Column: Grace in the face of fishing failure

The Great Outdoors/James Murray

Sometimes you catch fish, sometimes you don’t. Life’s like that – not that there wasn’t a time when I would have felt obligated to come up with some sort of lame excuse if, let’s say, I had driven all the way to the Coast for a much-anticipated fishing trip and failed to catch one single solitary fish. Now I just try to take such incidents in stride.

So it was last week as I drove home with an empty cooler in the back of my Jeep. My friend Cory and I had spent three days in a row two-handing one of our favorite coastal streams and came up empty-handed. Nothing, zero, zilch.

To make matters worse, we had caught a fair number of fish in these pools on previous occasions. Not that we didn’t try hard enough. We worked through at least half a dozen pools each day and between the two of us probably made 100 casts – if not more – all to no avail. The fish just weren’t interested.

Why? I couldn’t say for sure. All I know is that we didn’t get one single hit between the two of us. Granted we were fishing fairly wide waters that required pretty long casts, but we were both using rods that enabled us to cast to both sides of each pool. Cory was using a spey rod and I had my switch rod, a slightly shorter version of a spey rod, but every bit as effective when making long casts.

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Over the past 15 years or so there has been a literal explosion in the popularity of long, two-handed rods, or spey rods, which have been developed specifically for anglers in the Pacific Northwest where fishing large rivers and streams is more often the rule rather than the exception. I like a hybrid spey/fly rod that has come to be referred to as “switch” or “two-hand assist” rod. Switch rods are shorter, usually lighter weight, spey rods that can be cast as a either single-handed or a double-handed rods. The concept of the switch rod is a fly rod that includes the inherent design and advantages found in a spey rod such as the ability to make longer, more effortless casts, with pronounced advantages in line control, while at the same time retaining the practicality of a standard, light-weight, single-handed fly rod.

The result is a highly versatile fly rod of moderate length, usually 10 to 12 feet, that can be fished using either single-handed or double-handed styles.

To better understand switch rods, you first have to understand the whole two-handed spey rod concept. Two-handed spey rods or long rods as they are often referred to, were developed on Scotland’s salmon streams, most notably, the River Spey, out of necessity. Back then, anglers needed rods that were long enough to load and unload a cast, but, without the need to aerialize their backcast, quite simply because they were fishing on rivers with deep, swift currents and high river banks. In time, this long-rod technique became popular on the rivers and streams of the Pacific Northwest where there are similar stream conditions.

Related: Getting in gear for fishing derby

Although most spey casters tend to be salmon and steelhead aficionados, many anglers, myself included, use two-handed rods for smaller fish species such as trout on rivers like the Adams.

Last week I was using a new AirFlo Tactical Steelhead fly line which, according to the ads, “sets new industry standards to the terms versatility and performance.” These lines incorporate a powerful front taper to help casters like myself cut through the wind with tighter loops and make casting heavy bulky flies easier. The eight-foot floating tip section, which can be easily (and quickly) removed, allows you to connect a sinking tip to the line in order to get your fly down into deep and/or fast-flowing waters. It didn’t help me last week that’s for sure. Oh, well.

One advantage of using a switch rod, especially for someone my age, is that casting requires a lot less effort and on those days when I spend the whole day making continuous casts, my arms get a lot less tired.

Like I said, I have no excuses for not catching anything last week. Sometimes you catch fish, sometimes you don’t.

And, I truly am trying to take it all in stride … at least until I can get back out on that particular (unnamed stream) and start casting my two-hander again.


@SalmonArm
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