When You’re in a Fly Fishing Slump

Fly fishers and baseball players share a common struggle. They sometimes find themselves in a prolonged slump. Anglers whiff on strikes just like batters, and one frustrating day without landing a fish can lead to another. Especially, if you’re a beginner fly fisher – and you have a string of days on the river with no stories to tell – you may wonder if the sport is for you.

So if you ended last season on a frustrating note, you may want to take heart from some of these lessons from baseball:

1. Just keep fishing

Often, this is all it takes.

Follow the lead of baseball players who hit their way out of a slump. Sometimes they can’t explain why they are struggling. They just keep taking good swings, and invariably their luck begins to change. Hard-hit balls start to go between fielders rather than to them.

Sometimes, the best solution is to keep casting, mending, and floating your fly down the foam line. Eventually, you will start catching fish. When the slump is over, you may not be able to explain “why,” and that’s okay.

2. Work with a coach

Mechanics can make a difference. Baseball players know this, and they turn to their batting coaches — as well as hours of video—to help them find a flaw in their swing. Fly fishers can do the same. Okay, you probably do not have video of the casts on your latest trip to the river. But you can engage a coach.

Where can you find a fly fishing coach?

Hire a guide for a day. Or simply invite a friend who is ridiculously good at fly fishing. Even a friend at your skill level may be able to identify a bad casting habit or the fact that you are not properly mending your line.

3. Go back to school

Maybe a fly casting seminar or a fly tying class will re-energize you. Perhaps you’re not doing anything wrong. But learning a new cast or a new dry fly pattern might give you an edge. At least it will keep you engaged with fly fishing until the trout stop boycotting your flies. Even something as reading a good fly fishing book or watching a good instructional video might lead to an adjustment which makes a difference.

4. Try something new

After all, baseball players try new bats when they are slumping. Now this is not a fool-proof way to fix your fly fishing flaws. But a little adjustment might change your luck.

Fish new water. Experiment with flies you do not ordinarily use. You might even try a different fly rod. I may just start a slump simply to buy a new fly rod!

The good news: Slumps don’t last forever.

4 Replies to “When You’re in a Fly Fishing Slump”

  1. This is why I know of a small reservoir across the way. It’s an old pond, who’s bank still has traces of the forgotten trail that winds through over head brush and past the huge rock which, once spotted, is clearly out of place. It deadends at a point which overlooks a farm house on the far side. This is where the maple tree branches hang low over the water and channel cats can be caught on a streamer. This is where I fish when I am in a slump.

  2. I was with my father, son And friends at a camp in Alaska, on the Alsek river.
    Fishing was terrible, rain was torrential, and no one was catching fish.
    I asked the guide what he recommended just getting down deeper.
    At roughly $800 a day I needed something to happen. At lunch when everyone was eating I went out to the river for a closer quieter look. I noticed bird, Terns of one sort or another, and a bear standing in a likely location. The bear would occasionally dive into one of the deeper areas. Something clicked and I ran back and tied the preferred guide pattern but heavily weighted and gave two to everyone.
    You would have thought I had walked on water when Everyone started catching fish. Sometimes a little thought on the problem works. On the third day the water started dropping and even more salmon showed up along with a million dolly varden trout. Change to normal guide fly and back in control. The weighted flies became dolly catchers.

    1. Pure genius! A terrific reminder not to leave your brain back at the truck even with guides. It’s always about solving problems. Great post!

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