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Trout don't appreciate luck


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.

Only 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 fish.

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 any catching.

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 was needed.

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 partner of

He can be reached at (970) 385-9048.




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