Brian Gregson is in hiding:
You can solicit product endorsements from BG here.
Brian Gregson is in hiding:
You can solicit product endorsements from BG here.
The fact is I’ve recently been carting people around to chase smaller counts of potentially much larger fish. I’m certainly not discriminating against 30+ fish days, it’s just that while wandering around a bend this weekend a colleague and I witnessed something that seemed like so much of the distant past:
The river was a state designated ‘gold medal water’, meaning there were likely to be big wild trout around, and yet the pair of anglers in front of us were frantically chasing juveniles feeding in a foamy backswirl using single nymph rigs. One of them had just hooked up, and was now standing before us with a six-inch trout suspended in mid-air from the tippet. Their partner noted that was their sixth fish like it, and they’d only been out for a few hours. They were downright giddy. As we walked away, my buddy turned to me and said “I hope I never see that again.” We’d been ‘struggling’ for almost five hours, and only had a few fish each. But nothing had hit the net that was under a couple of pounds, meaning our quarry would probably be eating theirs by nightfall.
I was glad those folks were having fun, but so were we. Their consistence was our persistence. While they sat in that hole, we were stalking the banks. Each time they adjusted their indicator or split shot for drift speed and depth, we were changing big flies hoping to find the color of the moment.
I’m not sure how my 3-weight (or for that matter my 5-weight) feels about this, but I’m sold on the idea of fishing solely for trophies. Each weekend I find it harder and harder to string up a floating line and a thin tippet. I find myself walking more and casting less – seeking out only the prime holding areas and then engaging in a match of wits. Toying with rigs – heavier, faster rods, short, stiff leaders, and flies that would choke many of the fish I was catching just last year – and enjoying the puzzled looks on the traditionalists around me that scream “what the hell is that guy doing?!”. I’m noticing the presence of more wildlife (besides fish) around – I’ve bumped into muskrats, badgers, buffalo, and hawks in just the last week. I also witnessed a respectably-sized fish follow a colleague’s fly to within feet of us, stop short and meander right in our slipstream – I tossed another fly right in front of its face which it immediately began pursuing, and then moments later the trout wound up chomping on a small crayfish that happened to pass between it and the dangerous, artificial meal I was offering. It was a fantastic minute to behold.
I no longer mind being “empty-handed.” When my friends hook up while I don’t, I’m just as ecstatic netting their catch and catching their picture – things that rarely happen when chasing the little guys. Call it the zen of fly fishing, or simple quality versus quantity – nonetheless I’m finding myself in a different place each outing despite having fished the same venues many times before.
Is the prospect of seeing a trout the likes of which I’ve never seen before driving me, or does waking up in the morning to the idea of finding a small file I can use to de-barb my flies streamside mean I need to seek professional help?
I can’t shake the feeling that less is really more when it comes to fly fishing, and I’m wondering how many others feel the same way.
It’s an oldie by ‘books in the internet age’ standards, but it’s still a goodie. Modern Streamers for Trophy Trout was written by Bob Linsenmann and Kelly Galloup with one goal in mind – figuring out and communicating what makes big trout tick so you can catch more of them.
The main premise of ‘Trophy Trout’ is that the angling prizes are anything but friendly. In fact, based on the extensive biological and habitat research the authors (who just happen to expert fly fishers) performed, once trout get into the 20+ inch range they turn into angry, carnivorous predators that seek out steak dinners at night – and sometimes travel miles to do so. During the day, they stake out territory to rest in – territory they guard with ferocity.
Big trout don’t pay much attention to insects, Linsenman and Galloup say; it’s just not efficient to do so. The energy they might expend rising to a bug generally exceeds the amount of calories they would otherwise intake. Instead, they eat other fish, along with crawfish and other underwater invertabrates (and as some may remember, small mammals and baby birds if the opportunity presents itself). They need large amounts of protein to support their mass, and these big meals are what it takes.
So how do these discoveries affect the fly fisherman, particular if one is generally fishing by day? Well you aren’t targeting hungry fish per se – instead, what you are trying to do is literally piss them off! You are attempting to invoke the ‘fight response’ in a fish that is trying to rest before the dinner bell, and is hell bent on protecting it’s territory in the meantime. You toss a monster fly on the trophy’s head, and strip to emulate the flight response of a fish (or other creature) that just realized it’s in the wrong place at the wrong time. The monster gives chase, and you know what happens next.
The details on trout behavior really hit home, especially when you start thinking about how many small and medium size fish you always seem to catch on dries and nymphs (and in the usually spots). I’d love to give you a blow-by-blow on the techniques they describe, but you probably wouldn’t believe me anyway – you just have to read them for yourself. But what I will clue you in on is this…some of their methodologies will seem entirely unorthodox to the post-novice angler. The reason: big trout are often NOT where you’ve been taught to expect them to be during the day; the descriptions of how to target them reflect that. Another hint…big trout aren’t afraid of very much – by the time they reach ‘trophy’ size they are the veritable kings (and queens) of their castles – the authors’ attempts to taunt them during the many hours of diving research they did actually produced some aggressive responses…at the authors…from the trout!
Next Edition, Please
The book was published in 1999, and while I found it extraordinarily informative I do believe it’s ready for an update. First off, equipment has come a long way, meaning the rod action definitions may no longer apply. For example, medium action rods (which the authors suggested were suitable for streamer fishing) are now more apt to be designed for delicate dry fly action. I’m of the opinion that the medium-fast to fast action rods of today are the necessary item. My streamer rod is a Sage 690-3 SP, which was originally pushed as a medium-fast action with a tip suitable for intricate mending – it does a pretty good job picking up sinking lines (as long as they are small diameter) but I probably wouldn’t venture to cast streamers all day with anything less.
The authors’ definition of “trophy fish” (in the 20” range) is a little out-of-date as well. During my time out in the Western U.S. I’ve caught plenty of twenty-inch fish (even on the smallest nymphs), and I am certain I am not alone. Twenty-five plus is the new millennium trophy – the true pig everyone who reads this book should be shooting for. And I’ll add that is one more reason to be armed with a rod with the backbone to handle such beasts.
What Linsenman and Galloup are preaching is certainly worth practicing, and I believe that’s exactly what it takes to successfully employ their methodologies, practice. I consider myself a fairly strong caster, even in wind, and grew up stripping big flies – yet after three full day outings in some of Colorado’s prime ‘Gold Medal’ waters I still don’t have a beast to show for it using their techniques. That’s not to say I haven’t picked up a few fish with big streamers since, it’s just that most were taken towards dark. In other words, I’ve yet to invoke the territorial fight response in an angry brown during daylight hours. Nonetheless, everything the authors say makes practical sense, which means I’m nowhere close to giving up trying.
I am giving Modern Streamers for Trophy Trout 4.5 stars, with the caveat that it would surely get a perfect 5 in an up-to-date next edition.
You can pick it up here: Modern Streamers for Trophy Trout: New Techniques, Tactics, and Patterns
Happy hunting, trophy chasers!