The more I fly fish, the more convinced I am that success comes down to only a few simple variables.
For example: The fly pattern you use is important. Of course it is. However, how the fly is fished might be even more important. There are exceptions. You shouldn’t fish a size 10 green drake when a size 14 tan caddis would match the insects that are coming off. Even then, a well-fished green drake imitation might outperform a clumsily dragging caddis.
There are a handful of other truisms that I’d lump into this simplicity for success paradigm. Fishing using methods you are confident in, reading the water before making your presentation, and casting well are all easy examples. There is another tactic that can improve your fishing while, by necessity, getting you more time fishing.
Just go fishing again. Whether it is the next day or a few days after you go fly fishing, go fishing again. Head back to the same spot. Even go slightly upstream or downstream. Simply get back on the water.
Sure, it is obvious. But why is it obvious? Think about it: when you step into a new trout stream, or even a familiar river after the passing of time or seasons, your angling brain is doing a lot of work. You’ve got to think about flows, insects, trout behavior, and your own present situation. That last category might include the gear you’re using, how you’re casting, or even where your mind is while on the water.
The second time you get out, a lot of that hard work is already done. You’ll have to make minor adjustments and slight tweaks to accommodate the fluidity of nature. But 90% of the calculations have been made from last time’s observations, trials, errors, and fixes.
For this “go again” method to work, it requires making that second trip in close proximity to the first. If you’re on a multi-day trip that will be easy. If you’re commuting to a local river, you’ll need to head back out a few days later. And a few days might be better than immediately. Especially if you had a bad day on that first outing, a little breather might allow you to refocus. And you might need a little time to get “permission.”
After a couple of days, casting into the same pools can yield some good results.
It could be as easy as narrowing down fly selection, retrieval speed, or nymphing depth. You might have realized all the fish were coming from the heads of pools, on the dropper fly, or when you were casting upstream. Little details like that are obvious in hindsight, but not as apparent while you’re actively fishing.
If possible, make plans to go again. By literally retracing your steps, your senses will be much keener to what you perceived and what you missed the last time. In a pursuit like fly fishing, where simple adjustments make the difference between success and getting skunked, that advantage is worth seeking out.
Plus, you get to go fishing again. That in itself is a simple success.