You can become an expert angler
What is an expert? In simplest terms, an expert would generally be considered one who has extensive knowledge and experience about a certain subject. Most experts also possess an uncommon amount of passion and dedication regarding their particular area of expertise. True experts are often quite willing to share their wisdom and skills with other likeminded folks. I am especially grateful that is true for fishing. Over the years, I have been privileged to learn so much from other expert anglers, ranging from well-known fishing writers, guides, tournament anglers and avid everyday fishermen.
I’ve discovered that those I consider expert anglers typically have several traits in common regardless of where or what they fish for. I also found that adopting those same qualities improved my fishing skills immensely. For anyone wishing to up their fishing success and enjoyment I would encourage emulating the experts.
An expert angler will fish with top-notch equipment, much like a good mechanic always uses good tools. And like most things, good tackle costs money, so it is usually wise to buy the best you can afford. But the “best” doesn’t always mean the most expensive. It’s performance that counts. Buying a rod or reel with some extra “bells” and “whistles” and a price tag to match makes little sense if those features are of no practical use to you.
When selecting a rod, I want one with the proper stiffness and action to cast the lures I intend to fish with it. I also want it to be as light in weight as possible and have a comfortable handle and reel seat for a long fishing day.
I want to balance the rod with a reel of appropriate size and weight, and one with a smooth, easily adjustable drag system. Good line is a must to complete the outfit and change line often for optimal performance. Finally, take care of and maintain your equipment to keep it running smoothly. Don’t dunk reels in the water or subject them to mud, dirt or grit. Clean and lube them regularly to avoid problems on the water.
An expert angler will be an excellent caster. Owning the best tackle money can buy will do you little good if you are unable to make it perform to its maximum potential. While making long casts are often impressive displays for casual fishermen, accuracy is usually more important than distance in most fishing situations.
Casting practice, whether on the water or in the backyard, is time well spent. Being able to hit a target the size of a dinner plate at reasonable fishing distances will catch more fish most of the time than random spray-and-pray casting to the far side of the river. Fly casters should master basic tactical casts such as the roll cast, curve casts, slack line and slack leader casts. Proficiency in these casts is often necessary for the most natural presentation of the fly, especially in tight spots or tricky currents.
All of the best anglers I’ve known possess uncanny attention to details. If you take care of the little things, the big things will take care of themselves. That is ultimately true in fishing. Two of the details at the top of my list are sharp hooks and proper knots. Both concepts seem generally simple, which they certainly are, but drastic failure on the water can result if not given their proper due. No expert fisherman ever loses a fish because of a dull hook or a bad knot.
Why would anyone want to fish with anything but the sharpest hook possible? Get a good hook hone and use it frequently. Sharp hooks mean fewer missed strikes. Sharp hooks mean more solid hookups, which translate into more landed fish.
The same advice applies to knots and rigs. Why would you fish with anything but a proper knot tied perfectly? Learn a basic set of knots and practice until you can tie them perfectly. Some of the most important knots for freshwater fishing are the improved clinch knot, the Palomar knot, uni-knot and double uni-knot. Fly-fishermen will also want to add the blood knot or surgeon’s knot, perfection loop and nail knot to the list. Even the best line and properly tied knots will take a beating during the course of a fishing day.
Re-tie your knots often, especially after catching several fish or after putting extra pressure on your tackle when pulling loose from a snag. Also check the last several feet of line frequently for nicks or abrasion.
In fishing as with most things we do, experience is always a vital and valuable asset, and there is no substitute for it. The best anglers spend many hours on the water learning the waters and the fish they pursue. By using this time wisely, they build a storehouse of information of the best times and places to fish and the most effective methods to use. An expert fisherman will also use his time on the water to evaluate and experiment. It’s always great to have old favorite spots, lures or techniques to rely on, but even the best of those will not be the answer every time out.
An expert will realize that a preferred place or tactic isn’t happening and will make changes to save the day as much as possible. And don’t just relegate experimentation to those days when bites are difficult to come by. It’s much easier to test a new lure or learn a new technique when the fish are somewhat cooperative.