White River

High sticking from a boat

Posted by John Berry on May 11th, 2012
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Last week I was guiding Warren and Darrell, two anglers from my former hometown of Memphis, Tennessee. I had fished with Warren on two previous occasions but this time was my first trip with Darrell. They had wanted to wade and, on the day before their trip, the Southwest Power Administration’s generation prediction website indicated that there would be no generation on that day. However, when I woke up at 5:00 AM on the morning of our trip, the first thing that I did was to check the current generation schedule to ensure that the water was down. To my surprise, they were running water. I hurriedly hitched up my boat. I always keep it fueled and ready to go. My clients were open minded and willing to try something new (they had never trout fished from a boat before).

When we arrived at Rim Shoals the water conditions were good. The water was clean and gin clear. The water level was around 3,000 CFS (cubic feet per second) or about one full generator. The sun was shining, there was a light wind from the west and the temperatures were expected to rise into the low nineties. I had fished this section of the river a few days before and had done well with a zebra midges size sixteen (black with silver wire and silver bead) suspended below a cerise San Juan worm and fished with a split shot and a strike indicator. We motored upstream and began our drift down. We began picking up fish immediately.

While we were slamming fish, I noticed one thing, Warren was catching three fish to Darrell’s one. I studied their respective techniques. Darrell was casting about thirty feet from the boat. He was not mending his line properly and was not achieving a perfect drag free drift, the key to success when fishing nymphs. I generally recommend that my clients cast twenty to twenty five feet from the boat. I like them to mend often to achieve a perfect drag free drift and keep their rod tip low so that they can quickly set the hook.

Warren was casting about ten feet from the boat. He was holding his rod tip high so that the fly line was off the water and the only thing touching the water’s surface was the strike indicator. He was easily getting a perfect drag free drift and was setting his hook at the slightest movement of his strike indicator. He was slamming trout after trout. He was high sticking. This is a popular nymphing technique that I often use when wading. By working such a short line, you do not have to worry about having too much slack. In addition, you begin the fight with the trout very close to the boat.

I thought that I had never seen this technique used from a boat. Then I remembered a trip with my wife, Lori, a few months ago. We were fishing on opening day at the Catch and Release Section below Bull Shoals Dam. We were drifting close to the Marion County side of the river. I was closer than I usually get and was concerned that we may be too close. I asked her if she wanted me to move the boat out from the bank. She responded that moving the boat was unnecessary because she was getting a drag free drift and thought that it would produce a fish. About that time, she hooked and landed a twenty four inch brown. At the time she hooked it, her strike indicator was about six feet from the boat.

Have I happened upon a viable technique? Will it work in every instance? I really do not know. It certainly worked on this occasion. Warren ended the day with thirty one fish. The largest was eighteen inches long. I did work with Darrell and he began catching more fish. I think that part of the equation is that I float silently. I turn the motor off at the beginning of the drift and control my boat with a paddle. I think this works in heavy water but, as you get into shallow water and the trout can see you more easily, you may want to cast a bit further from the boat.

I am going to experiment with this technique. I have always been an advocate of fishing short lines and this is the logical way to go. Try it for a few minutes the next time you go out. Let me know how you did!

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