Roll casts and side casts
Protruding branches can restrict conventional back casts, so try a roll cast, which requires little room to execute. With practice, it is possible to haul and shoot line with a roll cast up to distances of 60 feet.
Fallen terrestrials can carpet the slower reaches and become easy pickings for hungry fish. Where branches extend into the water, flies (black gnat, hawthorn and beetle) become trapped against surface foliage and rarely go unnoticed by trout. Spent upwinged flies often litter the surface, too. The sport can be electrifying.
Normal nymphing techniques can seem useless in slow flows: heavy nymphs sink to the bottom too quickly, while too much slack line is created to detect takes. Sometimes there is barely enough “push” in the current to swing the flies. The answer can be to trundle a team of nymphs down the pool beneath an indicator. It’s not everyone’s favourite method but it is an effective way of reaching deep-lying fish in awkward places.
Dusk is a prime time to fish, especially during the summer , when both fish and fly prefer the cool evening air. Having rested for the best part of the day, trout usually make a beeline for the streamy neck water to feed. Curiously, however, some fish may opt for the slower body of the pool. Here, they harvest all manner of emergers, stillborns and egg-laying insects, especially sedges and olives. This area is often the realm of larger trout which, under the cover of darkness, can be bewilderingly tolerant of an angler’s presence.
Lose fewer flies
Dry-flies with full shoulder hackles and stiff tails (such as the Royal Wulff and Hackle Adams) can shield the hook point from becoming tangled in foliage. It means that you can fish flies tight to the bank with more confidence. If the fly does find a leafy branch, rather than snatch the rod back, try a gentle pull or shake of the rod tip. Often the fly will unravel itself and fall to the water. On more than one occasion I’ve seen a trout emerge from the shadows and engulf the fly when I’ve done this.
Casting to distant fish
Gaining access to the body of a pool is not a problem on an upland stream or small beck, but on a big river deep margins and encroaching trees can frustrate the fisher, especially when feeding fish are visible but unreachable. Where deep water rules out wading, longer casts may be needed, but this will expose more line to the current and so drag becomes an issue. You may, therefore, have to be very accurate with your cast to drop a fly as close to the fish as possible before drag sets in. With so much distance between the rod-tip and the fly, mending the line will be tricky and in some cases impossible. You will have to cast as close to the rise as you dare!
Streamers and lures
Streamers worked through the dark shadows of a deep pool can be lethal. Although floating lines dominate river-fishing, the use of a sinking line or, at the least, a sink-tip or fast-sinking polyleader will help to keep a streamer swimming deeply. Another tactic is mending, which will stall the line’s progress and allow the weighted fly to plunge deeper before you begin a seductive retrieve. Even when nothing is stirring, a baitfish imitation or the movement of a nondescript lure, such as a longshank Woolly Bugger, can be irresistible to trout.
Sending ripples across the smooth surface of a peaceful pool can alert potential quarry. And studded soles, whether felt or Aquastealth, shouldn’t be worn because they will clatter on rocks and warn fish. Of course, this is less true in the rough-and-tumble at the
head of a pool.
Understanding rise forms
The slower pace of life in a pool’s middle allows us to study rise forms more easily. To save energy, trout usually position themselves just beneath the surface, so that they need only tilt upwards to snaffle an insect trapped in the film. Viewed from a low angle, the noses and even shoulders of these fish may be visible. Fish that break the surface like this are usually feeding on adult naturals. Bulging rise forms, when fish fail to break through the surface, suggest that emerging nymphs are the likely prey. However, check to see what naturals are present because the trout could just as easily be feasting on drowned terrestrials or female spinners.
Playing fish in slow flows can cause disturbance – especially if the trout is acrobatic. Unless fish make a dash for cover, try easing off on the pressure. This is counter-intuitive, but the reduced strain may calm the fish. Clearly, some tension is needed to maintain contact.
When a fish is ready for the net and tethered on a short line, one violent head-shake could free the hook, so avoid spooking the fish by making yourself as invisible as possible. If you are waist-deep in the water, your height is instantly halved, which is a big help. But if you are standing bolt upright in the margins, you will spook the fish. Aim to crouch or kneel.
Flies that repeatedly drag can make trout wary to the point where they cease rising. If your fly skates across the water’s surface in front of a fish, rather than cast again, let the fish feed on naturals for a while.
Resting the water (or individual fish) should become second nature. Try to get into this good habit by limiting your casts and consequent drifts to, say, a dozen, followed by a couple of minutes’ rest.