Catching Big Boys Down Deep
There's just something in all of us that wants to know what lies beneath. That's a big part of the reason we fish. The deeper and darker the run or pool on a river the more we are inclined to think that a big old trout is hunkered down there with what looks to us like an ornery toothy frown on its face.
The good news: Our assumptions are correct a lot of the time. Every time I've seen or heard reports of electro-shock studies on rivers they pull some behemoth up from the bottom, even in streams with mostly small fish.
The bad news: These big old boys are tough to catch. You can find and fool them occasionally, but if I could get them every time, my guiding services would be in much greater demand.
The other good news: Here's how I've caught some of these guys some of the time.
1. Fish when big old fish are feeding. Night is generally best. Morning and evening are good, as is runoff time. You won't need to fish as deep when it's dark. You may even get big fish to come up to hit mice and other big dries skated at night. Streamers are also very good in the low-light hours. Fish them slowly across the current or across and down with a short twitchy retrieve.
2. Fish heavy flies that get down deep. I generally employ some type of European nymphing techniques like Czech/Polish nymphing with 2 or 3 very heavy weighted nymphs. (dead drifting heavy streamers also works) My nymphs for these situations are big, sometimes size 4, 6, or 8, and are generally tungsten beaded or double tungsten beaded. Cast short casts upstream of the target zone, let the flies sink, and drag your flies slowly along the bottom of the deep dark runs and holes with a tight line. Feel for unusual bumps and tightening of the line, then set the hook. You will lose flies. If you don't lose some you need more weight. You can also fish these spots with traditional indicator rigs but remember you will need a long leader and big indicator. (Thingamabobbers are by far the best indicators if you have to fish one.)
3. Fish with heavy flourocarbon leaders. Flouro sinks faster and stretches a little less than nylon monofilament. It will sink better and transmit the feel of strikes faster. I like to use flat (not tapered) 2X flourocarbon leaders if I'm going after big fish in deep spots.
4. Sounds basic but you'd be surprised at the resistance to doing this one: Lengthen your leader when it's deep. Too many people fish with a 9 foot tapered leader all the time. That type of leader only really let's you fish the top 4 feet of the water effectively. Fish a flat leader (not tapered) if you are nymphing and lengthen the leader to at least 1 1/2 times the suspected depth of the run you are fishing + 1 foot or so. If you guess it's 6 feet deep then go 10 feet. If you think it's 8 feet then a 13 foot leader is necessary. If you think it's 12 feet deep then good luck casting the thing, but you'll need 19 feet of leader or so to fish down to the bottom of the hole. One river I fish a lot, the Green River, has a few huge fish that hang out down at 15 to 20 feet. I just wave as I drift by.
There really are big fish down there. Get out there. Lengthen those leaders. Catch you one. And send us the picture so you can show it off.