Let’s face it, there are no secrets in fishing anymore. Don’t get me wrong, we try. Heck, friends I guide with have been known to black out the backgrounds of grip and gin shots before posting on Facebook. I have chosen to turn down filming with a couple outdoor TV shows because I was worried an area would get hot spotted and over run by hordes of long rodders. However, all these efforts have been in vain and one way or another word gets out. Even a particular section of my home river I have been floating for 20 years had, to my knowledge, never seen another boat other than a few “in the know” friends of mine. This year, thanks I suspect to google earth, I saw two out of state dudes floating down what was once my private playground. Oh well, it was bound to happen.
Crowded fisheries are both relative and reality. What is considered crowded on an obscure stretch of water in Wyoming is not the same thing as crowded on one of the famous tail waters in Montana. But all are seeing more anglers as we seek out the serenity and unpressured fish that were once far easier to find. What are we to do? Stand in line like we were at an amusement park and wait for a hole to open up? (I have actually seen this)
A few thoughts on how to deal with too many freakin’ people on “your” water…
- Fish marginal water. The good riffles and runs always have anglers pounding them. When an angler is done with the spot, it doesn’t take long for it to be occupied by someone else. Guess what those fish do? They move to water where they get left alone. Don’t ignore them, go catch them. Try water types you might normally walk on past but are just a little bit fishy. You may be surprised.
- Fish at night. everyone talks about moussing at night, but damn few actually do it with any regularity. Be one of the few and get after it. It’s addictive as hell to hear what sounds like a cinderblock crashing where you think your Moorish mouse was. That said, mice are not your only approach. A bulky, water pushing, black streamer will often get more hits. Also, don’t fish all night unless there is a full moon (or you’re a vampire). Typically, your first couple hours after the sun goes down or before it comes up are best. Take a mid-day nap, a good dinner, and grab a head lamp, remind yourself there is no such thing as sasquatch, and hit a good piece of water when everyone else is asleep.
- Fish in the winter. I do this as much as I can and it often produces some of the most productive fishing I see all season. Honestly I can’t understand why I don’t have more winter bookings. I would love to guide more in the winter months. Sure it’s cold and you have to stop once in a while to break ice out of the guides and warm up your hands, but big deal. You will have solitude, unpressured fish, and die hard stories of adventure to tell the next time your hanging in your local fly shop. A lot has been written about winter fishing so I won’t bother here (yet), but bundle up, grab a hot thermos, get a portable propane heater, watch your weather… but go give it a shot. With the right approach and on the right types of water its enormous fun, and your spouse will think you’re crazy (it is good to keep spouses guessing).
- Take a hike. It’s a fact most humans are lazy. Years ago I used to religiously fish a very crowded section of a famous tail water. I found a lot more solitude and willing trout by walking a mile or two before even stringing up.
- Hit the less famous, low fish density water. I mentioned google earth. It’s your friend. Just because you have never heard of a particular stream doesn’t mean there is not great adventure to be had. Even on famous fisheries, I find the further away from the well-known access points you go, the fewer people you see. High fish counts equal high angling pressure, but that doesn’t mean there are no fish 30 miles from the dam or on that little tributary you have never heard of. Have a little faith in your abilities, grab a map and a GPS unit, and go where others do not.
- Lastly, give yourself permission to enjoy your fellow anglers. No matter what we do sometimes things just don’t work out, we are in a crowd and its accept that or go home. I can’t speak for anyone but myself, but I love the company of fellow flyfishers. In these instances I chose to embrace the fellowship. No one wants to be that dude on the bank who talks everyone’s ear off, but if I find myself sharing trail with someone as I go from A to B or I happen to be breaking for lunch about the same time as someone else, I figure I might as well be friendly. If I find a bug that’s working and the guy 60 yards away is drawing blanks, Ill offer one to him. I have actually ended up meeting some totally cool people doing that and had a rewarding day because of it. In the end we are all members of the same tribe, with the same goals in mind; Catch a few fish, forget about the world for a bit, and feel the current against our legs.