We’re really lucky to spend a whole bunch of time on the water with a whole bunch of great anglers, in a bunch of different fisheries all around the world. Over the years we’ve noticed a couple of things.
- Some anglers catch more fish.
- The anglers who catch more fish have a lot of things in common.
Based on this extensive research, today we’re passing on some of the traits that we see over and over again in anglers who catch more fish. Here are…
13 Habits of Highly Effective Anglers
- Check your knots. Every single time they tie a knot, effective anglers give it a good tug to make sure it’s strong and seated correctly. Every time. It is very unusual for a really good angler to ‘break one off’.
- Keep your hooks sharp. Almost any time he touches his fly, a great angler will check its point to make sure it’s sharp. If it’s not, he’ll sharpen it or replace it.
- Organize your gear. It’s kind of obvious when you say it this way, but having the right gear for the situation, organized so you can find what you need, helps a lot. If you look inside the gear bag of an effective angler, you don’t see a big pile of doo doo.
- Fish the near water first. Anglers who catch a lot of fish always make some short casts into the near water first. If you tromp right into the run and launch one out to 70 feet, your chances of catching that fish right on the bank are exactly zero.
- Listen to your guide. You’re fishing with a guide for a reason – she knows the water better than you do. Truly good anglers don’t get all chest-thumpy and think they know better than their guide – they let their guide do her job, and listen to what she says, and then they catch more fish.
- Keep your fly in the water by minimizing false casts and re-casts. You’re only fishing when your fly is in the water. False casting and re-doing slightly sub-par casts wastes time and increases the chances that you tangle your line, snag your buddy, etc. A fly in the air catches no fish – keep it in the water, even if it wasn’t the best cast you ever made in your life.
- Keep the fly in the water by not constantly changing flies, sinktips, etc. Wasting a few seconds at a time by false casting too much is one thing…wasting 5 minutes at a time by constantly changing your rig is brutal. We’re trying to keep today’s article positive, but in this case we’ll say it like this – the least effective anglers we know burn an hour or more per day re-rigging when it makes little to no difference. Focus on presentation and keep it in the water.
- Take what the day gives you. Fishing is complicated, and a bunch of variables impact what kind of techniques are going to work well on any given day. Effective anglers aren’t rigid about their plans – they look at weather, water conditions and more, and base their plan on those variables. They know that over the long term they’ll be able to fish the way they want to fish, and that they’ll have a lot more fun and catch a lot more fish in the process.
- Let the fish eat. How often have you heard someone say “man, I was way too slow on the hook set”? OK, if you’re fishing for permit maybe so, but in most freshwater situations it’s a far more common sin to set the hook way too early. Relax and let him eat it!
- Practice your casting. Golly this is such a no-brainer that it’s shocking how rarely supposedly ‘aspiring’ anglers do it. Good anglers practice their casting, especially before a big trip. We’ll invoke the Pebble Beach metaphor yet again – would you really spend all the time and money to go play Pebble Beach for 4 hours without going to the driving range a few times first? Of course not – so why do so many anglers spend $5,000+ and 9 days on a fishing trip without practicing their casting even 2 or 3 times for 10 minutes each? The world will never know. Don’t even get us started on brand new rods and lines…you’re swinging that new club for the first time on the first tee at Pebble? Really?
- Never stop learning. Truly great anglers know that they can learn something about fishing from almost anybody. Get a bunch of actual experts together and you’ll find that they’re constantly asking each other questions, trying new techniques, changing things up and keeping an open mind. That’s a big reason they’re as good as they are. If you think you don’t have a lot more to learn about fishing, you’re wrong.
- When in doubt, check for knots in your leader, a fouled fly, etc. Effective anglers don’t want a boneheaded problem to screw up a fish on which they’ve done everything else right. When they throw a tailing loop (when, not if) they check to make sure they don’t have a wind knot. If they’ve been fishing an articulated pattern for a few minutes, they strip it in to make sure it’s not fouled. If you have any doubt, make sure your rig is right.
- Stay positive. If you’re mad about your bad casting or that fish you just lost or the guy who just low-holed you or the new cover sheet for the TPS reports, you’re not going to catch very many fish. This is a fact. Effective anglers are anglers who are positive and grateful to have the opportunity to spend a day on the water. This is a very powerful effect that we don’t totally understand – you certainly fish better when you’re happier, but beyond that somehow the universe just knows.