Sunday, 20 January 2013

Don't Waste The Opportunity!

Following on from my last blog post, where I started putting together a series of posts on the most common mistakes I see anglers making when I’m out guiding, this time out I'm going to describe another common fault I see - casting at a rising fish from too far away...

Imagine the scenario: you are fishing upstream dry fly, working up a good pool. You’ve not seen a fish rise yet, but you are expectant, there are upwings trickle hatching and drifting by you on a light breeze. You are covering all the pool in front as you wade carefully, fan casting as you progress. Experience has taught you to keep your casts short, you have learnt from the fault I talked about in my last blog. Then a fish rises upstream of you, about 4 rod lengths away and slightly to your right. At this point what should happen is that your brain tells you:
  1. There is a feeding fish for the taking;
  2. It’s too far away to cast and fish effectively;
  3. I need to get closer with careful wading;
  4. But there may be other fish between me and the fish;
  5. So I’ll fish the pool just as I have been doing until I get in range and then make my cast.
That’s what should happen! But what often happens is the angler starts stripping line from the reel and casting immediately, getting over-excited, or thinking the fish is going to swim away. This is a stillwater mindset, borne by fishing for trout in lakes that are constantly swimming, on the lookout for food; the cast must be made quickly or the chance will be gone. If we attempt to cast at the fish from outside our effective range (which depends on many factors, but mainly speed of, and variations in flow) we will likely suffer from drag, which may well put the fish down, or if we manage to get the fish to take, our hook-up success rate will be low.

A rising trout on the River Ribble. It is possible to get
very close to rising fish so avoid the temptation to
cast from too far (click to enlarge).
A river fish stays put while it feeds if left undisturbed. It has taken up its position for many reasons: maximum food for minimum effort, safe from predators, somewhere to bolt if needed, etc. So it’s going nowhere and we need not rush to cast to it. It will still be there in 10 minutes when we are in range (and it might be feeding even harder and more confidently by then). This approach will more often than not result in catching the fish. It will definitely give you more chance of catching it than long range casting. If you are lucky you will maybe get a fish or two before you get to the target fish.

One other important thing should happen on spotting a fish outside the effective fishing range – pinpointing. Use natural reference markers to pinpoint exactly where you saw the rise, because when you do get within range the river often looks completely different and you are left waiting and wondering where exactly you saw it rising. It would probably be “2a” in the list of deductions above. The moment you see a rise give it a 'grid reference', e.g. opposite the dead tree stump and in-line with the pointed rock at the top of the pool; or on an imaginary line from the sapling on the left bank to the fence post on the right bank, about 6 feet out from the bank. In other words put the fish’s position in your memory, something to come back to later.