It is impossible to cast a three-weight around a magazine rack (or the digital equivalent) without hitting an article promising “X Many Tips to Slay More Fish!”
Who doesn’t want to slay more fish? Slaying, of course, is the whole point of this little fly fishing enterprise that we engage in. Even if slaying is metaphorical, and the fish will more than likely get released. To get slayed (slain?) again.
Let us all be honest. We all go for this kind of click bait. Put a number in a post title and the hits go up. (Even if it is ridiculous, hyperbolic, and satirical. Hmm…)
But is there ever anything new? Do these articles ever reveal some recently developed strategy for catching fish? And if something new is in some way discovered, why would it get buried in with six other ideas just to be the seventh “hot tip?” If there is a new fly, it gets its own article. A new nymph rig? It gets its own issue: “This September in Fly & Fly Stuff Monthly: Czech Yourself – a big mistake if Euro-not nymphing this way!”
It all boils down to a do what you know you should be doing anyway kind of list. Focus. Wake up early. Concentrate. Use smaller flies. Don’t splash around. Use flies that aren’t from a little plastic rotary wheel. Pay attention. Wear clean socks. Buy that new rod. Make a better effort. Don’t but a new rod, just a new line and leader and tippet. Stop fishing the special regulation water. Subscribe to this blog! Think more. Fish in the way you don’t want to fish because it is usually way more effective. Etc.
We like lists. They are the Russell Stover Holiday Assortment of reading. Bite-sized and attainable. Some items might have filbert nougat inside, but you power through because the next one might be straight up caramel. And it is chocolate / fishing tips… so it is better than most other things you could be eating / reading.
Perhaps it is an indictment on our culture that we like our reading short, pithy, and easily digestible. Some of the best stuff out there is a long-form mixture of prose and instruction. I’ve recently recommended Vince Marinaro’s In the Ring of the Rise. It isn’t short, and it isn’t composed of lists. But there is some excellent trout and trout fishing knowledge there for a willing reader.
Fly fishing is, by nature, a checklist kind of activity. Even getting out the door is an exercise in ticking off little mental boxes. Do I have my rod? reel? waders? fly box(es)? camera? GoPro? GoPro mounting kit? spare battery for said GoPro?
But at the same time, it is a “story.” There is a lot more to each little piece of gear and part of the day than can adequately be summarized in: #4 Fish the seams, hard! Yeah, there are fish in the seams. But there is a lot more to reading a seam and standing across from it in the context of the creek as a whole than can ever be summed up in a bullet point in a list or a run on sentence in a blog post discussing such things.
So here’s the answer. Here is the whole point, and where you’ll get your money’s worth after I lured (fishing pun!) you in with that sneaky, sneaky lede: diversify. Fish more, think more, and read more. 42 times more than you were before, even. Don’t get stuck in a rut. Try something new, and give it a second shot if you stink it up the first time. Nothing ventured, nothing caught and reeled in.
Oh, and #42 Subscribe to this blog!