To tube or not to tube is a shouldn’t be a dilemma.
Although targeting Trout from the bank and stalking a fish is the way to go on arrival at any dam (as long as you get their at the proverbial crack of), to not jump in your float tube when fishing any decent sized dam is just limiting your options.
The design of any established still water means that accessibility is limited from the bank, very often the dam wall and one side of the still water being your only vantage point from which to cast. And even if you have 360 degree access and can throw a line like the late Lefty Kreh, you’re still only prospecting the fringes around the bank.
So when that sun starts to raise it’s bright head and you’ve exhausted the sight casting opportunities should you jump into their domain and enjoy your floating Lazy Boy.
And to catch any fish, you have to find them first.
No matter how great your cast, how perfect your presentation….even if you’ve got that sure thing fly pattern……if you’re fishing in the wrong area, then you might as well be on dry land, so you should always take a moment to survey the water and plan your attack…..and I revolve my approach around the structure.
Any structure affords fish cover or protection and this refuge is often also a habitat for aquatic life on which they feed. So look for rocky outcrops, overhanging trees or any variation in the dam floor. Not all structure is visible, so if you can, get a height vantage point, aside from helping you to spot moving fish in clean water, you’ll get to see what lies below.
A lot of anglers moan about weed, but a dam without weed can’t support an adequate population of insects or Trout food. Weed is a fly fisher’s friend, (in more ways than one). Find the weed beds and you will find the fish under, alongside or within striking distance thereof. You need to find the spaces in between, so if you’re in float tube, anchor yourself in the middle of the weed and cast into the channels or holes.
You want to put your fly on the edge, so the advantage of a tube, is that you can cast into the weed bed…..you can also cast onto the bed and bring it over the edge, or you can cast along the wall of the weed, fishing the length of the channel .
Don’t overthink it, just work the spaces in-between.
Every dam has an inlet, this might be just catchment run off or fed by a natural spring, either way Trout naturally gravitate towards running water, which brings with it fresh nutrients and above all else oxygenates the water, so this is always a good bet on looking for moving fish.
It’s easy to find, but often not easy to access, it will inevitably be shallow, hence approach slowly, because in thin water you’ll only get a cast or two….so make it count.
Conversely is the outlet or spillway. If there is a running outflow then this moving water will be an attraction to fish, but even the inert spillway of the dam represents a structural change in which you’ll find moving fish. Here the fish will have a drop off, just off the shallow spillway in which to lurk, so a cast just into this change in depth can sometimes be very rewarding.
Both the inlet and outlet of a dam are the shallow areas and in low light, both at dusk and dawn, you will often find fish brave enough to be milling in these areas
Use the technology at your fingertips, all of this can be done with a simple Google map search, well before you arrive at your venue, so you’re not wasting time on guesswork….you go in with a plan….doing the groundwork for your next fishing adventure is half the fun anyway, so enjoy this preparation.
What depth the fish are at depends largely on time of day and water temperature. Figuring this out, if not evident by rising / feeding fish, then simply work the water column. I usually start at the top and work my way down, but when you figure out where the Trout are in the water column you’ll know what line and fly weight to use.
In low light they’re near the surface and in bright sunny conditions you’ll find them a lot deeper
When you’re in the right zone, accuracy and presentation trumps distance, you’ll be surprised how many fish are within 10 meters of the edge of where you’re positioned. Now I love casting, but no angler has caught a fish with his fly in the air, so don’t spend more time trying to make longer casts….the basic maths tells you that the more your fly is in the water the more fish you will catch.
Focus on putting the fly in the right spot as gently as possible….to much casting simply scares fish in the vicinity.
Retrievals depends on fly and line selection and there’s no definitive right or wrong way, my fast and your slow can be worlds apart and how short or long you strip is very subjective, let alone the pause in-between.
Remember to hang your fly. By simply lifting your rod slowly with about 8 meters of line still in the water (most fly lines have a hang marker), changes the angle of the fly through the water column, which often induces the strike, if a fish is following……and you’d be amazed how many fish follow without you knowing!
What fly works has fuelled more debates on bar stools than I care to remember and there’s a library of books to prove it. Colour and how the fly swims are my main criteria when it comes to streamer selection. Obviously only when you enjoy some success with a particular pattern do you gain the required confidence, which is key to stop you changing flies too frequently.
My simple rule of thumb is try keep your fly in the water longer, again logic dictating that you can’t catch a fish with your fly out of it.
So, Let the fish find your fly…..this is a pearl that only after chasing too many trout have I begun to truly appreciate.