Fly fishing today has anglers targeting an array of species in pretty much every fishable location on the planet.
Generally speaking, due to the rise of social media and the seemingly insatiable need to snap that “epic fish pic,” there are not too many streams or locations that are secret fishing spots anymore.
There are probably many anglers who have stepped foot in the same run you fish regularly. If you are fortunate enough to fish a river system that doesn’t have much pressure, well, congratulations and please take me there.
The local waters where I live in Pennsylvania can be inundated with anglers just about every other day.
In cases like that, as an angler you have three choices you can make:
- Put your walking shoes on, find open water, and fish anyway.
- Go home and tie more flies waiting for a day where you have the stream to yourself (you’ll be waiting for a while).
- Alter your fishing approach, think outside of the box, and fish your fly with confidence behind people who just fished a run.
In my personal experience, finding open water and fishing usually works and is good for a fish here and there. To maximize your success, try altering your fishing tactics with an unconventional approach that most anglers wouldn’t use.
Believe it or not, this is actually extremely easy to do because most guys are using a Woolly Bugger/standard streamer, or tandem nymph rig. Fly fishing is entirely centralized on observation. Reading water, insect identification, flow rates/visibility, the list is endless. Take a minute, observe other anglers, and BE DIFFERENT.
Senyo's Micro Shanks are great for trout spey tactics.
I recently had a day off from taking clients out and I decided to fish a stream that is pressured beyond belief. The fish in this stream are cultured to mop flies, worms, and nymphs/midges.
As I pulled into the lot, I could hear other anglers talking about all the midges coming off and how great the fishing will be. Needless to say, my midge pattern for the day was a 4-inch sculpin using Jerry French’s Dirty Hoh concept. I decided to use a light sink tip (T-8) on my switch rod and I headed to my favorite run on the stream.
As I approached I noticed two anglers fishing on the opposing bank right in the heart of the run. I collected myself, and sat on a log watching them as they pick a few average fish out right where I planned on swinging my sculpin. As they worked their way to the tail out, I began stripping line out and making casts.
The anglers gave me a look as I had no business being there due to the unfamiliar Skagit casting followed by a large fly bombing through the air. About the third swing through the run, the ever so soothing sound of my click-and-pawl reel began to shine. The water exploded with several acrobatic gestures from one of the largest rainbows I've caught this year.
I’m not sure what was better, the unconventional approach of swinging a trout on a large sculpin while midges were coming off, or watching the guys face in utter disbelief as the water exploded by his feet as my fly was in mid swing.
The entire day I continued to use this unconventional approach of letting anglers pound runs with indicator rigs, then slip in behind swinging a fly that presented a larger and more aggressive meal. This technique turned out to be one of the best days of swinging a fly for trout that I had ever experienced.
The reason I share this experience with you is because we anglers can tend to be stagnant in our approaches and fish the same techniques over and over again. Fishing the same standard flies educate and culture fish in pressured streams.
Steelhead fishing in the Great Lakes region is a prime example. These fish see thousands of egg flies, stoneflies, and buggers in the first couple weeks as they begin their fall run. Don't get me wrong, these flies are extremely successful, but there are times when the fish become quite selective.
You have to think, what separates you from the other anglers on the stream that day? There’s only X amount of ways you can tie a zebra midge or an egg fly. If there are 10 guys on a stream and you’re all throwing zebra midges, eggs, or stoneflies, etc., how different can your fly possibly be from the other anglers?
Granted, if there is an infamous Green Drake hatch or Salmonfly hatch occurring, the trout are looking up in the water column so throwing a streamer may not be your best choice.
It’s our human nature to stay content with our approach, which makes trying new tactics even more difficult. We all have daily routines that we’re all afraid to stray from. Sometimes leaving the comfort zone can be difficult at times, but afterwards, we generally realize how beneficial it was in some way.
There are no set tips that I can list out for you in ways to be “different." Each river system has a time and a place for everything. The best tip I can give is to tie some larger flies such as articulated streamers, or even articulated stoneflies to have in your box as a back up. These back-up flies are now my go-to flies for fishing pressured streams.
Question your fly selection next time you're fishing a pressured system and fish with the utmost confidence no matter what facial expressions you get from other anglers.
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About Stephen Nymick:
Stephen Nymick is owner of Stephen Nymick Fly Fishing LLC and a Signature Fly Designer for CATCH Fly Fishing. He began fly fishing at just 7 years old on his local streams in Western Pennsylvania. The day his father took him out to get his first fly rod, he also came home with his first fly tying kit. For the early part of his fly fishing career, he went back and forth between stripping woolly buggers and dead drifting minnows on his fly rod for trout… yes, minnows. Stephen started his own business selling his patterns commercially while in college. His college years took him near Erie, PA where he fishied tributaries of the Great Lakes frequently and dialed in his patterns for steelhead. He even did his senior thesis on steelhead, which enabled him to fish several days a week for class. Within a short time, Stephen’s passion for swinging flies on a spey rod for steelhead really became an obsession and addiction. To him there is nothing more exhilarating than catching giant anadromous fish on large articulated streamers. Now, Stephen’s passion is evolving around teaching new anglers about swinging flies on Skagit line for trout back on his local waters in Western PA. What really drives his passion for tying is hearing success stories and memories made from his clients using his patterns.You can follow Stephen on Instagram @stephennymick.