Last Saturday I had the opportunity to fish
with a couple of Catholic priests who are also
serious fly fishermen. Considering their vocation,
and the fact that I spent several years in a bible
college studying theology just after graduation from
high school, we had plenty of good conversations on
several subjects. I won't get into the religious
discussions here, but there was something about the
way I was fishing my hopper fly that started another
discussion about fishing methods.
In tight, brushy, narrow streams, I often fish my
hopper flies downstream. I know, to some of you that
might be a little sacrilegious or verging on heresy,
but there is a reason for my madness. Sometimes the
only way to reach a fish is by fishing downstream,
and other times; it's just more effective.
There are several good times to fish downstream, and
here are just a few examples:
I used a foam-bodied hopper with a deer hair head
that resists water logging under the toughest conditions,
so my fly floated freely on every cast. I caught fish
in locations that others would have passed up, and often
avoid. That's another plus to this type of fishing; I
often get to chase fish that seldom see a fly. While
everybody else is looking for more open water, I get
to catch fish that don't see a lot of fishermen.
- When the brush is too thick to effectively
make a long or even moderate cast. By fishing downstream,
you can just roll your line out and let it drift to the
fish. By using the brush to hide your profile, you can
fish this way without detection most of the time. A
modified roll cast can be executed several times to cover
the water before you move to the next location.
- When fish are holding in front of or under
logs or banks. By fishing downstream, you can drift
a fly under brush or logs that cover the stream. You
can also drift your fly next to banks and in front of
rocks that otherwise would be impossible to reach from
a downstream position.
- When you need to be able to guide your fly to
its target. You can use your rod tip to guide your
fly gently to its target if you approach that target
from above. Slight nudges from the rod tip and mini
mends of the line can maneuver your fly into the perfect
drift to a fish that otherwise wouldn't be accessible
from any other vantage point. A short "tuck cast" is
also a valuable tool in this situation.
- You can cover more water this way. Considering
the fact that there are often just small openings in
the brush that allow you access to the stream, you
sometimes don't have much choice if you want to fish
all the holding water. I can slip into a small opening
and fish downstream, then flip the fly upstream to cover
that water as well. If I stuck to the "upstream and dry"
code, I'd often miss more than half the fish that are
available in any accessible location. Fish downstream,
then upstream and you'll catch more fish.
We ended the day in a local tailwater fishery that's
tough fishing. Long, accurate casts are a must if you
want to catch a fish in that water, because the fish
often feed just inches from the far bank, which is
roughly 40 feet away. To make matters worse, you have
to lift your back-cast high to avoid willows up to ten
feet in height. We fished size 18
Fall Midge Emerger flies with a downstream, wet,
and with a twitch type of presentation. It was a
great challenge to end a great day with a couple
of nice guys I gladly refer to as my friends.
By the way, I'm a Protestant; but I really enjoyed
the conversations we had on all subjects. I started
the religious discussions, and enjoyed learning about
the differences and similarities of our beliefs. I
also enjoyed all of the fly fishing discussions. One
thing I've noticed over the years; flyfishing bridges
many differences in beliefs and backgrounds to give
us all a common interest that we can share with others.
That just might be the main reason I enjoy this sport.