In the last couple of months, I’ve had at least 3 messages from our readers asking advice about catching their first bream on lures. Casting my mind back to when we began, I can completely empathise with the frustration and uncertainty. Questions like “am I doing it right”? “Should I be using a different lure”? “How fast should I retrieve”? “Am I fishing in the right place”?
So many questions, trying so many different things, chopping and changing lures and retrieves, not chopping and changing lures and retrieves often enough are all common processes when you are trying to “get those first runs on the board” so to speak.
My advice has been pretty consistent to all of these questions. Keep persevering! If you keep throwing a lure into likely spots and remain observant to what you are doing, somehow, soon enough, something will click and you’ll catch your first.
My Dad used to say to us if you play enough games [insert relevant sport here] you’ll eventually win one. This is probably pretty good advice when it comes to fishing too.
Well, my own advice hasn’t been lost on me either. My fly fishing journey started a bit over 18 months ago, and the going has been slow – well in terms of my catch rate anyway.
I’m fortunate that I’ve had some excellent mentors, seasoned fly fishermen and women who have spent time with me on the water helping me to hone my skills. I’ve been fortunate to land some amazing fish from some amazing places under the guidance of these mentors, but when you’re left on your own, it’s very easy for the confidence to wane quickly.
Fishing is a confidence game! You need to have conviction with what you are doing. If it’s wrong, then so be it, but you have to have the conviction to persevere with the decisions you make, and then just as importantly the conviction to change it up when you need to as well.
A couple of weekends ago in the NSW Southern Highlands something just clicked for me. I’ve caught trout before, and I’ve caught them on fly, but something just clicked with my mindset and it all just came together. I made a number of “right” decisions and executed a handful of good casts at critical moments that inevitably saw me catch a trout. It wasn’t a big trout by any means, and it certainly wasn’t my first on fly, but it was the first time that I’ve worked through all the processes with conviction on my own (the pearls of wisdom from my mentors ringing in my ears) and the end game was being rewarded with the fish.
So what did I take away from this experience that might benefit you if you’re starting out on your own fishing journey?
- Slow down. Trout fishing on fly is a hell of a lot different to Trout or Bream fishing on lures and spin gear. On spin gear you can cover a lot of water very quickly. On fly you need to slow down and take your time. In doing so, it’s amazing how much more you notice about the environment, even out of the corner of your eye. I fished a long way behind Justin who was on spin gear and throwing searching lures. Justin covered a lot more water than I did, but ultimately I ended up catching a fish out of a stretch of water that he’d flogged 20 minutes before
- Back yourself to make those casts. It’s easy to get deterred from making a tough cast, but remember, if you aren’t putting your lure or fly into the strike zone, you exponentially reduce your chances of catching a fish. I personally baulk when I’ve got a tough back cast to make, and can say with honesty that sometimes I just don’t cast for fear of hanging my fly up in the bushes behind. On a number of occasions this trip I nearly didn’t make a cast in these tight situations, but I forced myself to have a go, and although I didn’t keep a clean sheet whatsoever, they say practice makes perfect, and I’m on the improve.
- I went with my gut and conviction with fly selection. I fished a glo-bug with a nymph dropper, I fished a dry fly, and a dry fly with a nymph dropper when there were active fish rising and I persevered with both for as long as I thought necessary. I slowed my retrieve, sped up my retrieve and fished with patience until it became apparently obvious that I wasn’t going to catch a fish. Then I changed it up.
Ultimately by slowing everything down, I noticed out of the corner of my eye, an active fish swimming a beat, feeding under the undercut banks of the narrowing creek. What would I have done if this were a bream? Throw a crankbait to entice a reaction bite. So I tied on a small Woolley bugger, backed myself to make a tight cast a foot from the bank, retrieved the fly parallel past the feeding fish and whooshka, hookup! As I said the fish wasn’t big, but when I took it out of the net and cradled it in the water waiting for it to swim away, I realised it was one of my most satisfying captures in a long time.