Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #37 — Zoom in and think smaller

by | Apr 8, 2018 | 4 comments

The more time we spend on the water, the better we fish. No news there, right? But why is that? If I don’t fish for a week, it’s not like I’ve lost the skills to get a good drift, nor have I lost the ability to read trout water. Shouldn’t it be like riding a bike?

Fishing skills certainly can grow some rust, but after a couple of hours on the river, everything about your game ought to mold back into shape (assuming your layoff wasn’t months long). Because once we’ve learned something in fishing, it stays with us — thankfully though, there’s unlimited potential for refinement.

So still I ask, why? Why do we fish better when we’re out there multiple times each week?

There are hundreds of reasons, of course, but most of them come down to being dialed in, knowing what’s going on with the river, knowing what to expect and what we’re capable of.

That said, there’s one thing I notice that makes the biggest difference — I fish better when I see the water in smaller pieces. And when I fish often, it’s easier for me to be hyper-focused on what’s directly in front of me, and to be content in doing so. It’s easier to zoom in and really figure out the pocket ahead, rather than restlessly looking for what’s around the bend.

I started school at Penn State as a music major. That ended up not working out so well, mostly because I didn’t like people telling me how to play music. I wasn’t cut out for any legitimate scene, so I picked up the guitar and found my way around smokey bars and clubs. My saxophone professor was like a good coach, a hard nosed, determined, no-bullshit kind of guy. And like any good coach, he was all about practice. If you didn’t put in the time for yourself, then don’t expect much from his lesson. And when I didn’t put in the practice time, it was impossible to fool him.

He repeated one thing often enough that it made an impact. He told me this: If I don’t practice for one day, I notice. If I don’t practice for two days, other players notice. And if I don’t practice for three days, everyone notices.

I guess that serves to highlight how easy it is to slip out of the zone and grow rust on anything: baseball skills, saxophone scales or fishing fitness.

Photo by Chris Kehres

Just as importantly though, frequent time on the water keeps me satisfied (to a point). It takes away that restless edge that I get when I haven’t fished for a while. When I lace on dry wading boots, I know it’s been too long, and I’ve learned to expect some restlessness in myself.

Now, if things go great right from the start — if fish are jumping in my net and I’m doing everything right — then hey, no worries. But those days, of course, are rare. So the challenge becomes more about staying within my reach and refining an approach for each small section — a patient persistence.

I have to mentally catch myself at times like these. It’s too easy to think that this spot isn’t perfect, so I should cast to the next one. This seam isn’t producing, so I’ll cast up and over to the next one further out. I start wading past excellent water and missing prime opportunities. When I catch myself, when I’m able to recognize such restlessness within, I can stop it. I tell myself to slow down a bit, to trust the water that I’ve chosen to fish, to believe there are multiple fish in this seam, and to refine my approach until I prove it.

Fishing closer, zooming in and thinking smaller, is often the only change that’s necessary. Fish on.

Enjoy the day.
Domenick Swentosky
T R O U T B I T T E N
domenick@troutbitten.com

 

 

Share This Article . . .

Since 2014 and 600 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

Acquire Your Target Before the Pickup

Acquire Your Target Before the Pickup

Accuracy. It’s an elementary casting principle, but it’s the hardest thing to deliver. Wild trout are unforgiving. So the errant cast that lands ten inches to the right of a shade line passes without interest. As river anglers, our task is a complicated one, because we must be accurate not only with the fly to the target, but also with the tippet. Wherever the leader lands, the fly follows. Accuracy holds a complexity that is not for the faint of heart. But here’s one tip that guarantees immediate improvement right away.

Be the Heron

Be the Heron

We can learn much about wading a river for trout by observing the heron. Take time to watch these compelling predators — these master hunters of the river. Because the lessons of incomparable stealth are unforgettable once you’ve seen them . . .

The Spooky Trout: Find Their Blind Spot

The Spooky Trout: Find Their Blind Spot

Understand that trout can’t turn their heads, and they don’t look behind themselves casually.

And from a fisherman’s perspective, as one who has spent decades accidentally scaring the fish I intended to catch, I assure you that the best way to approach a trout is from behind . . .

Part Two: What you’re missing by following FIPS competition rules — Leader Restrictions

Part Two: What you’re missing by following FIPS competition rules — Leader Restrictions

Leader length restrictions unnecessarily limit the common angler from taking full advantage of tight line systems. Such rules force the angler to compensate with different lines, rods and tactics. And none of it is as efficient as a long, pure Mono Rig that’s attached to a standard fly line on the reel. Here’s a deep dive on the limitations of using shorter leaders and comp or euro lines.

Are You Spooking Trout?

Are You Spooking Trout?

All trout continuously adapt to their surroundings — they learn what to expect, and they spook from the unexpected.

So, stealth on the water and understanding what spooks a trout is foundational knowledge in fly fishing. Trout are easily scared. Are you spooking fish?

What do you think?

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

4 Comments

  1. Great perspective on the art of fly fishing. Fine tune your technique before impatiently moving on to a spot you think may be better. Get it working first.

    Reply
  2. Great article Domenick! I agree. I try to do the same thing when fishing with a new lure. Oftentimes it is far too easy to make a few cast and if nothing is biting to switch to something different. However, I like to fish with that lure until it produces the results that I want. By doing so, I have found it helps me really master a fishing lure and ultimately becoming a better fisherman.

    Reply
  3. It sure is a tough balance, when getting out on the water becomes less feasible with day to day responsibilities. We make huge strides when on the water regularly, like you said. Couldn’t agree more. I find I often fall into the temptation to overreach. Fish the water further out. I lose sensitivity to takes, jack up my drift, and just plain catch less fish. It’s a tough lesson I seem to struggle fully grasping, because I keep doing it! ha ha. Enjoyed the article, and the reminder Dom.

    Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Recent Articles

Recent Posts

Pin It on Pinterest