[Editor's Note: A buddy of mine just returned from Montana, where the water was pretty high everywhere he fished. He stressed that the key to success was getting flies deep, so it seemed a good time to repost this from last fall. Originally posted on September 27, 2010.]
Many years ago on Maine’s Rapid River, when I was still a relative newcomer to the sport, I learned a valuable lesson about getting my flies deep enough. It was the middle of a hot June day, there was no surface activity, and I was fishing a Hare’s Ear Nymph with a floating line and a strike indicator. Although I hadn’t even gotten a bump all day, a guy upstream from me was landing gorgeous, chunky brook trout at the rate of about one every half hour.
I finally couldn’t take it anymore, so I reeled in and walked up to find out what his secret was. I noticed that his fly line was brown, he had no indicator, and his nymph made a tremendous plop! when it landed. While I stood there, he hooked and landed another brookie, which measured at least 16 inches.
Having noticed my obvious interest, he explained what he was doing.
“The fish are right on the bottom in the deepest water,” he said, “and this fast current means that you need a lot of weight to get down to them.”
It turned out that he was fishing a heavily weighted stonefly imitation on a full-sinking line. He would cast to the very top of the pool, make an immediate mend, and then let the fly sink, drift, and swing. When I asked him if he lost a lot of flies on the bottom, he said, “Sure. I’ve lost about a dozen flies today…but I’ve caught eight or nine big trout. These flies are easy to tie, so I figure it’s worth it.”
His method was crude, but there was no denying its effectiveness. But from that encounter, I took away two important concepts: a) big fish live near the bottom, and b) it takes special tackle and tactics to reach those fish. When you know you’re gonna have to get your flies to the bottom fast, a couple of split shot ain’t gonna do it. Make sure you plan ahead.