Odds 'n' Sods of Information and Opinion

The Competition Theory for missing fish

Like generals guilty of preparing for the last war, fishermen everywhere, myself included, show up on the water with whatever worked last time. Sometimes we're lucky and sometimes we're not.

I have a selection of tube flies that have worked extremely well for me in past years, in no small part due to their upturned points that allow me to get the flies into the rocky, snaggy, fishing holding water. This year however, they produced a lot of nips, plucks and bumps, but few hook ups. The fish were there, they were hitting, but doing so without much aggression and in the process missing the hook points.

So I went back to the drawing bard and redesigned them to be more reliable with tentative takers. That design change did improve the hookup rate, but it didn't change the tendency to pluck instead of smash.

Talking to other anglers, especially the centrepin boys, I've confirmed that numbers are way down this year. There just aren't a lot of fish in the system. The few fly swingers that did seem to be having a bit of luck, were swinging small wet fly patterns.

We haven't had a lot of rain and the river levels have been relatively low, but other years we've had the same conditions and I've had a great season. Low water levels aren't it, clarity doesn't work as an excuse, and water temperatures have actually been favourable, so what's the problem?

The only thing I can come up with is that low numbers of fish reduce the competitive stress in individual fish. Fish that aren't under competitive stress aren't as likely to crush a fly as there isn't another fish in the hole that is likely to compete with it. If there are three fish in a hole and a fly swings by, there may be a competitive urge to nail it before the other two fish get to it first. But if that fish is alone in the hole, then it can take its sweet time, mosey on up to the fly and give it a np to see if it is worth eating. If the fly is small, then the odds are improved that a nipping fish will find the hook point.

Looking back on past seasons when fish have been crushing my Emerald Shiner or the B&C Thingy, I've often hooked multiple fish in the same part of the run. Some of the takes have been violent. This year, there have been no multiple hookups in the same run and all of the takes have been tentative. Hardly conclusive evidence I realize, but worthy of some consideration.