Satisfaction and Success

by | Oct 22, 2019 | 18 comments

For most of us, feeling satisfied with a fishing trip comes from a bit of success. And we measure that success in big trout landed or high numbers to the net. But are those stats really our best gauge? Probably not. Instead, I suggest finding satisfaction in fishing well, knowing that you improved your technique and you took steps toward being a better angler. Then, on the best days, in the process of refining your skills, trout will come to hand frequently. That’s fishing hard.

New fly fishers tend to link the numbers or the size of trout caught with success. But the river teaches all seasoned anglers that one thing cannot be controlled — you can’t make the trout hungry. And while the budding angler surely needs a fish at the end of the line once in a while — just to learn that his tactics are sound — the experienced fisher has enough confidence in his skills to recognize when the drifts are good but the trout aren’t eating.

It takes a long time to get to that point.

While guiding these wild, limestone waters with my guests, I sometimes assure my friends that their drift is excellent.

“Well, the fish don’t think so,” is the good-natured retort.

I understand the thought. But the truth is, a trout might love the drift and he just isn’t hungry at the moment.

How many natural nymphs, duns, crustaceans and baitfish does a trout let drift by in one day? Think about that. During a good hatch, you can watch this on the surface. Count how many mayfly adults pass over a good seam, while the trout lets them slip right by. Maybe the trout is in a feeding rhythm, and most of the passing sailboats don’t fall on the downbeat of his four-count. Maybe the trout just isn’t hungry. Can it really be that simple? Sure it can.



Fly fishing is hard (kinda). And building new skills can be especially difficult. Many good anglers come to me, asking for help dialing in their tight line tactics. By mid-morning, I usually tell my guests this: “There will be a day when both you and the trout are on. You’ll catch thirty trout in a full day, and everything will lock in. Then you’ll have it.”

Truth is, in the beginning, we need feedback from a trout to feel successful. We need a tug at the end of our line to affirm that our drift was decent. And my voice coming from over your left shoulder saying, “That’s a great drift,” can only teach you so much. Eventually, the trout have to do the rest.

So here’s the thing: Once you know what a good drift looks like — when you can recognize a great ride through the strike zone, read the sighter for contact or notice how a dancing dry rolls in the backwater without drag — that’s really all you need. If a particular trout doesn’t want the fly, go find one that does. Or, change the tactic, change the fly and change the angle. Change something about your approach and fool a fish.

READ: Troutbitten | Don’t Worry, Be Happy — Find Satisfaction in Fishing Well

You simply cannot rely on the trout to define your success. And basing your satisfaction on the trout-count will force you out of this game in short order. Eventually, you’ll venture to the river on only the “prime” days — when the fishing reports tell you that the action is hot — and you’ll still find disappointment because your skills will be in decline.

Day after day, I fish to refine my tactics and to learn new ones. Eventually, I know what a good drift with each new technique looks like. So I focus on perfecting the ride of my fly through each seam. I get the look that I want at every target. I take satisfaction from achieving that drift. And as the years go by, I set the bar higher — I want perfect drifts, not just good ones. Then, in the process of all this fine tuning, trout take my fly. By focusing on the skill of fishing rather than any trout on the line, I have control of my own enjoyment.

Some days, it all comes together, when my technique is right and the trout are agreeable. And those are fun times.

Fish hard, friends.


Enjoy the day.
Domenick Swentosky


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

Test Without Bias

Test Without Bias

Of all the reasons why I fly fish for trout, two captivating things keep me coming back: refining a system, and breaking it all apart.

Go into any new exploration with a clear head and without expectations. Remove your prejudices and forget your preferences. Achieve this, and you may well be surprised by what you find with a fly rod in your hand. Ignore this, or fail in the attempt, and you’ll likely learn nothing. Worse yet, you may learn the wrong thing.

Let the river teach. Let time be the gauge. Let the fish have their say. Forgo conclusions and look instead for certainty in trends. Test honestly and without bias — always . . .

Troutbitten State of the Union — 2020 Wrap Up

Troutbitten State of the Union — 2020 Wrap Up

The real joy of having Troutbitten as my career is in all the chances I have to be creative. The articles, presentations, videos, web design, and the guided trips — each one is an opportunity to communicate ideas about why we fish, how we fish, and what keeps us wishing to fish, day after day. Thank you for that chance . . .

Troutbitten Opinion: Nicholas Meats, LLC vs Fishing Creek

Troutbitten Opinion: Nicholas Meats, LLC vs Fishing Creek

Fishing Creek is currently at risk for drastic increases in groundwater withdrawal by Nicholas Meats, LLC of Loganton, PA.

Troutbitten stands against this proposal and believes this operation will be detrimental to the sustained life of Fishing Creek, as well as the health and welfare of all living things that rely on it.

Please read and understand this dangerous issue, then do something to protect Fishing Creek . . .

What does it take to catch a big trout?

What does it take to catch a big trout?

For many years, I believed that it takes nothing special to catch a big trout. I argued with friends about this over beers, during baseball games, on drives to the river and through text messages at 1:00 am. My contention was always that big trout don’t require anything extraordinary to seal the deal. They need a quality drift, a good presentation, and if they are hungry they will eat it. I frequently pushed back against the notion that big wild trout were caught only with exceptional skill.

So for all who’ve heard me make this argument, I’d like to offer this revision: I still believe that large trout don’t need more than a good presentation. But what is GOOD may actually be pretty special. Meaning, it’s rare to find the skill level necessary to consistently get good drifts and put them over trout (large or small).

Here’s more . . .

Angler Types in Profile: The Gear Guy

Angler Types in Profile: The Gear Guy

I think every angler has some gear obsession. It’s part of us. Because fishing is the kind of activity that requires a lot of stuff. Big things and small. Clothing and boots, packs and boxes, lines and tools — and all the stuff that non-fishers never imagine when they think of a fishing pole. So it’s understandable that we pack our gear bags with stuff we know we need and then add in everything we think we might need. Time on the water is limited, and we want to feel prepared.

But nothing signals rookie more than a clean fisherman.

A Comprehensive List of Fishermen’s Excuses

A Comprehensive List of Fishermen’s Excuses

Fishermen are full of excuses for failure — because we get a lot of practice at not catching fish. Mostly, Troutbitten is here to share better ways to catch trout, but here’s a big list of explanations for when you don’t. Why’d you take the skunk? This list of reasons will help explain it all away.

These excuses can roughly be grouped into three classes:

Conditions — where you blame the weather or the water.
Fish’s Fault — where you blame the fish for not eating your flies.
I Wasn’t Really Trying — these excuses are centered around the inference that if you really wanted to, you could have caught more trout . . .

What do you think?

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


  1. Great read. This is exactly how I view a day on the river. I still consider myself a novice, after many years of fly fishing. I’m always trying something new and trying to improve on the basics. I will always find enjoyment, regardless of the fish count. I’m still hunting the trophy and the next PB.

  2. Great stuff as usual Dom! While I definitely love big fish and numbers, I really get satisfaction out of a day where I can land a fish on top, underneath and stripping a streamer.

  3. I love the rhythm and feel of a good cast.

  4. Another good reminder of the importance and satisfaction of doing something well. Trout will come!

  5. Thank you! Namaste :-)!

  6. Thank you Dom,
    I think that is THE lesson of fishing that applies to so many other facets of life. I’m not sure another pursuit can give the same feedback as fishing on an easy day. I constantly see this correlation in business and this article reminds me to “fish hard” especially on tough days or weeks, or years.

    I have been in a business struggle for 4 years now, and my good fishing friend, recently was pushed out of his business. Now we can both continue to use the skills fishing is teaching us to strive for success in all areas of life.

    Another parallel I’ve noticed in business vs. fishing, when the business is succeeding, not many people look to make real improvements. As your article alluded to, when we have great days fishing, we might not be learning the lessons that become seeds of future success. I have truly enjoyed many tough days of fishing and my friends will tell you, that is when I am “fishing hard.” I’m trying to learn and apply that same lesson in life. Thank you for reminding me I already know how to “fish hard.”

    Or maybe, I am just trying to justify the time I put into fishing and the enjoyment I get with my friends and family while pursuing fish?

    Wish us goodluck, as I wish you all “good fishing!”

  7. Great insights. I believe that one of the things that draws myself and others to fly fishing is that there is a challenge and difficulty that you can only overcome with time, and some work at improvement. Or “fishing hard” as you say. So much joy can be found in progress at something that requires practice and work. And of course you covered it—-catching fish is important too! Thanks for another great post.

    • Right on. And fly fishing is another thing in life that has no end to how much you can improve. For me, playing guitar has always been like that — the more I learn, the more I realize how much more I can learn.


  8. Dry fly fishing gives us the ultimate feedback when we cast to rising fish. We know where the fish is and we know that it is feeding and we might even know what its eating. We just need to know if our fly, our wading, our relative position, our cast, our mends, our fly changes, etc. are refined enough to make the fish do what he really, really wants to do. The rewards are greatest when we dupe a very selective/pressured wild brown trout under difficult river conditions. The only fish count that matters is one eat.

  9. Timely article, yesterday was a 1 fish day, on some of the fishiest water I may have ever been on. The scenery and hike was beautiful. By the way, I started working on identifying holds, runs, seams and glides. Little evidence I’m getting better. Sometimes you just have tough days out there. Keep writing, it’s encouraging.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent Articles

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.

Pin It on Pinterest