The versatile angler

spring creek sucker

Don’t let a little rain stop you.
I received a question from a good friend of mine who is learning about fly fishing and getting better at an accelerated rate. He is constantly trying to gain knowledge. This combined with all of the rain we have received encouraged me to share the following thoughts about learning curves associated with fly fishing.

Many anglers new to the sport fish hard by getting out every chance they can, pushing to learn new skills, and find great success. Sadly, many level off and get into a rut.

They use go-to tactics and fly patterns that have worked for them in the past and given them some level of success. Too often, though, they go out only when they have a good idea their game will work, or, when skunked, they believe the fish are not active that day. You can catch trout in all conditions—period. Period. Yes, some of those times, it will be extremely difficult, but that is even more satisfying.

I competed in a regional tournament in State College during a 100 year flood. In fact the venue was scheduled for the Little Juniata, Penns Creek, Big Fishing Creek, and Spring Creek but the water got so high that it was decided too dangerous to fish anywhere but Spring Creek. Even on Spring Creek the water was so high that it pushed over the bridges and well over the banks. We are talking a 100 year flood stage. There was so much debris floating in the strong current that I believed it was futile to even try fishing. I even saw dead animals floating by. One was a duck! During the practice session we all talked about how we could not believe that the event was not cancelled. So there I was trying to crack the most difficult code I had ever been faced with. I tried everything: heavily weighted nymphs anchored to the bottom, streamers on full sinking line, big dark turd flies rolled along the bottom. High stick jigging in the eddies, you name it I tried it. It took a lot of mental strength to not throw in the towel. If I had not been in a competition I would have given up. But I persevered and used my imagination. That is when I tried jigging dark woolly buggers in 3 – 10 inches of water near the trees and bushes well away from the stream bank. I was fishing in areas so far away from the bank that it would have been normally cut by a lawn mower. There is where I found success.

There is nothing wrong with being a fair-weather angler, someone who just wants to relax and catch a few fish. I enjoy those moods as well. Most often, if anglers like this have a wider array of skills to rely on, they can convert failures to successes. I suggest trying new approaches by finding situations that you would normally walk away from or not consider, and by learning how to crack the code. I truly believe that regardless of the old line, “It’s great to just get out,” it’s better to just get out and catch fish.

Take a couple hours and improve your fly casting.
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Thanks and remember: Go. Explore.

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