I tend to spend a lot of my time fishing lakes. Not by choice, necessarily. I do this more because I live close to what is basically a stillwater hotspot. There are more lakes around here than rivers and, frankly, any rivers that are close by, are still pretty far away. I can hit at least six decent lakes before I even get close to a river.
This isn’t a bad thing, as such, but as it happens, my heart lies with river fishing. I find it more interesting in just about every way and it’s way more technical than most lakes.
Problem is, I have a lot to learn about fishing rivers.
This point was really driven home during a trip I took earlier in the summer. We spent three beautiful days camping right along the banks of some very fishy looking water and, whenever I got a chance, I was out there casting to the spots that I thought held fish and, more often than not, coming up empty.
There were two major problems with the water, at least from an angling perspective. The first was that it was moving quite fast. We’ve had a wetter than normal summer and, as a result, what would have been a nice, slow stretch of water was moving quite fast.
The second problem was brought on by the first: because the water was moving so fast, my go-to patterns, dry flies, weren’t as effective as they usually are.
Now, to be fair, I didn’t get skunked. I was able to get into some wonderfully scrappy little rainbows just downriver from our campsite and I spent a few minutes playing with a very nice fish at another river that we stopped at, but I couldn’t help feeling that if I had been a little more knowledgeable about fishing fast water and, most importantly, if I had known anything at all about nymphing, I would have done a lot better.
At the end of the trip, I had more pictures of the scenery, than of fish and I was on a mission to get better at nymphing.
As I’ve mentioned in the past, learning something new is a great way to up your game as an angler, so I was looking forward to the chance at improving my skills.
I posted on my local fly fishing forum about an upcoming trip and mentioned that I was looking to learn more about nymphing as a bit of an aside. As luck would have it, someone had a YouTube playlist handy with everything I needed to know about nymphig and then some. I had about a month to complete was basically ended up being a crash course in nymphing.
It turned about to be exactly what I needed. Most of the videos were short enough that I could squeeze them in during lunch or something like that and, by the time our trip rolled around, I had a much better understanding of what I was doing. All I needed was the opportunity to test those skills.
As it tends to go, the spot I had planned on fishing, wasn’t as accessible as I wanted it to be and I had to find a backup spot, fast. After more bushwhacking than I had anticipated, I push through the underbrush and found myself staring the exact thing I had been preparing for. The river I planned to fish was high and fast, thanks to the recent rain fall in the area. After a few test casts with a dry to confirm that there wasn’t anything interested in topwater action, I tied on a nymph and put my newly acquired skills to the test.
If you’ve never had the chance to nymph before, it’s a weird thing to do. You basically make a series of fairly short drifts of the water directly in front of you to tempt whatever fish may be down there.
After maybe 10 minutes of farting around, I finally managed what I felt was a good drift. Just as I was getting ready to pull my fly out of the water and try again, boom! My indicator dropped under the water. Fish on! I was a little surprised to discover that I’d hooked into a little bull trout, but I was thrilled to see what I had actually managed to learn something from all those videos I had watched.
That would end up being the only fish I caught during the few hours that I had to spend on the water, but it was all I needed for the trip to be successful. I still have a long way to go when it comes to figuring out how to deal with fast water, but at least I’m closer than I was a month ago.
I’ll be heading out again next week, fingers crossed, to one of my favourite streams. And, this time, if the water is high and fast like it was the last time I was there, I’ll be much better prepared to deal with the circumstances and, with any luck, won’t walk away from the water without having caught a fish.