First Impressions Matter

June 10, 2024 By: Spencer Durrant

I never made the high school basketball team, but I did get to be a “manager.” That meant I sat on the bench during games, kept stats, and was a general do-person for the coaching staff. One of the coaches had a saying he repeated to me at least twice a week: “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”

I still hear that coach in my head whenever I mess up my first drift through good-looking water. While I suspect that coach was just trying to teach me something other than basketball, I find it interesting how well that advice applies to fly fishing.

Last week I went out to one of my local tailwaters. Every time I fish this river, I do so with mild trepidation, because it’s an extremely moody fishery. The trout are all wild (the state of Wyoming hasn’t stocked it in years) and they seemingly ignore most of the good hatches. In my two years of fishing there, I’ve caught exactly one trout on a dry fly. Nymphs are the name of the game.

But the fish seem to switch off different bugs without any rhyme or reason, and they usually won’t move too far to eat. These are discerning, efficient trout that demand good presentations. Often in fly fishing, we associate good presentations solely with dry fly fishing. And while that’s important, it’s just as important to focus on a good presentation for subsurface flies.

That fact was on full display last week.

The river was a bit high and off-color, a result of extra water flowing from the dam to make room for runoff. I tied on a big hopper, with a sizable crawdad nymph beneath it. My first few drifts were right where I expected trout to be – on the seam, in deeper water.

I kept fishing that water without luck until, on a whim, I threw a long cast upstream to some shallower riffles. My fly landed perfectly, the nymph dropped into the riffle, and within seconds I was hooked into a big rainbow trout.

The rest of the day played out in similar fashion. The trout were in shallow riffles, and if I got my first cast right, they’d eat my nymph almost every time. It was the best day I’ve ever had on that river, and in looking back on it, I reckon it worked out so well because I finally dialed in the correct presentation.

I know that presentation matters (it’s a concept I preach every week on my podcast) but sometimes you forget how much it really impacts your ability to catch fish.