On the Fly: Keeping the faith | AspenTimes.com

On the Fly: Keeping the faith

Kirk Webb
On The Fly

Basalt resident Christian Hill getting his glossy on, with streamers and a big brown trout in hand. Photo by Kirk Webb.

There's a certain breed of fly fisherman that looks forward to dank gray skies, piercing winds and numb fingers. Streamer anglers realize that no other time is more ideal than the present to cast large flies to predatory brown trout. The river's resident trout seemingly know that the sparseness of winter is quickly approaching as the once golden hues of the surrounding foliage are replaced with paltry brown twigs and barren stems. Old-timers say that like black bears, the trout enter a crazed state of hyper-feeding during the fall in efforts to store more body weight over the winter to aid in carrying them through the down times.

It took me many years to get over my fear, or rather my lack of confidence, in fishing streamers. I even had many guide friends, who are by all means "live and die by the streamer" types, coach me through the process of properly fishing them. Somehow I even managed to catch a few fish on them, and yet I still wasn't satisfied with my time and effort divided by fish ratio. I lost faith, or rather the faith was never instilled in me.

I would see pictures of those seemingly mythical, dripping-wet, 10-pound brown trout with a 6-inch marabou and hair streamer protruding from a gaping kype jaw, and they would just seem surreal to me, like you had to pay $10,000 and heli-fish in New Zealand to make that picture happen.

Fast-forward to the present, and I'm a self-proclaimed streamer nut. I broke the out of the rut by learning more of what not to do rather than what to do. Simple perseverance gave way to renewed faith as I slowly began to catch fish. Through my own fumbling, I have learned several things, many of which apply to more things than just fishing.

First, keep the faith. Treat every cast and every drift as if it were your last. This is much harder than it sounds. Secondly, don't forget to breathe. There will be times when the visuals, sensations and feelings are too intense to describe — almost euphoric.

Be comfortable and deliberate out there. Cover the water. A non-slip mono loop knot allows a streamer to move and swing freely versus the standard clinch knot. Know your rod, and practice casting large, wind-resistant flies. A change of either speed of direction or vertical and horizontal plane creates movement, imitating a fleeing or wounded bait fish. When a fish chases your fly, it takes nerves of steel to keep your fly in the water and continue to move it. Don't set the hook in all of the excitement; try to "flutter and bump" your streamer versus a continuous strip.

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Just because it's fall doesn't mean that our fishing falls off. It's the perfect time of year to renew your faith in streamers and get that glossy-magazine hero shot of you holding one of those mythical brown trout.