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Angler's Journal: Fly Presentations Guaranteed to Catch Fish

By King Montgomery

The wind blew the hairbug over a small branch of a bush growing at water's edge. I swore at the swirling wind that caused this errant cast. The fly swung like a pendulum, barely tickling the surface of the water. On my third "friggin' wind," a three-pound smallmouth bass inhaled the dangling fly, pulled the fly and leader free from the bush and headed for deeper water. A few determined runs and magnificent leaps, and the smallie came to net.

This unique presentation has worked before, particularly when it's windy, which it usually is. (Have you ever noticed that the wind starts blowing seemingly from all directions at once, as soon as you uncase a fly rod?)

On those rare calm days, the presentation is more difficult because you have to be accurate enough to cast over the appropriate overhanging limb. This and other never-miss presentations can help improve our casting by encouraging us to take lessons, to watch casting videos, apply what is being taught and to practice more often.

The wind again. My poor stern-mounted trolling motor had been grinding against its force for two days and the battery was tired. I placed a Dahlberg diver within inches of the shoreline rip rap when a monster gust of wind spun the Jon boat like a top. I transferred the eight-weight to my left hand, reached over with my right hand to engage the trolling motor to counter the wind and a huge bass blew up on the fly, sending water six feet into the air -- or so it seemed. Bent over awkwardly, my right hand flailing to turn off the motor completely off-balanced, I struck the fish with my left hand and a five-pound largemouth was eventually landed and released. This unusual technique causes the angler to set the hook only after feeling the weight of the fish, a built-in delay that guarantees a quality hookset.

The popper was gently bobbing near the old pine that had fallen beside the beaver lodge a few years ago. Knowing that a slower presentation is usually better than a faster one, I reached for my Thermos. Placing the fly rod under my left armpit, I strained to unscrew the lid using both hands and much of my strength. Just as the lid gave way, "Jaws" busted the fly and the hot coffee cascaded everywhere. I dropped the Thermos, grabbed the rod, tightened up on the line and landed a nice largemouth.

The "armpit retrieve" was helped by the fussing with the Thermos lid. The unscrewing motion caused the fly to quiver enticingly; it's a deadly method. Spilling hot coffee all over yourself though, is optional. Over the years, I have noticed that no retrieve at all, or at least a very slow one is often the most effective at eliciting strikes.

The final novel, but surefire method to ensure fish will bite is "the call of nature" presentation (lady anglers require great skill for this one). Without going into detail, suffice it to say that I set the four-weight rod down, a sparsely-tied size 6 Clouser deep minnow dangling over the side of the boat at the end of a seven-foot leader, and turned my back to it. (Remember, the wind should always be at your back in this situation.)

Halfway through the act, the fly rod began sliding along the aluminum gunwale of the boat. I quickly turned (big mistake, but it was a pricey fly rod), grabbed the rod and boated a nice black crappie, just under two pounds. I was relieved. Sometimes vertically "jigging" a fly over bottom structure will draw a strike, particularly from panfishes such as crappie and bluegill.

The wind has set down a bit, my clothes are more or less dry and it's time to get back on the water to see what more strange, but guaranteed effective, presentations I can come up with. I'm convinced that the points lost for "style and form" are more than made up for in "innovation and creativity," which often produces more fish anyway.

Try these time-tested and proven methods for catching fish. They work when all else fails.


Our fishing editor King Montgomery is always looking for novel ways to catch fish. It seems he learns new methods each year. These tips work just as well with spinning and casting lures, so give them a try. You can contact King at

Issue 2.17: April 26, 2007