The fly shrink

Gareth George takes his pursuit of trout seriously. Perhaps too much so if he starts to try and ascribe psychological traits to his prey – but he has learned some lessons over the years. 

Setting a veritable behemoth free to fight another day provides as much joy as landing it for Rhuan Human

Every fly fisherman’s goal: a prize specimen

How smart do you think fish really are? I mean, it’s not as if they’ve managed to crawl out the water, yet we seem to spend an inordinate amount of time trying to figure them out.

There’s a lot to consider when throwing a fly at a fish: perhaps a few too many variables when it comes to the temperamental movements of trout.

It got me pondering about what is real food for thought and what’s just giving the dumb fish too much credit?

Anyone who has read just a fraction of what’s been published over the decades, will soon realise that there’s not too many startling revelations about catching trout on fly, but there’s always a lesson to be learned on every outing.

In the fisherman’s bible of excuses we’ll blame everything from wind direction to the alignment of planets, for why we didn’t score. But some anglers just seem to be like a floating four leafed clover on the water, so what are they doing different?

I’ve thrown a line with some talented fly fishers over the years and observed their consistent and, to be honest, annoying habit of netting a brace regardless of conditions. Why, I ask myself?

Firstly, they are primarily organised: from the gear they bring to the table down to the layout of their fly boxes. So before heading out the next expedition, put some preparation time in. You don’t have to have every toy, but you don’t want to arrive at the water without the right gear either.

Secondly, they always put the time in! I’m a self confessed social fly fisher, but when it’s time to dabble, I make my hours on the water count. We all know that as golfer Gary Player said, the more one practices the”luckier” one gets, so make sure the time you spend is fishing and not unravelling birds nests. Polish up on your knots, rigs and even get your casting arm well oiled on the front lawn. Time on the water should be productive.

Thirdly, there’s a plan before launching. As opposed to drifting aimlessly around hoping to bump into a trout, scope out the water and decide where to concentrate your efforts. Inlets, outlets, structure and weed beds will be the focal points with consideration for time of day and depth at which you’ll retrieve. (On Fishtube, you’ll find a free tutorial that’ll steer you in the right direction, )

Fourthly, they fish with the right fly, but ask them which one and you’ll get a multitude of different patterns. That’s because we’ve invented more flies than the food they feed on. So establish whether the prey is feeding or breeding? If the latter then spawning fish will naturally attack colour more than pattern, so your disco imitations should get more attention. If feeding, then remember when fishing in the colder months, insect hatches are a lot smaller – so the size of fly is a major factor. Fact is, trout rarely completely stop feeding, even when chasing tail.

Furthermore, they know how to fish their fly of choice. Stripping a little Zak nymph at the same pace as a Zonker just doesn’t make any sense. Knowing how to work that specific fly through the water in terms of the depth and retrieval method/speed is key.

Add to that, the fact that they’re patient, knowing it’s only a matter of time. You gotta have faith in what you’re doing. Second guessing strategy and tactics will have some folks paddling around the dam creating wake that will spoil any potential action. The more time you spend casting and changing fly the less time your pattern is in the strike zone. So slow it all down, keep your fly in the water longer and be confident that the fish will eventually find your fly!

Finally, they enjoy every moment on the water. For some this is because of a mile wide competitive streak, but most great anglers I’ve met treat a piece of water like holy ground. It’s their sanctuary, where they can relax and all they have to think about is the fish. There’s no real pressure, nothing at stake, just the mystery of what will induce a strike to unravel, which really is a fisherman's process. So remember above all that fishing is a pastime, not a profession.

We all think it’s in the fly, but quite frankly it’s all in your head! So be prepared, have a plan, be patient and appreciate the moment.

Fish on! A gentle paddle in a float tube yields the anticipated result