Fly Life Magazine

Opinion: Climbing the ladder to better fly fishing is all in the details

Why is he a better angler than me?

When on a long and familiar drive (Atlanta to Fort Lauderdale), boredom sets in fast – especially so if you do not have a Books on Tape to listen to and get easily annoyed by the radio’s abundance of charlatan preachers, and a particular loud mouth talk show guy.

As it often does, my mind wondered to fly fishing

I got to thinking why my friend of more than a dozen years is such a better fly fisherman than me. I have been all over the globe and fished with talented gillies in Iceland for Atlantic salmon and Jurassic size brown and rainbow trout with New Zealand’s most famous guide, Hughie McDowell (he past away last year) and many other famous destinations with talented guides. Well, in in 655 miles I boiled it down to this: Steve Kantner, well known in South Florida as The Land Captain, has been fishing South Florida since childhood (50 years) and knows its width and breadth like we each know our own property. He has made a living as a commercial fisherman, fly fishing guide, fly casting instructor, fly tyer and as a nationally recognized fishing writer and currently, a book author. His experience a clear advantage.

An example of being out-performed – speed at doing!

One Christmas day a few years ago, we fished forbidden water on Big Cypress Preserve property. Steve and I were fishing for snook on an outgoing just off the “Trail” (Tamiami Trail or Rte 41, Florida) when tarpon showed up for bite to eat. Steve created a new leader with a 40-pound shock in a mere few minutes, cast to the to a 25-pounder and was hooked up by the time I was ready to get into the game.

The surprise differences between, good and superior are hidden in the minutia of it all. To become a better angler attend to the following

1. Practice casting and its several techniques, including wind and always practice with a fly (yes, clip off the point).

2. Be organized, spending time looking all over the vehicle or boat for leader material, or whatever you need that is not at hand, is just a complete and an unnecessary waste of time. Another  waste of time, as one guide told me, is constantly changing leaders/flies. She said some of her newbie clients will waste up to 45-minutes on a full day trip a day, tying on new leaders/flies when the first fly was the right one.

3. Do not come to the dock or put a rod in a vehicle that is still in the tube and reel in a case. Have the rod/s broken down in two – reel on and and fly line and leader ready to go.

4. When you tie a knot make sure it is seated properly. Give it a good pull, making sure it holds.

5. While fishing, check your leader constantly and make sure the hook point is sharp. If you have graduated to tube flies do not use stainless steel hooks for saltwater engagements, go with the chemically-sharpened fresh water variety. Discard it when it shows wear or if the point is dulled. Hook change-out with tube flies is done in seconds and only costs pennies.

6. Be a minimalist, one or two false casts. Multiple false casts will spook fish and the air catches nothing. If an errant cast, leave the fly in the water and mindfully retrieve it. A fly out of the water does not catch fish, and a frustrated pick-up to recast might spook near fish.

7. Fish all the near water first. The best catch of the day might be 25-feet from you.

8. If you have a guide, pay attention to what they have to say. He or she has fished the water you are fishing for hundreds of days.

9. The most enduring mistake when fishing the salt or fresh water is too early a hook-set. Let the fish eat. No, it did not spit the hook, you took it away before it could bite.

10. A good fishing tactic is staying positive. Positive will keep you alert and let you learn from each experience.

11. The fly line you choose will play heavily into your catch stats.

The Featured Image is of Steve Kantner with a Chinese grass carp

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