I am new to fly fishing, and so I feel fortunate to have a good friend who can show me the ropes. The last time we went out, he caught a lot of fish while I caught nothing fishing the same water and using the same flies. When I asked him what was up, he said you catch more fish if you think like one. I think he means I’m overthinking things, but I’m not sure. What say you?
Philosopher Angler Pondering
Your friend was actually saying that you are underthinking things. Do you know that, from 50 feet away through water and air, a trout can detect a color change on an alder leaf, and that said change may be the reflection of the color of shirt you are wearing? That’s right, by that reflection, a trout is aware that you are approaching from behind, and if by triangulating between itself, the sun, and the leaf the trout comes up with a value of less than the square root of approximately 6 (Truchacabra, 2007), you’d best go find you another fish, because you aint catching that one. Trout can calculate water temp/photoperiod ratios out to 13 decimal places. This means nothing to you and me, just that trout are really smart.
But enough BS. Your friend is correct. Thinking like a trout, as far as it goes, is pretty easy if you remember the three things that are most important to them. They like to eat, not get eaten, and they like to not work too hard while doing both. In other words, where is the best access to food and safety, and does that spot provide good current relief? Chances are that the best trout in a stretch of river will be where each of these three criteria is met to the highest degree. Sometimes that spot is right under your nose. More often though, the truly spectacular fish are where you don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of placing a fly in front of the fish.
It’s also good to account for other conditions that might be influencing a trout’s behavior and location, things like water temp, flow, and the smell of sweet love as spawning season approaches.
Remember: flies don’t catch trout. Fishermen do.