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by John Evans
(San Antonio, TX)

Stealth is Key

Stealth is Key

Imagine that you and your family are just sitting down to a scrumptious supper. Everyone is starving, and the meal spread before you includes all your favorites. Suddenly there’s a rude crash at your front door, and an intruder breaks in.

You were starving before, but now hunger has been replaced by fear. The last thing on your mind at this point is the supper you were focused on just a few seconds before.

This illustration helps us understand what happens when we forget the importance of stealth in fishing. Put simply, the more I fish, the more I understand the value of quietness and patience in presenting a fly. To say it another way, when I move slowly and cast gently, I catch more fish.

When we go crashing through the woods and splashing into the water like a cannonball, we shouldn’t be surprised when the fish scatter and refuse to strike. No magic fly or worm will overcome a fish’s prey response when it feels threatened.

This point was emphasized in my mind a couple of weeks ago when I observed a fellow angler working a stream. Well, “working” may be the wrong word . . . more like pulverizing. He whipped the water to a froth while making enough noise to rattle windows in the next town. As he passed me (mercifully), I heard him grumble, “The fish just aren’t biting today!” Hmmm . . . wonder why?

It’s also important to watch your shadow and the play of your line. One difficult skill to master is getting the fly to land before the line. If the leader slaps the water, most fish rush to cover. Yes, I know that sometimes you’ll catch fish even when you do everything wrong, but stealth will improve your catch . . . especially with wary species. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that stealth and presentation count for much more than fly pattern.

So, next time you go fishing, remember that supper illustration, and mind your approach. We want the fish to feed, not flee. Stealth is key.

Comments for Stealth

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Jul 03, 2018
Well Said, John!
by: Herb S.

Some people not only never learn, but insist on thrashing around like water buffalo. Several years ago I took two friends to my secret trout stream, a lovely flat-water gin clear brookie creek where stealth is mandatory. One of us absolutely refused to comply with pleas to wade slowly and carefully. Since we were fishing one at a time, his blundering wrecked it for the other guy and me sending waves upstream. To make it worse was his sneering, "Aw **!##&* there just aren't any fish in here" and so on. As luck would have it, we made it up to an old dam, the best spot on the creek and it was his turn. In the deeper water in center stream he caught the only fish with the brag, "See I told you you don't have to sneak." The other guy and I now sneak without him.

Wade softly and carry a long reel-less stick.

Happy fishing,

Jul 04, 2018
Great analogy!
by: Les Albjerg

John you are such a good writer. Thanks for the reminder. Herb, that is such a sad story! On the Boise last winter I watched a guy thrash one of the better runs. I went past him by about 3 holes, and when he caught up to me in about 30 minutes, he said, "Wow the fish aren't biting today, mind if I watch while I eat my lunch?" I said, No Problem." He then said, "How come your flyrod doesn't have a reel?" I talked to him about Tenkara, while pulling 2 nice trout out of the hole and 3 whitefish. He asked what fly I was using. I said, "A golden ribbed hare's ear in size 14 beadhead at the bottom and a regular hare's ear about 8 inches above." I said, "You have to be quiet when you fish." It was time to leave, so I went down to the "fishless hole," and caught 2 trout on my way to the SUV.

I learned to fish Spring Creeks when I lived in Southwest Wisconsin. I have a son who has few proteins that he can eat. Fish is one of them. Keith, who grew up in the area, would drop off one or two nice Brown Trout out of a nearby creek a couple of times a month in the summer. I fished that creek 15 or more times and never caught a fish. My begging finally got him to take me. We hadn't waded 5 feet when Keith turned to me and said, "Make a wake and the fish will be awake to your presence!"

I used to be a sloppy fisherman!

I often wear camo when fishing too.

Jul 04, 2018
by: Terry Farmer

Great analogy John. The supper scenario will stick with me from now on.

Jul 04, 2018
Watch and Learn
by: Alan Luecke

Anyone fishing around my area will probably be sharing the water with a Great Blue Heron. That's your model. The heron is a better fisher than you and knows more about fish than you every will. If you're moving faster than the heron, or making more noise than the heron you're doing it wrong.

Jul 04, 2018
Stressed fish
by: Leon

Some recent research from the University of Illinois looked at stress hormones in fish and their propensity to be caught on artificial lures. Not surprisingly they found that fish with higher levels of stress hormones were less likely to be caught than those with lower levels. Fish don't seem to be stress eaters like some people are.

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“The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten” – Benjamin Franklin

"Be sure in casting, that your fly fall first into the water, for if the line fall first, it scares or frightens the fish..." Col. Robert Venables 1662

As age slows my pace, I will become more like the heron.


The hooks are sharp.
The coffee's hot.
The fish are slippery when wet.

Beware of the Dogma

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