Back in the days when I owned a tackle store, one of the most common questions we were asked was "where are the fish". Our usual reply was "in the water."
Fact is, this admittedly smart-ass answer, may well have been enough for many fishermen who asked the question. You see, many questioners had absolutely no idea where fish might be found at any one time. They might as well have been fishing "in the water." Any water, any time, anywhere.
These fishermen are likely to be the ones that turn up in a well known fishing area, park the boat in the vicinity of the other boats and chuck a line over the side. When they get back home they complain about the lack of fish in the area, and how no one really knows where fish are.
Or they drive down to a river that 'is really firing' and spend a fruitless couple of days chucking Glo-bugs at the river, but nowhere near trout.
Others will hike for miles, then clamber over and around rocks and exposed reefs with no idea where the fish might be in the area.
I know the frustration of this - did it for way too long myself, years too long. My success rate started to climb rapidly once a learned the very simple factor that separates good fishermen from the rest of us.
Too trite and over-simplistic answer? No way. These good fishermen have taken time to study the factors in fish behaviour that will help them identify where fish are likely to be at any one time.
Having built up that knowledge, they then search out the areas where these behaviour factors will coincide with bottom features, currents, food, and the myriad other things that go toward finding fish.
There is no difference between the good fresh-water and good salt-water fishermen. The good trout fisherman will know where fish are likely to be on any day, just as the good snapper fisherman, kingfish fisherman, marlin fisherman and all the rest will know.
This does not of course mean that the good fisherman gets it right every time. I have been out with some good, and great, fishermen and we have not had a hook-up.
But most often when I am out with the good and great, we get into fish.
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So just how do the good fisherman learn about their prey? There is no trick to it. They learn in the same way as we all can learn.
They read all the books and magazines on the fish they seeking that they get their hands on. They watch the videos and TV programmes. They troll the Net. Reading books and watching how-to videos is a great way to build up a good background of knowledge.
But information, no matter its source is just that, data.
Information has no benefit at all unless it is put to use, or used to build experience. If you use information to frame questions you can ask, yourself or others when on the water, you begin to build putting the information to use - building experience.
Turning what happens on the water into an experience that teaches you something is one of the most powerful learning tools.
Good fishermen listen to other good fishermen and they ask questions - lots of questions. Asking questions is one of the most direct ways of gaining useful information.
Yet too often many of us refrain from asking questions because we are reluctant to show a lack of knowledge. In my experience asking well thought-out questions of good fishermen invariably gets a positive response.
I reckon that any 'good fisherman' who brushes off a question does not know the answer.
Good fishermen go out on reputable charters and with well-known guides. They ask these highly skilled guides, skippers and crew, lots of questions.
"Why are we going here?" "What makes this place fire?" "What bottom features are holding the fish here." "Why do trout lie in this lie." Good charters and guides rely on their ability to put their clients over fish to maintain and build their business. Their knowledge of their 'patch' is often encyclopedic.
Asking questions can provide wonderful knowledge and experience to use when fishing on your own, or in your more usual fishing haunts.
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Besides there is one occasion where not asking the questions of local charter skippers and guides is sheer folly and could cost you a great deal of time and money.
Let's say you have saved up for the trip to an area you have dreamed about fishing for some time. You get a week off work and away you go.
You spend the first day travelling, and the first night in eager anticipation. The first four days you blunder about trying to get a handle on the place and find some fish. On day five you finally blunder over some fish and have a good day. The next day you spend travelling home. What a waste.
If you had spent the first fishing day out with a guide or on a charter you would most likely have gained enough insight to use for planning your own fishing days in that same area.
When they get home from a successful trip, (and unsuccessful trip), good fishermen note down what they learned. They will also get out the charts of the areas and study them to see what bottom structure they were fishing over.
Not only does this tell them what was going on under them while they were fishing, it also gives them some more clues to gaining an overall picture of the habits of the fish they seek. They can then add this information to their overall knowledge to be used when they fish a not so well known area.
Learning all you can about the fish you seek, its habits and habitat, is not an easy task and cannot be learned quickly. It can take years. It is not hard to gain information, pure data. Watching videos and reading books and magazines will build up a data bank relatively quickly. Turning that data into hands-on experience is what takes time.
But an interesting thing happens once you start gaining experience based on the data bank, your overall knowledge starts to build up very rapidly - at an ever accelerating rate.
So asking the question "where are the fish," might even gain you an answer of the rough area where people have caught fish recently, but it will not tell you why the fish were there then, and that is the really important bit of information. Sure gaining the answer of the rough area where fish have been caught may give you enough information to 'luck out' and actually land a few fish, but you will be in the same quandary the next time you want to go out.
Fanatical belief in Spot 'X'
Carrying on from the above, some fishermen find fish one day, and from that one experience return slavishly to their new Spot 'X', even if trip after trip yields no fish.
Finding fish one day does not mean fish are there every day or even most days. If the reason fish were at that place that day is not investigated fully, returning to that spot may well not produce fish time after time.
From the successful day, you need to record state of the tide, weather, time of day, season, bait or lure, in fact anything that may provide information about that successful time or day. Then, returning to that place when some if not all those factors are present, will solidify the factors that make that Spot 'X' fire - whether you catch fish or not.
Getting a bit biblical for a moment, perhaps excusable with my surname, the old admonishment, 'seek and ye shall find' is as true today as it was when it was written. To consistently find fish, you have to put in time on land and on the water, asking questions of your self and others to build up the full picture. A picture you can use to consistently find fish.
Article written by Tony Bishop (Bish)
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