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Some guides picky about fly fishing methods

At a recent Tahoe Truckee Flyfishers monthly meeting, local fly fishing guide Frank Pisciotta and Joe Cerneglia made a presentation on a trip that they take annually for steelhead fishing on the Trinity River in Northern California.

The Trinity River flows westward and merges with the Klamath River before running into the Pacific Ocean. The Trinity follows alongside State Highway 299 from Redding to Willow Creek, where it heads away from the road to meet up with the Klamath. It is a tremendous steelhead and salmon fishery.

Pisciotta and Cerneglia were targeting the steelhead, which are rainbow trout that migrate out to sea and return in several years to spawn in the rivers like salmon do. Unlike salmon, though, they do not die after spawning.



Having knowledge of this region from my college days of fishing on this river, I found the presentation extremely interesting, since I knew many of the locations that they were fishing.

They booked guides through the Fly Shop in Redding. There are quite a few different guides that fish the river, and there are a couple of different ways to fish it.



Some guides favor the traditional downstream swing type of presentations. This is where the angler uses a sinking line or shooting head system and gets the flies down in front of the migrating steelhead.

Other guides use a setup with a strike indicator and split shot, then dead drift their imitations through the likely holding water. This is similar to the system that many nymph fishermen use for trout locally.

It was pointed out in the presentation that some guides employing the traditional downstream technique were very negative about the other form of indicator fishing. While both methods seem to work, the indicator setup seems to be much more productive overall.

When this indicator technique was first employed on the Umpqua River in Oregon for steelhead, the traditional anglers were not happy. In order to understand their anger, one only has to study the sport of fly fishing. It is a very tradition-bound sport.

For example, you may have recalled my trip down to Hot Creek Ranch and the dry-fly-only aspect of fishing. Not only are you supposed to use dry flies, but you should only fish them upstream in the traditional English way. Fishing your flies downstream is considered cheating because the fish sees the fly first and not the line. It is much more difficult to get a good presentation fishing your fly upstream.

Should these traditions dictate the way that we fish? Like all things, times change. If our original Continental Army were to have fought as the British did during the Revolutionary War, there is little doubt that we would still be a colony of England. The colonists’ change in tactics allowed them to defeat the British and create our country as we know it. They were adaptive.

While I am a great fan of tradition, I am also a great fan of a better way. Some will say that they would rather spend a day fishing the traditional downstream method and not catch a fish. That is certainly fine, and they are entitled to their opinions. A day spent in the outdoors fishing is certainly pleasurable, fish or not.

However, it is always more fun to actually catch a fish on a fishing trip. If using a different technique allows one to do this, I, for one, would not begrudge the angler for using it.

I firmly believe in adapting to what the fish prefer when I go fishing. Will I limit myself to only one way of fishing? No, I am not that much of a purist. I do have friends who will only downstream swing flies, or dry fly fish only. Fishing is supposed to be fun! Perhaps we have different views on what is really fun, and that is certainly a personal preference. An angler should be allowed his or her freedom of choice without fear of being looked down upon.

Is it any wonder that some people look at fly fishermen as elitist snobs? Hopefully most people have friends or acquaintances who are fly fishermen and know that this perception would be totally without merit.

Bruce Ajari is a Truckee resident and regular fishing columnist for the Sierra Sun and other area newspapers.


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