Another post from the archive of Sugar Creek Ranch writing.
Stealth is an often overlooked consideration in fishing success. While this essay talks about bank fishing for trophy trout, stealthy skills are an asset to stream, river and boat anglers, as well.
Under the heading of “How to Improve Your Catch at Sugar Creek Ranch”… you often hear about the importance of stealth when fishing at Sugar Creek Ranch. Stealth meaning fishing in a covert, quiet, disguised way — i.e. “be the heron”.
Stealth can mean something as simple as avoiding the crunch of rocks as you approach the shoreline, or using reeds or bushes as a shield or blind, or crouching and staying low to avoid being seen by the trout. It also means trying to approach feeding lies from the rear and avoiding a casting position high above trout. If you can see them, they can easily see you.
I have the opportunity to see a wide variety of anglers on my visits to the ranch, and one pet peeve is illustrated in the following sequence. A couple of anglers approach the shoreline. Yak, yak, yak. Rig their gear, more yakking. The incautious approach and unnecessary noise has likely spooked any trout near the bank (and stillwater fish cruise the banks looking for food.) One spooked trout darting into deeper water for safety alerts all nearby fish that danger is present. Under condition red, the big lunkers go into lockjaw mode.
Then one of the anglers uncorks a hero cast toward the middle of the lake, effectively “lining” any trout between the fly and the angler. Repeat that three or four times, and the anglers have spooked any trout within 35′. Sure, you will still get strikes from the smaller, aggressive fish, but you’ll also leave that spot thinking there were no big fish to be had.
If you know you are approaching a casting position near where the trout cruise, approach cautiously, always scanning the water (using Polaroid sunglasses) for cruising fish. I have caught a number of good fish by standing back from the water’s edge about 15′ and dropping the fly 3′ from the bank, 3′ in front of the cruising fish. Most of the line lands on the grass in front of me. If I am sitting or crouching, or hiding behind a bush, the cast can be less than 10′.
Second, if you can picture the fishable water as being half a pie, nibble an arc of the pie with short range casts in clockwork fashion. If no takers, lengthen your cast by 8-10 feet, and nibble out another arc. Only until you’ve tried the nearby waters, do you let fly a series of full length casts, in clockwork fashion.
One difference between Sugar Creek Ranch fish and fish found in a typical pay fishery, is SCR’s are cautious and smart. The older and bigger the quarry, the more stealth required to have them take your fly. So strive to “be the heron”, and watch your fishing success improve.
(The photo is Lone Tree point on the New Pond at Sugar Creek Ranch, northern California. Click for full view.)