New Year’s resolutions about fishing are much more fun to make than those tedious promises to lose weight or quit smoking.
Of course, that doesn’t mean they’re easier to stick to. If the behavior in question was easy to change, a resolution wouldn’t be necessary.
Fortunately, fishing isn’t life or death. (I’d be a goner.) If I fail to live up to my lofty New Year’s goals, as I usually do, I can just slip back into fishing the way I always have, with no harm done.
Still, with a little effort, I might catch more fish, or more nice fish, and have more fun on the water in 2013. So here are the few resolutions to which I dare to commit. Wish me luck.
u I resolve to start fishing stillwaters. I bet there’s no more than one fly-fisher in 100 that ever tries fishing in a lake or pond. The overwhelming majority of us do all of our fly-fishing in streams. We may be missing out.
Certainly, moving water charms us, literally washing away our cares and inviting us to play in its currents. Moving water also offers practical fishing benefits: It delivers our flies to the fish; it keeps the trout pointing in one direction (upstream) so they’re easier to sneak up on; it makes sound and causes the surface to be disturbed, masking our presence.
But streams are temperamental, turning too muddy and swift to fish after big storms — and we’re living in an era of big storms. It was Tropical Storm Irene that got my friend Dave Brandt, an instructor at the Wulff School of Fly Fishing, thinking it would be wise to learn to successfully fish lakes and ponds, which don’t change so dramatically with the weather. Besides, the fish are bigger. Of course, absent a watercraft of some kind, lake fishing involves wading close to shore, which can pose back-cast problems when the shoreline is wooded. That brings me to the next resolution.
• I resolve to learn single-handed Spey casting. The advantage of this kind of casting, named for a famous salmon river in Scotland, is that there’s no need to fling your line behind you in a back cast. (Also, “it’s cool and chicks dig it,” in the words of Nick Pionessa of Oak Orchard Fly Shop.)
I’ve been fooling around this year with a two-handed switch rod, which was designed for Spey casting to big fish, but the same casting principles can be translated to an ordinary, single-handed fly rod. So I’ll be able to cast straight out into a pond even with a shoreline of trees and brush right behind me.
I’ll Spey-cast on streams, too, when fishing wet flies or streamers.
Even in spots where you do have room for a back cast, it’s a fun way to fish, launching long, graceful casts with small, precise movements of your hands and arms. Good for aging elbows and shoulders, too.
• I resolve to start getting up in the morning. The best fishermen are on the water at dawn or before. Getting up at 6:30 and making your first cast at 8 isn’t good enough — you’ve missed the first-light bite.
In the summer, which is when being out early is most important, being on the water at first light means getting up at some crazy time like 3:30 or 4 a.m. The only way that’s possible is to do something even harder than getting up early, at least for me: go to bed early — crazy early — the night before.
But I’ve experienced enough blazing orange dawns, and enough of the spectacular fishing that takes place before sunrise, to know it’s worth the effort.
That’s three relatively modest goals. Experience suggests I’ll have limited success achieving them, but it’s worth a try.
Fishing has been aptly described as “a perpetual series of occasions for hope.” To anglers everywhere, tight lines and best wishes for hopes enjoyed and fulfilled in 2013.
Morgan Lyle’s commentary appears regularly in The Daily Gazette. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.