In the last post on Owens Creek, I posed the question of overlooked fishing spots. While I did not see the potential of Owens when I fished it last April, as I wrote the post, I came to realize I was looking at Owens with my 48 years of spin fishing affecting my perspective. Maybe all new fly guys go through this epiphany! Which is... with flies, you can fish where a spinner won't spin!
This opens up water all up and down the stream. All I need to do as a fly guy is look for water that is deep enough to hold a trout and work it with a dry or nymph or even dead drift a streamer. The instant result of this is that a fly guy can exploit the "pillow" effect of water in a stream as it flows around rocks. We all know to target the calm water downstream or a large rock. Based on the energy equation that demands that a trout use less energy than it takes to feed, they will hang in the calm water and snap up anything from the faster moving water rushing by - but not hold where they have to swim hard just to stay in place.
Obviously, each rock has a front and a back. The back is where we all recognize the calm water, but the front as a calm area that is known as the "pillow". When the faster moving water slams into a rock, it creates a calm area where it bounces back off the front of the rock and the fish will hold there. The experts claim that the larger fish will usually live here since they get first dibs on anything moving downstream and the smaller fish will hold in the calm behind the rock.
When spinning, it is close to impossible to get a spinner to work the pillow effectively. Usually, the spinner is swept downstream before the blades have an opportunity to spin. With fly equipment, it does not matter. We can flip a dry fly or a nymph into the flow upstream of the pillow and drift it through the target area without much problem. Streamers would work fine as well if you dead drift them into the target.
The bottom line on this is that I need to look at water with this in mind. Any likely rock or other structure could hold a decent sized trout. It's a matter of identification and tactic - dry, nymph or streamer.
Fly guys are not limited to traditional pools like this one at upper Owens Creek!
In the picture below left, the white arrows indicate the typical places you would probably work either a spinner or a fly if you stumbled up to this spot. Pretty easy since the gradient here is gentle and you can work a spinner without problem. In the picture below right, it's a different story. While you might be able to work the white arrows, the rock the red arrow points at would be out of bounds. But it would be an easy target for fly gear. Just drift the fly downstream and you can work the pillow and the rear of that rock.
With this in mind, miles of water that I would have walked by with my spin rod now become a target. Skinny water, like the water I discussed in the upper section of Big Hunting Creek might be more lively than my initial assessment.
The other fact that jumps out of this is that if you have the ability to walk the stream before you fish it (perhaps taking a stroll up 50 yards) to see what is there, you can hone your approach and the strategy. While I do not recommend tromping up right next to the stream, there is plenty of water that has a trail either above or back from the stream that you can use to move undetected.