Taming Your Buck Fever

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Photo by Louis Cahill

Photo by Louis Cahill

By Justin Pickett

You’ve stumbled upon a sexy piece of water to find a big ‘ol trout feeding in the tail of the run.

It’s one of the biggest trout you have ever seen. The one that sends chills down your spine. Without a second’s hesitation you rip line from your reel and begin your back cast as you stare intently at this fish moving side to side in the current. You judge your distance as best as you can in the moment and you fling your flies behind you… And this is where things typically start to go wrong. Did you get tangled in a tree limb behind you? Or worse, did you catch some of the Rhodo creeping over the water on the far bank? Or maybe you just made a bad cast and piled your line up, right on top of the trout that is now hunkered back under the undercut bank? If not, then that’s great! But, the vast majority of us tend to get ourselves into trouble when we are faced with such a situation.

Buck fever is the damnedest thing. It still happens to me, and will probably continue to plague me. It happens to all of us. We’re having a great day, fishing away, casting smoothly, and we’re aware of what’s going on around us. Then we catch sight of the fish that haunts our dreams, and that adrenaline immediately hits our bloodstream. Suddenly, it’s as if we’ve morphed into a raging monkey swinging a football bat. We forget where we are, flies sling wildly through the air, and we stumble over every little pebble. We even bury 3/0 hooks into our backs. It’s a wonder that we don’t completely drown ourselves sometimes. As insane as this can get sometimes, it’s also completely normal.

Normal as it may be, here are a few tips to keep you grounded and put together so you can make your best presentations when they really count:

Stop : Slow down grasshoppa! You feel that tingly feeling rushing over your body? That’s called adrenaline and it’s a monster. It will ruin the best of casters. Now is not the time to cast! Chill for a few seconds and let that rush pass. Try using those few seconds to study your quarry. Pay attention to its attitude and how it is — or isn’t — feeding to clue you in on what flies or techniques may work best for this fish. Anglers that rush to make a presentation during this initial “holy shit!” moment will fail way more often than not to present the fly where it needs be placed, and blow the opportunity. Don’t let those visions of buttery kype dancing through your head get you flustered. Just a few seconds is all you need to get things put back together and put together a good presentation.

Adjust your rig : You are now fishing to a single fish and not running your flies through an entire run. You need to be more accurate and drift your bugs at the right depth to entice this trout to eat. This is where being able to read water comes in handy big time. You’ll need to negotiate any currents your fly is met with underneath the surface, as well as manage your leader and fly line appropriately. This can prove challenging at times, however, just taking the five to ten seconds to do this will better prepare you to make a successful presentation. This is also the time to double check your drag, tippet, knots, and hook points. You don’t want an equipment failure being the determining factor in a fight with a big fish. And remember, if your first presentation is off, then just let it ride. Don’t rip if from the water. That will almost surely spoil any chances you may have had at hooking up.

Reposition : All too often I see clients find a fish that they want to sight fish to, but they fail to move themselves into the best position to make the cast. If you’re not in the best place to make your cast, or if your cast is likely to spook the fish (either by lining it, casting a shadow on the water, etc.), then you need to move if possible. Don’t set yourself up for failure!

Look : Now that you’ve put yourself in the best position to make a cast, do yourself a big favor. Look above your head. Look upstream. Look downstream. Look to the far bank. Look behind you. Identify anything that might snag your flies during your cast. The last thing you want is to get your flies tangled in a limb on the far bank, or way overhead. Plus, getting caught in anything at all will likely just frustrate you and rattle your nerves even more. Also, make note of any underwater obstacles. Sunken wood, vegetation, and leaf piles can certainly be a ball buster if not negotiated properly.

Take a deep breath : Finally, just breathe. You’ve made all the adjustments you need to make to give this big pig your best presentation. Woooooosaaahhhh!!! You got this! Take a deep breath and visualize your cast landing in the right spot. Resist focusing on the fish while you cast. Instead, focus on where your fly, or flies, need to land. Don’t rush and do what you do every time you’re on the water fishing with your buddies. Just fish. Be positive and have fun. Put it all together and stick that pig! You’ll be looking sexier than a rooster wearing socks in that hero shot!

You may do everything right and still not hook up with that particular fish. But that’s okay, It happens all the time. If we can take as many obstacles out of the equation as possible, then we know we’ve given ourselves the best opportunity to make that big catch. There are even days, though, that our best won’t quite be enough, and that’s just fishing. Now, we aren’t always going to be afforded the opportunity to go through this kind of progression in order to setup a cast, but, given the right scenario, this can save your sanity. And, with enough thought and repetition, this can also become second nature for just about every fishing scenario.

Justin Pickett
Gink & Gasoline
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16 thoughts on “Taming Your Buck Fever

    • I’n afraid not. I’m not obliged to say where that fish was caught bit it was not pay to play water. For the record, I (Louis) think that scene is pretty sad and it’s not to their credit that those guys have become so quickly known for it. I don’t know them and there are plenty of others doing the same thing but I’m not a fan. Especially when it comes to stocking species that don’t belong in those waters. That’s not good.

      • OK Louis afraid I have to call you on that comment. Brown trout don’t belong in the Americas at all if they hadn’t been introduced in the late 1800s you would not be getting photos like that unless you were in Europe!

    • LOL. The unspoken secret! If you see someone repeatedly posting photos of giant trout in small southern appalachian streams… be very very skeptical.

      That being said, there can be giant wild browns lurking in them hollers. They are just very few and far between, and you need to put in a lot of hard work to find them. Most streams will have that one alpha brown. Most of the time, he may just barely be 20″ (a monster for a wild stream), but if he’s got enough suckers to chomp on and a lake or river close by, he might be pushing 30.

      • Very true Flip. I don’t think it’s a huge secret that those Browns reside in private
        water but unfortunately that’s a big reality in N Ga. I soooo wish we had what places like Montana or Colorado or some other states have when it comes to trout water. The fish above was an exception and certainly a huge unexpected surprise. Like you said, they are there. You just have put in the work and play it smart to find them.

  1. I think this happens to me while I’m pulling up to the stream. There is certainly plenty of psychiatrists that could find a condition associated with it.
    But I wouldn’t change it one bit.

  2. Pingback: Taming Your Buck Fever | MidCurrent

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