Jackson, Wyoming's Flat Creek is to fly-fishing what Pipeline is to surfing, so you're bound to get skunked your first time out. "It's part of the challenge with any spring creek," says 15-year Flat Creek veteran Ned Hutchinson, a product manager for Cloudveil fly-fishing gear. Here's how he gets his clients beyond "the one that got away" and into that magical place where Zen, an unhealthy attachment to Izaak Walton's The Compleat Angler, and a fluttering heart collide:
(1) When you approach the water to scout, stay away from the edge. Better yet, BELLY-CRAWL. Cutthroat congregate under the cutbanks and will spook at almost any disturbance.
(2) Once you spot a worthy fish—18 inches or larger—watch it for a few minutes to time its RISE PATTERN. Count the seconds between rises. Often, cutthroat stay down for a few minutes and then come up to eat three or four consecutive times. That's when you strike.
(3) When it's time to cast your flies—gray drakes, mahogany duns, PMDs, and sneaky terrestrials—PRESENTATION is all-important. Use a 12-to-15-foot leader and pick a spot where you can make a drag-free drift.
(4) Stack LINE SLACK in S-curves so a dragless fly is the first thing the fish sees. And try not to let the shadow of your casting line cross the fish. "Lining" a cutthroat is a sure way to scare it off. Now: Wait for it ...