Finding fishy locations is relatively simple. This is especially true on small streams. Find that place that meet a trout’s need for protection from the current, protection from predators and is near a steady food supply and you are at the right location. Or, if you’re on the stream when the fish are rising the fish are doing all the work for you. When all else fails you can do as we suggest and “Fish the edges, the ledges and the foam going past the rock.” Most fly fishers with a little experience are able to, as they say, “read the water.” With more experience and time on the stream you progress from reading Dr. Sousse to reading War and Peace. Knowing the right locations to cast is important but something that is often overlooked is being in the right position to fish that great location.
There are three critical elements to the perfect position at any location. If you are lucky, sometime you can have all three of these elements. On big water there is a much better chance of finding a position that provides all three of these elements. On small streams I feel good if I can just getting two of the three elements at a prime location! Here are my three critical elements.
Position for the Best Drift. A couple of years ago I had a client for our Wyoming CutSlam program fishing Soda Butte Creek above Ice Box Canyon in Yellowstone National Park. He is an FFF Certified Casting Instructor. A nice Yellowstone Cut was actively rising. The fish was holding right on the edge of a seam as the current broke off a spruce lying out from the right descending bank of Soda Butte Creek. The client was a fantastic caster and made several great casts but just couldn’t get a suitable drift.
“How about if you wade across the creek and get on the same side of the current seam that the fish is on? That way you don’t have to do a puddle cast and ‘you can make a better presentation.”
All it took was wading across the creek to get in the right position to make an easy drag free drift over the fish. The second or third cast took a 16 inch Yellowstone.
As you approach a prime location evaluate where the best position is to get the best drift, the most un-obstructed cast and best opportunity to cover the water. Move toward that position as you move up the stream. In addition to un-obstructed casts look for the position that lets you make a cast across the fewest conflicting currents. This will maximize your chances for a drag free drift. In a perfect situation you will move to a position that puts you at a slight – about 30 degrees – angle off to the side of the fish. This position will put you on the edge of the fish’s blind spot and permit a cast without “lining” the fish
Position for Casting. What value is fishy spot if you can’t get in a position where you can make a cast? As you approach each new location, look to see where you can position yourself so you can make a cast. Evaluate each side of the stream to see if there will be enough space behind you to be able to make a back cast. On small stream this is often critical. Be prepared to have to cross to the other side of the stream to be able to cast or perhaps this location will require a roll cast. You may even have to resort to a “bow and arrow” or other specialty cast. Another approach to a casting position problem may be to make an across the body cast. Often that will work, but an even better solution is to learn how to cast “Off Handed”. It is not that hard to learn to cast but it will take you a while to become comfortable with line management and control. But in the long run off hand casting and improving the specialty casts will resolve a lot of your casting position problems.
predator in me, but I assume that every cast is going to bring up a fish. Why cast to empty water. With that in mind, before I cast I have an “exit strategy.” I pre-plan how I want to handle the fish that I’ll catch. Not all positions offer you an “easy out”. There may be brush or other obstacles that make it next to impossible to get your fish to a position where you can control him. Or you may turn the fish too far into the current. Either because you need too or you made a mistake and the fish gets below you try throwing a little slack in the line. Often if the fish feels less pressure it will stop running and you can move into a better location to land your fish.
Generally, the smaller the stream at each great fishing location, the less likely you will be to find that one position that meets all three of my criteria. Any time I have to choose one of the factors it will almost always be for the position that gives me best drift. Then, every once in a while you find that position where you can have the stars align and you have the perfect position at a big fish location.