The Observant Angler

Sean Visintainer - 04/22/21

Fly fishing on the St. Joe River, Idaho during April.

Stop, Look, Listen.

A recent phone conversation with my longtime friend and Silver Bow guide Jake Hood triggered a great reminder of why some anglers can be more successful. They are observant.

The observant angler is the person that uses all of their senses to comprehend what is happening around them at that moment.

  • What is the condition of the river (or lake)?
  • Water temp?
  • Overcast or sunny?
  • Barometric pressure? Is it changing?
  • Are their bugs present?
  • Are birds all of sudden swooping down on the water to pick off emerging insects?
  • Wind?
  • Wind direction? Yes, the direction the wind is coming from can tell you a lot.
  • What is the angling traffic like that day (or in recent days)?
  • Water rising or dropping? Stable?
  • Time of the year?
  • Time of the day?
  • Is your presentation good?
  • Are you standing where you should be fishing?
  • Boat position?
  • Have you changed flies recently?
  • Tried different tactics?
  • Is the weather changing as you are fishing?

There are so many variables that go into a day of fishing as you can see. That list is just an example of different factors that can dictate your success.

The observant angler takes notes on these sorts of things as they are fishing (or about to fish) and takes them into consideration.

While many of these items are out of your control, what you can control is how you approach the situation. Perhaps you need to move to a different stretch of river, change tactics, change flies, change your attitude, reposition the boat, find different water where the fish may be holding in, etc, etc.

Observation leads to learning. Learning is knowledge. Knowledge helps you catch more fish. That is if you know how to apply the knowledge. Many times trial and error is the only way to figure out how to apply that knowledge, take notes on what was successful and what was not.

The moral here, pay attention.

Just remember though, it's just fishing... and sometimes fishing is slow! But hopefully you are with good company, somewhere beautiful, and just enjoying the day on the water.