Fishing stories, Fly & Tenkara, Stuff we've learnt, Think like a fish- fishing techniques

“Vary it up”- musings on fishing dogmas

Inspired by this great gink and gasoline post, I decided to write a short little entry on fishing dogmas in general.

Cod on corn? Sometimes weird techniques can work...
Cod on corn? Sometimes weird techniques can work…

Firstly fishing dogmas are usually dogmas for a reason, that is they generally work “most” of the time. They provide an easy to remember short hand of what to do in certain situations. Individually, as we become better anglers, we all end up coming up with our own techniques that through trial and error we figure out work “best” in certain situations. Thats great, in that when you hit the water you have a grab bag of techniques (that you know love and trust), little tricks and variations to go through, to tailor to each situation to help us catch fish. So the reason a lot of fishing dogmas are dogmas, be they widely held or just personal ones, is that most of the time they work, we’ve had success with them, they are the tried and trusted tools of our sport.

Gratuitous barra shot ;)
Multi day trips give you the chance to vary it up at your hearts content. Usually, you will eventually crack the code

Now, onto those “other times” and there will be other times. Its far to easy to go through your tried and trusted techniques, not catch a fish and say to yourself “well, fish ain’t here today”, but often that is way too simplistic, often there are fish there, they just aren’t digging what you are putting down. Thats clearest when you can see your quarry, either with your eyes or on the sounder. Its humbling to watch fish reject presentation after presentation after presentation. Rejecting all the old favourites, all the “go to” techniques. It can be helpful, even when you can’t see fish, to think like there are fish seeing your presentations and rejecting them, rather than just giving up or thinking there aren’t fish there. Its one of the ways you learn to catch fish in situations you usually blank and add to your grab bag of tricks.

Sometimes "varying it up" involves changing targets...
Sometimes “varying it up” involves changing targets… Graz with a nice tailor caught when the bream weren’t obliging…

Its here that we come to the overriding “dogma” of the blog as a fishing collective. If it isn’t working, vary it up. Its usually a pretty good dogma, in that it always keeps you trying things, which is usually a good thing (although, like all dogmas, it too can have its drawbacks). Change, try new things and keep doing it until you “crack it”. If fish are following but rejecting your lure or fly, change your retrieve. If that doesn’t work change your lure or fly. Repeat with any variation you can think of (depth, retrieve, areas, size, colour etc etc etc- don’t just limit it to lures, flies and retrieves, but to environments, habitat, temperature etc- move around, fish all the different kinds of fish holding structure in an environment etc). Use all the available cues to guide your changes, try to come up with a “logical” solution to the problem at hand- the water is cold- slow down your retrieve, the fish will be slower. The fish are short striking, add a stinger hook. The fish are deep and spread out- fish something that stays in the strike zone and can cover ground quickly. If nothing works, try the odd hail mary if you have to. The dogma is simple, if what you are doing isn’t working, it probably isn’t working and you will have a better chance of success trying something you haven’t tried yet, because that just might work. So a few examples- firstly a little anecdote from a kingfish jigging trip. You’ve probably all seen the videos, the frantic lift wind retrieve. It works a treat sometimes, but on the Kings down in Eden, its often slower presentations that do the damage, especially in winter. A year or so ago I took out three newbies in late winter/early spring, to try catch them all their first kingfish. We arrived and I gave them a run down on what to do- someone try slow, someone fast etc. One mate was having a little trouble getting it all together on what was a pretty decent sea so decided to have a break, leaving his jig to sit relatively motionless 20 meters of so down. Thirty second later, bang! Fish on. As the others slowed down or started fishing static, it quickly became mayhem. Fish after fish after fish. Now there were about 6 boats around us and we were the first to land a fish. Over the next hour or so most boats observed what we were doing, adjusted and started catching fish with us. However there was one boat that just kept violently jigging and jigging and jigging. In the three hours we were there, landing 20 or so fish, we didn’t see them even hook a fish let alone catch one. Thats WHAT not to do. The dogma wasn’t working, they needed to put it aside. Another more recent example I detailed in this post, long story short, I started deliberately “spooking” carp, which is something you should NEVER deliberately do, however because of it, I caught a lot more carp.

Deliberately "spooking" carp. On rare occasions it can become a valid/effective tactic...
Deliberately “spooking” carp. On rare occasions it can become a valid/effective tactic…

While all this is mainly applicable when you aren’t catching any fish at all. Its always worth experimenting and trying new things when things are working. Often times a subtle change in technique can turn a good session into a great one. In the end, no matter how good a fisherman you are, there are always going to be things to learn, tweaks to techniques, new areas etc etc tweaks that will allow you to catch more fish. Sometimes fishing dogmas can get in the way of that learning. So while dogmas are often useful and something we all rely on a lot of the time, if they aren’t working, try something out of the box, it might not work, but if it does, you might turn a bad session into a decent one, heck you might even learn something 😉



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1 thought on ““Vary it up”- musings on fishing dogmas

  1. Well said!

    I had an experience on the Rubicon where I was catching plenty of fish on dry flies but kept seeing fish totally ignoring the fly. I could have easily stayed with the dry fly as I was still catching enough fish to entertain me but I decided to ‘vary it up’ and switched to a shallow rigged double nymph + indicator. I was able to capitalize on the non-dry taking (mostly bigger) fish and catch many more fish from each of the pools.

    Another example of a good session made great.

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