There’s a four-letter word fly fishers should avoid. It’s not what you yell when you snag your fly on the bottom for the umpteenth time or when your back cast lands in a pine branch. Rather, it’s a word that can mislead you and set you up for disappointment. The four-letter word is “more.”
Here are five “more” fly fishing myths that you will do well not to believe. Each myth has the ring of truth. But at the end of the day, each one will mislead you or leave you dissatisfied:
1. The more I fly fish, the better I will become.
The problem is that practice does not make perfect. Practice makes permanent. It reinforces. If you’re intentionally working to improve, then you’ll improve. Otherwise, your bad habits will become more ingrained.
This is the reason why I watch casting videos, read helpful articles, and fish at least once a season with a guide. These habits help me unlearn some bad habits—like being lazy about keeping my fly line through my finger of my right hand at all times during my retrieve. When I fail to do this, I end up setting the hook on a strike with my left hand. That is much slower.
The truth is, the more you work at the craft of fly fishing, the better you will become. The fly fishing myth that more time on the water will lead to better skills is just that – a myth.
2. The more flies I have in my fly box, the better my odds at catching more fish.
There is some truth to this.
If you’re fishing when Pale Morning Duns (PMDs) start coming off the water, and all you have are darker flies like a Parachute Adams, then you won’t have success.
However, some of the most skilled fly fishers I know say that using fewer patterns has helped them catch more fish. If you have a few dry fly patterns (Parachute Adams, Pale Morning Dun, Elk Hair Caddis), a few nymphs (Beadhead Prince, Copper John, Zebra Midge), and a couple streamers (perhaps a black Woolley Bugger and an olive one), you’ll be fine. This assumes that you have them in a few different sizes.
Of course, I have a lot more patterns than this in my fly box. I like trying new patterns. Yet I find myself returning to the same basic patterns over and over again. The reason is that they work.
The truth is, the more you can simplify your fly selection, the better your chances at catching fish.
3. I will fly fish more if I move to a prime fly-fishing area.
I could write a book on this one. I lived in Montana for two decades and loved it.
But I noticed how life got in the way of my fly fishing. They were high school sporting events to attend, evening board meetings, long hours at work, and all kinds of family responsibilities. I do not begrudge any of these. My point is simply that moving to a prime-fly fishing area sounds romantic. But life will crowd your calendar.
When I lived near Bozeman for fourteen years (and my parents lived on the Yellowstone River in Paradise Valley for several of those years), I was able to get away for a couple of hours here and a couple of hours there. Occasionally, I could slip away during the Mother’s Day Caddis hatch or when the Blue-Winged Olives (BWOs) were coming off of the East Gallatin less than a mile from my house.
Now, I spend about a week a year fly flshing in Montana. I probably spend as many hours on the water, though, as when I lived there.
If you get a chance to move to Montana or Maine or Oregon, do it. But don’t forget that
The truth is, you will have opportunities and obstacles to fish the great trout waters whether you live twenty miles from them or a thousand miles away. Living near a blue ribbon trout river is a terrific blessing. But it’s not bliss.
4. I will fly fish more at the next stage of my life.
Good luck with that!
I thought it would be easier when my kids were out of diapers and in school. But football, volleyball, soccer, concert choir, band, church youth group, and an endless string of activities took a lot of time. Then, when they moved away from home, I thought I’d have even more time. But now that “extra time” is spent visiting with them.
Of course, I love visiting them! I’m not complaining. I’m just saying that the next stage of life will probably not give you as much time as you want.
I’m not at retirement age, or close to it. But I suspect that my retirement body will not handle quite as much hiking and wading as I do now.
The truth is, you have to be relentless to carve out time at any stage of life to fly fish. Don’t wait for life to slow down. Get out there now because tomorrow will have scheduling issues of its own.
5. The more fish I catch, the more satisfied I will be.
Believe me, I love catching a lot of fish. I’ll take a forty-fish day over a ten-fish day any day! I’ve had a few of these the last two years. But when I do, I find that I have trouble slowing down the moment and savoring the experience when I catch one after another. I find myself almost getting greedy. I hurry to get one trout off the line to hook another one.
Then, I find at the end of the day that I rarely remember one or two specific fish I caught.
Besides, my desire to catch more fish doesn’t diminish at some magic number. I quit at 30 or 40 (if I’m fortunate to have such a great day) because I’m too tired or it’s too late—not because I’m so satisfied that I can stop. Catching trout number 30 makes me want to catch trout number 31 which makes me want to catch trout number 32.
The truth is, I need to savor each fish I catch and to remember that one more fish will not necessarily make the day better. It’s hard to say that, but it’s true. More satisfaction is just another fly fishing myth.
So don’t buy into the fly fishing myths of “more.” Thinking realistically will help you get more enjoyment out of your time on the river.