November 1, 2013 at 12:58 pm #1675
Here’s a very interesting article about ‘Bows that I just found. It makes you wonder how we ever catch a trout at all.November 2, 2013 at 8:15 am #1679
Dry Fly GuyKeymaster
Interesting read, and certainly some information I was unaware of, but here’s a question (observation) I’ve never been able to resolve in my own mind. And just so we are all clear here, the article does NOT make any claim to dispute or agree with the following narrative, I was just reminded of my perception of the “noise issue” when I read the article, which has prompted my post here.
In the article (and elsewhere) I’ve read (or heard) about the hearing abilities of fish (trout). The author here even describes a “distant touch” sensing ability as part of the fish’s “senses”.
Now I’m not disputing that these senses and abilities exist, and I’m not qualified to speak to their actual capabilities. I’m certainly not a scientist of any kind, let alone one that studies the various senses of aquatic life. I’m just a fisherman with some experience and perception(s). And in the natural world of falling leaves, bugs, debris, etc., and the “unnatural” world of boat motors, splashing bobbers, rock skipping children, and clumsy waders, I have a hard time believing that much (if not most) of what a fish “hears” simply becomes background noise. Especially if they are residing in faster moving water, or the sound is emanating from a “distance”. There is just so much noise in these environments that it’s often difficult to hear someone speaking normally just a few yards from you. Let alone the “plop” of a small bug fifty feet away (or more). So honestly, I question how to decipher what is truly important, and how the highly keen sense of hearing actually impacts dry fly fishing.
I’m personally convinced that the quieter the environment is, the quieter one must be to not intrude upon it. I’m also convinced that a fish’s vision is truly the key, and I’d even go as far as saying that their other senses (taste, smell, and touch) have a more direct impact on a dry fly fisherman. If you’re splashing around, or “drilling holes” in the water with your casting etc., then I get to how sound becomes an issue pretty quickly. But I think that’s because the sound was in close enough proximity to be considered a threat by the fish, not because there was a “strange noise”.
For example, if I jump out from around a corner and yell “Boo!” unexpectedly as my wife is coming around it, I’ll certainly get an abrupt and strong reaction from her. But if I do the same thing when she’s a room away, the reaction I’d likely get is one of concern over my mental health, not a “flight or fight” response, simply because I no longer posed a “threat” to her.
I’ve made plenty of mistakes in my life that “made noise” when stalking a fish. But in most cases, if those mistakes were outside of the “vision” of the fish, or at least some distance from it, they posed no “threat”, so no harm was done and the fish remained “undisturbed”.
But if those fish even catch a glimpse of something slightly “off”, the game is up and they are long gone.
Like I said, I don’t know anything, and can only speculate from the anecdotal information I have experienced. But that’s what it seems like to me. I certainly keep the “noise” to a minimum, (I’m telling my kids to whisper all the time). But I’m convinced that what the fish sees is far more important to my (our) success, and even when my son yells out, “Dad! Over here!” he has likely done no harm in spooking the fish he wants me to see.
~ DFGNovember 2, 2013 at 10:30 am #1682
I agree with you, DFG. I tend to be more in the ‘clumsy wader’ category due to limited flexibility in one ankle, and thus a slightly off sense of balance in any situation. But it doesn’t have a huge impact on my fishing success if the environment is ‘noisy’.. ie, riffles mask it, but I have to be careful in runs.
The part about the article that intrigued me wasn’t the hearing element. It was taste. It made me wonder… do some trout sniff flies and refuse them if they smell off? In particular, can some floatants make flies more repellant? I started to look that information up next, but haven’t found much to go on.
BrettNovember 2, 2013 at 10:50 am #1683
My thoughts on this go back to an H.G. Tapply article I read at least 3-4 decades ago. His premise was that the trout’s behavior was governed by three “secondary” requirements: food, cover (shelter from predators) and comfort (a growth conducive environment). (The “primary” requirement and behavior determinant is to reproduce its own kind.)
The premise is that behavior at any given time will be determined by which of the needs was most dominant at the time. Food is, of course, governed by the energy equation: energy derived from feeding must exceed energy expended to feed. Feeding may be stimulated by hunger or by easy access to food (a hatch or spinner fall). The need for cover results from a predatory threat: a shadow from above or simply an odd “sound” or set of vibrations that is not part of the environment. Comfort could be temperature driven, lack of dissolved oxygen, change in pH; essentially anything that makes the environment less supportive.
I’ve had rising trout “vanish” immediately after a cleat in my wading boot scraped a rock. This tells me the feeding activity was likely casual or opportunistic and not avid. Reason? I’ve had avidly feeding, wild trout come within a few feet of me during a particularly good hatch while I am casting and moving well within the fish’s range of vision. Conclusion: they’ll ignore (or not “see”) a potential threat if the feeding stimulus is strong enough
The nature of the behavior obviously becomes a function of the specific environment. A fish’s reaction to threats would, for example, be dependent upon the types of predators most prevalent in a given environment. Preferred lies may be determined by feeding lanes, but in a habitat with wide ranging temperature fluctuations, they may also be determined by the presence of spring holes, shade or other habitat affecting features. Example: the Beaverkill is an east-to-west flowing river. PM lies were vastly different than AM lies because the fish would always take advantage of the shade shift. In a north/south flowing river, usually the shade will be determined seasonally rather than daily.
I’ve found using the food/cover/comfort premise as the basis for fish finding to be a very valuable tool over the years, and it is also alarmingly accurate in predicting behavior.
As to taste/smell, there are different schools of thought on this, but Ed Hewitt went so far as the eat ants to determine if there was something about them that made them attractive to trout. The scent attraction or repulsion of certain things seems to be pretty much accepted. (Why else “Power Bait”?)
November 2, 2013 at 10:52 am #1684
- This reply was modified 4 years ago by Eric Peper.
Dry Fly GuyKeymaster
Again, my anecdotal information would seem to indicate that they do actively “smell”. I’m not sure about the various floatants (though that makes some sense to me) but I can recall various occasions where I’ve handled a fly with something on my hands (soap, gasoline, sunscreen, “nacho cheese” residue – though in that case it might have helped 😉 ) and visibly had the fly refused when the fish went to take it. Recognizing the possibility, I cleansed my hands replaced the fly (same pattern) and immediately had a take from the same fish. Was it a scent that made the difference? I really have no idea. But I believe it was. (That or the lack of a small oil slick (unseen by me) that perhaps accompanied the contaminated fly).
p.s. Great info there EricNovember 2, 2013 at 11:11 am #1686
I might just keep some meal worms and crush one in my fingers before fishing from now on.November 2, 2013 at 11:57 am #1689
There’s no doubt salmonids have a keen sense of smell – it’s one of the ways steelhead and salmon find their natal rivers. But what do they smell and how does it affect their feeding behavior? For example, the best spring creek fisherman I know (nympher, BTW) was an auto worker and chain smoker. His hands were covered in grease, oil and tobacco smoke, and every fly he touched had to pick up some of that odor but he caught more and particularly more big fish than any three or four mortals. Was there something more exacting in his choice of, and presentation of, imitations or do trout just really like Marlboros and lithium grease? He’s now retired and quit smoking, and on a spring creek he’ll still outfish me every time.
To Joe Friday’s question, I doubt smell has much influence on dry fly success or failure. A freshly dressed dry would logically carry more foreign aroma than one that’s been cast a few dozen times (or a CDC fly which gets no chemical dressing at all) but I’ve personally found no correlation with fish refusal. What matters is size, silhouette and presentation IMO.November 2, 2013 at 12:25 pm #1690
I like to keep things simple. I’m concerned with 4 things, and if I do them right. I catch a lot of fish. They are.
The proper fly.
Cast to where fish are.
A drag free drift.
A proper hook set.
I’m just a fly fisherman. So, I think like one. I won’t be bogged down by scientific studies. Fish aren’t that smart.November 2, 2013 at 12:50 pm #1691
sure, you say that now, Creek. But when I develop a spray-on pheromone attractant that makes trout move three feet out of the way to take a fly, you’ll be begging me to sell it to you. Maybe I’ll market it to blind fishermen. It could open up the sport to a whole new demographic!November 2, 2013 at 1:07 pm #1692
Worm scent?November 2, 2013 at 1:11 pm #1693
That made me think of something. I had a guy accuse me of spraying my flies with WD-40, because I caught more fish than him. I told him I just use WD-40 on the door hinges on my Jeep.
WD-40?? Does that attract fish?November 2, 2013 at 2:46 pm #1694
Some salmon (bait and gear) fishermen in the Pacific NW swear by WD-40 as a fish attractant. Anise oil is also alleged to have magical fish attracting qualities.November 2, 2013 at 2:51 pm #1695
since WD-40 is mostly kerosene, I’m thinking that would be a big no.November 2, 2013 at 3:41 pm #1696
True, but it doesn’t smell like kerosene. So, some other scent must be added that fish like.
My buddy never did believe me, so I did an experiment to prove to him I wasn’t using anything. I had him buy some flies at the fly shop. Then with him watching I tied them on my tippet. We both fished the same stretch of water, and he kept his eye on me all the time to make sure I didn’t do anything to the fly. I out fished him 2-1, and he finally believed me.
I told him if he paid more attention to his fishing instead of watching me, you would have caught more. It wasn’t true, but it made him feel better. The truth was his flies landing like he was throwing rocks. 😀March 8, 2015 at 7:54 pm #4176
So a feeding fish will travel 100 feet to grab a well presented fly? That is something I need to witness myself before I believe that. !0ft I can see, but not a 100.
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