Merriam Webster’s Dictionary defines learning as “knowledge or skill acquired by instruction or study.”
As most anglers will attest, this is how we acquired the ability to successfully (occasionally) target different species of fish. This learning likely came from a plethora of sources. I count fishing guides, experienced anglers, the Internet, television, books and magazines for much of what I learned. If you’ve been around the water for a while, you’ve probably found that one of the best teachers of all is the mistakes we’ve made along the way.
I often vocalize that “The more I know, the more I know how much I don’t know”, but recently that phrase came into sharper focus when I was fly fishing with an accomplished angler who is younger than me. . Over several days on the water he commented on several things I was doing that if changed could improve my fishing. During this same period, I also had some criticism of him. At the time, we both thought we were right and the other was wrong. Turns out he was right and so am I. I think in the end we both became better anglers.
He criticized me for dragging a few yards of fly line through the water when I was at the bow. I developed this habit as a way to cast a cast quickly by being able to load the rod sooner, avoiding extra false casts. When I argued that the line being right next to the boat couldn’t scare the fish away, in my mind I was right. It turned out he was right and I was wrong, but for a different reason. It turned out that not having this line in the water avoided clogging it with floating weed and weed and potentially pulling a fish. It turned out that now that I have a few years of casting under my belt, I can cast a timely cast with less line. Line of flight was not needed most of the time.
When he got up to the bow that morning and didn’t stretch his fly line, it was my turn to criticize him. I get into the habit of pulling out the line I think I need, then throwing it in and stretching it out to be ready for a presentation. Most fly lines have what is called a “memory” of sitting on the reel and forming spools that can foul a cast in the guides if left unstretched. Stretching relaxes the line. The day after that trip he texted me to say I would have laughed because he chased a school of trevallies onto the beach and when he went to cast the loose line clogged up the guides.
There are times when having a line of flight is useful, for example, when visibility is poor, and only if you are watching for floating debris. The same can be said for not stretching the line when using a line with little or no stretch.
The lesson I learned in all of this is to not stop doing something a certain way and become inflexible. Now I will try to listen first, reason and argue later. The bottom line: keep an open mind and never stop learning.