ADVANCED JUNGLE STRATEGIES
Above: Chase makes the perfect cast into structure, and immediately hooks up.
Above: Gunnar Brammer's video shows the kind of fly presentations that are successful in our waters. He also gives a fantastic overview of what you can expect on a typical week fly fishing with Nomadic Waters. He offers a ton of great tips and suggestions that will really help those who take the time to watch this, there's a lot to learn here!
PS turn down your volume for the video intro!
Look closely at the photo above. Where will your first cast land?
OK, let's try an easier one. Look closely at the photo below. Where are your 1st, 2nd, and 3rd casts going?
PRIMARY target area:
This is a prime lie, and the largest of our fish will always hold the prime lies. This area offers the best cover for ambushes and also provides protection from predators. It gives them a place to sleep at night and an unlimited food source haplessly swimming past. Dominant peacocks will defend these areas ferociously.
THE KEY TO SUCCESS in this area is all about where your fly lands. If it lands deep inside the cover, then that peacock will react and will often chase your fly all the way to the boat to eat it. If it lands outside of the cover, he will still see, but he will treat it like the other hundred bait fish that are swimming around his water. He doesn't need to eat it, or push it out of his area. He could care less.
SECONDARY target area:
Unless there are larger fish cruising through this area, this area is often held by small to medium sized peacock bass. There is less cover, fewer places to hide and ambush, and less available food. Because of this, you will often see schools of fish in secondary target areas. Their numbers offer a slightly better chance at survival. The good news about this area is that if you hook one fish in here, you will very often see multiple fish following. Sometimes they will swipe at the fly that is already hooked in your fish!
THE KEY TO SUCCESS in this area is how you fish your fly. Schooled-up peacocks need to be teased into striking. HUNT your fly, really work it. You will see multiple fish dart out at it the after the first strip, but none of them want to be the first to strike. MAKE them strike, then have an absolute blast trading off doubles with your fishing partner.
Once you've landed a few fish in here, watch closely for larger fish that have been attracted by all the commotion and have been drawn out of their primary lies.
OUTSIDE target area:
Have you noticed that the further we move outside, the larger the target area is? What does this tell you about the importance of an accurate cast in our waters?
Our fly usually lands here by accident. We're stepping on our line, or the fly line is a twisted mess pushing up against our stripping guide, or we've hit a monkey on our back cast. The bottom line is that the fly did NOT go where we wanted it to. Even though we call this a failed cast, fish it all the way back to the boat. DO NOT PICK UP AND RECAST, or you could spook the entire area. Remember, your Guide worked really hard to get you here.
THE KEY TO SUCCESS in this area is how you fish your fly. FISH IT THROUGH. Just because we can't see anything in here, remember that our waters are full of fish and there is a good chance something is looking at your fly. Make the best of a bad situation, and you just might have an epic fish story to tell at dinner!
Closely watch the video below (click the music note to hear the dialogue). See how Kristi lands a fish, fires another cast back into the same places and misses 2 more strikes until her fly is fouled. Her Guide Antonio runs a teaser back through the same spot. Without hesitation, Kristi casts right back in the same place and hooks another fish on the first strip.
This is all taking place in a Secondary Target area where a school of smaller fish are holding tight to submerged structure. See why we love this fishery! This video also shows how our Zone System works. More details are below.
Here's how we break it down:
OUR ZONE SYSTEM
Fly fishing for peacock bass is a very unique experience. Simply floating along and randomly casting to likely structure can be productive, but more than likely this strategy results in missed opportunities. That strategy would be the equivalent of going deer hunting by randomly shooting a rifle through the trees. After years of chasing these fish with a fly, we have worked out an incredibly effective and predictable strategy that is designed to trigger these fish into a strike. TRUST THE SYSTEM!
The ENTRY ZONE is usually structure along the bank, but can also be a submerged point or shallow beach where fish are cruising. This is holding water, ambush water, and is the entry point for your fly. Be ready and ANTICIPATE a strike in this zone the moment your fly lands on the water or after the first strip of your presentation. Strikes in this area represent 20% of your hits in a typical day.
STEP BY STEP TACTICS: Once your fly has landed in the entry zone, lower your rod tip to the water and pull in the slack line. This prepares you for a strike as the fly is sinking. Allow your fly to sink until it disappears out of view. Keeping your rod tip low, strip once (be ready!), stop, then strip again, stop, then strip again with a slightly faster cadence. By now, your fly should still be about 2 feet below the surface and entering the Follow Zone.
The FOLLOW ZONE is critical in our strategy. This is where you need to focus on making your best presentation and making your fly HUNT its way through the water column. Your job is to attract enough attention to trigger a follow or response. You MAY get strikes in here, but this is where the peacocks come up from the depths to take a closer look. Remember: if you see one bass following in this zone, there is a high chance there are multiple bass below him.
STEP BY STEP TACTICS: Keeping your rod low, start stripping the line in with increasingly faster pulls. Your fly should be riding fast just under the surface by the time you are halfway through the Follow Zone.
The STRIKE ZONE is where we hook most of our fish on the fly, representing 60% of our takes. That's right, we see every strike! ANTICIPATE a strike here on EVERY CAST. Right at the boat, right at your rod tip. We’ve actually had fish charge us here so fast that they ran right into the side of the boat!
STEP BY STEP TACTICS: If we’ve brought up a fish from the Follow Zone, we like to stop the fly a soon as it enters the Strike Zone. Now we do a quick sweep of the rod to one side. This change in speed and direction will often trigger a strike. Here, we will sometimes pull the fly right out of a fishes mouth by mistake, or will fail to get the proper hook set because of the short distance. It all happens so fast, its very easy to do. Just drop your fly right back in the water and quickly sweep your rod to the side. That fish hasn’t gone anywhere, he’s still right there looking for your fly. Just be careful with how much your fly line is splashing the water, as this will turn these fish off in a nano second.
OUR ZONE SYSTEM IN DETAIL
The ENTRY ZONE holds our largest fish. Often these fish are deep in cover that we just can't reach with a fly. This is where the Guide offers great assistance. He will cast a large teaser lure, usually a prop lure (and sometimes a smaller surface lure) that kicks up a great deal of commotion. His cast is represented by the yellow line in Slide 1 and 2. As the Guide brings his teaser into the Follow Zone, the front angler makes a cast just past and parallel to it (represented by the red line). By now fish are moving towards the lure. (Slide 2)
The FOLLOW ZONE is the most important, yet least understood part of our entire Zone approach. Whether we see them or not, fish are looking at our fly from a distance inside this zone. We must TRIGGER them into making a mistake. Peacock bass are fierce, aggressive hunters. It's what they're built for. The right presentation/retrieve will trigger an attack that will often draw multiple peacock bass to your fly. When this works, we literally cannot pull the fly away from them fast enough.
The BIGGEST MISTAKE an angler can make in this Zone is to pick up and recast just as the fish are starting to follow the fly. Once that fly line splashes on top of those fish the entire area is now spooked, blowing any chance of a strike. Those fish are gone, wasting all the efforts of the Guide and Guest. This is a very common mistake.
(Slide 3) The Angler in the front (red line) now has a peacock bass that has come up to follow the fly. This action attracts another peacock bass, who is following closely behind.
(Slide 4) The Angler in the front speeds up his presentation, pulling his fish into the Strike Zone, which in turn attracts multiple fish that are now being drawn out of cover by the commotion. Now giving the Angler in the back (blue) plenty of opportunities to cast to aggressive, hunting peacock bass.
The FOLLOW ZONE now has aggressive fish following both the teaser lure and the 1 angler's fly. The Guide will now quickly pull is lure away, exciting the fish even more, and they will start to track the fly (Slide 3). At this point, the angler in the back observes even more fish that have been drawn out of cover out of curiosity.
(Slide 5) By now the Angler in the front either has a fished hooked in the STRIKE ZONE, or at least has fish swiping at his fly. The angler in the back can either cast behind his fishing partner's hooked fish, or can take a shot at the larger fish that are now just entering the strike zone. All of these fish are "lit up", in full kill-mode, and ready to strike.
BOAT POSITIONING AND BOAT ETIQUETTE
(This is important)
Imagine a dividing line that begins at the console of the boat. This dividing line is always 90 degrees from the console, regardless of the angle of the shore. The angler in the front (red) should never cast behind the center console, and the angler in the back (blue) should rarely cast in front of the console. The theory behind this strategy is all about allowing the Guide to maneuver the boat in order to maximize the angler's coverage of the structure.
Each angler has his own responsibilities. The job of the angler in front is to work closely with the Guide, listening to his suggestions. If the Guide is using a teaser, Angler A should be casting right behind or along side the teaser. The job of the angler in the back to work closely with the other angler, timing his casts and making sure the lines do not cross. Avoiding collisions is fully Angler B’s responsibility.
SLIDE A: Working together as a team. Focused. Engaged with the fish that the Guide is attracting. This boat will catch the most fish, the biggest fish, and will have the best experience with their Guide.
SLIDE B: Not working together. Anglers are oblivious of the Guide and of the fish that the Guide is attracting for the them. This is very common!
SLIDE C: Angler A is oblivious of his Guide's efforts. Angler B is trying to work with the Guide, but is crossing lines with Angler A. It is extremely difficult for the Guide to properly position the boat for these anglers.
SLIDE D: Focusing on the spots he missed, fisherman A continues to fish behind the boat. This forces Fisherman B to fish even further behind the boat. Neither Angler sees the fish that the Guide is attracting for them. Now the Guide has to back a boat into an area to get the Anglers to cast in the right place. This is a dumpster fire, and this is very common!
OK, time for a POP QUIZ!
What's wrong with the picture below?
ANSWER: Where are the anglers casting? That's right, BOTH groups of anglers are FISHING BEHIND their boats! It's easy to break it down and figure out why. They probably missed their first few casts, and are trying once again to make the shot. They've missed the fact that each Guide has already positioned them into prime water and is patiently waiting for someone to cast into it. But...no one is fishing it! This is a very common scenario. The result: a mediocre day of fishing for the Guests, and a frustrating day for the Guides.
The GOOD NEWS is that this situation is easily fixed! The Guest has every right to ask the Guide to hold back so they can try another shot, or to circle back and hit that section again. That is NO problem, and the Guide will be thrilled to see that you are actually paying attention.
(Below: The RED line indicates where the anglers are currently casting. The YELLOW line indicates where they SHOULD be casting.)