Skipping to the end of the trip I talked with two other boats at the landing that were in fish most all day but really had trouble getting them to eat. I also talked with a few other guys since then that had frustrating results on that same day. We ended the day with 9 hookups and 8 fish to the boat, all on the fly.
The difference really came down to three things, boat handling, patience, and fly selection. At first we found this school (about 300 fish) up on a point and though we did get one to eat the two different flies we cast near the school, there weren’t great responses. Many of the fish would follow but wouldn’t fully eat the fly if they struck it at all. So we switched to a darker pattern, the root beer colored Bay Street Bunny, and the first cast we made got a quick reaction bite, so problem solved on fly selection for this day.
I hear so often from people that they were right in the fish and they just couldn’t get them to eat, and yes that does happen where they just won’t get happy about eating for whatever reason. Most of the time I see in my mind that they have literally gotten right in the middle of the fish, well in that case then no, most likely they aren’t going to eat. Fish all around the boat is not usually a good thing. Waiting on the fish to come back to you or at the least letting them reset is key, this is where your patience comes in.
Boat positioning is easy when the fish turn and come back to you; you just cut them off and strip the fly away from the front of the fish. Most importantly is that any movement you make is done without bumping the boat. When you approach fish that have reset things are a little more difficult. Obviously there are a lot of situations that come from fish direction, sun direction, and depth of water and each one is different. But the outline of those in terms of boat handling is first to help the caster be in position to make an easy cast in front of the fish or as in front of them as possible. Second don’t let shadows from the boat or from the casters fly line lay across the fish. Finally when you are closing in on reset fish try not to get in such shallow water that the bottom rubs this will often spook fish.