Fish with a System and Increase Your Catch Rate.

One day my son and I went out on a fishing trip. He is new to the world of fly fishing but very interested in tenkara and learned a lot very quickly. But it happened twice that I was catching a lot more fish the he was. Although he put a lot of effort into his fishing and was doing everything right. We also read the water together and he can almost read the water completely by himself. So he knows what to do. So as a lot of people do, we had the same rod, line and fly rig and we were reading and discussing the water we would fish in together so we were able to eliminate as much as variables as possible. But still, I was catching a lot more then he was doing. And yes I know experience matters a lot but a difference of 15 fish to just 1 fish is too big and quite disappointing for a 14 year old.

So I told him to fish on and I would take a break on the bankside of the river. I watched him for a while and then I figured it out. He was lacking a system. A system that provides structure in the way he fishes and provides fish in the net. As soon as his catches will increase so does his confidence and he will start to use this system and hopefully his catch-rate will increase. This will eventually lead into a circle-motion of more structured fishing, a higher catch-rate, a better understanding how a fish thinks and behaves and most important of all; AN INCREASE OF FUN!

Now what is the system that I told him to use? First of all you need to understand that I do not fish Tenkara with just one fly; I use nymphs, wet flies, dry flies, and often two flies. As long as it works to get me on to the fish I will do so. In the Trysil Elva there is always insect activity. That means not always hatches but we have a rich variety of insects in different stages. So first of all we fish always with two flies, a dry fly with a dropper. This will increase your chances of guessing right and finding out what is going on in the water column.

Second of all The Trysil River is used a lot for timberfloating and they have removed a lot of the bigger stones. So the trout has drawn itself back into the faster flowing parts of the river or the surrounding tributaries. But our grayling population is excellent on both the rivers and the tributaries. We have an average size of 35 cm when it comes to the grayling, and 40+ are no exceptions at all. But grayling lives in schools that you have to locate. So you need to move a lot.

Third of all, presentation, presentation, presentation and a variety of your presentation. Presentation is the key to success. It begins with aiming, landing the fly and, here is where the variety kicks in, movement of the fly.

So in short:

-          Two flies

-          Move a lot

-          Right presentation

-          Variety of your presentation

The trick is how to combine this into a structural system that you use the whole time so you can systematically fish a piece of the river.

You see the water and you read it and choose where you want to start to fish. This can be a small part or a riffle from several meters long or several small parts in the river. Choose your route carefully because as you wade you will stir the bottom up and sand and insects will go freely, this can attract fish but also spook fish.

So let us say there is a stretch of 10 meter long 5 meter wide. Downstream of the 10 meter stretch you can cross the stretch and fish your way upstream. I choose to fish on the side of the ten meter stretch downstream. I divide the stretch in pieces of 0,5 meter wide, which are each 3 to 4 meter long. This way I can systematically start fishing and knowing that if I do not catch any fish in the first 0,5 meter that I only need to take one small step forward or cast just a little bit longer to fish the next section of this big stretch.

So I basically fish from the edge inwards and so work my way downstream. When I cross the river, I will work my way upstream in exactly the same manner. This way I fish the whole stretch very systematic. And the chance that any spooked fish has returned is bigger and they are now targeted from a different angle which offers you a new chance to catch them

Now this is my system:

Each section gets a maximum of six casts / drifts.

The 1st and 2nd drift are free drifts,

The 3rd and the 4th  drift are a small part free drift, then a movement, so a small part free drift, so a movement and a small part free drift. This is imitating an egg-laying insect or an insect that is trying to fly from the water surface. This movement is also moving your nymph or wet fly, which imitates swimming movements or efforts to get in a higher water column before hatching. So the movement has two triggers, visual and vibration-wise. Both make the fish more aware of the offering present.

Now what is this movement? The dry fly needs to make some kind of a jump or twitch of a cm max two cm. This movement is very easy created by tipping with your index finger to the rod. Yes, that’s all you need, this means that you need to have all the line of the water off course.

During the 5th and the 6th drift I will use a lot of movement. Here is almost no free drift present or there are very small free drifts present and you present a lot of movement in the total drift.

In my practice, I catch most of my fish in the 3rd and 4th drift, normally after the first movement. But I have to be sure and start out carefully with a free drift not to spook any fish. It is all about locating the fish and finding out which presentation works best. As soon as you find the fish stay put and fish the spot empty. Do not move before you are sure that the fish is gone ore spooked.

If you catch no fish by this system in the Trysil Elva then you move to another section of the stretch that you are about to fish. If you have fished through a couple of sections and haven’t caught any fish, change your rig. Maybe your dropper needs to go deeper or maybe higher in the water-column. Maybe it is necessary to start nymphing. But at least you have a system to go by to figure this out in an efficient and quick manner.

As soon as my son started to use this system in his fishing and moved a lot more he was also catching more. Still not as many as I do but a lot more than just one fish in two to three hours. And most important of all, he was fishing with a lot more enthusiasm, he now knew what to do to catch more fish, he was catching more fish and had a lot more fun fishing!

This is off course not only important for kids. But fishing with a system and knowing that you have covered the water properly makes it easier to find out what works that day.

So to sum it up:

-          Read the water and plan out a route where and how to fish the stretch.

-          Take in consideration the factors mentioned above; two flies, presentation, a variety of presentations and move yourself through the water.

-          A variety of presentations; 2 total free drift, 2 drifts with a little movement, 2 drifts with a lot of movement.

-          No fish? Move on to the next section.

-          Still no fish after fishing through several sections? Change your rig.

I hope this was of some use for you and if you have some questions please do not hesitate to email me (