I have been dissatisfied about my lack of success fishing for some time, so I decided to look at my fishing logbook, and figure out my average rate of catching fish. It turns out, I catch an average of one fish every three or four hours fishing. Obviously, when the average is one fish per four hours, it is not unusual to go eight or ten hours without catching a fish. No wonder I get frustrated. If I am having a good day I might kid myself that I am an average fisherman, but the data suggests that I am a poor fisherman.
I should say that the four hour average per fish is based on three years of data. I fish around 20 hours per year. I don't count fish less than six inches.
I do a variety of fishing, ranging from rivers to lakes. I fish for trout, usually in Colorado. When lake fishing, I fish both from the bank and from a boat. I don't troll. As far as my home fishing waters, I fish most often at South Delaney Buttes lake in Colorado. I use both fly rods and spincasting gear, whichever I think will work best, sometimes switching back and forth. I think that I have caught more trout on spinning gear with Kastmaster spoons than anything else; I don't use bait. I have been fishing for thirty years or so. I usually fish with my wife, who fishes less than I do; she is probably about as good or bad a fisherperson as I am. I generally avoid fishing water that would be considered difficult to fish, for obvious reasons. I understand that there are places and types of fishing for which four hours per fish would be a good result, but I don't think that I fish in those places.
My question is what should I do about my lack of fishing success? I have come up with three possible answers, but I have no way to know which answer is correct. Maybe all are correct.
1. Four hours per fish is not terrible for somebody who only fishes occasionally. If I want to catch more fish per hour I need to fish many more days a year. Maybe I need to fish one body of water until I master it. My objection is that if I spend several hours fishing and don't catch any fish or even get a bite, did I learn anything that day?
2. I need remedial fishing instruction. I should say that I have taken a beginner flyfishing course, some years ago, but have received no further instruction. The available classes appear to be directed to rank beginners, not somebody with experience who wants to get better. I have friends who are much better fisherpeople than I am, but they seem reluctant to try to coach me, and I am reluctant to twist their arm. I could hire a guide, but could not afford many days of guiding.
3. Forget it. If I have not learned to fish in thirty years, why do I think that I have what it takes to be a good fisherman? Accept low catch rates or take up another sport.
First let me say welcome to the forum, you will no doubt receive a wide range of answers / opinions to your dilemma here.
In order for me to gage my success at fishing the most important thing I must know is if I am fishing in, over, or among fish. If I in fact knew that there were fish present and I were unable to catch any I would have to try to deduce why that was the case.
As for the idea of fishing an area until I learned how to effectively catch fish there (presuming they are present) this is a good train of thought. I have no idea of what amount of reading / research you have done about the fish which you target. Knowing as much about the game / fish you plan to pursue is very important as a contributing factor to success.
I will wait to see what kind of response you get and what further details about your tactics you reveal and then may add further comments.
Now please take no offense to what I'm going to say but really what else would you want to do? I have days I go out and land 30 in 3 hours other days I might be lucky enough to land one in 12hrs! If you leave the water and didn't learn anything new something might be off a bit. When fly fishing rivers, streams, and lakes I'm allways lifting rocks shaking bushes, checking out weed lines, even watching what the birds are doing. If there are bugs flying around catch one see what it is have a look and try and toss it in the water where you think the fish are. Sight the fish even in lakes this works for me. Time your outings to early morning or late in the day according to season. Keep an eye on the hatch charts for your area, get experimental if one method isn't working switch to something totally different. I had a day once last fall fishing a little local stocked ditch and couldn't raise a fish with nymphs dries streamers nothing until it just got dark enough not to see I fished a chernobyl ant like a popper and fish came to hand. What if I gave that a shot earlier in the day who knows? All the technical stuff aside remember your supposed to be having fun don't put so much pressure on yourself, get out on the water and enjoy it!!!! I'd say especially with the rat race pace of life out there today if your getting 20 hours on the water a week your allready a successful angler!!! Still though one of the best ways to figure things out, in my experiance, is to engage other fisherman see whats working for them whats not and go from there take a day and scout out the water leave the rod in the truck ( its difficult believe me) and walk the banks check out the runs and pools if the water permits just spend a day watching the fish see where they lay when they'r not activly feeding watch to see where they move to feed. Like I said though keep it fun brother!!! Welcome to the forum too sorry I left that out in the begining.
I do fish in waters that have fish. The Delaney Butte lakes were just written up in Southwest Angler magazine, and last weekend, when I was there, I saw many trout in the 20 inch range cruising around. Occasionally one would get close enough to look at what I had to offer, and then turn around. I don't think that the fishing was real hot, but I did see people reel in fish.
Unfortunately, I am not particularly good at spotting fish, so I am sure that I cast frequently or usually to spots with no fish. A friend of mine almost exclusively does sight fishing, but if I did that I would not have a line in the water very often. Also, my casting is not great, limiting the effectiveness of this strategy.
I suspect that I would profit from more reading about fishing. Unfortunately, when I read magazine articles, every article seems to contradict the last article that I read, and leaves me more confused than enlightened. I sort of imagine a book called "The general theory of fishing", with a kind of unified field theory of how to fish, but a lot of what is see seems to be very specific cases. "When I was fishing in Patagonia, the only thing that worked was a buzz-tailed wizard fly, fished in a jerky retrieve". I don't know how to apply that information to fishing in a specific body of water in Colorado. I might do better with one good book rather than many books.
Everybody tells me that I should enjoy just being outside, and often I do, but then why am I carrying a fishing rod? I am probably too results oriented, another disadvantage in my situation. I always enjoy messing around in boats, maybe my attitude would be better if I stuck to fishing from boats.
Interesting suggestion to leave the rod behind and just observe nature. I have toyed with the idea of asking somebody if I could just sit on the bank and watch them fish, but I have never asked. I would see a stranger watching me fish as an intrusion.
I often ask what fly people are using, but I don't usually ask people exactly how they are fishing that fly. I never know how often I should change flies. Part of the disadvantage of a low success rate is that it is statistically plausible that the mere fact that I have been fishing with a given fly for 20 minutes with no results might mean nothing at all. If other people are catching fish on that fly, maybe I should keep using that fly rather than pick something that looks good to me. Their judgment on flies should be better than mine, I would think. If you can reasonably expect to catch multiple fish an hour, then changing flies frequently makes more sense.
To me, three fish is a big day. My last big day fishing was 8 fish on August 8, 2006. I think that is my lifetime best day fishing. I have not caught more than 2 fish on any day since then. For example, my log says that I caught a total of four fish in five days of fishing in 2008. I am sure that many of you would think that four fish was a slow day of fishing, not a slow year. I know somebody who keeps meticulous records, and is over 500 fish for 2010. I will shut up rather than keep whining........
You got to change up your approach. If what you are doing doesn't produce within 10-15 minutes, switch tactics and try something new. It's always a pain in the rear to tie new knots, but it's more fun to catch fish.
"I could hire a guide, but could not afford many days of guiding."
I think one day with a good guide would give you a lot of feedback on your current technique and some direction and different methods to try. To get the most out of a day you should be up front and explain to the guide exactly what you want out of the day, more instruction that will carry over into your own fishing rather than one day of good fishing that that ends with the trip.
Slightly more expensive than a full day but it may be more productive to book two half days a few weeks apart than one full day. It may be difficult to absorb eight hours worth of info all at once plus you could try some of the stuff for a few weeks and then fine tune on the second half day.
If there are any fly fishing clubs around, I'd think about joining one. Going out with a good guide a couple of times would be well worth it.
I'm surprised that your fishing acquaintances are so closed mouthed about what they are using for flies and techniques. When I used to fish for trout and salmon up north with friends, we'd each throw in $15 bucks into a pool and it paid out, first fish, most, and biggest at the end of the trip. But we always asked when rigging up what flies we were starting out with, and told each other what was working best throughout the day.
If there is a good fly shop around that gives casting lessons, the guy giving lessons will probably be a dedicated fly fisherman and be able to help you out in selecting flies and helping to figure out what flies are working when and where.
But the easiest way to catch more fish is to get way back to where the uneducated fish are. "Downtown" fish are always much harder to catch.
I second the idea of getting a guide for a day. A good guide can teach you in a day what would take you a year to stumble through by yourself.
You said that you have problems sight fishing. Do you use polarized sunglasses? They make a world of difference, trust me.
You also said that you note that a lot of fish approach your fly but then swim off. This is typical fish behavior, but it makes me think. Do you smoke, or use lotion or something on your hands? If you have something pungent on your hands it may transfer to the fly when you tie it on. This would key the fish in that your fly is unnatural, resulting in little to no takes.
In my opinion, any fish caught should be counted, not just over a certain size. Just because the fish is small does not mean that he was stupid. It takes technique and perseverance to fool any fish into taking a fly, not just the big ones.
Welcome to the board! You have already had a great deal of useful advice, but I just want to pick up on one particular point. Fly selection. Prior to 2010 when I went flyfishing my fly selection would be as much of a guess as anything... I would pick flies according to ones that had caught me fish before, ones that I had heard were good or ones that were different and looked like they were worth a try... especially for trout my catch rates were not great. This year I began tying my own flies, and with that began a lot of research into what trout eat, what they look like, where the food lives, what time of the year the food is active, what food trout eat when their is nothing else around etc... my whole process of fly selection has evolved considerably. I take great satisfaction now in being able to show up at a water and think about what is there, tie on a selection and then begin fishing. I am also growing more and more confident in the fact that often presentation is more important than fly selection. If you know enough to make an educated guess as to what they should eat, unless they are super fussy that day, making a good presentation will result in fish... If you have confidence in your fly selection you will know when to change it... and that is when you have made some good presentations to places which should hold fish and got nothing. Then try something else on the menu... but knowing what is on the menu and what each fly represents/imitates is a huge factor in enticing the trout...
There is a wealth of information on the net, and the great thing about it is it doesn't cost much, only time and effort... you don't have to start tying to take advantage of this, but take the time to familiarise yourself with what trout eat and when, and armed with this knowledge you enable yourself to become more successful...