The Ring of Fire

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Photo by Louis Cahill

Photo by Louis Cahill

By Louis Cahill

“For every species of fish, anywhere in the world, there’s a ring of fire…” – Oliver White.

Oliver stopped by for dinner during the January Bonefish School at Bair’s Lodge this year, and it didn’t take long for the conversation to turn to his angling adventures around the world. One of the guests asked him, in his experience, how important is casting skill. The answer was, in summary, it’s everything.

Oliver began to spin the woven placemat, about the size of a vinyl LP, in front of him.

“For every species of fish, anywhere in the world, there’s a ring of fire, put the fly in that ring and it will be eaten.” He lifted the placemat, “It’s about this big.”

Obviously, when we are talking about fly fishing at this level there are a hundred variables and choices the angler makes which affect success, but if the fly isn’t in the zone, you aren’t in the game. In spite of angry angler rants to the contrary, casting skill does matter. Anglers who can cast farther, more accurately, and in harsher conditions will catch more fish. That’s simple math. So, practice your casting, and I’ll leave it there. What is more interesting to me is the idea of knowing exactly where that placemat lands.

The ring of fire is always on the move.

DSC_9215-2Where exactly the fly should be placed is the first question an angler should ask themselves when making a presentation. Far more important, in my opinion, that the fly selection. The location of Oliver’s ring of fire is affected by a great many variables. Conditions and fish behavior, primarily, but other concerns as well. Species and even size of the fish, for example.

We went on to talk specifically about bonefish and Oliver described how he changed his target for larger fish. Rather than presenting the easy meal an average bonefish is looking for, he will effectively make it more challenging for fish over ten pounds, using the fish’s psychology against him. Making him commit, rather than question. It’s a brilliant idea and I saw it work the next day.

I would love to be the guy who writes the article telling you exactly where that ring is for every species at any given moment. In truth, the only way you get that info is through years of experience. That knowledge comes from understanding the fish, how it hunts and feeds, how it sees, hears and smells, how it thinks. Whether that fish is a rising trout or a cruising permit, the ring is there. It’s up to you to find it, and put your fly there.

Interested in learning more? Check out my articles about Target Picture and Creative Visualization in fly fishing.

Louis Cahill
Gink & Gasoline 
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2 thoughts on “The Ring of Fire

  1. I heard exactly the same concept delivered by Perry McDougald yesterday in reference to redfish. I haven’t had time to practice this evening with the hula hoops in the front yard, but hopefully tomorrow.

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