Fly Fishing, Always Have a Plan B

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Fly fishing for northern pike with Collin Carlson. Photo by Louis Cahill

Just about every fisherman out there is probably familiar with the saying, “never leave fish to find fish”.

I live religiously by this common sense fishing advice. It’s saved my butt many days on the water guiding, and keeps me from straying away from productive water when I find myself being drawn away to fish other great looking spots upstream. Always remember that fly fishing is full of hot periods and cold periods of catching. So when fishing is hot you always want to capitalize on it as much as you can before it goes cold. Sometimes it can be hot fishing for several hours, while other times you may only have one hour of hot fishing, such as when a hatch is in progress. Quite often, anglers can have more success sticking around and fishing one area throughly when it’s producing, rather than fishing a bunch of spots partially. Every stream is different of course, but it’s generally safe to say that some sections of water always will be fishing better than others throughout the course of a day. A fly fishers job is to determine where those hot sections of the water are, and fish them.

Here’s some more common sense fishing advice for you all. Don’t continue fishing water if all you’re doing is striking out. Learn to cut your losses and be quick to move on in search of more productive water. Let’s face it, time flys on the water, and if you’re not careful, you can blow threw an entire day before you know it. No place is this more true than when anglers are fly fishing big rivers or lakes.  Louis and I had the pleasure of spending a day fly fishing with Collin Carlson for northern pike. He picked us up at the hotel, driftboat in tow, and we headed down the road telling stories and catching up. All of ya’ll would have enjoyed being along for the ride. All three of us were laughing our asses off all the way to the lake. We dropped the boat in the morning and fished hard for a few hours hitting all the prime pike habitat we could find, but all we were blessed with was a couple random short strikes. Rather than continuing on fly fishing that area of the lake and probably ending up skunked for the day, Collin decided to go with his Plan B, which was to load the boat up and try fishing on other end of the lake. You guys see where I’m going with this? Don’t waste your time fishing where you’re not catching fish, move on. Always have a back up plan.

So there we were, fort-five minutes later, with the truck in 4-wheel drive barreling down a muddy lake access road in “west bumble” throwing mud everywhere.

It was so classic, where was our camera crew for this, right? Then, next thing I know we popped up over the hill and there was this gorgeous lake, glass calm, and as far as the eye could see was cream of the crop pike water. I felt like Collin had just taken us to a private lake in pike paradise. I was completely beside myself in awe. It was one of those moments when everything is so perfect you feel like your dreaming. About that time, Collin said, “well I got us here but I don’t know if we’re going to be able to get back out.” Louis laughed loudly and said, “don’t worry about that, I’m a certified off-road driver now, didn’t I tell you? I’ll get us out of here, let’s go catch some pike!”


Yep, that’s Collin, he shaved his beard. Photo Louis Cahill

So we dropped the drift boat in, I manned the oars and we started working our way down the mouth of the creek towards a series of backwater coves. Minutes later, Louis whacked our first pike of the day on his signature streamer. Then another, and another. We all had smiles on our faces and were freaking pumped to the max. Collin changed flies a couple of times and caught a fish, but Louis was catching pike four to his one. Then Louis threw him is box and said, take one man, I’ve got plenty. Collin replied with something like, “you don’t have to ask me twice”. After that we absolutely put on a show. Those pike didn’t know what hit them.

We were so dialed in, we were even out fishing the conventional fisherman in bass boats throwing plugs.

We’re talking double hookups one after another. It was amazing. I’ll never forget that day of fly fishing with Collin for pike. He’s a life-time member of the crew as far as I’m concerned. We had timed the pre-spawn pike bite perfectly, which usually happens three to four weeks after ice melt. That was something I’d seen guys doing on television many times as a kid but had never witnessed. Here’s the thing. Our day of fishing with Collin could have turned out to be a complete bust if he wouldn’t have decided to go with his Plan B. Keep this in mind next time you get to the water and you’re striking out. Don’t be afraid to pack it up and head somewhere else. Sometimes that’s all you need to do to find great fishing.

Big thank you to Collin Carlson for the first class treatment and great pike fishing. We owe you one man.

Keep it Reel,

Kent Klewein
Gink & Gasoline
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