On the Fly: Learning by doing

Scott Spooner
On the Fly
Local angler Kara Moore holds a rainbow trout.

If you want to become a better angler, which is a worthy endeavor considering where we live, you have to immerse yourself. If you wanted to become a concert pianist or a professional snowboarder or photographer, you’d have to put in your time. The same goes for trying to figure out how to catch fish consistently. As the saying goes, even a broken clock is right twice a day. This applies to those frustrating times when we can’t keep the fish off our line one day and we’re getting blanked the next.

Something changed on that tough day (like flows, hatches, temperatures, pressure) and with experience, we learn how to reboot our thinking and “pick the lock” by whatever means necessary. The more you fish, the more you can rely on experience to remind you what worked a year or two ago with similar conditions. One useful hint is to keep a journal when you get started in this sport — keeping track of those hatches, flows and temperatures start to introduce you to the “cycles” we generally see out there from year to year.

When things start to click for you after a few year’s trial and error, you end up having a plan for high water years, low water years and all the other curveballs Mother Nature can throw our way. Your cast begins to improve with practice, becoming more fluid and feel-based rather than overthinking the mechanics of it all. You start to notice how the river changes from year to year, how insect hatches can be “late” or “early,” and reap the benefits of becoming stealthier in the chase and becoming confident about having the right flies on.

The moral of the story is you have to go fish. A lot. Failures today can turn around a tough day in the future when you face similar “problems.” Anyone can get lucky on a particular day like that broken clock, but the experienced angler has a Plan A, B and C for consistently catching fish the whole year through. I’ll see you out there at Spring Training Camp soon.

This report is provided every week by Taylor Creek Fly Shops in Aspen and Basalt. Taylor Creek can be reached at 970-927-4374 or