Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #30 — The best-laid plans of fishers and men often go awry

by | Feb 18, 2018 | 0 comments

One of the particular joys of fishing is the preparation, the planning, the thinking and dreaming of what may come on our next trip to the river. We tie flies, check water conditions, pour over maps and share stories about the way things were last time. And so we draft our outline for the trip, whether a one hour jaunt to the trout stream during tomorrow’s lunch or a three-week getaway to a bucket list destination.We sketch our approach, laying out our intentions to catch trout and make the most of the excursion.

But what if it all falls apart?

Nothing in life goes fully as planned, and fishing is about as unpredictable of an activity as you’ll ever find. But honestly, a lot of days can turn out pretty much the way we had them designed. Because if you’ve spent enough seasons on the water, you learn to build accommodations for variation into your expectations. You plan for this or that, and not just that.

An experienced angler plans more broadly than an “I’m going to strip big streamers today” type of blueprint. We may want to fish streamers high in the column all morning, but after an hour of staring into clear water with no action, we might do better to admit that sunshine and clear skies was not expected, and the trout aren’t on the long flies. And if the goal is to catch fish, then maybe a change is in order — perhaps we should fish deeper or slower. Maybe focus on the shade.

Likewise, here’s another problem: What if someone takes your favorite spot?

I hate being front ended on the river. Who doesn’t? When there are hundreds of yards of open water, with no one in sight up or down the river, from the upper bend to the lower tailout, why do you walk in twenty yards ahead of me? Why? Why? Why?

I have a number of ways to keep such a thing from ruining my day . . .

READ: Front Ended — Can we stop doing this to each other? | Troutbitten

At times, I’ve gone against my instincts to move on without a spoken word and have instead struck up a conversation with the offender. What I’ve found is telling.

So often, the front-enders are people who traveled, perhaps hundreds or even thousands of miles, to fish right there. Right in this spot. Maybe they fished these pockets last year. Maybe they lost a beast of a brown trout at the undercut, and they’ve been plotting a return ever since.

I won’t argue about front ending here (that’s for the other article). Instead, I’ll point to this as an example of anglers planning (perhaps) with faulty tunnel vision. Yes, that traveling angler could have seen me fishing close to the undercut and decided to steer clear, to move far downstream and fish another location. Or . . . I can willingly alter my own plans to fish the undercut. I can see it as another variable that the river threw at me today, meet the challenge, adapt and move on. (Not always easy, I know.)

All of the things we plan for and dream of in our downtime — the river conditions, access points and locations on maps, the hatches that should be, the expectations of success — all of it is variable. It all can and will change. Truthfully, the variations — that randomness — is the heartbeat of fly fishing. It’s the essence of the allure. The unpredictability is the draw.

Adapting to the day-to-day river conditions and meeting the trout on their own terms is half the fun in all this. Plan, but plan broadly and expect the unexpected.

Fish hard, friends.

Photo by Chris Kehres


Enjoy the day
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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