Fly fishing is hard. It’s not so much that small clumps of feathers and fur don’t fool fish, but the delivery method can be intimidating. Landing a lighter-than-air lure on a dime at 30 yards is both art and skill. For successful fly anglers, every element of preparation and presentation are heightened for any chance at a catch.
Susquehanna River guide, Juan Veruete stalks bass and trout in the clear mountain water of central Pennsylvania. In addition to putting clients on trophy trout, he also leads seminars and teaches fly fishing skills. “It comes down to the details,” he tells students.
First, Veruete recommends choosing a tactic that is easy to pull off in a kayak. Veruete uses indicator fishing as an example. Imagine bobber fishing on a fly fishing scale. A small piece of foam is tied in the leader. At the end of the leader, a heavy nymph is set to hover just off the bottom. Eight to ten inches above the nymph, Veruete ties in a triple surgeon’s loop and adds eight inches of leader and a small fly. “The objective is for the nymph to drag just off the bottom while the smaller fly drifts above.” Not only does the technique fish two levels of the water column, but the indicator lets Veruete know when he has a bite.
Veruete says the tactic works well in the kayak because it is equally effective when he is drifting or if he gets out and wades the river. “Trout feed at or near the bottom 90 percent of the time,” he adds.
Another skill fly anglers develop is identifying the perfect place to employ a technique. “Indicator fishing is effective in the runs at the top of the pool, through the middle of the pool and in the push water at the end of the pool.” The versatility gives kayak anglers an advantage: they don’t have to change tactics when they change location on the river.
For indicator fishing, Veruete says a water-load cast is essential. “At the end of the drift, the indicator will be down stream of the angler,” he starts explaining. The easiest way to return the fly upstream is slowly lift the line using the tension of the water to load the rod. “In a continuous motion the angler slowly accelerates into an upstream cast.”
The details extend to boat handling, too. “The kayak is an extension of a drift presentation,” Veruete says. For indicator fishing, he recommends positioning the kayak with the bow or stern into the current to slow the drift.
Then, he fishes the line at a 90-degree angle from the kayak. “I use one hand on the paddle to maintain my position and the other hand holds the fly rod perpendicular to the boat,” he explains.
When he doesn’t get bites, Veruete doesn’t blame his fly choice. “Many times, I’m not fishing the depth where the fish are hunting,” he says. To change depth, he adjusts the indicator or switches to a heavier fly.
For Veruete and other fly anglers, the most important skill is matching the technique to the scenario. Considering what fly to use, where to fish and how to cast depends on the easiest way to be productive. “Preparation is 90 percent of the game,” he says.
Keep it simple to avoid tangles and confusion. | Photo: Juan Veruete