By Louis Cahill
There are two types of fly anglers: those who treat it like a hobby and those who treat it like a job.
It’s not a judgment. There’s nothing wrong with being a casual angler. In fact, those anglers make me a little jealous sometimes, but the truth is we are not all wired the same and some anglers are more results-focused than others. Perhaps that means they want to catch a lot of fish, or big fish, or maybe you’re more motivated to master the skills than to catch the fish. One thing is undeniable: like so many things in life, if you are looking for fly fishing results, what you put in largely determines what you get back.
With that in mind, here are some thoughts on how to step up your fly-fishing game.
There are two places you have to display a solid work ethic to really boost your success. On the water and off. Off the water work is frequently ignored altogether but is the real key to success. There is something you can do every day to improve as an angler. It might be casting practice, fly tying, reading an article or watching a video. It might be swapping stories with a buddy over a beer. Whatever it is, the more you immerse yourself in fly fishing the more it becomes part of your nature.
Of all the things you can do off the water, I believe the most important is casting practice.
Casting practice accomplishes two things. It helps you develop new skills and it develops muscle memory to reinforce old ones. For that reason I always start my casting practice with the basics. I use a practice plan I learned from Tim Rajeff. Tim was kind enough to demonstrate it on video and you can watch that HERE. This practice plan is the perfect warmup and will do more for your fly casting than anything I know.
Once you’ve covered the basics, push yourself by working on your weakest skills or trying new ones. Maybe it’s a Belgian cast, a reach cast or a curve cast. Maybe you just want more distance or a better double haul. Whatever the skill you want may be, you can have it. You only have to put in the time. Even one day a week practicing will make a big difference. Better yet, practice more frequently for shorter periods of time and you’ll be amazed at the results. Get an Echo MPR for $39 and keep it at your desk. There’s no wrong time to practice.
The other place you want to get down to business is on the water.
First, that means putting in the days. About twenty years ago I was talking with a casting instructor about doing some additional training.
“I don’t think I can help you,” he told me. “You know everything you need to know, you just need to put in the time on the water. Fish a hundred days next year and you’ll be a badass.”
I took that advice. I made a plan and a schedule and I stuck to it. I put in over a hundred days and the difference was remarkable. It wasn’t easy to accomplish but twenty years later I have forgotten the pain and still have the skills. Like they say, showing up is 90% of success.
When you are on the water, never phone it in.
It’s easy to get lazy and fish poorly, making sloppy presentations and poor drifts. Putting extra effort into details like line management makes a huge difference in results. Putting a fly just a foot further under structure, or making one more mend can be the difference between a trophy and a zero. If you find that you are getting sloppy or not making every cast count, take a break. Watch your buddy fish or just study the water and get your head back in the game.
Taking the time do research, on the stream and off, pays off. Whether it’s studying topo maps or sampling bugs, knowledge is the power to catch fish. I’ve never been good at keeping a journal but I know guys who swear by it. If you struggle to remember when key hatches or migrations happen, it’s worth writing it down.
Putting a few extra miles on the old wading boots generally pays off, too.
If you are the kind of angler who is driven by results, a good work ethic will serve you well. I know a lot of anglers don’t like that idea but the fish will always reward the extra effort. Just be careful what you ask for. When you start treating your fly fishing like a job, it just might become one. That’s what happened to me.Louis Cahill Gink & Gasoline www.ginkandgasoline.com firstname.lastname@example.org Sign Up For Our Weekly Newsletter!