Mike Nutto, an avid fly fisher and hunter is now living on the East side in New Jersey. Outspoken, independent, often misunderstood by his brashness, Mike is opinionated and often has the interesting topic in his sights. Mike sent me a link to his blog (The Wayward Drifter) about  his recent posting. He delves into the limited hunting options/management in New Jersey and then swings over into ‘combat’ fishing and the often attendant snagging. 

There are a couple things here that are easy to mix together and that shows the presentation divide amongst fly fishers as well: using lead to get down with egg patterns (nymphing technique of sorts) is fine by me. Strike indicators etc. are part of the mix. But, if you are new to the sport you can see that there is a group of fly fishers that swing the fly (steelhead and salmon presentation & wet fly swing for trout/grayling). They will appear to be criticizing the technique of nymphing for fish, particularly steelhead. Many are. If you are a trout fisherman, only, this will seem confusing because a major portion of fly fishing presentation, for trout, is nymphing regardless of the fly ‘pattern’ (insect, worm, egg, scud patterns). 

It is important to separate out the most important issues that I believe Mike is most focused upon. His need for solitude is apparent. The pressures and population densities of the big city are not for Mike, whether he lives on the East Coast or West Coast. He needs room to roam and ‘combat’ fishing is off putting.

Steelhead-Salmon Close Quarters Fishing (Shin Deep, Visiblilty Good, Snagging Frequent?)

I have purposely suffered through shoulder to shoulder gear fishing on rivers on Oregon’s coast, as well as only slightly more spaced out fishing with fly fishers dredging pieces of orange yarn or egg patterns for salmon. I believe the real issue, for me, is…are the fish on the move (not on a reed) and is the set of the hook in response to a visible take or visibly close enough to appear to be a take? When I swing a sinking line or dredge a nymphing rig into a visible, moving or holding group of salmon, I will feel a movement from the fish. Is that the fish taking the fly? Is that bump from a take of the fly or your line brushing over the back or belly of a fish? Is that bump from your leader ‘lining’ or ‘flossing’ through a fish’s mouth? Sometimes you can tell by seeing the fish in low, gin clear water or sometimes you can only feel and set the hook with the bump.

Often on late Fall days, while fishing for salmon on Oregon coastal rivers, I have ‘hooked’ into several dozen fish. Of those hooked fish, half+ were snagged in the cheek or dorsal fin (they were released and/or won the tug of war). While doing the same sort of fishing for steelhead, I have rarely snagged a steelhead. I don’t know why the difference beyond numbers of fish (not unusual to have a larger pod of salmon together and fewer steelhead near each other). 

So, the question is do you avoid all this potential snagging of fish not on a redd by only swinging a fly? It can be elevated as a noble presentation option for steelhead because it avoids the confusion  re fair takes. It can rightfully be set aside amongst various options as a worthy presentation option to take a fish clean and righteous. I have friends that only fish wets on the swing and with a dry fly like presentation for trout, so averse are they to nymphing. Decisions, decisions.

There is a great deal to debate here. Mike raised interesting points about why he fishes, why he swings a steelhead fly and learned a two handed presentation style. Most importantly, all can agree: no fisherman should ever stand over spawning fish on a redd and purposely snag or set any hook into those fish…EVER! It is equally problematic to swing or nymph through known pods of fish on the move and set at every bump. This last scenario is something I have personally had to work through. I have no qualms about fishing blind for trout by nymphing and have rarely snagged a trout. Indicator/nymphing presentations for Steelhead (by Mike Gorman) is popular in the NW and the East Coast.

For me, the best part of Mike’s post was his passion for learning a fly fishing technique (two handed rod and swing the fly) and his passion, his pursuit for “The Moment”. All practiced and enjoyed with room to roam and a sense of freedom. Lots of food for thought, debate, pursuit, for solitude. Ain’t It Grand!

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