Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Stillwater Angler Fishing Report

Dog days of summer winding down

We’re getting into the dog days of summer. Although with a cooler day or two and some cooler mornings, we’ve had a little bit of a reprieve on water temperatures.
However, we remain under “hoot owl” restrictions on much of the Stillwater along with a lengthy stretch of the Yellowstone.
The hopper bite has started to come on, particularly out on the Yellowstone. From late morning on, hoppers in a variety of patterns, along with a dropper nymph of some sort seem to be getting the job done.
Nymphing or streamer fishing first thing is likely the best option. There are a few Tricos out in the mornings, but that’s a tough deal to fish. It’s hard to row over rising fish though, and the smallest fly in your box on a finer tippet with a good drift might get the job done for the diehard angler.
There are several different skills that go into fly fishing success. Like everything else we do in life, it’s easy to over complicate things. In fact, I think that is something that makes some shy away from fly fishing. There may be a perception that it’s overly technical, too hard to learn, etc.
But boiled down to the essence, there are only a few basic skills that if mastered will help to bring the angler much more success and enjoyment from the sport. So what are the most important skills a fly fishing angler needs to possess?
Casting seems to get most of the attention, and while a good basic casting stoke is certainly desirable, casting efficiency is most valuable. I’m of the opinion that the Brad Pitt character in “A River Runs Through It” probably did more to set fly casting back than it helped. Getting the fly on the water ON TARGET is the objective.
How pretty the cast looks is inconsequential if it’s not putting the fly in the right spot. The angler will know where the right spot is because as I mentioned in a previous column, they’ve come to think like a fish and are concentrating their efforts on the water most likely to hold fish, rather than casting aimlessly in unproductive water.
I’ve fished with a couple of folks this summer that insisted on trying to cast as much line as possible on virtually every cast…..on the Stillwater!
This is almost a sure fire recipe for failure as even if the fly hits good holding water, there’s almost no way to properly manage that much line, as it’s usually draped through several different current speeds, not only causing excessive drag for the fly, but should the angler be fortunate enough to have a fish hit the fly, rendering the setting of the hook pretty much impossible. So, casting accuracy is much more highly valued over pure casting distance.
Once the fly is on the water in the right spot, the proper presentation is critical. That means getting the fly to the fish looking as natural as possible. It’s all about getting the fly to drift as naturally as is possible in relation to the current speed.
This is accomplished through what’s called mending the line. Generally mending entails flipping the fly line upstream so that the fly line is above the drifting fly on the water and the first thing the fish will see is the fly. The angler may need to apply more than one mend during the course of the drift too.
The fly is now drifting to the fish looking natural in terms of location and speed. The telltale sign that the line needs mending is if it has that big bow shape in it and the fly is starting to be pulled down stream, or drag, at warp speed.
Lack of a good mend or mends, can make a great cast all for naught. If fishing to rising fish, particularly in slower current water, most likely the angler will need to cast down to the fish, dropping the fly and some slack line a few feet in front of where the fish is holding and letting it drift on down the feed lane.
Line management and hook set are skills that go hand in hand. A small amount of slack needs to be in the line so the fly drifts properly, but again, not excessive slack. The best way I can describe the hook set is to make the same motion as if picking up the fly to re-cast.
That is a firm, upward lifting of the rod. An overly powerful “bassmaster’ type hook set will either rip the fly right out of the fish’s mouth, or break it off, particularly with lighter tackle. Likewise, merely pulling instead of lifting the rod will allow the fish to spit the fly and won’t set the hook.
In summary, not over complicating things, and focusing instead on how the fly is being presented to the fish not only doesn’t cost a thing, but will make the angler much more successful. Once things cool off a bit, late summer and fall is shaping up for some great fly fishing opportunities in our area.
Get out and enjoy! Tight lines!
Chris Fleck owns and operates Stillwater Anglers Fly Shop and Outfitters in Columbus. He can be contacted at 322-4977 or via