The Persistent Angler

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Photos by Louis Cahill

By Louis Cahill

Is there any point in continuing to pound a fish who just won’t eat?

The cool thing about fly fishing is that it offers such diversity. There is a species or a style of fishing every angler can enjoy. If you don’t like trout fishing, you may like bass or bonefish. If drifting dry flies isn’t your thing, stripping streamers may be. There is no wrong answer to the question, how should I fish? We all get something different out of fly fishing and, as long as you’re having fun and being respectful of the resources and your fellow angler, I say go for it! 

Over the years, what I get from fly fishing has evolved, and it hasn’t evolved in the same way for every kind of fly fishing. I freely admit that, in some ways and for some fish, I’ve gotten lazy. I’m not proud of it but I don’t apologize for it either. Trout fishing specifically has become more of an excuse to hang out with my friends or my dog more than a goal oriented pursuit. I’m admittedly more interested in having fun than I am catching huge fish or a lot of fish. I guess that’s why I often find myself just as happy watching a buddy fish a run. I think it’s also why I’m perfectly happy walking away from a stubborn fish. The thing is, I admire anglers who don’t.

I’ve known a lot of anglers who really enjoy catching the uncatchable fish. A couple of them so focused they could care less about the other fish happily rising in a run and spend the bulk of the day butting heads with the stubborn fish who won’t eat. 

The cool thing is that these guys, the really good ones, usually get that fish.

One of those anglers is Justin Pickett, no stranger to regular readers. Justin is one of those guys who almost always gets that problem fish to eat. I’ve watched him work a single fish for three hours. Like a sniper, dug in and waiting for a shot. When he gets locked in like that you may as well get comfortable. Have some lunch, take a nap, read a book, or just clip a walkie-talkie to his belt and go see the rest of the river. It’s going to take a minute.

You may think that’s cool or you may think it’s crazy but the results are hard to argue with. That fish he spent three hours on, while the rest of us had lunch, was a 32 inch brown trout and, yes, he landed it. There were four of us and no one thought that fish would eat, except Justin. I’ve never seen a more deserved fish.

The thing I think makes the case for persistence is how Justin goes about it. He parks himself right beside that fish. There’s usually not more than a couple of feet of fly line outside the tip of his rod. Sometimes he’s euronymphing but often he’s fishing a streamer or even a dry fly. It’s not so much a choice of technique, I think, as a desire to look his opponent in the eye. OK, it’s really so he can see the fish’s every subtle reaction but I like the romance of looking the fish in the eye. Either way, he’s damned effective.

I watched him do it last week to a stubborn shoal bass, who eventually ate a streamer twitched across his nose. I was shocked that fish didn’t run for cover two minutes in but he didn’t. That’s all the proof I need that persistence pays off in fly fishing. A persistent angler can almost will a fish to eat. My buddy Justin proves it.

I think we should hear directly from Mr Pickett about this approach and the best way for that to happen is for you good people to give him some shit in the comments section. He reads them. Make him give up on his secrets!

Louis Cahill
Gink & Gasoline
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4 thoughts on “The Persistent Angler

  1. So Louis said I need to give you “some shit” for your persistence…actually, I find your dedication impressive…I have a fishing buddy that comes out the same “mold”…he has been methodical, persistent, and always “out fishes” the rest of us…I might even say mildly competitive that enjoys “bragging rights” at the end of the day… Louis’s call for you to post an article? I was amazed on your approach to “look the fish” in the eye–so much for stealth…I guess your persistence wins the day here…will have to include that approach–especially my using my Tenkara rod these days…would love to hear more in an article on your approach–go ahead Justin–you can do it!

  2. If the peristant things,like the advertisings on the posts !!!
    I’ve also note the univeral man you are : expert (??? )in philosophy, psychology, physiology, music… what else ???
    Thanks God Louis!!!
    G; Baudin from France (Normandy)

  3. Mr Justin Pickett,

    Your secrets are safe with me. I live & Fish in Western Nevada, Your techniques would be lost in the Sage & Silver ripples, never to compete with your snagging methods!
    Loose Drags,

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