It never fails to surprise me how many anglers get rigged up in the parking lot near their favorite stretch of water, without actually looking at the current conditions. I am not referring to an angler that has devoted a day to a particular tactic in order to try to improve in that area. I am talking about an angler that is ignoring how situational fly fishing is by deciding how and what they are going to fish based on information besides time spent on the water. I like to refer to these people as “parking lot anglers”. A great angler never fails to realize is that fly fishing is very situational. This means that every day on the water is different, even on the exact same piece of water. Although, there are some days that when compared the differences are subtle enough that they seem similar. When an angler gets too confident based on what has proven successful in the past to the point that they ignore current situations, they are in for a great deal of trouble.
To give you an idea of just how situational fly fishing is, think about this for a second. The water on the stream is constantly moving (Pretty obvious I know, but stick with me). Because the water in a stream is constantly moving this means that even if an angler is standing in the same place that the water is moving by as they stand still (Again pretty obvious but wait for my point). This means that every single drift an angler makes, although in the same spot, could be in different water (Aha!). Because each drift, even in the same “spot”, is taking place in different water, there could be many variables that could change as that water flows by such as bug activity, temperature, water clarity, ph levels, the amount of debris in the water, etc. This means that what was successful yesterday, may not be successful today. It could even be as specific as what worked 5 minutes ago may no longer work in the present time. It also allows different pieces of the same stream to yield very different results while fished at the same time. Some of the ways an angler can combat these variables are by changing fishing location, selecting the appropriate water type, changing flies, changing weight/depth, changing technique, etc.
With so many variables, you’re probably wondering how an angler can meet the needs of the unique situations that each day on the water presents. For an angler to always stay in touch with the conditions they are fishing all they need to do is fish what they see. This may not always be as easy as it sounds due to the fact that it is very easy to get trapped in tunnel vision towards the end of your rod. When an angler is too focused on solely his rod, it can be easy to neglect or miss conditions that are changing while fishing. Current conditions are also mistaken when an angler strictly bases his game plan for the day on what worked yesterday. A great angler has the ability to be completely focused on fishing while also noticing what is taking place on and in the water in terms of fish behavior based on changing water conditions and bug activity at the current time.
The bottom line is fish what you see and don’t fall into the trap of neglecting current conditions based on assumptions made from prior situations. Don’t become a “parking lot angler”. Remember that fly fishing is extremely situational and the only way to maximize catch rates is to adapt to those situations as they happen, by seeing them. Every trip on the water is a new problem that needs solved based on current variables that constantly change, good luck.
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