Tip to be a SUCCESSFUL fly angler

Tuesday Tips: How to Become a More SUCCESSFUL Angler

Written by: Phil Monahan

Kip Vieth Photos
When you have the opportunity to enjoy moments like this, make sure you’ve done
all you can to help ensure angling success.
photo by Kip Vieth

Many people consider being a guide a dream. I am one of the few fortunate that make a living from fly fishing. It is an honor to do something that you truly love and get paid for it. That being said, it still is a job. If a guide is going to be successful, he always needs to have that in the back of his mind.

If anglers approached their fishing with this attitude, they might enjoy more success, as well. I’m not saying you need to make your recreational fishing your job—after all most of us fish to get away from the stresses of work and everyday life. What I am saying is that if you approach the sport with a more focused attitude, success will come with more regularity. Diligence and hard work always pay off in life, so why wouldn’t that transfer over to our fishing? Over the years, I have broken down the word successful into an acronym, and it has helped me and my clients become better anglers.

So let’s see what being a SUCCESSFUL angler entails.

Simplify: Fly anglers have a big problem with this one. I f someone off the street were to look inside a fly angler’s vest, tying room, or vehicle, they might be calling the producers of the T.V. show “Hoarders” and signing us up for some kind of intervention. This really struck home for me on a guide trip that I had several years ago.

I asked a client if he would like some help with his gear. He told me to grab the bag in the back of the SUV and throw it in the boat. He popped the back hatch and I opened it up. I didn’t see what he was talking about. He looked at me dumbfounded. He said, “The black one.” I stood and stared in the back of the SUV at the black bag that looked more like a body bag than a fishing bag. I grabbed the bag and winced in pain at the weight of it. I asked him what the hell he had in there. He just looked at me with that same look, and said, “My fishing stuff.”

I think that it’s safe to say that most of us have too much stuff. I know that the manufacturing companies don’t like to hear that, but for the most part it’s true. If I were to venture a guess, I would say that a vast majority of anglers use the same dozen flies they have been using for years. So why is it that most fly angler carry six boxes of flies? Ask yourself next time you go out, do I really need the PMD Knock-down Trailing Shuck Parachute Cripple, or would a simple Adams work? I’m sure that you could think of many more examples of stuff you carry but almost never use.

Understand: This world is moving at break-neck speeds, and this seems to follow anglers to the river. Slow down, look around, and enjoy your time on the river. When you get to the river, sit and watch what is happening. If you can just take your time and observe, you will have a better grasp of what the situation is and make a plan for it. Make a plan and set goals for the day. What are you trying to accomplish and how are your surroundings going to affect your decisions? Questions lead to answers, and answers make for success.

Kip Vieth Photos
Don’t be the weakest link in the drift boat.
photo by Kip Vieth

Casting: Nothing will affect outcomes on the water more than one’s casting ability. I guide for smallmouth bass and muskies in Minnesota. Most of my trips involve two anglers fishing from a drift boat. If one of the casters is not very accomplished, the other angler is going to suffer. If I have to maneuver the boat to compensate for the weaker caster, it will cost us fish. It sounds harsh, but it is the truth. The folks in a drift boat we are only as strong as the weakest caster. If you can’t put the fly in front of the fish without spooking it, your success rate is going to be low. I don’t care how good of a caster you think you are: there is always room for improvement. Practice casting. It’s really that easy. This one should be a slam dunk.

Confidence: With good casting comes confidence. It is all rolled into one. If you know you can make that cast, it will happen and your confidence will grow. Musky fishing is a mental game. Staying focused, fishing aggressively, and knowing something is going to happen is 90% of your job. I have used that same mental toughness and confidence in my other fishing, as well.

Confidence also will help you experiment with tactics, casting, and fly selection. If you’re confident, you’re more willing to try new and different approaches to your fishing.

Enjoy: Confidence leads to enjoyment. Fishing is supposed to be enjoyable and fun. How many times have you been on the river and been very frustrated. We all know that it can be very challenging at times, but let’s all keep in mind a few things. The first to remember is “Where you would rather be?” If it’s that bad, just reel your line up and go back to work or mow the lawn. I know that it’s an old saying, but a bad day of fishing is still better than a good day of work. Keep in mind the other people that can’t enjoy this great sport. There is always someone worse off than you. Enjoy this great creation and the gifts that we have.

Kip Vieth Photos
Don’t forget to have fun on the water, even when things go horribly wrong.
photo by Kip Vieth

Surround: Surround yourself with friends and people who can help you. Nothing is more fun than a great day of fishing with friends and family. There are a lot of knowledgeable people out there and you can always learn something. Watch and learn from others. I love to sit on the banks and watch other good anglers fish. I can always pick up something that I might have missed by doing this. It goes back to being observant. How about mentoring someone? Bring someone new to the sport. Share your passion with others, and you are sure to be a better angler for it.

Seasons: There is more to fly fishing than just trout. Expand your horizons. Nothing can make you a better angler than time on the water. By expanding your season, not only do you get more time on the water, but you get to try something new, as well. It brings freshness to your fishing and will expand your skill set in the sport. You can never have enough arrows in your quiver.

Fish: A lot of anglers talk a good game but spend very little time on the water. Make an effort to fish as much as possible. Practice makes perfect, and it is the same in fly fishing. Now I’m not telling you to ignore your job or your marriage, but make an effort to fish more this season. I have a built-in excuse. I just tell my wife “It’s work, Honey,” yet I still don’t get to fish as much as I would like. I guess I fish vicariously through my clients.

Unpredictable: Isn’t that why we fish? If everything went as planned, how much fun would that be? It is the unpredictability of the outdoors that keeps me coming back. We are all looking for that amazing moment, and you never know when it will happen. That is what keeps me in the game: The chance that something incredible is going to happen and I will be there to see it.

Unpredictability is what makes memories.

Kip Vieth Photos
Are you doing enough to help the next generation of anglers?.
photo by Kip Vieth

Legacy: Clubs, manufacturers, organizations, and retailers all talk about getting kids involved. What are you personally doing to leave a legacy for this great sport? I don’t care who you are; there is always a youngster you can help. It can be a son, daughter, grandkid, nephew, niece, and even a neighbor. Get out of your comfort zone and get them involved. Don’t blame video games, single parents, or the city life. Blame it on yourself for not getting someone involved. You’re the reason the sport isn’t getting kids involved. Quit waiting for all the club and organizations to do this. It’s you, you’re the club, and you’re the organization get out there and do it.
I do a lot of trade shows and speaking engagements every year. It amazes me and is shocking how little I see kids at these events. We should all be ashamed of the poor job that we are doing as a whole. As you can tell this subject is my soapbox, and I have been preaching it for a long time. Talk is cheap. Let’s all do something about it.

These aren’t earth shattering concepts. They are just points to look at throughout the upcoming season. Maybe just try and tackle a few. If you do I think that your season and seasons to come will be just a little more enjoyable and hopefully a whole lot more SUCCESSFUL.

Kip Vieth owns Wildwood Float Trips, in Monticello, Minnesota. Check out his excellent “10 Tips for Catching a Musky on a Fly.”

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