Information VS Knowledge 

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Photos by Louis Cahill

By Louis Cahill

A wise friend of mine always says, “Information plus experience, equals knowledge.”

It’s a concept as simple as it is brilliant. A teacher can give you information, but until you have the experience and the context to have real understanding, you don’t have the knowledge. True knowledge will always trump information. That’s just common sense.

I see a lot of anglers who get stalled in the gap between information and knowledge. Anglers who catch a lot of fish with the information they have but could catch a lot more if they really understood what they are doing. These folks are stuck at an intermediate level in the sport, and some spend their whole lives there. I’m going to give you some examples of specific ways this happens, but understand, it applies to every aspect of fly fishing…and everything else in life, truth be told. This is a little on the esoteric side for a fly fishing tip, I admit. 

My goal is to try and help those intermediate anglers learn a new way of thinking about fly fishing, which will help them reach the next level.

A classic example of this is the subject of leaders. I know lots of anglers who obsess about leader formulas. I think anyone who is advanced in the sport knows that the leader is incredibly important. Arguably the most important piece of tackle in the system. I’d personally rather fish the wrong fly on the right leader than the other way around. That said, I do not believe in leader formulas.

Sure, if you have a leader that works in a familiar fishing situation, you may never need to stray from that formula. As long as you always fish the same way, with the same type of flies, and the conditions never change, and the fish never get any smarter. If, however, you understand how a leader functions and how to build one that will perform in varied conditions, on different water, with different flies and for different fish, well, you’ll be a better angler. At the least a more prepared angler. If you’re interested in that subject, you’ll find a full article here, “Understanding Leaders Means Better Fly-fishing”

What way too many anglers do in practice is hold slavishly to some shred of information they gleaned from a higher source. You will commonly here them footnoting some famous angler who’s book they read or workshop they attended. “ Lefty says always…” Those famous anglers all knew what they were talking about, but too often the folks listening didn’t. Every rule in fly fishing is specific to a given situation. Change the situation and the rules change. You can’t expect to read one book and be set, knowing everything you will ever need to know about fly fishing. Thats what makes it fun, or at least makes it stay fun for a lifetime.

Nothing is sacred and rules are made to be broken. I should have that as a tattoo!

Take fly tying as another example. Some tyers are incredibly dogmatic about fly recipes, never deviating from what was set down by the flies creator. Fair enough, there are a whole lot of classic patterns that work today as well as they worked a hundred years ago. That doesn’t mean they will work as good as they possibly can on any given day. The anglers who blow me away are the ones who pull out the scissors on the river and start snipping away at their fly, making it, not perfect but perfect for today. That’s next level fly fishing. That’s knowledge over information.

The best thing you can do to take your fly fishing to the next level is understand that there is more than one right answer. Lefty’s answer can be right, and your answer be right too, maybe even better under the circumstances. Be curious. Do your homework. Study and be open to new ideas. If something works, ask why. When you truly understand the details and are able to adapt, rather than hold on to the dogma and tradition, you’ll be fishing up to your potential.

Louis Cahill
Gink & Gasoline
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5 thoughts on “Information VS Knowledge 

  1. I’ve readen your lines with interest.
    Yes, questions about leaders are so many (expérimental, théoric, mathématic reasonings…) as perhaps important.
    Perhaps… Because that opens questions about relationship between knowledge and information, as you’ve written. Is there really an opposition between these two “concepts”? Are they really independant?… That allows hours of philosophic debate…
    For the moment, the debate is not this one. For me, it’s rather a question of position about fly fishing (and other things in our life…!) : can we accept we cannot control everything? And the pleasure and performance are always tied?
    Perhaps have a higher level is not an issue for some fishermen.
    I think in flyfishing, there’s always (fortunately?) something which escape of the more advanced expériences or theories… I don’t go further on épistémology (and Eisemann theory…) but we know it’s impossible in fishing (mostly…) to repeat exactely same circumstances for test different values of the object we have to test…
    Well, I understand the sense of L. Cahill purpose but don’t forget that many fly fishermen take the same pleasure smelling the smell of water, seeing the beauty of a landscape and a trout rising than catch it and hook a monster….
    PS : sorry for my english!

    Envoyé de mon iPad

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