Days when things just don’t go the way you want them to can have long-lasting effects.

The great thing about fly fishing is that there is always something new to learn; Dedicated anglers will never be short of new techniques, species, waters or flight patterns to discover. This blog is geared towards helping anglers of all skill levels, from beginner to expert, get better and there are many other ways to learn: books, magazines, fellow anglers and the like. But trial and error also play an important role. There have been several fly fishing lessons for me where the “mistake” part of that phrase provided a memorable rebuke. you never always I want to make that mistake again. Here some examples.

1. Roll up your hip boots before wading in the river.

The very first pair of waders I bought were canvas hip waders, and I was so excited to wear them that I drove straight from the store to the Powwow River below Trickling Falls in southern New Hampshire. I knew that one particular run was full of brown trout just waiting to catch my flies. I walked down to the water, fitted my used fly rod with a Parmachene Belle wet fly and waded straight in. The sucking sound of the river water filling my boots made my heart sink as I realized what I had done. My excitement turned to desperation as I strolled back to the car to unload my boots in the parking lot. I drove home and cursed my luck.

2. Make sure your desiccant container is securely closed before putting it in your bag.

The plastic container that Orvis Hy-Flote Shake-N-Flote comes in has a lid that snaps shut forcefully, and turns out there’s a reason for that. I waded a wet brown trout stream on a summer’s day, put a stimulator in pockets and barrels and had a blast. About an hour into the journey, I shook my fly dry but didn’t hear the telltale sound Snap! when I closed the lid before putting the desiccant in the pocket of my shorts. The next time I reached for the Hy-Flute, my hand found a pocket full of desiccant. Here’s the problem: you can’t wash the stuff off because it’s water-resistant, and your skin feels terribly dry. And what to do with all the powder in your pocket? I’m now obsessive in my diligence when it comes to closing the lid and I usually check it a few times before putting it back in the bag. (As an aside, one thing I don’t seem to be learning is how to spell desiccant correctly the first time. Not at all.)

3. Don’t smack the tip of your rod at the water out of frustration.

I had never broken a fly rod in my life while guiding on Alaska’s Copper River, which empties into Lake Iliamna. However, one day in July, I couldn’t take it that I had fucked a butt other Sockeye Salmon trying to target the large rainbows between the salmon. As the bright red fish roared downstream with my Glo Bug in its tail, I vented my frustration by smacking the surface of the water with the tip of my rod. It wasn’t until a few minutes later that I realized the top three inches of the rod was sliding freely along the fly line between me and the fish. My frustration increased exponentially, which was the complete opposite of what I needed right now.

4. Make sure you have an exit plan when you wade deep.

Like most young men, when I was a beginner in fishing, I tended to jump before I looked. I remember fishing below Middle Dam on the Rapid River in Maine and spotting a rock midstream that made the perfect platform for casting at boarding salmon on the other side. I was right: I caught three nice fish. But as I turned to go, I realized that the path I had taken to get to the big rock – a path that required me to wade through water about an inch below the top of my waders – wouldn’t work for the return trip. The fact that the sun was already below the horizon didn’t help. The first step off the Mid River boulder turned my mishap into a chilly swim and an uncomfortable walk back to the lodge.

5. If the knot doesn’t feel right when you tie it, you tied it badly.

I had fished for about two hours without seeing a sign of trout and I had accepted that a tough skunk hunt was my destiny. I threw a double streamer rig and decided to try a different pattern than droppers. I tied on a sparse brown hairwing and as I was about to tighten the knot, something
didn’t feel quite right. “It doesn’t matter,” I thought. “I’m not catching anything anyway.” Three casts later, right on the swing where you would expect the take to be, I felt a heavy fish hit the fly. I set the hook, watching the buttery side of a 20 inch brown coil just below the surface, then felt the line go slack. When I brought in the flies, the telltale flourishes where the bottom tie should have been made for a lot of smugness.