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Fly Fishing Tips: Cast To Ledges

Remember last fall when it took you longer to clean the splattered remains of big bugs off your windshield than it did to fill the gas tank? That was the beginning of terrestrial time on mid-west trout streams. A time to put away your summer fly box and bring out the one with big bushy flies for big hungry trout.

Flyfishing Tips and Techniques - Cast to EdgesThe majority of Missouri’s, and most mid-western trout streams, are not bordered by grass or pastures. They are tree lined. Typical western terrestrial techniques, where hoppers are the common fare, just aren't that productive. Successful mid-west terrestrial fishing means a modification of both fly and tactics.

The Missouri terrestrials includes everything from beetles to crickets to ants and every thing in between. Such a wide array of “hatches” lead us to a terrestrial hybrid we call the The Madam. As the name implies the The Madam is a variation on the classic Madam X. The Madam combines the features of several different terrestrial insects and patterns into a one fly fits all pattern. The crystal chenille body mimics the metallic sheen of many beetles. The black color represents a cricket. And, the natural brown deer hair wings and the rubber legs work as a generic imitation. For whatever reason it works.

The Madam is most successful fished starting in late summer and keeps catching fish until the first hard killing frost. This is the time that the terrestrials are in the “autumn of their life”. They are at both their biggest and at their weakest. Cool or cold nights slow them down. Breezes, that pick up as cool night turn to warm days, shakes them lose from their grasp on the leaves and branches. With each breeze more terrestrials falls from the trees and splatts down on the water.

Fly Fishing Tips and Techniques - Cast To LedgesWe have a saying about how to fish The Madam. Our ditty is, “Cast to the Ledges, the Edges and Up Under the Bushes. Many areas of Missouri's rivers, such as the upper Current and the North Fork of the White, are lined with limestone bluffs or lower out cropping ledges. These areas are the Ozarks’ under cut banks. An underwater evaluation of these areas would reveal a myriad of nooks and crannies. Add to this that portions of bluffs and ledges are continuously falling into water to provide cover and that there is seepage of cool ground water entering the river and you have the perfect spot for a big trout to lurk. White, are lined with limestone bluffs or lower out cropping ledges.

For most of the year, “Cast to the Edges, means casting to current seams. But, during terrestrial season “Cast to the Edges” means casting to the edge of the stream. Often to within inches of the bank! Fall trout seem to know that the biggest and the best mouthfuls of food originate at the river’s edge. And they are there waiting to gobble them up.

Since we are not talking about the typical terrestrial, a hopper, where do most of them come from? They literally come raining down from tree branches that hang pout over the river. In our ON STREAM STRATEGY Terrestrial class, when our first student catches or raises a fish, we have the entire class wade to the spot where the fish rose. When we tell them to do it, they look at us like we were crazy. But once they get there and we tell them to look up over their head at the tree canopy, they begin to understand what we are trying to teach them.

Fly Fishing Tips and Techniques - Cast To LedgesCasting a big bushy fly like The Madam has both its good points and its bad points. On the plus side, a less than perfect cast and presentation can is often is a good thing. A big beattle falling from an over hanging branch doesn’t land delicately on the water. It lands with a resounding splat and splash. This great news for beginners! That poor cast just became a great on. On the downside, a big wind resistant fly requires a modification to your typical casting stroke. Even further on the downside is the preferred casting locations. Prime places mean more than your share of lost flies.

When you find that location where in one cast you can “Cast to the Ledges, The Edges, and Up Under the Bushes” Your Mid-West terrestrial time will be a season to remember.

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