Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Catching vs. Not Catching Fish

I recently saw a post on a fly fishing discussion board from a fellow who has been fishing fairly regularly for the past 30 years, but still rarely catches a fish. He was wondering if he should just give up.

I fish pretty popular waters, I get to see alot of people fish, some catch fish, many don't. Generally here is what I often see -

1) Learn to fish a couple of waters by spending most or all your time on your chosen water. It's often tougher to catch fish when fishing new waters. Some people I know never fish the same water twice. To each his/her own, but it doesn't help if catching fish on a regular basis is a top priority.

2)When are you fishing? I usually fish the first couple of hours of daylight, and the last couple of hours before dark. Most people I see are just starting when I'm finishing, or visa versa. Catching fish mid day is tough. On my home waters, I probably average 4 fish an hour during prime times, maybe a fish every other hour during non-prime times. The same can be said for the seasons, catching fish during mid summer is tough, at least in Michigan.

3)The most common problem I see with folks who don't catch fish, they are casting, not fishing. My wife is a fair caster at best, she out fishes most other people on our river. She fishes close, controlled casts. Many people I see try to cast as far as they can, they have no control of what goes on once the fly hits the water. For the past 20 or so years, when I find myself not catching fish, I shorten my cast. For the past 2 years, I have been fishing with a fixed length line (i.e. Tenkara) I only have about 20' of string (total line, leader, tippet) available. Since fishing with a fixed length line, my catch rate has actually gone up. Please remember my short line advice is primarily directed towards fishing moving water, it may or may not apply to still water situations. About 95% of my fishing time is spent fishing for trout in moving waters located in Michigan's lower peninsula.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Great Blue is Back!

I usually like to spend an hour or so fishing my local subdivision pond in the evenings. Very relaxing a peaceful, usually catch a mix of bluegill with the occasional bass.

Last year about this time, I acquired a fishing pal, a Great Blue Heron. For a period of about 6 or 7 weeks, I had a Great Blue Heron follow me around the pond like a puppy dog. The first time I saw this heron, he landed on the other side of the pond, about 60' across. He (not sure if it's a he or she) followed me along our respective sides of the pond, all the time intently watching the Tenkara fishing process. I caught a small bluegill, and decided to see if I could toss it underhand across the pond. I fell short and the fish hit the water and swam off. The heron was taking this all in, and then decided to fly over to my side of the pond. He landed about 25' away.

The next small bluegill I caught, I tossed his way. He pounced on it, downed it, and then headed for the pond to wash it down. After finishing his snack, he came a little closer, maybe 20' off. I ended up feeding him one more small bluegill. I had no idea what a heron's stomach capacity is, so I decided to call it quits for the evening.

The next evening, no sooner did I approach the water, in swoops the heron, and establishes a station about 15' away. Again he followed me along the shore, watching my fly on the water like a hawk. Again fed him a couple of fish that evening. This went on for the next 6 or 7 weeks, the heron ended up following me about 7' away. You could see him react every time a fish stuck my fly, and he'd get excited as the fish was brought to hand. I never fed him more than a couple small bluegill, not knowing how many fish, and what size he could handle.

As the colder weather moved in, I stopped fishing and left Mr. Blue to fend for himself.

I only saw him one day early this spring, that was the last I saw of him. Until a few evenings ago, in he swoops, just like two old pals getting together over a plate of nachos and a cold beer.

I'm not sure what surprises me the most, the behavior, or the memory the bird exhibited. Not every day does the bird see a dummy waving around a big black stick.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Fish Friendly Fly Fishing

I was thinking the other day about what is was that I found appealing about fishing with a fixed line (also sometimes referred to as Tenkara).

I was brought up as a Catholic, in the good old days when Catholics weren't supposed to eat meat on Fridays. Every Fridays, we had fish, and I hated them (since I know my mother won't be reading this, I think it was partly due to her method of cooking them). Anyhow, every Friday I promised myself I'd never eat another fish once I was in control of things. So by definition, I was a catch and release angler, I had absolutely no use for them once I caught them. Since I wasn't going to eat them, I always felt bad when I hurt a fish, it just seemed like a waste. Let me say that I have no problem or issue with anyone who wants to keep fish as long as it's legal and as long as the fish are put to good use.

Over time, I always felt bad if I inadvertently injured a fish, and felt a sense of satisfaction when the fish I released vigorously swam away upon being unhooked. Having caught alot of fish over the course of a career, I also found more and more satisfaction in the pursuit, other than the playing and capture of most fish. Granted, hopefully we still all hook a special fish every now and then that presents a memorable tussle. But for the most part, landing fish tends to get a bit routine. What I really enjoy is manipulating the fly in order to entice a strike and then trying to react quick enough to at least get a feel of the fish.

When I started fishing a fixed line about a year and a half ago, I found it very satisfying. It allowed me unprecedented control to manipulate my fly very precisely. If I want to hop my fly six inches into the air to imitate an egg layer, I can hop my fly six inches into the air. If I want to impart the slightest twitch to a fly during a drift, twitch on.

Once the strike happens, most fish are brought to hand very quickly, much faster than having to strip in line. Since I'm using barbless hooks, it's usually very easy and quick to release a fish full of energy without ever having to touch the fish. When a special fish is encountered, the battle is very exciting, but almost always short lived. Either a large fish breaks off, or again is it landed much quicker than if the fish had been reeled in and then let out to run again. I've found that stream trout up to about 16" can be reliably managed, anything larger the odds exponentially swing toward the fish.

Granted, this probably isn't for everyone, but I find it fits me and my fishing.