Do You Suffer From F.S.S.?

If you’re not catching fish with a Pink Squirrel, check your drift & depth before changing flies. It’s a rare day that the Pink Squirrel won’t catch some trout!

F.S.S., otherwise known as Fly Switching Syndrome.  We all suffer from it at some point.  Sometimes it hits you during a heavy hatch of bugs, or while casting over a pod of trout that you can clearly see huddled near the bottom of a pool. No matter what the fishing scenario, a sure sign of Fly Switching Syndrome is a fly patch that has more flies stuck on it than what’s left in your fly boxes!  So, is there a cure for F.S.S.?  Yes! Well…sometimes…At the very least we can learn to minimize the traumatizing effects of F.S.S.

So, what are the cures for Fly Switching Syndrome?  In no particular order, they are: Confidence; Patience; Observation; Experience.  Experience could also be expressed as the combination of knowledge and skill.  Let’s take a look at how these 3 ideas combine to minimize F.S.S. and help you catch more fish while using fewer flies.

Insect hatches can be magical fishing experiences,  or lessons in frustration.   Often times we focus on what fly to use, when we should be focusing on how we are presenting the fly.  This can lead to major bouts of Fly Switching Syndrome.  Patience and observation are very important when fishing a hatch.  Through those, we can gain experience & knowledge.  Before you even move into casting position, take the time to find out what is hatching.  Once that is determined, watch the fish to see what kind of rise form it is making.  This will be how you choose your fly.  Observe your surroundings to determine what is your best casting position.  NOW you can start to fish.  During a hatch, timing can be critical.  You may have to make several casts to any one fish before you get it timed to the fish’s rise.  Don’t automatically think you have the wrong fly just because a trout isn’t taking it on the first or second drift.  Analyze your timing & the “quality” of your drift before you decide to change flies.  Be patient; observe; have confidence in your fly pattern; catch fish.

If you don’t have years of experience, how do you choose a fly that you can have confidence in?  This is where you can lean on other’s expertise to help you choose.  Look to local knowledge for the best advice.  The message board here at MN Trout Forums is a great place to find solid, up to date information on what flies are working throughout the season.  I can also say, with confidence, that all the fly patterns available through Bluff Country Flies have been thoroughly tested throughout the Driftless Region over the past 10 to 20 years.  I developed many of the flies while overcoming bouts of F.S.S., and now rely on these relatively few patterns for the majority of my fishing.  They are my confidence flies, and can be yours, too.

An angler may never totally overcome Fly Switching Syndrome, but through patience, observation, confidence & experience, we can minimize it’s effect and better enjoy our time on the water.

March 9th, 2014 Trip Report

I think we hit a nice window for stream conditions in southeast Minnesota today. There’s still a lot of snow on the ground and temperatures are finally more seasonable. In other words, runoff will be getting underway shortly. We hoofed it through some deep, ripening snow, and it was a great workout getting into and out of the river valley.

I regret not having a thermometer handy on today’s trip. Since we didn’t start fishing until the afternoon and air temperatures were around 40 degrees, there was enough melting snow to cool the water. There wasn’t enough to affect levels of clarity. The stream was crystal clear and low. That’s not going to be the case by the middle to the end of this coming week, I’m afraid. While stream conditions won’t be the greatest later this week due to continued melting Monday the 10th, additional snow Tuesday the 11th, and the return of 40s Thursday and Friday, it sure beats a rapid warm up and flash melt.

Midge larva continue to be the most frequently hit fly, today’s was green, but tan, black…I’m sure quite a variety will get the job done.

Try a Bigger Fly!

I think I should admit, right here at the start, that I have an aversion to fishing small flies.  Oh, I’ll fish with them if I have to, like during hatches of BWOs, midges, or other tiny bugs.  If that’s what it takes, I’ll do it, but during an average trout fishing outing in the Driftless, I rarely tie on anything smaller than a size 12.  My experiences have taught me that not only do larger flies do just as well as smaller flies when “prospecting” for trout, they also have added benefits that smaller flies do not.

Larger flies…let’s def016ine that as size 12 & up…are often more “attractive” than smaller flies, leading trout to move quite a distance to take the fly.  I’ve seen this numerous times with both dry flies & nymphs.  My favorite dry fly, the Slurpster, is a monstrous size 8.  I’ve watched fish move several feet & even halfway across a decent sized stream to take this fly (<–see pic!).  I’ve not had the same reaction with smaller, more standard dry fly patterns.

It can be the same with larger nymphs as well.  I remember one occasion filming an episode of “Northland Adventures” with Dave Carlson.  I had advised Dave to put on one of my larger nymph patterns for this particular stream.  He insisted on using a size 14 Pink Squirrel, which is a great fly, no doubt.  Well, after several drifts through a nice run with zero takes, Dave was ready to call it a day.  I asked if I could have a shot at the run before we wrapped it up & he said sure.  I had on a large, size 6 or 8 rubber legged nymph & on the second or third drift hooked & landed a beautiful 19 inch brown, which was captured on film.  After releasing the fish, I made another series of casts higher up near the head of the run & hooked another large brown that got off.  My guess is that the smaller pink squirrel just wasn’t worth the big trout’s effort to swim up & grab.  Either that, or it went unnoticed in the swift current.  The big fly, though, did the job well.

I believe that larger flies also attract the larger fish within a school or pod of fish, leading you to catch fewer really small fish.  I’ve noticed this with nymphs in particular.  A size 12 scud is very effective at catching average & above average sized trout, but I catch very few of those little 4 to 6 inch trout that can be common (and annoying) when fishing smaller nymphs.

Lastly, I’ve also found that larger hooks sizes do a better job of physically hooking the fish and keeping it on the line.  I guess that is pretty self explanatory!  Even switching from a size 14 to a size 12 has increased hook-ups for me, both with dry flies & nymphs.  My favorite streamer pattern, the Bent-Head, is not a giant fly by any means, but it is larger than many trout streamers, and has a large hook gape for its body size…it practically hooks the fish all on its own.

You may think that larger hook sizes might lead to a chance for greater harm coming to the fish.  This has not been my experience.   With the larger streamer hook, it seems that the trout are less likely to take it deeply, as most of the fish I catch are hooked in the jaw, rather than the throat.  With the larger dries and nymphs, when a fish is hooked a little deeper, there is more hook to grab onto with a hemostats & so in that regard are actually easier to remove than a smaller, more obscured hook.

So, this season don’t be afraid to try a larger than average sized fly.  You might catch fewer small fish, but your catch rate for average or large fish might increase.  And, for me at least, nothing beats watching a nice trout inhale a big ‘ol dry fly that you don’t have to squint to see!

-by Brian Stewart, bluffcountryflies.com

Changes to Simplify Southeast MN Trout Regulations

…and offer more opportunity are finally moving forward (not taking effect, yet, so your usual winter trout season rules still apply through this winter season). After a dramatic pause, one years in the making, we’re a little more than a month from the proposed changes becoming regulation. About 4 years ago, the DNR held numerous open houses to discuss simplifications of regulations and more angling opportunities in southeast MN and there has been overwhelming support between the meetings and written response.

Proposed changes:

  • Bring all designated trout streams in southeast Minnesota into the current winter season (“new catch-and-release season”).
  • Allow angling (catch-and-release) on designated trout streams in SE MN State Parks (“state park season”) from October 15th to December 31st.
  • Extend the current SE MN fall catch-and-release season to October 15th.

Regulations changes on MN DNR site
Conservation Volunteer article

While the ball is in motion, for now, we wait. The DNR will adopt the regulations without a public hearing this spring pending there isn’t much pushback.

January 19th, 2014 Trip Report

With 50% of January so far having sub-zero temperatures, it was great to break in the 2014 winter trout season on a relatively mild day. Temperatures topped out around 36 degrees this Sunday afternoon, the wind wasn’t terrible, but, as usual, the gusts seemed to time well with your backcast. By 12:30pm there were midges on the snow and there were a few risers in pockets. Still, the fish were fairly tight-lipped. 5 fish were brought to hand, including one very nice trout at 16″. 4 of the 5 were caught on a tan midge larva, the other on an orange scud. Water was clear, sky was partly cloudy, and the beer was cold.

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It was a fun day, and great to shake off the cobwebs of winter with a good friend on familiar water. And I’ll confess, one of the highlights of the day (aside from catching a good-sized fish) was sitting on a snow bank and soaking in the warm afternoon sunshine while someone else did the work.

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