Mountain Streams  --Vol.15--

Mysterious Bite comes from Wet Flies

When I am fishing with dry flies, playful fish and capricious ones often deceive me. Even when I watch the fly and also the fish jumping at the fly, I am sometimes taken in. As for wet flies, think how much harder. I feel as if I were walking in the dark. Almost all signs I need come from only the pull I can feel at the rod tip. I need a lot of time to solve a question, then another. Nevertheless the hooking probability of wet flies is not so bad. Paradoxically, I think it is good because I never see the fish move, for example, jump over the fly or stop suddenly in front of it. It is easy for me to be calm until the fish takes the fly because it does not bother me in whatever way the fish bites the fly.
Wet flies have got the mysterious power probably because they do more than appeal to fish's simple appetite.

However, quite often I can not hook up the fish although I feel a sign at the rod tip, that means the fish clearly touches the fly. It hardly occurs in proportion to the bite number but exclusively on the particular days. Then I feel bitter that I can not see the fly and the fish in the water.

In my early days of wet flies, I found that I felt the bite at the rod tip very differently according to how strongly the line was tightened although the fish bit the fly in the same way. I can not describe my feeling in words but if I had to, I'd say, thud, bam, boom, donk, gunk, conk, bik-bik, pik, bull-bull, kunk, guee, gyueen, gywaa. Well, I hope you get some hints.
I wonder whether various kinds of bites I feel at the rod tip have something to do with fish's appetite or feeling.

If you are an experienced wet fly fisherman you must know well what kinds of bites lead to the surest hooking. Saying in the other way around, what kinds of bites make you easily give up even if you fail in hooking up the fish? As each angler has got their own fishing style, they have got a different impression on the bite. But no angler denies that the bite type is very different according to whether a fish takes the fly deeply in its mouth or pricks it lightly. It is interesting to imagine in what style the fish eats the fly when you have a bite but hardly hook up fish's jaw. It is possible that the fish "eats" the fly without its mouth.
Does this giant salmon play with the fly? This is so big that Salmon II reel looks like a trout reel.
2 inch Orange Flame. I wonder whether salmon that found it remember those shrimp they ate every day before coming up the river or they attack excitedly that strange shrimp they have never seen.

Recently since I concerned myself with salmon fishing I have often been annoyed by that mysterious bite. In salmon fishing we have much less bites than trout fishing. Naturally it is a nerve-racking work not to miss precious chances. Therefore, the problem might weigh on my mind too much. Surely there are some kinds of bites that have never made me hook up fish's jaw. As for sudden strong bite the hook often comes off. But it does so after the fish once catches the hook. So my case here is different. Now one of the worst bites for me is what I feel "coon". It is a mysterious sign. Another one is what I feel "far, far", also a mysterious sign. One thing is sure, I never succeed in hooking by all means and one day that kind of signs frequently comes and lasts. Then I am frustrated all day long. One more thing to add is that many other anglers feel that mysterious sign on the same day.
I keep waiting for a bite in the wide and large stream without knowing when it comes.

When I have a question I usually ask it to good ghillies. I know they cannot give me a correct answer immediately since my question has no definite answer. But they spend the longest hours at the riverside, so they often give me a precious hint. Jonas, a Swedish ghillie, told me two interesting stories about the mysterious bite. Those stories are what he really saw several times during his long career as a ghillie.

One story is about 10 years before. Jonas was watching the river with autumn sign on the bridge. A wind made a tiny leaf flutter to the water surface. To his surprise, a salmon suddenly came up to the leaf from the deep bottom of the pool. Then the fish pricked it with its nose, bit it several times as if it had examined its taste, vomited it and bit it again. Then the fish disappeared. Jonas watched the whole scene and thought that the salmon clearly knew that it was not bait but a leaf.
This salmon came up with Rose Mary in its mouth. I want to ask it why it had the fly in its mouth.
1-1/4 inch Green Wasp. Salmon play with this fly although it must be regarded as bait.

The other story is what happened when an angler tried to fish salmon with lure. Just after the lure settled on the water it bounced back with a big splash. Surely a salmon flicked out the fallen lure with its tail with all its strength. When it happened again, the lure hook caught the salmon tail! Then Jonas saw how the angler got all upset.

After growing very big, salmon are likely to be still as curious as, or more curious than, 20cm yamame trout. It seems that they get their unfavourite thing out of their way or play with what they know is not bait. When I was trying to fish steelhead I had a similar experience. Probably not only salmon but also other fish behave in that way. That might be a key to the mysterious bite. The following is just my imagination because I have never seen the scene. But it might be rather common that salmon flick out the fly or hurl themselves at the fly line or leader in the water.

-- To be continued --
2001/07/29  KEN SAWADA
Tranlated into English by Miyoko Ohtake