As anglers, we all have that pool or run that calls to us like a siren every time we hit the river. If you’re like us, you either think about it the entire drive and pray that it hasn’t already been claimed by another angler or debate whether you should explore and check out a new section. The reasons we’re drawn to our honey holes are obvious and understandable. We know what to expect, we know it holds trout, where they hold and the perfect setup to use. No one likes to get skunked and our honey hole provides us with a sense of comfort that we won’t drive home with a dry net. While it’s great to have that security blanket, we’ve come to realize that there are downsides to constantly fishing your honey hole that not only impact you as an angler but other anglers as well.
To us, fly fishing inspires growth and exploration. The process of becoming a better angler is something that motivates us on and off the water. Unfortunately, we believe that consistently fishing your honey hole not only limits your growth but the growth of other anglers as well. Here are a few reasons why we think it’s important to ditch your honey hole and show other sections of the river some love.
Limited Learning: Honey holes are enticing because they provide us with confidence. Confidence in our setup, approach and that we will put trout in the net. You know exactly where trout hold, what they eat, the perfect drift and so on. Repeating this prescribed approach over and over will likely produce results in this pool or run, but will it work if you move upstream? Odds are, it won’t. Conversely, let’s say someone beats you to your honey hole and that is the only spot you are comfortable fishing. In this situation, you’d be forced to adapt to new water which is a good thing, but we’d prefer to adapt on our own terms and avoid the frustration. Trout spread out and hold in many sections of the river and each section requires a different approach or tactic. If you move out of your favorite pool and into a fast and shallow riffle with the same setup, there’s a good chance you’ll be unsuccessful. Learning how to fish different sections of river takes time, but if you are willing to experiment and make adjustments, you’ll become a better and more well-rounded angler.
The River is Constantly Changing: Our honey holes may appear consistent and reliable but that isn’t always the case. As flows change throughout the year, pools, runs and riffles change as well. During the late spring, the soft run you fished most of the year will likely be running high and fast. During the winter, that same run could be shallow and stagnant. So, while that run provided the perfect habitat for trout during the summer and fall, it may not be a great place for trout to hold during the spring and winter. Trout are constantly moving and finding new sections to hold and feed and this requires anglers to move with them.
Trout are accustomed to angler pressure: While there are a few hidden gems out there, many Colorado fisheries see a high volume of anglers and it’s easy to neglect the fact that trout are smarter than they appear. At the end of the day, trout are concerned about survival which requires food, but more importantly safety. Traditionally, trout are accustomed to hiding from aerial predators, larger fish and carnivores. However, with the advent of fishing, trout have evolved to protect themselves from anglers like us. This is Darwinism at its finest and it is especially impressive on Colorado tailwaters. In most cases, trout will hold in deep water, undercut banks and near obstructions in the water to avoid danger. However, this doesn’t always ensure their safety as it relates to anglers. When a river receives a lot of angler pressure, it isn’t uncommon to find trout holding in those unsuspecting riffles and pockets due to the hordes of anglers running artificial flies through their common safety zones. This is another reason to cover a lot of water. Some of the biggest fish we’ve landed have come out of what appeared to be less appealing water.
Share the Love: One thing we’re all aware of is how quickly the sport of fly fishing is growing. Last year was a big year for the industry as more people discovered fly fishing and used it to escape the craziness of the world and we don’t expect this growth to stop. Rivers have become more crowded and we’ve all been frustrated at one point or another to see all of the prime sections crowded with anglers. This can be hard to navigate but camping out in your honey hole all day doesn’t help the situation. And the drive to hold up in one pool all day isn’t necessarily your fault, it’s the result of anglers fearing that if they leave the section they’re in, they won’t be able to find another productive spot. It’s similar to freeways in Colorado and how the fast lane always seems to be the most crowded. No one wants to switch lanes because they fear they won’t be able to get back into the fast lane when traffic starts moving again. As such, we believe that it is important to stay mobile. There’s no harm in covering every inch with multiple depth and pattern changes or even landing a few fish before you move on, but at a certain point you should do yourself and others a favor by moving on. This will certainly require a collective effort but if we all make a point to cover more water and explore, the more you’ll learn and the better everyone’s experience will be.