Types of Tactics

The Tactics of Fly fishing can pertain to any number of criteria that enable the flyfisherman to have better success on the water. There are three primary areas to consider:

Needs of Trout

Dave Hughes wrote a very informative book, "Reading the Water" (1988). The basis of finding fish or reading the water is to first consider the needs of the trout. Dave identified 5 basic needs:

  1. Trout look for shelter from the current. The current will be least wherever it is deflected. ie boulders, ledges, logs. The rougher the bottom, the more friction on the current creating underwater eddies and swirls.
  2. Trout look for protection from preditors. The best protection is when the surface has "rough water". Other protections can be shade, depth of water with ledges and rocks, and camouflage such as weedbeds.
  3. Trout need a right temperature range with adequate oxygen. Trout will be active in temperatures of 45 to 65 degrees F. Insect activity begins when temps are in the upper 40's. Colder water holds more oxygen. Most trout have upper temperature limits when their metabolism needs are greater than the available oxygen can provide.
  4. Trout need food. Dave has observed that trout will only feed when the "energy gained from a bit of food exceeds the energy expended in the effort to acquire it". He has also observed that "when food is abundant and easy to get, trout will often neglect the need for protection from preditors".
  5. Trout need spawning beds to sustain their population. Hatchery plants can displace native trout from these spawning beds and the displaced native trout often die

Trout Lies

This is not about trout being untrustworthy, rather it is about where do you find the fish. Within the various structures of a stream or lake, a trout will take a position based upon it's needs. Some needs will be greater than others. Often the needs are balanced by the trout and a compromise must be made. Whatever the decision of the trout, the position of the trout within the water in known as a lie. Dave Hughes, in his book, "Reading the Water" came up with four lies to consider:

  1. Sheltering Lie. This is sanctuary water. It is usually the deepest part of a pool, beneath a log, or deep within an undercut. This is the place where a trout will go when spooked. Trout will always have a sheltering lie nearby. Once spooked and residing within it's sheltering lie, the trout will be nearly impossible to fish.
  2. Holding Lie. This is the most common place to find trout. It is an area that is sheltered from the current and offers some protection from preditors. The best holding lies will have a food source that comes to the trout. Where you find the best holding lies, you will find the largest trout.
  3. Feeding Lie. Feeding lies are rich in insect activity. They are usually shallow with extensive weedbeds. Being shallow, there is less protection for the trout but trout will often overlook this need if they are concentrating on the food source.
  4. Prime Lie. These lies have everything the trout needs. It has the proper temperature and available oxygen. There is shelter from the current and sufficient depth for protection. Food is plentiful. These are also the most difficult areas to fish.

Approaching the Fish

Lefty Kreh also wrote some fine principals on approaching fish in his book, "Flyfishing Techniques and Tactics". These approaches pertain to both lakes and streams. His cardinal rule is "...make sure you approach so the fish are not aware that you are there".

  • Slowly - Fish can feel your presence though their sensory organs, try not to wade into pools but if you must, do it slowly. Spooked fish will alert the others within the pool.
  • Quietly - Sound can quickly give you away. Try to wade with felt sole sandles or boots without the metal cleats. Also use a rubber tip on the end of your wading staff rather than a metal one. Try not to get into the water.
  • Lowly - Fish can see you from the front and side. They have a paralax vision due to the water surface that they can't see low objects. Try to approach from behind but if you must approach from the front or side, do it with a low profile.
  • Darkly - Wear dark clothing, hide highly reflective tools in your pocket. Stay in the shade.
  • Patiently - Don't rush. Observe and then plan your approach.
  • Direction - Think about where to make your best presentation. Where do the fish lie with respect to your approach? If you have a fish on, where is it going to run? How is the wind and the current going to affect the presentation? What are the covers available to you; foliage, rocks? Keep in mind the many different factors that can affect your presentation just by selecting the direction of your approach.
© 2023 Steve Schalla
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