On the Fly: Challenge yourself out there on the river by embraces the phases

Scott Spooner
On the Fly
Local angler London Krapff on the Roaring Fork River.
Shannon Outing Photography/Courtesy photo

Many anglers go through the usual “phases” in their development and enjoyment of the sport of fly fishing. Usually, it starts with trying to catch every fish in the river, then after a few years, it’s trying to catch all the big ones.

Next up is being stubborn and fishing in one way all season, like exclusively casting dry flies on the surface or throwing large baitfish-imitating streamers. Many people go through a phase of only fishing flies they tied themselves. Some spend a year or two trying to figure out lakes (versus quasi-predictable rivers) or graduate to salt water and become obsessed with bonefish, tarpon, and permit.

I’m in the strictly sight-fishing phase, which has been challenging, yet rewarding. Sight fishing simply means only casting at fish you can see, versus prospecting the water in the likely holding spots with flies fished deep or on the surface. Most of our fishing time on an average day is prospecting, so patience is required to only cast at fish you have eyes on.

I know for sure that it is improving my fish vision, calmness, and presentation, and I encourage you to give strictly sight fishing a try if you need a new challenge. I’m not catching as many because I’m not spending the whole day casting to the likely looking spots, but the fish I am catching have been much more rewarding, personally.

Sight fishing teaches you to interpret fish behavior. A trout can be in many different kinds of moods — including pouting and sulking, skittish and nervous, curious and excited, and if you’re lucky, reckless and uninhibited.

Sight fishing slows you down. You cast rarely, mindfully, and surgically. You start to watch the insect life much more closely and perceive what life-cycle stage the fish are keyed in on (plus what they are totally ignoring). Fly selection is much more nuanced when sight fishing, and you start to appreciate well-tied, match-the-hatch fly patterns versus those flies that caught your fancy but are shunned by wary trout. Take the sight fishing challenge — you’ll become a better angler, I’ll bet!


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