Posts Tagged ‘Presentation’

Handling Rejection

January 19, 2014

Rejection Head

I suppose handling rejection is something we all have to deal with at different points in our lives. Maybe your fumbled advances to the prom queen (or Football Jock: this is a non-sexist blog), were greeted with those immortal words “Bug off Four Eyes”. Maybe the girl that you knelt before, ring in hand, gave you the cold shoulder or the job interview for a position you just knew suited your skill set perfectly unfortunately still left you back on the street cap in hand. Truth is rejection is a fact of life and it turns out that hiking for a few hours and camping rough under the stars in an effort to escape many of the trials and excesses of urban living still won’t protect one from being given the bird, the trout are more than happy to let you know that you don’t have all the answers and need to be put in your place.

A case in point this past weekend when myself and a few friends fished high up on the Jan Du Toit’s river, a spectacular piece of the countryside, dominated by an arduous hike, rough camping on the side of the steam, clear water, steep cliffs and of course trout. As is often the case, trout found in moving water aren’t that difficult to fool, even clear moving water. They have the disadvantage of limited time to make a decision and a slightly wayward view of things through the agitated surface. The really tough ones are those who are in the flat calm.

JDT2013-1Flat and Crystal Clear, you can expect some refusals from smart trout.

On this specific stream it seems that many of the fish have a particular behaviour pattern of holding for a while in the moving water at the head of a pool before taking a leisurely swim around the confines of their naturally formed impoundments. The structure of the stream, which is notably steep, seems to produce pools which shelve off into shallow water just prior to dropping into the next run. Where some rivers have deep water at the back of the pools on this stream slow moving shallows are the norm and the fish seem to have adapted to that.

In addition one suspects that the food chain isn’t that strong and that terrestrials feature quite heavily on the menu of the trout. So it is well recognised that the fish will go “walkabout” into the quietest and shallowest back ends of the runs every so often, even with dorsal fins out of the water, just to check if there is anything worth eating stuck in the surface film. It is a behaviour that the angler can use to his or her advantage. Where in such water a cast at a fish would almost surely result in one’s piscatorial quarry taking flight, here, if you are smart and can hold your nerve, you can put out the fly and wait for an interception.

JDT2013-4Despite some sneaky rock hiding, Craig’s Tenkara just wasn’t up to the challenge of the flatter sections.

Having reached one particular pool; and one must add that previous experience suggested that playing the waiting game here could be to one’s benefit, we held back and watched. The clock ticked and time passed and then a cruiser appeared. These fish are remarkably well camouflaged and not easy to see, such that they seem to just appear and disappear at will, not unlike those infernally frustrating 3D images which only reveal their proper nature to the truly attentive.

So the fish appears, following a defined and lazy circuit of the pool at which point I lob out a small dry, an elk hair caddis I believe, on 7X tippet and a 20’ leader a good way ahead of the trout. The fish approaches and spots the fly, speeds up slightly until directly under the Judas caddis pattern, halts directly under it and touches it with his nose before turning away. Just as well we were a long way from the nearest betting office because I would have put serious money on the fact that the fish was going to eat that fly.

JDT2013-3We managed some success, even on fish bigger than this, but not every time.

We wait and there appears another fish and this time I put out a flying ant pattern, a sure fire winner under such tricky conditions, again the apparently committed inspection followed by an up close, and in this case very personal, rejection of the fly.  Twice in two casts, very good casts I might add, I thought that I was on the top of my game but it wasn’t enough to fool those fish.

Unlike being given the boot by the prom queen or the potential paramour however I actually laughed at the fish, they were in their environment doing what they do and the truth be told that no matter how good I thought the presentation and the imitation it wasn’t good enough. Good luck to the fish, it is what motivates me to head up the mountains in the first place.

Mind you, no matter that I failed, I managed to take the rejections in my stride, but there is still some satisfaction in seeking retribution. So I re-rigged with an even longer leader down to 8x this time, left the flying ant pattern on (trout can sometimes be persuaded to lose their heads a bit when it comes to ants), and tried on a third cruising fish. As he swam down the pool he picked up a real morsel in the film and perhaps confidence boosted by that minor success approached the ant. The same approach, the same apparently casual inspection, the same frozen moment directly under the fly and then the take. Bingo, after a brief fight he was netted and released, and I felt a little better that I had fooled one fish. He was the smallest of the trio, and one assumes therefore the more impetuous of the crew but I didn’t feel quite so bad about missing out on the others.

JDT2013-2Clear Water: The secret lies in the presentation, and it has to be perfect.

On a technical note, perhaps the slightly finer tippet helped, maybe that the fish having eaten something real not moments before making an error did have an effect, maybe the mildly longer delay before the trout arrived gave the tippet a little more time to settle and sink a tad into the film. For that matter maybe like the egotistical and self- important prom queen, when rejected you can always ask the slightly less attractive side kick for a dance, and this slightly smaller and perhaps less wise trout really amounted to not much more than second best.  It didn’t really matter that much,  fly fishing isn’t a matter of life and death (and yes I am well aware of the quote that suggests “it is much more important than that). But it was a really fun excursion, a good bit of exercise, pleasant company, fantastic scenery and some fly fishing education thrown in. The trout won some rounds and we won others, nobody was hurt and we returned home with fond memories, a bit of sunburn, tired legs and backs and all too soon we will be thinking on those trout once more and trying to get a spot to head back out there.

JDT2013-5The scenery makes up for any sense of failure.

One thing for sure though, I am convinced that the tippet is the culprit most of the time (see: The Fishing Gene: Should Tippets Float). Arguments about whether it should sink or not fall on deaf ears around here. It should sink and anyone trying to prove otherwise is welcome to hike up a mountain with me, camp overnight on the river bank, and climb up to a crystal clear and frighteningly still pool to try to intercept cruising fish under a blazing African sun, where the shadows of a falling human hair scare the neighbours and you know that if you make a mistake your next trip will only come around again in a year’s time if you are lucky.

Experiences like this are what drive me to fish, the failures can sometimes be just as motivating as the successes and I am sure that most of us would quit all too quickly if every trout we threw a fly at jumped at the offering.  Perhaps it wouldn’t be so much fun if every prom queen gave in to our advances either, although I can’t really comment on that. 🙂

Editor: This river is under the control of Cape Nature, access is strictly limited, a permit is required and catch and release fishing with barbless hooks is mandatory. Unauthorised entry, fires and killing fish are illegal, in addition the nature of the terrain, difficult hiking and high access traverses make the river potentially dangerous for the inexperienced. Parties with permits should insure an experienced hiker who knows the river is included in the group.  Access permits can only be obtained by lucky draw available to members of the Cape Piscatorial Society.

Note: This is the 150th post on “The Fishing Gene Blog”, and I couldn’t imagine a more fitting subject that a trip up this pristine river. How many pristine rivers do we have left and what are we doing to protect those that are still unspoiled?  You can find more writings by the author of this blog on the following link:

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What Fly?

October 17, 2010

It’s not about the fly.

An imaginary scenario…………………… well mostly imaginary.

A boat angler is hammering them on a DI5 line fished out in the middle of the dam. He is making long casts of 30 metres or so, with a 20’ untapered leader of 6lb fluorocarbon, counting down the sink of his flies for fifteen seconds and then starting a slow pulsating retrieve, he pauses every few strokes. His three flies are exactly a meter and a half apart no more and no less.

He watches the end of his line where it leaves the rod tip for any hint of a tightening that could represent a fish taking a fly on the drop. When he gets to the last ten feet of line he sees the marker that he has affixed to the line and hangs the flies for five seconds before giving a long slow strip and hangs them again. Finally he roll casts the leader out of the water and smacks another effortless cast into the middle distance and waits once more for them to sink to the correct depth.
Every fifth cast or so he strikes into a glorious energetic rainbow trout between two and three pounds in weight, nets the fish and releases it. He is pleased, he changed lines three times to find the right depth, drifted various directions on the dam and covered different depths and bottom structures until he found some fish and finally mixed up the fly patterns on his leader until his catch rate was soaring to the point that it has now reached.

His boat partner isn’t such a good caster, he has a short leader about the same length as his rod because there is a large knot where the leader joins the fly line and he can’t pull that through the tip top guide. He isn’t sure of the breaking strain, it used to be 8lb at the tip but he has eaten some of that up changing patterns, and had to cut some out when he had a wind knot in it, it has been on the rod since last season so he isn’t quite sure if that was 8lb anyway, could have been 10lb but he thinks it is fluorocarbon, yes pretty sure about that.

Anyway, at least if he hooks a fish it won’t break off, that seems like a good call. He can’t cast three flies without getting a tangle so he uses one only on the point. He has a sinking line, he knows it is his sinker because it is brown and his other line, the bright orange one, is a floater and it is obvious that the fish are down deep. He has been watching his mate hammer them for over two hours now and he is using a brown line too. He might have had a take about half an hour ago, he had left his line to sink for ages whilst he was eating a sandwich and the line was just lying in the bottom of the boat until is sizzled out for a moment. Darn, never mind there will be another one. He recasts as his partner hooks into yet another fish that leaps from the water, trailing the deeply sunk line behind it. Feeling that perhaps he needs a bit of advice he turns towards the man with the bent rod and asks the perennial angler’s question. “What fly are you using”?

 

Most of the time "It's not about the fly"

 

I must have seen similar scenarios played out on rivers and dams on several continents, I have even seen the same thing happen with supposedly serious competitive anglers, neophytes, weekenders, float tuber’s, bank anglers and more.

What fly are you using?, it is like one of those action dolls that used to be common when I was a kid, you know before everyone switched to computer games and portable consoles, the ones where you pull a string at the back of the neck and it says the same catch phrase over and over,

“Go on punk, make my day”.. or indeed “What Fly are you using?”

Truth be known, it is something that I would have done myself a decade or so ago before I woke up, and it is an awakening make no mistake. Successful fly fishermen, like successful sportsmen of almost any discipline do things differently than the other 80%. The eighty twenty rule applies here as much as anywhere else and 20% of the anglers catch 80% of the fish and the other 80% out there on the water fight it out for the 20% left over. Why? Mostly because the 80% are so besotted with the idea that they have to have the “right” fly that they ignore all of the other stuff that is going on.

Sure there are occasions that the fly is critical or at least moderately important, but what about all the other stuff. What depth are the fish feeding at, are you getting good drifts, is the tippet sinking, can the fish see you, or see your rod or your watch flashing in the sun? What about the size of the fly? Is your leader fluorocarbon or mono? Is your line taking the flies to the depth at which the fish are feeding or perhaps going past them? Have you varied your retrieve, would you know if you got a take anyway?  Are you fishing in the right spots, are you covering fish, are the fish not there or simply ignoring your presentations such as they are?

There is so very very much more to fly fishing than the fly that I would be willing to bet that most good anglers would go out with half a dozen favourites and still kick butt most of the time if they had to. Of course they wouldn’t limit themselves like that, they are prepared and part of being prepared is having a variety of fly patterns in various sizes, but it is only PART of it!!.

Do your honestly believe that Pascal Cognard won umpteen World Championships over a period of years fishing in rivers and dams on various continents and numerous countries because by some miracle he had a fly that nobody else had?  Do you think that the guy in our little scenario is catching because he has the “right fly” and that if he gave one to his boat partner it would make a jot of difference? Probably not.

Fly fishing is or at least can be a complicated business and you can’t learn it all at once, you can spend time on the water, read as much as possible, fish with guys who know more than you do, go on a course, take a guide, watch videos and search the internet for information, all of which will help.

You don’t need to make it overly complex but the one thing that you don’t want to do is keep thinking that the reason for your limited success is the fly. Of course there are times when it could be but I am prepared to guarantee you right here and now that most of the time that isn’t it. By focusing on the fly you take your eye off all of the other factors that could be affecting your efficacy, and that is the real problem.

I would have to say the most of the time when I am fishing with a buddy, on a river or lake we rarely use exactly the same flies, frequently ones that are considerably different for that matter but that doesn’t affect us too much. We probably are however doing a whole lot of other stuff that is near as dammit exactly the same and that is what adds up to success.

I love flies, I love tying them and having hundreds gives me a sense of control and optimism that would be lacking if my fly boxes weren’t full. However I wouldn’t turn the car around if I had forgotten one of those boxes. Had I left the polaroids, the 7X tippet, the forceps, the hook sharpener, the leader degreaser or the fly floatant at home I would be pulling a 6 G “U” turn in the middle of the freeway. So don’t worry so much about the fly, carry a few trusted favorites, hopefully some variety in sizes and after that focus on technique and presentation, you will I am sure do a whole lot better once you catch on to this reality.  I just hope that you aren’t still worrying about that first scenario with our imaginary angler in the boat, because I sense that even now perhaps you are thinking, “but he never said what fly that guy was using”.

Brought to you in the interests of entertainment and instruction by

Inkwazi Fly Fishing Safaris and Stealth Fly Rod and Reel.

 

Brought to you by Inkwazi Flyfishing Cape Town's best fly fishing guiding service.

 

 

This blog was brought to you by Inkwazi Fly Fishing in conjunction with STEALTH FLY ROD AND REEL.

 

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What a Drag.

October 6, 2010

Fishing becoming a drag? It is better to be something of a slacker.

I have recently been asked by a client to describe and or demonstrate a variety of different “casts”, that isn’t to say various socio economic groups on the Asian continent, but varieties of fly fishing presentations. In particular there were amongst others, the slack line cast, the mend, aerial mend, the puddle cast, the reach mend, the “e” cast (I really haven’t heard of that one before) and more..

It got me to thinking, in fact it is a subject that was much on my mind in years past, why do we make this all so complicated?

There is a definitive tome on fly presentation by one of America’s most famous fishing sons, Gary Borger, entitled “Presentation”. The book really is a work of art, I may even suggest required reading at some point,  it contains every possible variation of cast, presentation, leader set up and all manner of tips tricks and techniques which would one supposes where you able to accomplish them all, would make you into the world’s best angler.

Don’t get me wrong, there is little in the book with which I would disagree, I suspect that nearly everything, with the possible exception of the “overpowered curve cast”, which I have yet to see anyone effectively demonstrate with a dry fly, is in fact true. I would further submit that the vast majority of what Borger is on about is in fact useful and on occasion pertinent. What I don’t agree with is the necessity to give every little nuance a different name to the point that it boggles the mind. If you really want to stop your spouse, loved one or significant other taking up fly fishing in the first place you should buy them a copy of this book. It is telephone directory thick, chock a block full of information and so complicated for the neophyte that they will roll over on the couch and suggest that perhaps bowls is more likely to “be their thing”.

Sure fly fishing can be complicated, the very best have an arsenal of tricks and adaptations up their piscatorial sleeves that keep them ahead of the pack, not to mention ahead of the fish,  but for the average or neophyte angler it is all a bit too much. Perhaps for the aging trout bum the same applies, it is all simply too complicated.

Truth be told what it is mostly about, is the presentation of the fly without drag, that is to say not moving in any manner differently to the current upon which the fly is riding. Refer to Drag and Steak Dinners on this blog for some reference to what drag is.

Drag occurs simply because the fly is tied to the leader, the leader is tied to the fly line, the fly line is tied to the reel and the reel is tied to you. That means that various sections of the line on any given trout stream are going to be moving at different speeds and therefore the end result is going to be that the fly is either speeded up or held back in its progress down the river.

So why is drag important?

Because “Dear Watson”, the natural flies on which the fish are feeding are not tied to a leader, which is not tied to your line, which is not tied to your reel which is not tied to you and therefore they move at exactly the same speed as the current upon which they find themselves, other than the odd flutter of the given struggling insect perhaps. So abnormal movement of the fly is a dead giveaway to a wary trout that all is not well. If you are a trout living in the catch and release waters of a Cape Stream you have a number of possible means at your disposal to avoid getting a sore lip when feeding, the most reliable one being that you don’t eat anything that is moving unnaturally, better to miss out on the odd wind affected real bug than to end up with a size eighteen hook in the nozzle.

How do you delay the onset of drag then?

Firstly I am going to draw specific attention to the above comment, notice that it says “delay the onset of drag”. Drag is an inevitable consequence of fishing with a line and fly, you cannot, as so many writers glibly presuppose, “Avoid it”, drag is unavoidable it is however possible, in fact desirable, to delay its onset long enough to present the fly to a fish and therein lies the skill of fly presentation.

The essential means of delaying the onset of drag is to put slack into the line, a straight line and leader will drag almost instantly as the currents pull the line at different speeds and possibly even in different directions.

On small freestone streams the problem is complicated by the multitude of currents of various speeds and directions, in fact frequently too complicated to solve simply by “mending the line” as is so frequently illustrated in books. In those books there is almost always only one variation of current speed not ten and on a freestone stream in amongst the pockets you could be mending the line like a dervish and achieve little.

To my way of thinking there are five primary ways of delaying the onset of drag, all the other variations, no matter how impressive their titles, are simply versions of the same thing.

Pick your stance, probably the most underrated skill in small stream fly fishing, it is as important where you cast from as where you cast to. By moving your position you can eliminate a lot of potential drag causing cross currents before you even start and even moving a foot or two can achieve a great deal.

Cast short. Because drag is a function of the various currents acting upon the line and the fly at different speeds and directions, the less line out the less conflicting forces have to be dealt with , which is why most good Cape Stream anglers don’t cast very far at all and prefer to get closer when at all possible. Trust me, it isn’t because they can’t cast further, it is because they know that it is counter productive to do so.

Keep the line off the water. The corollary to the above is that line not on the water isn’t going to be affected by the currents (although it could be affected by the wind) and therefore in highly complicated pocket water currents one of the best methods of avoiding drag is “high sticking” keeping the majority of the line and leader out of harms way. One can achieve similar benefits by laying the line on convenient rocks to keep it away from the tug of the stream’s flow.

Fish a long and unstable leader. On more laminar flows perhaps it isn’t as critical but on fast moving and varied currents of freestone streams the single most effective means of delaying the onset of drag is to use a leader that will automatically create slack in the presentation. That means that it is long, fine, manufactured from soft material and pretty much impossible to turn over perfectly. There are casts that will provide more slack in the leader and some are useful but almost all of them then lose out when it comes to accuracy of presentation. On a tight overgrown stream, accuracy is pretty much essential.

Mend the line, where possible. There are instances where one can “mend” the line to overcome or avoid the effects of one significant variation of current flows. But that will only help you in respect of one current at a time, it is very difficult if not impossible to mend sufficiently to prevent the results of multiple current flows.

I have found that for myself when fishing convoluted currents the two most effective means of getting drag delayed presentation are using a long unstable leader and picking ones position carefully before the cast is made. In the final analysis, anything that you can do to delay the onset of drag on the fly will improve your chances but you don’t need a litany of different names for every variation. If you get it right you will know because there will be more trout on the end of your line eating the fly.

Drag and Steak Dinners

March 26, 2010

This post sponsored by Inkwazi Fly Fishing Safaris

It is very much my contention that trout , and trout in catch and release waters in particular, will “learn” to avoid getting caught if they can. That is not to suggest that they necessarily go through any complex cogitative process but simply that, like all wild creatures they adapt to their environment to reduce wasted energy and tend not to do what is biologically inefficient.

On waters where there are strong insect hatches the obvious answer is to only eat specific insects at specific times which has in angling circles resulted in a near blind faith in “matching the hatch’. Something that I am quite sure has its place and an approach that even on the less fertile streams becomes critical at some times where the fish have honed in on beetles or ants or some such to the degree that anything less than a close copy is ineffective.

However much of the time on the less alkaline streams the fish really need to make the best of a bad job and eat whatever becomes available, a sort of mixed grill of bits and bobs that float down the river, from the wayward beetle to the odd caddis and over selectivity under such circumstances would see the fish burning more energy than they were taking in. Nature tends to be pragmatic and if there is food there the fish are more than likely to make the most of it.  A situation which I would hypothesize makes the trout more vulnerable to being caught because the old selectivity saw doesn’t offer any protection from making a mistake and ending up with a hook in the lip and together with that a large waste of energy struggling to escape.

Presentation

To my way of thinking, and of course I am not a trout and don’t really know what trout think, it would seem that the “behavior” of the fly makes for a pretty reliable means of selecting the good from the bad  or the real from the doppelganger. Most certainly the more heavily fished a water becomes the more sensitive fish become to inappropriate presentation and when fishing dry fly “inappropriate presentation” means drag.

I well remember my first introduction to drag in a library book on fly fishing back in the day when such didn’t include photographs at all and descriptions were merely embellished with line drawings. So the line drawing of a fly “dragging” showed a dry fly whizzing across the surface at sufficient pace to leave a wake behind it like the spume from the back of a ski-boat.

Certainly that is drag but it is the most severe version and there are many more subtle variations, some frequently referred to as “micro-drag” which are virtually imperceptible to the human eye. Anything from that obvious wake to the fly travelling at slightly less or more than the speed of the bubble next to it can be sufficient to warn a trout off making a mistake. So the question arises, and it is an enquiry that has been asked of me more than once, “how much drag is too much” and the simple answer is any.

However lets put the idea of drag into a metaphorical frame so that perhaps novice anglers will get the idea as part of a clearer picture. It is a description that I have used frequently in various fly fishing classes and it seems to get the message across.

The power of repetition.

Trout tend to live in specific spots on the stream and if the angler puts himself into the fish’s fins as it were he will recognize that the fish becomes extremely  used to the way things happen on his particular little bit of water. Sitting comfortably in his favourite feeding lie the trout will see thousands if not millions of bits and pieces get carried along in the current. Each one, be it leaf litter, a bubble, an insect or a piece of weed will be driven by the current in exactly the same way over and over and over. Come down the current lane, flip to the left past the large boulder, spin slightly in the eddy and then get whisked away over the fish’s head. Over and over and over again.  One has to concur that this would lead to an extreme and probably near sub-conscious familiarity with the way things are.  With such a repetitive process occurring all the time any variation is likely to show up quite clearly.

Drag and your steak dinner.

So let’s put you in the trout’s position, imagine that every Friday evening you go to your favourite restaurant and order fillet steak. The same waiter every Friday puts you at the same table, you look out the same window, eat off the same table cloth and greatly enjoy the same portion of nicely done fillet with the same knife and fork , the same lighting, same same same, Friday after Friday after Friday.

Then on one particular visit the same waiter gives you the same greeting, takes the same order for the same steak dinner and when it arrives you pick up the same knife and the same fork, already in Pavlovian response anticipating the taste of your succulent first bite.  So the question is this “how much to you think that that steak would have to move on your plate to get you to lose your appetite”? That is drag and I think that you would agree, put in those terms you wouldn’t really even have to measure the degree of movement to know that something wasn’t quite right. A slight sigh on the part of your fillet would no doubt be enough to put you in panic mode.

So next time you are assessing “how much drag is too much” I suggest that you think of that fictional steak dinner and it should put things into perspective.