Observation Skills to Improve Your Success on the Water
Observation. It is a critical skill to learn. If you want to improve your fly fishing skills, one of the best things you can do is work on your observation skills. Far too many people plunk their way down to the water and start swatting away.
This goes beyond observing the immediate hatch, the river, and the bugs that you can readily see. Sometimes the bugs that you see are not actually the same bugs that the fish are eating. Even during fairly substantial hatches some fish may key on other insects that are out in far smaller numbers.
I unfortunately have experienced this exercise in frustration before. One of the thing can do is carefully make your way downstream of the feeding fish. Immediately below the fish’s feeding line, pull out a small bit of door screening or cheese cloth. I actually made my own out of a bit of 12”x12” screen and stabled it to two dowel rods. It rolls up easily, and I store it in the back of my vest.
Instead of panning for gold, screen for bugs! Sometimes the bugs you're seeing in the air or near the banks are not what you find is actually most prevalent in the feeding lanes or sometimes the fish are simply selectively eliminating the more numerous bugs in favor of something they think is particularly tasty or nutritious.
On the fishing trip I mentioned we found a few baetis drifting in the middle of lots of midges. On close inspection we could see that there was probably 1 drifting baetis for every 100 midges but the fish were only eating the baetis duns. Changing to a size 18 parachute adams did the trick. If you find yourself in a hatch but seem to be getting lots of refusals it's good to try this to see if this might be happening to you.
Tight Lines and Screaming Drags my fishy friends!