“So, what’s the hot fly right now?” my son-on-law asked one of the fishing guides as they sat in Joe’s, popular watering hole in Craig.
“Wouldn’t matter if I told you, ‘cuz you still couldn’t catch fish,” the guide replied somewhat arrogantly.
“You kiddin’ me?
“You can’t catch fish because you probably don’t know how to put your fly in the bucket!”
“What’s the bucket?” I asked Mark Raisler, co-owner of Headhunters Fly Shop on the Mo.
Mark told me “the bucket” is a steelhead term for the hole or depression behind a rock.
For a fish, there’s no need to waste valuable energy fighting current, when they can duck in behind a rock and wait for food to drift by.
The first rule of fishing the bucket is to not spook the fish.
Wade or position your boat so you can effectively drift a fly into the bucket without scaring the fish.
Food concentrates along seams so drifting a dry fly right over the top of a barely submerged rock may not work as well are working the seamlines on the sides of the rock.
Drifting a weighted fly naturally is not easy for any angler, regardless of experience.
Fishing an unweighted fly with a small shot a foot or so above the fly will allow the fly to move more naturally in currents near the bottom.
Dragging a streamer sideways through the water below the rock will fool fish but you really only get one chance.
In many cases, the best option is to carefully drift an unweighted fly along the bucket, picking off fish, one at a time, off the side.
Remember the old saying that only 10 percent of the stream holds fish? To a veteran angler, that number is ridiculously high.
Jerry Smalley’s Fishful Thinking column appears weekly in the Hungry Horse News.