|It's a long way to the top, take it one step at a time.|
Earlier this summer Rosenbauer did an episode entitled, Ten Steps From Novice to Intermediate. It was pretty standard stuff: fish more, practice casting, find a fishing buddy at your level, and etc. But it got me to thinking about what steps an angler, such as myself, might take to make the transcendence from intermediate to advanced. After all, if something is worth doing, it's worth doing well.
Below, and in no particular order, are several steps that I think would lead to personal advancement in fly fishing ability. Do you disagree with these? I didn't quite make it to ten, what would you add to the list?
1) Read. Much has been written about the pastime of fly fishing. Anglers seeking to overcome mediocrity will do well to study the iconic and timeless work of Bergman, Brooks, LaFontaine, Marinaro, Mathews, Nemes, and Schwiebert, among others.
2) Move to Montana. On second thought, I'd rather not attract additional anglers to MT waters - consider moving to any other trout rich locale. When it comes to improving, nothing beats time on the water... and not just any water, but the type of water that you prefer to fish. If carp and panfish put the starch in your shorts then your metropolis' local ponds will fit the bill. But if freestone rivers and wild trout are your thing, you'll only reach the next level by living close enough to visit regularly.
3) Study entomology. Bugs, they're what it's all about. Obtaining extensive and applicable knowledge of aquatic and terrestrial insects is one of the most significant advancements that most intermediate anglers can make.
4) Tie. As long as you don't get carried away, you'll save money and as a result your fly inventory will swell. You'll begin to focus on tying truly effective patterns, rather than buying the flashy patterns that fly shops are trying to unload. And of course there is the creativity aspect, allowing you to customize flies, often resulting in an increased level of effectiveness.
5) Fish with experts. You don't have to ditch your old fishing buddies, but try to find a few who can teach you a thing or two. I'm regularly outfished by some of the guys with which I spend time on the water, but I've learned a lot in the process.
6) Mix it up. So you can slay fish by nymphing, great, try it without an indicator. Work on improving your dry fly fishing. Advance your streamer fishing methods. Take a page out of Nemes book (not literally, they're valuable) and swing soft hackles for a change. How's your reach cast, your pile cast, your double haul and your roll cast? Challenge yourself to become a well rounded angler.
7) Think like a fish. You're already thinking like a dead stonefly... now try thinking like a fish. Study up on the behavior of the species you pursue.
8) Observe. This one made Rosenbauer's list for "beginner to intermediate", but it's worth repeating. A few years back I remember hearing Craig Mathews suggest that anglers would do well to sit and observe the river for ten to fifteen minutes upon arriving at the water's edge. That is something I've heard him reiterate time and time again. The way I saw it, that was fifteen minutes of lost fishing time, but I'm beginning to realize the importance of taking the time to simply observe. There is much to be seen.
9) Fish year round. This isn't possible everywhere, regulations in many states preclude fall and winter stream fishing for trout. And in many regions fishing through the cold winter months can be uncomfortable at times. When and where it is possible, take advantage of the opportunity to hone your skills year round.