13 Habits of Unaccomplished Anglers

Kirk Werner
Apologies to Sage and Ross Reels for the unfortunate associations in this photo.

Last week we ran an article called 13 Habits of Highly Effective Anglers.  It somehow wound up pretty popular – thanks to the 4,882 of you who have checked it out so far!

Our good friend Kirk Werner has a fantastic blog called the Unaccomplished Angler.  We were thrilled when Kirk agreed to put together the Unaccomplished Angler’s take on our list.  Kirk’s a great writer and has a perspective that’s a little…different.  Have a read – we think you’re going to enjoy it.  

Thanks, Kirk!

13 Habits of Unaccomplished Anglers

Deneki Outdoors recently posted an article of considerable merit. 13 Habits of Highly Successful Anglers provides a detailed list of practices that anglers should employ in their quest for increased success on the water.

There’s no refuting Andrew’s assertions that: (A) some anglers catch more fish; and (B) the anglers who catch more fish have a lot of things in common. But what about the rest of us (or at least me)—the Unaccomplished Anglers who are admittedly catch-challenged…what are some of our habits? Ironically 13 is an unlucky number which seems to suit the Unaccomplished Angler quite nicely. Extensive personal experiences research has provided this author with the following list:

  1. Count your knots. During the course of a day your leader/tippet will amass a considerable number of “wind knots.” First of all it’s important to note one thing: There are critics who will refer to these as “casting knots” in an attempt to place blame not on the wind, but on the caster. Poppy-cock, I say. When the Unaccomplished Angler goes a-fishin’ the wind will blow. There will result multiple wind knots. Count them. There’ll be more knots than fish. At the end of the day the angler with the most wind knots wins.
  2. Make sure your hooks are intact. Every so often the Unaccomplished Caster will, by virtue of a sloppy back cast, strike an unintended target behind them. Be it a tree branch, river rock or guard rail, more often than not that object will win out in the battle against the hook. Certainly some of you have fished for extended periods of time without so much as a bump while others are yarding in fish after fish. Check to make sure your hook hasn’t broken off. The hook is an important part of catching fish.
  3. Forget your gear. Keeping your gear organized is sound practice as it may help eliminate the tendency to forget certain important items, such as wading boots and a reel. When you get to the river and realize you’ve forgotten your wading boots and reel, you may be inclined to utter strong words, such as but not limited to, “doo-doo.”
  4. Fish the nearest water. Aside from exercise being way over-rated, chances are the Unaccomplished Angler is going to suffer some sort of wading mishap while fishing. If you’ve hiked a long ways to find remote, unmolested water, it just means you’re going to have to slog a long way back to the truck in flooded waders after wade just a bit too deep for your abilities. This can be easily eliminated by staying close to the road.
  5. Listen to the criticism of your guide. If you’ve the occasion to fish with a guide, the Unaccomplished Angler is going to get an earful. The following may be familiar words you’ll hear from your guide: “Set, set, set!” “Did you WANT that fish?!” “Mend, damnit—MEND!!!” “I almost brought you a milk carton to stand on so you could see the fish.” (thanks, Joe Willauer, for that last one).
  6. Keep your fly in the water. There’s a lot of truth in the old adage, “You can’t catch a fish if your fly isn’t in the water.” But there’s more to it than just that. By minimizing false casts and re-casts you not only keep from hurting yourself or neighboring anglers, you also minimize wind knots and broken hooks. So keep your fly in the water. Chances are you won’t catch a fish, but you don’t expect to anyway.
  7. Don’t change a thing. Keep the fly in the water by not constantly changing flies, sinktips, etc. Sage advice. If one fly isn’t working, or you’ve attached the wrong sinktip, changing said items isn’t going to change the outcome of your day. You’re going to go home smelling of skunk anyway, so why take the time trying to do anything about it? You are an Unaccomplished Angler. Own it.
  8. Keep it simple, stupid. Effective anglers succeed by evolving and adapting to changing conditions. By contrast the Unaccomplished Angler is a simple person in a complex fishing world. No matter what the day calls for, they stick to what they which know isn’t much and nearly always means far fewer fish (or no fish at all). Remember: change is bad.
  9. Let the fish eat someone else’s fly. The Unaccomplished Angler is the consummate conservationist. By being way too slow—or in many cases premature—on the hook set, they inevitably catch far fewer fish than their compadres. There’s nothing wrong with that as it leaves the fish for the skilled anglers who deserve their just reward. Relax and take comfort in the knowledge that your buddies and the fish appreciate your inabilities.
  10. Your casting needs practice. Geepers, that’s a foregone conclusion. If by chance the catch-challenged angler is also a golfer (this author is not, by the way), chances are their golf game is on par with their fishing skills. In other words they’re never likely to golf Pebble Beach. You don’t waste your time on the driving range, so take the same approach to casting because you’re not likely to ever take an expensive fishing trip, either. In the case of the Unaccomplished Angler practice does not always make perfect so why beat a dead horse? Really.
  11. Stop dreaming. Despite the fact that they are constantly surrounded by anglers with considerably greater skill, there’s no reason for the Unaccomplished Angler to believe that they will ever approach the same level of ability. Your place in the food chain has been determined and you are at the bottom. It’s in your DNA—it’s your lot in life. Own it. If you think you can hope to become an effective angler, you are wrong.
  12. When in doubt, fish on. Unaccomplished Anglers don’t allow themselves be distracted by things they cannot change, such as but not limited to tailing loops and fouled hooks. As an example, when stripping an articulated streamer through a weed bed, the several inches of vegetation that become affixed to the hook are a good thing. Not only does it serve to increase the profile of the fly, additionally weeds are an important part of a fish’s life. What angler hasn’t observed small baitfish scurrying about the water collecting weeds for their nests? Big fish chase these diminutive weed gatherers because why? Because they want their weed.
  13. Negatives make for a positive. The Unaccomplished Angler knows a thing or two about math and applies their junior high-level algebra skills to their angling game: negatives make for a positive. They don’t get mad about bad casting skills or any other perceived angling shortcoming. The very things that prevent us from ever becoming effective anglers are what bring us peace. We are comfortable in our own wading boots and those around us are grateful for who we are as well. Be happy with your place in the universe.

If, however, you are dissatisfied with your angling prowess, or lack thereof, read the Deneki blog.

Make sure you check out Kirk’s site too!

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  1. says

    HILARIOUS!!! Well said. I appreciate your candor and sense of humor. We all need to take a step back and realize, it IS just FEESHUN’ after all.
    Tight Lines,

  2. says

    Thanks for the opportunity, Andrew. And Koz, thanks for the good word. I actually did try to take myself seriously once and it did not go so well.

  3. Meg says

    So how long have you been following me around?? My guides know to expect good tips because they know how often they will have to help me throughout the day. Thanks for the realism and laugh.


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