Erroneous Endeavors

fisherman angler wading across river

Lessons from an ill-fated day on the water.

At its pinnacle, angling can be an exhilarating and rewarding endeavor. But at its lowest, it can be frustrating, embarrassing, and downright demoralizing. And despite the wild continuum in between, many novice fisherman marauding around the local riverbanks are too prideful to solicit advice from the more experienced folk ’round here. Don’t get me wrong, learning by trial and error can go a long way, but we could all use a few basic lessons at some point or another. But if you’re still too cocky to chat up a local expert, then read about how I used to gear up for a day on the water when I was first learning—and how riddled with mistakes the process was.

I overhear a fisherman at the local shop say they’re biting hard today. That’s all I need to hear—I hop in the truck and head out. I’m certain that all my gear is still in the back from last time—no reason it wouldn’t be. I pull up to the river and sure enough, everything is still there—except my net, which I was mending in the basement and forgot to put back in the truck. No worries, I can land ’em with my hands, like I used to. Good news—my rod is still rigged up with a couple nice-looking flies, so I can get right to it. I hustle over to the bank, wade in a few steps, and spot my target. There’s a big boulder about ten yards out—a little far, but what the heck, I’ll go for it. My line’s sticky and my shoulder’s a bit stiff, but after five or six false casts, I let ’er fly… right into a tree branch behind me. I snap off my fly and quickly tie on another one, eager to get back to that fat trout I know is holding behind the boulder.

Sound familiar? To many, this may be a normal start to a day on the water. But this approach is rife with failure and fallacy, a veritable comedy of errors. Here’s my bevy of blunders:

  • Believing other peoples’ fish tales
  • Not asking a shop employee for specific recommendations
  • Not double-checking that I have all my gear
  • Not checking my old knots
  • Not checking what bugs are about
  • Not being stealthy
  • Not fishing near the bank first
  • Trying to cast too far, too soon
  • Potentially spooking fish with excessive false casting
  • Not being mindful of my surroundings
  • Not taking advantage of a forced lull to inspect the bug situation

As you can see, there’s a lot more to fly fishing than meets the eye. Don’t get ahead of yourself. Take things slow and easy. Or better yet, ask an expert or take a lesson. Splurge for a guide, even just a half-day of wade-fishing. After all, the goal is to actually catch fish, right? And the fewer mistakes you make, the more fish you’ll catch.