I don't get it.

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This topic contains 13 replies, has 5 voices, and was last updated by  Scotty MacFly 1 year, 11 months ago.

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    Scotty MacFly

    This year I have had the opportunities to watch others fish as I am fishing. If someone is in my sight I’ll watch as I’m changing flies or tippet, or un-tying a knot a sailor couldn’t tie. I’ll just sit or stand quietly hoping to pick up a new technique or something. Nope. Unless I want to go back to nymphing.

    I keep reading and hearing that 80% of what a trout eats are subsurface. Ok, I can understand that. If that’s true, something is off.

    So far this year I have watched maybe eight to ten other fishermen, some with guides, all fishing with nymphs. I’d sit and watch and watch. No takes. I’d get back in the game and cast a dry around the five points of a rock and would sometimes get a hit. And if needed, I’d re-tie my fly and watch some more and still nothing.

    Today was a fine example of this. I was in an area that must have been well known because three other fishermen showed up at different times to fish this beautiful deep run right down the center of the river. I was on the other side working the edges and any structure that happened to be there. I was having the time of my life. But these gentlemen who came and went one at a time worked the run to death nymphing. I think I upset one fellow because I found an eddie that held a few fish. After the third fish was released I saw him exiting the river. And the next guy showed up five minutes later to try his luck to no avail. I just hung around that stretch because it was a new part of the river for me, and it was providing me with some healthy fat fish. I didn’t want to leave.
    Not one of the others caught any fish from this run, and if I were a fish, I’d be in it. It had everything a fish would want.

    You could say the chances are the run had no fish in it. I could except that opinion, but unlikely. It was at least 30 yards long. But what about all the others I have watched this year? Same scenario that I have seen. Now I’m not saying they all were skunked, but if it’s true that if you want to catch more fish, using nymphs is the way to go, I’ll pass. I seem to have more success with dries. Maybe my presentation is getting better, that’s a good possibility.

    My youngest nephew is a fly fisher who only uses nymphs, and he is quite successful at it, but he can’t dry fly fish to save his life, and I see many younger fishermen only nymphing, which brings up a question. Is dry fly fishing on it’s way out? I hope not. Seems the only people I see these days dry fly fishing are mostly my age and older. And I don’t see many of them. I understand the guides, they want happy clients, and return clients at that. That’s how they make their money, and nymphing is a easy way to catch fish. Though many still do both and that’s fine.

    Has anyone here experienced what I am? That dry fly fishing when casting is deliberately at objects like rocks or downed trees, or whatever, but precise and accurate, with good presentation, and the right fly, may, ( just may ) out perform nymphing?

    This is just something I have noticed lately, and I was curious if you have witnessed the same.



    I’ll give you my opinion Scotty, but that doesn’t mean i’m right. Up front you know I just fish dries year around unless i’m messing with North Country Spiders. It’s my choice, because I enjoy fishing dries more than any other method. I don’t do it because I think it’s the most effective method to catch trout. I do it because I love it.

    With that said A good nymph fisherman will out fish a dry fly fisherman year around. Key words are year around. Sometimes dry fly fishing will out perform nymphs. (like this time of the year) However, you can say the same thing about nymphs. I hate to say this what i’m going to say next, but I believe it’s the truth. If my life depended on catching the most fish for a year. I’d nymph fish.

    A good example of this is fly fishing competition. The fisherman only care about catching the most fish. What methods do they use. Yes, they nymph fish the majority of the time. They even came up with better methods to nymph fish. The difference is they’re good at it. From what i’ve observed the average fly fisherman aren’t very good at nymph fishing. Especially, if they’re not using a strike indicator.

    So, that’s my opinion Scotty. I dry fly fish because I love it. Everybody should fish the way they love and not give a lick how others do it. I also use a method hunting that I know for fact is not the most effective. That doesn’t bother me at all. I love the way I do it and could care less what others do. It’s not how many fish I catch, or how much game I shoot. It’s how I do it and enjoy how I do it that counts to me.



    “From what I’ve observed the average fly fisherman aren’t very good at nymph fishing.”

    That’s it right there. Even with a bobber most nymphers miss a lot of takes.

    I think the “90% subsurface” dogma keeps many anglers stubbornly fishing deep even when fish are clearly rising all around. They assume if a dozen trout are visible eating on top there MUST be 9 dozen more eating nymphs, right?

    Quick anecdote – fishing a well-known tailwater one fall, a friend and I were literally the only ones fishing dry. We saw at least 20 other fishermen over the course of the day and every one of them was chucking a two nymph rig, split shot and a large fuzzy indicator. Hardly saw a single fish landed save the dozen or so my pal and I each caught in the AM during the midge hatch. Afternoons when the olives came off it was even more lopsided. Yet these guys were so stuck on nymphing I didn’t notice a single one so much as trying a dry.



    When a nymph fisherman tells me 90% of the food taken by trout are sub surface I have an answer. First off I never believed it was as high as 90%, but that doesn’t matter. What I say to them is have they ever checked a trouts stomach. Most will say no, but for those who say yes I ask them how many insects were in the stomach. They might say 50. I then say…Ok, so 5 of them were dry flies. That’s enough for me to catch them.


    Scotty MacFly

    Please don’t get the idea that I care how others fish. I find fishermen amusing at times. It’s all about having fun and enjoying nature. A caught fish is just a bonus no matter how it’s done. I also believe many do fish for those two reasons, and still want the bonus. I do enjoy catching fish. I don’t work on my techniques for nothing. Isn’t that why we talk about proper presentation, so we can catch a fish?

    I understand that nymphing works better at certain times, that’s true. Which makes the dry fly much more challenging and fun to use. It just hit me yesterday watching these three gentlemen who I know saw me puling in fish with a dry and they wouldn’t even switch. Not any of the three switched. I really believe the one guy got fed up seeing me catch fish and he wasn’t. You’d think he’d ask me, or just switch to a dry. But no, he left after about 30 min.

    Put it this way, yesterday the first two fish swiped my fly. OK, that tells me they are interested in my offering, but something is off, so I went down a size and bingo! Einstein said, ” insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” To me the definition of the word ” change ” is, you didn’t get it right the first time, so do something different. I did, and it worked.

    Now, I have nothing against people who nymph. When I nymphed, I did it Czech style. It was more productive for me and it was at close range, like my dry fly fishing. Contact fishing, if you will call it. I never liked using an indicator so I rarely ever did, might as well use a bobber and a worm. I liked to watch for movement of the line or feel the take. Sometimes the line would just stop altogether and I’d set the hook. But when I see folks paying a professional to take them out to learn to catch a fish, and they only use nymphs and hook into nothing, but still won’t change over to a dry, maybe because the client isn’t good at casting, which is a good case I agree, I have to first think what a rip off. Especially when I just hooked into a dozen using a dry.

    Grsdlnr, so you have noticed it as well. You used the word stubborn, that’s the word I was looking for. But it isn’t being stubborn if you truly enjoy a certain way to fish. Pride maybe? What’s being stubborn or prideful is seeing a guy fish and catching fish, and you aren’t and being discouraged and leave because you can’t get a take. Almost immature if you ask me. I say humble yourself and change if what you’re using isn’t working and you want to catch a fish. I’ll admit that there are times I want to really catch fish and I don’t, and those are the times I do wish I had a nymph. But it’s those times I break out my spiders. I at least go out with some sort of change in my arsenal.

    Then, most of the time I just fish to get away and I don’t care if I hook into anything, then if that’s true, why do I work so hard on my techniques and presentation?
    Maybe those who fish with nymphs are just doing the same.



    Keep in mind if they aren’t catching fish and continue to fish nymphs they just might love the method like we love to fish dry flies and don’t switch when they aren’t working. At least I don’t. So, give them the same understanding that you expect from others about how you fish.

    I never watch anybody else fishing, because If they’re that close to me. I’m fishing the wrong area and will move. Even when I fish the Frying Pan I find some area that nobody else is around. Usually downstream from the popular areas to fish.


    Scotty MacFly

    It’s hard to find a secluded spot on the Poudre at this time of year. Thought I did when I arrived because it’s higher that the popular spots, but I was found.

    After sleeping on this, I must apologize on how selfish this all sounds. I woke up laughing at myself because of it. Here I am speaking of many nymph fishers out there who won’t change to a dry. There are some of us in this world of dry fly fishermen who won’t change over to a nymph when dries are not the answer.
    The word stubborn was used for them, but what about us. Instead of calling ourselves who use ONLY dries, not wets, but only your classic dries, we call ourselves Purists.

    Sounds like a prideful way of calling ourselves stubborn.

    But……the beauty of it is once again, fish the way YOU like to fish. There is no sin in that. It’s what brings the enjoyment to the fishermen. I guess it is all about how one looks at it when they fish. After all, I’m not you, and vise versa.

    Things like this happen to me quite often. I’ll notice things for awhile and not really see it till later, then when it hits me I find it peculiar and ask questions or make comments. Hopefully more on a question side than a comment side. Just curious I guess. I have heard from a man I admire very much say once, before you look at someone else, look at yourself. I failed.

    But there is that one bit still bothering me. With this new younger generation nymphing more and more, is the dry fly vanishing? Maybe that’s what I should have put first.



    Well, so many who fish consider it a failed day if they don’t catch fish. Fly fishing for them is just a way to catch fish. I think they’re missing out.

    Fly fishing is so much more for me. The setting is beautiful. I never get tired of being there. I also love to cast. Every cast is a challenge to put the fly exactly where I want it. It’s also a challenge to get a drag free drift. I love trying to get it right everytime. I enjoy this part of fly fishing as much as catching fish. Maybe even more.

    It’s why I love dry flies. It’s not the flies themselves although I like that too. It’s how we present the dry fly that I love. Nymphing or slinging streamers leave me cold. There’s no art to the process.

    If that makes me a purist or stubborn. Who cares? My goal in fishing is to have fun. Dry flies are fun.


    Dark Waters

    Scotty, I think you are being far too hard on yourself. It’s been an excellent read, and makes one think and see things from a different angle. It is funny, when you see the parallels of stubbornness. Heck I even wasted years not trying this sooner because I wasn’t sure what to do and I’ve always been one to prefer to figure things out on my own, at least in practice. (reading about it and then going out and doing it)

    I have ran into this myself at times. Like in Maine a couple years ago, I was getting hit after hit on dries, when the wind wasn’t completely blowing the feeding lane into wave swept water. Not ideal dry fly conditions.. but I was fishing near some streamer guys and never saw one catch anything, don’t know if they had any hits or not. Despite all the misses I also caught salmon and trout.

    I’ve also experienced it the opposite way. I watched a guy clean up on rainbows below me, and another two guys above me, and I went completely hitless. They were using spinning rods. Some nymph guys even came along and all they caught were snags. It was then that I realized I really didn’t mind. I want to catch fish, believe me.. but I decided I was just fine doing things on my terms regardless of the outcome.

    Creek, I’m with you. Everything you said about why you enjoy dry fly fishing is spot on and why I like to do it as well. There’s nothing else like it.


    Scotty MacFly

    Dry flies to me are the peak of fishing. If a person can make a fish rise due to an accurate cast, drag free natural presentation, he or she is at the top of their game. To me it’s so many things wrapped into one package. Casting is therapeutic to me, and a game as well picking targets on the water. And if a fish does take, well like I said, it’s a bonus.

    When I was on the river the other day, I casted my fly below some small white water coming over a few rocks, and the biggest brown trout I ever had on a fly hit with authority and took off. It went to the left towards the bank then came back out, jumped 2ft. out of the water, and headed for a huge rock and dislodged my fly. I couldn’t do a darn thing about it. All I know is below the excitement of hooking this majestic fish that appeared to be 20-22 inches and fat, I was actually rooting for the fish. When I dislodged the fly from the rock, I was commenting to myself how enjoyable it was to have that happen even though it got away, because I obviously was doing something right, and that pleased me so much, losing that fish didn’t bother me at all.

    I love to see the take. It’s what tells me everything, let alone it’s exciting. My favorite are when brookies jump completely out of the water to take a fly bigger than their face. I don’t even care if they miss.

    Yes Creek, dry flies are fun. Stubborn or not, it’s how we on this forum like to fish the most with good reasons.



    Nice one-that-got-away story, Scotty.

    While I overwhelmingly prefer fishing on top, I’ll confess that when nothing was rising and I couldn’t get a fish to look up for an attractor dry or terrestrial that a subsurface fly has found its way onto my leader (usually a streamer because I just like that solid thump) More often I’ll admit that it’s just not my day and come back another time.

    I rarely have the pleasure of fishing in solitude thanks to a bad knee that keeps me from getting very far off the beaten track, so seeing other anglers is the norm. Which means I get to observe others, their methods and their success rate. At least where and when I fish I have as much confidence of hooking up on a floating pattern as others do on a nymph. This is not at all hubris or a sense of superiority – it’s all fishing and if nymphers are having fun, good on ’em.


    Scotty MacFly

    Thanks guys. I never do intend to come off sounding like I do sometimes.

    D.W., you could be right, and maybe this year I’m just on a roll. I have noticed myself getting better and better at this, and it makes a pretty much self taught person like myself feel good knowing I’m doing alright. I read all your posts and try to imagine on the information you guys give, and it has helped.

    Learning fly fishing from my grandfather was so long ago, and coming back to it many, many years later, trying to remember everything he taught me has been difficult. The first few times back in it was very much a learning experience, and I got skunked so many times, but I never gave up. Then things started to come together and I started to see rises and takes, and that made my confidence go up. I still get skunked once in a while, but not very often.

    Grsdlnr, I’m glad you like the one-that-got-away story. It’s true to the core. I knew he was headed for that rock, and once he got there it was going to be over, and he wasn’t about to let me turn him around. It was so intense for about fifteen seconds, I’m glad it happened to me. The memory of it will make me smile for awhile.

    Creek, I’m with you too on those who fish consider it a failed day if they don’t catch a fish. I learned to look at it as a learning experience. Most of the time I blame it on the upslope weather conditions, but that’s another story. How can you fail at something if you don’t give up? You can’t in my book. I may not have a great day fishing with all the knots and branches I get tangled in, but I don’t give up because I except it as part of the sport. And I just seem to come back stronger for it.

    I think fly fishing builds one’s character faster than any other sport, except maybe wrestling. It’ll teach you to be patient for one thing, and it’ll make you look around at the things you may have taken for granted. It’ll change a person if they let it.



    I suppose you are right, that fly fishing can build character. At the very least, its very good at REVEALING character, if only to oneself. Particularly as it pertains to ethics or sportsmanship if you will. I consider true ethics to be exhibited by one’s behaviour when no one is watching, and that, to me, separates ‘sports’ from ‘games’. I relegate football, hockey, baseball, basketball, etc to the realm of ‘games’, simply because of the presence of (and dependence upon) referees and umpires and such. I’m not saying sportsmanship cannot (or does not) get revealed on these playing fields, but its occurrence is usually noteworthy by virtue of its rarity. And of course, the main goal is to ‘win'; to achieve the highest score. This makes sense in the context of a ‘game’. But to win onstream does not always have a numerical meaning.
    In any case, alone on the stream or in the field: to me, that’s where the truly ethical sportsman exists.
    Very interesting discussion you’ve generated! Thanks.


    Scotty MacFly

    Wheezeburnt, well said, and well received I assure you. I like your definition between games and sports.

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