Horseback Fly Fishing, Mayfly Hatch on Rez, FCS

I watched the first episode of a television series about a ranch in Montana.  I won’t mention names or include pics because I am not familiar with the vagaries of copyright law.  They call Montana the “Blue Sky” state.  Well I am calling “Blue Sky” on a particular scene which had cowboys successfully fly fishing from horseback in the middle of a Montana stream.    Talk about your line management issues, getting your fly line around a horses legs, whew, and I thought getting fly line around a cleat was a problem.  Also, when I’m in a kayak I cast toward the bow because  you can’t really face sideways in a kayak.  Imagine sitting on a horse constricted to face forward and the horse’s head is darn near level with your own.  Would present some real casting issues, eh?  Plus, I dunno much ’bout trout fishing but in my few wild trout excursions I remember carefully approaching stream banks and wading slowly to avoid spooking trout.  So, I guess the trout see the big honking horse splashing in the stream as just another animal like an elk and they don’t spook huh?  Oh, it’s all ridiculous I don’t have to explain.  Hollywood!

The mayflies are hatching on the Barnett Reservoir.  Right now I am nursing a sore arm from casting and catching probably a 100 bream or more yesterday.  It was a perfect day, big hatch the evening before, cloudy overcast with almost no wind.  No other fly fishers on the water, just me and my son.   We were wading and fishing and fished from daylight until noon.  The only interloper was an eight foot alligator but he took one look at our Amos Moses glare and he turned and went around the point.


It was a fun day but no pics except the end result shot above.  We were wading wet in water above our waists and we didn’t want to ruin our fun day by getting a phone wet, my apologies.  No, we did not keep every fish we caught but I think a certain firehouse will have an excellent fish fry.

It was interesting to see what flies would work and when because no one fly seemed to dominate through the varying conditions.  I started with a mayfly imitation in the early morning and was doing OK but I was missing strikes due to the hook positioning.  I’m not sure why the fish miss the hook so often on mayfly imitations but I suspect it is because they attack the long hookless abdomen.   Anyway I put on a small white popper  which is known to work well and I started hammering the fish.   When the bugs stopped dropping on the water, the top water bite shut down.  So I went subsurface and I put on a Killer Bee and started picking up fish again.  Then the hatch picked up and there were many bugs on the water and the bite went topwater.  I tried mayflies but just couldn’t compete with the numerous bugs on the water.  I put on a small elk hair caddis and in my haste neglected to grease it with silicon.  The fly got wet and sank into the surface film but when I pulled to make a cast, a fish took it.  I cast it back and pulled it slowly and got another fish.  It didn’t take me long to realize I had discovered “a thing” and I called Chris over and gave him a caddis and then we were both hammering the fish with a “dragged caddis”.   The only other time I have heard the term “dragged caddis” was in an old video of Lee Wulff catching trout dragging a caddis.  In searches I see the techniques of “skating a caddis”, but that’s dry and on the surface. This of course was a soggy dry fly, so it was similar to what I have heard friends talk about when swinging a soft hackle through current.  I do know the bream prefer the bugs that are alive to the dead spinners, so I will suggest that when there’s a lot of bugs on the water, making your fly look alive is one way to draw a strike.

Dragged or skated, either way, it was a great day fishing with my son.  It doesn’t get a whole lot better.  Looking forward to fishing for Jack Crevalle with Chris in a couple of weeks.

On another note, I bumped into a video of Joan Wulff and another with Jason Borger talking about what Borger calls the “Foundation Casting Stroke”.   I have always been a fan of Lefty and have taken the “elbow on a shelf” suggestion as a rule.  After watching these videos I did some of my own experimenting and I have to say that the lift of elbow done correctly in the FCS does provide a higher backcast.   Using the FCS  I am able to still set up for my forward cast with stop,  rotational and transitional drift, slide loading etc without any issues.  So you think you know it all and you learn something new.  Reminds me of what I saw recently where someone asked the legendary cellist Pablo Casals why he continued to practice at age 90.   He replied, “Because I think I’m making progress.”

My question is why doesn’t the FFI provide this in their literature or refer to it in their instruction?  Or do they?  I know there seems to some reluctance to teaching style and instead an emphasis teaching the five essentials.  At least that is my take.  I have no argument with Bill Gammel’s “Five Essentials”, but when I teach kids or rank beginners, it seems to me I should be showing them the FCS because it’s too soon for them to find their own style.   Style is for someone to experiment with once they’re more accomplished.  Maybe I’m just off in left field. I actually played left field in little league so I’m very familiar with it.

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