I was asked to give some advice when it comes to fly fishing in a river like for example Ljusnan (I live in Bollnäs, “And a river [Ljusnan] runs through it”). That's not exactly an easy task. I have to go back to my early childhood to do that as best as I can. There are many fly fishers more experienced in that than I am.
I can clearly remember when I, at that time just a whig, was trying to catch a trout early one morning. We were camping in Norway and had set up our tent close to a brook. It was my dad, one of my older brothers and me there.
I specially remember one morning when my brother and I snuck out of the tent. Wearing nothing but pyjamas we started fishing in the brook. Since my older brother wasn't just older but also much stronger he decided that the best parts of the brook was his. He is now like 6 foot 6 or so and I don't even reach 6 foot. So he went upstream and I downstream of course. I had to submit myself to that authority.
At that time almost all I knew about fishing had to do with worms and big blueish Aberdeen bait hooks. So downstream I went with my rod that had a line tied to the tip, and on the other end of the line was the hook with a live worm on it. I beg all fly fishers, that feel that is an abomination of sport fishing, to forgive me for entering these lines in my story. A fact though is that many a good fly fisherman has started out using bait such as worms. Why, you might ask. The aim is the same: stealthy closing the range between yourself and the trout.
This particular morning was one of the first mishaps in this respect that I can remember. As I was walking down the brook in my pyjamas I saw the trout and it certainly saw me. It went fleeing for life downstream and I (about 5 years of age) went after him. First lesson learned; whatever you do, don't let the trout (or whatever fish you are after) SEE YOU. This of the obvious (not for a 5 year old boy though) reason that the whole enterprise will most certainly lead to failure. In the time of W. C. Stewart this might cost the whole family their food, since fishing was his livelihood.
OK, first lesson learned. Let's wind the time back a little to the point where my brother and I left the tent. He wasn't just stronger than I was. He also could understand where the best parts of the brook were. In Sweden we call it “reading the water” and this is something that a fisherman has to learn to be successful. It's a steady process going on all the times you spend near, in or on the water. With whatever experience you have there is only just a little you can convey of that kind of knowledge. About that you can read in just about any book dealing with fly fishing or fishing in general.
We've covered two general things now. STEALTH: which in this context means that you want to approach the trout without giving him a calling card so to speak. Clothing, movement and posture are all included in this. Not always, but generally, I think I can stand for what I've written so far. I won't go into details about this because that would make this blog a book. I was in fact thinking of publishing a book sometime but all the material, stories and outlines are left somewhere in a folder on this computer, another one or on a memory card somewhere. I just don't know where. I'm an absent minded man now, and I also was the same as a boy. So I've to take it from there.
If the first lesson is hard to specify then lesson number two is almost impossible. In general terms though the fish are a lot like humans. So, what does the trout look for in his habitat? Just right, food and shelter, or perhaps I should use the expression a hideout. That is number one and two on the list of the biggest, meanest son of a stitch, no of course I'm referring to the most experienced (not always the biggest) trout that can defend his territory well. I've had my eyes focused on a good spot (it can be seen in the picture of Ljusnan below) and a 3-4 lb (estimated in sight) trout jump high, chased away by another (stronger, meaner or just plainly more experienced one). That's what I call a real heart accelerator!!! I felt in that moment as if I just had been given CPR and started to breath again. Wow, what an experience!!!
So in general it's quite simple. Think about your clothing (florescent clothing would probably not do well; at least if we are focusing on wild fish), how you move towards the fish (no calling cards if avoidable), slowly getting close holding a low posture if possible. Hiding behind a tree has made many a day for fly fishermen. Personally I've crawled on my knees in the effort not to spook the trout I somehow knew was hiding there and feeding. Since I fish a lot alone I guess that people seeing me have thought for decades that I'm in need of a shrink. After that ask yourself: where can the trout find plenty of food with a hideout close by? A place where the trout doesn't have to waist to much energy to be “parked” there with a three dimensional “smörgåsbord” (people might think I'm from Sweden but I don't care) passing him by. It's my firm belief that nothing can substitute your own experience when it comes to this. Nevertheless I would give a final recommendation to a source that have inspired me a lot. The recommendation is as follows: If at all possible read Vincent Marinaros “A Modern DRY-FLY Code”. I have it just in front of me all the time where I sit tying flies.
Have fun fishing the way that appeals to you,