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Thoughtful fishing = better fishing

June 22, 2016

After a successful outing on the water, it’s hard not to fall for the misguided belief that “I’m getting pretty good at this fishing game!”

Unless you are targeting sunnies and perch, your next outing may humble you. And don’t think that having more than 60 years’ experience in your creel gives you any immunity. I sure found that out recently.

We were attempting to target large trout in a remote cold-water fishery. Even though it was mid-June and prime time for trout, I managed to make some new mistakes which now, in retrospect, seem pretty obvious. The water was in the 50s temperature range, gin clear and slow moving. These conditions are perfect for humbling a fisher who has grown too big for his waders.

The experience taught me a few lessons from which other fishers might benefit. Whether your quarry is lunker bass, trophy trout or any other of our freshwater game fish, it pays to tune into the fish’s environment and consider more than just the “where” your target fish might be holding and beyond just the “what” it might be feeding on.

Sure, if you put yourself in a spot where there are fish and have the right lure or fly, you are already in a pretty good positon to catch something good. But when you are targeting fish that have been fished over pretty hard, the equation becomes a bit tougher. This is when you may want to be more circumspect, more careful in your approach, even more stealthy. Think like a predator.

Sometimes the noise and vibration you make while in your boat or wading doesn’t matter much. Other times it is critical. Fish have pretty darn good hearing, and water is a superconductor of both sound and vibration. Perhaps you think of fishing as a quiet contemplative pastime. Well, you may be onto something. Yes, you will put a fine fish down with unnecessary noise or vibrations. Banging the gunnel of your boat with an oar is a prime example. On the trout stream, the clatter of your wading boot cleats on rocks or the vibration from the tip of your wading staff are others.

Sometimes the river provides you with some cover. Moving water, especially rapids, do dissipate noise to your advantage. So does distance: “fish far and fine.” Also fish become somewhat less wary at darkness (this is why dawn and dusk are prime times). But in a slow moving pool, it is time to be very careful with the telltale noise and vibration you may make.