Too many fishermen try to make a river fish the way they want. They may want to just fish dry flies, or a certain pattern. The river will fish the way it wants. You can’t make fish rise to a dry fly if the fish are eating subsurface.
Today we fished the Madison and saw 3 dozen guided drift boats. Every boat was using the same technique. They were floating a strike indicator with a nymph dropper. I saw two small 10 inch fish get caught. The boaters we talked with bragged about having a great day. “Any day on the Madison is a great day!”
This does not mean that they caught anything. When the wind came up, every boat was anchored along the bank. No rods were moving. The fish were eating, just not what the guide boats were serving up. When fishing gets slow, you need to adapt, adjust, and do something different. If you don’t know one will hook up.
If you are not learning new tricks, techniques, and tips, why did you hire a guide? The trouble with many guides and fishermen is that they only know limited success using certain flies and techniques. Once these tricks are used up, oh well. Younger guides lack experience. Some older guides are good at going through the motions. Make your guide work.
Dissect the river. Look for small spots along the river that create a different presentation. Side creeks, sloughs, head gates, or decent structure will make your day. Many boats just drift. We found a localized caddis hatch and spent 4 hours in one place catching fish on size 16 dries! One fly, one way, one outcome. Use the boat to get to a place and attack it. Don’t just go for a boat ride.
At the end of the drift, it was too windy to fly fish. Gusts were blowing upstream and barely allowing control of the boat. Time to change strategies. I put on a spinner on a light action spinning rod. Dozens of browns and rainbows went crazy. Several HUGE trout were up to 22 inches long. A reel with a decent drag made the task of landing these huge trout easier.
Now I know that fly fishing purists are already crying about using a spinning rod. Spin rods are tougher to use than a fly rod. With the wind and storms, spinners were the perfect choice. Avoiding tangles, accurate and quick casting, using a shorter rod with lighter line are all new tricks that catch great fish in a most sporting fashion. Trout can be quickly caught and released safely. Would I have preferred to catch trout in a different way? Heck yea, but I took what the river gave.
If you prefer to just go fishing a certain way using a certain technique you will enjoy a great day fishing. You just won’t regularly catch much.
Tight lines or a nice boat ride?
For more Montana Grant, catch him at www.montanagrantfishing.com.