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Fly Fishing or Not, it Really Doesn't Matter

by: David Coulson 5/1/2013

Last Sunday was spent fishing at South Delaney, a first for me.  I  had my doubts about hitting it this early, knowing it was still mostly ice-capped, However, it turned out to be a good day. We caught a number of quality trout, most over 16 inches, with one heavy 21 inch cuttbow.

A few things surprised me along the way.  First, was the number of anglers camped given the still chilly weather, include several simply sleeping overnight in their cars, that’s dedication. Second, was the sheer number of anglers packed into a very small section of open water, and nary a growl all day (unusual for me also). Third, how good the fishing was given the pressure.  But what really surprised me how good “bobber” fishing can be with a fly rod.

I long ago gave up fishing “passive” methods, even though I recognize they are often extremely effective.  I like casting and retrieving in order to elicit a strike over sitting and waiting for a strike these days. It the constant activity of fly fishing that appeals to me, so the idea of “still” fishing with a fly rod never really entered my mind.  Yet, this weekend I observed a lot of passive fly fishing, and was mildly surprised at its effectiveness.

From what I’ve observed and read, the method is used primarily with midge, specifically chironomid patterns.  Simply, one puts a strike indicator (used as a float/bobber) on the leader and then one or more midges anywhere from one to twenty feet below the indicator, adjusted to the flies suspend just off the bottom. Next cast out and wait for a strike. That’s about it.  Pretty much the way we introduce kids to fishing, except it’s a snoopy rod instead of a fly rod, red/white float instead of a strike indicator, and a worm instead of a fly.  It works in both cases.

I was thinking if I substituted a hopper pattern for the strike indictor I might give it a try, but then the idea of waiting and watching for a fly to move indicating a strike still doesn’t quite do it for me either.  It’s the waiting part I have trouble with.  But in reality I shouldn’t.  I’ll wait up to two minutes (counting) after a cast before starting a retrieve. When fishing top water flies it isn’t unusual to wait for extended periods before starting a retrieve. And my crappie rig, weighted flies on a floating line, fished with painfully slow retrieves isn’t much different.

So where am I going with this?  Watching the shore anglers patiently wait for a strike, I realized it was a fishing method I didn’t care to partake in, even to the point of questioning if it was really fly fishing.  Just as one might question whether other “fly fishing” methods are fly fishing, such as shoreline nymphing with only monofilament (think Czech style), trolling flies (I do on occasion), using bait with a fly rod (used to), multiple flies (still do), adding scents (thought about it), . . . it’s still fishing.

Watching those anglers drove home the point that we sometimes fail to keep in mind, there really isn’t a wrong or right way to fish (assuming the method is legal), just different ways. As long as we’re having fun and respecting each other’s right to be on the water, life if good. 

Blog content © David Coulson
Member comments
Fishful Thinker, CO   5/1/2013 2:49:10 PM
Good points. One question...if fishing is fishing regardless of the trick employed, do you think a skilled conventional angler would have been as welcomed into that busy spot as another fly angler? Tube jigs are deadly trout getters at ice-out! CL
David Coulson (Flyrodn), CO   5/1/2013 2:54:55 PM
Yes, that day anyway. There were several spin fishers mixed in. Agreed on the tube jig, as my fly of the day was a brown, 1.5 inch clouser popped off the bottom. Given my stripping basket ended up with a few crayfish parts I'm fairly sure what they were mistaking it for, a tube, er, crayfish.
rjslate88, CO   5/1/2013 4:34:17 PM
I fish Delaney a lot during the summer from a float tube and just the last couple years have started using the indicator method. Was amazed at the number of fish i caught using nymphs under the indicator. When the wind comes up it works even better I think. the wind gives the flies more action bobbing up and down in the waves. I still do a lot of streamer fishing but sometimes the indicator fishing out fishes the streamers.
JKaboom, CO   5/6/2013 5:18:03 PM
Good BLOG - I have tried that by using a fly and bubble with my spin gear and a chironomid pattern (I think that's the ones they call ice cream cones because the heads look like a little scoop of ice cream [sorry just learning about flys]).
quietthunder, CO   5/6/2013 5:38:59 PM
If you'd like to learn more about stillwater flyfishing, give serious consideration to the works of Brian Chan. He is a stillwater specialist who fishes in the Kamloops region of Brittish Columbia. His patterns and techniques have increased my catch rate immensely!
Anteroman, CO   5/6/2013 5:57:27 PM
I agree with your thoughts and have found a compromise that works for me. I fish from a toon and always fish two rods, my bobber flyrod is set up with 2-3 flys, chironomids, buggers etc and I actively fish my U/L spinning rod to keep my mind and body occupied. I too really love the strike portion of fishing more than the fighting and landing. If I can entice a bite I've accomplished my goal. If they get hot on the bugs I switch over using two fly rods. Bill
David Coulson
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