Calculated Fun

by | Aug 9, 2016 | 3 comments


The other day, my friend, Austin, mentioned something about me being a calculated fisherman. I guess I come off that way. The truth is, my planning and plotting and theory building mostly happens while I’m not fishing. When I’m on the water, a lot of that calculation gets tossed away. It’s left on the bank, still packed away with the gear in the truck.

. . . I make a plan to fish the left-side rocks, no more than ten feet off the edge because that’s how far both the shade line and the weed line extend. I’m going to methodically fish the whole stretch, all the way up to the bend. Then I get about thirty yards upstream and cannot stand the allure of the big oak logjam off the opposite bank. There’s a soft slick among the backside branches with some deep green holding water. It’s perfect over there. Why not try? Just twenty feet further into the midcurrent, and I can reach it. So I wade. And I cast. God knows if I turn a fish in that water my whole left-side bank plan is shot.

It’s tough for me to stick with a strategy while fishing. If I did, I think I’d do better.

During the day I am, by no honest measure, a Hip-to-the-Strip guy. Sure, I have my experimental phases where I try to force-feed the trout a streamer dinner. But by and large, the good fishermen in my area are nymphers — meat and potatoes are Hare’s Ear’s and Pheasant Tails, not Zoo Cougars and Circus Peanuts.

At night I turn into somebody else, though. The nucleus of my night fishing strategy is built around swinging flies on the surface or in the top third of the water column (yes, the top third. I’m a calculated man, after all). Why have I committed to that strategy? I don’t know. It doesn’t work much during the day, so why am I doing it at night? Probably because I’ve read too much, and I’ve believed too much from parking lot fishermen. When it does work it’s fun. But man, it can be slow sometimes.

I know for certain that big fish eat smaller flies — even at night. And trout like an easy meal that comes to them — even at night. (My biggest night-fish to date was on a #12 bugger — dead drifted.) But mousing or swinging big streamers is way more fun (there’s that word again).

The savage bites on bigger flies are heart-stopping under the stars. There’s a glimpse of terror in the moment a legendary trout explodes from the shallows and out of the darkest unknown space before you. Suddenly, you’re connected by a string to another unknown.

Nymphing doesn’t quite have that same pop: that charged, juiced injection of adrenaline. It’s more diluted. So I resist nymphing sometimes, I suppose, and I keep swinging flies that (again) don’t get much of a look during the day. Why? So I’ll have more fun. It’s a miscalculation. Because, do you know what’s fun? Catching fish when you are fishing.


Austin later asked me if I’m as calculated in music as I am in fishing? (I’m a professional musician by trade.) My answer: Hell no!

I love music just as much as I love fishing. But they are two different things. Playing music is creation. Good things come from allowing yourself to feel things and express them; the goal is to have ideas flow through you, into the instrument and out into the world. Discovering how to facilitate that process — allowing it to happen — is the lifelong struggle of a musician.

Ultimately, while making music is about creating something, fishing is about catching something.

Fishing has some of the creative elements of music, but not so much. The fishing objectives are different, mainly because the goal is more tangible: catch a fish. Yes, there are a hundred other reasons why we fish, but without the casting and the catching — without the fishing — it’s just a hike and some water. Being thoughtful and methodical catches more fish than being artistic or creative. Although truth be told, there’s plenty of room for the ambitious artist in fly fishing.

I’ve learned that being measured, inquisitive and then decisive is a great way to approach fishing — as long as the right calculations are made. It takes a lot of failure to weed through what works and to understand the math. Like music, it’s hard to facilitate that process and let it happen. Sometimes, I suppose it’s best to just mentally get out of the way and follow the facts in front of us. Nothing more than that. No more questions. Trust it like an artist would for a change.


Enjoy the day.
Domenick Swentosky

Share This Article . . .

Since 2014 and 900+ articles deep
Troutbitten is a free resource for all anglers.
Your support is greatly appreciated.

– Explore These Post Tags –

Domenick Swentosky

Central Pennsylvania

Hi. I’m a father of two young boys, a husband, author, fly fishing guide and a musician. I fish for wild brown trout in the cool limestone waters of Central Pennsylvania year round. This is my home, and I love it. Friends. Family. And the river.

More from this Category

Podcast: Freewheelin’ Two — Stories and Experiences — S5, Ep7

Podcast: Freewheelin’ Two — Stories and Experiences — S5, Ep7

It’s the things that happen while we’re out there that make fly fishing for trout the all-consuming, never ending pursuit that it is for us. And, in truth, all of us need to LET that happen. It’s in the choices that we make regarding where we’ll fish, when we’ll fish and who we’ll fish with. Those elements, the locations, the woods, the water and the friendships make all of this special . . .

The Good Wader

The Good Wader

The good wader keeps moving, believes in traction, casts in rhythm and makes no excuses. The good wader becomes the good angler . . .

Midnight Vise

Midnight Vise

Two more turns to anchor the tail. Keep it tight. Build a solid foundation, or the whole thing falls apart after a few fish — and that costs time. The shortening days steal enough of that already.

Who Knows Better Than You?

Who Knows Better Than You?

Anglers cling to the stories and accounts others. We believe in the experts. We want masters of this craft to exist and to tell us the answers.

Sure, you might have a group of wild trout dialed in for the better part of a season. Maybe it’s a midge hatch every summer morning, or a streamer bite on fall evenings, for one hour on either side of dusk.

But it will end. That’s what’s so special about chasing trout. Like the wings of a mayfly spinner, predictability is a fading ghost . . .

What do you think?

Be part of the Troutbitten community of ideas.
Be helpful. And be nice.


  1. Hi Domenick,
    What kind of music do you play and what instruments?

  2. For me, the “fun” is the unexpected. I make no plans other than where I’m going. I fish the fly based on some knowledge and emotion. I guess that’s why if I catch a fish bigger than 15 inches it’s a total surprise


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent Articles

Recent Posts

Domenick Swentosky

Central Pennsylvania

Hi. I’m a father of two young boys, a husband, author, fly fishing guide and a musician. I fish for wild brown trout in the cool limestone waters of Central Pennsylvania year round. This is my home, and I love it. Friends. Family. And the river.

Pin It on Pinterest