I’m sure you know the old saying: “A bad day fishing is better than a good day working.” And I agree.
A couple of weeks ago, I was fishing below the dam on the Little Red in Arkansas. Now I’m a student of fly fishing. I read books. I watch videos. I study for the Certified Casting Instructor exam mainly to improve my own casting (which it has!).
Below the dam in JFK Park, there’s an overlook. When they aren’t generating, the area just below the overlook is probably 20 feet down to shallow wading water. Maybe fifteen feet out, the river bottom drops away to a hole that looks…deep. The water is clear enough that you can see individual rocks in the river bottom. You can also watch the trout swim.
On this particular trip, there were trout all over that hole. And there were fishermen trying not to crowd one another, but itching to get into the hole. Several limited out and left. Others took their place.
I was late. All the good spots were taken. So I waded out upriver from the hole about 30 feet and started casting into what looked like a hole on the other side of the river. I swept the bottom with a couple of different nymphs, changed over to a hopper/copper rig and was trying different droppers. No serious takes.
The river was so clear, I could actually see trout chasing my fly, looking at it, and turning away, “No thanks.” That–dear people–is what we call rejection.
That was when the two guys next to me waded to the bank and changed out their spinning rigs for fly rods. Frankly, they didn’t look much like fly fishermen. No fishing vests or fanny packs. No brown and tan waders. No grandmother’s friend fishing hats. Actually, I wouldn’t be surprised if their camo waders had a tag in them that said, “Duck Dynasty.” I could see some of the DD crowd wearing those getups.
And then they started casting. Pop. Smack. Sluuurp. Pop. Smack.
Here are the things I’ve known since I was a child you don’t do: don’t pop your line on the back cast. Don’t slap the water behind you. Don’t smack the line down in front of you so hard you leave a v-shaped wake all the way out to where your fly smacks the water so hard people will think you’re trying to give an unwary trout a concussion. Don’t jerk your line back up off the water and smack it down again instead of false casting. There aren’t ten of them, but they’ve always been like the commandments to me. Notice that I didn’t include anything like “Thou shalt not throw a tailing loop!”
Pop. Smack. There they went. Pop it in back; smack it down on the water; snatch it back out and slap it down again. They were right over that honey hole with all the trout swimming around. I was half glad they were there, because they might scare a few fish to the rest of us.
And then the worst part started.
“Hey, look,” one guy said to the other, “I’ve got one.” And then the other guy hooked one.
Pop. Smack. Sluuuurp. Slap. Smack. And he hooked another one. One of them took a fish off and slapped the fly back down into the water where he immediately hooked another one.
“What are you using there?” I asked.
“A brown and white fly,” he answered. I’ll leave the Arkansas accent to your imagination.
It was their first time. The flies were flies out of one of those starter sets. I think the rods were probably fiberglass.
So here’s what I learned: Study as much as you want, but you still will do better if you fish where the fish are!