Neil Travis - Feb 10, 2014

If you have been fishing with flies for as many years as I have it's possible that you may have become a bit jaded. That's not to say that you don't still enjoy getting out on the water and catching a few fish with your fly rod, however it may have lost some of the appeal it had when you were just beginning. The key to recovering the spark is finding a challenge to perk your interest.

If you think back to when you were a beginning fly fisher it's likely that you will remember that it was the challenge that made it attractive. First we all had to deal with the casting issues, then presentation, pattern selection and all the other nuances of being a successful fly fisher. If we stick with it, at some point all of these things finally come together. Over time we continue to refine our technique and perhaps the appeal of the sport begins to lose its luster.

Many decades ago I made the decision to fish with barbless hooks. At that time it was not a common practice, however today it is more often the norm. In fact, some fisheries require that you only use barbless hooks. I discovered years ago that using barbless hooks was not really a disadvantage to hooking and landing fish since a barbless hook penetrates easier than a barbed model. Using barbless hooks did not prove to be a challenge to hooking and landing fish.


Over time I have continued to try to find more challenges to keep fly fishing challenging for me. One constant challenge has been the use of small flies on smooth water to fish feeding selectively. In addition, I try to find fish that are holding in difficult spots where conflicting currents, weed beds, or obstructions make presentation a challenge.

In the first image above a good trout was holding in the pocket formed by the weeds and feeding right on the edge of the floating weeds. The fly had to drift into the pocket and then hesitate right at the edge of the weeds just under the limbs that are sticking out of the water. Once hooked the fish wanted to dive back under the weeds into the tangle of sticks just below the surface, and this offered an interesting challenge.

In the second image a good trout was holding in the pocket behind the protruding limb. I could not approach from downstream because of the limb. The depth of the water prevented me from getting close enough to make a short cross stream presentation or even a short downstream presentation. I finally succeed in making a downstream presentation by shooting a cast high over the pocket and pulling back on the line just as the fly cleared the bank. The leader fell in a pile and the fly floated into the pocket without drag. I wish I could say that I succeed in landing the trout that rose and sipped in my fly.

Age has added another challenge to my fly fishing. Although I have been blessed with good eye sight considering my age, seeing small flies on the water has become a challenge. Increasingly I rely on my ability to make accurate casts. I grease my leaders to make them more visible on the surface so I can follow the progress of my fly, and wherever possible I get as close as possible and keep my casts short.

These are some of the things that I have done to increase the challenges and keep fly fishing a sport that provides the excitement and a challenge that keeps me coming back.

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