This is the second contribution authored by Carl Ochnio, an avid freshwater fly angler who lives in central Connecticut. Carl is a former higher education professional who now finds as much time as he can wading in moving water. All photo credits belong to Carl. email@example.com
In part I of this essay, I highlighted the dramatic uptick in fishing pressure on our treasured trout waters. It stands to reason that as our general population continues to expand, it proportionally increases the number of anglers taking up the sport of fly fishing. This is great news for fishing gear companies as they have a larger market to reach. Not so much for those seeking space and solitude.
To slow this upsurge in fishing pressure, a number of western states are having controversial discussions regarding limitations on the number of commercial guide boats on some of their rivers. On the Big Hole River in Montana, certain sections of the river are already closed to drift boats at designated days and times. On the famed Madison River, one section is now limited to wade fishing only. With this increase in angling activity, the thinking is if policies or procedures are not in place to regulate use, it will continue to grow to the point where it becomes a much more serious issue. These debates are heated and regulation is often a volatile topic. In history, you might recall The Barbed Wire Wars that occurred primarily in the west during the late 1800’s. It’s an example of how differing viewpoints on the use and access of public lands can cause considerable tension.
An option for regulating angling pressure
Sure, it’s a longshot, but in order to protect their resources, can you imagine a day in the foreseeable future when a state limits fishing to odd/even days based on the last number of a fishing license?
With this increase in angling pressure, is it reasonable to continue to judge the “success” of a day of fishing based on the number of anglers one runs into? A response to the question certainly is personal and dependent on any number of factors.
My first choice is to continue to make every attempt to avoid the crowds of well-known honey holes and savor time spent on the quieter sections of a river. There are some legendary pools in my home state that I’ve yet to set foot in. I simply just don’t enjoy fishing these popular waters and will make every effort to by-pass them.
Pools on some of the popular rivers have legendary names associated with them. The Church Pool, Batis Run, Junction Pool, or the famed Texas Hole. Mostly, I spend my time in pools that do not have monikers. Over the years, I have had fun adding my own names to these spots. There is The Tub, Out of Sight Bend Pool, The Aquarium and Last Chance Pool.
Benefits of seeking fly-fishing solitude
I realize that seeking solitude has its shortcomings. In many cases, one might be casting in less productive water where the fish count is lower. The trade-off is it can be quiet and peaceful. Solitude might provide an opportunity to witness an eagle or an osprey effortlessly glide down and nab a fish with its talons. Should you get far enough away from the crowds, it can provide the opportunity to listen in on the soundtrack of nature.
Are there other downsides to consider when tossing flies in less productive sections of rivers and streams? It can be problematic if one needs frequent bites to maintain a positive mental attitude. It’s hard to explain but there are days when if I don’t hook up with a fish within the first hour, it can begin to feel like I lost my mojo and will never catch a fish the rest of my life. It’s funny how after all these years and so many fish brought to the net, this feeling of doubt can still creep into one’s head.
Of course, there are those mornings where I might wade a few miles and not scare up a rise. To avoid a complete skunk and to boost my ego and spirits, the last refuge of this scoundrel is to stop and fish under the bridge on the state highway when heading back to my SUV. I’ll plant myself under the bridge, tie on my confidence fly and listen to the whine of car tires and rumble of semi-tractor trailers as they pass directly over me.
Have backup ‘honey holes’ to resurrect the day
Even if you relish solitude, it’s always a good idea to have an ace in the hole just like the good old Bridge Pool. Simply having a last-ditch option can be the anti-perspirant that will ward off the smell of an otherwise malodourous day (the skunk). So, I’ll catch a couple of fish, feel a little bit better of myself and head home smiling. It is a high price to pay, but there are some days when one just needs to net a fish. A spot such as this can often be a gem hidden right there in plain sight to everyone, yet so many will just walk right by it.
One of the upsides to trolling secondary waters is that one can generally move around from pool to pool without hesitation. There are popular rivers where an angler is somewhat resigned to fish a very small section or feel stuck in a particular spot. I refer to it as “cement fishing” as one feels their boots are literally glued to the river bottom. It’s the equivalent of finding a good parking spot in New York City as one cannot bear the thought of ever giving it up.
Another way to enjoy solitude is to consider fishing when the weather turns lousy or during the shoulder seasons such as early spring or late fall. Choosing to fish during the milder days of winter is also an option. With the high tech and tactical clothing available today, an angler can nearly dress for just about any type of weather condition.
Where one fishes is a personal choice
Where one decides to fish is a personal matter and dependent on any number of factors. An angler who prefers to fish “gold medal” or “trophy” waters known to have a high fish per mile count can easily track down those locations. Someone seeking a challenge or is a glutton for punishment might choose to toss their flies in pools holding highly pressured and educated fish. The other option is deciding to take a chance on some secondary spots and the outcomes associated with it. Seeking the middle ground might be a nice alternative. A mix and match providing an opportunity to experience a bit of both environments dependent on the conditions or your mood.
On most days, I believe you’ll know where to find me.
“Sometimes when standing alone in a river...
I feel it’s exactly where I’m supposed to be” – Unknown Quote