I remember the winter of 2005/2006 like it was yesterday. It was the first winter after my first full season as a fly angler. After spending the previous year getting rejected by trout after trout– aside from a few lucky breaks, I was determined to be ready for any hatch I might encounter the next fishing season. After all, the reason that all those fish rejected my flies that first season had to be that they just weren’t the right fly, right? Suddenly, I had an insatiable thirst for more knowledge on all things relating to trout and their prey (a thirst that was never quite quenched, which eventually led to this website).
I read every book and website I could get my hands on, and they all confirmed my suspicions; I wasn’t using the right fly, or the fly I was using didn’t look close enough to the natural. Almost all of the fly fishing literature I was feeding myself told me that I had to identify what the fish were eating, match its size/shape/color as close as possible, and I’d be all set.
During the next few years I kept learning, and I progressively caught more and more fish. Then I started to suspect I was still missing something. Something BIG. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but I knew there was another factor in fly presentation that was just as important, if not more so, than size/shape/color. A fourth dimension in a parallel universe that would take me from average to awesome. But I couldn’t put my finger on it.
The answer came another year or so later, and completely changed the way I fish and the fly patterns I keep in my fly boxes.
Action, behavior, presentation– whatever you want to call it– the missing link was how my fly pattern (above and beyond what the angler has control of during a drift) acted in the water. I realized that I didn’t have to tie individual legs, count the number of tails on my dries, or add eyeballs to my dry flies. I only had to make my flies act like the natural to the point where they made the fish think my fly was real food.
The changes I made to my fly patterns were fairly subtle for the most part. I began tweaking standard proportions. I found ways to make my dries float lower in the film, substituted materials to add subtle movement, etc. This all led to one of my proudest accomplishments as a fly tier, “parafoam hackle.” Cause if my dry flies were going to float lower in the film– and as a result, absorb more water, faster– I had to figure out a way to make them stay there longer before sinking. I hate floatant.
To wrap this up and get on with the book review, I’ve been catching more and more fish, since, and have more fun fishing. Then a week or so ago, I ran across a new book title while cruising Amazon, What Trout Want: The Educated Trout and Other Myths, by Bob Wyatt. Intrigued, I read the description and reviews and immediately ordered a copy. The book landed in my mailbox earlier this week and I haven’t been able to put it down since.
Wyatt takes some of the most sacred and embedded principles in fly fishing for trout and reaffirms to fly anglers what many have been thinking all along, you’re making this stuff way harder than it needs to be by looking at it from the wrong angle. I felt like I should be taking notes as I read– and I probably will the second time through– as what he says really makes sense. The author takes the mysticism out of hatch matching, and stresses the importance of fly behavior.
And he backs it up with real science from research on the water and off. My kind of guy.
According to Wyatt, trout aren’t selective. Aside from reproduction, their whole life revolves around eating and avoiding predators. All you have to do as an angler is make sure they actually see your fly, and after they do, not give them a reason to reject it. Wyatt goes into the real reasons trout reject your fly and how to avoid presenting them those reasons in the first place.
This book is a real confidence builder and a welcome contradiction to popular fly fishing culture we haven’t seen in book form for quite some time, and its about time.