Fly Fishing Education

Reference our latest email to all on fly fishing education:

Here is an email from the Lead of our Denver fellowship, Greg Krotcha. Greg and I flew together at Southwest airlines and from our discussions about fly fishing he started the Denver fellowship at his church. I had the pleasure of fishing with his guys last summer in some of the most awesome fly fishing places in not only the U.S. but the world.


In response to my “education” email, Greg has a few questions (and some kind words) that may help others. I’ll do my best to answer them but remember my answers are just my opinion and there are many fly fishers that may disagree with me. So here it goes, you know, “Kenny says”;





I’m on an overnight enjoying some local area (Spokane, WA) beverages, so excuse me while I “kiss the sky” a bit… I do really miss these SWA opportunities to bond with you brother! For those of you in Kenny’s Fellowship at The Crossing, you are INCREDIBLY lucky to have such a rich resource and “fount-of-knowledge” available nearby!  Seriously, I only flew with Kenny twice in my career at Southwest, and I made him “sing like a canary” on those occasions so I could learn from him! PLEASE take advantage of his expertise when you can!!

So, as previously mentioned, I’m one of those average fly fishers who enjoys catching some really dumb fish. I hope MOST of the guys can relate…

So, how can I REALLY assess if my flies are “in the zone.” On a recent trip on the S. Platte to Cheeseman Canyon, with my buddy Doug, we had access to a run just full of trout at various depths and, if it weren’t for me and my “cement shoes,” we might’ve decided to walk away from this prolific stretch of fish (2 dozen or more), but I just couldn’t resist…am I presenting wrong?…are my flies what they’re eating (I can see they’re feeding on SOMETHING cause I can see their open mouths!)?, …Am I at the correct depth? What’s up?!? In the end, Doug and I walked away with just a couple of fish each at best…


I realize these are incredibly smart fish BUT I, as the superior(?) species, should have an advantage in this game…SO, when do I decide to leave this seemingly prolific spot and let the “other guys” win?!?

Hope we can all learn a little from your words of wisdom…I ALMOST brought my gear here to Spokane but, as luck would have it, the Spokane River (see pic) is in a serious stage of “melt off” and I think I’m doing better here “pondering” with a beer(s) in-hand, than flailing in currently un-fishable  waters.


Maybe I’ll make it home tomorrow from Spokane with the expected “snowmageddon” for Denver…


Help me and the rest of us decide when enough is enough, and to “unstick” our boots…


I’ve taken the leap and am going to try some Euro-Nymphing in the near future…let us know if anyone else in the Fellowship is doing likewise (I’m a split shot HATER and wanna just get my stuff down where the fish are…). 


Your brother from the St. Catherine Fellowship in Colorado,




Greg, thanks for the kinds words. There is a good chance that we will have some of our guys coming out your way this summer so be ready to take us to your hot spots. Since I wasn’t with you in the Cheeseman canyon I can only imagine staring at those wary Colorado trout and not having them want to play with me. But let’s see if I can give some ideas to think about when we have those trout that are feeding but just won’t take our offer.

First, the trout’s brain is about the size of a pea. So, are they smarter than us? I think not or at least I hope not (but it does seem like it most of the time!)

Here is a list of things that I think about when I can see trout feeding but they seem to ignore everything that I throw at them. And believe me I have been there too!

  1. Stealth – are you giving your position away? Are you waving your rod over them? If you show up and after two or three casts they split then be more “stealthy”. Especially in those Colorado rivers and streams.


  1. Presentation – this to me is one of the most important things to master to become an outstanding fly fisher. In this case, we know that they are feeding and that they are there. So that eliminates several things that we need to do to catch the fish, i.e. location and are they feeding.


So, it comes down to two main areas – the correct fly or presentation.  I find most fly fishers “think” they have a good dead drift going but in reality, do not. The fly must look natural, floating down the run. If it is moving too fast (because of line drag) then they usually won’t budge from their feeding spot. If you can get close to them then think about “high sticking” which will keep your fly line off the water and allow less of a chance for “dragging” your flies.


Depth – Is your fly getting down to the fish. Start out with your best guess of the depth (if they are on the bottom) and put your indicator and fly 1 ½ times your best guess of the depth. If your indicator is not hanging up occasionally then how do you know that you are on the bottom? So, get the fly down and make sure it’s down.


Split shot – What’s the difference between a good nymph fly fisher and a great fly nymph fly fisher? Just one more split shot! I know guys don’t like using split shot but if the water is moving fast it’s the only way to get those flies down in the “target zone” for a longer period. You can also try heavy bead head flies like they do in Czech nymphing. Moral of the story is get your flies down in the target zone.


Indicators – They must be the right size and sensitive (and stealthy). Landon Mayer, famous guide on the Dream Stream in Colorado likes using a clear thingamabob indicators for stealth. I use them but really like the New Zealand indicator system – very sensitive for those subtle strikes. What do I mean about the “right size”?  Basically, if you are using split shot or heavy flies then they can pull the indicator down far enough on the water surface that they no longer can indicate to you a subtle hit. You will have to use the next size larger. So, have several size indicators with you.


Subtle Hits – When indicator fishing set the hook on ANY MOVEMENT that is not indicative of a normal flow. I see so many guys wanting to set the hook only when the indicator goes under water. Set the hook for any twitch, slow down, stop – set the hook. If the trout isn’t there fine but many miss the trout that takes in the fly, slows the movement of the indicator, and spits the fly out – fish lost.


  1. The Fly – Ok, we have done everything with presentation perfectly. So, maybe it’s the fly? Which fly to use can be confusing, especially if we have never been to an area before. Did you check in with a local fly shop for advice? Did you observe the area before fishing it; bugs, turn over rocks, seine the stream, etc.? Yes, I did all that and the fly shop says the RS2 is the hot fly. Then we need to think about the size of the fly. If you are using an 18 with no luck then I would always go smaller in size, so try a 20 or 22. What size tippet are you using? 5X could be too big if the water is gin clear so try 6X. Maybe fluorocarbon tippet vice regular mono tippet. If the current is very slow and gin clear, you may have to drop down to 7X tippet!

Ok, is there more to discuss? Sure, there is! Fly fishing “education” is never ending. We are always learning – each time out on the water and each time we study and read about this awesome sport. If anyone has any more suggestions/techniques to think about in this situation, let us know. Now what this may lead up to is developing a forum for our fellowship. One that all four fellowships can participate. The Rocky Mountains, Ozarks and Smokey mountains are all different in techniques and styles. If we can discuss them all and learn from them, we would be awesome fly fishers. Let us work on a method to get all of us discussing this sport – more on this to come.

Greg, praying for continued success for your fellowship. Tell your guys I said Hi.


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