Ramblings from the Guide...

Well folks, the big winter season shows are quickly fading into a forgettable past, most of the fly orders have been filled for now, and we‘ve had some trips afield so far this season. Some of them were excellent and some, well, we were out on the stream and that can’t be all bad. Actually I believe we caught fish every day, even if not that many, and I’ll take that every time. So now, it is time to sit down and do the first Rod Rambling Column. I’m not a writer. I’m just a fisherman. Well, maybe I’m a frustrated writer who loves to fish and just never got around to writing. There was always a family with kids, a career, and one too many fish in the way.

This first column will be a little bit about me, how I think, and how I fish. Future columns will pretty much be about anything else that comes along, but mostly I hope they will provide you with some piece of information about the sport that will make the sport more pleasurable for you. If that means you catch more fish or understand why you caught a fish, well that’s even better.

Lefty Kreh coined a phrase some years ago about the progression of all fly fishermen as they advance in the sport of fly-fishing. The first phase is the effort to put together enough of the required skills to catch a fish. Any fish will do -- stupid or smart, stocked or wild, it does not matter. I have known some people who were really educated, smart, and intelligent people who worked at this stage for a number of seasons before they caught their first trout. I compliment them for sticking with it. It’s worth every ounce of the effort. The second phase for most fly fishermen, according to Lefty, is the numbers game: “I want to catch lots of fish”. Any fish will do, big or small, to complete this step in a fly fisher’s development. Depending on how one goes about accomplishing this feat may or may not require a leap in skill level. The third stage is to catch big fish consistently. In essence they have become big fish hunters. As long as you are not fishing in the farther reaches of the world on regular basis and you have reached this plateau in the fly-fishing world, then you have reached a plateau that few obtain and fewer still that understand why. The fourth phase in Lefty’s progression is the hard fish. These fish can be big or small but they are usually not stupid. These fish are the ones that lie at the end of the unreachable cast and the impossible float. If you can consistently pick off these fish, you are living in rarified air my friend and you know more than most. There are only a few fishermen who can claim this position.

In all due respect to Lefty, I would like to add one more phase to a fly fisherman’s development. When you reach the point where you have caught all the fish you ever wanted to, and there were some that were big, and there were some that were hard, and there were many of the other ones -- some which hold great memories and some are long forgotten -- but you have not lost the passion to catch one more, and better yet, you really enjoy it a thousand times more when you help someone else catch that next fish...that is when you have moved into my last phase in a fly fisher’ life cycle.

Yes, it’s true some people never progress very far into this hierarchy, but that’s OK if that’s all they’re looking for from the sport. You don’t have to become the reincarnation of Lefty or anyone else for that matter. That's the great thing about fly-fishing. It is a feel-good sport once one gets beyond the very beginning novice stages. There is so much about this sport that fishermen can pick which aspect of the sport they like, and that’s what they do, and that’s where they generally stay just because they like it and it feels good. The greatest example of this is the dry fly purist. They like to see the fly floating, usually down stream to them, and the trout rise to take it. There is this little adrenalin rush that goes with that sequence and it hooks a lot of people (no pun intended). Yes, we all know in time that there are varying levels of ‘consciousness' within the realm of the dry fly purist: “I only fish dry flies”; “I only fish dry flies to rising fish”; “I only fish dry flies to rising fish with a cane rod"; and lastly, “I only fish dry flies with a cane rod over wild rising fish”. So it is that someone can become fixated at some very sophisticated spots within any given level of the sport and they can become very good at what they do. The problem becomes that the fisherman can end up expending a lot of energy with very little in results. The question becomes: are you fishing or practicing your casting? It’s all in what feels good.

That would not be my case, however. I grew up in a family of fly fishers. My grandfather guided the rich and the famous from New York City on the Ausable River in NY. In the 1930’s those people would summer in Lake Placid. It was the Vale of its time. However, there was no purist in the family. The family was very much a poor working class family trying to survive the depression and trout were food on the table. Whatever it took to catch them was fair game, as long as it was on a fly rod...and sometimes not on a fly rod. The usual method was a number of the old gaudy wet flies fished down stream with a lift at the end of the float and, yes, there were any number of times when the terminal tackle was the tried and true garden hackle. It wasn’t that we didn’t fish dry flies, because we did, and they produced a lot of good fish. It was just that wet flies produced more and bigger fish. There is an obvious conclusion to be made here. So, it was: I would grow up with an intense love to fish for trout and actually catch them. If that meant that I should fish dry flies when the hatch is there, then that is what I would do. If there were not a lot of fish on the surface, I would fall back to fishing underwater. Even when there were a lot of fish on the top of the water, I was just as apt to continue fishing underwater.

I don’t fish the gaudy old wet flies anymore and I’m not talking about the Tuck Cast and a high stick short drift. That’s for the beginner nymph fisherman. It’s easy to get stuck with that approach to underwater fishing because it’s easy to teach and effective, but it’s the brain dead approach to nymph fishing that turns everybody off in time. The real nymph fisherman will eventually go beyond that to a higher level. The skill level is infinitely harder but more rewarding. The float is just as demanding as a dry fly float and detecting the strike requires a finiteness that many good fishermen never develop. Over and above all that, the big fish and the harder fish are generally glued to the bottom. There is a biological reason for that and we’ll get around to talking about that in later columns. But for now, if you want to be a big fish hunter learn to fish on the bottom. You see when the kids are on the surface rocking and rolling mom and dad as well as grandma and grandpa are either dining or finished dining underneath with half the effort.

And so it goes folks, over the years I have tried every aspect of the sport. I fell in and out of love with most of them. The one I like the most is catching fish. You can expend an undue amount of energy fishing where the fish aren’t just because it feels good. I almost always defer to fishing underwater unless there is a good reason to fish on top. I’ve always seen no value in practicing your casting when you are trying to catch fish. What I really like to do, however, is help someone catch fish when everybody else is struggling. In that sense, I like to think there are very few people, no matter what level they're at, for whom I can’t provide some insight into sport of the fish we chase.

I welcome all comments on any of the subjects in the column. I may or may not agree with you and you may not agree me, but that’s one other thing that makes the sport so great -- there is plenty of room for disagreement within the sport. It doesn’t make either one of us right or wrong. It might make both of us better fishermen and, just maybe, we will feel good about different aspects of the sport.


BTW; here’s some food for thought. It’s not the big things that you learn to do in this sport that will catch fish, but the little adjustments on the big things you have learned.

Troutgetter Flies & Guiding Service
1500 Walnut Street
Camp Hill, PA 17011
Tel: 717-737-7469
Fax: 717-737-0427

e-mail: chull@troutgetter.com