Becoming a more successful angler is about knowing when to make small adjustments. I received my first spinning rod when I was seven and learned how to fly fish at twelve. While the mechanics of my casting have improved, the primary reason I catch more fish now is because I have a better and broader idea of how to catch fish when others are not. Often these changes are minor, but they can greatly increase the chance of success.
A great example of a minor adjustment is the type of line one fishes. Just 20 years ago everyone used monofilament line. This material is great for fishing as it is strong given its diameter, fairly transparent, and has lots of stretch. The elasticity helps keep a fish from breaking the line when hooked at a short distance but makes it more difficult to hook-up on a long cast or in deep water. Line made of fluorocarbon has many of the same properties as monofilament but stretches less, sinks, and it’s harder to see underwater. This makes it ideal for leader and tippet if you are a fly angler using nymphs or someone who makes long casts with plastic creature baits. In both situations, fluorocarbon should increase the number of hooked fish as it has less stretch and the fish are less likely to see it.
A line that reappeared after a long absence is braided. My grandfather used this line to catch tarpon off the coast of Florida 75 years ago. The value of braided line is it has little stretch and is smaller in diameter than the same pound test of monofilament or fluorocarbon. This means you can get more line on a reel, which is important when fishing in water a couple hundred feet deep for lake trout or sea bass. The ability to use higher pound test also permits the strong hook sets necessary to drive a hook through a worm or weedless frog lure and into a bass’s mouth from 25 yards away.
The types of fly lines have also morphed. A quarter of a century ago the double taper and weight forward where the primary floating lines and there were three different speeds of sinking lines. Now there are dozens of different tapers of floating lines that affect how far and delicately you cast. Sinking lines come in full sink and sink tips and descend in water at rates of 1 inch to over 10 inches per second. This variety of fly lines can give individuals the opportunity to match the equipment to the situation. So even if you only fly fish one way, make sure you purchase a line that will benefit that kind of fishing.
So far this article has only dealt with adjustment to fishing lines. Walk into any sporting goods store and it is obvious that there is a huge array of equipment available to anglers. Given the nearly unlimited types of baits, lures, and flies, one of the biggest angling skills is narrowing down the terminal tackle that should be attached to the end of the line.
To reduce the potential paralysis associated in making that choice, anglers should use the state’s laws to their fullest benefit. Utah allows an angler to use two rods in most situations and in Idaho you can purchase a second rod permit. This means there is no excuse not to use worms and various Powerbaits on different rods until you figure out which bait is best. If you are trolling, deploy two rods for each angler and change a lure or fly every 30 minutes until you find a pattern that catches fish. Because it’s hard to simultaneously cast two fly rods, where legal, always fish two (or more) flies. The best strategy when using multiple fish enticers during an outing, is choose one lure, fly, or bait you have faith in, and then experiment with another lure, fly, or bait. When you are successful, remember to note on a calendar or journal, when and where you were fishing, how many fish you caught, and what you used.
Perhaps the best way to become more successful, is to bring along a friend. In most cases he or she won’t have the same theory of fishing as you. On some days they will teach you new ways to catch fish and on other days they will learn from you. These are just a few of the many possible adjustments that can improve your angling success this summer. The consistent thread through all these observations, is to pay attention and always assume someone’s success is based on skill rather than luck.