fly patterns and how to properly play and land a big fish
I tend to escape into my head on long drives. What was a 5-hour trek to Mammoth has become a restful therapeutic exercise with just enough movement to keep my thoughts in a single lane.
On my last outing I found myself volleying between names of fly patterns and how to properly play and land a big fish on a small piece of water, loaded with snags like our beloved lower Owens.
Let’s set the definition of a “Big” trout first – this is a fish that’s initially dictating the direction and scope of the tug of war you are experiencing. There is no “Horsing” this pig. They tend to stay deep in the run for the first 2/3rds of the fight, headshakes with long runs and short rests in heavily oxygenated water are the norm.
Knowing how much you can pull is more of a familiarity with your rod and tippet, knot strength and hook size.
A large fish will respond to your input –
If the fish is downstream try laying the rod upstream and low to the water’s surface. You will find that the response will most likely be a deep run upstream, when the fish is above you, you have established control – do what you can to keep the rod tip low.
If the fish is green you can lay the tip low and downstream to bring the fish back, then lay the tip low upstream – this prep it for the net. I know this is contrary to what we’ve been taught and told, “Keep that rod tip high” and conditions should dictate your course of action.
What you will find is that, with a low rod angle you are allowing the current to pull on any belly created in the line thus keeping the pressure on.
Try it on a smaller fish – fight the fish with the rod tip high – you’ll find that the lack of leverage let’s that fish control the situation.
A jumping fish is very exciting but that creates a disadvantage with slack that can lead to disappointment.
If the fish comes up immediately lay that rod tip down and upstream.
As your private carnival comes to a close and your fish is upstream get into a position where you have a shallower spot to net the fish – they have less purchase in thin water – with the fish upstream, position yourself directly downstream, lift the rod tip keeping pressure on the fish, with its head up it, if its ready the current will bring it right to your net.
If you are able, get the hook out with the fish while in your net and fish are underwater, have your camera buddy with their back to the sun, one, two three… quickly lift the fish. Snap the picture and quick back in the water in the net. If you need another shot repeat. If you are alone try leaving the fish’s head in the water with the tail fanned out in your palm. It makes a nice shot and you’ve saying thank you to the big fish of the day.
Point the fish upstream and gently cradle it until it swims away on its own. Then pat yourself on the back, give thanks to mother earth and go get another one!
This has worked very well for me, I hope it helps you too!
Charley Beals | Conejo Valley Fly Fishers President Pro-Tem
scott olson | MISSIVE
"chomping at the bit"
After a two month or so hiatus from fishing it’s time to start looking forward to the season to come.
Sure you can still fish parts of the eastern Sierra in the winter, but I tend to focus on family and friends between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day.
After that all bets are off and it is time to get back in the water.
I have been fishing the lower Owens for years in late February and at times it can be epic. The blue wing olive hatch is usually reliable around midday and although unfortunately short lived it provides for some welcome dry fly fishing.
Nymphing is the name of the game here anyway and small caddis and mayfly patterns will usually produce fish in good numbers. Euro (or tight line) nymphing is an especially effective way to fish the lower O and has been the go to technique for me over the last few years. The section between the dam and the campground bridge is very amenable to this type of fishing.
Camping at Pleasant Valley Campground for several days we enjoy lazy breakfasts, late starts and early cocktail hours finishing up around a roaring campfire. No s’mores, but possibly a glass of port, or two, rounds out the day.
I hope you have the opportunity to fish this little gem during the winter and early spring and if you can, shoot for a midweek trip as the weekends can get a little crowded.
Tight lines and fighting fish to all!
Scott Olson | CVFF Former President
Created with images by Luca Bravo - "untitled image" • Taylor Grote - "Fly Fisherman" • Kalen Emsley - "Wet mountain valley" • kazuend - "Rushing Stream" • Jeremy Bishop - "untitled image"