Autumn On The EB

Autumn On The EB

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Three Phases Of Fly Fishing And Another Peeve

One of the most brilliant minds to grace the literature and science of fly fishing was one Edward Ringwood Hewitt. Born in the 1860's in southern New York, of good, solid, OLD money, he devoted his life to one of invention, first in the fledgling auto industry and then into the world of aquaculture. He became world renowned for his theories on raising trout and salmon in his Neversink "laboratory", fished all over North America and lived into his 90's. He also invented the felt soled boot. He was a busy man.

What I admire him for the most is his "Three Phases Of Fly Fishing."

Phases 1 is the quest to catch as many trout as possible. It's purely a numbers game at this level. You will find a spot and if you catch one then you try to fish the spot empty. If you don't hook up quickly then there is the rapid fly change(s) and then a quick retreat to a new spot. This phase has infected many over the years from the old photos of bursting stringers to the need to photograph every fish that you catch before it's release. Newbies get a thrill here as they should but we should move on.

Phase 2, according to Hewitt, is the need to catch the biggest fish that are in the river. This is admirable if we are working an old, giant brown next to a log in tight quarters BUT it's pointless when the biggest fish in the river are fresh stockers. They usually hit everything and are not worth the brag.

Phase 3 is the end of the journey and it is the most rewarding because it is here that catching the most difficult to catch trout is the goal. We have seen this trout, next to the bank, at the head of some riffles that have that overhanging branch in the way, under a log that creates it's own nasty drag. We know this trout and how it reacts to our mistakes - our chance is gone until the next trip. It may be a large fish or it may be of average size but has found a well fortified domain for protection. Our job is to breach that "wall" and capture the prize.

Now, phase 1 anglers will tell the world how they caught a zillion trout or how they caught five 3lb bows at the PIPE but Phase 3 anglers will NEVER mention this fish until after we catch it. The last thing we want to do is give out its location. We will not even mention that we have found this trout. Even after it's capture we will be vague as to the location of the dual.

My friend Al sent me a video of a 24 inch brown finning near some obstructions. No river or location included and the video cannot be downloaded either. I like Al!!

Don't think that your equipment will save you at Phase 3. It takes skill and patience to win and that's the fun of it.

You don't meet Phase 3 trout on every trip or even every year. Sometimes years will go by on that same stream before another reveals itself. At that point you can be assured that you "know" the stream and it's trout and THAT trout is worth more than anything you catch in phases 1 and 2.

Proceed to Phase 3!!!!

Now why is it, over the last two years or so, that so many people are taking pictures of trout heads?? You've seen them: one hand firmly grasps the trout around the shoulders while the other hand takes a facial mug shot of the trout, usually a profile shot. One guy wanted to show me a photo of a bow that he caught a few weeks ago but he couldn't find it in his camera because all of the trout looked the same. Come on, trout are beautiful from head to tail and you should be taking pics of the whole body while its in the net that's still in contact with the water. They will be more valuable to you when you download them and will look much better when you show them to others. Isn't that a lovely brown on this post. You get to see the W H O L E thing.



Bill/Tully said...

Nice write up in Eastern Fly Fisherman(Sept/Oct) of the EB and a picture of you as well!

millerbrown said...

Kind of an old story but a good one still. Enjoyed working with the author on that as well as the Swift story.

BobT said...

Is there a phase 4??? I'd like to think there is...public water wild trout wade fishing...I have lived in the east where there is a lot of public water and not a ton of private water. There is however a lot of private water in the west and I've lived there too. Private water with little if any fishing pressure in my opinion is not nearly the same challenge as public water that gets pressure.
I think being able to proficiently catch wild trout in public water is the phase after 3

Millers River Flyfisher said...

Bob T,

You make a good point. Hewitt may have had your views in mind because the public water in the Catskills in the early 20th century was hammered. Only the smart trout survived in those days before C&R.


Anonymous said...

Even here in MA believe it or not there are plenty of wild fish in public waters. They may not be "trophys" as seen on other websites, but, still they are wild.

BobT said...

Anonymous I totally agree-I have even caught a couple...there are some crazy places that still have little brookies and some naturally reproducing brown trout...I don't think I have ever run into a wild rainbow east of the Mississippi, I thought they were mostly sterile when stocked.

Muggs Boatwright said...

Dear Ken,
I've been fly fishing for 60 years - worms (god save me) for many years before that - and find myself moving through Hewitt's phases every season. In April and May - I count them, and hope to count high. By the time June rolls around, I've moved on to Bigger (and at the time better) things. As the days grow shorter and leaves begin to fall, I'm in search of those glorious, wily beasts that rarely show, and break me off when they do.
I fished the upper reach of the Miller's at the Bears Den Wilderness today. Used some directions that you'd written up to get across the trestle downstream of S.Royalston and down to the water. I didn't last long in the cold, but managed a couple trout in the time I had.
All the best to you, Ken.

The Eye on Harvard said...

Hello Muggs,
I was just fishing the same upper section of the Bears Den for the first time Monday. Beautiful water, but so much of it. I probably only fished the first 100 yards in the two hours I had, trying fish the width from upstream to down. No luck however and saw no wee forage fish at all. I was there from late morning till just after noon, but it was cold. Do you think I was too early and the trout slept in? I was swinging some soft hackles and switched to some weighted nymphs but found no takers Were you successful with dries on top or subsurface. I'm eager to head back this fall as long the weather holds out.