Think before you cast!

A few years ago I invited a guest to fish for bluegills, shellcrackers, and bass with me at a lake I know very well.

From his activities in and around fly fishing I expected him to be well experienced with a fly rod. Based on our conversations, I had discovered that he was not catching as many fish as he thought he should, so I arranged the trip to get him on a lake where I knew he'd catch plenty of fish.

The day arrived, and we proceeded to some of the most gorgeous water in the south. I launched the boat, stopped in mid-lake to check gear, tippets, and flies. WE were ready!

I cranked my outboard and ran to within 100 feet of the spot where I wanted to begin fishing. I cut the engine and let the waves subside, then approached with my trolling motor on LOW. In the 930 AM light, the lake's surface lay calm. I could see evidence of fish activity from 60 feet away. The water was gin clear, so stealth was in order. I eased the boat into position parallel to the shoreline so my guest had a good cast and stopped.

"OK, Tom its your cast." Tom raised his 4 weight rod with #8 popper and began to cast in a fashion that amazed me. We were 30 feet from the fish holding area. By the boat he let out 10 feet of line, then ripped it off the water into a backcast, and then slammed the line on the surface in front of us to let the line out. Then he let out some more line, ripped that 10 feet of line off the surface into his back cast, and slammed the 20 feet of line on the water's surface again. One more time he repeated the process until he had smashed out 30 feet of line and scared every living fish out of the area. Every front cast had slammed on the water's surface.

I watched the fish stacked up at the base of the shoreline cover, a huge overhanging bush scatter after the first "cast". After the second "cast" I saw only a few remaining fish in the immediate area. On his third "cast" he slammed his popper under the outstretched limbs of the bush. He could get no strikes, and he just didn't understand. I was amazed. After two more "casts" into the area, he pronounced "well Bill, I guess they're not hitting in this spot this morning." He was absolutely right! They were not hitting in this spot NOW. He could have just as well chunked a hand grenade in there. The fish were gone.

No I didn't break out into a sermonette on how to cast. First this person was my guest, and was my elder. I didn't want to embarrass him. Also, I saw an opportunity for what I believed might be an enlightening article later. Instead, I just observed his behavior. We fished on throughout the day at many different consistently fish holding spots -- spots where I could normally quietly stop and catch 10 to 30 fish on almost any day, would yield only three or four today.

In his book the trip was a success, because he managed to catch some fish. In fact this was an interesting day to me.

As obvious as it seems when trying to catch fish -- KEEP COMMOTION TO A MINIMUM!

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Particularly in clear, still water conditions follow these suggestions and you'll catch more fish consistently:

(1) Get everything in your boat ready and in its place BEFORE you move in to fish an area.

(2) Approach the area to fish as quietly as you can. Try to blend with the surroundings.

(3) Keep flailing arms and body motions to absolute minimum.

(4) Keep your boat stable on the water. Don't physically rock your boat. Fish "feel" those low frequency pressure waves, and go on alert.

(5) Fish with the lightest possible fly tackle for the species. (A 4-weight line makes a LOT more commotion than a 2-weight line on still, clear water)

(6) Use a 10 or 12 foot leader with long tippet if possible.

(7) Make false casts away from the water holding fish. An errant cast can scatter fish in clear water. Then let your last cast be on target.

(8) Make precise, quiet casts to the target area.

(9) Quietly raise your rod for hookset, and play the fish to your boat trying to keep surface commotion to the minimum.


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