How to fish the Thin Blue Lines

East Coaster

Active Member
A good part of the premise of the OP was visiting a stream for the first time (you found a blue line on a map, checked property ownership, access, etc.) and showed up. All I'm suggesting is spend your time wisely. For me, if I had to choose between two extremes, I would rather hike the length accessible to me and not fish at all, than spend my time intensely focused on a very small section and never see the overall potential (or lack thereof) of the stream. But I guess that makes me a "meat first" guy, whatever that means. YMMV......:)
 

MGTom

Active Member
WFF Supporter
A good part of the premise of the OP was visiting a stream for the first time (you found a blue line on a map, checked property ownership, access, etc.) and showed up. All I'm suggesting is spend your time wisely. For me, if I had to choose between two extremes, I would rather hike the length accessible to me and not fish at all, than spend my time intensely focused on a very small section and never see the overall potential (or lack thereof) of the stream. But I guess that makes me a "meat first" guy, whatever that means. YMMV......:)
Naw, I just ment that Scott likes to go for the obvious stuff then move on. I'm finally am part time retired so now I'm exploring all the lands I surveyed for 25 years, so I've seen a lot of this country already. If it was new to me though, I see your point, there might be a beaver dam just up that I'm not seeing and is where I should be. Find out what it's about and if it is worth coming back. Thanks for the feedback, everybody's situation and water is unique, that's why I though this would be fun.
I was too responsible to bring a rod to work.
 
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Old Man

A very Old Man
WFF Supporter
I always fished up in the National Forests. Didn't have to worry about property ownership up in there. Besides the best water is always up in the woods. I still fish the same here in Montana.
 

Shad

Active Member
It's always fun to see how different folks approach a piece of water. I fall somewhere in the middle as to how long to spend on marginal water. On the one hand, I've got a good feel for what kind of water fish hold in on my favorite rivers, and I rarely spend much time fishing the marginal stuff in those cases. If I'm exploring new water, on the other hand, I'm going to try and cover more types of water, to get a feel for how the fish roll in that location. Most of the time, it fishes very much like the rivers I know better, but once in a while, I catch a really nice fish in a really stupid spot, and those experiences make for some of my favorite angling moments.

Another aspect of "different strokes for different folks" is how long to spend hammering the same piece of prime water before moving on. I usually tend to try a couple different presentations if I know I'm in good water but not getting bit, but if I fish through a hole and catch a fish or three and the bite dies down, I often assume I've caught all I'm going to catch there and move on. On two occasions, the same occasional fishing buddy has stayed in that hole and kept pounding it, eventually being rewarded with a REALLY nice fish for his persistence.

Seems to me we all catch some and miss some every day. If one of us adopted everyone else's approaches, we'd have one bad ass fly angler in our midst.
 

triploidjunkie

Active Member
I use the same premise for big water and big fish. I'd say at least a good 60% percent of all fish I catch in a given year are sight fished. The others are usually chironomids and balance leeches under indicators in the spring.
 

IHFISH

Active Member
WFF Supporter
Great post. I will add a couple of things that have helped me on thin blue lines:

1. On access points, develop plans b, c, d, etc. Researching accessis a lot of fun and there are many excellent online and hard copy tools out there, but you never know when you show up if the spot will be occupied, inaccessible upon closer inspection, not fishable at the flows on day of, etc., so have backups.

2. Be patient, persistent and creative with the prime spots if they don't produce at first. I usually work my way up to these if for no other reason than to shake off any rust and generally get in the groove of things. However, that does not always completely eliminate poor presentations, slow reactions, etc. that cause you to miss fish. Some of my most rewarding blue line experiences have involved the scenario where I make a less than perfect presentation, a "surprise" type fish reveals itself anyway and I end up taking several minutes to gather myself, think through the entire process of fishing through the spot effectively, and tie on a (usually significantly different) new pattern. When this all comes together and you land a nice fish to end the day it's very rewarding.

I'm sure this is familiar to the point of being intuitive to many, but I thought it was worth mentioning.
 

East Coaster

Active Member
One other piece of advice for those new to fishing these streams - make sure you let someone know where you'll be. For those who are used to fishing popular rivers, lakes, etc., you might be surprised that you won't see a soul on your outing. That's part of the appeal, but it also means that if something goes wrong (car trouble, an injury, etc.), getting help might not be easy. Many of these places (even here in NJ) are outside of cell service, so you won't have that lifeline. If you live alone, email a friend or relative before you head out so that if you go missing, they'll have a chance of locating you.
 

Old Man

A very Old Man
WFF Supporter
I was on the Ruby a few years ago, I threw my fly a little above the bank and it drifted in and under the bank. I wasn't prepared for the hit I got. A big splash and it was gone. Someday I'm gonna have to go back to that spot and try it again. I was upriver above the forks. It's like fishing a creek up there in the summertime. Grayling, Cutthroat, RB's, and Rocky Mountain Whitefish. Didn't catch any browns.
 

MGTom

Active Member
WFF Supporter
One other piece of advice for those new to fishing these streams - make sure you let someone know where you'll be.
Yes, good addition. I did not mention it but my wife always knows where I am, and if I divert I at least send a text, although several places don't have service.
 

Shad

Active Member
Yes, good addition. I did not mention it but my wife always knows where I am, and if I divert I at least send a text, although several places don't have service.
This.

I fish alone and away from easy access a lot. Looking back, I could easily have been killed or seriously injured (as good as dead if nobody knows where to find you) on several occasions. I've been immensely lucky. I figured that out about 5 years ago, and now I make sure someone knows at least generally where I'll be if anyone starts wondering.
 

Old Man

A very Old Man
WFF Supporter
This.

I fish alone and away from easy access a lot. Looking back, I could easily have been killed or seriously injured (as good as dead if nobody knows where to find you) on several occasions. I've been immensely lucky. I figured that out about 5 years ago, and now I make sure someone knows at least generally where I'll be if anyone starts wondering.
I tell My wife where I'm going in the general direction. But I don't fish far from my P/U. I can be easily found laying next to it.
 

IveofIone

Active Member
WFF Supporter
Looking forward to some blue line fishing soon but the high water needs to drop before that takes place. Freestone and I have birthdays at the end of this month and we are going to fish a couple of nearby small streams during the celebration. It has been almost a year since she broke her foot and we are hoping she will be pain free enough for some bushwhacking.

One stream is really small and brushy, you can spit across it in many places. But it holds colorful wild fish that are a delight to catch. Just for this stream I bought a 60'' Tenkara rod and have been practicing the bow and arrow cast with it. The other stream is much bigger but still a challenge for a longer rod, I'll use a 7 1/2' 2wt for that. Compared to lake fishing the streams are much easier to prepare for. I have a tiny chest pack that holds one small fly box, nippers and some tippet. Anything else goes in my pockets, bear spray on my hip and a wading staff rounds out the equipment. The fish may be small but they are a giggle to catch on tiny fly rods. The isolation of the fishery and the attention and stealth needed to catch those fish makes for some really relaxed fishing.
 

Mrdiecky

Salmonid DDS
Good grief you are through. All that work for just some 7" fish. I throw my gear in the Pick up and go for a drive. I don't stop to smell the flowers because I've seen them all before. It's summertime so I wet wade. No need to carry waders. I usually start out with a size 16 or 18 Royal Wulff. Parachute if I have one. Grease up the dry so it floats good. But I don't sneak up on the fish. The water in that little creek is quite rolly so you don't have to sneak. I usually hook up three rods as I shake quite bad so I make sure I have a steady place to tie up at. One with a dry, one with two nymphs and one with a small dry and a dropper about 18 " behind the dry.

I usually drop a fly in the small pockets that are created by the rocks. If I fish the rapids I will throw on a caddis or a humpy. They both float pretty well. Both small flies.

The fish here in Montana act pretty dumb sometimes so you don't need to creep up on them. Whatever you do on that little creek don't cross that piles of logs until you can see that they will hold up your ass and not fall through them. You can get quite broken up if you fall through them. Don't ask me how I know.

When I do get out and fish I usually don't take any food along. I can stop at a local store to get something to tide me over till I get home. I'm kind of teetotaler when I fish. No need to get a buzz on while fishing. When I'm done for the day and because I'm fishing fresh water I don't bother with the clean up. I leave the mojo on the rods and flies for the next go around. Can't wash off the fish smell.

I have one special small skinny water that I like. You can see the fish swimming around as you drive up the gravel road to the first spot to fish. My creek is about 20' wide. With deep pools and fast water. And carries a lot of fish. Cutthroat, Browns, Rainbows, and Rocky mountain Whitefish. and also Grayling. I haven't got the full house yet but I've had three of the five on a trip there.
I second this about the logs. 5 weeks left for me before my leg is healed.
 

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