This week has brought home to me one of the fundamental rules of fly fishing – when the water isn’t clear enough to see the bottom, start with close, short casts. We teach it in all of our fly fishing clinics, I know the rule and yet it’s so easy to walk into the water, strip off 30 feet of line and start casting all of it. Why is it that even when we know better, our minds are programmed to think that all of the fish will be out there and not in here?
Barry and I are at Tres Valles in Patagonia, Argentina, as I write this and every angler in our group is a diehard trout fisherman and this should be a haven for them. However, this week is starting out to be a real challenge. The first two days have given us howling winds and cold temperatures. Most of yesterday we had snow flurries and at times the wind is gusting 50 mph. We’re fishing small freestone streams and spring creeks and the fish are not looking up. There are a number of beautiful lakes in the area and some of us are trying our luck in the lakes, but yesterday there were white caps on one lake and this morning while fishing another one I had a wave break from behind right over my head. I decided that this afternoon would be a good time to stay in and write this blog!
There used to be a guide here by the name of Pablo and while working my way down along the edge of the lake this morning I thought about Pablo and how much he loved this lake. The one thing he would always tell me is that I should start with a few short casts in front of me before wading out into the lake. While thinking about him and his words of advice, I was standing in waist deep water trying to launch a RIO Outbound Short out into the lake as far as possible. After I made the cast, I would count slowly to ten giving the intermediate line time to sink and then start a slow retrieve. I was in “mechanical mode” – we’ve all been there, you make a thousand casts, hour after hour with no hits, strikes, or hook-ups. After a while you lose all concept of time and place because your mind is somewhere else, usually a long way away from the present and you are simply going through the motions, like a robot.
Well, I started thinking about why fish work the edges of lakes and ponds. The obvious reason is that the insects and crustaceans that they eat live in the shallow water, almost always because that’s where weed beds, plants, algae, and moss is found. These provide food and cover for the insects. And, we all know that the deeper the water, the less light there is to get to the bottom, and so things can’t grow there. There are times, of course, when fish go to those deep places to sit out bad weather, or for preferred water temperatures and things like that, but if fish frequent the shallow water, edges, and weed beds to eat, why am I flinging these casts into the wild blue yonder when I could or should be casting half the distance and standing in half the water? I couldn’t see into the water around me, it was a cloudy day and the water was choppy, so I had no idea if I was standing where the fish might be or not, but I suspected that I was.
I was working my way down to a big bed of reeds planning to wade as far out into the bed as possible so I could work the outside edges, but instead I moved back closer to the shore and angled my casts toward the upper end of the bed, thinking that I would save the outside edge for last. As I covered the edge closest to me I took a couple steps out and carefully started to work the further reaches of the bed. Now my longest cast was about 25 feet. About 10 casts into the new plan of attack I hooked into a beautiful rainbow that weighed about 6 pounds. It was the only fish that I caught, but it was more than enough. Had I continued on my first course, I would have walked into the fish, he would have spooked, and I would have probably never known he was there.
Forrest Gump’s mother said, “Stupid is as stupid does.” I almost proved her right.