Selecting flies after a bump - Spey Pages
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post #1 of 42 (permalink) Old 03-08-2019, 02:09 AM Thread Starter
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Selecting flies after a bump

So I’m standing in the Bulkley just upstream of the Smithers bridge. Probably ten guys have gone through before me during the day but, improbably, I get a nice bump. I step back upriver five paces and swing though again with the same fly and the same presentation until I’m five paces below where I got the bump. No action.

Sensei has told me that when you encounter a fish, you cast to it again and again, changing flies to see if you can entice the beast to strike. Because Sensei has told me that the strategy for changing flies is to go with the opposite of what I’ve just cast, I switch out my purple Hoh Bo for a pink one. I step back upstream, I swing my way downstream. Again, no action.

Here’s the question. What’s the opposite of a pink Hoh Bo when you’ve already tried the purple?

I had a pretty varied fly box that day, so I tied on a black and green Intruder and then some other stuff, but each time I went back to the box, I was puzzled. I made my choices. I changed flies 5 times. It got dark. I went home.

I know there is no real answer to the question, but I thought it would be interesting to pose it to the group to see what others think.

And how many times will you folks go back for the same fish?
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post #2 of 42 (permalink) Old 03-08-2019, 02:41 AM
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You're going to get a lot of different takes on how to handle the situation but you ask so I'll tell you what I do.

First off, did you do anything when you felt the fish? I mean did you react or did you stay cool and allow the fly to finish the swing and then hang?

Me? I don't react at all. That takes time to develop but I believe that when you react and try to strike back you will put the fish off.

I stand right in my boot prints and take a careful accounting of everything I can. Things like where I think the fly was when I felt the fish. Then consider and land mark on either shore for a more precise way to mark the area. Next I'm looking not at where I think the fish was when it played with the fly but where the fly passed prior to the bump. It is the back track of the flies drift and swing that will tell me where the fish likely was hanging out when it spotted the fly. Any surface disturbances get duly noted then…………

I'll take a walk upstream, not 5 yards but more like 30. Then begin working back down with the same fly keeping a wary eye on where it is I am headed to. The extra time it will take for me to get back down there pays 2 dividends; one is it allows me to get back into a good rhythm of controlling the drift and swing for the purpose of depth & speed control. Two is that the time will give the fish time to re-acclimate and get back to its holding spot which they often seem to do...………

As you get closer you want to be looking at the shore on either side and the water to be sure of where you want the casts to land and the fly to travel. Go slowly because you want this fish to see the fly and only the fly not the leader or sink tip because you rushed things and are fishing to long with the fly passing behind the fish. If I do everything like I just described I raise about 75% of them a second time. If I went upstream far enough and came down slow enough it's been at least 20 minutes and my chances are better than most. I don't change the fly. The fish went for it once and there's no reason for me to believe it won't go again.

All of that hinges on one thing, that you did not react when you felt the fish by jerking the rod back. When you do that to a fish who is investigating something which appears strange but may be elidable you alarm the fish maybe even prick it a tiny bit and if you've done that you may as well move on and find another. If you find another than don't react if you feel a bump but no pull.


PS. I'd appreciate comments as to whether or not what I have said resonates with others. When I answer a question like this it isn't about being right. It's about trying to share things that took years and repeated experimentation in order for me to develop patterns for the way I do things. And I only write about things that seem to work time after time

Last edited by Hardyreels; 03-08-2019 at 03:11 AM.
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post #3 of 42 (permalink) Old 03-08-2019, 11:43 AM
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Try going down in size. It will never stop seeming odd that a ten pound fish will pounce on a tiny fly (I've had steelhead take a #18 pheasant tail while trout fishing). So, if you were fishing a large marabou type fly, try a smallish wet fly. But I think Ard's advice is good too.
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post #4 of 42 (permalink) Old 03-08-2019, 11:52 AM Thread Starter
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Hardyreels must have studied at the same dojo as my sensei ‘cause that’s the long version of my sensie’s advice. And I can still hear sensei say, “when you feel the bump do nothing, do nothing, do nothing...”
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post #5 of 42 (permalink) Old 03-08-2019, 12:38 PM
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Originally Posted by surfdog View Post
Hardyreels must have studied at the same dojo as my sensei ‘cause that’s the long version of my sensie’s advice. And I can still hear sensei say, “when you feel the bump do nothing, do nothing, do nothing...”
I believe Ard and sensei are correct.

And I'd follow up smaller and darker. Then original. Then smaller and brighter. Then the smaller and darker again. Then original. By then, or before, I'm tired of tying knots. Sip a bit from the flask and move on. Sometimes the fish get to pass by without us bothering them.
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post #6 of 42 (permalink) Old 03-08-2019, 12:49 PM
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I like Ard's advice.
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post #7 of 42 (permalink) Old 03-08-2019, 12:59 PM
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Ard's advice is good. I agree.

Personally, I've never moved 30 yards up before going after the fish again - but I like the idea. If the fish are few and far between (as they are in my area), you don't want to miss the opportunity and a good presentation is key. Moving upstream to get back into the groove and let your internal dialogue quiet down is a good thing. When searching for that comeback fish, I have often switch to a smaller fly and more drab in color. It's often done the trick. I will also sometimes show a different profile of the fly - if it was an initial down and across swing, I may cast across and give the fish a broad profile look of the fly. I don't know if there is any science. A player is a player. And finding one is half the battle.
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post #8 of 42 (permalink) Old 03-08-2019, 01:49 PM
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Gotta agree with Ard one more time.

OkieDokie said much the same things years ago, succinctly saying that a fish will likely come back if it wasn't stung.

I've had bumps at approximately the same spot at least 3 times before hooking up. Full disclosure reveals that the uncontrollable hand-shaking which starts taking place may factor in to the equation.
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post #9 of 42 (permalink) Old 03-08-2019, 02:12 PM
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Originally Posted by steelhead23 View Post
Try going down in size. .......
Excellent advice.

Pink and purple Hoh Bos of the same size might as well be the same fly.

Close to Smithers, eh? Could be other angler gear on the bottom that is providing the 'bump'. During prime season, the anglers must outnumber the steelhead 3:1.


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post #10 of 42 (permalink) Old 03-08-2019, 02:44 PM
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Ard's advice is exactly what I do with Atlantic him...that strategy will work. Nothing is guaranteed...but his suggestion is pretty darn close.
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post #11 of 42 (permalink) Old 03-08-2019, 03:20 PM
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All excellent advice!
Here's my opinion...
Many variables to consider first.

1. How much time do I have to tempt this fish to come back? Do I have all the time I want or is there someone stepping down behind me?

2. Was it a soft take, hard take, was it stung, etc...

3. Do you know if you are fishing over migrating or holding fish?

4. Floating line? Sinking?

5.water and weather conditions

Breaking down the variables helps me make my decision, but for the sake of giving an unconvoluted answer(which I am always guilty of), I'll assume your scenario and suggest what I would do...

If it were a missed grab, then I would check my hook and leader, then immediately cast in the same manner, distance, with the same fly and presentation. Tough to know if that fish was migrating or holding, how long it would stay in that area, or if it moved or followed from a far lie to grab the fly. A quick, approximate "replay"cast or 2 will eliminate a couple of those variables.
If nothing comes of it, then I would rest it for a few minutes, move upstream a few meters and work my way down to the take area and then past it a few meters using the same distance of line and same fly.
Assuming there's noone behind you, or if the person that is, is courteous enough to give you another go at it, then I'd go to a similar color and style of fly one or two sizes smaller and repeat.
If I had the pool to myself, fish were few and far between, and i knew the fish was holding, I'd rest that fish for as long as I can stand it and then go back at it with different presentations and flies between rests.
All depends whether spending that time is worth it compared to looking for a new player elsewhere.

Personally, I enjoy the challenge, and like experimenting and learning new nuances that can make a difference. Some of my most memorable and satisfying days were the one on ones I had with specific fish!

Either way, I'd say you were lucky to connect at all.
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post #12 of 42 (permalink) Old 03-08-2019, 08:17 PM
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I'm glad to hear that what I said sounded authentic

I have the opportunity to fish in some places where the chance of someone else coming along and wanting to fish the same spot as me is very low. Because of that I have time to be a bit more methodical in how I fish. I used the same approach strategy on large brown trout long ago and it served me well when I began fishing for sea run rainbows as well as everything else.

In the event that I have a fish get hold of the hook but comes undone I do the same things as for marking where it happened then I mosey back to the boat and move on. I'll give a fish like that days to forget before I return to the same spot and when I do I park well downstream then walk up. My rational in these cases are that I don't want the fish to hear the boat because I wonder if that may remind it of what happened a few days ago...………

Every now and then it works.

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post #13 of 42 (permalink) Old 03-08-2019, 09:26 PM
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Ard is spot on. I used to rush the follow up and then put down the fish. Patience pays off. CSFT is also right about salmon which works for steelhead. They tell you to wait 3-4 minutes before you repeat the cast. That is a long time and the shakes do not help. The 30 ft walk allows you to get under control and repeat the casts/swing. I have closed players using this process and that is really gratifying. Make sure to mark where you were standing when you got the bump. I have gone back an hour later and closed a fish that was put down. I also usually go down in fly size if the original fly does not repeat the take.
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post #14 of 42 (permalink) Old 03-08-2019, 10:23 PM
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Thats all great advice. I Find the hardest part is just letting a fish eat it and turn. After a day, or more casts something grabbing my fly.....well...just makes me crazy!!

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post #15 of 42 (permalink) Old 03-08-2019, 11:48 PM
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Just tie on a muddler and hold on tight! :-)

All kidding aside, some sound advice above, and I’m sure lots more to come. Great topic!

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