Traditional Flyrodders

Lately I have been reflecting more and more about how other folk fish. Most guys I see on the water are flyrodders. Every now and then I will stop and watch what another angler does. There is always seems to be stuff to learn. I have not been flyfishing too long. 5 years I think? and all has been tenkara.

Like most, I mostly prefer fishing alone and in water that has not been tainted by other anglers. Recently that wish has been nearly impossible and the river seems to be the getaway everyone is looking for. Rivers that normally do not have a soul on them at daybreak, now have several anglers.

So this spring with more anglers, I have been doing more observation.

Why is it that most fly fisherman wade deep? And sometimes stand in a seam or structure that normally holds fish? I have seen a lot of inexperienced anglers do this too, but most of these guys look like they have been at it for decades. They walk up to water and right in. No working the close water. No care or slow movement…just an immediate swim to waist high water.

I can understand the need for a traditional flyrodder to wade in a touch to be able to get adequate back cast, but the funny thing is most of these guys are fishing fly and bobber(indicator) or just czech nymphing…so no back cast.

Perhaps someone can shed some light on this. I wonder if there is something in this strategy that they find success in or do they just blank on their outings unless a hatch starts?

Some of this water is not very big and some of it wild.

I do believe that there are categories of trout. Personalities. Even some wild trout could care less about our presence and will not spook. I have had wild unstocked trout take my fly within feet of me well after I disrupted a pool by walking through it. Others will dart back and forth and split the minute we come within 30 feet of a pool. We are a horrible abomination in their world…and it is an appropriate and expected response for them to split or at lease close the shutters.

Even with all my attempts at stealth I am lucky if I get 4-5 fish in my local wild water in the spring. I am not sure how these other anglers can possibly be doing well. Is this a wrong assumption? I typically rarely see many anglers land fish on the wild water. I do see them catch fish on stocked but I suspect those fish are still acclimated to human presence.

These deep waders irk me a little. I know they have tainted all the productive water. It is fine, as first come first serve, and I can always fish the more technical water that they skip. At the same time, I feel it is a bit inconsiderate of other anglers and probably less productive for themselves.

Just curious if I am missing something as it seems so many of them have the same behavior.

Interesting observations about western fly anglers. I have been fly fishing since 1976, and regularly fish with one of two friends who fish a western rod and reel that love to fish small to mid-sized streams. I virtually always catch more fish than they do and have watched their behavior on the water, and approaching the water change over a couple of years fishing with them when using my Tenkara rod.

The shorter, more intimate range of a Tenkara rod forces me to play the short game, and that includes a stealthy approach before even entering the water to target fish close to shore. I think that many western anglers don’t think about the fish that may be up close because their rods, though shorter, require a longer length of heavy fly line to load the rod and there is often a lack of room for a backcast making it more difficult to deliver an accurate cast 12 to 15 feet away .

I tend to walk slightly ahead of my buddies on the approach but I seldom pre-rig my rod before I am ready to fish. They rig their western rods at the car. They see me stop at the water’s edge to look over the water, often urging them to fish close-in possible lies from shore or in just a couple inches of water while I rig up and watch. I now see them targeting water that is in the middle to the end of my Tenkara reach and catching fish, rather than routinely making 25 to 40 ft casts.

I used both western and tenkara. Heck I spin fish also, just depends on where I’m fishing or what I’m fishing for. I don’t like wading deep as it is even if I’m wearing chest waders. Thigh deep is the most I care to be in. If I’m using western, there’s no point in me getting in waist deep water when I can make a longer cast if necessary. Many times, if I fish with a streamer, I’ll cast downstream or cross stream and let it swing and then swim the streamer back to me where I am which is upstream. I usually catch most big fish as the streamer is swimming upstream. Whether or not the fish sees me seems to make no difference. I’ve been in small creeks in Idaho and have caught large fish right at my feet and then other times slowly made my way to a pool only to spook the fish when fishing tenkara. But then in that same pool I’ll catch a fish that is downstream from me right where I had previously waded through. I’ve also found that once you wade into a spot and don’t move for a while, you become part of that water and the fish don’t seem to care as long as you don’t make any sudden movements.

I also fish with rod/reel, although that seems to be limited to lakes or when I just feel like casting my bamboo nowadays. Similar to the “short game” comment above, I notice that I’m in a different mindset with tenkara. I break down the water in greater detail and am more focused (no pun intended DT). With some western fly fisherman, there is a quest for line speed and casting distance, which doesn’t fit the close-in tactics (not to mention the new fast action rods are like using a broom stick when you don’t have much line out…hence my bamboo rods). Additionally, there is the “grass is greener” mentality. Fly fisherman in a drift boat like to “pound the banks” and shore fisherman want to reach that deep run in the middle. I also think they feel the need to cover as much water as possible with every cast and their is a general lack of patience. It is possible that they’ve also had a general lack of success close up, considering the disturbance and mending involved with a floating line, and perhaps they’ve been conditioned to skip over that aspect entirely. The lack of sensitivity of using a bobber in slower water can also contribute to missing strikes/fish at close range. When I first taught a friend euro style nymphing (and then tenkara), he was convinced that the fish would see/spook at such close range and therefore it didn’t make sense to fish so close to where he was standing. Needless to say, he’s seen the light.

I came to Tenkara very late in my angling life, About 40 years or more late and hesitantly at first. Most of the tackle developments in fly fishing are aimed at gaining more casting distance. I call it the Spinning Fishing Syndrome - that distance in and of itself is the ultimate fly fishing goal, that the farther you can cast, the More Fish you will catch, which just is not true.

When a fly fisherman goes into a shop to buy a new rod, what does he do? He looks at the rods. wiggles a few and takes the rod he is interested in out into the parking lot to see how far he can cast with it. Invariably, the rod he can cast the most line with is the rod that he will buy, even though most of the fish he catches are caught at less than 30 feet away. Rods that will cast 100 feet of line or more can’t make nice 20 foot or shorter presentations well.

At one time Gary LaFontaine made his living as a guide. One of his bosses was a competitive fly fishing Distance Caster, and he schooled Gary on the ins and outs of distance casting over a couple of years, and Gary became an accomplished distance caster eventually. He kept fishing logs each year and, over a period of time noticed a strange thing: As his ability to cast more and more line increased, his abilities to catch fish were declining.

Why? Because no one an control the drift of his fly well with 60, or more, feet of line on the water. The reason Tenkara anglers tend to out fish their Western fishing friends, and catch better fish than they did before when they fished with Western tackle, is because they are holding their T-line, up and off of the water, something you just can’t do with a heavy Western Fly Line. Tenkara tackle allows you to get better drifts than most fly fishermen can get with Western Tackle. Sure, our range is limited to where we can see what is going on and make the adjustments needed to get great presentations. The range limitations Tenkara tackle forces upon us necessitates stealth in our approaches, allowing us to get within tenkara’s effective range without disturbing the fish if we are careful enough.

When a fly fisherman spooks a pool, he tries to compensate by casting from even farther away. But the added distance makes it impossible to see what’s going on and to effectively handle all the line on the water in braided currents as effectively as T-anglers can do at much shorter range. What made me accepting of tenkara’s limitations was my small stream fishing experiences, where I was often fishing at such close range that I seldom had more than a foot or two of fly line beyond the rod tip. I sought out rods that had the ability to cast just a leader. A leader that was often no longer than the rod was long, making Bow and Arrow Casts my most often used and effective cast. In taking up Tenkara, the hardest part for me was learning to deal with 12 foot and longer rods on brushy little streams. And as in my Western fly fishing, I gravitated toward shorter Tenkara rods to fish those little brushy brooks with, a search I hope to end with a DT FoxFire Carbon/S Glass 6.6, 8.1 and 9 foot 4 inch Zoom Rod.


Karl, good points. All that line on the water also causes other problems. There is a time lag from when they see their indicator move until the hook set. With Tenkara there is little to no lag from movement to hook set because you are in direct contact with your fly (hopefully). And last but not least, it’s a heck of a lot easier to get an accurate cast from 12’-15’ than from 50’.

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The only times I fished indicators was when I was trying to teach my young sons how to fly fish on a high mountain lake. Being kids, they were easily distracted and not good about paying attention to their lines and flies. And even then I used a Dry Fly and a Dropper Nymph pattern, so I could yell, Strike! When the dry fly disappeared un-noticed. I preferred the dry fly because I always carried them anyway and because they have a hook and will hook fish, which indicators lack and do not do.

Dpnoll is absolutely right, indicators trade a visual link with the fly for the price of line slack and the time needed to take up that slack to set the hook. That 90 degree line angle between the fly and the line on the water and going up to the rod takes a lot of rod movement and time to take up. After the kids and my wife started hiking out, I changed my tackle back to a direct connection rigging and I caught more fish with the direct connection. But I do see bobber fishing as being a real aid for new fly anglers on running waters.

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I believe the biggest factor that separates skilled anglers from the also rans is the ability to Stalk and Spot Fish. Spotting fish efficiently requires the use of Polarized, Photo Chromatic Sunglasses to spot the fish under the water, along with a full brimmed hat with a dark fabric covering the under side of the brim to absorb reflected glare. Baseball caps just don’t cut it.

The last time my prescription changed, I went with Cocoons Fit-Over Polarized Sunglasses instead of getting another pair of the Smith Optics prescription fishing glasses and my normal eye wear, and it has really worked out well for me at considerably less cost. The 2 pairs of glasses weigh a lot less than 1 pair of the Smith polarized photo chromatic fishing glasses do and are much more comfortable.

The glasses that darken in bright light are no substitute for polarized lenses, which actually filter out the glare bouncing up off of the water, allowing you to clearly see fish you would not be able to see otherwise. But the adjusting shades are still helpful as they lighten in darken with changing light conditions. But they need sun light shinning on the lens to work, so they do not make the best driving glasses, especially in snow covered terrain or at night.

The ability to spot fish is not something anglers are born with. It is a skill that has to be learned and practiced to develop. Our natural tendencies are to look at the surface of the water and focus on the reflections bouncing back at us from it. The bright colors and patterns trout sport make them very difficult for us to see. We have to train ourselves to see below the water surface. Most anglers are looking for whole fish. When, what we should be looking for are parts of fish, movement counter to current flow, and the shadows of fish, or parts there of, cast on stream and lake bottoms. I almost never fish the water. Although I will cast to structure that may hold fish. I prefer to cast to Spotted Fish all the time as much as I can, and judge their reactions to my patterns and presentations, which yields the best results for me.

Coming upon a stream, most anglers size things up and pick the spot they want to cover the water from, wade in and make their way to their chosen casting position with out giving any consideration to the fact that there may be fish holding in the water they are going to wade through before they step in. If there are fish there you have not taken the time to seek out, they will flush like quail, racing away from you, spooking all the fish they are swimming through, causing a chain reaction that can spread many yards upstream. So, take the time to stop and look before you wade in. Make a few casts to the water you are going to wade through before you wade in. Many times, you maybe pleasantly surprised by fish taking your fly where you would have just un-thinkingly stepped in. You are going to spoil that water anyway by waiting through it. So why not fish it first and see what happens?