|Winter Hatchery Chrome Photo: Michael Davidchik|
Last summer I was fishing a local in Oregon. After a long day on the water, I moved to a spot on the lower river where I have had some success in the past. Stepping high into a run, I started swinging and looked down in the riffle below me, seeing steelhead sitting within my spey rods length. That moment brought me back to a decade ago when I first really learned how to fish for summer run steelhead in low water, and where small stream tactics that trout fishermen use, sight fishing and incorporating tips from Jim Teeny spot them, you got them methodology was put together into a lot of successful days on the water.
After trying to fish for that those fish, hooking and losing a couple, I told myself I would bring back some of that old school flavor that I had lost because I got addicted to the spey rod bug. During the Summer and Fall seasons I always made a point to fish the dryline on a single hander on the Deschutes and Ronde. Dryline fishing is a blast, and bringing back the single hander to do it is kickass, but I always stuck to the spey or switch for most fisheries and always tip work. What I realized in that moment last summer was that despite all the things that I learned while swinging the fly with the spey rod, I dismissed a lot of the tactics and techniques learned while fishing a single hand rod that were productive. This included reading water close to the bank and stalking fish. Yes, I said stalking fish.
Then again on my last float of 2013, I was standing on the banks watching my girlfriend and friends swing some water on another local and I was again reminded why I needed a single hander on board the boat. I could see fish sitting in buckets throughout the run, but nobody was touching fish. When my turn came to swing a fly, I got the same response from the fish. Yet working through the run, I could still see fish. They just weren't biting that day. My thoughts brought me back to what I could do if I had that single hander in my hand and how I could manipulate the fly with more accuracy.
One thing I have always taught people is the importance to fish the fly and not to just let the fly fish for you. The cast and swing can be monotonous and you can become lazy, just casting and swinging. What I learned years ago swinging flies up close and within sight is what it does in the current. With every movement, manipulation or mend, you can track the fly in the direction you want. It is very similar to fishing a skater. You can track the fly in the current and see what it would do for a wet fly if you choose to fish under the surface.
So this year my New Yeas Resolution was to revisit those techniques that made me a successful fisherman years ago. That means fishing a single hander, small tips, sight fishing, reading water better up close and at times fishing with added weight. The idea of swinging flies with added weight always caused inner turmoil and thought it took away from the experience. Over the years I have experimented with it more with worm weights, especially after Scott Howell’s Skagit Master 2 came out. There are obvious advantages of adding weight to the line versus just tip fishing in certain situations and having that in your arsenal can make for that one grab that you have been missing all day.