How efficient is Michigan guide and tier Russ Maddin? Pretty darn efficient. Ask to see his fly box and he’ll dangle a ziploc with three flies inside. Ask to drop anchor and he’ll shake his head no, since anchoring rewards bad, inefficient casting. And his favorite streamer sticks? Looking to trim all unnecessary weight, Russ throws a 7’6″ nine-weight with a click-pawl reel. Putting fish on the reel is inefficient. 16 lb tippet is not. “I haven’t put a fish on the reel in 5 years, and that includes steelhead and salmon,” Russ explains.
Last week I asked Russ to take me to a beat of river that is legendary for the size of its fish–and their scarcity. So scarce he couldn’t find anyone to fill the second seat in the boat. “In 8 hours of river, there are 14 good fish. But they are really, really good.” That meant I had to be the most efficient angler I had ever been. Even if you fish high density water, Russ’s tips will help you be a more complete streamer angler when fishing from a moving boat.
Don’t fight for inches.
So you you’re coming up on a prime lie and you miss your spot. You fell 12 inches shy of the bank–with a six inch fly–and now you’re casting behind the boat to prove to yourself and to your guide that you can nail the cast. And now you just missed the best cast on the next spot.
Don’t be that guy.
If you make a bad cast, give it up. Move on. Redemption is not going to come bombing your fly deep into the past. It’s going to come from being more careful and deliberate with the next great lie.
Pick it up. Put it down.
Don’t false cast more than you absolutely need to. It’s an illusion that aerializing a sinking line is going to gain you distance. Sinking lines generate line speed much more quickly than floating lines, so with a water load and a double haul you should have all the load you need to launch your fly a good distance.
More is not better.
It’s easy to get caught up in the mindset that the more casts you make, the better off you’ll be. For one, it’s probably been drilled into your head a million times that your fly needs to be in the water to catch fish. Which of course it does. But trying to squeeze as many casts into a day as possible can be counterproductive. Take, as a microcosm of a ten-mile float, a 100-yard beat of river. Let’s imagine that this particular beat has one really good dip with a log smack in the middle of it and not much else. There is going to be one and only one best moment and angle to present to this lie, so why make five casts in to that beat and risk being out of rhythm or out of position for the one that counts? Just like it’s much easier to strip your fly like a robot, it’s easier to cast like a robot, launching streamers like a metronome. I’m not saying you should sit in the casters brace with your fly in your hand, waiting for the perfect opportunity. But I am saying you should be on the alert for those intervals where you start to daydream and cast rhythmically instead of strategically. In short, go ahead and summon your inner robot to get you fishing hard all day long from sun up to sun down. Just take pains to make sure you’re a thinking robot.
Don’t cast to outer space.
There’s something incredibly attractive about a big deep, outside bend full of gnarly wood. It’s probably because our brain recognizes that there are huge fish that live there. And we’re probably right. But that doesn’t matter, because asking an alpha fish to come out of there is just too tall an order. These sorts of lies are kind of like a gated community for brown trout. You can get on your megaphone and yell all you want about this awesome hot pizza you’ve got in your trunk, but no one is going to come out to see it.
The efficient streamer angler knows this and does not waste their precious casts. Instead, they cast to where you can see the bottom. Invariably, your fly is going to be closer to the fish, which is going to make him more likely to eat.
Pay attention to the pattern
Note where fish are coming from, and fish those places extra well. On any given day patterns usually present themselves, and if you’re savvy to the trend, you can maximize your efficiency. Identifying where fish are relating on a given day becomes important when you’re making a split-second decision about where to cast, since you can’t be two places at once.
Don’t carry too much line outside the reel
Line hygeine is important, especially when fishing cold water with large flies that might twist the leader on both the cast and the retrieve. It’s inevitable that some line twist will happen, but you can keep those nests of nastiness to a minimum by only keeping as much line outside the reel as you need to cast. If after you bomb out a cast you’ve still got coils of line at your feet, you’ve got a problem.
Last but not least: efficient, top-shelf streamer for fishing for brown trout is a tiring game, physically and mentally. If you wait until you feel hungry before eating, it might be too late to make up the difference. For that reason, I’ve always found it much more efficient to eat small, calorically dense snacks throughout the day rather than one big lunch mid-day. Especially in cold weather when you’re body is burning extra calories just existing, there’s a fine edge in streamer fishing. Start to tire and slip and all of a sudden that cast that was supposed to tick that log instead bit right into it. And now the guy on the sticks has to backrow upstream for you to free it.