In your Sights: Sight Fishing for Bull Trout

"He's huge, cast now, cast now" was all I heard from my buddy who had scrambled up the rocks as my look out. "You're not allowed to talk about size until he's hooked," I mouthed back as this monster bull trout swam doggedly past my misplaced fly. I couldn't see him; but my look out could.

Video: from a glass pool from a Bull trout trip with April Vokey, myself, Brandon Frew & Jeremy Koreski

Sight fishing for anything with fins, from small trout to big trout, from on the salt flats to high alpine lakes is a rush of intoxicating endorphins. It is most likely the reason why we have never put a fly rod down since our first catch. To deceive a fish, a living, breathing being, with an unnatural fly is quite a wonderfully surreptitious thing. It’s sneaky, stealthy and furtive. Sight fishing, if mother nature permits, is an effective way of targeting fish. It not only allows you a moment to read the seams and currents, which allows calculated precision, but it also allows you to target bigger fish within the pool. Although, that being said, just because you can see a bull trout deceptively dogging-down in a hole, it does not mean he will take your perfectly stripped streamer that is cruising within inches of his villainous jowls.

Whether it is small clear tributaries or fish bowl pools, sight fishing for bull trout is a walloping rush. They are aggressive, greedy, bullheaded, carnivorous and at times, cannibalistic. Sometimes they will chase your fly stripping past their strike zone, sometimes they will take the fly on the drop, sometimes on the lift, sometimes it doesn't matter what you have brought as your arsenal, they wont even give you a second thought. Having the opportunity to sight fish for bulls can be uncommon, as typically they hold in the cold clean watered deep tailouts and pools.

1. Can you see them? They can see you.

How many of us as kids tried talking to our friends under water; or swam with our eyes open to try to sense our below surface surroundings? We could probably see the rays of light refracting the banks through the water, and hear bubbly mummers from our friends, but our human senses aren't able to hone in on the sharpness necessary for underwater awareness. Fish are naturally programmed to key into alarming sights, sounds, shadows and movements. Their eyes are situated on the sides of their heads and they have a greater peripheral than humans and therefore can detect large shadows or movement. Their eyes, which are convex and almost spherical focus refractive light rays into true image formation. This is why fish eye lens' are able to take those sharp underwater shots. If you can see them, chances are then that they can see you; particularly on calm days when the water is flat and slow. Approach the water slowly and quietly and allow yourself time to really assess the water's currents, seams and obstructions.