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DanoOctober 13th, 2007, 9:06 am
Vanderbilt, Michigan

Posts: 101
Jason,

No you don't have change the name of your site, perhaps I did go a tad "overboard" making that distinction in trying to make a point. Which is basically that one can make this sport as simple or as complicated as they want. In my experience, the more complicated things are, the less reliable they become...

However, I will say that I find little in your postings herein that I disagree with based not only on what I've read over the years but through personal observations as well.

In my view Swisher and Richards intent when they wrote Selective Trout was to convey to the angler the importance of using/tying flies that more closely resemble the actual insect being fed upon to increase one's chances for "success" rather than trying to convey or prove that trout have any sort of cognative behavior. In fact, their opening chapter clearly states and defines this premis of "selectivity" (fishing presure being but just one of the factors) and the "need" for the angler to respond to these condidtioned influences upon trout.

That their work was the first to take a purely scientific approach to the feeding habits of trout, I think, has been lost on a lot of folks since it's initial publication; hence the word "selective", which by definition would mean that a cognitive choice is made, being overused and/or misused. To this day I'm still amazed by the number of anglers that use the word "selective" and when asked about the book they say, "What book?" Personally, I think your concept of "targeting" (not fixation which, again, implies a cognitive process) is precisely what Swisher and Richards talk about.

In regard to taste and feel, there is no question in my mind that trout posess these sensory receptors not only from conclusions drawn from my own observations but from my readings and seeing slow motion films of trout mouthing and ejecting "food". This is very basic to any form of angling. Does "setting the hook" ring a bell?

The question of color and the use of attractor patterns is an excellent one. Last I knew, the biologists pretty much agree that trout don't see color like humans do, but rather in distinct shades. This is why most will agree that the Adams is such a "must have" pattern.

Along the lines of sight, one needs to understand not only the refraction of light through one medium to another but also the "cone of vision" or window that a trout sees through, the deeper the fish is, the narrower this cone becomes (when directed towards the surface). That trout have a very acute sense of sight is beyond dispute. However, this acuteness is microscopic, (why one will see trout, especially large ones, "inspect" an offering in slower water flows) thus the reason why I stated above that a trout's first line of defense is it's lateral line.

Their olafactory sense is also highly developed and this needs to be taken in account as well. Slathering on some DEET and then tying on a fly without cleaning your hands will ensure that your offering will be ignored. This applies to fly dressing too, a dressed fly should always be put in the water before casting (notice the "slick" when you do?).

That trout are primarily bottom feeders is also beyond reproach, so one should expect to find debris in the digestive tract as a rule rather than an exception. The amount of debris, in my mind, is an indicator only of what was digested in the not too distant past. In my experience, the larger the trout the more debris will be found. This has to do with not only with their "nature" but with prefered lies and "juicy" morsals that tend to live on/in the bottom of rivers and lakes....

I didn't mean to imply that Browns don't feed during daylight hours. They just aren't as active especially the "biggies"...

Lastly, (finally) my whole point is that an angler who is "frustrated" during a hatch should look first to the obvious (the basics) before discounting his/hers lack of success to "selectivity". Did I just "plow" into the river and start flogging away? Where is the sun in relation to my quary and myself? What is the water clarity and my leader length? So on and so forth.....Never loose sight of the bigger picture.

Dano



Eventually, all things merge into one...and a river runs through it.
QuillgordonOctober 13th, 2007, 11:46 am
Schuylkill County, PA.

Posts: 109
Jason:

Is there anyway we can get paid for this continuing discussion; this is more fun than work.
............................................................

I thought you were !

Flyfishing is a state of mind! .............. Q.g.

C/R........barbless
TroutnutOctober 13th, 2007, 3:10 pm
Administrator
Bellevue, WA

Posts: 2533
Though I have absolutely no scientific evidence for it, I think fish might use their mouths as we use our hands - to feel stuff.


You're in very good company with that idea. Gary LaFontaine wrote that he suspected fish in riffles are just as selective as fish in slow pools, but they select things by tasting and spitting them out. Unless there's a hook involved. :) I'm not completely sold on the idea but I'm sure there's some truth to it and it would be interesting to study more carefully.

I often try to develop patterns (and many others do this as well, perhaps without really stopping to think about why) that capture the attention and curiosity of the fish, flies that do things just a little differently from other naturals and artificials they see on a daily basis.


I think that works well for both opportunistic fish (for obvious reasons) and selective fish. This fits with some more ideas I learned from reading LaFontaine (would somebody please bring that guy back to life and send him to this forum??), that selective fish aren't selective to every detail of their target. They may want just size, or just color, or just movement, or just some conspicuous body part, or just a certain light pattern in the surface film, or all of these, or any combination. LaFontaine suggested that, as long as your fly has the features the fish is looking for, it's a sufficient imitation, even if it has some other stark differences. So you could match what the fish wants but embellish your fly so it's easier to detect, and your fly will be "better than the real thing." I think this idea makes a lot of sense, but there are lots of complications with putting it into practice.

Why do some fish expend so much energy on inaccurate rises, flipping two feet out of the water to slap haphazardly at dries?


Trout can be puzzling for sure, but there are always explanations. Maybe when a trout does that it's misjudging what's necessary to catch the prey. Maybe that kind of jumping is a way to show impress / intimidate competitors encroaching on a feeding spot. Or maybe that trout has fed so successfully in the last couple days that it has more energy than it's physiologically capable of channeling into growth, and it spends the excess by "playing," which is really practice for future behavior that may be necessary... jumping after dragonflies or something.

I can't say which one of these (if any) is right. But short-term periods of inefficiency are not inconsistent with trout being long-term efficiency maximizers. Remember I'm thinking about mechanisms that maximize efficiency over the very long term. Trout (like all animals) do many inefficient things for many different reasons on a day-by-day basis. But evolution will still select in favor of a behavior which consistently improves long-term energy gain.

Which is basically that one can make this sport as simple or as complicated as they want. In my experience, the more complicated things are, the less reliable they become...


That's true, but it depends how you define complexity. Many times in science, the least complex ideas are the hardest ones to explain. Theoretical physics is a great example. It's very simple: a handful of small, fundamental equations govern every physical interaction in the Universe, and they are the most reliable things we know. But understanding exactly what those simple rules are and how they scale up to the things we directly observe is very, very, very, very, very, very difficult. Somebody could suggest an alternative idea much easier to understand, like that the Earth is held up on the backs of an infinite stack of turtles, but that idea doesn't have the virtuous kind of simplicity. It doesn't logically lead to answers to all the questions it's supposed to address... it just puts a smile on the face of people who don't ask a lot of questions.

I think virtuous simplicity is about trying to get the most explanatory power from the smallest set of starting ideas. So that's what I aim for with trout behavior. I want to find the simplest set of instincts that would logically lead to the behaviors we're trying to explain. That's a sound method even if it requires a lot of complicated deduction to get from my starting point to my final explanations.

That their work was the first to take a purely scientific approach to the feeding habits of trout, I think, has been lost on a lot of folks since it's initial publication; hence the word "selective", which by definition would mean that a cognitive choice is made, being overused and/or misused. To this day I'm still amazed by the number of anglers that use the word "selective" and when asked about the book they say, "What book?" Personally, I think your concept of "targeting" (not fixation which, again, implies a cognitive process) is precisely what Swisher and Richards talk about.


It's hard to decide which term to use. "Selective" was the first word used to describe the phenomenon we're talking about, so it's the most likely to get everybody on the same page. But if taken literally it does clearly imply a more active cognitive choice than what's really going on. I think "fixated" and "targeting" both have cognitive implications, but they're both minimal, exactly the sort of simple thoughts we might reasonably ascribe to fish. I guess "targeting" is the most precise word to describe this feeding behavior, but fixated may be closer to the mark, since it also implies a reduction in attention given to non-targets and maybe even to other factors such as competitors and predators. That's a whole other can of worms.

Anyway, when I say "selective," you can be sure I'm talking about the targeting behavior you found described by Swisher & Richards. I'm just using the most common terminology even though I agree there are better word choices out there.

Lastly, (finally) my whole point is that an angler who is "frustrated" during a hatch should look first to the obvious (the basics) before discounting his/hers lack of success to "selectivity". Did I just "plow" into the river and start flogging away? Where is the sun in relation to my quary and myself? What is the water clarity and my leader length?


Definitely good advice! As much as I like to think about selectivity because it's such an interesting ecological puzzle, I completely agree that it's given much more credit than it's due as a reason why people fail to catch fish.

Is there anyway we can get paid for this continuing discussion; this is more fun than work.


That's what I'm doing! Not this particular discussion (unless you count revenue from the site, I guess), but for my masters I'm plugging away at a similarly interesting puzzle involving the tradeoffs juvenile chinook salmon make between food and safety.
Jason Neuswanger, Ph.D.
Troutnut and salmonid ecologist
DanoOctober 13th, 2007, 10:14 pm
Vanderbilt, Michigan

Posts: 101
Well, to be frank, I'm way beyond the "whys". I'm a real hardcore fisherman, when I make the decision to catch fish, I go out and catch fish. So I really don't have a compelling need to provide nor search any further for explainations. Don't get me wrong I don't know everything, I'm not a biologist, entomologist, or aquatic scientist. I know enough to go out and catch fish whenever I want. When I tire of playing with the Browns, I switch tactics and play with the 'Bows, when I get bored with them I'll harass the Brookies....

But this is, after all, a forum which purpose is to exchange ideas, opinions, and knowledge (I'm assuming) so that others may benefit. So I really don't know how to respond to your post. I'm reading it mostly as a "philisophical" approach you have.

Fish aren't "logical" so I don't think in those terms in that regard. However, when learning about behaviors, regardless of the subject's position on the food chain, the very first step would be understanding that subject's "biology" and physiology, the next step is observation, then the deductions are made, theories formed and proved. Fortunatly for us anglers, in regards to trout, it would take a couple of lifetimes to wade through the first three steps that have been documented. Until humans and trout learn to communicate with one another we will never know precisely why Bobby Brown is feeding on sulpher while 20 feet below stream Billy Brown is gorging on Green Drakes with only those as the known facts.

On the other hand if Bobby is twice as big as Billy; slurping down those sulphers like a gentleman and Billy is flopping around like a teenager with his ass on fire, I can tell you precisely what's going on. Ol' Bob is the dominant Brown in the pool, he's already had his fill on the emerging drakes 'cause he owns the preffered lie, expends the least amout of energy for the maximum amount of gain, and he's having "desert". Not only is lil' Billy scared spitless of Bob, he's also hungry as hell (Bob's been cruisin around the pool scarfing up the drake nymphs and emergers). Couldn't get near the preferred lie because Bob won't let him near it, so he has one eye on Bob and the other on those juicy drakes that look a damn site better than those puny sulphers. Billy's brain is probably smaller than those sulphers so he figures "what the hell, goin' after them drakes is a lot more easier and safer than tangeling with Bob."

The strategy here is a no brainer, tie on a drake catch and release Billy to calm things down a tad. Then tie on the the sulpher and catch yourself a trout worthy of talkin' about...Simple, really.

Now what was "missing" in this scenrio at the outset was one very simple component: observation. See, the typical flyfisher didn't pay attention to the flycatching type birds flying low over the water as the drake emergance first began, nor did he notice the bulges at the head of the pool. All he was focused on were the drakes coming off the water and finding the "right fly" in his box of 400 other flies. More than likely there was a slew of other observations that he failed or didn't bother to make but I only say that to provide me with yet another opportunity to put observation in this post so that others catch my drift...

Now then, I'm new here and am tickled pink that I found this site. We're smack dab in the middle of the Fall Caddis hatch and because of this interesting and entertaining discussion, I missed catching it this morning which really threw me off my routine. I gotta go nighty night because tomorrow will be even better for playing with the Browns and I need to be well rested and alert. Ta Ta...

Dano






Eventually, all things merge into one...and a river runs through it.
TroutnutOctober 14th, 2007, 12:51 am
Administrator
Bellevue, WA

Posts: 2533
Well, to be frank, I'm way beyond the "whys". I'm a real hardcore fisherman, when I make the decision to catch fish, I go out and catch fish.


To each his own. For most people it's just about catching fish or enjoying the river, and that's fine. But some people are attracted to fly fishing because there are so many interesting puzzles to figure out, and thinking about all of them (on or off the river) is a lot of fun. I'm in that category.

Fish aren't "logical" so I don't think in those terms in that regard.


Well, I'm not suggesting the fish think logically. But logic can be applied to deduce what the results of their simple instincts are likely to be under different situations. Ultimately there's a lot of unpredictability because trout don't always act logically, but when we spot certain trends over and over again, there's usually a logical explanation.

Now what was "missing" in this scenrio at the outset was one very simple component: observation.


Good point... observation can never be stressed too highly.

Now then, I'm new here and am tickled pink that I found this site. We're smack dab in the middle of the Fall Caddis hatch and because of this interesting and entertaining discussion, I missed catching it this morning which really threw me off my routine.


Now I'm happy to have another member on the forum, too, but you aren't supposed to put off fishing for it! Of course, I'm not one to talk... I've been guilty of that very thing many times.



Jason Neuswanger, Ph.D.
Troutnut and salmonid ecologist
DanoOctober 14th, 2007, 7:01 am
Vanderbilt, Michigan

Posts: 101
To each his own. For most people it's just about catching fish or enjoying the river, and that's fine. But some people are attracted to fly fishing because there are so many interesting puzzles to figure out, and thinking about all of them (on or off the river) is a lot of fun. I'm in that category.

I did sound kind of "sterile"...Didn't mean to sound that way at all. When I first started fly roddin' for trout it was the being in the woods and the challenges of using fly tackle that was the attraction. By nature I'm real analytical, so when I was new to it, I glommed on to everything I could to learn about all of the aspects of the sport. There was a time when I believed that "catching one is just the icing on the cake". Believe me, I more than appericiate the beauty of my surroundings. I'm about 30 minutes away from "my stretch" which is to say that I'm stream side no less than twice a week as opposed to 2 or 3 times a month when I was back in Michigan. Being able to fish where the only other "anglers" you run into are Bald Eagles and Ospreys is pretty awsome in my book. Knowledge is power only when it's applied and experience is a great teacher too. My point was that I'm at a point where trout no longer puzzle me and it took years to reach that point.

Well, I'm not suggesting the fish think logically. But logic can be applied to deduce what the results of their simple instincts are likely to be under different situations. Ultimately there's a lot of unpredictability because trout don't always act logically, but when we spot certain trends over and over again, there's usually a logical explanation.

I agree and must've misunderstood, my bad.

Now I'm happy to have another member on the forum, too, but you aren't supposed to put off fishing for it! Of course, I'm not one to talk... I've been guilty of that very thing many times.

Thanks. No biggie I'm flexible enough to make the adjustments. And I've truly enjoyed this discussion. I figure that I'm qualified enough to start giving back so that others can shorten their learning curves. A forum such as this gives one the opportunity to reach more people...sure wish the Internet was around when I was "new". Besides as I said, today's gonna be better than yesterday any who. Gotta go, the car's warming up, need to load it up, and hit the stream: the Browns wanna play.

Dano


Eventually, all things merge into one...and a river runs through it.
GONZOOctober 21st, 2007, 2:32 pm
Site Editor
"Bear Swamp," PA

Posts: 1681
Well . . . here's an interesting thread. And it's also a perfect example of why I often get frustrated with the traditional terminology that is used to frame this discussion in most fly-fishing literature. Despite the somewhat scattered and divergent expressions found here, what strikes me is that there is really much more agreement than appears at first blush. But that's not unusual in discussions or debates about this topic.

Much of the apparent disagreement seems to be driven more by language than by the ideas and observations that the language is trying to express. The rub in trying to make sense of what we observe about trout feeding behavior (or even in trying to interpret what scientific studies do or do not say about it) is that the discussion always seems to fall back on a construction that is neither scientifically defined nor (in my opinion) adequate to describe the phenomena. Trying to get our observations of feeding behavior to fit into the restrictive box of being either "selective" or "opportunistic" always seems to lead to confusion (and frustration).

Consider that trout that focus their feeding on specific prey and trout that only seem willing to accept certain flies are both usually described as being "selective." This is traditionally contrasted to trout that feed on whatever prey is available and trout that are willing to accept many different flies ("opportunistic" trout). That dichotomy seems to make sense at a superficial level, until one recognizes the amount of overlap and contradiction that is involved in the way real trout behave in real situations.

I don't want to repeat the arguments I've made about this elsewhere, but I do want to point out that the situations we describe as examples of trout "selectivity" can be motivated by reactions to positive stimuli (lots of tasty bugs of one kind or another drifting by) or by negative stimuli (getting hooked by flies). This alone should make us question if we aren't muddying the waters by using one term to describe both situations. But it's far from the only problem with the blanket use of that term. And the way the term "opportunistic" is used is nearly as bad, although in an almost opposite way. Opportunism is simply life for most trout.

Gene is quite right to point out that trout are individuals, and that they learn and react in individual ways. And I'd also like to echo Lee's observations about differences in levels of "education." This adds the useful perspective that stream situations and the exposure to pressure they provide are individualized. I really think that Jason and Gene are often describing the same things; it's just that one is focusing on trying to develop some general principles and the other is pointing out exceptions and variations (which can either be individual or situational). Combined, I think they give a very good analysis of the issues.

If you can look at this discussion and break free of the strictures created by the standard "selective" vs. "opportunistic" dichotomy, I think it becomes more useful. These terms are not really mutually exclusive (especially in the ways that they are normally applied), and they certainly don't do justice to all the possibilities of trout behavior. If they really described all that we observe, the practical problems of fly-fishing would have been resolved long ago. Some have, but some may never be. That's a good thing, and it's a large part of what makes fly-fishing and the endless questions it raises so fascinating.

Just to get back to Tim's (Smallstream's) original question about hooks--no, I don't think that trout can figure out what a hook is. At least, not in the usual sense. That would seem to require the ability to form concepts, and I doubt that a trout's cognitive abilities function at that level. However, constant exposure to consistently appearing aspects of flies, fly presentations, and fishing behavior do trigger caution or suspicion among hard-fished trout. So, to put it as simply as I can, I don't think that any trout knows what a hook is, but when a hook is obviously or consistently displayed, some do learn to shy away from the image. I think the same can be true of leaders, shot, indicators, fishermen, or just about anything else that is associated with a negative experience.

Gonzo



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