Pre­sen­ta­tion Ver­sus Pat­tern

MIKE KIRK­PATRICK EX­PLORES THE PRE­SEN­TA­TION VER­SUS PAT­TERN DE­BATE AND EX­PLAINS WHY HE MELDS THE TWO TO­GETHER AT TIMES ON A CASE BY CASE BA­SIS.

NZ Fish & Game - - Features -

OF­TEN IT’S NOT ONLY ABOUT FLY CHOICE

GO AGAIN…YEP…AND AGAIN.” “Keep hit­ting him un­til you find his rhythm.” We were at least 20 casts into a picky fish just un­der a foam line be­neath a wil­low tree and the 4lb brown con­tin­ued to slurp from the in­sect-con­gested sur­face with al­most metro­nomic reg­u­lar­ity. My client was start­ing to glance side­ways at me as he knew my pen­chant for chang­ing flies at times bor­dered on ob­ses­sive. But with this par­tic­u­lar fish, I felt it was more about find­ing of his feed­ing rhythm than fly se­lec­tion. He was in all like­li­hood feed­ing on wil­low grubs (tiny green cater­pil­lar-like lar­vae of the adult sawfly) and, as I was happy with the cho­sen pat­tern, felt we just needed to match the time it took for him to take from the sur­face, drop back down, set­tle, and look again for the next tar­get.

All of this hap­pened while I’m sure mul­ti­ple food items went by, but these fish of­ten feed only when ready af­ter each visit to the top. Sure enough, our pa­tience was re­warded with the fly dis­ap­pear­ing shortly af­ter in a soft, con­fi­dent take. We had matched that rhythm and a fine chunky brown trout lay bank­side as a gleam­ing re­ward for get­ting the ap­proach right -- in this case com­bin­ing a close enough im­i­ta­tion of the in­sect and the right pres- en­ta­tion and ap­proach.

There is no doubt that the pre­sen­ta­tion verses pat­tern de­bate has long been the cen­tral fig­ure in a lot of fly­fish­ing dis­cus­sion over the years and also no doubt that each ar­gu­ment has plenty of merit.

There are those who be­lieve in very re­al­is­tic flies be­ing the most im­por­tant tool in their ar­se­nal -- oth­ers, that pre­sen­ta­tion of a ‘close enough’ fly pre­sented well is more im­por­tant. I sit a lit­tle on the fence with this as I have a lot of very re­al­is­tic flies, but only use these when times get tough and picky fish dic­tate ex­act im­i­ta­tion.

It would be very sim­ple to say “why not”, then use

ex­act pat­terns and learn to present them very well? I guess the an­swer to that would be that of­ten very well pre­sented ba­sic flies (Hare and Cop­per, Pheas­ant Tail, Royal Wulff, etc.) work as well as any­thing and cov­err a much broader range of food items. Go­ing for ex­actt re­al­is­tic im­i­ta­tions can mean a lot of fly changes needed as these of­ten sub­tle flies lack real fish stim­u­lat­ing fea- tures like flash, colour, rub­ber legs, etc. The ex­ces­sive cast­ing needed to ex­actly ‘match the hatch’ as you go through the fly­box greatly in­creases the risk of a spooked fish. For this rea­son, I tend to use the ul­tra­real flies spar­ingly and more of­ten go for those that cover more bases.

Most peo­ple fall into one camp or the other and will go with what they have built up con­fi­dence in, whether that be ex­act pat­terns (of which they may have mul­ti­ple boxes full), or by us­ing a small se­lec­tion of flies that they use to cover most sit­u­a­tions. A good ex­am­ple of this came re­cently while fish­ing to very large mouse feed­ing browns late sea­son. My angling buddy Jack, who had the fish­ing in this place re­ally di­aled in, was down to one small box of pat­terns to cover all bases. Me, I had my usual dozen or so flyboxes full. We both shared equal suc­cess by pre­sent­ing well ahead of these deep-ly­ing fish, with added weight to get the flies down deep enough to fish not will­ing to move much at all. The win­ning for­mula here? The pre­sen­ta­tion of small, drab, and lightly weighted flies. Pre­sen­ta­tion was easily the main in­flu­ence on suc­cess. This brings me to a ma­jor point of in­ter­est in pre­sen­ta­tion -weight ver­sus ex­tended drift.

It’s of­ten the case that deep nym­ph­ing trout will sim­ply not lift to take a fly and the an­gler, upon re­al­is­ing this, has one of two meth­ods to lean to­wards. One is to load up nymphs very heav­ily with lead and tung­sten beads (some­times mul­ti­ple tung­sten) to aid in get­ting the fly right down in the zone quickly, or very long lead­ers up­wards of 18-20ft to get a less weighted fly or flies down to the de­sired level us­ing a greater lead ahead of the fish and longer drift. I have al­ways favoured the lat­ter as the less loaded a fly is in terms of weight, the more nat­u­rally it will drift in the sub­tle mi­cro cur­rents that are the mini ‘con­veyer belts’ within the main drift it­self. The more nat­u­ral it looks to a trout, the more likely a take. Pe­riod.

Hav­ing ac­cess to un­der­wa­ter footage like Ralph and Lisa Cut­ter’s “Bugs of the Un­der­world’ dvd will help you un­der­stand just how much al­most all in­ver­te­brates move in the drift. They twitch, curl, and straighten, dart, and move their legs about, so with this in mind imag­ine how ‘dead’ look­ing a very heavy fly can look to trout. There is no ar­gu­ment that very heavy flies catch trout, but how of­ten does a very light trail­ing nymph get taken in pref­er­ence? Dis­pro­por­tion­ately so in my ex­pe­ri­ence.

A dif­fer­ent feed­ing be­hav­ior that adds spice to the de­bate is the ‘locked in’ fish.

THIS IS CAUSED BY A n num­ber of things, b but of­ten sim­ply it’s what httd to­day’s’ ‘ ‘pro­gram­ming’i ’i is, to use a com­puter term. I of­ten use the com­puter anal­ogy to try to ex­plain to a client why a par­tic­u­lar fish is caus­ing my knuck­les to whiten and teeth to grind as I tie on the 14th dif­fer­ent fly! These fish tar­get one spe­cific food item even when there are a plethora of in­sects within easy reach. My the­ory on this is that trout aren’t ca­pa­ble at times of iden­ti­fy­ing any­thing else as food as they are so tun­nel-vi­sioned in their ap­proach they’re al­most ro­botic. The of­ten used ‘smart fish’ de­scrip­tion is prob­a­bly fairly wide of the mark as I be­lieve they are hard to catch not be­cause they are smart, but be­cause they are dumb. Not a ro­man­tic no­tion, but fairly ac­cu­rate in this case as, although they have su­per-tuned senses and sur­vival in­stincts, they still have a brain the size of a pea. They are us­ing all of their avail­able fo­cus on a par­tic­u­lar in­sect and there is sim­ply no com­put­ing power left for any­thing else. Ex­act im­i­ta­tion here sud­denly be­comes very key and it is here where hav­ing mul­ti­ple flies in var­i­ous sizes, weights, pro­files, and colours can be the ally of the pa­tient an­gler. Ex­act im­i­ta­tion wins here.

To look at trout feed­ing lev­els fur­ther, I of­ten use a sim­ple equa­tion to de­scribe their be­hav­iour. I add up two be­hav­iours to com­plete a score of 10 -- one is level of alert­ness, the other level of feed­ing. If they are feed­ing at a three, then a seven will be the level of alert­ness; if they ap­pear at about an eight level of feed­ing then only two is left for its level of alert­ness. Of course, those feed­ing at an eight will on av­er­age be much eas­ier to catch as most of their avail­able fo­cus is away from de­fense and put into eat­ing. It’s an ob­vi­ous over-sim­pli­fi­ca­tion, but gives an in­sight into maybe how to plan our ap­proach, given this method of sit­u­a­tion ap­praisal.

The last South Is­land this sea­son was a gold­mine for the ob­ser­vant an­gler. The mouse plague that ran rife through some of our back­coun­try, threw up some very in­ter­est­ing trends. One of these be­ing some an­glers learn­ing to catch seem­ingly un­catch­able trout by us­ing very sub­tle and non-threat­en­ing flies un­der very heavy ones to trout in deep, fast wa­ter, which aren’t mov­ing (sounds charm­ing doesn’t it?). These large fish had been din­ing out on mice at night and were sel­dom in­ter­ested in feed­ing dur­ing day­light hours. Whether it’s in­stinct or an­noy­ance mak­ing them take, per­sis­tence and ac­cu­racy in pre­sen­ta­tion were king here and only the very best an­glers at this were con­sis­tently suc­cess­ful on these brutes, as the fly needed to be right on their noses. These trout were re­lent­lessly tar­geted and learned to avoid flies in al­most all sizes, bar light-weighted #16s and un­der, un­less on the rare oc­ca­sion they chose to vis­i­bly feed. Pat­tern here was very im­por­tant along with pre­sen­ta­tion, as added weight was needed to get a very small light fly down -- a tie.

An ex­am­ple of this came from me join­ing the crowd on a rare day off chas­ing a big fish for my­self.

I of­ten use the com­puter anal­ogy to try to ex­plain to a client why a par­tic­u­lar fish is caus­ing my knuck­les

to whiten.

I HAD COV­ERED A LARGE TRO­PHY FISH s sev­eral times that looked very still and on about t the tenth drift saw the big brown’s gills flare slightly when I thought my fly would be in the zone. I lifted gen­tly and the fish shook its head and ex­ploded from the wa­ter, per­fectly hooked in the top jaw. A short in­tense bat­tle saw my tro­phy itch scratched.

A good mate filmed some fish re­cently on a well­known (and heav­ily fished) hatch driven fish­ery and ob­served some key points of in­ter­est. He saw fish com­pletely ig­nore good-sized hatch­ing duns and spin­ners for the oc­ca­sional crip­ple and take all very small cad­dis within reach. He noted these trout al­most ‘winc­ing’ as they took the larger crip­pled mayflies, of­ten tak­ing twigs and tiny leaves in pref­er­ence. It seemed the fish were locked in on size as if any­thing larger sug­gested dan­ger -- legacy maybe of re­cent an­gler en­coun­ters and I’ll cer­tainly keep an eye on it in the fu­ture. In this case, maybe go­ing with a size un­likely to have been used much by pre­vi­ous an­glers (in this case smaller) might give a de­cided edge. Pat­tern would be very im­por­tant here.

The use of In­di­ca­tors adds another in­ter­est­ing facet when it comes to pre­sen­ta­tion. There’s no doubt that they can be in­valu­able in de­tect­ing takes while sight-fish­ing, and es­sen­tial for most an­glers fish­ing blind. The is­sue with in­di­ca­tors is that they of­ten neg­a­tively in­flu­ence the drift of the nymphs be­low, as the speed and cur­rent an­gles on the sur­face sel­dom match that of the wa­ter be­neath it. I have seen many times while us­ing in­di­ca­tors or dry/drop­per rigs, a fish take a long way from where I thought the flies would be based on the sur­face marker. The amount of drag on the flies be­ing pro­duced by the indica- tor sys­tem at times is the sole rea­son for re­jec­tions or spooked fish. The so­lu­tion is learn­ing to fish pre­dom­i­nantly with­out an in­di­ca­tor and be­com­ing bet­ter at tim­ing your strike on see­ing the fish move, and of­ten the white flash of the mouth, when you ‘judge’ your flies to be in the strike zone. A lift or sub­tle tight­en­ing is all that is needed to feel for any re­sis­tance sig­nal­ing the fish has in­deed taken your nymph. This tech­nique will al­ways pro­duce a much bet­ter drift and more re­wards for those will­ing to put the time into per­fect­ing it.

Most of the fo­cus here has been aimed mainly at nymph fish­ing and it would be re­miss of me not to men­tion the hum­ble dry fly. I have found it slightly less im­por­tant over the years to be as ex­act in pat­tern with dries as nymphs, as my ra­tio­nale has been that fish see nymphs more three di­men­sion­ally than they do a dry on the sur­face where they see more a ‘pro­file’ of the fly. With this mind, pre­sen­ta­tion of dries takes on a large part in fool­ing trout. An­glers fish­ing large ci­cada pat­terns to sighted fish, for in­stance, of­ten feel like they just need to land the fly in the gen­eral area and that this is good enough. My take dif­fers as, although fish of­ten take a ci­cada slapped down near them, this of­ten spooks them as well. Trout gen­er­ally don’t like their space be­ing ‘in­vaded’ -- it can un­set­tle them to the ex­tent that they will refuse and of­ten spook. My tac­tic is to put the big dry well off to the side, maybe a me­tre

I have found it slightly less im­por­tant over the years to be as ex­act in pat­tern with dries as nymphs.

or two, and about level with or just above the fish, to first let them ‘key in’ via their lat­eral line, and then find what they ex­pected to see within the rings on the sur­face. You have, in fact, rung a more dis­tant din­ner bell that has given the trout time to ease in and con­firm what he ex­pected to find. With small dries a good rule is to present them ahead of the trout a dis­tance only equal to the depth of wa­ter it is in. If it is in one foot of wa­ter, place the fly one foot ahead of his nose. Overly long drifts of dries are sel­dom needed and of­ten give fish too much of a look. Drag is also more likely to set in on longer drifts. The view­ing win­dow of trout is very small if close to the sur­face, so get it close to their nose is my ad­vice.

In sum­mary, hav­ing an open mind as to what’s ac­tu­ally hap­pen­ing on the wa­ter and the op­tions avail­able in both ap­proach and fly se­lec­tion, will give a de­cided edge in get­ting more hookups. A most im­por­tant facet to be­com­ing a ‘10 per­center’ (you know, the an­noy­ing top 10 per­cent who seem to catch all the fish) is sit­u­a­tional aware­ness. Treat each new op­por­tu­nity with a clean slate, both in terms of ap­proach and cho­sen fly, and blend these care­fully for what lies in front of you. As al­ways, time on the wa­ter is ir­re­place­able as the best method of learn­ing how to com­bine ap­proach and fly se­lec­tion, as is tak­ing chances with new tech­niques.

Not a hor­ri­ble cure though is it -- hav­ing to spend more time on the wa­ter… ”Honey, I’m off to my ‘an­gler man­age­ment’ classes” If you‘re lack­ing suc­cess out there, such classes maybe much needed!

LEARN TO FISH PRE­DOM­I­NANTLY WITH­OUT AN IN­DI­CA­TOR AND BE­COME BET­TER AT TIM­ING YOUR STRIKE ON SEE­ING THE FISH MOVE

MIKE KIRK­PATRICKK

A FINE CHUNKY BROWN WAS A GLEAM­ING RE­WARD FOR GET­TING THE AP­PROACH RIGHT

THE MOUSE PLAGUE RAN RIFE THROUGH SOME OF OUR BACK­COUN­TRY TREAT EACH NEW OP­POR­TU­NITY WITH A CLEAN SLATE,

BOTH IN TERMS OF AP­PROACH AND CHO­SEN FLY PER­SIS­TENCE AND AC­CU­RACY IN PRE­SEN­TA­TION ARE KING AND ONLY THE VERY BEST AN­GLERS AT THIS ARE

CON­SIS­TENTLY SUC­CESS­FUL ON BIG FISH

SOME AN­GLERS LEARN TO CATCH SEEM­INGLY UN­CATCH­ABLE TROUT BY US­ING VERY SUB­TLE AND NON-THREAT­EN­ING FLIES UN­DER VERY HEAVY ONES

IT’S OF­TEN THE CASE THAT DEEP NYM­PH­ING TROUT WILL SIM­PLY NOT LIFT TO TAKE A FLY

THE VIEW­ING WIN­DOW OF TROUT IS VERY SMALL IF CLOSE TO THE SUR­FACE, SO GET IT CLOSE TO THEIR NOSE IS MY AD­VICE SOME­TIMES TO CATCH BRUTES LIKE THIS THE FLY HAS TO BE RIGHT ON THEIR NOSE

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