I’ve always maintained that New Year’s resolutions are a little silly. Take a goal that tops the priority list for so many people on a yearly basis: lost weight. Okay, if you know you are in need of shedding a few pounds on December 1st, why consume the Big Mac, chocolate cake, and gallon of egg nog before January 1st? Cracking open a new calendar doesn’t endow you with extra will power. If yours does, then I need to start using something different than the one Trout Unlimited sends me.
Consequently, I’ve never put much stock in fly fishing resolutions. I have friends that have made them. I’ve read articles about them. I’m writing an article about them. At the end of the day (or, alternatively, at the beginning of the year) don’t all anglers really “resolve” to do the same thing: catch more fish?
That being said, if you want to chart a course to achieve that goal with some fun waypoint in the form of a resolution, I get it. I’ve spent all the boring second half of the Orange Bowl thinking about it, and I’d like to help you out. As a service to anyone who is looking for something to declare to Facebook, Twitter, or your message board buddies re: fishing in 2016, I have some options for you:
Keep a fishing journal, and write in it every time you go fishing. “Dear diary, today I got skunked again. I fished on Middle Creek for two hours after work, again. I saw a family of ducks. I hate airbrakes. Love, Matthew.” Unless you are obsessive-compulsive, staying on track with this one might be difficult if you fish a lot. While every experience on the creek is meaningful, enjoyable, etc., that doesn’t mean it translates well into prose. However, if you do feel inclined: I say go for it. Writing is good, and contemplative activities like fly fishing are tailor made for it. Just don’t think everyone else is going to want to read what you have to say about fishing… wait…
Stop using cliché Instagram terminology. Alright, this is more of a pet peeve that I’m able to shoehorn into this article. Calling brown trout “butter,” “butter pats,” and “buttery” is getting old. I love bass fishing, but it feels awkward, forced, and un-fly-fishy to refer to trout as “hawgs” or “pigs.” Don’t get me started on “slinging meat” and the adipose fin puns. I get that I probably sound curmudgeonly, but I guess I just am not that hip. I’ll just tug on the lapels of my tweed and bury my nose in a leather fly wallet until the fad passes.
Fish (insert the local stream you’ve been ignoring) for the first time. What is the worst thing that can happen? You catch two tiny trout on a new creek as opposed to the two tiny trout on the stretch of water you constantly beat to death? I have to say, not fishing a greater variety of water is always my regret after I’ve moved from someplace. I even find myself getting nostalgic for streams I only ever drove over. Like the woeful lyrics of a country song, I wonder what kind of magic we could have made if only I had mustered up the courage to make the first move.
As a bonus, here are some resolutions you might want to steer clear of:
Fish only with bamboo/glass/tenkara/1 weights using only dries/nymphs/streamers/san juan worms. Variations of this resolution are pretty common, and I’ve heard it from some pretty reasonable anglers. This also carries quite the asterisk. “Well, obviously I didn’t mean I was going to use my tenkara rod on this trip.” “Come on, there are caddis coming off everywhere!” It is novel and quirky, and is probably fun in the one or two situations you had in mind when you thought the resolution up. But this is the equivalent of resolving to only watch Adam Sandler movies, eat vegetables, or watch MAC football for a year. There are going to be some great moments, but you’re going to strive to find a loophole the first time Jack & Jill, a beet, or Eastern Michigan is forced upon you.
Exclusively use flies that you tie yourself. There are plenty of fly fishers who can and do tie serviceable to professional-looking flies of every kind. There are also those who somehow manage to make egg patterns come out square. (For the record, I currently lean towards the latter end of said spectrum.) I’ve actually set some tying goals for the coming year, but I’ll stop by a shop and spend too much on simple patterns if I need to. I’m not too proud for that. You shouldn’t be either. Five bucks for a Clouser minnow? Well, you’re going smallmouth fishing and you don’t have any. Plus, yours would swim upside-down anyways. And by that, I mean right-side-up. I think.
Don’t buy any new gear. Ha. You’re just setting yourself up for failure if you think that’s going to happen.
So resolve away. Or, just make some plans for things that you’d like to do but wouldn’t be completely broken up if it never materialized. Both work. Whatever you do, make sure that you’re having fun fishing, respecting the resource, and keeping the hobby in perspective. Those things are all infinitely more important than catching fish. Plus, you don’t want next year’s resolutions to be: “sell all fishing gear because I hate it and get an Xbox,” “complete community service hours incurred from poaching,” and “find new girlfriend since the last one left me for smelling like wader funk.”