Icy weather continues to delay my fishing, but newly arrived fly fishing catalogs offering international travel destinations provide sustenance for my adventurous self. Each exotic location is described in minute detail, including posh accommodations, world-class cuisine, and some even offering helicopter transportation to hard-to-reach hotspots. Spectacular photos of monstrous fish accompany each entry. The read was therapeutic, but suffice to say I won’t be traveling to Mongolia for Taimen or to New Guinea for Arapaima this year, nor, barring the purchase of a winning lottery ticket, will I be packing my gear in the foreseeable future.
Rather than assembling 10- to 15-weight rods, I’ll be casting my much-preferred 3-, 4-, and 5-weights for bluegills, crappies, and smallmouth and largemouth bass because it’s the rod that reveals the fight of a fish. Even a 10-pound bass caught on gear designed for giant tuna or huge tarpon wouldn’t be a memorable fight. Fishing home waters that I can return to again and again is more my style. When I’m wading a favorite stream as a jet soars across the sky, I will wonder if it’s full of anglers headed for one of those ballyhooed destinations. I’ll smile but I won’t be jealous.
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Fishable weather has been rudely interrupted by plummeting temperatures accompanied by freezing rain, snow, and scattered tornadoes (Yup! Snownadoes!) Deeply immersed in a major pout, I opened my reel bag and began checking the line on each spool.
Many anglers use floating line exclusively. That’s a bad plan. Regardless of the target species, that’s as self-limiting as confining your fly selection to a single pattern.
Three spools for each reel solves the problem. Spool #1 holds a floating line, perhaps even one that is species-specific. It allows anglers to fish the surface to possibly three feet of depth effectively and maybe a bit deeper with an extended leader. Spool #2 should hold an intermediate line that sinks at 1 1/2 to 2 i.p.s. (inches per second) which best targets just below the surface to avoid the line becoming slack due to wind and/or waves. It also enables fishing some depth while avoiding bottom snags and vegetation. Spool #3 should be a faster sinking line, either sink-tip or full-sinking, perhaps one that sinks at between 4 to 6 i.p.s. depending on the type and depth of water you regularly fish. Anglers willing and able to adapt their presentations to the conditions will catch more and larger fish.
This year two consecutive days of mid-60 degree temperatures preceded a warm and very sunny Christmas Day. I was hopeful the sun had warmed the upper layer of the small pond’s water and invigorated the fish population. Normally, of course, sunlight is to bass and bluegills as kryptonite is to Superman. A winter warming trend is the exception. The fish are willing to endure the brightness in exchange for a few degrees of warmth which increases their metabolisms and their desire to feed. The fish rarely invade the shallows but instead cruise at 2 to 3 feet of depth over deep water. Fish-catching in this situation is seldom fast as the fish are constantly on the move and widely scattered. Small streamers and bead-head soft hackles enabled my youngest Grandson and me to catch and release 7 bass of 10 to 14 inches and 4 bluegills of 7 to 7 1/2 inches. It’s a Christmas memory I’ll not forget.
An experienced flyfisher once bragged he had used the same leader for an entire season simply by adding tippet as needed. His rod, reel, and line cost roughly $1300 yet he chose to economize on leaders. Really? The key to fooling fish lies in presenting the fraudulent meal in the most likely fish-holding location in the most natural manner possible. Since the leader is a critical component of the delivery system it must be infinitely adjustable. The length of the leader must be customized to deliver the fly to the desired location. This could mean shortening your leader to 3 1/2 feet, for example, on a full-sinking line to prevent the fly from bowing back toward the surface rather than remaining deeper. Or it could mean extending your leader to 12 feet or more to allow a wet fly to be fished a little deeper without changing fly lines. Another consideration is that the suppleness of the leader must be adjusted to accommodate the weight and/or wind resistance of the fly. One leader for the season? That’ll work only if you have an aversion to catching fish.