Catching some nice chrome springers, and have had some surprisingly good trout fishing, starting to see the first push of Sockeye.
Here is the continuation of the last post
Sometimes no matter how good the cast was a fish was just not in the mood to bite. A lot of the time it was because he had just bit the yarn or bait of a gear fisherman 50, (or 5) yards downstream and was starting to get a little suspicious of all the orange shit drifting by his head. But these fish could still be caught. Although their reckless enthusiasm for chasing anything that would fit in there mouth had been tempered, they would still reluctantly nibble at a small morsel fished close to there heads. But really, only nibble. These bites at first where a mystery. When I first watched steelhead chasing and nipping at swung flys (as opposed to EATING them) I could tell they were biting at them by the tiny flash of white when they opened their mouths. Not the full gaping white blotch you would see when a fish attacked the fly, but just a little crack of white. I knew it was a type of bite because it often resulted in a hook up. But these shy nibblers didn’t even show any white.
I would cast at a fish I could see , or watch my buddy cast at a fish I had spotted, and watch the fly travel inches from his head. The fish would follow the fly a foot or so, turn his head for just a fraction of a second toward it, then turn away and return to his lie. What we discovered was that if you set the hook the instant that the fish turned away from the fly you would hook him, if you were a second late you would feel nothing. Conceptually this seemed important to me then, and more so now.
Lets take a break from the nitty gritty of “stubborn don’t want to bite winter fish” for a moment, and talk about crazy aggressive chromy bright summer runs. Dry line, un-weighted fly and fresh fish. I have been lucky enough, or stupid enough, to spend years of my life watching friends and clients swing flies over summer steelhead.
The most remarkable thing I noticed was how rarely the angler was able to feel a bite, or even a hook up. The average “fish on’ looks like this; An angler casts to a group of fish, the fly landing upstream and on the far side of the school. The fly is allowed to drift down and “settle”, and then as the line goes tight it begins to rise and swing across the front ¼ of the school. A fish on the outside of the school will rise up and chase the fly over the backs of his buddies, he will rush at it once or twice, turning away briefly after each rush, and then will come to the fly and eat it.
At the moment of the eat the angler will feel nothing, the fish will often pause now, realizing he has made a mistake, open his mouth and begin to shake the hook, as he shakes he will drop gently down stream tightening the line. Now the angler may begin to feel some weight, and maybe the pulsing pull of the head shake. Soon the fish will decide he would rather be somewhere else, like Baranof island, and take off like a shot.
This is all assuming the fish got the hook at the initial bite. I have watched this play out hundreds and hundreds of times, and I would say that the angler gets a chance to be aware of a good eat one out of every five times. And this is with a dry line, imagine the odds with 14 feet of T 17. For me this points at the major weakness in the swung fly approach, you simply have no idea when you are getting bit.
More to come…