Gear is only as good as the angler wielding it . . .
Lightweight. A lightweight angler is one that keeps gear trimmed down. By carrying less, we move and fish efficiently on the water. Encumbered by mounds of gear, we waste energy moving that gear, and waste time rummaging through it trying to find some mystical object that charms fish. Unencumbered by gear, we can devote time and energy toward our technique. Technique catches fish. The best anglers also keep their mind lightweight, unencumbered by thoughts of things left undone back home, the frustration of a bad cast, a missed strike, etc. This applies to all anglers, from the novice to the competitive pro.
Low profile. By maintaining a lower physical profile on the water, we are less visible to the fish. Three methods allow us to maintain a low profile. First, present a compact silhouette. Bending, stooping, crouching, holding the rod low during approach, and drift all help present a compact silhouette. Maintaining a low profile in this way is also useful in windy conditions, where a compact silhouette means less surface area for wind to push against. Second, present a broken silhouette. Learn to disguise your form among the stream side boulders, high tufts of grass, a sudden breeze that breaks the surface of the water into chop, or a shadow casted by a cloud passing in front of the sun. Third, slow down. Both predator and prey are triggered by motion. By moving slowly, we are less likely to be recognized as a threat and trigger a fish into spooking. The combination of these three methods means all of us, regardless of size or physical ability, can maintain a low profile on the water. The low profile tactic also reminds us to leave our egos at home. The loud, obnoxious, opinionated and egotistical fisherman is separated from his surroundings, closed to new experiences and the lessons they teach us. Such high profile anglers are eventually outperformed.
Dense. The best anglers make sure their time on the water is dense. They make the most of the time they are given. Every cast counts, and every action has a purpose. This requires us to maintain focus on the task at hand. Maintaining focus isn’t easy. It takes practice. The best anglers train to maintain focus the same way a runner might train for a marathon. Building focus through progressive training can have a surprising impact on our fishing.
Stealth. To trick fish, we have to interact with the underwater world without being recognized as a threat. The more we can do to improve stealth, the more fish we stand to catch. Maintaining a low profile goes a long way toward stealth. Wearing colors that blend into the landscape on the low horizon helps, too. Stealth also informs us how we should behave on the water. Fishing side-by-side with a fellow angler is an outstanding way to boost the learning curve. But not everyone is after this experience. Grant the anglers around you plenty of water. If you choose to approach or pass another angler, do so with maximum stealth so your presence doesn’t spoil the environment for others. Tread softly in the riparian environment. Consider leaving a fish or two uncaught for next time. From an empty bottle to the smallest piece of tippet, never leave anything on the water. We don’t want the fish to know we’ve been there, and we don’t want anybody else to know either.
Contact. A lightweight angler, unencumbered by excessive gear and invasive thought, is free to engage with the natural world. We learn by engaging with the natural world. We learn where fish prefer to lie and how to approach them in a low profile, stealthy way. We learn how currents influence the drift of our fly, how fish react to that fly, and how it all changes with the seasons. The more we maintain contact with our world, the more we learn, the better we become at tricking fish, and the more fun we have doing it.