Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Crossing the Line

While you are fishing there are always experiences that make you question whether they are crossing the line or not. The line is different for everyone but there is always an uneasy feeling. Similar to when a friend shows you the answers they somehow acquired for an upcoming test. This happened to me on my last fishing trip. I was having a good day cruising along catching fish consistently. I ran into another fisherman who was having the same success. When we compared flies I couldn’t help but almost blurt out, “you’re cheating!” My fly was a bead head pheasant tail nymph and this gentleman’s fly looked like pink chenille with a trout worm on the end. It basically looked like a jig you’d use to catch crappie. Whenever I see stuff like this I always think why bother even using a fly rod? I talked it over with a friend after wards and said that fly would be my last resort. Which when I reflect back on everything that probably is false. Later I understood that the reason I was so upset about the fly was because I didn’t fish that way. So in my head I had the judgment that if you’re not following my set of rules for fly fishing you’re doing it wrong. Then I tried to go over why I thought it was so wrong. First I went over the fact that there was a rubber worm type thing tied into the fly. But then I thought about the rubber legs I use or have used on bass flies. They resemble or try to resemble the actual anatomy of something life like but are they really better than the worm fly? In reality what the person was doing was totally legal and he followed the fishing regulations. I realized I have no control of the actual situation and that I need to really get over those types of things. In all honesty if I had been getting skunked that day and he offered me that fly to fish with I’m sure I would have used it. I guess it was pride that first turned my nose up at the use of a fly like that. I guess everyone has that line they feel you shouldn’t cross because you’re breaking the rules. Whether it’s using two flies, fish scent, egg patterns, or bait. Everyone has their thing.


  1. Great Post. I basically don't care how a person fishes as long as he/she does it legally and respectfully. I personally prefer to fly fish, while others use live worms with a spinning rod. As long as they aren't trying to steal my hole they are o.k. in my book :) I think probably everyone has resorted to that one fly on that one day where nothing seems to wanna bite. We all enjoy it for different reasons but one thing remains the same, we prefer to catch a fish and not a skunk. It's all about that tug at the end the line:) Tight Lines.

  2. Ah, this is a hard topic, and this was a great post. It makes me think of a quote from The Habit of Rivers by Ted Leeson which I just finished reading, ""The sport of angling used to be a genteel business, at least in the world of ideals, a world of ladies and gentlemen. These have been replaced by a new set of paradigms: the bum, the addict, and the maniac. I'm afraid that this says much about the times we live in. The fisherman now is one who defies society, who rips lips, who drains the pool, who takes no prisoners, who is not to be confused with the sissy with the creel and the bamboo rod. Granted, he releases that which he catches, but in some cases, he strips the quarry of its perilous soul before tossing it back in the water. What was once a trout -- cold, hard, spotted, and beautiful -- becomes "number seven.""

    Fly fishing is at its heart, harder fishing than using worms and bait. There is a standard and expectation of behavior and method...and even though contrary isn't "wrong"...it's understandable why often, it bothers us.

    Great piece, Kevin...great piece.

  3. I only wish all people who participate the outdoors would be so thoughtful. The only test for me is, #1 is it legal? #2 is the hard one, is it ethical? Some people don't think enough about #2.

  4. Trout Mcgee, The hunt is the main thing I guess I want everyone to be on the same playing level. But that's not realistic.

    e.m.b, That's a great comment. There's something about trying to label, justify and define something as complicated as "fishing." Everyone in the end has to come to their own conclusion.

    Cofisher, I pretty much think the same way. The ethical part is hard to define because everyone is raised differently.

  5. You should read my last thread on my blog that I posted. I caught my biggest brookie on a pink weenie when he refused my other flies.

    To me everyone says flies have got to imitate a bug, and to that I have to ask what do half of the commonly used trout flies imitate? I have never ever seen a bug come off the water that looks like a stimulator, yet its some people's go to fly. P.S. I believe that the pink weenie does match a insect...the earthworm. When there is excess run off into the stream, earthworms do find there way to the stream. Just sayin.

    Get post though and great replies guys!

  6. If you tie it, and fish it with respect towards your quarry, I think it's OK. I tie and fish streamers, some of which are colored to represent nothing in nature. Some consider these to be lures, maybe so by there standard. They are all flies, be it a nymph, worm, streamer or classic dry fly.

  7. I was actually thinking about his "fly" after I left the stream too. I hadn't gotten any fish all day and I knew we were leaving soon, so when I saw him catching a fish every cast and then he offered me one, I couldn't refuse. After a few casts with it I was able to catch one and then I switched back to the fly before because I pretty much saw it as a crappie jig. But after I left I thought about it and wondered, could I make a fly like this that is more of a real fly fishing fly. So i've made a couple attempts at the vise and I think I've gotten somethings that could work, but won't know for sure till the next trout trip. What I came up with was a size 6 hook, silver bead head, pink dubbing with a cool material called larvae lace wrapped over for durability and also to give it a little bit more of a rubber look, and for the tail I used pink marabou split in two. It may not be a dry fly but it is better than what he had.

  8. I love all the discussion around this.

    Chasing Blue Lines, I don't feel all flies have to look like bugs. Wooly Buggers don't look really like anything specific but I fish them. To answer your question what to half of the commonly used trout flies look like? I'd have to answer with insects. That being said I've thought about using pink weenies many times and the only reason I haven't wasn't out of snobbery. I honestly just have never tied some or thought about it. Thanks for reminding me. What mainly irked me about the scenario in my recent post was the fact that the fly was created to look like a common spinning lure. I know there are plenty of other flies that do the same and we can debate that all day. I was just thinking why even bother going that route? Why not just use a crappie jig? What is the challenge of fishing a fly like that? Because it works? That's fine but it to me it comes down to why you fish. For the challenge? Or just to catch fish? To each his own. I just felt it was wrong at that moment. I made the post as more of a thinking topic not a post about you're doing it wrong. In the end I don't fault the fisherman for using it and I admitted I might have done the same if the circumstances presented themselves.

    Brk Trt, Your ties are beautiful and I'd fish those any day.

    Loften, don't take my post too seriously. I didn't think you failed by trying that fly. I would have done the same. It was a great fly to use for the day. It worked.

  9. Kevin, don't worry I didn't take it too seriously and sorry if it sounded like that. I was just saying what I thought about it and since it worked I am now wanting to have something like it, but more fly like.

  10. "Laughing out loud" I love it when my first impression has sparked such a great conversation. If I can save some face here, Loften did walk away without getting skunked and Sydney`s parting comment was "I have never caught this many fish, Thank you" Isnt that what this great sport is all about? Is it really cheating if you can put a smile on someones face? I sometimes wonder myself what makes a fly fishing fly a fly fishing fly? Is it a fly fishing fly because it has dubbing and a hackle? And who makes those rules?
    Those are questions i still dont have the answers too!

    Loften, Look up wee willy wiggler on youtube. Its probably the closest thing to what I was using that would be considered "hand tied"

    I joined TFF and I look forward to seeing all of you in the future!
    Tight lines................

  11. Rkeyes1, I appreciate you chiming in and I'm glad to see you joining TFF. You bring up some good points and helping others have a good day on the water is commendable.

  12. Here in Illinois, the land of no trout, I occasionally pursue smallies on the fly. They're not too particular about what they eat and how you present it to them.

    Since I use PowerPro on my spinning gear, I tie 8 feet of the same PowerPro, 10 lb. test, 2 lb. diameter, onto my fly line then tie the fly directly to the PowerPro. Casts like a charm. Never noticed that smallies cared about the line or the fly/bug/worm.

    I have gone to Wisconsin for trout a few times and I tend to not change my rigs and setup for trout. I noticed most trout up there don't really care either. Besides, it's fun to watch the traditional fly guys start dry heaving when they see how I'm bastardizing their "art."

    If I am recalling the early books on fly fishing that I've read correctly, putting live bait on the end of the line and casting with a fly rod was not out of the ordinary. From what I recall, this whole purist fly thing is something that developed in the fly fishing industry only in the last 50 years or so.

    It would be easy to pigeon hole me into the Ted Lesson quote, portray me as that person, but you'd be wrong. I fish the way I fish because I enjoy it. I like to play around and see if the fish will keep hitting. I learned this after teaching kids to fish for 4 years. You wouldn't believe what they want to put on a hook. They don't care how it gets done, they just want to feel the tug on the end of the line.

    And so do I.

  13. I liked your thought-provoking post Kevin and all the insightful (and respectful) comments! I also fished with a fly that I had never used on Sat (not sure if it is quite the one you described)and I caught so many trout that I lost count and it was thrilling. I knew that it was legal, I pressed down the barb, and the fish loved it. I've seen flies in fly shops and members' collections that don't resemble any 'bugs' I've ever seen and I've never seen bugs that are bright pink or chartreuse or made of foam rubber, etc, so that did not bother me at all.

    However, the thing that "bothers me" (for my own personal use)is the use of a bobber (or indicator)-- which I normally avoid (although I own a few) because it makes me feel that I don't have the "skill" to "feel" the fish bite and therefore it gives me too much of an advantage over the fish. I was using a bobber that day and it didn't bother me "too much" as I was catching so many trout and having so much fun and it WAS LEGAL.

    I did release all my fish "in the water" and "with care" and I think that is far more important.

    P.S. Loften, please post a pic of your newly developed fly for us.

    Rkeyes1: Welcome to our group!

  14. Sydney: I'll try to post a picture soon but I don't really know how to on here. Also I agree with what you said about using an indicator bobber thing. I normally don't use these but since Kevin offered me one and they were working for him I agreed. Normally if I need to use some sort of indicator I will use a dry fly that float well such as a parachute fly.

  15. Well now, here in Co.. you may find a fella on the river who says that your bead head is a cheat... Why you need a shiny jewel on your hook to get the attention of a fish... Ive been thrown slack for using micro rubber legs...

    I guess some fling flies, some fly fish, and some.... fool fish...

  16. I agree with you Kevin. To me I fly fish to catch fish. With that said, I don't agree with unethical fishing practices. I would considered fishing treble hook barbed spinners unethical for wild trout. But dead drifting a pink weenie every now and again I can live with :) I just have to make sure I go to church the following Sunday and repent, but its all good after that!

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  18. KenG and Biggerfish, thanks for the comment.

    Chasing Blue Lines, "I just have to make sure I go to church the following Sunday and repent, but its all good after that!" - Haha, that's pretty good.

  19. Great article Kev and certainly thought provoking. As you know, I don't do a ton of trout fishing anymore, but I fish using all sorts of gear (for all species). I don't consider any of it unethical. I think I had two trout fishing trips this year. On a trip to WY all I did was fling flies, yet on a trip to PA all I did was throw 3.5" jerkbaits. Both approaches worked great, were a lot of fun, and allowed me to return the fish to the water unharmed (except a couple we kept in WY to thank our guests for their hospitality).

    I also happened upon an article this year from fellow kayak fisher Randy Vining. Randy has been experimenting with throwing soft plastic baits on a fly rod for big shoal bass, because the long rod (and line) gives them a different action that the shoalies seem to love. The response by many was that it was cheating. I thought it was actually pretty innovative and obstute.

    Anyway, again great article and comments....tight lines!

  20. Kev
    I have learned over the years to accept the fact that other indviduals are going to catch fish in ways I am not. Sometimes we as fishermem want the fish to hit something we really think they will be drawn to, and in reality the fish knows best what tiggers them to hit a certain fly.