On the Fly: Fight or flight | AspenTimes.com

On the Fly: Fight or flight

Scott Spooner
On the Fly

A wary brown trout caught from the Fryingpan River.

After watching a TV program the other night about the hard-wired survival responses and instincts in animals, it seemed to me that this especially applies to fly-fishing.

Fear keeps us alive. When food isn't right, our noses let us know to avoid it. When perceived danger is present, our pupils dilate and our bodies receive a surge of endorphins and stored sugars that give us "fight-or-flight" capabilities beyond our usual energy levels.

It seems to me we should try to not elicit these responses from the fish we are casting at. There are myriad scenarios where we can put fish "off their tea," whether we mean to or not. Fish may not be as smart as we tend to think they are, but they do learn over their lives. Relaxed fish have no perceived threats, tense ones have been spooked by something, generally.

Motion and vibration are probably the most common conditions that panic trout. Perhaps before we stomp out into the middle of the river, we should crouch low and make a few gentle casts just off the bank before we spook the biggest fish in the softest water. Maybe quietly closing the drift boat cooler versus slamming it shut would help out there, and keeping our voices down and walking softly is always helpful.

In rivers that receive more fishing pressure, a bad cast or drift can elicit these same panic-inducing responses. If you are a Fryingpan trout, you've seen your share of dragging flies, visible tippet tied to the incorrect bug and anglers standing right where you'd like to relax and eat. A perfect drift to an unsuspecting trout pays off around here, so let's do all we can to keep those fish calm!

This column is provided by Taylor Creek Fly Shops in Aspen and Basalt. Taylor Creek can be reached at 970-927-4374.