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Joe Goodspeed presents on fly fishing marginal water for big browns - Part 1

Shown here is one of many big browns Joe Goodspeed has caught in marginal water.
Shown here is one of many big browns Joe Goodspeed has caught in marginal water.
Joe Goodspeed / Al Hazzard TU

When it comes to fly fishing, Joe Goodspeed fishes a very good game. He also makes a pretty convincing presentation on the subject. Such was the case on Tuesday night, May 20th, when he gave a talk on fly fishing marginal water for big brown trout. In the audience were over two dozen Al Hazzard TU chapter members and guests, ears and eyes wide open. His presentation covered so much ground, and was packed with so much information, that this article will be in two parts in order to cover the material adequately.

As background, Goodspeed is well renowned for his fly fishing ability, particularly his nymphing skills. A fly fishing product manager for Cortland Line Comapny, Joe Goodspeed has developed euro-nymphing specialty lines for Cortland as well as a specialized nymph rod that's named the Competition Nymph Fly Rod. His lines and the fly rod that he developed have both developed a strong following.

Goodspeed's message was simple in some ways and deeply 'fly fishing philosophical' in others. He started his presentation by talking about how highly publicized creeks, streams, and rivers are pounded so much by anglers that the trout that inhabit them change their habits and behaviors significantly. Joe used the popularity and success of night fly fishing for trout as an example of just how much trout will change to avoid fishing pressure. He postulated that while brown trout will always be nocturnal to some extent, many, especially the big browns, become forced to feed at night. He also stated that this pressure causes trout to act in unpredictable ways, adding that "where fish are not stressed, they are much more predictable". Why, for example, would a trout rise to a well fished artificial fly, expending precious energy, and then refuse it at the last minute? In a natural setting with no or low angling pressure, Goodspeed reasoned that this would not happen where a fly is correctly fished.

Joe talked about the 90/10 fishing rule. Commonly stated as "10% of anglers catch 90% of the fish", he said this rule should be re-stated as "90% of anglers fish 10% of the available trout waters". He stressed that there are a lot of flowing waters deemed 'marginal' in New York state that hold some very big trout and that most of that water is never fished for the following reasons:

  • Publicity - highly touted waters draw anglers away. Conversely, a lack of information on marginal waters causes anglers to not seek them out or even try them.
  • Location - marginal waters can be difficult to find without the right methods.
  • Work ethic - anglers can be lazy in some cases and not want to do the work to get off the beaten path.
  • Time - some anglers don't feel they have enough time to explore. The precious time they do have is time they want to spend fishing, not working on developing potential fisheries for future fishing.

Goodspeed then talked to 4 main points related to fly fishing "marginal", unpressured water. He is convinced that these 4 strategies will lead to catching big trout in many waters that most anglers would never fish:

  • Location
  • Timing
  • Position
  • Presentation

Part 2 of this series will be posted soon. In the next and final article, more detail will be provided on the strategies and tactics Goodspeed uses to land some very big browns in overlooked waters.

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