By GEORGE LISET, Writing on the Fly
My college friend Mike, from Chicago, was telling me about his recent trip to the Driftless Area in Wisconsin to fly fish. “Yesterday I got up at 3 a.m. I was psyched to get some early morning trout back up to Six Mile Branch. My last outing up there was a thirteen trout day. I left by 4 a.m. I was at the creek by 7 a.m., and in the creek by 7:30 a.m.
Mist was still in the air, the sun still behind the hills, just beautiful. I fished three hours straight, no trout. Then I got a very small one. So, I decided to hit the Blue River. Two hours later, nothing. I drove home crying (JK). Sometimes they just aren’t biting, I guess.”
We have all been there and have had similar experiences. The pitcher who can’t seem to find the plate or throw a strike, the field goal kicker that thinks the uprights are about 12” apart. The golfer who can’t hit a put. Sports and life are filled with situations where you can’t buy a basket or a break. The worst is what it does to your psyche. The doubt creeps into your mind.
Have I lost it? What am I doing wrong? How can I fix it? I commiserated with Mike. Fly fishing is no different from anything else. You have your good days, and then you have THOSE days. Those days where you can’t buy a fish, not even at Market Basket! It gets worse when people around you are catching fish.
I was fishing a river up north on which I had success previously. I had gotten up early and was on the water by 7:30 a.m. I caught a nice 12” Rainbow on my second cast and was feeling really good. Then, I couldn’t catch a cold. I wasn’t too worried at first. After about an hour of fishing up and down the river, I started changing my flies. I was flipping rocks over in the river to see what was hatching in order to match the hatch.
I changed more flies than Sullivan changes tires, but to no avail. Then my mind started overthinking the situation. What was the guy doing on Youtube? Was he using a Pheasant Tail with a San Juan worm? Or was it a Wooly Bugger with a Midge dropper? Should I try drifting streamers? Maybe I should try some dry flies. It was becoming “Paralysis through analysis.” I didn’t know what to do. Doubt started creeping in with its ugly head.
All the while this was going on, I was watching two guys fly fishing just a little way down the river. They were both beginners at different stages. One was trying to teach the other. As I watched, I could see they were struggling a little. Their casting strokes were too short and they had too much line out. The teacher in me wanted to go over and help them out. I told myself that if I had the opportunity, I would offer some helpful advice.
Then it happened! They started catching fish. Not just one fish, but a number of fish. Now my mind was blown. I just stood there and watched for a while. Then I started laughing, mostly at myself, thinking that I should take my own advice, which I usually give to others, and have fun. That it is not the catching, but the fishing. I reminded myself that it is not about how great you look casting, because the fish don’t care, it is more about getting the right fly in front of the fish.
I moved on down the river a bit and tied on my go to Olive Wooly Bugger and cast down stream. After about three casts my line tightened and my rod bent and five minutes later I landed another Rainbow of about 16”. After I released the fish I decided to call it a day and end on a good note, and headed back to my truck. As always, a little better and much wiser.
George Liset of Dover is an outdoor writer and avid fly fisherman who shares insights of his time on the water exploring New Hampshire streams and rivers as well of those around New England. George is a graduate of Wheaton College, Illinois, and the University of New Hampshire.