This Week's View

by Deanna Lee Birkholm
July 18th, 2005

Why are Some So Successful in Fly Fishing?

Now there's a title to give pause.

For the new guy just starting out there seems to be an endless list of what he needs to know to become a 'successful' fly fisher. Granted, success is in ones own mind, so the amount of success (catching or landing) will be most relevant to the operator...the person doing the fishing.

There is something called 'beginners luck' and it does work. It also works for children who don't have the good sense to sit still, be calm and watch for a strike. They tend to be making movements of all sorts with the rod and line and amazingly some uneducated fish is just likely to grab onto the fly. I suppose the fish could mistake the jiggling movement as some kind of life form, but I've not really asked any of the fish to explain that one.

Usually the longer one fishes, the more fish one fools. This has to do with fishing in the right places, reading the water, checking for structure, shade, cover, rocks, runs, weeds, riffles and thinking like a fish. If you were a fish, where would you want to be?

Undercut banks, and tree roots (and in ponds and lakes inlets, springs, weed beds, drop-off edges, possible former river or stream beds) all are 'likely' spots for fish to hang out. Topo maps can help with that, or at least give the angler an idea of where to start. But it will take some research to find the right places.

Knowing what insects appear at the various times of the year is very important - as well as the size and type of bait fish which might be found. That holds true for streams, rivers, lakes, ponds and saltwater too.

In our email, as well as on the Bulletin Board, we often see questions from folks who either just had their very first successful outing - or can't figure out why they didn't catch a thing. It wasn't that they didn't enjoy the day or trip, they did, but the catching wasn't what they expected. Or perhaps what they anticipated.

Ever been around someone who couldn't seem to buy a fish? Just couldn't put the parts together? They also don't understand why you did.

Fish envy.

Fly fishing is a mirror of life. You get out of it what you put in. If you are willing to learn, do the research, have patience and some tenacity and figure out what works and what doesn't you will catch fish. Or succeed at whatever it is you wish.

If however, you believe your rod, line, leader, or the fly you used were somehow 'faulty' or that someone gave you 'bad' information or instruction, you probably also have the attitude that everything/everyone else is responsible for your lack of success and you could not in any way possibly be responsible for the outcome. Unfortunately for those who believe that, you can't make that work in fly fishing. (Actually it doesn't work very well in life either.)

Fly fishing is one of the places which puts the total responsibility on the person who holds the rod in his hand. If you put the various pieces of the puzzle together correctly you catch fish. Maybe not every time - but if you don't catch anything you still had a wonderful time and it was a learning experience.

Sadly, our current society is not geared to those who wish to learn to fly fish. There are no 'instant' answers, no turn-key results. You have to work at it. That in itself makes the number of new people coming into fly fishing self-limiting. Those who must have instant gratification will wander off to some other 'interest' which allows them to buy their gratification instead of putting in the time, effort and dedication necessary to become a real fly fisher.

But for those few who do make the choices to be responsible for their own success will find fly fishing becomes a way of life - and the way of their life becomes more successful for them as well. Success does have its rewards.

Maybe, it's not such a bad situation after all. ~ DLB

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