Casting to a fish that you can see, rather than blind casting, will almost always improve the odds of catching a fish. For myself, more than anything else I like the hunt regardless of where I am – whether on a saltwater flat or a clear spring creek. I simply enjoy looking for a fish and then the challenge of trying to catch it.
I like to think that over the years I’ve become a more patient person and therefore a better fisherman. Whether this is true or not may be debatable, but I’ve come to believe that there are certain traits that help us become better fishermen.
First of all, be observant and learn to look into the water – I mean really look into the water. I heard Lefty Kreh talk once about the difference in casually looking at a window, as in window shopping, and actually looking into the window. This is what I’m talking about. Look for fish profiles, either stationary or moving. Polarized glasses are a must for this type of work. Glare off reflective surfaces (water) decreases depth perception, reduces visual acuity, and causes eye fatigue. Smith Optics uses the highest quality polarized film in the world to filter out 99.9% of this visual static for maximum glare-free vision. My favorite is the Maverick with copper polarized lens. I don’t go anywhere without them.
Walk slowly and quietly. Take your time and don’t be in a hurry. Study the water in front of you watching for rise forms and fish profiles. Watch the edge ahead of you; trout are sometimes tucked in tight against the bank. In salt, be alert for wakes and nervous water. When you enter the water think and act like a predator and stalk your quarry. Wear colors that blend well into the background and avoid white (unless you’re on a white sand saltwater flat – different color rules apply here).Shallow water trout like this NZ brown are likely to scare very easily. Use long leaders to give yourself a chance.
Use a fly line that blends in with your background as well. I like RIO’s Camo colored RIO Grand for most of my trout fishing and the blue Mainstream saltwater lines which cover multiple species for tropical environments. Minimize your false casts. The longer your line is in the air the more likely the chance of alarming the fish. Make your first cast count; it may be the only one you get.
I prefer a long tapered leader whenever I’m fishing with a floating line. For most of my fresh and saltwater fishing I like a 12 foot tapered leader. The longer leader keeps the fly further from the fly line and gives me a softer landing near the fish. Fish will often feel the fly line or the tension from the line on the water and this will put them on alert. Be careful not too put the cast too close to the fish. They know that neither crabs nor stonefly nymphs fall from the sky.
When using a strike indicator I opt for white because it blends in with the bubbles and foam on the water. And lastly, change patterns often. If the fish doesn’t take it the first time, he’s not likely to take it the tenth time. Big fish don’t get that way by being reckless.
Most of all, I think being cautious, observant, and patient are key to seeing the fish before they see you.