Ultralight fly fish after frontal passages
...to catch more fish!

article and photos by Bill Byrd

I was fishing on a favorite lake with beautiful fall conditions in October. Winds were from the North at 10 gusting to 28. Air temp was 50 not factoring chill in. There were a handful of clouds, much sun, and I was ALONE on the lake! I had a really tremendous day.

These conditions reminded me to first write my article about Fly Fishing in wind... to catch more fish.

It also reminded me that so many fishers accept the notion that it is a waste to go fly fishing on a frontal passage. So now you have my article on fishing frontal passages. Both fishing situations are similar, but sometimes it is windy without a frontal passage.

I have always been told that fish won't hit on a frontal passage. The barometric pressure changes, winds come up, sometimes temperatures drop. "It shuts the fish down!" If you don't believe that ask anybody -- except me! I have a good friend who has a serious name for that condition. I won't repeat it.

I bought into the "don't fish on fronts" idea until one day, I wanted to go fishing and a front hit the night before. The temps dropped, wind came up, next morning there was a high sky. I decided that I was going to fish. I just didn't care about the weather, and you know what, I had a great day!

Do you know the best time to go fishing? When you can! About eleven years ago I made it a point to fish under ALL of the worst conditions that had been described to me by other fly fishers. The worst conditions included: heat, cold, wet, dry, bright, dark, windy, or too calm weather, stained water, muddy water, opaque water, too high a water level, too low a water level, drought, flood, and the lake just turned over. I decided I didn't care about what I'd been told, I would fish the worst conditions I could find and discover my result.

The result: I caught plenty of fish in all of those "terrible" conditions. How? I didn't bother to handicap myself believing the party line on those situations -- I just went out there and did what worked. Everyone can come up with excuses and reasons. The fish are there. Just get out there and find them.

When most fly fishers are faced with frontal passages and wind, I believe that their immediate reaction is negative. Instead of negative thoughts, put that wind AND sun to use to HELP you catch fish! I do it on every frontal passage that I fish and that is often. You can, too. Downsize your tackle and flies, be patient, use stealth presentations, and probe a LOT of good looking water from shore to 6 feet deep.

I have noticed one feature about fronts and frontal passages -- fish seem to hold a little closer to shallow cover than at other times. They may also suspend near or above breaklines, because all critters like edges. So be prepared to fish carefully and thoroughly when seeking fish around cover in these conditions.

Here's one way to set up. In the frame (RIGHT) you see what might be normal lakeside surroundings on a pond or lake familiar to you. The bushes with overhanging branches represent cover for the fish. Especially in high sun periods, fish will gather under the bushes back in the dark.

Fish disappear under cover not because their eyes are hurt by the sun, rather they have the best protection from predators and can see sun drenched areas best while hiding back in the shade. Should an insect fall close by, they see it immediately and usually dart out, smack it, and quickly return to cover. For more details on fish vision, click on my article called FISH EYES.

In the image above right or below left note the wind direction. Fish face and feed into the wind. Why? The wind itself is an air current and blowing across a lake, pushes the water's surface and sets up a weak water current. That wind created water current moves food to the fish just like a stream based water current.

In this situation, the wind is causing a slight amount of water current that will push insects fallen on the surface or small minnows suspending near shore into the fish's feeding lane.

To use that knowledge to your advantage, find a way to position yourself and fish the wind facing areas in bright sun. It can be a grassline in full sun with the wind blowing into it, or a log as pictured left.

In either situation hold well out from shore and cast downwind directly to the shore stripping your fly out, or position yourself upwind and cast your fly down and crosswind, then strip your fly across the area (crosswind) where fish are looking into the wind. Make several casts into the area from the outside to the inside.

This works in shallow or deep water, on a river in an inside bend or outside bend, or on a pond or body of water with wind creating a current.

When you have the opportunity to fish this situation, tie on your choice of top water fly and probe the area. Don't cast immediately to the area you are fishing. Cast well out front and to both sides of the target area, particularly upwind of the area (to the right in this case) five to seven feet out front of the bush. If there are fish holding on the outside edge looking into the wind, you can catch them without disturbing the bigger number of fish actually holding close to the bush and under it in the shaded areas.

Let your fly naturally wind drift into the strike zone, and if you don't get a strike, strip it out in short 2 inch strips, then pick it up to cast. Don't rip your fly off the water out of the area. Then you are ready to cast the area again without having spooked the fish on your previous casts.

Cast back and forth across the front of the area, casting farther in toward the bush each pass. You'll systematically fish all of the water, and catch the outside fish without disturbing the inside fish, and you should catch many more of the available fish. Then cast closer and closer to the bush or cover, and finally up under the overhang of the bush or next to the cover.

Fish may hold really tight to cover on these high sky, bright days. Be patient and fish thoroughly. When you find fish, really fish the whole area.

If the fish don't respond to your top water fly, tie on a slowly sinking subsurface fly and repeat the process. When you find out what the fish want to eat, you'll have the pattern, and you'll be prepared to use the wind and sun to help you catch the fish.

Fish on frontal passages -- learn to use your knowledge, the sun, and the wind to catch many more fish in these sometimes trying front dominated circumstances, and you may be rewarded with a fish like you see right!