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Mark Stangeland - NUFlyGuide
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The Art of Fishing the Comeback Fly

Posted by Mark Monday, July 26, 2010

Another trip to my favorite river proved to be educational(usually the case) as well as productive. I fished on my own Friday night and rose a fish to a skater in a favorite run. A run that is so very visual but not many fish. A little harder to get down to but right in front of everyone....go figure. People are funny that way. It works. Fished the top end starting a little higher than usual. After a smoking hot day I was wet wading and enjoying the coolness and shade of the coming night. I was in no hurry to get to the bucket in the tail. I fished along airing out some overhead casts in a rare instance where I had nothing at all behind me. I was enjoying the rhythm and feel of the single hander in my hand. Stripping in a bit I lift 50 ft or so of line from downstream and pick it up over my head in a change of direction/switch,cast double hauling and firing it out, shooting line to 80+ feet in one move. Fun stuff! I love that rod.I step down and continue with the rhythm and get closer to the "pay atention part of the pool. A rock makes a seam on the very far side and it goes into a little bay before hitting a pillow in front of two rocks and spilling into a class 3 chute. I send the skater over to the rock making the seam, let it dead drift a little before I do a slight pull back mend and tension the fly. The fly hits the little bay and gets held and then starts to swing ever so slowly towards the pillow formed by the rocks at the tail. The fish hold in this pillow,surfing the current in front of the rock. I always get twitchy as the fly swings and covers these last few feet in front of these rocks. It never ceases to amaze me that even though I am cocked and locked waiting for the fish, and I pretty much know where he is, he always surprises me. I am tuned and waiting the fly swings, I watch. Then off the right side of the pillow he comes, Whooosh, a full broadside swing and a miss. Heart pumping, I give the fish a minute and I strip in a little and send a cast on down town again. Same cast same mend....same slow swing right over the same spot.........nothing. I strip in and change to a little muddler that has been working well as a follow up fly. I reel in 10 feet or so and start the game again with the muddler. Finally I am in the zone again and getting keyed up. It arcs and dances across the pillow as the currents in the spill zone can actually pull it back across to the far bank briefly and hold it as it comes across. He's getting a GOOD look at it. Nothing doing, a one time Charley as we say. I don't bother putting a wet fly through as I have more runs to cover and I had some fun with that fish. And so it goes on the NU. Sometimes the change up works,sometimes not.

 The next day I fish by myself again and it is eerily quiet out with hardly anyone out. I fish everything I want and never cross a wet fish show to the skater. I end up seeing a friend I haven't seen in a while and we get to talking. We rap for awhile and he says lets go fish a couple of pools. I say sure and I think I know of a couple that are shaded. We head out and he fishes a classic glassy tail out that usually hold fish. It looks killer and he fishes it perfectly. I love watching someone fish a surface fly in a glassy tail. If a fish even sniffs at it you will usually see some surface disturbance, anything from a little bulge or ripple behind the fly to full on pandemonium. On this occasion we see nothing and we move on to the next run. I fish a tricky little spot under the trees on my least favorite perch on the whole river. The water right in front of you is 10 feet deep and you stand on a pointy spine and neither of your feet are on a flat surface. I hate it but it kicks out fish so I have learned to tolerate it. You fish this run from a sideways approach, as in you are not fishing down and across in the traditional manner. You start out by pitching the fly straight out and even a little upstream to get across the near fast current and get to the slow seam on the far side.It's a weird drift to be sure. You try and hang your fly on the far side as long as you can until the fast water picks up your line and pulls it out. Sometimes they grab it just as the fly starts to accelerate. This day my buddy watches as a fish is spooked out of the tail by my fly and he goes upstream of the fly 15 feet and then drops back to his lie. He no come backy to take another look...he saw more than enough and he was gone.The next pool was in the shade as well and my friend fished it. Cool little run that you might drive right by, and most people do. He starts in above the structure and works his way down in, smoothly casting a new Beulah with little effort.He is in the river and has a great angle on keeping the fly swinging slowly through the pool. Two pieces of structure form a V and there is several boils from sub surface rocks in the narrowing V. He covers the rock and seam making the far leg of the V and is getting down to the mid V structure. I am talking to him and he turns his head to answer as we both see a fish boil on the fly.Whoa! There he was! He puts it back through once and no go. He changes to a smaller version of what he had on an shortens up and sends that through.A couple of drifts and it rises again, but no grab. He decides to go to his tried and true wet and he shortens up again and starts to work that through again. He passes where the fish rose and nothing so he continues to finish the run.He covered the fish perfectly and could do no more. He has his method of re-covering a fish after a rise and I have mine.Both of us have had results with multiple ways of doing it and that's what's cool. There are no rules in doing it just come up with a way that works for you.That's all you can do.Fish to a risen fish, cover it with a few different flies in a methodical way that you are comfortable with and have had success and move along. That's fishing.

 Now the last scenario I experienced this weekend was the best. Even sweeter because I was guiding. We came to a known producer at prime time Sunday morning and I put one guy in this very short run. The fish hold in a space the size of a two car garage. A very intimate spot for sure. A spot you don't just come crashing right up to the edge of the run on. Stealth is in order here. He starts in a the top and I tell him to start short. He does. As he is fishing I am talking to the other guy and explaing where the fish hold. They are down on that light rock blah blah blah. But, I say, they will hold in real right in there where his fly is now.....Kaploooosh! Yeah right there! There she was! The guy, who I happen to know pretty good, is amped and shaking a bit after rising his first fish to a dry. I tell him to chill and let both him and the fish think about it for a minute. Put the skater back one time only I say at that same length line. He does and no fish shows. Ok, I say, put this fly on. He does. Now shorten up 10 ft and start swinging this fly through. Lengthen a foot and a half each drift till you get back down to her. About 5 pulls in( right where she first rose) his reel goes zzzrzrzr then nothing. Dang I say to myself, she's stung and gone. 2 second pass and zzzzzrzrzrzrzrz goes the reel again and he lifts the rod on a nice,slightly rosey 8lb hen. The reward of a perfect fish to end the cat and mouse game that had been going on for the last 5 minutes.

200 or so fish up at Lee's pool so far. Cool to see they made it! More on the way.


  1. Awesome Mark! You are already doing a great job guiding. Loved your story, I could feel the anticipation and excitement as I read it. Maybe I do need to join the crowd down there sooner that later.


  2. jan Says:

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