“Experience is the name everyone gives to their mistakes.” – Oscar Wilde
I fish…a decent amount. You would think this would make me a fairly passable fisherman. Sometimes the stars line up and I knock it out and I think “Damn, I’m actually pretty ok at this.” Most days though, I am decidedly middling and I wade along having a decent grasp of what I need to do to catch some fish and stumble into a decent one. Even so, there are times on the water I forget something so maddeningly basic that I wonder if maybe bowling is more my speed. So here’s some of the silly things I screw up even though I know better. Laugh at me. Learn from my pain.
Sharp Hooks and Sure Knots-
You may find this hard to believe but occasionally I hook things that aren’t fish. Trees, rocks, my shoulder blade, a submerged stick that I fought like a fish for a full 30 seconds, and one time a park bench have all been on the receiving end of my hooksets. Almost all of these things are the fishing equivalent of taking your expensive chef’s knife and bashing it on the side of a cast iron skillet. It’ll sometimes still do the job afterwards but you probably need to change it up. The same goes for knots. After a few fish (or rocks) always take the time to check your hooks for sharpness and re-tie your knots. That or blow it off and figure it out when that 18” fish comes unbuttoned mid fight or swims away with your tippet.
Fish ALL The Water-
I see this one almost every time I’m out fishing. Some guys find a good hole and they may as well set up a tent for the afternoon as much as they move. Fish love deep holes and a lot of time you have a good shot of meeting the biggest fish in that stretch at a good one but I have never come across a hole so good that it necessitated staying for longer than 20 minutes. Cover ground. Fish the runs and riffles and any shallow areas adjacent to the pool. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being thorough but hit as much of the creek as you can and look for the most aggressive fish in the river. You’ll catch more, and larger fish if you do.
It’s Not The Size of the Fly; It’s How You Fish It-
“Big fish eat big food. I need to throw some meat.” I mumble to myself as I huck the biggest, nastiest streamer or deer hair bug in my box across the pool. We all love to picture a big bass lying in wait just hoping a giant bullfrog or small terrier will come and offer itself up as a meal but the truth is in most cases a large fish is just as likely to eat a much smaller frog (or dragonfly or whatever a size 8 popper is supposed to be.) Personally I feel like in a lot of situations a smaller meal that presents less of a challenge to capture and eat will probably be less of a commitment for the relative protein it offers. I love every fly Kelly Gallup has ever tied but especially in a small creek or river situation a Size 6 Sneaky Pete will do the job just as well.
Slow is Smooth. Smooth is Fast-
This one has two parts that are distinct but boil down to the same fundamental “problem”. There are very few things on this planet more exciting than sight fishing. It’s entirely too easy to spot a superb fish hanging out in range and completely lose your fundamentals and muff a cast or retrieve. The basic mechanics of the most common casts are fairly simple once you have a good understanding of them and it’s extremely important to always take a second and reset your mind before you take a shot at your fish.
On the same note slow wading is as important to fishing as anything else. Sometimes you see some cover just downstream and it’s like the rest of the water doesn’t exist. As you’re hurriedly working your way to the promised land you have probably spooked 5 fish that were holding in the great run you stomped through. Fly fishing is the slow sport. Take your time both in your casts and in your steps. It can be the difference between looking at the fish of a lifetime in your net and watching him disappear forever under the rock ledge you didn’t notice.
Change It Up-
Fishermen are one of two things for sure, liars or superstitious. I know this is true because anyone who tells you they aren’t superstitious is most definitely a liar. No one among us doesn’t have a favorite pattern they turn to when the going gets tough, or a standard starting fly that is usually the first one tied on. Maybe it’s the hot fly this season or an old stand by that (almost) never lets you down. As it happens sometimes we have a tendency to over rely on our go to’s even with evidence staring us in the face that we need to make a switch. Have bass rising up and investigating your poppers or following your streamers but not committing? Change. It. Up! Maybe a size down will work. Or a change from black to chartreuse. Whatever it is the fish is talking to you and she’s telling you that you’re almost there. Figure out that last step and close the deal.
That’s that guys and gals. Hopefully you got a little refresher on some stuff that may have slipped your minds or if nothing else you got a chuckle about how often I screw up fishing. Either way until we meet again on this page (or at Bronzefest, September 8-9th at Hootentown Campground. Tickets on sale now!) Tight lines, be chill to each other and Free. The. Fighter.
OH. Don’t trout set on bass. Strip set. Strip set. Strip set.