I could feel the warmth of the late morning sun on my neck. The sun was already over the treetops when I saw the first brown rise to my caddis fly. Wrapped in CDC with a deer hair wing, the fly sat in the film, with the tips of the wing visible to my straining eyes. As the fly floated past me, it slowly dipped further down into the water; the weight of the trailing nymph may have been too much for the fly to support. Just as the fly submerged a brown trout jolted to the water surface and engulfed the fly. Got him! What a way to start a day of fishing!
To fish for an eight-hour day is a luxury. I appreciate that I am afforded that time on occasion. This Sunday I was able to spend most of the day on the river. I explored new areas, tried a variety of techniques, and met up with friends. The ability to spend a large chunk of time fly fishing provided me more room to observe, slow down and concentrate on improving my techniques and approach. I didn’t feel rushed to catch a fish and then head off in a two-hour window. I could allow my mind to completely stay in the moment, interrupted only by hunger. Tip – Pack a lunch on a day of fishing!
Malcolm Gladwell made the concept of ten thousand hours to achieve mastery of a subject a popular discussion point in his book Outliers. Based on my best guess, over the last seven years I have spent less than 2000 hours fishing. I have a long way to go to ten thousand. Most of my fishing excursions are two to four hours (on the water) and I’ve likely had less than ten outings that were eight or more hours.
Running out after work or before a soccer game helps me get my fishing fix. It also helps me to see streams in different seasons, water levels, and weather conditions. In a two-hour window, there is not much time to change rigs or techniques and almost no time to explore new water. In a four-hour window, two to three techniques can be used, and I can cover long sections of a stream. Dissecting the water in detail over a long stretch is difficult in four hours, and I still would be cherry-picking the best spots to fish.
The eight-hour day provides me with the time to find feeding fish in different water types (fast and shallow, fast and deep, slow and shallow, slow and deep) and use different techniques. I can work on specific casts, like the reach cast or puddle cast. I can experiment and see where my techniques or habits need improvements. Often my longer fishing sessions are on guided trips, where I am learning a new river and trying to absorb as much as possible. Those days are incredibly valuable, but it is also helpful to be left on your own.
Making decisions without help makes positive feedback from the fish even more satisfying and helps me gain my confidence quickly. Struggling through learning where the fish are feeding or how to get my cast to go where I want can end in a memorable lesson. Landing a fish after figuring out a tricky situation is very similar to catching a fish on a fly I have tied. I feel the victory on many levels and the smile is much bigger.
I am thankful to my wife and family for supporting me to create free time to fish. Immersing myself in the river helps to recharge me and clear my mind. My experience yesterday also showed me that spending a full day on the water, on occasion, can help me grow and advance more than four two-hour sessions. Sometimes it is good to commit yourself to a full day. There is lots to learn as you get away from all the places a distracted mind wants to take you.