Fifty Tips Philosophy Tips/Tactics

Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #3 — Fish New Waters

August 13, 2017
I’m a wanderer. On the water, I’d rather explore a new section of river than visit a familiar one — almost always. There’s excitement and an expectation of the unknown in and around every trout stream. I’ve found too many remarkable things around the bend to expect anything otherwise. Waterfalls, broken bridges, beaver dams, rock slides and huge trout in small waters. All of this I’ve seen because I kept walking, because I kept wading and fishing beyond what’s familiar, beyond what is already known.

On many of these local watersheds, I have, at one point in time, covered every open section of water from the mouth to the headwaters, and I’ve reveled in the discovery of each new pocket and riffle. I’ve learned to savor the search of what lies around the bend, because eventually you get to the last bend, the last legal access, or the last good island. And then there’s nothing new left on the water. That can be a somber moment. — “The Last Good Island.” Troutbitten (2014)

Within a two hour drive of my home there are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of miles of trout water. Some of the rivers are full of big wild trout, and some harbor only a few dinks, but I’ve never been disappointed by exploring new water. The adventure is addicting — the planning, the wonderings, the plotting and (sometimes) the payoff.

Likewise, there’s a satisfaction in attaining another piece of the puzzle — the giant map you can feel inside you, where all wild trout within striking distance are waiting in cool, unbroken water, just living, breathing the river, feeding, growing.

Those are the ethereal reasons for fishing new waters — because it’s good for the soul and for an adventurous spirit. Exploration quenches the curiosity of human nature.

But there’s an alternate reason for fishing new waters too, one that’s a little more tangible. When we fish new water, we learn new things.

With every mile absorbed we have some idea what mysteries the river may hold, not only in that stretch of water, but above and below it as well.

And when we explore unknown water, we face a new set of challenges: deep sections with fast flows pushing our flies out of the zone, bouldered runs with endless snags, flat and calm stretches with spooky trout cruising and judging our best offerings under a glassy ceiling.

New water forces us to use fresh tactics, to adapt, to think and solve the riddles of a trout stream.

Rarely do I catch as many trout when fishing new waters as I do when casting into my old haunts. But I always return as a better angler, with more data that my fishing brain chews into bite-sized bits that make some sense, fitting and mating them together with thoughts and theories about rivers and fish, ready for the next time.

Photo by Austin Dando

So you know what’s coming next, right? Because fishing is full of dichotomy, next Monday’s tip #4 of fifty is about fishing familiar waters until you know every angle and inside seam from the outside lane — because that’s great too.

Enjoy the day.
Domenick Swentosky


Read All of the Fifty Tips Series

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Domenick, I agree 100%. Exploring is the best part. Discovering and seeing new wild water for the first time has a sense of wonder on it’s own. Then fishing it successfully is like a test of one’s skill. Excellent fun. But, as you said — you learn so much more pushing the boundaries. Great tip. Can’t wait to read more on your series.

Bill Ferguson

Yes! I started exploring some new waters this summer and I definitely learned a great deal. There’s something special about seeing a place for the first time and the calculus of figuring out where the fish might be and how to catch them. Great tip!.


Domenick, thanks for your advice to try out new waters to fish in and explore sometimes! I like how you said that that may bring up new challenges and difficulties, but it also allows you to learn new tactics and strategies to use while participating in this recreational sport. My husband and his brothers love fly fishing, and we are looking into outfitters for them to get prepared. Thanks for the tips; they will love them!

Domenick Swentosky

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.

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