Luck is in the Details
16 October 2004
| Page: 1
A letter by Davy Wotton got me thinking (FF&FT, June). He was pointing out some clear examples of where, in order of importance, the fly itself outweighed presentation. Davy’s examples included the San Juan, in New Mexico, where thousands of anglers pursue thousands of wild trout. These fish have seen a lot of flies, and are apparently not bothered by the constant presence of anglers. Davy says they have become so inured to anglers that they even follow them around, feeding on the insects stirred up by wading, (something Clyde grayling anglers call ‘shuffling’, and which had to be banned, so we know it works). The San Juan fish are tough to catch, however, and the standard fly patterns are often completely ignored. Most of the time, only very lifelike (not necessarily realistic) midge patterns and the ubiquitous San Juan Worm will convince these trout, which Davy says are caught and released many times. It goes without saying, however, that lifelike flies must be presented in a lifelike manner.
Now, I admit, that’s a tough situation. I’ve never fished the San Juan, and I probably won’t. I hanker after more secluded places, where there may be fewer and smaller fish, but where I have them more or less to myself. A true quality experience, for me, doesn’t necessarily involve enormous numbers of enormous fish – although I can’t say I’d complain if I ever find myself in such a place.
The thing is, some of world’s best trout fishing is found on water that receives a lot of pressure, and the trout have adapted to it. They have no choice, really. These great rivers and lakes weren’t always like this. Some have only come to prominence with structural change, like the San Juan, where a dam has created a remarkable tailwater fishery. Others, like the Bow, have developed through a combination of enhanced nutrient levels downstream of Calgary, and careful management for recreational purposes. Some great natural rivers have just had to tough it out, more anglers chasing a relatively stable population of native fish. Catch and release angling is a big part of the picture these days and the consensus is that all of these high-profile waters have become more ‘technical’ due to increasing pressure from anglers. The San Juan has one major factor contributing to selective and difficult trout; a super-abundant food supply of a single type. To make things worse, the predominant prey species is tiny. To cap it off, the fish have learned to utterly ignore