Switching it Up (22 Aug 2009)
by, 07-31-2011 at 02:26 PM (271 Views)
You ever stand next to someone while they hook fish after fish and you can’t seem to buy a swipe?
I used to get really frustrated when this would happen. Further, my frustration would only serve to make my problems worse. It was my problem and not the fish or the plug by the way. It’s amazing what frustration can do to destroy your concentration, but it’s even more amazing what focus and observation can do to flip your average from batting zero to much closer to 1000. You have to leave your pride at the door for this to work.
I learned this stuff a while ago. The older I get, the more patience I seem to be gaining with myself and other people. This has helped me tremendously. The ability to take responsibility for a problem and not push the blame on something or someone else. Making excuses is for little children and politicians. I am neither.
Plugging is the highest art form of fishing as far as I’m concerned (I always felt that fly fishing was more an application of proper mechanics and the art part was in the creation of the fly). There is no other method where you have not only complete control over the location of your offering at any time, but you also have complete control over how that offering is behaving. You can do this with a fly to a certain extent, but you are limited. Let me explain…
With a fly the you can:
a.) locate your fly in the proper place
b.) adjust the orientation (direction) of the fly relative to that location
c.) Adjust the trajectory of the fly and horizontal location.
d.) Move it vertically (jigging or lifting/dropping).
Well, that’s quite a bit I guess, and that whole list can still be broken down further into a million little parts if you want, but I’m writing so I’m going to generalize a bit.
The one thing that is blatantly missing from fly fishing and is the absolute soul of plug fishing is the ability to impart an attitude into your plug. You can set the mood (or rather conform to the moods of the fish). By this I mean you can make it do anything or behave however you want with a little manipulation from the rod and reel (and a whole lot of understanding of what you are trying to do).
Topwater. I’ll start here because it is probably the only place that fly fishing can really exhibit this kind of attitude inherently available to a plugger. With a surface presentation you can twitch, flip, bang, pop, float and all sorts of other actions that lack the words to describe the behavior of your fly. You can move it along in a hurry, you can get it to throw water, you can leave it there just barely moving until the fish is so crazy it just has to thrash the thing. Well, with a spook or popper on conventional gear you can do the same type of thing, but you can do it with far less variation in the lure and line and leader and…. You can make one plug do all kinds of things. The only limitations are your imagination and patience. Nothing like a big spook to tell you if they are there or not anyway.
But this top water business (traditional definition of top water anyway) is not where plugging really pulls away from the pack. In one cast you can make a floating swimmer plug exhibit every variation in moods imaginable. But you can also bring that plug below the surface to add a third dimension to the mood if you so desire. You can make it act however you like and you can do it without even retrieving the plug.
Nick was the first guy who ever kicked my butt plugging so royally, I thought I might have to go home and cry to my mother. He destroyed me one particular night ( and others since, but this was the most blatant) because he had an understanding of this range of behaviors I was yet to understand. We were at Matunuck fishing the cobble bars to the east in September. He and Kenny had just been rambling on about this dead sticking stuff I had never heard of, but was told I should try. It didn’t make much sense to me at the time because I was still somewhat limited in my perspective of what a fish wants. I thought the hungry fish swimming about wanted a swimming lure, just swimming along like a fish swims. Those baitfish are always moving right? Just swimming from one place to another waiting to die right?..... Turns out I was wrong.
I caught the first fish that night. It picked up my bomber as soon as it smacked the water. It was better than a keeper so for a moment there I thought I was going to have a stellar night. That was the last fish I caught for a while. I had a few other hits when the plug plopped in the water, but didn’t manage to hook another for a while. About an hour or so later Nick waded over to where I was to see how I was doing. Still thinking I had done pretty well just by locating the fish I told him about the one. He told me he landed a half dozen or so just the other side of the bar.
Me: “You get any over there?”
Nick: “Yup” (Nick’s a man of few words)
Me: “They’re in here. I caught my one on a bomber. He picked it up just after it hit the water. Is that what happened to you?”
Nick: “Some of them”
Me: “It happened a few more times but I couldn’t hook up. I never got a touch on the retrieve. You?”
Me: “I Rotated through the bag and couldn’t get them to touch anything else. What were you using to get them?”
Nick: “A bunch of different stuff.”
After that he waded off to the opposite side of the bar and I stood there on my perch scratching my head for a while. No sooner than he stopped walking and took a cast I looked over and saw his rod bent over on a fish. I thought “OK, just one”. But no, it happened over and over. I managed maybe one more fish over the night.
Of course what happened is Nick got into the mood of the fish. He was dead sticking (or some variant thereof), and by adjusting to the right mood (some call it energy) he was hooking fish after fish on any plug he wished while I reeled in cast after empty cast.
It drove me nuts.
I started paying more attention to the moods of the fish very soon after that.
Point is with a plug you can get it to act relaxed, jumpy, fearful, reactive, twitchy, injured, or dead without ever putting an inch of line back on the rod. You can cycle through the moods if you’re not “feeling it” one night and you are bound to get a reaction to something. It’s rarely ever the plug choice, but rather what you do with it. It’s very hard to get a fly to exhibit all those moods in one cast. Not impossible, but I believe the plug gives you far more options than the fly is capable. Hell, you can even fish flies with a spinning rod if you want. Can’t fish plugs with a fly rod, or at least you couldn’t call it fly fishing if you did.