Certain times of the year, everyone wants to go fishing. The beginning of the season, nice weather, and hatches get people of all angling stripes into their waders. Although there is a lot of fishable water out there, the most popular spots fill up quickly during these times. Then, you find yourself “competing” while fly fishing. The solitude and tranquility so many seek is stripped away. You’re left with crowds, noise, and even the notorious combat angling scene.
Again, the most popular spots fill up quickly. Often these well-known holes have gained their reputation for their productivity. However, the prime times on the fabled stretches aren’t your only option.
If fishing is good in spot 1a, there is a good chance that you’ll do just fine in spot 1b. And if that first choice has been hammered for days or weeks, the backup option may very well yield much more than just tranquility.
Here are four strategies that can help. They don’t have anything to do with fly selection or trout prospecting. Some of the best fly fishing advice you can receive has more to do with how you approach a day, rather than how you approach a fish. Rethinking the questions of “where” and “when” can allow you to get out, even on the most popular spots, and get into fish.
Upstream or Downstream
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: trout can’t read regulation signs. Never has a fish stopped swimming because it hit a boundary for catch and release rules. In my experience, most anglers treat these signs, cables, and highlighted areas on maps like electric fences. Without going into too much detail on how and why certain stretches of water receive these designations, it is important to remember that it isn’t always because they are inherently fishier. Might you see someone catch and keep a trout? Yes. Might you share the water with bait fishers? Yes. Might you have an experience that is as good, if not better, than you would on the special reg section? Absolutely.
The Creek Next Door
It is a trustworthy statement that in fishing access is integral. If you want to walk a bit, you’ll be rewarded. The fair-weather fly fishers probably aren’t going to venture too far from the parking lot. What’s more, they probably aren’t going to deviate from the main rivers to hike up tributaries. I’ve had some wonderful days fishing near, but not on, famous rivers. It might be hard to pass up the pools and riffles of renown, but casting to virgin water is a pretty good trade-off. If you read angling literature, you’ll know that those who came before us used the major rivers like launching points. From these hubs they would fish the feeders with the same enthusiasm as the spots that would later bear their names. That is an approach, and a mindset, worth emulating.
About the same time that most traditional trout seasons kick off, bass are getting into their pre-spawn routines. Fish are moving into the shallows, feeding more, and getting aggressive. In my opinion, periods of good weather improve warmwater fishing even more than they do trout fisheries. Fly fishing for bass is not the same as fly fishing for trout, especially if you had your mind fixed on the latter. But some truly excellent bass, carp, and panfish fishing can be had when the vast majority of fly anglers are on trout streams. If the vast majority are somewhere else, you’ll have the pond, and the bass, to yourself.
Their First, Their Last, Their Everything
If the three previous approaches sound appealing, but not tempting enough to keep you off of your popular-albeit-favorite stretch, there is another. It involves getting up early or staying out late. Everyone knows that being the first one on the water has it’s advantages. You can work through a few runs before you begin bumping into other anglers. At that point, as the stream fills with more fly fishers, you can employ one of the aforementioned strategies for the middle of the day. Then, head back to that original stream for sundown. Not only will the pressure back off, but some more nocturnally-inclined fish will come out for the first time. You’ll get the best of both (all three?) worlds.