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.
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.
T R O U T B I T T E N