Confidence in Fly Fishing
For those of you who, like me, have memories of fishing that pre-date memories of school, think back to as many fishing partners and trips as you can. Even those people you only went fishing with once. Then try to recall times where the success or failure of a fly fisherman seemed to lie strictly on the fly fisherman’s confidence. If you think about it in these terms, I bet you can remember numerous times, when an angler’s, confidence or lack thereof, either doomed them or buoyed then until they started catching fish.
At times the success of a confident fly fishing angler can be attributed to persistence. An angler, confident in their abilities is just going to fish longer when things don’t start hopping right away. But other days when all things are equal, the fisherman with the most confidence often catches the most fish.
Three quick stories come to mind illustrate this. First off let me say there have been plenty of times when I have been on both sides of the confidence equation. A few years ago, I was steelheading with a couple of fly fishing buddies. Unlike me, though there guys weren’t purists. And we were using terminal gear. Although were just dead-drifting jigs, very similar to fly fishing, I felt about as coordinated as a monkey performing brain surgery. As the day wore on more and more steelies were caught. Huge steelies, the biggest I had ever seen! None by me. I could feel my confidence shrinking. And I mean my confidence in all kinds of things, like being able to read the river, being able to detect a strike. Things that had no connection to me using unfamiliar gear. The pressure inside my head built, until I HAD to catch a fish. I didn’t catch one fish that day, although I finally had a strike, and set the hook so hard I jerked it right out of the fish’s mouth. And I fished longer and harder than anyone else on the trip.
Another story is almost reverse. Here in Maupin, the Deschutes River fills with fly fisherman every May and early June for the Giant Salmonfly hatch. It is a carnival of fly fishing. One year I was drifting with a couple of accomplished angler’s, who were nevertheless apprehensive about fishing such a well-known hatch, A hatch documented throughout fly fishing literature. With crowds of angler’s as spectators to one another. Despite all the drift boats and bank angler’s I know a spot or two constantly overlooked and are rarely fished. I set both guys up with the exact rigging I use. Put them in the best two spots and made lunch, while they flogged the water to no avail. Despite their long fishing experience they were unaccustomed to the big water and the feeling of being in a spotlight, and seemed to do every action with uncertainty. After lunch I nailed numerous trout with virtually no effort. Pointed out fish lying behind rocks and caught them. It was a display they still talk about some years later.
Another day I was fishing alone, in water I know like the palm of my hand. And was getting skunked. Fishing all my usual water, using all my usual techniques I couldn’t even get a strike. Yet I knew I could and did catch fish in this spot, lots of fish. I kept at it, until I heard a fish jump behind me, in a riffle I hadn’t fished in years. I turned around and cast right at the head of the riffle, and nailed what was to be the first of many beautiful trout I caught that day.
If I hadn’t been confident in my abilities, and in the water holding fish, I would have stopped long before. That was an instance where confidence led to perseverance. But the other two days, it seemed to be confidence only, that led to more fish being landed. Maybe there was something subtle in the presentation of the confident angler, something that can’t be taught. Like the way some quarterbacks always seem to win. Or maybe like in other endeavors confident people just seem to do better. At any rate the only way I know of to develop confidence is through repeated success. And in fishing the only way to catch fish is to do more fishing.
If you are thinking this is all a stretch, I bet you can come up with very similar stories that have happened to you. Especially if like me, you have been fishing since you had a Leave it to Beaver lunch box. Give yourself the possibility that confidence in your fishing ability does play a role, in your catch rate. And the end result will be you spend more time fishing. And if that is the end result of you reading this article, then it was time well spent. Now let’s go out there and build up our fly fishing confidence!