[By Bert Horsley] In life's pursuits, the better we do something, the more we tend to enjoy it. This holds true for fly fishing as well. We all have areas where we can improve, and time and effort are really the foundations for improving your fishing. Here are some stepping stones to use to better your skills.
The first step to getting better is identifying an area of need. Do an honest self evaluation and make a determination what that area is for you. It may be just an interest in a certain aspect of the sport, or it may be a real need. The key is being completely honest with yourself and moving forward from there. If you are constantly untangling knots, perhaps casting is your area. Perhaps the flies you tied are not catching fish. It could be fly tying that you need to spend time with. Throwing over-sized foam flies with snow on the ground? You could probably use some guidance in entomology. That is a bit extreme, but you get the point. Truly evaluate all you do and figure what area needs improvement.
Once you have found an area to work on, seek guidance on how to improve. There are a number of resources you can use to find the information you need, so exhaust all possibilities. Local fly shops, guides, the internet, the library, and the bookstore all have what you need. Research and find the answers to your questions and solutions to your struggles. Be a student of the sport and take this part of getting better seriously and it will pay dividends on the water.
Now that you know what needs to be corrected and how to do it, it is time to apply what you have learned. This sometimes starts with practice of a certain skill or technique away from the water or it may be some experimentation the next time you fish. Whatever the form, you need to put the time in at applying what you have learned to reap the rewards of your effort.
If you really want to enjoy fishing more, take the time to learn how you can improve. The information is out there so go find and apply it. This is not always easy, and it certainly is not as thrilling as actual fishing, but proper time and effort will most assuredly payoff.
We have all been out there when nothing seems to work and you can't find a fish. Everyone, everywhere experiences days like this. It is just a part of the sport that we sometimes have to deal with. Here are some things to consider when the fishing is not optimal.
It is always good to know the situation before getting to the water. Knowing what should be working is a great start, but you always need to be prepared for the river to tell a different story when you arrive. Before the first cast have a plan ready from what you know about the water and what you have observed. Execute that plan thoroughly and see what happens. A few casts here and there is generally not a good indicator that the fishing is tough. If the action is slow you really need to work the water with a variety of tactics and techniques to really get a feel for what is going on.
If after really giving a go at it you are still struggling, be willing to adjust and improvise to test the water. I know we sometimes hit the water with a specific idea about how we will be fishing and it comes to a halt leaving us frustrated and sometimes confused. Don't be so rigid in your fishing that you are not able break form what is not working in order to find out what is working. If the fishing is tough, do some experimenting with various combinations of flies and techniques and see what happens. You just may end up discovering another way to attack the water.
If you get out there and nothing is working after having tried every fly in your box and all the tactics in your arsenal, keep one thing in mind. We fish because we enjoy it. We each find something different from fishing that draws us to it. Whether it is the solitude, the challenge, the scenery, or something else, embrace it every time you hit the water and even if the fishing is rough you will still enjoy your time.
In fishing, as with everything in life, there are just those days that are tough. Endure these days, because better times always come around. When it is tough, continue with a plan and if it doesn't pan out as anticipated don't be afraid to makes some changes or do something different. It may end up paying off. If it doesn't, remember to have some fun. That is really the point and I think we all sometimes lose sight of that.