Sweat the Details


The following is how I would fish if I were anal retentive.

How Trout See

A trout’s vision is limited to a cone or window emanating at a 97 degree angle from its eyeballs.  Objects outside of the cone and beneath its banked refraction in air are indistinct to trout, if not invisible.  Objects within the cone are visible.  The cone is more expansive the farther a trout is from the water surface and smaller if a fish is in shallow water.  In other words, a deep-lying fish can see can see more above the water than a shallow one can.  This is pertinent to the approach an angler must take and how on target a cast needs to be to present an imitation within a trout’s field of vision; a shallow-lying fish has a smaller field of vision, requiring a more accurate cast from the fly fisher.

Macrobiotic Drift

Insects are near the bottom of the food chain and yet are some of nature’s most prolific survivors.  They have accomplished this by unwittingly employing several strategies over the eons.   One, insects produce huge numbers of offspring; they breed often and generate lots of progeny, which offsets extremely high mortality rates.  Two, they migrate constantly towards more advantageous settings and frequently under optimal conditions.  In a trout stream, insects engage in frequent searches for greener pastures, deliberately releasing themselves into the current so they will be brought to new habitat, hopefully habitat that can materially support them until they must move again.  Since they are indeed so vulnerable to so many predators, insects stage much of this activity during low or no light conditions, when they are less likely to be seen.  Ever wonder why the fishing is so good in the morning and evening?  Or, in midday, how you see plenty of bugs on the bottoms of rocks but fish don’t seem to be eating them? Perhaps these bugs, being under rocks, are not so easily eaten.


Trout are ectotherms, cold-blooded creatures.  Water temperature affects them greatly, especially at the extremes.  You can run a fly right by the nose of a super cold or hot trout, it won’t eat, and there isn’t a dang thing you can do about it.  Temperature causes trout to eat, not eat, eat certain things only, even migrate.  Trout are happiest in water that is approximately 50 to 60 degrees.  At least that’s the range they seem to eat the most.  Over 70 degrees is approaching lethal; do not fish for trout when the water temperature is above this mark. Sharp temperature changes will trigger certain behaviors, especially in spring and fall, and in lakes.


You must know how to tie the improved clinch knot, the double surgeon’s knot, and the blood knot.  You must know how to tie these knots well, very fast, and hopefully blind.  If you aren’t comfortable with knots, you may subconsciously become unwilling to tie them.  You will change flies less often and will be less likely to experiment with different rigs.  Your creativity will suffer, and you will find you will catch fish only when conditions are just so.  Your ability to adapt will be limited.


 The reality of a cold blooded metabolism is that some or many fish will always be eating and, thus, will be caught and/or removed from a population.  Nevertheless, some individual trout manage to reconcile their metabolic requirements with strong danger avoidance instincts.  These fish are extremely cautious, and they’ll only eat when they are positive that doing so is a safe proposition.  They are often large fish or, from habitual paranoia, are destined to be so.  Anglers who dress, move, cast, or rig with careful intentions tend to catch lots of big fish.

Trout Migration

Trout migrate large and short distances, on a seasonal or even daily basis, in response to certain environmental stimuli.  Understanding trout migration is important, if only so the angler will place a reasonable amount of stock in theories about fish not being physically present at a certain location at a certain time (theories abound when fish aren’t being caught).

Mending and Casting

The difference between catching a fish or not can often be the six inches between where your fly lands and where it should have landed.  It can be the drag that sets in right as your fly approaches your quarry.  It is important to have control over your line while it’s in the air and on the water.

There Are No Rules

Period.  Imposing rules on yourself can get in the way of your picking up on the lessons a day on the stream may be teaching you.



Filed under Skills That Kill

10 responses to “Sweat the Details

  1. Nice. Many thanks for giving me the subject of my next post. Look for it in categories “On Paranoia” and “Tweet My Junk”.

    • norhernnm flyfishermen

      you sir are a douche bag…. why don’t u post all reply’s, not just yours. why don’t u hotspot on here where only you and you’re failed journalist cronies are present….and not on a magazine where out of state losers like yourself will exploit our fisheries, nothing good will come out of your weak article…..do you even fish up there? I do often. and I’ve never seen you there….but just this last week I’ve seen more then five, out of state fishermen there because of you. sleep well my friend…..the damage on that fishery that you imposed will always be on your conscience…..

      • Hey, sorry for not posting your first comment. I tried to, minus the expletives, but I guess I failed (I’m on two URLs right now). Got to tell you, even though recreationists have no claim to the water from that dam, I, as a native of this state who’s fished that river plenty over almost four decades, feel bound by duty to improve spawning success, reduce fish harvest, and address various other factors that are important to fish and wildlife in that canyon as the Rio Grande Compact allows. That’s what I’m trying to do for sure, and you are welcome to join in; we could use all hands on deck. You are correct on one point for sure: most of the damage done to a fishery like that is usually due to people who just charge in without knowing what they’re talking about.

  2. norhernnm flyfishermen

    Well that was a cute response and all, but come on man, seriously? So your solution to improving spawning rates and decreasing fish mortality is to advertise that fairly unknown and sensitive area to the masses? Did you not get the memo ese?….the west is crowded. As a native New Mexican and longtime fisherman who is familiar with water issues in the west, you of all people should know that fishery will never be that san juanish tailwater you want, where you and all guide bros can argue about what size worm or crane fly you should have used that cloudy day. It’s up to the local fishing community to self regulate and educate others about that river. Do you think the state or your fishing buddies from tx, az, co, or wherever really give a shit about the future of that fishery? Do you think that area would ever be regulated? How many times have you seen any kind of fishing regulations being enforced in northern NM? A La Vedga… serio bro? I’m thinking you’re just looking to get your name printed in a mag and could care less about that river when you don’t stand to personally benefit. . But what do I know? I’m just charging in and don’t know what I’m talking about right? Maybe so, but I’m anxious to learn what other guides and local fisherman think about your article. The conversation has been started, so lets hear it…. ask the guides you know, co workers and fishing bros to post their opinions here. I’m curious to hear if I’m the only one that thinks that article will ultimately do more harm than good to that fishery.

    • Well, who are you? You talk a tough game behind anonymity. I’ll see you at the bus stop after school! Seriously though, why don’t you take it down a notch or two. To me It sounds like we are all on the same team here. So I expect to see you at the next Truchas Chapter Trout Unlimited meeting. Put your money where your mouth is. First beer is on me…

    • http://truchacabra.com/?p=244
      Let’s move it over to the above post on the topic. Get some folks who want to put their two cents in. Thanks

  3. norhernnm flyfishermen

    Ok, drunken rant is over. My apologies for anything coming across as a personal attack. Truth is, I don’t even know you or your true intentions with your article. I just got a little caliente when I read that piece and came to realize that all the info that takes years and years for an angler to learn about that fishery, is nicely laid out in a couple pages for anyone to see. Selfish of me I guess. For what its worth, your writings on this blog are excellent, and I really enjoyed reading them. If you and the rest of the guiding and fishing community are ok with you putting all that info out there for free, well then we’ll all have to deal with it. Let the High-holeing begin. See you out there. Also, feel free to remove my posts from your blog. peace.

  4. super fly

    what are rules?

    • A rule is a hard and fast mandate demanding that one follow its dictates or face negative consequences. For example, “There are no rules” is a rule requiring that a person ignore all rules coming before it and after, since it is, in fact, a rule. When applied to fly fishing, this rule requires that a person take all rules, such as “the distance between the indicator and weight shalt not exceed two times the depth of the water being fished” with a large grain of salt.

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