On Being a Compleat Angler


Angling may be said to be so like the mathematics that it can never be fully learned.

Izaak Walton

I think there is a tendency among our kind to fall into ruts. We get comfortable with what’s comfortable, and the desire to explore beyond our circle begins to wane. I suppose this is just part of our nature, but I think we all need to make an effort to push beyond what has become our normal.

I’m thinking about new places, first of all. That DH stream just fifteen minutes up the road from you? Drive past it and fish the headwaters. Or that west end of the lake that you know holds fish so you always hit it? I bet the east end of the lake holds a few fish too. Somewhere new doesn’t require another stamp in your passport.

Of course, if you have the time or the means, you could always go somewhere really different. It is a lot cheaper to catch a bonefish than most people think, and Great Lakes steelhead aren’t that far away. The entire Southeast coastline is loaded with so many species of fish you’ll never catch them all in one lifetime, but I’m continually surprised by how many accomplished freshwater fisherman have never fished the salt.

What I’m getting at is that there is an entire world of fly fishing available to us, and I think too many of us are content to draw our own small circle and sit comfortably inside. I should be clear that this isn’t meant to criticize the circle-sitters; if spending a few hours on your local DH stream every couple of weeks is enough for you, that’s fine! Just realize that your circle is small and the world is still a big place. We can still lose large airplanes in our oceans after all; if your mourning for the families isn’t tinged with a little optimism that we can still get lost on this planet, you need an adventure.

Over the past few years, I have been trying to make myself as complete a fly angler as my time and budget will allow. I’ve made an effort to fish with people that do things differently than I do, and I’ve picked up some knowledge that I don’t think I would have otherwise found. Listening is still one of the best ways to learn, after all.

Another thing I’ve done is to consume as much information as I can about the sport. I watch videos of fly anglers all over the planet, and while it may be a while before I’m wading the flats of┬áChristmas Island, I’ll be a lot more prepared when the opportunity to chase a GT comes around than if I hadn’t done my research. Look at Google maps, and familiarize yourself with some of the places on your wishlist. If nothing else, finding some fishy looking flats or riffles will only make you work harder to actually get there.

Finally, there are plenty of ways to broaden your skill base on your home water; try new techniques on the fish your know best. Do a little reading online, and the next time you fish your local trout stream, try euro nymphing or use a Snap-T to make your streamer game a little stronger. It won’t cost you a dime, and you’ll make yourself a better angler.

For me, it’s about becoming the most complete angler I can be. I recognize that as a result of working within this industry that perhaps the opportunities available to me can help make this happen more easily than those who only get to fish once a month, but imagine how much you might gain by dedicating half an hour of each monthly trip to working on something new. Every time we add a new skill or species, our circle grows. It isn’t about being an expert in every area; for most of us, that’s just not going to happen. By being at least a serviceable angler in a lot of different areas, I think we’ll catch more fish and make the most of the time we get, whether it’s a day a month or three days a week.

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