Freestone Streams - Part Seven:

6/24/08

Being Sneaky:
With the recent lack of rainfall and low water conditions, the streams of the Great
Smoky Mountains National Park are again getting into a very critical condition.
We have fished several of them on both sides of the park during the past week.
We have not found any of the streams we visited in even fair shape as far as
water flow is concerned. If it were not for the recent lower air temperatures I am
afraid many streams would be in critical shape. Lets just hope these low air
temperatures continue and that we get some rain soon. It is really weird looking
at the television reports showing that three and one-half million acres of farm
land is under water in the Midwest when our streams are going dry.
As always, the streams to be affected the most in terms of water level are the
small, headwater streams. There is little water left in any of them. The low water
temperatures (low for this time of year) have spared the trout. Although i have
no scientific justification for saying this, I do believe the brook trout are more
capable of surviving these tough environmental conditions than the other
non-native species of trout. They hide from their predators and manage to
survive even when the water is extremely low.
If you can be sneaky and make good presentations you can still catch plenty of
trout. Everyone is probably aware that you should stay low, dress correctly and
stay hidden from the trout. Those things are basic for fishing small streams,
especially under low water conditions. What prompted this writing is a factor that
I think most all of us overlook.
If you move extremely slow, the trout are far less likely to notice you. Before I get
to the point, you
may want to review this article. Trout can see almost all the way
around themselves. There is only a small area directly behind them, called the
blind spot, that is not within their peripheral vision. I have found that as long as
you move extremely slow, they won't notice you in their peripheral vision area of
coverage nearly as quickly as they will when you move at a normal pace. By that
I mean not only move you body very slowly, but refrain from the making the
movements necessary to cast.
The trout's vision is not very different from bass. Both species can see almost all
the way around themselves. For several years, I had the opportunity to
experiment with bass in my close friend's, Tom Mann's Fish World in Eufaula,
Alabama. Tom allowed me to go up to the top of the aquarium and experiment
with fishing for the huge bass in the large tank. The tank is about the size of a
small house and looks much like a large swimming pool from up top. Below,
windows allow visitors to look into the aquarium from an underwater perspective.
If you approached the water from up top where visitors are not allowed, every
fish in the aquarium would shoot for the nearest cover. They had become used
to the people down below looking through the windows and had learned they
didn't pose any danger. That was not the case up top.
Trying to cope with the fish spooking every time I attempted to cast to them, I
used every method I could think of each time I tried to approach them without
their knowing it. I discovered that if I moved like a snail, they didn't notice me. If I
moved any faster than that, they did. Even though my clothes didn't blend in with
the color of the walls behind me, they still didn't notice me as long as my
movements were very, very slow. When I learned to cast with an underhanded
cast or flip of the rod, they would all try to eat the lure, that is until one got it. You
could fish with the same lure for the rest of the day and they would only hide
from it but that is another subject.
I discovered that by using this same procedure, I could approach trout in
extremely clear spring creeks in Pennsylvania without spooking them, but doing
so is not easy. Moving at a slow, slow pace is not easy to do. It seems you will
never get into a position to cast and then when you do, you must do so with the
flip of a wrist, side-armed and very low. That means you can't cast very far and
that means you have to get very close to them. I have caught brown trout as
close as fifteen feet from me in shallow, extremely clear water, when I was
standing my full height which is six feet, two inches.
Most of the time I make the mistake of moving too fast. I am not very patient any
way and fishing at the pace of a snail isn't easy for me to do. What I am
describing is not a cure all for catching fish in low, clear water by any means.
Casting to a trout may take twenty minutes of ultra slow-motion movement before
you attempt the first and only cast you will get. I usually stoop down to my knees
in slow motion when I do get close to the fish and then cast side-armed with as
little body movement as possible.
Please note that I am not contending that this is the way to fish with the low water
conditions we currently have. I don't think that extent of extreme caution is
necessary in most cases.  I do wish to stress the point that trout do not notice
your presence by identifying or determining that you are some type of creature
from out of space that is going to harm them. Without turning and placing you in
their very narrow binocular area of vision, they cannot see you well enough to
determine anything other than something is in their area that doesn't belong
there.
If you were in the woods observing the forest and one of the trees suddenly
moved a couple of feet, you would spook. If a tree started moving towards you at
a rather fast pace, you would really freak out. When a portion of the trout's
surroundings suddenly moves, it will freak out. Slow your movements way down
and you will catch more trout under low water conditions.   

Coming Up Next:
Freestone Streams - Part 8

Copyright 2008 James Marsh