In Our Fly We Trust

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Photo by Louis Cahill

Photo by Louis Cahill

By Jesse Lowry

Fishing is as much of a mental game as any sport.

Whether it’s having confidence in your gear, the conditions, your technique, hell, even in the fish, the psychological factors play a role in how we perform on the water.

While a multitude of factors can be considered when deciding where, when, how, and with what we fish, having too much focus. or a focusing only on the negative factors, can be what stands between us and a successful day on the water. For instance, worrying that you can’t make a cast, or the weather is going to put the fish down, or these currents are going to make it tough to get a good drift, or the tide might not be ideal for this spot, or maybe I don’t have on the right fly.

While these are all valid factors to consider, they are all directed at the negative aspects of the proverbial hand we are dealt. This train of thought is tough to change. It is in our hard wiring. We are inherently risk averse as a species and thus try to avoid negative outcomes by using past experience as a guide. This leads to a bias where we focus on how we can fail as opposed to how we can succeed. Changing this type of thinking takes time and has to be done in baby steps. In my opinion a good place to start changing this biased way of thinking is with the fly we tie on.

I’ve had the same conversation with numerous fly fishermen in different parts of the world, regarding different species of fish and the consensus has been the same.

A fly you trust and believe will work, will catch more fish than one you don’t! 

Sure, there may be that hot fly that picky fish hone in on, but if you don’t have confidence in the fly you’re using, you’re not going to make a presentation with authority, and that will definitely result in catching fewer fish. This ties in with Louis’s recent article on Creative Visualization.

Remember they are just fish, not fly tying judges. For the most part they just want to eat and expend as few calories as possible doing it.

Screen-Shot-2018-04-13-at-12.43.22-PMI had a day where I caught a dozen bonefish on the same spawning shrimp fly. After about the 6th fish there was no way you could call it a spawning shrimp, mono eyes gone, silly legs gone, orange spawn sac gone, just a hook, some thread, and a few stray EP fibers. You definitely wouldn’t pick it out of your fly box and tie it on. Yet that fly, as beat up as it was, still caught more bonefish.

Why? Because I had no reason to think it wouldn’t work again. I didn’t treat it like the beat up P.O.S it was and I kept making the same presentation and stripping it back all the way to the leader even if I didn’t get an eat after the first 20 feet of a follow, I kept fishing. I had faith in that fly. I could see the fish eating it before it ate. While there are definitely places with super selective fish, and the color of the over wing could to be the deciding factor, these are generally the exception, not the rule.

Side Note: I am not suggesting fly selection isn’t important, just don’t let a lack of confidence affect other aspects of your performance. Just “Be the ball Danny.” Assume you’ve got the right fly until proven otherwise; a few outright refusals, no hits in fishy spots etc. then make a change.

So next time you’re out on the water, trust in your fly! Fish it like it is that magical pattern and you might just make that cast you didn’t think you could make, or get the drift you didn’t think was possible, and catch that fish that you didn’t think you could catch.

Jesse Lowry
Gink & Gasoline
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5 thoughts on “In Our Fly We Trust

  1. link from my name, if working, shows the remnants of a zebra beadhead nymph, after it had caught trout all day long for me.. it kept catching fish so I didn’t look too closely 😉

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