Andy Whitcomb 11/29/2011 “You have to wonder about a food that everyone agrees is great, except that sometimes, it tastes like what it is.” –P.J. O’Rourke. The holiday season for my family means travel time, generally consisting of another bottom-numbing, nightmarish 20-hour road trip from […]
Month: November 2011
We all have certain goals for our fishing. For the trout fly fisher, catching a rainbow or a brown over 20 inches long is a thrill, especially if you can do that on a dry fly. I have a friend who tried (and succeeded at) catching 50 different fish species, all on the fly. Of course, one of the best goals of all is to introduce someone else to the sport and watch them catch their first fish on a fly.
My fly fishing goal for this year didn’t revolve around any species or size, rather, I simply wanted to catch at least one trout every month of the year. The catch was, I wanted to do that on a dry fly. Now, those of you who fly fish know that catching trout on dry flies isn’t all that tough in the spring and summer, or the even fall. When the weather is warm and the bugs are hatching, trout tend to look up and eat. But the winter doldrums can be tricky. There are fewer bugs flying. The fish are in a state of semi-hibernation as their metabolisms slow with very cold water temperatures.
And maybe the biggest obstacle of all is convincing myself to bundle up and stand knee-deep in a river in cold weather!
But I have 11 months down, and only December to go. If I put in the time, I think I’ll get it done.
Interestingly, I’ve learned that there are some tricks to catching trout on dry flies in the winter: Size down. Slow down. And look for a “player.”
Size down: Most of the bugs you see flying in the winter are midges, and most midges are tiny. That said, midges like to cluster, and trout tend to focus on midge clusters over individual bugs. My favorite winter patterns are a size #20 Griffith’s Gnat, or a plain old size #18-22 Parachute Adams.
Slow down: Most rivers are at their lowest and clearest in the winter. So it’s important to minimize motion and shadows as you fish. Sneak up on them, and your chances improve.
Look for a player: Odds are, you won’t find schools of fish sipping insects en masse in the winter. But if you see a trout suspended and holding in shallow water, assume he’s a “player” and take a shot. The right drift with a dry fly will often prompt the bite.
If you have any other advice, or goals to chase next year, let us know!
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What does a fishing writer do with a few days of “vacation” time? This might come as a shock to you, but, well… I go fishing. Thing is, when I get to choose where I go and what I fish for, my pattern in the last several years has been to visit Louisiana to fish for redfish (red drum) on the fly.
As I write this, I’m in Venice, Louisiana, with my friend and co-host from the Field & Stream “Fly Talk” blog Tim Romano. There’s no agenda. No work assignments. Just fishing for fun. And as you can tell from this photo of a fish I caught today, it’s ON.
That’s good to see, because this is the second time I’ve been fishing in Louisiana since the BP oil spill disaster. We didn’t know the fate of this amazing fishery after the tragedy happened, and many scientists say we won’t know the full-scale impact of that spill until years down the road. But right now, from what I see, and what I am catching, I am impressed by the apparent resilience of Mother Nature.
Of course, we saw this several years ago as well, after Hurricane Katrina devastated the region. While it took much time and effort for the communities in this area to get back on their feet, one of the first things to rebound and help lead a recovery was the regional sport fishery.
If you’ve never fished Louisiana, you have to put it on your to-do list. You won’t find many fancy resorts and white sandy beaches along most of the marshy Louisiana coast. But what you will find is a very strong fishing culture, great people, great food, amazing wildlife, and a huge variety of big fish.
My favorites are the redfish, because I think they are some of the most interesting fish you can catch on a fly rod. First off, they just kind of sneak up on you (or you sneak up on them) in the murky flats. By the time you see one, you have scant seconds to make a cast. Wait, and it’s usually too late. But if you can make a decent cast, redfish will usually reward you by eating your fly. And they fight hard.
I’ve never been disappointed with a Louisiana fishing trip. Sure, there are times when I catch fewer fish than I hope, or it rains, or the wind blows. But even then, I inevitably leave with great memories and deeper appreciation of a magical wild place.
And that’s what a great fishing trip should really be all about, isn’t it?