My favorite book about dry-fly fishing hands down is Spring Creek by Nick Lyons. Nick wrote it after spending a full month each summer for several consecutive years fly fishing an amazing private spring creek somewhere in Montana. He often had the place to himself. Lucky fellow. Although it’s an angling story and not a “How To” book, it simply oozes with valuable information on how to fish to selective rising trout on slow clear water. I have read it several times and return to read sections of it every winter.
Nick says he became somewhat obsessed with this type of angling and the creek, and eventually had to put pen to paper. He was searching for trout angling that was more challenging and he wanted to try to catch “harder” fish. Spring creeks and tailwater rivers offer that challenge. Nick had a rude awakening when he first cast on the creek and over time he had to refine his tactics, equipment, flies and skill level in order to connect with the spring creek trout. He is helped along the way by the owner of the ranch and creek, a gifted and intimidating angler who has fished it for many years and problem solved many of the challenges and mysteries of the creek. This character alone makes buying the book worth it. All of what Nick writes about rings true to me having spent the past 14 yrs wading and casting dries often on similar water.
Nick often describes how his mood and thinking on any particular day affects his fishing. There is little room for error on the creek and impatience, poor concentration, poor observation and even self-doubt, and other internal variables, influence his success as much as, if not more, than his skill and knowledge level. I call this the internal side to fly fishing. It is how you “Manage Yourself”. And on spring creeks and tailwater rivers you need to do this well in order to be consistently successful. What you bring to the river affects your day. If you can manage yourself and have a reasonable skill set and understanding of the type of water you are on, you’ll be able to trick fish. Of course, how you manage yourself can change with each angling outing and even within a particular angling day, or even when casting to one specific fish. Even when you get pretty good at it you will experience times when it seems you don’t have it; that you’ve somehow lost it. Of course it is still there.
If you can get good at managing yourself you’ll be rewarded on those challenging creeks and rich tailwater rivers. It is a big part of what I find so enjoyable about this type of water. A good day (a few good trout) means I managed myself well. The internal and external come together. A good day means I blended in; I watched the water patiently; I spotted difficult to see fish; I approached the fish cautiously; I calmed myself when necessary and made my cast at the right time; I watched the fly being sipped and then paused before gently raising the rod tip or sweeping it to the left or right. In baseball, the best percentage hitters don’t swing at every pitch, they wait for the right pitch. They manage themselves well at the plate…as in baseball, as in fly fishing…as in life.
Some middle of May trout tricked and released while sight fishing with dry flies on the lower Oldman, a tailwater river, in SW Alberta. The hatches: BWO’s, March Browns and some Skwala.