A Stealthy Approach
I have always been amazed at some of the fish that I have caught that have been within just a few feet of me. I credit all of those catches to a skill that I have worked on honing since I got into fly fishing: stealth. Of all the skills that can make a huge difference to anglers, I think that stealth receives the least attention and is often overlooked. In my experience, it is a critical skill that makes a huge difference between a successful day and being skunked.
There are several aspects of stealth to consider: clothing/color, movement, light and approach. They all come into consideration when you are stalking fish. There are definitely times when stealth is not as critical as others, such as when a river is high and muddy or there is a good chop to the surface of a lake or pond. Even in those situations, stealth can help to improve your success rate and it never hurts to get additional practice.
Almost every book on fishing trout will tell you to wear muted colors when you are on the stream.
There is a huge difference between a solid muted color article of clothing and one that is camo, especially camo that is appropriate for the time and place you are fishing. I have a number of different kinds of camo that I wear that helps me blend. Remember that camouflage is intended to break up your form into the background. A lot of the hunting camo out there does this great but some of the new military camo patterns are just as good, if not better. Just make sure that you choose the colors that are most appropriate for the time and place that you are at – one that is primarily brown might not be the best thing for a Pennsylvania spring creek in June for example. You might find that it is worth having a camo that works well in the spring and fall and another for summer. Yea, it is more fishing clothing to have but that day you land the biggest trout of your life you will realize that it is totally worth it.
Another color factor to keep in mind is the color of your line. Gin clear trout steams are no place for florescent colored fly lines. Leave the chartreuse, yellow and orange lines at home to up your odds. If you are often on streams with spooky fish grey, tan, and olive are all much more appropriate colors. They are less likely to be noticed and will blend in with the surroundings quite well. Line color is also a factor on clear lakes and ponds, but not with all species. I think that a lot of predators could care less what color the line is but in general my preference is to stick with those more “blendy” colors. Carp, being the hypersensitive fish that they are, really require a muted line to help ensure success.
When I am out fishing a stream, one of the things I try to do is to stay out of the water. It cannot be stressed enough how important this can be. The more you stay out of the water the less likely you will be to spook fish. When you are on the bank you need to be quite cautious too. A large form looming over the water will often cause all the fish in sight to flee in terror, and rightfully so. To a fish that could indicate any number of predators that are out to get them and never forget that you are one of those predators. Keep your form low. Use natural blocks like trees, bushes, and any obstruction to shield your form from the fish.
When you are moving, move slowly. I get a kind of crouch/creep going on. I am careful about my foot placement, making sure that I have safe, solid footing so I don’t fall and also so that I am placing my foot down gently. A hard landing or hard footfall will transmit sound to fish and spook them. Stalking fish takes time and while it is very tempting to move quickly to get into good position to cast to a visible fish, many times that will be your downfall. The slower you move the less likely the fish will see your camouflaged form. This also holds true when you are casting. Try to minimize your movements when you cast. If you are doing a big, exaggerated cast the fish will bolt a lot of times, especially in slower water. Get into position, and watch and wait a little bit before casting. If you do that then you will get more of a feel of what the fish is up to and it will let the fish relax a bit if it is feeling a bit edgy from something moving near it.
Your form is a lot more obvious when you are in the water and the pressure waves that you make when you move will be picked up by the lateral line of the fish, no matter what kind of fish they are. Cautious wading pays off. When you are in the water don’t move quickly. Pick your feet up just off the bottom enough so that you aren’t touching and move forward deliberately. The speed that you move your leg through should match the water type you are in. For example, you can move a bit faster in riffles than you could in a slow pool. In a slow pool, you should be absolutely creeping along. Any pressure waves you make will move through the pool and spook the fish.
A huge factor to keep in mind while being stealthy on any body of water is the direction the sun is shining and the shadow that you are casting. If there is one thing that has spooked more fish for me it is my shadow. Being cognizant of where your shadow is being cast makes a huge difference in stalking fish.
Use the fish’s natural inclination to face into the current to your advantage. Approach from downstream when you can. I am always amazed at how close I can get to a big, wild brown when moving upstream cautiously. I have caught more than a few 20 inch plus browns within 15 feet of the rod tip. Some of the streams that I fish would not allow me to cast much more than that in any case. The same holds true of many other fish- I have caught smallmouth, musky, redhorse suckers, steelhead, salmon and other fish using the same technique.
Using these stealth techniques will help put more fish in your net – Tight lines!
Blog post written by Lauren Dunn. Lauren is a multiple world fly fishing record holder and currently holds 57 titles! Check out this great article regarding these achievements, here.