Goshen News, Goshen, IN

Sports

April 15, 2012

OUTDOOR COLUMN: For a fishing breakthrough, try something new

GOSHEN — Will this be your breakthrough fishing season, the one in which you finally emerge triumphant?

Breakthroughs in angling come in many forms, but I like to think of them as learning to catch a fish utilizing a new lure or different strategy.

Most of us rely on techniques or strategies that have caught fish in the past. We get caught in a rut. We fish the same places in the same manner at the same time of year. If these have been productive, it is a good strategy.

But no one catches fish all the time. The quiet periods between strikes – and these periods can seem insufferably long – challenge each of us.

How can we make them productive?

The key is not to buy the latest “hot” lure. We probably already have numerous lures in our tackle box or flies in our fly box that once were the latest “hot” items. Most have not been used in months or years.

In all probability, a new rod and reel will not make a difference.

What is the problem?

The first issue, I believe, is faith.

Each of us has faith in methods that produced fish in the past. We believe the old method/place/lure will produce in the future. We automatically turn to it each time we go fishing. Our faith is so strong that we become reluctant to try something new and different.

For example, two rivers I often fished were different in that in one the trout struck a small, nondescript green nymph. Trout in the other favored a brown nymph known as a pheasant-tail. I don’t know why trout in each stream had a particular preference.

The problem arose when the fish were reluctant to strike. Did I change flies or fishing methods?

When I first began fishing the streams I did. But success rarely followed. I kept fishing the particular nymph I had faith in.

I found it more comfortable to not catch fish with a nymph I had faith in than not catch fish with a fly in which I had no faith. The same was true when I cast plugs and spoons with spinning and bait casting tackle.  I figured that sooner or later the fish might begin biting – and when they did they would hit the old stand-by.

My attitude was reinforced by watching other anglers who changed fly after fly but still had no strikes.

But this is often a false attitude.

A second factor is temperament. How much patience do you have to properly fish a new lure or learn a new method?  If you are like me, the answer is not much.

I will try a new, hot fly (or plug) and if it doesn’t immediately produce, I switch to something tried and true, something in which I have faith. I then dismiss the newbie as worthless.

Naturally, over a lifetime a few new items have become my proven producers. But the majority have been quickly retired.

It has been my experience that learning when, where and how to fish a new lure or fly can take a considerable amount of time and a high degree of patience, two items many of us have in short supply. A woman friend who was learning to fly fish provides a perfect example of we should  do.

She had only been fishing two or three times. Then she came upon a downed tree in the stream and said to herself, “There’s a trout there.” She was by herself..

She stood in one spot for over an hour, trying this and that until she finally hooked a trout. Her joy was contagious.

Of course, it helps if we have someone along who can quickly teach the necessary fundamentals.

And there are times we are lucky.

On the Chesapeake Bay where I once lived , we had an influx of cow-nosed rays around Memorial Day. These things were big. One would cover your car hood. Everybody hated them. They were bottom feeders that spent the winter off Argentina.

I wondered if they would take a fly. I tried streamer after streamer. Nothing struck. Then one day I was sitting on a jetty talking with a friend. I had cast my line out in front of me as a convenience. They fly sank and rested motionless on the bottom while we chatted.

A school of rays had moved through earlier, and when they returned one sucked up my fly. I suddenly saw my line moving. The fight was on. More than 40 minutes later it broke my leader.

I hooked a second one sometime later, also while my fly was sitting on the bottom. The ray took out my fly line and ran it against an old piling. The line, which cost $60, was ruined.  

I never tried to hook another one.

I tell myself each spring I should dedicate a significant amount of time to learning something new. But I rarely do. I have too much faith in my old methods.

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