I thought I would share some thoughts on fishing style. I feel it is a neglected topic relating to our sport.
We often have discussions about personal theory or technique. There are books on fly fishing and seminars. To a novice this material might seem like prophecy, but most of it is just a narrow generalized window of what makes an angler successful. I find less value in these resources because of how our fishing style plays a larger role in our individual success. When I say fishing style, I am considering all sorts of personal preferences from geography, the tools we use, what motivates us to be out on the water, and the specifics on techniques we prefer to take our target fish on.
I have often referred to some anglers as artists. I really think we are all artists. Just like fine art painters, we all make conscious choices in our preference of tools and approach. As a greater community, Yes, we influence each other, but the best of us have our own individual approach and objectives.
Most approaches and theories are extremely subjective and intertwined to one’s fishing style. Theoretical material is rewarding as it is interesting and entertaining, but rarely do I find any of it helps me become a better angler. Every now and then there is a detail that helps me consider my approach differently, but rarely does it result in a dramatic shift in productivity.
What I have consistently found more value in is fishing with other anglers. This is in my opinion far more valuable than any seminar or book will ever be. This is especially true if the angler you fish with has a distinct fishing style that is in contrast to your own. This is where we interactively see fishing style, theory, and execution converge. We also have the opportunity to discuss cause, effect, and cognitive process to arrive at some success. These experiences are where we are going to grow rapidly as anglers.
In general, I feel the best anglers are just more productive because they have mastered their fishing style. In general, mimicking trends or someone else’s approach will only get us so far. Get out there and focus on nurturing your personal fishing style.
I don’t tend to fish with others often, but I try to soak up what I can when I can.
Whether it be fly tying or fishing, I like to have my own “theories” and use them as a basis for style in either pursuit… and then kinda screw around dithering back and forth (when there is no external information to work from – like a hatch or fish lunging out of the water at something). It helps to try something inconsistent here and there, but a fly or theory or technique that you’re confident in usually is better than anything else, as long as you realize it can be your rut to be stuck in at times as well.
I agree with anglers being artist! You do what you’re naturally good at and whatever works for you. I think people get fixated on technique, but if it hinders your progress does it really matter? There are definitely resources that have helped me with my presentation, but it has always been refined to what works for me. If your catching fish keep doing what you do.
A book I have enjoy, that is not a how to book is Trout Hunting, The Pursuit of Happiness. It’s written by Bob Wyatt who went to the London School of Art and spent his years as an art profesor in Scotland. A quote I like from his book attributed to Jose Ortega y Grasset; ‘It’s not essential to the hunt that it be successful’.
Angling is " the sport or pastime of fishing with a rod and line". In the old english sense of the word, it was the art of manipulating flies as if they were alive. We all have our own ways of achieving this, but what really makes us artists is our own practice with not only the flies movement, but its design intent and tying which should be inline with its intended presentation. I would have both hands tied behind my back if I could no longer tie my own flies. No amout of book learning takes the place of observation and experience on the water.
I also ascribe to equating fishing and art. They both really serve no purpose. But history has shown there are those that have been drawn to this intangible. A searching that has no conclusion. But to the participant engagement is where time is lost and nothing but what you pursue exists. It’s a place where possibilities open with the conditions of the moment. A wholeness comes to life. To be repeated the next time a step is taken into this mind scape. It can be quite addictive!
Not sure if this part is true, or at least I personally disagree. It is human to create and consume art. Hunting and fishing also has a purpose in providing a food source.
Even though I mostly catch and release, fishing fulfills my primal need to hunt. I really feel it has been a motivating factor and enjoyment for me since childhood. There is something fulfilling in knowing one can provide food or sustain oneself in nature.
We all have a starting point where we enter the exploration of something new to us. This entry point frames our givens for what follows. The idea that art and fishing serve no purpose comes from my givens. A broader explanation would have helped. The realm of purpose needs to be expanded. As an artist, I look at what I create as having no purpose. I can’t eat it. It doesn’t provide shelter. I equate purpose with practicality. But it does have aesthetics as does fly fishing.
I am new to fly fishing. I entered with catch and release being the mindset. I have no fantasies of my survival being dependent on this activity. I appreciate that the society I’m part of has an abundance that has allowed something that was essential to become more an aesthetic experience. I find casting an aesthetic experience. What a simple marvel this string on a stick is! Learning to connect with the fly has absorbed me. It’s an extended engagement. Landing a bunch of thread and feathers just where it enters a seam fills me with hope. It’s this focused engagement that I find fly fishing and art have in common. A place where some find it in fantasy or spirituality. But boots on the ground does spirituality, aesthetics and fantasy have a purpose? Yes they do in their dealing with intangibles. But the entry point with my use of the word purpose carried a personal view. Practicality within the family or society has a tangible purpose, such as food, shelter and what may make life easier. My aesthetics, spirituality or fantasies are within me. It’s a solitary experience. I stubbed my toe, is there purpose?
I don’t know about the rest of y’all, but I start getting cagey and cabin feverish if I haven’t been fishing in awhile. It can get to where Mrs Brian is actually asking me to go.
And there are many, including Veterans with PTSD, who experience (at least a temporary) peace from fly fishing. That quest for and receiving peace in and of itself is a practical purpose. I find the intimacy and simpler (or deceivingly so, until you delve deeper) method of Tenkara fishing more peaceful than western fly fishing. That it can also be more effective in the small stream environment it was created - perfected for does add accomplishment to the peace for me.
That said Mrs Brian and I are headed out for a few days to a cabin on a saltwater estuary where I will fish my 9 1/2 ft 6 & 8 weight “beach” rods for resident Sea Run Cutthroat trout and 3 species of Pacific Salmon that are returning right now while she hangs with her quilting posse at a nearby retreat-conference center.