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How to fish might actually be the seemingly easiest question to answer. Many sports take years to master, getting a basketball through the hoop reliably, or skiing like a champion. But fishing skills are deceptively easy. Throwing a lure with a fishing rod on target and turning the handle of a reel only takes days to learn.
That being said, it takes a lot more than buying a fishing license to be an accomplished angler. But it’s invisible, it’s a global understanding of the lake, the season, the types of fish, and much more. Fishing really is an intellectual game, you catch fish with your head a lot more than your hands.
The first consideration is the type of water a fisherman is looking at. Water is radically different from the air we’re living in. One body of water is very different from another. Moving water versus still water. That makes a world of difference. Just imagine if you were living in a world of constant high wind around you, with no place to find significant shelter.
Water clarity is also a huge factor. Light doesn’t travel very far in water, even clear water gets fairly quickly dark. On many lakes or rivers, water clarity changes from one season to another. This is something an angler must take into consideration. Has the water been clearing up on this fishing spot?
Sound does travel very far and very rapidly in water. That is also something we should understand in our presentation and strategy. And since sound travel so fast, it is unclear whether or not fish are capable of getting a bearing on sound origin. At least small fish like perch or trout can’t.
Too many anglers make an assumption about fish and fail to spend enough time educating themselves properly about fish. When the fish don’t bite they think they weren’t hungry fish. Well maybe, but maybe not. It might just be a case of the fish being incapable of sensing the presence of their lure.
Or maybe they were just gone. Fish move, sometimes surprisingly long distances. Each species is very different and will follow its own rule. The quest to “understand” fish is never-ending. Some people seemingly have a natural instinct to understand the fish but it’s rare. For most of us, it’s painstakingly trial and error and reading and experience from other anglers. One advice though: never assume anything, that’s the shortest way to being wrong.
Unless you’re fishing with live bait, it’s important to understand how your lure behaves in the water. Mostly it’s simple rules of physics. How fast a lure sinks, which crankbait dives the deepest, how line size affects your lure and so on.. An experienced fisherman understands these things naturally but it needs to be learned at some point nonetheless. It’s nothing but common sense and the laws of physics. Again, do not make assumptions, take the time to observe, think about the consequences of your action and see if it matches what you’re trying to achieve.
Let’s take a hands-on example. You’re fishing with a grub on a jig head. The bait is being hoped on the bottom, but you’re having short bites. You decide to switch to a small lure sled on the same jig head. But now you keep getting stuck on the bottom. Why? A grub on a jig head is like a man under a parachute. It needs to match so they drop at the correct rate of descent. Same here, the grub has a certain drag, when you switched to a smaller grub, you got less drag and now the bait is dragging the bottom heavily and getting snagged all the time. It’s simple physics, nothing more!
The fish didn’t bite because the weather was bad for fishing. Honestly, the weather is more useful for making excuses than anything else. It’s possible to catch fish under any weather pattern. But that doesn’t mean it should be discounted altogether. Like any other wild animal, the weather affects fish in a big way. Rain, cold front, sunny sky, wind all of that will have an impact on fishing tactics.
Keep also in mind that the same weather pattern will not have the same effect in different seasons. For example, a cold rain will bring increased activity and feeding on an otherwise hot summer day. But a similar cold rain will negatively impact your fishing success in the winter. We will discuss that in detail in future blog entries but by and large, any moderating weather in the season will be positive.
Finally, many years ago I had to come to the conclusion that I am not a naturally talented angler. Bites don’t come easy for most people. Only a small fraction of fishermen are truly gifted, and even then, the extent of that is hard to measure. Improving yourself as a fisherman is a slow process. But there’s one thing that can be done in a short time to catch more fish: make sure every bite can be turned into a fish in the boat. You can always have the correct equipment, perfectly maintained, learn to set the hook right every time so that you do not lose or break off ever. That’s not hard to do, you just need to put your mind to it.