Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #26 — The Art of Hanging Out

by | Jan 21, 2018 | 7 comments

Tip number one was about fishing more, and (spoiler alert) tip fifty is about fishing harder. But do you ever just sit and watch the river? Do you know how to enjoy a good break?

So . . . I’ve read the advice, same as you: “Don’t jump in the water right away,” they say. “Wait, and watch the river for a while. Go gently.”

Can I tell you the truth, here? I never do that. I couldn’t do it in my twenties, and I can’t bring myself to do it in my forties. And I won’t admit to any faulty lack of patience here either. No. Because, I daydreamed and planned for this fishing trip. I drove the back roads, all the while thinking about where I’ll put in. I geared up and hiked down the rocky trail. So yeah, when I finally arrive, I’m impatient and want to get in the water. But using that eagerness and ambition as a motivator isn’t necessarily a mistake.

I should probably mention this: As a habit, I rig up my rod at the river’s edge and not at the truck. So at the frontend of every outing, I spend a minute or two streamside, tying some knots and stretching a leader. And of course I’m glancing at the water the whole time. That’s enough for me, though. After that, I dive in and get after it.

So, what about an hour later? What about four hours later? What about the mid-afternoon when nothing’s going on? I think anytime after the initial excitement wears off is a good time to look up and take in the surroundings. And if the excitement never wears off, if you’re pounding fish on every other cast, then yeah, don’t look up. We all live for days like that.

I love full days more than anything — being on the water from sunup to sundown is heaven to me, and I’d take one of those days over five short trips every single time. I used to fish full days without stopping. I would literally eat a sandwich with one hand as I fished with the other. I know other anglers like that too. No wasted daylight. But I don’t do that so much anymore.

Other guys perceive not catching fish for a while as a signal to leave. But I guess I don’t. Instead, I might take five minutes, or ten minutes, or an hour, just to hang out and think a little — about fishing — about life. Why leave? Where else would you rather be? Really. If there’s nothing else demanding your time, if there’s no deadline, if you have the free hours, then why not make the most of them? Lift your head, take a deep breath and find a log for a good bank sit.

Photo by Austin Dando

Or eat a sandwich. Drink some whiskey. Build a fire. Do the John Geirach thing and make coffee over that fire with creek water — cowboy style, with coffee grounds and floating nymph shucks included. (You did pack the tin pot, right?)

I know we’re all out there looking for fish, but it’s not the only thing we’re looking for, right? We know that, but a gentle reminder helps now and again. My friend, Austin, is good at this. When we fish together, he always seems to have the right blend of both fishing hard and fully appreciating where we are.

Yeah, looking around once in while and studying the river will improve your catch rate. You’ll build knowledge about a trout stream by just watching, there’s no doubt. But breathing deep and relaxing into the surroundings for a while, sinking into the beauty of a trout stream (and they’re all beautiful) is good for the soul too.

Fish hard and be happy, friends.

Good company. Photo by Chase Howard


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Domenick Swentosky

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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.

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  1. This is my favorite tip so far. It might not help me catch more fish, but when I remember to do this, I enjoy my time on the water more. And really, that’s the most important thing. Thanks for the reminder to stop and brew the coffee.

  2. The photo taken by Chase Howard was from a drift trip on the Green river in Wyoming that I organized for optometrists this past July. We were guided by Spencer Morton and his crew from the Jackson Hole Fly Fishing School. Memories for me included seeing a moose and calf streamside from close distance, catching my first trout on a mouse pattern, and landing 6 fish over 16″ including 2 twenty inch fish. Oh, and I also did a unintentional flip out of the boat landing on my back!. Fortunately the only thing I hurt was my pride:)

    Thanks, Chase, for the memory and thanks Dom for the great article.

    Charlie Griffen

  3. Man, did I need this. I don’t spend nearly enough time soaking in my surroundings. This could be my favourite tip as well

  4. There’s got to be a story about the beaver between your feet. A good article that helps me examine the why I’m out there. Thanks.

  5. I was recently reminded to be a little less results-focused, and become a little more process-focused to get more enjoyment out of each moment/encounter/hour/day, etc. That, and a healthy dose of Thankfulness. Your advice above Dom is exactly that. Thanks Brother!


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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.

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