This information is compiled from observations I am making from my perspective on the poling platform as I went from guiding and fishing with anglers of varying skill levels – and started making comparisons.
As a novice, you often don’t know what you don’t know – until you encounter someone that knows what you don’t know: the “Huh, I never thought of that” moment. In my musings from the platform I started trying to figure out how I can give insight to a novice on what an expert does when they’re fishing. So, I started with a list of skills and behaviors. And as I pondered it with clients, one of them suggested to base it on Stephen R. Covey’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People®.
So, here is my list. This is not a dissertation. It is a collection of observations that I feel I am uniquely qualified to compile and share. I’m pulling back the curtain on what expert anglers do. Please use this information to expand your thinking and drive your skills development.
I am presenting these points in a combination of “order of importance” and order that they happen in the fishing process.
# 1 - Accuracy
Are consistently ACCURATE at all distances and casting styles. Ditch the hula hoop and grab a frisbee for your practice target. And practice FLY FIRST presentations (where the fly touches the water before the leader or line).
#2 - Loop Control
Have LOOP CONTROL and adjust the shape, speed, trajectory to the fishing situation. YOU are in control of your loop – make it work for you!
#3 - Make Lots of Casts
Make LOTS OF CASTS both on the water and in the practice field. The successful anglers practice. This is not a secret! And when they are on the water they cast at things that “might be” a fish – they don’t miss the opportunity. If it turns out to not be a fish, then it was a practice cast.
#4 - Alternative Styles
Are effective and efficient in ALTERNATIVE STYLES of casting, especially backhand, cross body, side arm styles with minimal body motion. Learn to present your backhand stroke – this is a critical and exceptionally useful alternative casting style.
#5 - Know How to Hunt for Fish
Know how to HUNT FOR FISH. They learn the where and how of finding fish and actively search for a target. They look at P-P-E: Points, Pockets and Edges. They search for clues on the water by looking for wakes, pushes and “nervous water”.
#6 - Have Fish Prowess
They manage their line, and know where the fly landed in relation to the fish. They “read the fish” through its movement: did it react to the fly? Did the fish see the fly? Is it going to eat it? Is it following the fly? Do I strip slow, or fast?
#7 - Finish Strong
FINISH STRONG by being smooth, calm, reactive, and efficient from hook set to hero shoot. They strip with the rod tip wet; and strip set when the fish eats. They fight the fish using a low rod angle and bend it to the butt. Playing a fish is like a dance – the fish leads the first half. They plan and stick the landing with a net and camera ready. They handle all species with care (#StopTheLipGrip; #StopTheGillGrip), get their hero shot quickly and release the fish revived.
Now that you have been exposed to these behaviors of highly successful saltwater anglers, what are you going to do with this information? Here’s what I recommend:
- Use these 7 skills to analyze your skill set. What do you need to learn and where do you put the work in to add or improve skills?
- Put the work in. Practice. Fail. Practice. Improve. Practice in realistic conditions (wind; elevated). Experience progression and improvement, and the building of your confidence.
- Fish with experts, or anglers that are more experienced than you … and PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT THEY DO. Ask them to think out loud (ask guides to do this too). Get into their heads and watch their reactions and movements. They are not super-heros, they just have skills and reactions that were developed through practice and experience … which is something you can have too!
Now, go get ‘em!