Pro Tips: Don’t Let Good be the Enemy of Great

You don’t need to be an expert in order to put fish in the net and have fun doing it.
All photos by Evan Jones

Fly-fishing is a very knowledge-intensive endeavor. There’s just so much to learn about so many different facets of the sport that it can all become overwhelming in a hurry. And given the breadth and depth of the expert advice that is available nowadays, it’s easy to get the impression that you aren’t likely to be successful–or even have much fun–without sufficient expertise in all these things. But nothing could be further from the truth. Granted, more knowledge will help you to improve, but you don’t really need to know much to get out and enjoy wetting a line.

Fly selection can be a daunting prospect, but sometimes you just have to choose one and hope for the best.

It’s important to keep in mind that most expert anglers have reached that level of experience because they revel in all the complexity and nuance involved in this sport, and they love to share what they’ve learned and observed with other anglers. But if you’re just starting out, sometimes the level of detail they drill down to isn’t just unhelpful, but it can be downright discouraging, as well. You’ll often hear anglers expounding on which species of mayfly is hatching, or which super-specific fly pattern is catching fish, or how the tide cycle shifts over the course of the month, or about how they prefer one type of fly line over another. And while all these details might be helpful under certain circumstances, that doesn’t mean you need to have them all memorized–or even understand them all–before you can jump in and have fun. Don’t let good be the enemy of great.

Watching other anglers during your breaks can reveal new techniques and approaches.

Direct experience is almost always a better teacher than doing research, even if it turns out later that you were doing a bunch of stuff wrong. Not only does it give you the chance to build muscle memory, but you also get a chance to observe other anglers in action, maybe even chat with them about their technique and approach. You’ll often find that there’s a distinct division between theory and practice, and that a much wider range of presentations and flies will work than might have seemed from your research. You might also discover your own secrets for success along the way, but you’ll never know unless you get out and get those boots wet.

3 thoughts on “Pro Tips: Don’t Let Good be the Enemy of Great”

  1. One thing that’s never covered by these experts, at least that I have found, is how to get out into the place that you need to be. I could use some advice on conquering my fear (lack of knowledge) of the “raging”river before me. That and “make sure to secure everything, so you don’t drop your fly box, watch it float away, and ruin 2 days of fishing”

    1. River fish will lay in any part of the water you feel comfortable standing from ankle deep to over your head. Keeping this in mind, where you need to be, is firmly subjective. Remember to always fish any spot you want to stand before you stand there. At times you will find the best place to be is fishing where you wanted to stand first.

      Take it slow, this is not a race. Take a step and plant that foot. Watch the water and do not lift another foot until you are firm in your balance. Be conscious of how the water reacts to your presence. Use the river and its current breaks like a fish would. Take a few casts to different spots after every step. This helps force you to take it slow and to observe what you are doing and where you are. Use a wading staff or stick to feel under the water, but do not use it as a crutch, that will only get you into trouble. If you feel uncomfortable, stop. Remember to slow down and practice as often as you can. Good luck.

      1. At 73 and a bit overweight, I find I need that wading staff a lot of the time, so I guess it has become a crutch. It definitely beats taking a cold bath, though. One thing that does seem to help is trying not to make any more noise with it than absolutely necessary.

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