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November 18, 2007

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Have We Pounded Trout into Submission?

If you've ever been lucky enough to go to Chile or Alaska, you'll notice the fish behave differently. In Chile, you throw a grasshopper fly in the middle of the river and twitch it so the brown trout will run over from the bank and eat it. In Alaska, rainbow trout cannot resist mouse flies. I once caught 18 bows on a mouse pattern in one bright afternoon. Try either of those tricks on the Delaware or the Henry's Fork and see how far you get.

I cannot help but imagine that our Lower 48 trout are so wary, that they prefer itty bitty bugs most often (in most places) because they've had the snot pounded out of them so hard by way of people pressure. Pressured trout are binge feeders (not opportunistic predators), and it takes an epic event (e.g. a salmonfly hatch) to trigger the binge. Other than that, they feed to subsist, and that's why you have to spoon feed size #20 black beauties to the trout in Cheesman Canyon (CO), for example. Remove the pressure, and trout lose inhibition. That's why 18-inch cutthroats eat Humpies and Royal Wulffs in the backcountry.

Not a leading-edge theory, to be sure. But it does make me wonder if indeed closing rivers, for certain days ... or weeks ... or even months might be a way to affect more "authentic" trout fishing. I wonder how many anglers would prefer fewer, but better days. I'd trade 10 strike indicator and RS2 fly days for one big dry fly day. No question.


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Al Keller

With increased fishing pressure on the rivers it is no wonder the fish are getting picky. Those fish live in a confined area for the most part. Imagine taking people and put them side by side down the street for 5miles and then drive down with a guy on the roof popping them. About the 5th "drift" the people with get weary as well.
The fish on shallow saltwater flats ie.
Pine Island, they can tell what type of boat and trolling motor is coming their way.
Beat anything long enough and well.....


I actually kind of like the fact that its a challenge to catch trout in certain waters. For me it isn't just about the catch, it is also about the pursuit. It makes flyfishing for trout on these waters kind of like "hunting" the trout. When you do catch one, it makes it all the more satisfying, and seems to legitimize you as a skilled fisherman.

But, yes, it is also fun when trout eat anything you throw at them. But only to a point, because when its too easy to catch trout, it can almost be "like shooting fish in a barrel."

Chad Miller

Kirk you and I have talked about this. As I told you I believe the industry as a whole is at fault here. They promote Trout as a way of selling more product. They promote conservation and at the same time take no responsibilty for overpromoting famous trout fisheries. I believe the only hope for trout are bass.

It would seem the tide might be changing with new bass tackle and the interest now among manufactures in bass fishing. We are a warmwater nation with a few coldwater fisheries and most of our indusrty is based on coldwater fisheries. All the fish that are talked about on this blog would benefit from bass coming to the front of the industry. As you have told me a map of the country is like a watermelon. The red part would be all the warwater we have at our disposal. We should all take advantage of it.

Dan Fink

Howdy Kirk and Tim and all-- Ever tried Rocky Ford Creek near Ephrata, WA? Makes me agree with Ethan's post about the challenge of catching really educated fish. Much more difficult fishing there than even the S Platte in Colorado.

Rocky Ford is about as difficult and pressured a fishery as you can get. Only a couple miles long, hatchery at the spring source and hatchery at the bottom. All triploid rainbows. No wading, catch and release barbless only; it's too pressured. Clear spring water, and giant trout finning right before your eyes. But just try to hook one!

Also interesting because the water is so clear you can watch the trout's behavior. Pick one (say that nice 32 incher at the outlet of the "sippin' pool" by the bridge) and start presenting your flies. I was astounded that the big boy saw my san juan worm, made a move to look at it, and let it bounce down his back while giving me the fin (the fin being the size of a piece of french toast....)

Then it becomes a problem-solving exercise, and THAT's when it gets really fun! ....and it may take all day or week to hook one. I ended up tossing #24 CDC midge emergers and got a single fish with an entire day's effort. And in the faster water, a soft hackle wet presented just right got another couple fish. 3 fish in 2 days fishing.....

But they were huge (big was 25", small was 19") and the pleasure was in the challenge of even hooking up at all on that strange creek in a strange place with strange fish who have seen every fly ever conceived by man, presented by everyone from experts to rank beginners.

Educated trout are just another facet of fly fishing...you can always go somewhere else and get one on every cast. In fact, that's exactly what I did after the Rocky Ford experience--up to Grand Mesa for a week of hungry, uneducated trouts.



it's a sad state of affairs even to have to consider the idea of hooking a fish that has been hooked before. what has this world come to???



I'm setting up for a good bass discussion. You're right with all your comments above. I'm going to drop the other shoe tomorrow.

Anthony Bartkowski

You are right. The pressure of the public hot spots has made fishing very difficult and you have to be creative in detecting strikes. It is just not Cheesman in Colorado. It is almost every major spot along the front range. Time to hike them away from the parking lots for freedom.

When you squint to see the fly selection in your box you know the river has been pounded. If you did not know what to use there were some always true and tested patterns to get a fish to visit your offering.

My pack is heavy enough with fly boxes, it would be nice to grab just one box and know that was going to be it for the day.

There is a challenge. It is no longer look at the hatch charts to figure out box #1, #2, or #3. It is now colors. Will red, black, blue, green, brown, orange, and etc. be the choice of the day? Hell even on top of that, there are all of the various different shades and special names of those colors that you need to bring your wife along to help determine what these special colors are.

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