted my casting style and my
presentations improved - so did my "luck."
L. David Grooms is senior
He can be reached at (970)