Pro Tips: 3 Ways Anglers Miss Fish when Trying to Save Time

Finding rising trout in a shallow side channel that was overlooked by the previous group of anglers intent on reaching the next honey hole.
All photos by Evan Jones

Fly-fishing requires careful attention to many different details, so throughout the course of a long day or week, it can be tempting to take some shortcuts. I’m not suggesting that every angler should follow a strict regimen on the water–we do this for fun, after all–but I have seen some of these time-savers end up costing both freshwater and saltwater anglers valuable opportunities (mostly when that angler was me). Missing out on a few fish may not matter much on your home waters–which is probably how these lazy habits develop in the first place–but when you’re in a new situation where every fish counts, you don’t want the little shortcuts you’ve ingrained back home to end up limiting your chances. Here are three of the worst culprits to watch out for.

1. Rushing Right Past Them

When trying to hit as many prime spots as possible in a day, you’ll inevitably have to skip over some less-desirable water in between, but try not to ignore it completely. Sometimes, especially in highly-pressured areas, fish will congregate in seemingly unlikely spots specifically because anglers will often overlook them there. I’ve fished quite a few trout streams with very clear water where the trout felt vulnerable and skittish in the deeper runs dotted by anglers, yet fed eagerly in the fast, shallow, and quite vacant riffles in between.

We went from being skunked to having an exciting fish story on the very last cast of the day.

2. Leaving Too Soon

If you’re not catching fish, it might seem like the best option is to salvage what remains of the day and go somewhere else. But the last couple hours of daylight can bring fundamental changes to many fisheries, so it’s often worthwhile to stick it out until dusk. I was fishing the flats near Sarasota with some friends one fall afternoon, and we went several hours without catching a single fish. As the sun began to set and we got ready to leave, my friend made one last cast with a popper, which was promptly inhaled by the biggest snook of the season. I’ve experienced similar catches at the end of many days, so it definitely pays to wait until last light if you can.

When mayflies like this start hatching, it’s time to switch to a dry fly.

3. Sticking with the Same Setup Too Long

Tying a bunch of knots can be a time-consuming and eye-crossing task, so it’s not uncommon to just keep using whatever you’ve already got tied on, rather than taking time to change setups. I’ve been on many trout trips when I’ve hesitated to swap my complex nymph rig for a dry-fly setup–even after seeing rising fish–only to watch someone else take the time to switch and catch the most memorable fish of the day.

Evan Jones is the assistant editor of the Orvis Fly Fishing blog. He spent a decade living on the Florida coast and now lives in Colorado.

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