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Fly Fishing: Trust the Process and Keep Learning

Blogger for Powder and Leader Outdoorsman Fly Fisher Hunter

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I am now in the third year of my fly-fishing journey. It has not been an easy one as I grew up primarily as a guy with a hunk of bait under a bobber targeting catfish crappie and walleye in the Midwest. Fly fishing is something completely different and has forced me to be more patient on the water and learn more about the fish I am targeting. Learning a new style of casting and learning about new fish species, mostly trout, and smallmouth bass, this journey starts to take shape in year 3.
In year one, I spent most of my time on technique and casting. I bought the cheapest rod and reel combo I could find on the internet and went to work on my casting. I would spend hours at the local trout-stocked lake working on roll casts and backcast until I could get my line and fly to layout perfectly on the water. I caught plenty of small panfish but never was able to connect with a trout. A majority of the time, I had no idea what I was throwing or if it would even be effective during that time of year. Unless it was a woolly bugger, I wasn’t even sure what type of bug it was supposed to be imitating. I would luck into a couple of brown trout on a local stream not far from where I was going to school, enough to keep the itch going for the following year. My fishing tends to end in the middle of October. With hunting being my priority that time of year, I may miss some opportunities, but my focus is on other ventures until about the end of January.
Year two picks up there in February. I decided fly fishing is something I have an itch for, and I buy a better rod and reel combo online. This year I wanted to learn more about the gear and places near me that I can fish. I found plenty of new water and fished a lot more than I ever had in the past. I learned as much as I could about the gear; line, backing, tippet, and soaked in as much as I could from every YouTube video I could find. What I still lacked was entomology. I still didn’t know what bugs were out at what time of year. I didn’t know what flies represented what, and frustration started to grow inside me because I couldn’t figure it out. This time in my fly fishing off-season, I focused hard and googled as much as possible until I found a website that breaks down my local region—bugs at what time of year and what flies match that hatch. My excitement was back for year three.
Year three, where I am now, has had a promising start. Other than one day where the water was so muddy and high that the fishing was doomed from the start, I have done relatively well for my standards. The first time out in February, the fish reacted positively to my flies. I had with spooking them and could never get a fish to commit fully. I noted what I had learned from personal experience and from reading online to my plan for the next time out. Due to my research and personal experience, I had an idea of what to use and how to attack the river. My next time out, I had three fish on and was able to land two of them. This excitement for me was much more than the first time I landed a trout. The feeling of knowing why something worked and that your plan you laid out beforehand worked is one of the best you can have in the outdoors. Whether you are hunting or fishing, t’s hard to have everything go right with your plan and be successful. Knowing all the hours spent casting and reading about entomology was starting to pay off is worth all of the time spent.
My focus now is to keep learning and gathering as much information as possible from this year, taking notes on what works and understanding why it worked to continue to get better at this new venture. Year three looks to be the year with the most significant growth for me. As long as I can continue to learn and build on my knowledge, it will be.

© 2021 Caleb Davison

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