River Tactics

Types of Runs

Reading the water and good prospecting gets you the opportunity but you still need a good approach to deal with factors like conflicting currents and back eddies. How and where to position yourself can be critical when going for selective trout.

The more time an angler spends on their favourite streams or still waters the more easily they can identify the likely locations for fish. Seasonal changes reveals new details about the habitat that allows observant anglers the opportunity of future insights. Pursuing trout subsurface and on top of the surface during the seasons also teaches the angler what technique are the most successful and when to use them. The angler that fishes through the seasonal changes, will realize how these temporal variances control the timing of aquatic insect emergences or lack of them as well as what food is available to the fish. The angler will also become familiar with how the seasonal variances in stream flow, water temperature and food base regulate the trout’s feeding preferences and activity. 

Learning new concepts and terminology for anglers starting out can be a bit overwhelming at first, but will become more familiar with some direction from an experienced practitioner and time out fishing. Recognizing a riffle, run or a pool and what the currents are doing are best described and explained out during a guided trip or stream side for one of my learning programs. 

Anglers pursue all types of fly-fishing presentations like streamers, nymphs, wet flies and floating dry flies at the appropriate time to become a more complete angler. There are anglers who target certain presentation types over others and some stick to mainly fishing streamers, hunting large trout because this type of fishing produces big fish in all seasons. Some enjoy nymph fishing which may just be the most productive way to catch the most trout day in day out. The veteran purists will enjoy the challenge  of matching aquatic insect hatches with the sense of urgency banging on thier door and prefer to fish in or on the surface with damp, dry or spent fly patterns. Each angler will find their preferred method that they most enjoy and pursue those avenues.

Approach and Strategy

This is less about the physical characteristics of a river, however this subject would not be complete with out mentioning how critical tough durable fly-fishing leader knots and proper leader construction are to stream strategy and landing big trout. The ability to fabricate  your own leaders to a specific angling situation and the ability to construct a well tied knot will get the angler more large trout to the net. This area is no less important than any other skill set the angler will develop in his or her fly-fishing arsenal.

Stream tactics or strategies for western trout is a big part of a deliberate approach that will provide many memorable days fishing. How close can you get in approaching a surface feeding trout will depend on a few environmental factors as well as what level of aquatic insect activity is occurring at the stream surface. Diminishing light, especially failing light at the end of the day during the most heavy hatches will allow the angler to get very close to a feeding trout from almost any angle, however there are a whole host of other challenges that come to counter balance the scales back in the trouts favour. Much is to be considered such as the angle and direction of sunlight along with the approach line as well as the speed of wind will dictate both the approach and type of cast you will use to present a fly to a surface feeding trout. Many times, the angler’s initial approach and angle of presentation should be the first part of your game plan. Long before choice of fly pattern or any cast is made a preceding plan of approach will always serve you well.

Next is proper fly pattern selection which is determined by two keys components of on-stream assessments. What the trout are feeding on and at what life cycle stage the food source is in.

Proper assessment of what specific aquatic or terrestrial insect is most abundant, available and vulnerable establishes the trout’s menu. Properly assessing the specific zone the fish are feeding at in relation to the stream surface and meniscus many times can help to define what stage of insect activity the trout is dining on.The type of rise form they display for example, is it fast and splashy, soft and subtle, how much water is displaced during each rise. These will provide strong clues to the correct fly pattern selection.

Now that you have selected a fly pattern and are ready to present it to a surface feeding trout, assess what presentation cast will get your fly directly into the trout’s feeding lane gently and in the manner they want to see it like a drag free drift or with a twitching and skittering motion. The hydrology of water will affect the drift of your fly pattern both on the surface and below the surface. There are many subtle variations in current flow such as deflections caused by any obstruction on or below the stream surface. There are also current tongues and seams where aquatic plant growth waves in the current and extends up into the water column to the stream surface or rocks just under the surface that will subtly affect the natural path of water. Riffles, seams and swirling currents are other areas that will require special presentation casts to achieve drag free floats. Once the cast has been made precise line manipulation skills and the ability to introduce controllable slack into the fly line and leader is a satisfying and rewarding skill that is difficult to master but indispensable in its effectiveness. Understanding the character of the water and line management skills will definitely help the angler achieve much better presentations. 

Adapt to Conditions

Knowing when the angler needs to strip, skitter or achieve a nice long drag free float of the fly will allow the them to successfully imitate the active or passive nature of the food form they are imitating. The angler will have to use any one of these three-line management skills in situations using dry flies, nymphs or streamers. The active character of both back swimmers and boatman when subsurface usually require stripping of the fly in short erratic strips. When throwing streamers usually the angler will employ some sort of manipulative action to the fly pattern. Adult caddisflies and stoneflies can be quite active on the stream surface and require the angler to at times skitter their fly pattern. Many of the adult mayfly and midge species will require a drag free naturally floating fly without any drag on the fly at all. Every angling situation is different and requires a certain hand and rod motion learning these line management skills will produce very worthwhile results.

Once you have managed to hook a trout the angler must then learn how to fight a fish properly in situations where the challenge is compounded by the use of tiny little fly patterns and very light leaders. Spend too much time landing a trout could kill it, get too aggressive and you will either pull the hook or break a fish off and loose it. The skills of give and take can be taught through instruction, but the ability to assess what the trout’s next movement will be can only be developed through the gentle feel of hooking and playing lots of trout. I hope this section on stream tactics has helped you to better understand the key strategies required to become an accomplished responsible angler.  Please accept my invitation to enrol in my programs and reduce the learning curve so you get more satisfaction faster in your journey as an angler.

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