7 Dumb Reasons For Not Catching Fish
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7 Dumb Reasons For Not Catching Fish

posted in: Fly Fishing, Opinion | 2

There are millions of different reasons or excuses, depending on your point of view, that fly fishermen love to use for not catching fish. Some excuses, like the water was off colored or it was too hot or cold, are true reasons for not catching. But most of the excuses that anglers tend to use are ones that they could have prevented impacting their fishing or at least mitigated the effect. The hubris of the 21st Century anglers make it difficult for them to accept that his or hers’ actions or inactions could have prevented them from sucking at hunting and gathering on a given day. Thusly, an excuse or excuses are used to mollify most of our psyches after a less than successful day of chasing creatures with the collective intellect of an eraser on a #2 pencil.

Here are a few things that you can do to make your day of hurling feathers, fur, the synthetic material du jour or a combination thereof, not end with a litany of excuses.

Excuses Are Like…..

1. “I need a new fly line.”

Well, get one!! Watching your #16 Comparadun slowly disappear under the water’s surface because your floating line has become an intermediate sink tip is all on you. If you have been hearing the telltale “fluut, fluut, fluut” etc.(depending on how many guides are on your rod) and your casts take twice the muscle to go half as far, then change out that cracked line. A new fly line for a fly fisherman is like a new pair of shoes, you can’t believe you waited as long as you did to get them. The same goes for a new fly line.

2. “My fly was __________.”(Fill in the blank with “too large”, “too small”, “the wrong color” or “the wrong pattern”)

Do you have a local fly shop? If not, do you have the internet? How about a friend who has just been out where you are going fishing? In the age of technology and self-promotion in which we live there is no reason that you shouldn’t have a pretty good idea of what fly to use when you hit the flats, stream or lake.

A fly fisherman in the Crooked River landing a trout on a nice summer's day.
Fishing is much more enjoyable when you catch a few.

Go to your local fly shop and see what bins are the most empty, it’s a good chance those are the flies that are working. Find an online fishing report, forum or check out the social media pages of some of the anglers in your area. The days of the “secret fly” are pretty much over if you aren’t a guide working a tip from a client. There is no excuse to not a have at least one fly pattern in your fly box that has been working.

3. “I had never fished there before”

I resisted typing “See number 2”. Name a place that I have never been before and then give me five minutes. I have found maps online and in publications that have red x’s on which rock to stand. The information on a fishing destination is so detailed now that it will tell you how far to cast, sized leader and what time is the best hatch when standing on said rock. Once again, there are many sources of information out there. Fly shops have finally figured out that it is in their best interest to be honest and forthright. It isn’t like the old days where the crotchety old man behind the counter would tell you to “figure it out for yourself.” Each piece of water is different but there are many resources out there that will make your chances of success much better.

4. “I broke my rod.” –

I am going to throw the broken fly reel excuse into this one also. Carry a spare of each with you. There are many low-cost fly rods and reels out there that will serve you as an excellent backup.

A Japanese Tenkara fisherman
You could end up learning to do this without a spare reel.

They might not be as perfect as your Winston Aire or Sage X. But spending the day catching fish on an inexpensive rod is better than not catching fish at all. This is especially true if you got up at 4 AM on a Saturday morning and drove 200 miles to fish. The same goes for reels, have a spare unless you want to do some impromptu tenkara fishing.

5. “I forgot my license.”

Honestly, I have fished without mine. I have also had to talk my way out of a ticket a couple of times. I don’t recommend counting of this method for avoiding a citation. All of us have ways to remember to bring our licenses with us or to remember where we put it. There are two things that I have done that have ended in only a scolding for me. The first is that I took a picture of my license with my smartphone. The second is that I make about 10 copies of it and put one in every fishing bag, pack, boat and vehicle I have. This is definitely not legal and I don’t suggest relying on the goodness of the fish and game warden’s heart, but it might give you a fighting chance. The easiest suggestion I have to remember your license is to put it in your gear bag or in your phone case.

6. “The wind was blowing too hard.”

The weather as an excuse is fine at times. But using the wind as an excuse, unless it is blowing over 40 MPH, doesn’t cut it. We all hate the wind, that is a given. But the wind is the one element that can be overcome with the right gear, practice and a little tactical thinking. Shorten your leader and take time to think a bit about how you plan to attack the run, the school, the structure or the rising fish that you are fishing to or around. Often I hope for a little wind because the chop it puts on the water helps hide the leader and disguises fly presentation. If you have a faster action rod you should use it in windy conditions and often I will go up a rod weight. Selecting a line that has a short, compact head will definitely help, especially if you are just starting out your fly fishing career. Use the wind as an ally and not a hindrance. By doing these things, you will improve your fishing techniques and have more fun on those blustery days.

7. “Everyone was catching fish but me!”

A man fighting a trout in Alaska with several Brown bears in the background
Don’t step into someone’s water while they are landing a fish

This tells people that there were plenty of fish to be had and you are either a bozo or just had some bad luck. Anymore most fly fishermen are fairly approachable and willing to give you a hint or two about what they are doing to catch fish, other than give you their spot. Don’t be afraid to ask, he or she might even give

you a fly or two. And if you are asked what you are using or what technique you are using, pass it on. There is no such thing as too much good karma when it comes to fly fishing.

These are just a few things that you can do to prevent yourself from being that whiny guy at the bar. There are far too many factors that we can’t control when it comes to fishing. If you take 30 seconds to think and possibly swallow your pride a tad, your day on or in the water might go a whole bunch better than it would otherwise.

Follow Sean Johnson:

Sean was raised in Northeastern Oregon in the Wallowa Valley. It was there that he learned to hunt and fly fish. After receiving his history degree from the University of Oregon, Sean guided fly fishermen from Alaska to Chile. There were a few interludes where he sailed as a crew member on a ship and even worked in the craft brewing industry. Eventually he found his love in writing about the outdoors. His articles and fiction stories have a unique style and voice that conveys his love for the natural world. Currently he is the main writer for Always A Good Day, freelances and is working on a book of fiction.

2 Responses

  1. Jack Murray
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    Someone told the fish I was coming.