How do you carry a net? And how do you attach your split shot? What about changing from nymphs to streamers — how long does that take you? Where do you store your flies, and what do you do with the wet ones? How do you manage your leader selection? And what’s your process for modifying a taper when replacing a #20 Blue Winged Olive with a #10 stonefly up top?
The way you move on the water, the way you carry gear and how you adapt, has a big impact on your experience out there. Yes, we all enjoy the scenery and solitude. We love the sites and sounds of a river. But when that novelty dulls a bit, the process of solving problems and seeing the results of our solutions is what keeps us in the game for a lifetime.
Most dedicated anglers get along with one another because we are like-minded creatures. Young or old, wise and grizzled or green and raw, there’s a commonality in what draws us to the water. We’re more alike than we are different. And a desire for efficiency is one thing that binds us. No one likes wasting their precious time on the water.
The bare bones of reality stare you down pretty quickly on a river. You notice the parts you’ve neglected — the things you didn’t think through. Any piece of a system that doesn’t work stands in the way of progress — of both learning and catching. Fooling trout on a fly rod requires a host of elements to be in just the right place. And over time, we develop an intimate understanding of such things. So we either take deliberate control over our system, or we curse the resulting roadblocks of inattention.
Efficiency is a style. There’s artistry in the way a good angler puts the pieces together. A finely-tuned system from an experienced fisherman is something to behold. He flows from tippet spools to nippers, from fly box to floatant. Things glide in and out of pockets; tools extend from retractors and return to position without thought, without chaos. There’s a skillful rhythm, a purpose and a cadence.
And while pieces of a system that work for one person may not be a good match for the next, there are some mistakes that just don’t work for anybody.
So think these things through. Granted, some inefficiencies cannot be helped at first. Because it takes time on the water to realize our own mistakes and form effective habits. But with some awareness and attention to detail, it’s easy to determine what holds you back.
Do you attach your net with a lanyard that tangles on your other gear? Or do you keep your net tucked into the back of a sling pack? When you swing that pack around to access your gear, what happens to the net? If you have to remove the net, then sling your pack around before unzipping a pocket, that’s not your best move. Do you really want all your gear behind you anyway?
Do you carry an extra reel spool for fishing streamers? Have you actually made this transition much, or do you just like the idea of it? Fact is, changing spools and restringing your rod is enough of a time commitment that you’ll avoid making the change (even if you’re blazing fast). I know it. I tried the extra spool solution for a few months, and it’s impractical. So I found better solutions.
There are hundreds of other inefficiencies to track down and address in your own system. You may not be a type-A personality. You might not care about organization in your daily life. And streamlining your workflow on the river might seem like something to chuckle about. But every excellent angler I know is efficient, without exception. It’s a predictable trait in the successful fly fisher. And when I observe glaring inefficiencies in a fisherman, I know he is inexperienced. Because time on the water teaches — it beats those time-wasting habits out of us and forces us to change
In fact, the inefficient angler either changes with experience, or he quits. Think about those whom you’ve watched get into this game and then leave. Likely enough, they never found the mojo that comes from flowing within a tailored system. So find yours.
Fish hard, friends.
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Enjoy the day.
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