You know that place, that place in a run that just feels and looks fishy? Some call it the bucket, I like to call it the Sweet Spot. Over the years I have found many of these places on the North Umpqua. Places where I know fish live on a consistent basis. I have discovered these places after years of hard work and trial and error. Some of these places are obvious to all and others are more subtle. Currents and structure must be studied and fished at multiple water levels to uncover all the secrets that these kind of places hold. Any sweet spot in a run will obviously move in relation to current and water flow Most often this movement is length wise as the size of the sweet spot will grow smaller in higher flows. There is always an optimum level that occurs where the sweet spot is at it's maximum holding capabilities and fish are drawn there because of the ease at which they can rest and seek protection. When watching a fish holding in one of these areas at the perfect flow they expend little energy and are usually rested and grabby to a swung fly. In those places, both obvious and not so obvious, I fish techniques that will show the fly to a holding fish in the best possible way. This may include several different styles of swing. I may start with an upstream dead drift of a dry fly over the holding area first, followed by a more sideways type presentation, followed by a more traditional down and across swing. Any one of those could work on a given fish.
There are times when you are fishing down to a known sweet spot and you just know you are going to hook up. I can't explain it but those of you who fish much have had the feeling. It is a combination of doing the right thing at the right time in the right place with the right fly along with a years of experience that tell you a fish is just about to grab the fly. I can't explain it. If you know you know. It happened 3 times on a recent trip. The first time I was fishing a run where a buddy had just hooked and landed a fish. I started in where he left off and was immediately in the sweetest spot of the run. I had a strong pull on a drift that was so in the zone it barely fazed me. I expected it. The fish grabbed but didn't stick and I knew he hadn't been stung too hard if at all. Getting the fish back in the cold water was not a for sure and I knew it. He may not have been stung hard but he may not move again. I stood mid current for a moment and decided to change to a brighter fly. I gave the fish time to settle and slowly changed out my fly. It had been three or four minutes and I reeled in 10 feet of line and started back in. After a few casts I had lengthened the line back to the point where I had the first grab and the fly swung through and nothing happened. This particular sweet spot was quite large due to the lower flows. For some reason I felt that the fish was still there and would grab and I continued to move down the run. I was 5 or 6ft past where I had gotten the grab and I got that feeling. I KNEW I was gonna hook this fish. The fly waggled through the sweet spot and the fish took hard and exactly where I thought. Sure, I had a good indication that a fish was there by the first grab but I hardly ever have the feeling that I KNOW I am gonna hook up. It's just not reality in steelheading and if you think you are gonna hook up on every cast you will be disappointed. The fish ran and jumped multiple times and was a great bright fall fish of 7-8 lbs.
The second fish was in a long riffle run below the fly water. The level was perfect and I could fish the entire thing and was getting great swings. The top was a shallower long riffle and sort of fast, transitioning into a choppy section that started to increase in depth. After that was a broad tail that had a very interesting flat spot on the far side that screamed "Sweet Spot". The depth was perfect, the flow was perfect, the structure was perfect. I absolutely knew I would hook a fish in that lower section the first time I walked into the run. It killed me to work my way down to it but there was so much potential, although not as perfect water, getting down to it. My eyes kept drifting down to that flat spot on the far side. I got closer and the feeling of hooking up got stronger. As soon as my fly entered into that flat, sweet seam on that far side, I knew I was close. A couple more drifts and I was swinging through the heart of this sweet spot. I was holding my rod firmly fully expecting a hard grab and I was not disappointed. A 10lb wild buck grabbed with enthusiasm and went for the tail out the Farlex protesting loudly. After a short battle I released the fish back into the depths.
The last fish was a fish my buddy hooked. We walked into a run and I said to him, "there is a fish in here for sure". He knew it too as we both looked at the run knowing full well that no one had fished it in weeks. Both of us had landed many fish in this run before at this time of year but this year being a bit tougher than normal we should not have had the feeling we both did. But we did. You could just tell it was gonna happen, it was very plain to see. You could actually feel it in the fall air. After about 3 drifts I was not at all surprised to see from my high vantage point, a beautiful fall fish move to the fly and hammer it.
Another fish, another sweet spot. We trusted our instincts, went with the tried and true methods for the conditions and were rewarded. Knowing these sweet spots, and how water levels both attract fish to and repel fish away from them and when to fish them shows that pool selection is a crucial part of the game. We were in the right place at the right time but we also had supreme confidence in what we were doing at all times.
You may not hook a fish every drift but you need to fish like you will when you get into the Sweet Spot!
These Sweet Spots can come in many varieties,shapes and sizes. All are to be enjoyed!
I thank God for the many "sweet spots" in my life.
When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.
Tight lines my friends!