Slap That Cougar
The rules of “gentle” trout presentations go out the door, when streamer fishing in high and off color water. Trout, like other fish, possess a repertoire of senses for feeding. In clear water, trout may use sight (just one option) as a means to locate food. However, when their ability to see food is no longer an option, there are other means, taste smell, hearing and feeling, to locate food. Live bait anglers or conventional anglers who use scent on lures, have an advantage over the fly angler in muddy water-trout can smell and locate their bait/lures. The best “attention-grabbing” tool a fly angler has in those conditions is often, but not always, SOUND! Sometimes, “slapping the fly” on the surface will be the only thing that will alert the fish of an offering. There may be some scenarios in which a hard slap on the water will spook fish, but if we spook them, at least we know that we have been “heard.”
It’s no secret that in high and muddy water, trout will often hold tight to the bank-for both protection from the current and feeding purposes, and it may seem counterintuitive to slap a fly down in slack or soft water. But…SLAP you should and you should do it HARD. As a general rule, the muddier the water-the harder you need to slap the streamer. I don’t think you can be too aggressive with your streamer presentation in these conditions. Here are two suggestions increase your SLAP effect.
First use greater force to present the fly. I know, common sense, right? No, I’m surprised how delicately anglers present their streamers in dirty water. You can create greater force in one of two ways: with a more aggressive stroke or with the aid of an aggressive haul during the cast, or a combination of the two. Either way, use more force to present your streamer on the water.
Some streamer profiles are designed to create a greater SLAP. Any streamer with a wide profile head will create a heavier impact on the water. My favorite streamer for fishing the shallow banks near my central PA waters is Kelly Galloup’s Zoo Cougar. I fish it on a floating line with a small split shot on the nose to create neutral buoyancy. And when I tie my cougars, I go for a wide deer hair head profile. Why?
Think about hitting the water with your hand in two positions. The first position would be karate chop style where the hand smacks the water and creates little disturbance when the narrow profile comes in contact with the water. The next position is “palm down.” Here, the flat profile will create a loud sound and disturbance. BAM…you just laid the streamer smack down on the trout. Have you ever been in a large and loud public area, and suddenly hear a loud slap (usually administered by an angry partner or spouse), over all the other noises? I’m not sure I have, but you get the point. You wouldn’t be able to hear someone apply a karate chop, though it might hurt more, in the same scenario. This is the power of the slap in dirty water, and this is why I strive to fish a streamer with a flat profile, when I want the wider surface area to create the type of impact that I am sure trout will register. The BAM there will be less painful and more productive. A win-win.
Let ‘em know you’re there and hang on!