A few weeks ago I was out fishing a lake I had never fished before. The lake was a little more out-of-the-way than the ones I normally visit and it was at a much higher altitude than I was used to, both of which were very exciting to me.
I got out on the water, tied on my fly–a chironomid in this instance–and started fishing in the first area I came across that looked fishy. I was into a nice little rainbow trout not long after that and promptly got my fly lodged in a submerged branch and decided it was time for lunch while I got everything sorted out again. I wasn’t heartbroken about having to go in so soon. since I was with my family and we have only really just started testing how long our little girl will tolerate being in a boat.
After lunch and getting another fly tied on–I was smart enough to bring a second version of the first fly–I went back out on the water. I went back to the same spot, with the same fly, and, much like before, I started getting hits right away. Something strange had started happening, though. No matter what I did, I couldn’t seem to set the hook. At first, I thought my depth was off, as it had been the last time this had happened. It wasn’t. Then maybe I thought there was something wrong with my hookset. There wasn’t. Nothing I tried seemed to make any difference and I left the water about 45 minutes later feeling pretty frustrated with myself for not being able to hook any more fish.
Later that night, thinking there might be something I was doing wrong without realizing it, I posted on the local fly fishing board describing the problem and hoping for tips to solve the problem should it happen again. After a few of the more obvious answers suggesting things like maybe the fish are actually striking the swivel, which I don’t use, and a few different tips about kinds of hooksets to try, someone suggested that I should never assume a new fly is going to be sharp and to check the point, just to be sure.
And there it was. Not only was my not sharp, the point had broken off. Yep. That’s right. I
spent the entire day fishing without a hook. To say that I felt a little dumb would be an understatement, but at the very least I wasn’t alone. It seemed as though just about everybody has done this at some point or another in their fishing career and that it was just one of those things that we all have to go through to learn a little something about becoming a better angler.
Fishing is funny that way. There’s always something that is going to come along to remind you that you’re not on the water to catch fish, you’re there to try and catch them. Some days, you’re doing everything correctly and you can’t keep the fish away, others you couldn’t catch one with a stick of dynamite. In fact, it’s a very humbling exercise, if you really think about it. There’s absolutely no guarantees beyond the fact that you’ll be floating around on the water with a stick in your hand. That’s it. Everything else is a total crap shoot.
The biggest lesson here, at least in my mind, is that it’s not always something that you’re doing wrong. It’s really easy to think that your technique is off or maybe you’re just not doing something the way you should be, even when you’re doing everything exactly as you should be. Sometimes you’ve just encountered something on the water, in this case a broken hook, that you’ve simply never encountered before and it results in a kind of frustrating day of fishing. It happens. It’s a big part of what makes fishing so challenging. The important thing is to be sure to learn from that lesson and adapt how you fish because of it.
I was out again a couple of weeks later–same lake, same fly–and was constantly checking my point, which was a good thing since I found quite a few hooks that had broken tips. I wound having a much better time on the water because I learned from the last experience and was able to land a decent number of fish because of what I had learned.