By New Mexico BHA Member, Jeff Young
There are many ways to tell the difference between someone new to the game and a seasoned veteran of the sport. Perhaps the easiest way is which way they are facing on the water. A fly fisherman casting downstream is a sure sign of being new to the sport. The cure for this flaw is not catching fish. If you are not working upstream, fish will not come easy.
Trout must swim upstream in order to breathe. Water enters their mouth and exits the gills as they face upstream. In addition, by facing upstream, the trout catch whatever food comes their way by the flow of the current. So for a fly fisherman, this leads to the next question. How do trout see?
A trout’s eyes are on the side of their head with their primary field of vision directly in front of them. Because of this placement, however, they do have an extended range of peripheral vision. This vision allows them to see things to the side of them.
Trout also have a cone-shaped field of vision
that allows them to see things from above. The further they are from the surface of the water, the more they can see within this cone-shaped field , even if it is blurry. As a result, sudden movements from a fly fisherman can spook a wary trout, even when they can’t tell exactly what is above them. Because of a trout’s ability to detect this move, it is important to keep a low profile while fishing upstream.
Though I have caught fish downstream (primarily by accident), I have landed thousands of trout by merely fishing upstream, and without much casting ability. If you aren’t catching trout, try fishing upstream and be cognizant of a trout’s field of vision. It will do wonders for your success as a fly fisherman.
Jeff Young resides in Sandia Park, NM with his wife Patti, and two sons. He has hunted and fished in New Mexico and Southern Colorado for nearly 40 years. He is the author of two books, Faith of an Outdoorsman - A 365 Day Walk with the Lord in the Outdoors, and The River's Voice - A collection of stories and reflections on the sport of Fly Fishing. He also writes a blog entitled View from the Mountain - An Outdoorsman's Perspective on Life and Faith.