Sunday, August 9, 2015

Playing the Odds

I was thinking about this the other day while talking with a couple clients. You figure, there are roughly 5,000 trout per river mile on average in the Missouri River depending on what numbers you use and what stretch you're on and also, depending on whether you believe the counts are accurate. (It seems hard for me to believe the river went from 4,500 to 8,000 the next and then back down to 5,000 a couple years later. I think FWP's methods of counting are flawed but that's another issue.)

So let's use 5,000 as a fair number and let's say you did a stretch that's roughly 10 miles. You floated over or past potentially 50,000 fish. Even if you caught 1% of those fish you'd be doing outstanding but you caught how many?! Even if you caught 1 tenth of 1% you'd still think it was an epic day so that just goes to show you how tough trout can be and as a guide, all we can do is increase your odds; so how do we do that?

One argument is to cover more fish by taking longer trips. That means instead of drifting past 50,000 in ten miles, let's go an extra couple miles and drift by 60,000...personally, I'm not a big fan of this unless we're throwing hoppers or streamers. Instead, I'd rather put my fly in front of fish a few times to give them more of a chance to eat. Fish aren't evenly spread out across the entire river so I'd rather focus on those highly concentrated areas and go through them a number of times, hoping there are a few fish in there that will comply if we give them enough of a chance. The thing about that is where there are high concentrations, those fish are generally not your predatory fish like the big browns we all like to catch. If you are targeting those fish, you might change your approach.

Remember, 80 to 90% of a fish's diet is sub-surface. If you're only targeting those 10 or 20% of the times fish are eating on top, then you are limiting yourself drastically. That's ok because when you see a fish eating on top and you know what he's eating, at least you've narrowed your search and are giving yourself a chance. However, if you're not seeing them and you're just blind casting, you're going to really have to work at doing what you need to, to increase your odds in other ways like only targeting that water where you know those predators hang out and throw a T-bone at them and then, you may have to cover more water because those opportunistic fish can be sparse depending on the weather or how much pressure they've been getting.

Yesterday we had the right weather to bring more of those predatory fish to the table and even turn some of the granola crunching fish into meat eaters. This is Liz with a great Missouri River brown on a hopper. Great job Liz!

Other things that definitely increase your chances are keeping the bugs in the water, having the right presentation and a litany of other things that make fly fishing what it is and things, that once you learn, improve your odds exponentially.

Keep 'em where they live...

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