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Artistic view of a Male Pteronarcys californica (Pteronarcyidae) (Giant Salmonfly) Stonefly Adult from the Gallatin River in Montana
Pteronarcys californica

The giant Salmonflies of the Western mountains are legendary for their proclivity to elicit consistent dry-fly action and ferocious strikes.

27" brown trout, my largest ever. It was the sub-dominant fish in its pool. After this, I hooked the bigger one, but I couldn't land it.
Troutnut is a project started in 2003 by salmonid ecologist Jason "Troutnut" Neuswanger to help anglers and fly tyers unabashedly embrace the entomological side of the sport. Learn more about Troutnut or support the project for an enhanced experience here.

Falsifly's profile picture
Hayward, WI.

Posts: 660
Falsifly on Nov 4, 2009November 4th, 2009, 8:10 am EST
Have you ever past up fast water? You’re probably asking, “What do you mean by fast water?” I mean the kind of water that you think couldn’t possibly hold fish, and even if it did how could you fish it. Well, for years I did just that. What a missed opportunity!

I’d spotted what I considered had to be a honey hole. A long stretch of treacherously fast riffle no more than mid-shin deep that ended in an ankle deep rock dam from bank to bank, and dumped into a deep pool tailed with a slow deep run. It had to be fished from the far side because the near bank was very deep cut, and choked in brush. The raging riffle was the only place to cross short of a very lengthy hike. On the first attempt to cross I turned back for fear of being swept away, but my perseverance paid of with a heel to toe shuffle. The crossing was so nerve racking that I doubted my return trip. I fished that deep hole and run without success, but I vowed to return, because I knew that big fish had to be in that hole. The second attempt ended in the same result, and I was beginning to wonder. I’d been catching fish on this river but this spot had me baffled. However, the day did come, but it wasn’t what I’d expected.

I started with my usual approach working upstream toward the pool when I spotted some fish taking along my side of the bank. I picked up some nice fish in the 15 to 16 inch range, along the bank, while heading up to the rock dam, and stopped when I reached water that looked too fast and shallow to fish. As I stood there looking at the rock dam stretching across the river, in its raging, not much more than ankle deep water, I spotted what appeared to be the backs of fish. At first I thought it was nothing more than the turbulent water playing tricks on me, but the more I watched the more I swore I was seeing fish. It was pretty obvious that the only way to confirm what I thought I was seeing was to cast right into the rocks, and so I did. I kid you not; I stood in one spot casting right into the rocks and lost count of the number of fish caught, some on consecutive casts and many pushing the 20 inch mark. I have since fished this with others, and all were in disbelief.

Narrow, less than 40 feet across for most of its quarter mile stretch, and well over your head, is this raging torrent of main channel. Oh, this river offers everything in its side channels, pools, runs, riffles, slack and back waters, and on weekends its shoulder to shoulder. But enter the raging torrent and nary is a fisherman seen. Yes I too, past on this water time and time again, intimidated by its seemingly impossible to fish facade. That is until I gave it a try, and its secrets were revealed; big fish and seclusion from the crowd consistently.
When asked what I just caught that monster on I showed him. He put on his magnifiers and said, "I can't believe they can see that."
Potter County, PA

Posts: 144
SlateDrake9 on Nov 4, 2009November 4th, 2009, 10:20 am EST
I found out about what this type of water holds several years ago when I was chatting with a guide in his shop. I'd asked him where I should fish on a particular river and he told me, very specifically, where to go and what to do. I got there and saw water I didn't usually fish on purpose and gave it a try because he said so. I was surprised at how many fish held in the water that I felt was just too fast (sometimes too skinny and fast) to have fish hang out there. I figured it would take too much energy for a fish to stay there and food would go by way too fast. I was wrong.

You're right about having these types of water to yourself, even on crowded rivers.
Fishing with bait is like swearing in church.
-- Slate Drake
Flatstick96's profile picture
Posts: 127
Flatstick96 on Nov 5, 2009November 5th, 2009, 3:40 am EST
I love fishing fast, skinny water - I actually much prefer it to fishing larger pools/holes.

You have much less water column to figure out, the fish have to make relatively quick decisions, and you can cover a lot of water quickly.

Many of the better fish I catch are in the sorts of lies you described.
North Carolina

Posts: 18
Teddyp on Nov 5, 2009November 5th, 2009, 8:12 am EST
Are you fishing nymphs upstream or are you usually using an across and down approach?
Falsifly's profile picture
Hayward, WI.

Posts: 660
Falsifly on Nov 6, 2009November 6th, 2009, 3:23 am EST
I was nymphing with an upstream cast dead drifting down, and I normally finish the drift with the swing at the tail end because this is often the point of the take. However in the example above, fishing the fast skinny water, I concentrated up stream forgoing the swing because that is where the fish I was interested in were holding. I don’t think the fish would normally hold here but in this case a prolific midge hatch was taking place. My point is that I think a lot of fishermen would pass this kind of water up without a second thought which is what I did for too long. The neatest part of this experience, which has been repeated many times, is that I could see the backs of the fish as they worked the water, and believe me they were working water that wasn’t deep enough to cover their backs. And the color of the bottom and the rocks coupled with the turbulence made this something that would easily go unnoticed.

In the second example on the quarter mile stretch of a different river, again it’s up and dead drifted and it has to get it down and the faster the better. I don’t think you could across and down in that water because it’s much to fast. You’d have to us a cannon ball for weight, I seriously doubt that fish move very far from their hold, and if you’re not bouncing on the bottom you ain’t gonna catch any fish. Again, a stretch of water that intimidates most because of the current speed but here it’s deeeep. It certainly did me at first.
When asked what I just caught that monster on I showed him. He put on his magnifiers and said, "I can't believe they can see that."
North Carolina

Posts: 18
Teddyp on Nov 12, 2009November 12th, 2009, 4:06 am EST
Thanks for the detail! I have been a tried and true dry fly fisherman forevery, but in the last couple of years have been trying to improve my nymphing skills. This site especially has helped me with the aquatic underworld of trout. And although I still love using the dry,I have been consistently catching more fish nymphing.

I went fishing after reading this post with the determinatino to only nymph. Although on a delay harvest stream her in NC, i used a copper john with a midge dropped behind. I fished some fast and narrow holes and caught some good fish. I was a little stunned!

Thanks for the post and for the help/detail. I'm going to stick with it and keep doing my homework on nymphs and nymphing!
Wiflyfisher's profile picture

Posts: 622
Wiflyfisher on Nov 13, 2009November 13th, 2009, 4:54 am EST
fishing the fast skinny water, I concentrated up stream forgoing the swing because that is where the fish I was interested in were holding.

Ah... "skinny dipping"! i will have to try that some time. :)

Posts: 13
RedQuill27 on Nov 15, 2009November 15th, 2009, 2:32 am EST
When in doubt pound the faster riffles they are bug factories and fish can't be selective.

Tight LInes!
Fishing is like sex, when its good its great, and when its bad its still pretty good.

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