Sunday Classic / Fly Anglers Sixth Sense, Fact or Fiction?

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Fly Anglers Sixth Sense, Fact or Fiction? Photo By: Louis Cahill

Do you ever feel like you’ve got a sixth sense working for you when you’re out fly fishing?

I’m talking about an extra sense that seems to give you the power and clarity to sense future fishing success moments before it happens. It doesn’t happen all the time, but when it does, it’s one of the sweetest feelings I think a fly angler can witness; calling his/her fish before the cast. You’ve just rounded a bend when your eyes are immediately drawn to a perfect looking stretch of water. It’s a wide and fast riffle a little to shallow to hold fish, but there’s a fallen tree that’s condensing all the current into a tight six foot wide flow. Even better, that condensed current is flowing right over a drop-off, into a deep blue pool. A light bulb in your head goes off as your sixth sense kicks in, and you’re certain when your fly hits the water it will only be a few seconds until a trout rises to your fly. All you have to do is call your shot and make a good cast. Sure enough, you make a spot on cast, and success arrives like clockwork. The surreal sound of a cork being pulled from a whiskey bottle, signals to you a trout has sucked in your fly, and you set the hook, and shout “Man, I love that sound”. I bet there’s a lot of guides out there that feel the same way when they call a take for a client during the drift, “get ready, you should get a bite right…….now, bam”. When your client turns to you and asks how you did that, just smile and say it’s your sixth sense.

I’m sure there’s anglers out there that would argue this sixth sense is fictional. That it’s being disguised and nothing more than angler confidence or a lucky guess. To each there own, I personally think I fish better believing in the existence of the sixth sense. I love the feeling of reward it brings me, and it never gets old. Fact or fiction, it’s the closest thing to utopia with a fly rod in hand, and one more reason I’ll fly fish until the day I die.

Who’s with me?

Keep it Reel,

Kent Klewein
Gink & Gasoline
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13 thoughts on “Sunday Classic / Fly Anglers Sixth Sense, Fact or Fiction?

  1. That has happened to me a few times but this one time we were drifting this grass flat. It was very windy so I couldn’t pole and so both of us were just blind casting. I saw this sand pothole and as I cast for it, I called it to by buddy, “Gator trout in the side pocket.” As soon as my fly hit the water, BOOM!, that 24″ trout exploded out of the water. My buddy was like, “How did you know?”” It’s crazy how that happens. Because then later I try to make it happen and it doesn’t work.

  2. My best fishing partner and I make a 200 mile trek to our favorite Fall Steelhead fishery almost every Fall/Early Winter for the chance at some chrome-heads. One trip some years ago, we were talking about being “innovative and BRINGING SOMETHING TO THE TABLE that will keep us ahead of the other “compition!” I calmly looked at him about 100 miles in and said “don’t worry I got this; I tied 6 of the same pattern that’s going to make this trip; he slowly shook his head up and down; and said “okay, you got this!” The first 6 casts the next morning brought to the bank 6 Chromers 33″ to 36″ and over 18 hours fishing in 2 days; netted 18 “subtle and/or HIGH PRESSURE” bites against 1 and half dozen other anglers causing too much pressure , in a 3 mile stretch of water! When you get that feeling, RUN WITH IT!

  3. In addition to angler confidence and lucky guess I would add knowledge, skill, and preparation. I think the better you are, the more often you will anticipate success.

    There is a corollary to your fishy sixth sense. As an athlete and coach, I was big on visualizing success in advance. But what you are really doing is preparing yourself to be ready to apply your skill in timely fashion with confidence when the moment unfolds in front of you, be it a hanging curve, a fastball in your sweet spot, or a big trout right where your knowledge of perfect lies told you he would be. Funny how hard work and preparation leads to success.

  4. I do not believe in a sixth sense as some outside the norm type of thing. I was a soldier, then a paramedic now a nurse. As I gained experience in each of these professions my “sixth sense” got better. Had many discussions with others on the subject. If you are able to look back at a situation where your “sixth sense” helped, I have a feeling what you will find are a bunch of little clues you processed without knowing it. If experience, observation, and processing it it unconsciously is a sixth sense I am all for it,

  5. My son and I fish 3-4 times a year. i will tell him where to cast and be ready. The first few times he looked at me like i’m crazy now he believes and always ask me how did I know that. I say I just feel it.

  6. That sixth sense? Hell yeah, it’s your gut confirming your knowledge and experience. When you know that you know. And anyone who calls it luck is right- the crossroads where preparation and opportunity meet.

    Sixth sense? Yeah I got one.

  7. In the book “Shop Class as Soul Craft” Matthew Crawford wrote:

    “The basic idea of tacit knowledge is that we know more than we can say, and certainly more than we can specify in a formulaic way. Intuitive judgments of complex systems, especially those made by experts, such as an experienced firefighter [or flyfisher], are sometimes richer than can be captured by any set of algorithms.”

    This sometimes works against me though as I get the perfect cast and drift in what I know to be the perfect holding spot and say “Damn that should have been a fish!”

  8. Or, you’re throwing 60-ft casts of 7x to noses sipping midges or tricos and you can’t really tell the difference between your fly and the naturals. But you’re in the “zone”. You just know when you’ve got an eat.
    Finding the fish in the buckets and lies while drifting may feel like sixth sense, but I believe it’s more about knowledge and experience. Blind casting dries on the bank, and “knowing” when you’ll get a take is truly satisfying. It does indeed feel like you’re in another realm of sensory perception.
    It’s primeval – the hunter who is on top of his game, mastering the challenge of capturing wild prey. Nothing better.

  9. Great article and a lot of excellent responses. I can’t make any analogies to serving but I will thank those that did. I can only say I know the feeling and if it wasn’t for it I probably wouldn’t be guiding. Years of experience tells where the buckets and sweet foam lines to fish are but feeling a strike about to happen in your bones is pretty rewarding! Tip up and tight lines amigos!
    Hope to see ya on the creek!

  10. I started to write a long dissertation on the Zen of fly fishing, but figured everyone had heard something like it in the past. So, twice in my 30 yrs of flyfishing, I have picked up my line, turned, and cast to the sound of a rise and caught the fish.
    nuff said.

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