Posts Tagged ‘What Fly’

What’s Luck Got To Do With It?

October 18, 2013

WhatsLuck

An interesting discussion this past week on the Flyloops Forum, “how much is fly fishing about luck”? Which was stimulated by a previous blog “The Last Word”, from “The  Fishing Gene Blog”. Undoubtedly there is some element of fortune, good or bad, to angling. There is far too much out of our control for there not to be. The weather, hatches, wind direction, temperature and such are all beyond our manipulation but how much of it is really luck?

Perhaps for the neophyte luck plays a significant role but for the more proficient success lies less and less within the realms of good fortune and more and more within the sphere of proficiency. In fact I would suggest that the same is true of much else.

Perhaps for me, the more important distinction is whether you believe it is luck or not. The concept that should you be successful you have been blessed in some way by celestial powers removes the idea that you have, at least some, control over your situation. The idea that it is all in the hands of the Gods diminishes your scope to be able to do anything about it when things go poorly and that ultimately to my mind disempowers you. I am quite sure the exact same is true of much else from business dealings to relationships. If you focus on your good or bad fortunes you are reduced to a mere rolling of the dice each time you venture out onto the water.

LuckyCards2

If on the other hand you embrace the idea that success or failure is based on your own actions, your own skills, you own determination, your own level of expertise, your experience and such then you are empowered.  With such a mind set you are now able to make adjustments, improve your skills, practise and learn and become more effective. As I say that is undoutedly true of anything, golf, tennis,  hunting, backgammon, photography, poker and more, I see no reason to imagine that it is less true of fishing.

It is a well accepted idea that 20% of the anglers catch 80% of the fish and that strongly suggests that the 20% of anglers are doing something that the other 80% are not. From a fly fishing perspective I believe that although there are a lot of factors one of the key elements is that the 20% of anglers who catch most of the fish cast well.  I can just imagine someone chucking a fly randomly into the water, the terminal tackle landing wheresoever the wind takes it and hanging on expectantly for a tug on the line. They are going to think that they had good luck should they be successful. On the other hand the more proficient, will put the fly where they want it, in the way that they want it, into places where experience tells them there are likely to be feeding fish, surprise surprise, they get “lucky” a lot more often.

It isn’t all about hi-tech analysis, much is simply common sense. I recall asking a client who caught a lot of salmon about what it takes, what’s the secret?  (I am not a salmon fisherman and know next to nothing about this branch of our sport). His eminently pragmatic and undoubtedly true comment was simply this “I only go fishing when I know that there are salmon in the river”.. I suppose you can see that would tend to improve his chances of succes by quite a degree. I suspect equally that a lot of his colleagues imagine that he is “just lucky”..

LuckyCards1

So here is a list of a few things which I believe are within everyone’s scope to improve your efficiency and effectiveness.

1) Practise your casting: as Gary Player famously said “the more I practise the luckier I get”,  for him it was swinging a golf club, for you it is being able to cast well and effortlessly all day. Not just distance but also accuracy.  If you can’t cast you can’t fish, simple as that.

2) Be prepared: There is a great deal out of our control when we go fishing, so it is all the more important to control what you can. Have your tackle in tip top shape, have your leaders prepared, your fly boxes filled with suitable imitations depending on the location, season and target species. And try to be ready for every eventuality that might occur when you are on the water.

3) Learn and understand the various elements of what most would call “presentation”. That embraces everything from how to achieve effortless drag free drifts on a dry fly to being able to put a weed fly in front of a feedling milkfish at 20 metres. Presentation is probably the most important element in the entire equation.

4) Sharpen your hooks, it sounds foolish but what is the point of going to all this effort only to fish with blunt hooks? Even modern “chemically sharpened” hooks can benefit from a quick once over with a quality hook hone. (My personal favourite is the Model “S” from Ezelap)

5) Avoid the “what fly are you using” mentality, certainly there are times when having the right fly counts for a lot, but not as often as you might imagine, casting well, presentation, fishing in the right place, having correctly structured leaders etc are all probably more important most of the time. Read “What Fly ” on “The Fishing Gene Blog”.

6) Dress conservatively, it amazes me how many people will pitch up to fish a clear stream wearing a white or fluorescent orange hat, that’s just stupid and you aren’t improving your chances. You don’t need to be kitted out with facepaint and camo like some piscatorial Rambo but it behooves one to be conservative. On a trout stream olive is “the new black”

7) Improve your casting…yes I know that I said that already but it deserves repetition. For most of the anglers I guide or coach their casting ability or lack thereof is the most significant limitation to their success levels. It doesn’t matter how many flies you have, how expensive your rod is or much else if you can’t cast well enough to put the fly where you want it most of the time.

8) Fish with people better than you are, it might open your eyes to all manner of posibilities which you weren’t aware of. You can fish for twenty years or you can fish the same year twenty times, the choice is yours but the benefits of the former are far greater than the latter.

9) Expect to catch fish, develop a mind set that says you will catch fish. It isn’t the power of positive thinking so much as the fact that if you expect to catch and you don’t you will change something. If you don’t expect to catch then you will write the day off as “bad luck” , keep doing what you were and end the day with a dry net.

10) Have a check list, getting to the water missing some piece of your gear is likey to spoil your day and at the very least put you off your stride.

11) Check and recheck, if you miss a fish, check the fly isn’t tangled or the point damaged, if you make a poor cast check there are no knots or tangles in your leader. Check every time.

12) Learn to wade softly, no amount of good fishing technique is going to help you if you are bashing the rocks about with your feet and scaring all the fish before they are within casting distance.

13) Practise good line control, such that you can mend the line to avoid drag, be in touch so that you can set the hook and not have yards of the stuff wrapped all around your reel or legs when you finally hook a fish.

14)Ditch the idea that luck has anything to do with it, to be honest it might, but that won’t help you. Believing that you are in charge of your own destiny, that you hold the cards when it comes to your fortunes, that will empower you to reach greater heights. Of course that doesn’t only apply to fishing, it probably applies to pretty much everything.

15) Practise and improve your casting. 🙂

If you would like to take some of the luck out of your fishing and gain a bit more control over the outcome perhaps you would like to read some of the book titles available from the author of this blog:

SignatureCompendium3

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What Fly?

October 17, 2010

It’s not about the fly.

An imaginary scenario…………………… well mostly imaginary.

A boat angler is hammering them on a DI5 line fished out in the middle of the dam. He is making long casts of 30 metres or so, with a 20’ untapered leader of 6lb fluorocarbon, counting down the sink of his flies for fifteen seconds and then starting a slow pulsating retrieve, he pauses every few strokes. His three flies are exactly a meter and a half apart no more and no less.

He watches the end of his line where it leaves the rod tip for any hint of a tightening that could represent a fish taking a fly on the drop. When he gets to the last ten feet of line he sees the marker that he has affixed to the line and hangs the flies for five seconds before giving a long slow strip and hangs them again. Finally he roll casts the leader out of the water and smacks another effortless cast into the middle distance and waits once more for them to sink to the correct depth.
Every fifth cast or so he strikes into a glorious energetic rainbow trout between two and three pounds in weight, nets the fish and releases it. He is pleased, he changed lines three times to find the right depth, drifted various directions on the dam and covered different depths and bottom structures until he found some fish and finally mixed up the fly patterns on his leader until his catch rate was soaring to the point that it has now reached.

His boat partner isn’t such a good caster, he has a short leader about the same length as his rod because there is a large knot where the leader joins the fly line and he can’t pull that through the tip top guide. He isn’t sure of the breaking strain, it used to be 8lb at the tip but he has eaten some of that up changing patterns, and had to cut some out when he had a wind knot in it, it has been on the rod since last season so he isn’t quite sure if that was 8lb anyway, could have been 10lb but he thinks it is fluorocarbon, yes pretty sure about that.

Anyway, at least if he hooks a fish it won’t break off, that seems like a good call. He can’t cast three flies without getting a tangle so he uses one only on the point. He has a sinking line, he knows it is his sinker because it is brown and his other line, the bright orange one, is a floater and it is obvious that the fish are down deep. He has been watching his mate hammer them for over two hours now and he is using a brown line too. He might have had a take about half an hour ago, he had left his line to sink for ages whilst he was eating a sandwich and the line was just lying in the bottom of the boat until is sizzled out for a moment. Darn, never mind there will be another one. He recasts as his partner hooks into yet another fish that leaps from the water, trailing the deeply sunk line behind it. Feeling that perhaps he needs a bit of advice he turns towards the man with the bent rod and asks the perennial angler’s question. “What fly are you using”?

 

Most of the time "It's not about the fly"

 

I must have seen similar scenarios played out on rivers and dams on several continents, I have even seen the same thing happen with supposedly serious competitive anglers, neophytes, weekenders, float tuber’s, bank anglers and more.

What fly are you using?, it is like one of those action dolls that used to be common when I was a kid, you know before everyone switched to computer games and portable consoles, the ones where you pull a string at the back of the neck and it says the same catch phrase over and over,

“Go on punk, make my day”.. or indeed “What Fly are you using?”

Truth be known, it is something that I would have done myself a decade or so ago before I woke up, and it is an awakening make no mistake. Successful fly fishermen, like successful sportsmen of almost any discipline do things differently than the other 80%. The eighty twenty rule applies here as much as anywhere else and 20% of the anglers catch 80% of the fish and the other 80% out there on the water fight it out for the 20% left over. Why? Mostly because the 80% are so besotted with the idea that they have to have the “right” fly that they ignore all of the other stuff that is going on.

Sure there are occasions that the fly is critical or at least moderately important, but what about all the other stuff. What depth are the fish feeding at, are you getting good drifts, is the tippet sinking, can the fish see you, or see your rod or your watch flashing in the sun? What about the size of the fly? Is your leader fluorocarbon or mono? Is your line taking the flies to the depth at which the fish are feeding or perhaps going past them? Have you varied your retrieve, would you know if you got a take anyway?  Are you fishing in the right spots, are you covering fish, are the fish not there or simply ignoring your presentations such as they are?

There is so very very much more to fly fishing than the fly that I would be willing to bet that most good anglers would go out with half a dozen favourites and still kick butt most of the time if they had to. Of course they wouldn’t limit themselves like that, they are prepared and part of being prepared is having a variety of fly patterns in various sizes, but it is only PART of it!!.

Do your honestly believe that Pascal Cognard won umpteen World Championships over a period of years fishing in rivers and dams on various continents and numerous countries because by some miracle he had a fly that nobody else had?  Do you think that the guy in our little scenario is catching because he has the “right fly” and that if he gave one to his boat partner it would make a jot of difference? Probably not.

Fly fishing is or at least can be a complicated business and you can’t learn it all at once, you can spend time on the water, read as much as possible, fish with guys who know more than you do, go on a course, take a guide, watch videos and search the internet for information, all of which will help.

You don’t need to make it overly complex but the one thing that you don’t want to do is keep thinking that the reason for your limited success is the fly. Of course there are times when it could be but I am prepared to guarantee you right here and now that most of the time that isn’t it. By focusing on the fly you take your eye off all of the other factors that could be affecting your efficacy, and that is the real problem.

I would have to say the most of the time when I am fishing with a buddy, on a river or lake we rarely use exactly the same flies, frequently ones that are considerably different for that matter but that doesn’t affect us too much. We probably are however doing a whole lot of other stuff that is near as dammit exactly the same and that is what adds up to success.

I love flies, I love tying them and having hundreds gives me a sense of control and optimism that would be lacking if my fly boxes weren’t full. However I wouldn’t turn the car around if I had forgotten one of those boxes. Had I left the polaroids, the 7X tippet, the forceps, the hook sharpener, the leader degreaser or the fly floatant at home I would be pulling a 6 G “U” turn in the middle of the freeway. So don’t worry so much about the fly, carry a few trusted favorites, hopefully some variety in sizes and after that focus on technique and presentation, you will I am sure do a whole lot better once you catch on to this reality.  I just hope that you aren’t still worrying about that first scenario with our imaginary angler in the boat, because I sense that even now perhaps you are thinking, “but he never said what fly that guy was using”.

Brought to you in the interests of entertainment and instruction by

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