We all recognize that successful anglers possess a number of traits. Among these traits are a desire for continuous learning – always seeking to improve fly fishing knowledge. From this knowledge comes skill in many aspects of our sport – knot-tying, nymphing, casting, seeing fish, etc. But knowledge and skill are nothing unless they are put to use on the water.
It makes sense that one has to put time in on the water to catch fish. After all, one can’t catch fish without a fly in the water. But time is a precious commodity these days. Single, retired, or independently wealthy anglers may be able to spend 100+ days on the water. But average Joe, “working for the man” and supporting a family, might be lucky to wet a line 10 full days a year. It stands to reason that average Joe will never gain skill without practice on the water, nor will he catch as many and varied fish as the 100 day a year fly fisher. While their is luck in fly fishing, nothing beats the odds like fishing a lot.
So what’s the working man or woman angler to do? I like to refer to a possible solution as “fly fishing in bites”. By fishing frequently for even relatively short periods of time, an angler can get a lot of exposure to a wide range of fly fishing conditions and fishing seasons. These bites of time can also be worked around busy schedules, demands at home, and bad weather or “off” water conditions. One can “swing for the fences” and spend an entire day on the water and only experience so much, whereas one can go 3 times for a few hours each and experience more of the variation that fly fishing and water conditions can offer.
To do this well, one needs to keep an open mind. Call it “possibility thinking” for fly fishing. Start off by assessing your schedule in general terms and compare your availability to the fly fishing opportunities you have. For example, say you commute a good distance every day, leaving little time to get yard work and other tasks done during the week and making weekend time a precious commodity. If you drive by fishing opportunities on the commute, you might be able to hit these spots at least once a week before or after work. Are there other fishing spots in the general area you could hit on an extended commute home? Or, if your family does not tend to rise early, can you take advantage of the longer days of summer and fish very early (or very late) in order to still maximize family time? If you travel a lot, can you re-arrange your flights to take advantage of fly fishing in other parts of the country or world?
The modern world seems to get busier with time. And life is short. Squeezing fishing into a packed schedule is no easy feat. There’s a saying, however, that “if you want something done, give it to a busy person”. Great anglers know how to squeeze opportunities out of small bites of time on the water. Keeping an eye on openings in one’s schedule, planning fishing instead of doing it when things slow down, and being sure one’s gear is ready on short notice are all key to more fishing opportunity. Remember that every day you don’t fish is a day you’ll never get back!