The Inefficiency of Inexperience

by | Sep 17, 2019 | 32 comments

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.

READ: Troutbitten | Find Your System

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?

READ Troutbitten | Pack or Vest? Why I’m a Vest Guy

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.

READ: Troutbitten | Efficiency: Part Two

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’s 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.

READ: Troutbitten | All The Things

Fish hard, friends.

 

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

 

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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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32 Comments

  1. ..and the search for efficiency never stops.

    Reply
    • That’t the truth. There’s always room for refinement.

      Reply
      • When trout are stocked into our streams do they have a tendency to go up or down dream,I once read rainbows go down stream to look for larger water ,bookies go up and brownies stay put

        Reply
  2. I’m the first to admit that I’m not efficient on the stream. Since I retired, I’ve worked to slow down during my time on the stream to more enjoy the experience. I’m also reading your articles and adapting my kit to make my experience better. Your suggestions are usually spot on.

    As Lowell noted, the search for efficiency never ends.

    Reply
  3. I have found that one of the keys to being more efficient (and less frustrated) is the amount time spent on pre-trip preparation. Another key to efficiency is making a conscious effort to develop a routine. A lot of the early season rust we shake off has much to do with re-programming those routines, including the all important preparation.

    Reply
    • Preparation for sure.

      Reply
  4. Yup and I can say the days I leave the river frustrated are not because the fish weren’t coming to the net but instead because I was fishing without efficiency or thoughtfulness

    Reply
    • Same here.

      Reply
  5. Absolutely love this topic!
    Maybe readers can contribute with some tips for preparation and efficiency.
    Here is mine:

    Nothing is less efficient or more frustrating than being unable to thread the tippet through the eye of a fly, especially in waning light when the trout are happily feeding on top. You can of course check your flies in advance for clogged eyes and/or you can carry one of those midge threaders with you. I don’t pre-thread my flies as intended, instead I attach an length of old fly line as a lanyard or to a zinger. The midge threader can be used two ways: the wire threader alone can de-clog instead of trying to use the point of another hook, or you can use it in reverse by threading the wire through the eye and then feeding the tippet through the threader – then pull the fly off the threader and your ready to tie that fast and easy and extra efficient Double Davy knot. Use the Infinity Tippet knot if you want a super strong and super efficient (very easy, very fast) leader/tippet splicing knot. Practicing your knot in advance is also one of those efficiency skills that beginners must work on. Way too much time is wasted fumbling with knot tying.

    Reply
    • Good stuff.

      Reply
  6. When I was cutting my teeth in trout fishing, I always had a remarkable sense of urgency. A sense that time was running out. The rivers I fished did not allow for many of the stocked trout to hold over. I can remember fishing at a furious rate between April and June to land as many trout as I could. That sense of urgency never went away. So I try to keep things efficient while I am on the water. I want as many shots at a fish as that period of time will allow. I want the percentage of my time to lean heavily towards flies drifting downstream. Nothing else. I could never stomach re-lining a setup for streamers. It’d kill me!

    Reply
  7. I’m a poster boy for frenzied inefficiency on the stream. The only stratagem that helps, when I can actually do it, is to slow down. I’ve found that if I do everything half as fast as I want it gets done twice as fast as it would have otherwise. But I often forget, then I try to do everything at once and find myself in rolling messes.

    Alex

    Reply
    • I like that. It’s about being smooth, not fast.

      Reply
    • In my business, when I see a novice working at a feverish rate and making little progress my usual suggestion is; Slow down, you’ll get there faster.

      Reply
  8. Great post. I am still learning how to do this. Not a lot of good Information on this subject. There is of course a lot of information on proper casting or mending or presentation. It comes to all of these aspects it seems you simply need to learn from the school of hard knocks. But of course if you know of any resources that try to tackle the subject Broadly leave me on just how to set up your flight I would welcome the input.

    Reply
    • How to set up your flight?

      Reply
  9. Great article. One thing I haven’t found a great solution to ( which one may interpret as I haven’t yet read an article by you about this) is efficient tippet spool management. I’ve tried several options and haven’t found one method that is a hands down winner. Maybe a future column? Thanks for sharing your hard earned knowledge

    Reply
    • Hi Yovo.,

      I like a tippet post. I use one for fluoro and one for nylon.

      I really like the old Mayfly tippet post, but of course, like so many good things, it is no longer made. I like it because it’s a hard post with a hole at the top, a key ring and a carabiner. I don’t care for the tippet posts with bungee material.

      But there are plenty of great tippet holder solutions. I think they all work well as long as you keep it easily accessible.

      I don’t know if this merits a full article, really. But perhaps dovetailing this with some other tippet stuff is a good idea. Thanks, Yovo.

      Dom

      Reply
  10. My fumble fingers are a huge drag on my efficiency!

    Reply
  11. Haha! Great article. I went thru several sling packs before realizing I was a die-hard vest man. Dug out my Orvis Battenkill Pro Guide Vest, circa 2008 (I think). Everything is right there, in front. For me, it’s very efficient in terms of fly changes, new tippet, cutting line…
    I think it was one of Orvis’ best products.

    Reply
  12. Great read. Very true.

    Reply
  13. I enjoy your articles on efficiency. At an age where getting up and down a challenge. Found a fold up tripod seat that I carry on my belt for portable leverage. Clip on fly boxes useful and flexible.
    Love your articles. Keep em coming.

    Reply
    • I’m right there with you Bob. After a few years away with knee problems I did a wade trip to a local river and after fishing less than an hour I filled my waders twice. Everybody gets wet once in awhile but the hardest part to accept was how difficult it was to get back up. On the second dunking I literally had to crawl to the bank where I could grab a sapling to help myself up. I’m actually wondering if I can still do this. I guess that’s why old men fish from boats.

      Reply
      • Good post Bruce. On a Labrador trip the guides actually set a chair in the water for me.

        Reply
        • Slow is smooth. Smooth becomes fast!

          Reply
  14. The filson strap vest in my opinion is the holy grail of vests. If you can’t fit what you need in this vest it’s simple you don’t need it. It’s as simple and rugged as it gets. Ive used mine for over 10 years and couldn’t fish without it.

    Reply
  15. Efficiency of the practice of fly fishing is a major and enjoyable part of this wonderful sport. Agree.

    Troutbitten is all about fostering efficiency. So, there is a direct connect to efficient fishing that your readers benefit from, thanks Dom.

    I’ve been able to rapidly go from novice to intermediate in a year or so by focusing as intense as possible on both efficiency and results. I find myself having to slow down just to think and take in the moment.

    I look forward to getting to the point some things become rote so I can take in more of mother nature and the outdoors.

    Reply

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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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