Tuesday, March 5, 2013

"Going into Depth"

This is another parable about fly fishing lessons learned by an outdoor video guy, who is lucky enough to work with some pretty good anglers.  The subject is mostly about getting your fly to the proper depth.  No matter what kind of fly fishing, from the Salt to the High-Sierras, much of your success will depend upon how well you have placed your pattern in the optimum portion of the water column.

Denny Rickards
Denny Rickards
Denny Rickards is a Stillwater trophy trout fly fishing author, instructor, guide, and lecturer.  We were on his home water, Klamath Lake, Oregon, when I first remember him saying … “When an angler sees someone catch a fish in a lake the first question they ask is “what fly are they using”.   According to Denny their question should be what line are they using?”

In Denny’s videos on stillwater fly fishing, all coincidentally produced by Cascade Media Works and available at flyfishtv.com, Denny emphasizes the importance of having a fly line that keeps your presentation in the strike zone for the longest time.  His favorite line is a slow sinking intermediate that he can count down and then make the entire retrieve at the optimum depth.  You will see a lot of lake anglers fishing a sink tip that can drop the fly down to the strike zone and then they pull it up through, but if the fish are feeding at a particular depth the fly is only there for a very short time.

Recently we finished a new production on Midge fishing with Davy Wotton.   Kelly Galloup, another of our video hosts, first comment about “Midge Magic” was on how well Davy emphasized getting the proper depth on his flies.  Here was a streamer guy agreeing with a midger that perhaps the most crucial aspect of angling was first to get the proper depth.  Both, Davy and Kelly are great tiers, so you would think they would favor fly selection over how deep you get your presentation but they don’t.  They think the fly selection is important but the depth of the presentation is even more critical.

When I recently did the midge videos with Davy he started it out doing a rigging segment and then as we worked our way through how to fish from the surface to the depths he kept doing more rigging segments.  A fishing video guy wants action but here we were spending a lot of time sitting and talking about how to put your stuff together.  Only when I edited the production did I realize that what Davy was trying to get across was how to place tiny midge flies at the proper depth and keep them there.  Again and again he waded into heavily fished waters and delivered fish when no one else around was having much luck.  The reason became obvious … Davy put and kept his fly at the depth fish were feeding.  If this meant changing twelve inches of tippet material from mono to fluorocarbon that is what he did.  It helps that Davy has spent as many of his waking hours on the water as off, and that he can read a rise form and tell exactly (and by exactly I mean to the inch) at what depth fish are feeding.

Now I know many of you like to fish a particular style and that your skills as anglers and your secret patterns can entice fish to come from any depth to devour your presentation.  For the rest of us my suggestion is that your first consideration  when approaching new water is to decide what depth you want to fish and take care to select the line, leader, and weighting system to get you there.  You may discover a fly that works, but unless you concentrate on your rigging you won’t know the most productive depth to be fishing at.

Gene Hering
Fly Fish TV