As anglers, it is easy to get stuck in a rut. We follow the same rules that people have for years, fishing the same flies in the same ways that fishermen have for decades. There is a lot to be said for tradition in a sport like ours. It guides us along the path, and gives us a reason for a lot of what we do.
But following tradition can only get you so far. If we only stayed with what was behind us, there would be no innovation. New fly patterns would never be created, rods would still be bamboo or fiberglass, and we’d all be wearing tweed jackets and fishing our “beat” on the local stream. You have to push the limits sometimes.
Thumb through any fishing magazine and you’ll see ads for “new” things, “innovative” designs, and “technology that will turn the industry on its head”. The industry has evolved to a point where manufacturers and businesses are constantly looking for ways to improve existing designs, materials and performance. This means that things are constantly getting better, and it gives us new stuff to get every year. (Hey, that’s half the fun of fishing, right?)
But how do we as actual anglers push the envelope? We can buy all this new stuff, but often we’ll just use it the same way we always have. If you have a system that works for you, then great, keep at it. But I think most of us know that there is always room for improvement in our fishing skills.
A great example of thinking outside the box is the growing trend of using switch and Spey rods for trout fishing. These long rods and casting techniques have long been utilized by steelhead and salmon anglers, and for a long time that’s all they were used for. But at some point someone thought it might be a good idea to try swinging flies for trout with these rods. Now you can hardly drive by the Lower Madison without seeing someone Spey casting.
Trends catch on quickly in fly fishing. There are more and more people who are willing to try new things and are constantly pushing the envelope and limits of what was previously thought possible. Find someone who is thinking ahead and doing things differently and fish with them. It helps to have someone around who thinks alike.
Look at fly tying. There are always new materials, new ways to use them, and new fly patterns coming out on a regular basis. Tyers are a very innovative bunch and they are always coming up with new things. Streamers, nymphs, dries… You are constantly reading about new patterns, new ways to fish them, and new materials you can use for them. Synthetics such as EP fibers, flashes, dubbings, and more are really expanding what we can do with flies.
So how can you think outside the box yourself?
It might be as simple as trying new waters, stretching yourself from the familiar places you know well. Try a new river, or a new access point, or walk upstream instead of downstream. We have an incredible wealth of fishable water in Southwest Montana, most of which is prime trout fishing. Buy a good map and explore some!
Try some new flies. It is easy to find your favorites and stick with those and not try much else. There are a ton of great flies on the market, and most of them will work very well in the right conditions. Try something new! We can always help you try some different flies.
Maybe try a different style of fishing. If you fish nymphs the most, try dry fly fishing. If you have never fished streamers, find a buddy who does and try it out. If you fish the bigger rivers, talk a walk up a small mountain stream. Try fishing a lake sometime. Swing soft hackles or small streamers. Try a fiberglass rod.
Chase different fish. Carp fishing, for example, has really taken off in the past few years. A decade ago, most anglers wouldn't have given a second thought to carp. But there are a geat game fish. Go try to catch something that you normally wouldn't pursue. It isn't as easy as you might think, and you never know what you might learn from it.
Fly fishing is such a rich and full sport. There is so much to it, a single lifetime is hardly enough to experience it all. Don’t get stuck in tradition, or a rut. Try something new. Think outside the box.
Photos copyright Jake McGlothlin