First Post of the Year: Desperation

This post highlights one of the biggest lessons I learned this year.

Many times last year, particularly in the spring, I felt the need to catch fish. My overall experience was based on how many fish I caught. As the season went on, I realized that there is more to fishing than catching. Slowly, I became more patient and my approach changed for the better.

You fished all day without a fish landed. The angler just downstream of you landed his third in five casts. Meanwhile, you continue flogging water in the hope that a fish will take your fly. Suddenly, an immediate sense of dread starts to fill you. What am I doing wrong? What fly is he using? These are some of the questions that you ask yourself.

This is desperation, and everyone feels it now and again.

It is easy to lose your cool in this situation. When this happens, casting and wading become erratic. As a result, you lose attention to detail and spook many more fish. Suddenly, a small problem feeds into a larger one and you start to lose confidence. If you feel desperate, take a deep breath. It is easy to regain your cool.

Desperation makes you more aware of your surroundings and attentive to detail. Factors affecting success include improper presentation and fly selection. Good presentation usually tops fly selection. Common issues usually include drag and depth of fly.

For example, the conventional wisdom with nymphing is to add more weight until you either drag bottom or catch fish. Sometimes fly selection is the most important factor in fishing success, but, this is usually during or before a hatch. Above all, there is no substitute for experience. The more you get out, the more you enjoy the pursuit rather than the catching.

Due to the weather and flows, the opportunities to fly fish are fairly limited. In the meantime, I will think about lessons learned and goals for the upcoming season. I hope to see many of you at the show this weekend.

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9 thoughts on “First Post of the Year: Desperation

  1. As anew fly fishing person, I find the whole experience of being out there peaceful. I carefully try to select the fly, try to choose a place to cast that fly, cast the fly, and try to watch, feel that fly as it journeys down that stream…but, after a few casts, successful or not, I catch the landing of a blue heron and my eyes and mind focus away from that fly…at the very moment…wham! I miss that hit..somehow , I am not upset, if I was somewhere else, I would not have had THAT experience…I often try to start conversations with other people on the river…reiterating my moment of lack of concentration…and not surprisingly, others share theirs…so much more to fly fishing..isn’t there?

  2. I find its great to catch fish, but to be out there in the moment and see something such as an eagle in flight, a deer on the shore and other awesome sights just makes me realize life is good. Its as we say in hiking, its not about the destination, its about the hike……

    Tight Lines All,

  3. You hit the nail on the head Ashu. Failure, and the ensuing desperation is what drives us to reflect, to learn, and truly analyze ourselves and our surroundings. When the bite is on, one often forgets how they got to that point. When it isn’t, that is the perfect time to take a step back and truly think about it all. That said, it does feel pretty damn good to be that guy pulling up fish every other cast when all others around you are coming up empty. That’s when I like to chat with those around me, as it’s just as important to learn what isn’t working for others as well as share what is working for you.

  4. Onetime I’ll try to spend my time trying to fool the one fish in front me even if it takes all day , like a chess match. That ends up being more rewarding than catching 20 fish, for me anyways and if the fish wins so be it.

  5. I am never happy when I get the skunk, but it happens and not unusual, especially where I fish most times. I avoid the crowds and fish unpopular stretches of streams for the solitude I seek. When I connect I am quite satisfied, but that is not what it is all about for me either.

    This past year I saw an eagle fly 20′ over my head as it was being chased by a mob of crows, a squirrel ‘playing chess’ with a hawk where every time the hawk went for it, the squirrel kept the trunk of the tree between him and the hawk which took some doing. The hawk realized it had lost and flew off.

    With regard to fishing though, the most amazing thing I saw and heard this year happened toward that time between dusk and dark. I was making my last few casts and I heard a huge splash to the left of me and thought it must be an unseen duck taking flight or a local beaver that was in the vicinity.

    In the fading light I saw a sizable fish with its top side clearly out of the water rounding up either a bait fish or a brookie and not being quiet about it. It swam into a shallow channel and I could still see it swimming around with its back out of the water until it disappeared.

    Like others have said here, it’s not all about connecting with trout. Amazing things to be see out there.

  6. I guess we all look, search, hope for different things as we head up the river, along the shore, or into the middle of the lake. I could fish all day and not catch a thing and still be happy, but that’s not to say I would not rather be catching fish. I agree with Sam and Joe, it’s the journey and not the destination.

    When I was living in Anchorage, Alaska, my first few times fishing I went to the spots near the beaten trails and realized that combat fishing was not for me. I’d rather be pulling in a 6 inch cutthroat instead of jostling or dodging fisherman up and down the river banks in hopes of catching a pig. After that, I would seek out little streams or lakes that I could get into without too much trouble with or without my canoe; many times I left with nothing landed. I do the same here in MA. If I fish the Swift, 90% of the time its below Cady Lane, sometimes exploring well below it. It’s why I’ll never hire a guide, it defeats MY whole purpose of being out there: my journey.

    The most memorable moment fishing had nothing to do with landing a fish. I was sitting in my canoe about 100 yards offshore, when I heard a crashing and thrashing in the bush. A few seconds later a moose broke through the undergrowth and ran into the lake, only to be followed by three wolves, who stopped at the water’s edge. I guess they weren’t interested in swimming before their next meal.

    Frustration, failure, desperation, dread: not a chance when I’m out fishing. (Okay, unless I’m out with my brother and he’s the only one catching).

    Always enjoy the posts and many points of view expressed here. As my Gramps used to say: that’s why we have chocolate and vanilla ice cream, some people like chocolate, and others prefer vanilla, but its still ice cream.

  7. Wow, I didn’t know that this post would generate so much discussion! I enjoyed reading through each comment on this thread. Fly fishing isn’t so much about catching fish as it is seeking solitude (and then catching fish). Unfortunately, the direction in which fly fishing is heading emphasizes catching huge fish and the creation of so called “trout parks,” which are more amusement park than nature. My favorite memory from this past year came ironically on one of my least productive days. On a late fall outing at the Deerfield, I spotted a lone bald eagle gliding through a rocky gorge. He was probably fishing as well, but I didn’t think he practiced “catch and release.”

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