Waters & words

Breaking with convention: GTFITW

For many years now, there have been a great many advocates of the upstream nymph.

No one has dictated that you should fish that way, but there have been the odd derogatory remarks about the downstream boys.

“I’d sooner be sitting on my arse plunking for Bass, than turn around and fling my fly down this here river!” said the old codger in Robert Traver’s story.

The thing is that I think we have all become a bit brainwashed by this distinction between the upstream, and the downstream technique. Furthermore, a great deal is written about how to fish without drag. Now let us pause a minute and contemplate the downstream technique that has caught so many millions of trout over the years.

By definition, fishing downstream means dragging the fly. Sure if you put some extra line on the water as you cast across the stream, you will get a very short drift without drag, but for the rest, as your fly swings down in the current, you are deliberately dragging the fly. And you catch fish.

But for most of us, the pursuit of the much publicised “drag free drift”, has left us limiting ourselves to nothing but the upstream technique.

Now I have a different take on my river fishing. Perhaps it’s the overgrown banks I encounter, but my technique is called “GTFITW” (Get the fly in the water).

GTFITW acknowledges that the upstream cast, with minimal drag, is the starting point. The default perhaps. But for all the times when you are not catching fish that way; for the times when the blasted tree and the rock, and the angry bull won’t let you reach the prime lie from below: it says GTFITW . GTFITW any damn way you can!

Lie on your stomach and dangle it from the top of the cliff. Fish downstream. Drop it in at the head of the pool and feed out line. Cast across and then walk downstream with the current to get it where you want it. Anything goes!

I remember on my first trip to the Rhodes area, I was casting up a long pool from the rapids at the tail, and catching a whole lot of tiddlers, one after the other. Then I noticed a fish rising halfway up this long deep pool. It was rising right under a bush on the bank. It looked like a better fish, but it was much too far away to cast to. The pool had a “dog’s leg” in it, so had I fished downstream, I would not have been able to see the fly, and in any case, the bush was in the way. From the opposite bank it would also have to be a long and accurate cast. I didn’t like the odds. So what now?

Well, I crept up the side of the pool, in amongst a stand of ten foot reeds to where the fish was rising. Then I walked slowly forward. Really slowly. I didn’t crouch down. I just moved with stealth! When I was a foot from the bush, I looked into the water and waited. After a few minutes the fish moved, and I spotted him.

I waited a while longer, before I took my fly off the keeper. Then I lifted the rod out of the reeds in front of me, the fly dangling in the air. Once it was out there I slowly lowered it down. There was no fly line out, only the leader. I let it down into the water very slowly, and using the rod, I jiggled it in front of his nose. Very unconventional. The fly was vertical, it was dragging, and it was rising and falling inexplicably.

He took it!

I actually lost that fish, but it was one of the best losses I have ever suffered. Had I not ventured to break some unwritten rules, I would have been the poorer.

And that I think, is what GTFITW is all about.

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