Years ago, I caught more trout than I do now. I’m sure of it. I have all kinds of excuses for that, if you like. I enjoy buckling down and trying to force a fish to eat in the best spots. I like changing and A/B testing flies or tactics, just to see what happens. So I used to cover more water — there’s no doubt in that. And I change rigs less — no doubt about that either.
I wear a vest because I love having my presentation options ready for every moment. In one of those thirty-some pockets, I have the next fly, leader or weight adjustment up front and at hand, without digging into a backpack or rotating a sling pack around, slowing me down and missing the moment.
Yesterday, a guy walking his dog laughed at me as we passed on the trail . . .
“Anything you don’t have in that vest, kid?” the man asked sarcastically.
I took the question as rhetorical and ignored him. I did note that he called me a kid. No one has asked for my driver’s license in exchange for a six-pack for quite some time, so the “kid” remark softened the sting of the stranger’s chiding tone.
“Maybe I shouldn’t carry so much stuff,” I thought.
Here’s the thing: I’m a minimalist, but I’m prepared, too. And I also love testing, which I sometimes do more than fishing.
I’ve spent so many days on the water that what brings me back is not the next trout but the next mystery. Why does my friend love that strange leader formula so much? I’ll fish it for a few days, and find out.
Once my guide season ends, I’m still on the water every day, but I‘m back to fishing. Day in and day out, I try to learn something, adding to the collected bank of knowledge of a few decades on rivers. And I’m in a lot more control of that testing with the rod in my own hand.
But I do have to step in and restrain myself once in a while . . .
I preach versatility to put trout in the net. And no, I’ll never give up on that message or suggest otherwise. But when am I changing too much? At some point, I’m spending more minutes tying knots to test the next thing than I am making solid casts and working on effective drifts. There’s a point where I’m being too versatile, and I must remind myself to fish and not just test.
Last night, I sat with this same laptop under my fingers and watched one video after another about film editing in Davinci Resolve. For the hundredth time, I compared my computer specs with recommended components and software settings. After a couple hours of that, I walked upstairs and took my new knowledge into the menus of the program.
I’m young at the game. I’ve dabbled in video work for two years now, but I’ve published very little of my own efforts. It’s intimidating, because I’m surrounded by anglers and videographers who are more skilled and more experienced. I also know that I have a quality standard for anything with the Troutbitten name behind it. And I’m not there yet.
But while sitting in my office chair at midnight, I realized something . . .
The gear is getting in the way. I’ve learned enough about GPUs and clock speeds, proxy files, frames per second, color grading and scopes. Now I need to focus on creating. I’m being held back by my worry that I don’t have the right settings in place or not enough RAM in the machine. I need to move forward. I need to get past the gear stage.
Fly fishing is similar. And I remember being in the gear stage many times over the years. At every turn, with every new tactic, I’ve gone through a phase of research and preparation before implementation. That’s a good thing. But for anyone at the same crossroads, we must move forward and get to the reason we did so much research and gear acquisition in the first place. On the river, every angler must eventually put their learning and new gear to good use.
No matter what we’re into, there’s a time when the learning of skills reaches a critical mass, when it’s time to do rather than read more about it and buy more gear.
With a fly rod in hand, the gear that we carry in our packs can easily get in the way. It can become an excuse and a distraction from the fishing itself.
There’s a time for learning. There’s time for preparation. And then there’s time for doing — for putting all of it into practice, making the casts, covering water and catching fish.
Fish hard, friends.
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Enjoy the day.
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