One of the enjoyable aspects of fly fishing (and also of fly tying) is the why of it all. This is then followed by the how, what, where, when of it all. You observe as you pass through the wild. You take it all in. Insects on the rocks, on the water, in the air, on the shore side bushes. Birds scurrying about and maybe the fish visibly feeding.
You observe what is going on and make a selection or many selections in attempting to solve this transitory puzzle. Maybe you are partially or totally successful; maybe you zero out. If so, only a few will really be certain of the why. The rest will ask why and launch into followup study.
This past week, I had occasion to work over a sporadic hatch of PMD’s and two types of Caddis. I worked the convergence of currents below an island. As I watched the slashing rises down stream, I noted the pattern of rises just inside a seam on the slightly faster water side.
I only saw a few insects alighting and steadily drifting toward shoreline vegetation. I put on an a PMD emerger, a PMD dry, a PMD floating nymph. Nada. But, a greenish yellow bodied, brown hackled wet fly sporadically took fish as it swung into the area of the seam. But, there were a lot of missed/hits and bumps. Why? I noticed drag. I noticed when I reached beyond with longer casts, I through quite a few upstream mends to avoid the drag. This resulted in the wet fly sinking more before it came around and started to rise….bang.
Now, I kind of new, by now the theoretical why of this…the fish turned off by drag; the rising fly simulating an upwardly emerging something. But, I wanted to study the why a bit more. I turned to David Hughes fine book: Matching Mayflies.
I researched the why and reaffirmed and improved some of my correct but muddled thinking about how mayflies emerge toward the surface. This studying of the various ways mayflies emerge from the nymphal confines was beneficial as to how I would tie various patterns in the future and as to how I would present them.
Also, tucked in Hughes book was a bit about presentation in exactly the same kind of shoreline slack water/adjacent to faster water I had encountered that same day. The casts were perfect but the offered mends did little to get the fly down or avoid drag even while I missed fish after fish. Hughes offered up: present from farther upstream and inside more; reach cast with a wiggle stack.
So, my why’s from the stream were researched when I got home to research (or you could call a friend, talk to a fly shop). I developed some what, how, where, when info (I am the who) and am eager to get back out there and try it out. This is, as I say, one of the enjoyable parts of the sport. Observe and then ask why as you pass through.