Pull Hard Whenever You Can!


Catch and release practices are being subject to greater scrutiny lately. And rightly so, for releasing a fish doesn’t necessarily mean it will survive if the angler doesn’t take enough care. I wrote something on the subject not long ago:

But in this regard of “releasing alive” there is a point that is missing in both old and new guidelines: sometimes (too many times, judging from what I personally see) the fish destined to be released is, in practical terms, dead before the angler touches it. That old “keep the rod tip up!” we heard so many times in those first fishing days, has the ability of killing as many fish as the neglecting angler-photographer.

There is no problem in shooting some pics or videos of a fish, provided that you bring it to the net quickly. The key is in using the rod properly by varying its effective length. By keeping the rod tip up we exert the minimum force on the fish and the maximum on our wrist. Changing the angle between the rod butt and the imaginary line which connects our hand with the fish, modifies that relationship of forces. I see too many anglers that don’t understand this basic concept.

The following video shows a 2.5 kg brown trout that fell to a #18 nymph on a long 7X (0.10 mm) tippet. Not a suitable diameter, I know, but I didn’t expect that size of fish; had I seen it I’d have resorted to a thicker monofilament. However, by pulling hard whenever I could, I managed to get the trout in the net without any damage, although I was rather “underpinned”. And believe me, that brown fought like crazy.

My point? Taking pics in a sensible way isn’t at odds with proper catch and release practices. It is what happens first what matters the most. So pull hard whenever you can —that is, when the fish stops after a run— decreasing tension when it speeds up again.

Don’t Drag, my Fly, Drift Free!


Piling the cast for the nymph to drift deep and naturally

Anyone marginally interested in the casting world tends to regard fly casting and distance casting as synonyms. It is the same in fly fishing shows: anglers trying bunches of new rod models with their eyes fixed in the far end of the casting pond; it doesn’t make any difference if they are holding a 9’#9 devised for bonefish in the flats or a 8’6″#4 destined to spring creek finesse. I can’t blame them, in the end most of the visual material available on the net is about putting a fluff as far as possible.

What I did never get is why devoted casters and instructors (specially if they are river trout anglers) promote that very same connection.
I can’t think of a more harmful approach for the development of fly casting, at least in Spain. The river “trouter” doesn’t see distance casting as a problem solver for everyday issues presenting a fly, and though I agree that being proficient at long distances makes controlling the line at medium range much easier, that is a relationship that isn’t at all evident to fly fishers.

As you may suppose by now I am not a distance caster; take it as a mild way of saying that I am crap at putting a fly really far away. In my view two fundamental elements pave the way to becoming a distance expert: a single family house and a big garden outside; I lack both of them. The possibility of keeping a rigged rod behind the door at all times helps a lot. Practice makes perfect and for getting your fly thirty plus meters away you need a lot of it!
I have my training lawn at 35 minutes from home, which means more than an hour just to get there and back; add some substantial time for the actual practice and the result is that my opportunities for training aren’t many. But even having a practice field close to my house I doubt I’d be much better in the distance game. No that I wouldn’t be very happy reaching astronomical distances, but spare time is limited and I prefer to spend it improving drag-free drift techniques, which, when looking for real proficiency, are as time consuming as distance itself but much more in tune with the kind of fishing I practice the most.

Have I missed being a good distance caster when fishing? Of course I have! Baltic pike and Patagonia sea-run brown trout come to mind. But I have lost count of how many times I have missed the ability of getting a perfect drift of my fly in the maze of micro-currents of my favorite fishing venues.

Around a year ago I was mentoring a candidate for the IFFF CCI title. After months of in-depth looking at the theoretical test it came the day to check for weaknesses in the practical part. The first tasks on loop control were good. Then I asked for the Reach Cast (or a Reach Mend by the current IFFF standards). He barely moved the rod tip sideways as without any purpose, resulting in a very poor line configuration on the ground, try after try.

You have to make each cast with authority not only for the examiners to see but when fishing as well” I said.

Then an idea started turning around inside my head.

Do you know what the practical uses for the Reach are? I asked.

Practical uses? I thought it was an exercise, something for the examiner to check if you have a good control of the line!” He replied.

Amazing! I can’t think of a single day on the river not sending dozens of Reachs out there, and there I was with a would-be casting instructor who didn’t have a clue about one of the most practical fishing casts available!
Of course he was very good at sending the fly thirty plus meters away.

In my opinion this shows that we, casting instructors, are approaching things in a wrong way. For instance, the invention of “trick casts” intended just for showing off doesn’t exactly help in reconciling -in the eyes of the fishing community- casting with fishing as the two sides of the same coin they actually are.

So here we go with some dry fly downstream drag-free presentations by master angler Zeljko Prpic.


A whole day devoted to the big ones. Failure: some missed takes and a couple of them felt for just a second; it seems that when they close their mouth it is already late.I can’t blame the river spirits, it was entirely my fault.
Best one was 1 Kg; he only responded to perfect drift after perfect drift after perfect drift of a #24 olive dun. With so many natural insects going down the current, why should it be interested in my fly?

Shot with a GoPro and edited on the fly with PS Express for iPad. It isn’t tinted or over saturated, as you can check by the (more or less) natural color of the fingertips. Beauty.

Nothing New Under the Sun


As the planning for a next New Zealand fishing trip began to take shape I remembered something lost somewhere in my messy fishing library. Browsing for a while gave its fruit. The book’s title is Stalking Trout, and it was published in 1985. On its first page a manuscript note by my hand says: June 2000.

I wasn’t specially interested in the subject as much as in the background: the authors are kiwis and the book is devoted to catching New Zealand trout. It actually made for a nice reading so it was over in just a couple of days. No fantastic discoveries to share here, though the abundance of paragraphs I, at the time, underlined in red shows that today’s no-brainers were illuminating findings sixteen years ago. Older but, at least, a little bit wiser.

The chapter on conservation caught my attention. For a book more than thirty years old -and from a country with plenty of healthy fisheries, still today- its call for C&R practices is particularly surprising… and saddening when compared to the level of consciousness (lack of it to be precise) I see around here.

As a guideline to the proper release of fish the chapter gives what time has stablished as the usual recommendations, with the exciting addition of a very NZ specific one: carry a landing net big enough!

In recent times an interesting social media campaign has focused on raising awareness of the fact that “releasing” and “releasing to survive” aren’t the same thing. And this sets a fundamental difference between the old advice and the new one: those kiwis didn’t imagine at the time that an angler provided with a camera should be reminded of the fact that fish can’t breath air. Obvious things aren’t that obvious, are they?

But in this regard of “releasing alive” there is a point that is missing in both old and new guidelines: sometimes (too many times, judging from what I personally see) the fish destined to be released is, in practical terms, dead before the angler touches it. That old “keep the rod tip up!” we heard so many times in those first fishing days, has the ability of killing as many fish as the neglecting angler-photographer.

Between pointing the rod directly to the fish, and putting the rod at 90 degrees of that position there is a good number of variables that must be used. In that way you vary the amount of force exerted on the fish, pulling lightly when necessary… or up to the tippet breaking strain limit when possible. The amount of force we actually exert on a fish and the force we feel in our wrist, are of very different magnitude. It is the nature of levers. Here is an enlightening experience I do during my classes and recommend to every angler:

Ask a friend to rig his rod with a line provided with a pretty thick tippet. Take the end of the tippet between index and thumb, and challege your friend to take the tippet off your fingers with his “rod tip up”. Warn him about rod breakage first, then enjoy the look of his face when he starts feeling worried of injuring his wrist while you happily sip your beer.


Early? Late? Just the Opposite?

The dreams of dry fly fishers are populated with big trout confidently sipping our flies from the surface. In my particular case I prefer to dream of a big brown eventually taking some of my tiny emergers, but only after a period of pure disdain interspersed with a number of refusals. There is no pleasure in too easy things. That is why a great fishing day can’t be measured in numbers, or at least not only in them.

On the other hand too difficult goals often lead to frustration.  There are days when you don’t know whether you are striking too early, too late or they just seem to take the fly… but actually aren’t. It is a mistery, at least to me.

The scene depicted below resulted in the urge of having a couple of cold beers to properly shooth my soul. 😀


In Search of Beauty

That is what fly fishing is about, isn’t it?

Hatch in progress. A quartering dowstream cast to a good brown trying to get a drag-free drift in the tricky currents of a Bosnian chalkstream. The fly falls short of the target but the trout moves half a meter to its right to inspect the size #22 Shuttlecock Emerger. The fly is, apparently, right; obviously the drift is not. I get a well deserved refusal.

Three more casts get the fly drifting freely above the trout’s head. It couldn’t care less. Fourth good drift and the fish opens its mouth with confidence. Trout are a mistery. Fortunately.

Not the biggest fish of the season nor the most difficult, but beautiful. For several reasons.

Fly fishing is a permanent search of beauty, isn’t it?