[This is the second in a series of posts about somewhat unconventional advice for becoming a better angler. It’s not tips, tricks or tactics, as such, but suggestions for becoming an overall better angler that you might not otherwise think of.]
A few years ago, not long after I moved to British Columbia, I took up fly fishing. The decision to make the switch wasn’t really one that I took lightly, nor was it something that I particularly wanted to do. I did, as I’ve talked about in the past, because I wasn’t really catching any fish and I was looking to change that.
Despite all hesitance in the beginning, it turned out to be a decision that I have never regretted. Not once (okay, only in so much as it turned a simple hobby into an obsession, but that’s another issue altogether). In the time since I started fly fishing I’ve noticed something else, besides just being able to catch fish in my local waters, I’ve actually gotten better at catching fish period. This isn’t something I attribute to fly fishing itself, per se, but more to the fact that I took the time to learn something new, which I can’t remember ever having done when it comes to fishing before.
How This Helps
First, when you’re learning about something, it’s going to be fresh in your mind. This means that when you encounter a situation you’ve learned about, especially if you learned about it recently, it’ll be one of the first things to pop into your head and you’ll know exactly how to deal with it. Something like this actually happened to me recently. I was fishing a lake and doing pretty well (fishing was a little slow, but I was still managing to catch them) when I noticed a caddis taking off across the surface of the water. I wasn’t seeing a tonne of raises that would indicate fish were feeding on the surface, but I had just sat through a couple of lectures on trout food, so I knew that there was a really good chance that if there were adults on the surface, there would be pupae below the surface. A couple of weeks earlier and not only would I have not known what flies I have in my fly box imitate a caddis pupa (Knouff Lake Special), but I wouldn’t have to that was an option. It’s very likely that I would have just tied on a Tom Thumb or a elk hair caddis and just hoped for the best. Instead, I tied on my Knouff Lake Special, cast out to where the adult had been and almost immediately hooked into a fish. This particular piece of information came in handy two or three more times as I kept finding myself in places where the caddis were coming off the water.
Not only does spending a bit of time learning something new keep information fresh in your mind, but–and this is probably the most important lesson here–when you learn, you build and improve the knowledge base you need to catch fish. The more you know, the more likely it is that you’ll be able to figure out things like where the fish are, what they’re eating, why they’re playing hard to get and things like that. It’s like anything you do. You can’t fix your car with only a screw driver and a ratchet set any more than you can write a novel simply by knowing how to form a sentence. You can’t do either without a full set of tools. You might be able to get by for a little while, but you’ll start hitting walls before too long. Now, what I’m not saying that the way you might be doing things is wrong (it’s not), nor am I saying that you’re going to stop catching fish if you don’t learn something new (you won’t), what I am saying, though, is that you’ll likely encounter fewer skunks on the water than you might normally if you take the time to learn something new every now and then.
What You Can Do
We are lucky that it has never been easier to learn about anything, than it is in this day and age. You might piss and moan about what the internet has done to fishing (I’m reading thread about just that as I’m writing this), but you can do nothing but celebrate what it has done for learning.
It’s almost as easy as popping over to YouTube and typing in what you want to learn about. I do it all the time. It’s my go to when I’m trying to learn how to do just about anything, from a new song on the guitar to changing the brakes on my car. Usually, at least when it comes to fishing, you’ll find a good episode of some fishing show or another that talks about new techniques, or old ones that have gone out off vogue, and tells you in a fairly easy to understand way how to do it successfully. I’ve even found lectures that people have put online that are just full of great information. Speaking of lectures, these are another great source of information. Attending a lecture on fishing isn’t as much as fishing, but there is usually a tonne of information packed into these sessions, much like the one I mentioned above about trout food. That particular lecture was done by a member of the fly fishing club I’m a part of (remember what I said about getting involved) and took the better part of three hours to get through. Lectures and workshops like this happen all the time. Sporting shows are full of them, local angling groups put them on, fishing shops hold them, heck, even local anglers of note put them on (BC Fishn’s Danny Conye has been putting on kokanee workshops that people can’t stop raving about, for example).
An excellent example of an online lecture series.
There are also fishing forums for just about every region you can think of and more Facebook groups than you can shake your fishing rod at. A quick search will bring you more results (and information) than you will know what to do with.
Getting off the computer and taking a more “old school” approach can also help. When I first started fly fishing, I read everything I could. Books, magazines, websites, blogs, forums, you name it, I read it (I realize some of those things require a computer, but we do live in the modern age and that’s where a lot of the information is).
Why You Should Do This
I’ve already outlined a few of the reasons that taking the time to learn something new is helpful–it keeps the information fresh and it adds to your knowledge base–and these are excellent reasons to want to get out there and learn something new. Personally, when I started fly fishing, I don’t think it was the fact that I learned how to fly fish that help me get into more fish, it was the fact that I went through an intense period of learning. Sure, I ended up reading the same pieces of information more than once and I took in a lot of stuff that I already knew, but there was so much that I didn’t know or had simply forgotten about and all of that information helped me become a little more well-rounded as an angler. I was no longer just chucking my lure into a spot where I thought there should be fish, especially since I was using bass tactics in trout waters, I was spending a bit of time reading the water and doing things like looking for clues as to what the fish might be doing under the water (like noticing that caddis on top when there wasn’t a lot of surface action). At the end of the day, however, what you decide to learn is up to you. Every little bit helps and, even if all you do is spend a bit of time watching Bob Izumi every week, chances are you’ll learn a thing or two that will help you be a better angler.