I’ve spent years writing magazine stories, even books, focused on tips to help anglers be more successful. Been all over the world… caught fish beyond my wildest imagination… seen things I never thought I’d encounter, and I rubbed shoulders along the way with some of the best anglers on the planet. I’ve been very lucky.
The number-one question I have always been asked, and still get asked, is, “what’s that one, special tip that matters most?” “What’s the one thing that separates the best anglers from the rest?
Belief that you can make the cast happen, and the connection matter, and the landing almost automatic, before you even unfurl that shot at the fish. That’s where the great ones live and that’s the line you must cross if you ever want to evolve from “interested” to “pretty good” to “really darn good” when it comes to fly fishing.
When, for example, Tiger Woods has an 8-foot putt on the line to win a tournament, he expects that putt to drop. Tom Brady might be facing a 3rd and 10 from his own 30-yard line, yet he expects a completed pass. Michael Jordan got the ball with two seconds left on the clock, down two, and he fired a shot from behind the arc, expecting it to go in. That’s why they’re the GOATs of their respective sports. They expected excellence.
For the fly angler, there’s only one way to get there.
Sure, you can read books, and online stories, and all that. Those things might indeed shorten the curve.
But as one of my late, great friends, Denny Breer, once told me, “Only time on water equals fish.” I’ve never forgotten that.
Failure, in fly fishing, is the greatest teacher of all. It’s honest. It’s so real. It’s exactly what makes this sport so special. There are no “participation trophies” in fly fishing, and that’s pretty dang wonderful, if you ask me.
Now… when I see a trout sipping dries in a subtle seam, and I’ve put myself in the right place, and everything is all lined up… I know in my head, before I make that cast, “that fish is mine… I own it.”
But that’s only because I’ve screwed up and flailed on so many, countless, other shots over the years. It’s only because I was so damn bad before, but I learned and adjusted, that I’m fairly decent now.
“Instant gratification” should not be part of the fly-fishing lexicon, ever. And you should never, ever be demoralized by a fish that got away, or a shot you missed.
Instead, you should appreciate the wonder of the quarry, and think in terms of stepping-stones.
Having an inherent “belief” is fly-fishing Nirvana. You can go anywhere and make any cast.
Just remember that it never ends… there’s always a twist… sometimes it’s okay to simply eat humble pie and cheer for the fish. I still get taken to “school,” all the time.
To me, that’s what “true believing” is really all about.