Kicker Fish

Photo by Brian Doyle.

I cannot tell you how many times guiding during the year I see anglers talk about wanting to cast to the bank on the other side of the stream. Usually something along the lines of stepping into a piece of water and them turning to me and saying “Wow, there has to be a fish over there by the bank”. Sometimes they are right, but often, I reply with “And how many fish are you neglecting between that far bank and your rod tip? I mean how how many fish are you willing to cast over just to try your luck on the far bank that looks appealing?”. If there was ever a way to apply the old “grass is greener on the other side” mantra to fly fishing, it would certainly be this scenario.

I want to make sure to note that I am not discouraging anglers to fish the far bank or what appears to be “the greener side of the stream”. I am a firm believer of covering every inch of a section of water in order to maximize catch rates. This means that I am not a fan of anglers skipping pieces of water in order to “cherry pick” what they feel are the good sections. An angler should always work the water from close to far, meaning start with what’s right in front of you and slowly work towards the next closest section, doing so in a way that will not skip over or spook any fish. Reading water and having the ability to know where the most productive spots for catching fish is one of the most important aspects of being a great angler, but that still doesn’t grant permission to skip over the not so good sections.

When fishing a piece of water, given certain conditions, there will be certain areas and water types that will be more likely to produce fish than others. Those areas should be focused on more heavily than the water types that are less appealing to produce fish that day. However, it is obviously much easier to catch fish in the “good spots”. The thing that separates a great angler from a good angler is the ability to produce fish in the spots that are not ideal. Going back to the days I fished competitions, we referred to these fish caught in the not so ideal spots as “kicker fish”.

“Kicker fish”, whether your a competitive angler, guide, or just out catching fish for a good time, make a significant difference in a day of fishing. As I said before, there are ideal holding spots in streams that produce fish almost every time they are fished. The not so ideal spots hold a smaller number of “kicker fish” that are much harder to catch due to the water type they live in being more technical (harder to get good drifts in and harder to approach). These are the fish that add up and make a significant difference at the end of the day.  These “kicker fish” can be the difference in winning a session or not, or they could be the difference that turn a good day on the water into a great one.

It can be easy to fall into the trap of looking for the greener grass on the other side of the stream. Don’t get trapped and swayed into fishing only the ideal holding spots, or “that far bank that just looks so good”. Focus on the fish close to you and cover the water one holding spot at a time in a way that makes sure you do not skip over fish. Fishing in a way that covers water to maximize catch rates requires a serious amount of discipline, but at the end of the day that angler will be rewarded with a higher number of fish. Whether your fishing in a competition, guiding, or just out for a good time, catching some “kicker fish” will lead to a more successful day on the water.

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Photo taken by Bryan Doyle. This is a shot from Bryan’s trip to the White River over the winter. To read about Bryan’s trip, click HERE.

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