How To Catch More Fish – The Company You Keep

I’m not a very good fisherman. At least not by the standards of the company I keep. Numbered among my friends are more elegant casters, craftier fly tyers, smarter fly selectors, more intuitive water readers, and more graceful presenters than I ever dream of being. Heck, on any given day, those superior abilities are likely to all be embodied in the same person. But that’s just fine. I still manage to catch an occasional trout. Sometimes I’m even fortunate enough to catch the trout.

Even when the fishing is slow though, I’m virtually guaranteed of hooking a new idea or two from my companions. What success I’ve enjoyed with a fly rod over the years is owed more to that fact than any other single factor… bar none. Here are a few ideas on how you can harvest more from your time on the water too.

Swallow your pride – As a red blooded American man I realize it’s hard to ask for help. In the timeless words of Abraham Lincoln “It is better to remain silent and be presumed a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt” right? Wrong. Nobody has all the answers and there’s no shame in admitting it.

“Whoa slick cast man! How did you your get your line to land with that upstream mend built in?”

“Holy cow, nice hook-up! What did you see that told you put the fly there?”

“If you have any ideas where this tailing loop is coming from, you’re not going to hurt my feelings.“

Leave the posturing at home. Ask today and fish more effectively tomorrow.

The flipside, of course, is that no one wants to be peppered with an inquisition while they’re fishing. But specific, contextually appropriate questions let your buddy know that you’re paying attention, interested and value his or her opinion. Who wouldn’t share a little ju-ju in those circumstances?

Don’t be stingy – Turn about is fair play. If you’ve got the pattern deciphered and you’re buddy is interested… share the love. Found a sweet new honey hole in the next drainage north? A little tactfully shared information can garner real returns. Is someone showing you some unfamiliar water? Offer to drive. And never underestimate the educational power of a passed flask.

Cast a wide net – There’s nothing quite so comfortable as fishing with an old friend. We all have that nucleus of buddies with whom, for better or worse, we’ve spent untold days on the water. There’s no call to give that up, but branching out a little can go a long way. Maybe the new gal at the office was a champion flats guide in her youth, or maybe they just did things a little differently where she grew up. Either way, the insertion of a fresh perspective can help to reorder the way you look at things, often prompting big leaps forward for your craft.

Successful fishing begins in your head. What’s in there is influenced by the folks around you. Paying attention to that fact, and actively harnessing it can go a long way.

8 Comments on “How To Catch More Fish – The Company You Keep

  1. So true Matt. There is no doubt that I owe my growth as a fly fisherman to my friends, and one in particular who is a terrific fisherman. We exchange information without drag from the egos. It helps us both.

    Another good way to improve is to teach. You must think about and master the things you teach. Teaching in Boy Scout fly fishing merit badge or Project Healing Waters for Vets, or Trout Unlimited fly fishing, fly rigging, and fly tying classes are all forms of service that return skill and knowledge to you as well as the good feeling of helping others.

  2. This is all so true, but for some reason so hard. How is it possible that I can have any pride after coming up empty while watching one of the old river sages stand up a dozen fish in the time it takes me to tie on the next fly? Proud of what? And yet, I never seem to have the gumption to ask them what’s working? Can I blame this on some cultural phenomena, or do I just have to own up to the fact that just as bad at admitting I need help as I am at fishing?

  3. MG and Matt,
    Many old river sages a/k/a geezers like me are happy to pass on what we have learned. I have no problem telling folks what is working for me, as long as they are law abiding, responsible conservationists. We were young once, busy, and had less time for avocations like fishing. I spent my professional and recreational life on the inquisitive side, not being afraid to ask questions of other lawyers (then other judges) or fishermen and guides. Sure, there were a few times when I felt “why didn’t I know that?” after asking, but I feel growth and Improvement far outweighs fleeting discomfort of having to ask. It works for me, and I am still learning from good sites like this, reading books, and most of all asking for help.

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