#1. The Right Tool for the Job.
I have never looked down on bait fishing, it just never interested me. At a young age skewering worms on hooks didn’t grab me. After a few years of fly fishing though one thing became clear to me about fishing, it’s about catching fish!
So what do you do when conditions render any type of fly fishing ineffective? Find a new way down. What you will find on your home waters is that there are areas that are unfishable due to high levels or deep runs. There are few rivers, if any, that would be 100% fishable on the fly. So if you have access to only one river system it may be best for you to learn the different ways to fish it. Really it comes down to, do you love catching fish or do you love nothing but fly casting?
#2. You Learn What the Bottom of the River Feels Like.
Let’s say compared to fly fishing, bait fishing can get heavy handed when it comes to weighting line. This is something that many fly-only fishermen don’t fully grasp. We may use a bit of split shot, but much of the weight we use is on the fly itself. This is simply because the more weight you put on your line, the harder it is to fly cast. It is possible to cramp on tons of weight while fly fishing, but as a friend on Reddit puts it, “Actually with Great Lakes Steelheading, and Salmon fishing, chuck and duck casting lot’s of weight (including pencil weight) is fairly common with a fly rod. Not very pretty at all, but quite effective.”
That said, if you are not consistently bumping the bottom while bait fishing you are probably not getting in front of the fish (that is if you are fishing with roe or yarn balls). So, you feel every rock, pool, back eddy, log, stick and hiding spot a fish could be hanging out in. This leads a fly fisher to a better sense at reading waters. You develop a better connection with what you feel at the bottom of the river and what you see on the surface. Deep sections of the river are much more subtle with their surface indications, so when you learn those it makes it that much easier to read the more shallow, fly fishing waters.
#3. Sometimes the Fish Don’t Bite, No Matter What.
The worry of every angler is not getting your bait, fly or lure in front of your trophy catch. Everything we do from fly selection to casting technique is centered around getting the thing on the end of your line into the mouth of a fish. So when the bite is off we fret and fear that we are doing something wrong; too much weight, not enough, wrong fly, correct fly but wrong cast, etc.
Bait fishing is no exception to this but it does present a bit of finality to that fear. That is, you have put one of the most tasty, smelly and realistic food source in front of the fish and they say, “No, not hungry. Thanks though!” This thanks usually manifests itself in a few rolls on the surface, just so you know they are there.
I have heard many times that a good bait fisherman makes a better fly angler. You definitely learn your fundamentals bait fishing as well as get a good feel of the water. I would encourage every fly fisher who has never tried their hand with a tub full of roe and a level-wind reel to go out and try it. Grab someone who knows what they are doing and have them show you the ropes. You will find new waters you have not been able to fish on a fly and catch some fish you may not have seen otherwise. Like this one: