Basic Fly Fishing Techniques
Broadly there are several techniques we will discuss here for trout fishing in local waters. There are of course many variations on a theme, but for the beginning, a general overview is all that is necessary to start one's understanding.
Essentailly, one must understand the simplest of notions. That the angler is hunting for a fish which is either feeding or which will exhibit territorial behaviour which will prompt it to attack the fly.
In hunting for a feeding fish, the angler therefore must consider the factors that will cause a fish to feed in a particular position. Trout are generally efficient creatures and are driven by several instincts when feeding. First they a driven by the source of the food. Second the are driven by the condition of their environment and third they are predisposed to self preservation or safety. There are myriads of articles and books on these topics but in the simplest terms, the fish needs to feed and will do so by positioning itself where it can access the most feed for the minimum expenditure of energy qualified by the presence of other competing fish and the considerations of safety so it can flee at any sign of danger.
Translating this into practical examples therefore, one must understand the food source and where the fish will position itself for the purpose of feeding. If a fish is feeding on midges, it won't readily put itself in a position where it is fighting a fast current just to get a few midges. The energy expended will exceed the food value derived. So it will position itself where the least amount of energy will be expended but at the same time it can access the passing food source.
When the food source is much larger, the cost/benefit equation changes and the fish will expend more energy to take that more productive food sourse like a large stone fly or mayfly.
In turn, one must also consider the environment and how that will affect the fish. If the water is too warm or not adequately oxygenated the fish will move elsewhere if it can. It may move deeper into cooler water, or into more turbulent flows where the oxygen content increases.
And finally on the question of safety. A fish will be wary of its surroundings so that anything strange will attract its attention. In the evenings as light falls, or on a cloudy day, the fish may not be as aware as it will on a bright clear day. It will be more aware in very clear water than in cloudy conditions. It will be less wary of a fisherman in a high traffic area than it will in less fished areas. These all seem pretty obvious. And they are. But they are practical factors one must take into account when approaching a feeding fish anticipating trying to catch it.
For our purposes, we will discuss three approaches which are generally employed depending on how the trout is positioning itself relative to the factors mentioned above:
Nymphing - Generally this is the technique of fishing a fly under the surface. It can be fished from just under the film to on the bottom of the flow. Essentially the fly is being targetted at a fish feeding at some level in the water column and the object of nymphing it is get the fly to the depth that the fish is prepared to feed.
The fly will emulate a subsurface food source such as a larva, nymph, drowned adult, emerger or any other food source such as a scud, annalid, or sow bug. The depth the fly to be fished is then adjusted by the fisherman by adding weight or heavier flies which will enable the fly to target the fish at an identified level in the water column.
Dry Fly - This refers to fishing a fly
on the surface of the water. The idea is to emulate a bug floating on the surface as it is hatching and drying its wings. Maybe it is to imitate a grasshopper which has been blown onto the water and is struggling on the surface. The fly is visible to the fisherman who is able to see the trout come from underneath to take the fly from the surface.
Streamers - Streamer fishing is actually not much different from fishing with a lure. Purists will take issue with that statement, but never mind. Just think of throwing a lure across a stream and retrieving it. One fishes streamers in the same manner. In fact, one way we introduce lure fishermen to fly fishing is to point out that one can buy a streamer for less than the cost of a lure and fish it on a spinning rod in just the same manner. Weight can be added simply by using a cone head fly or adding a little weight onto the line in front of the streamer. When fishing a streamer, usually the fishermen is taunting the fish's territorial instincts. In the late autumn when the browns are getting read for the spawn, floating down a river tossing a streamer against a river bank can bring out some dramatic takes as a big trout attacks the fly. When the water is running fast, allowing a leech pattern to roll down through the riffles will attract a fish interested in taking a morsel of seemingly helpless food.
So that's basically it. Not too complex. Just a matter of understanding what a fish is doing and then adjusting the fly choice and position to give the fish what it wants at that moment. At the same time be aware of the fish's survival instinct and take that into account by trying not to disturb it as you present the fly. Presentation is key.
Of course, simplicity in the telling, doesn't translate so easily on the river. On needs to spend time and seek advice to understand the local water and identify any peculiarities which might assist one in attempting to fish. A fly which works well in one water might not be so productive in another water. On the other hand, the most meticulous and delicate presentation with the "correct" fly might be unproductive whereas a seemingly inappropriate fly badly presented will pay dividends.
Its the nature of fishing. More knowledge will of course assist. But remember one truism. You will find among anglers who have fished for a significant period, that each of them has had a day when he or she was the hero on the river. And the next day, on the same river fishing the same fish, they couldn't buy a fish for love nor money. That's what keeps us coming back.