Thread the Needle and Fish Structure More Effectively to Catch More and Bigger Trout. By Simms Pro, Landon Mayer.
Just in time for prime hike/wade season, it’s with great pleasure to announce the newest member of the Simms Pro Team. For nearly two decades, Landon Mayer has made a career out of doing what he loves — chasing giant trout with tiny flies on foot. With so many years (and miles) of experience, Landon has developed a tip for virtually every fly fishing situation a hike/wade angler might find themselves in. In 2014, Landon culminated his findings into his second book, 101 Trout Tips, A Guide’s Secrets, Tactics, and Techniques, Headwater/Stackpole Books. To celebrate the start of the new season, we’ve literally taken the chapter “Swearing By Structure” from his book. Below, Landon explains how you can get better drifts and fish structure more effectively. Take a look and expect to see more great tips from Landon in the near future.
Problem: I can’t get a proper drift around structure without snagging and losing flies.
Solution: Try “threading the needle” by drifting in the seams in between the structure.
The problem most anglers have in locating large trout is that they look in areas where it seems impossible to get a drift. Structure is a prime example. Yes, there are going to be locations around structure in which trout cannot be reached, but there are areas where they can be caught. You will see more giant fish in these areas than in conventional waters. I also believe anglers shy away from structure because you lose the length in most of your drifts or presentations. Long lines lead many anglers to believe the more line you have out, the better chance you have of catching a fish. The shadow-casting scene in A River Runs Through It did nothing to dispel this notion! But contrary to popular thought, you don’t have to think long all the time.
There are many forms of structure. Rocks, logs, vegetation, docks—the list is endless. The most common structure we see in waters throughout the world are stones and rocks, both naturally occurring and planted by man. This is a safe place for large fish. Even if the rock is only a foot in circumference, it is still a magnet for trout because they feel safer around it. Just as I do with runs of moving water, I inspect the structure areas and try to deliver flies in, around, and through every inch of these “stone zones.” I have found more trout breaking 30 inches in these locations than in any other type of water. You need line tension when presenting to structure. Don’t use a drag-free drift that cannot be lifted, dropped, or pulled through the water around the structure. This will let you drift without snagging in little seams—and avoiding snags is the key to getting the flies to the fish.
Don’t forget to fish in front of the rock as well as behind it. Many anglers to believe from literature and movies that trout hold predominantly behind rocks in the river. My experience has been the opposite. Some of the largest fish in any river place themselves in front of the rock because a large washout section forms at this location and they don’t have as much of a fight with the water’s current. While fish do hold behind rocks, remember that they will always pick the area where they can consume a meal while expending the least energy in doing so.