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Channel Your Inner Heron

By admin - Posted on 09 April 2020

The Stealthy Approach

by Adrian Bergere, Telluride Angler guide

As it turns out, fish can see. They also have a very sensitive bundle of nerves running down each side of their body from gill-to-tail known as the “lateral line”. This lateral line is how fish sense vibrations in the water and happens to be extremely sensitive in trout. In conjunction with sight, this is how trout find food items (especially in murky or dark water) and how they sense predators (including anglers). Have you ever blown a cast and landed your fly behind a fish only to have the fish turn on a dime and instinctively crush it? Lateral line. Ever spooked a fish with a splashy misstep from 40 feet away? Lateral line.

Remember, as fly anglers, we are hunters. We aren’t just posting up by lake’s edge drinking beers (well, maybe we’re drinking beers) and casting to the same spot all day. Trout are spooky. The older and wiser (and bigger!) fish are even more spooky. We are strategically stalking fish up and down the river. Our fly line is thick and visible to fish. They can also feel line slap down on the water with a sloppy cast or in very calm water. You must think about how you’re going to make a cast, in a case-by-case analysis of each pool, run or riffle you are fishing. 

When I’m out guiding, one of the first things I instruct clients to do is stand downstream of me whenever we set up to fish a new spot. There are a couple of reasons: I don’t want to get a new piercing and I’m choosing a location that will maximize their casting ability without spooking fish. Not everyone can make a beautiful 60 foot cast with an aerial mend that doesn’t even make a ripple on the water. There often isn’t room for this type of cast on the streams surrounding Telluride anyway, so we have to rely on a stealthy, planned-out approach. Often, when a client approaches a spot by themselves, they beeline it towards the hole with no mind for a stealthy approach - often spooking the fish they were trying to catch. I think this type of hunting mindset often eludes many anglers. 

Think about stealth when approaching a spot. Where is the sun? Which way is my shadow going? Can I make a roundabout approach instead of stomping through the water? Am I dressed like I’m going golfing on Nantucket? Am I making a downstream or upstream presentation? Can I be stealthier in my movements? What is the most effective way I can cast to this spot?

Channel your inner heron. Have you ever seen a blue heron stalking fish by the river? They barely move, hide in the shadows, walk through the water imperceptibly and wait. The unassuming trout swims  past them and swiftly gets a dagger of a beak through the side. This is how you should fish. I’m not saying you need to crawl around in the riverside brush (although it doesn’t hurt) but be very mindful about your approach. Think about where  fish might holding and tailor your approach so they won’t see or sense you.  Try not to send big shadows across the water. If the sun is high in the sky, stand with it at your back so you can see into the water instead of staring at glare. Crouch or get on a knee when approaching skinny water. Take a wide berth around holding spots if you need to switch sides of the river or change to an up or downstream presentation. Sometimes you may need to make a downstream presentation with lots of mends so you aren’t casting your line right on top of the fish you are targeting. Do herons have pastel pink or orange feathers? No. They are subdued shades of blue and grey. You don’t need to wear camo, but muted earth tones should be your go-to. 

Taking this mindful approach will help you catch more bigger fish. These educated, older fish are the ones these stealthier tactics will make the real difference on. 

Adrian Bergere, guide


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Box 685, 121 W. Colorado Ave.
Telluride, CO 81435
800.831.6230 ~ 970.728.3895
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