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MartinlfMay 22nd, 2007, 10:03 am
Moderator
Palmyra PA

Posts: 3125
Refurbishing several flies that had worked well the past week (reparachuting a parachute, dubbing over a biot body mangled by hemostats in spite of the epoxy coating, etc.) I tweaked them a bit at times, gathering a shuck at the tip, Gonzo style, etc. As I put what I thought were special touches on special flies, I realized how often I probably make false assumptions and slip into superstitious (the scientific definition) behavior.

A few evenings ago, after not being able to raise a fish to a fly I thought would be magic, I added a section of lighter tippet and tied on a new fly. When fish started taking it, I attributed my success a bit to the lighter tippet, but mostly to the new fly. With hindsight, I realize that simply adding more of the same size tippet I started with might have resulted in the same success. Or perhaps it was the lighter tippet. Or it could have been the fly. My experiment had failed to control the variables and my conclusion was far from ironclad.

I often experiment with fly tying, and when a fly works, immediately it becomes my silver bullet. That is, until it fails me (or until I think it has) then it's on to another one. How many times, I wonder, when I've selected just the right fly that has caught my eye for some reason, might 6 or 7 other styles in my box have worked just as well.

Of course this is not to suggest that all flies are equal. It seems clear that a densely hackled Catskill tie often will not work nearly as well as a low riding fly on pressured fish in flat water.

Are there any others subscribing to voodoo out there? Much of what we do as flyfishers relies on intuition, and I like it that way, but wonder how often I confuse good general intuition with a one-answer formula.
"He spread them a yard and a half. 'And every one that got away is this big.'"

--Fred Chappell
GONZOMay 22nd, 2007, 10:47 am
Site Editor
"Bear Swamp," PA

Posts: 1681
Louis,

Anyone who thinks that there isn't a great deal of guesswork involved in what we do is probably in denial. Some of that guessing is educated, and some probably does border on superstition. But that doesn't mean that there are no truths to be revealed or answers to be had. It's just that many of our questions arise out of the moment and convenient conclusions are often based on anecdotal evidence. Only time and the accumulation of similar experience in similar situations helps to sort it all out.

Ultimately though, even the best fly can succeed brilliantly one moment and fail the next. And often the same same fly in the same situation can be deadly for one fly fisher and a dud for another. There are just too many different variables--too many different situations, too many different fish (that are quite capable of behaving in individual ways), and too little time to figure it all out. Personally, that's one of the things I love best about fly fishing.

And what's wrong with a little (innocent) superstition? Confidence means a lot in this game, and if a little superstition gives your confidence a boost, that often works about as well as anything. As scientific as I try to be in my approach and preparation, I'll confess I have a silly superstition about not ending the day on thirteen trout. So far, that has worked out (knock on wood). ;)
CaseyPMay 22nd, 2007, 11:55 am
Arlington, VA/ Mercersburg, PA

Posts: 653
to guarantee success with a nymph, i have to use tongue and teeth to get it thoroughly wet before I cast it. if i don't try to eat it, the trout won't. oh, yes, flatten those barbs!

any ball fan worth the name has a multitude of superstitions, but none of mine are helping the performance of our Washington Nationals this season...
"You can observe a lot by watching." Yogi Berra
TroutnutMay 22nd, 2007, 1:45 pm
Administrator
Bellevue, WA

Posts: 2706
to guarantee success with a nymph, i have to use tongue and teeth to get it thoroughly wet before I cast it.


Yikes!

I run into that problem too, but I wet the fly by sticking it underwater in the shallows and rubbing it around in the dirt or sand a bit with my foot. That works really well.
Jason Neuswanger, Ph.D.
Troutnut and salmonid ecologist
Shawnny3May 22nd, 2007, 4:22 pm
Moderator
Pleasant Gap, PA

Posts: 1197
The second part of Gonzo's second paragraph is exactly what I wanted to say. And I think Gonzo has just given me a new superstition - I'm ONLY going to stop fishing after 13 fish. I can't wait for the gods to honor that one.

I like traditions that involve doing something one would normally think of as gross. I enjoy, for instance, the taste of a well-used fly when I'm tightening up a knot in my teeth. That it has been in the mouths of a bunch of fish only seems gross in a good way.

My brother can't stand to end his day just after catching a fish, because when they're still biting, why on earth would you go home? I'm the opposite - I love to go home after that one last good fish. It leaves me satisfied and eager to go back out again the next time. So I usually make myself a deal when it's time to go - 10 casts or a fish, whichever comes first. I can't remember ever having caught one on my tenth cast, but I definitely milk that cast for all it's worth.

-Shawn
Jewelry-Quality Artistic Salmon Flies, by Shawn Davis
www.davisflydesigns.com
TroutnutMay 22nd, 2007, 5:18 pm
Administrator
Bellevue, WA

Posts: 2706
I try to stay as far away from any form of superstition as possible. However, on the rare occasion that I perfectly execute a difficult cast to a wary, rising fish, I do find myself muttering under my breath, "take it take it take it take it take it!"

Does that count?
Jason Neuswanger, Ph.D.
Troutnut and salmonid ecologist
Shawnny3May 22nd, 2007, 6:38 pm
Moderator
Pleasant Gap, PA

Posts: 1197
It only counts if you always follow it up by muttering "dammit" as loudly as you can under your breath when he doesn't take it.

-Shawn
Jewelry-Quality Artistic Salmon Flies, by Shawn Davis
www.davisflydesigns.com
RleePMay 23rd, 2007, 3:10 pm
NW PA - Pennsylvania's Glacial Pothole Wonderland

Posts: 398
My wife, the lovely if occasionally volatile Petunia informs me that when I am making a cast into a tight spot or trying to lay a fly at some distance into an exact place relative to a riser, I will flip the wrist of my left hand (I'm a righty caster) up and splay my fingers out until the fly lands, at which time the hand falls back to my side.

I wasn't aware of doing this until she mentioned it. After she told me about it, I tried to not do it by making a fist with that hand and holding the hand still. But, doing this, I can't hit a barn door with a fly at 10 paces.

So, I'm back splaying the hand.

I can't really say this qualifies as a superstition though. Seems pretty obvious to me that it is an essential navigational aid for my casting.

I am now experimenting with holding my mouth different ways when I deliver the cast in hopes of achieving even greater accuracy. So far, the only improvement I've noticed has been when I use the slack-jawed, full open, post 2X4 to the forehead mouth position.

Further testing is required...:)
GONZOMay 23rd, 2007, 3:41 pm
Site Editor
"Bear Swamp," PA

Posts: 1681
Per Jason's "take it" incantation: I'm sure we've all said that at times, but it's probably more of an expressed wish than a superstition--unless you actually believe that it works. Then it would be like the eccentric Brit I heard about who swore he could make the fish take by singing to it. (No, I can't remember the song--sorry.)

To the contrary, I'm sure I'm not the only one who has noticed how often the trout take at the moment when we are most distracted and not paying attention. I hate it when my partner asks me a question in the middle of a drift, because as soon as I turn to answer, a fish often takes. And I can't tell you how many times I've watched someone intently fish drift after drift and when they stop to swat a mosquito or fiddle with a loop in their line...Bingo! Don't bother trying to base a strategy on this coincidental observation, though. I've tried pretending that I'm not paying attention, but the fish seem to know the difference between feigned distraction and the real thing. ;)

PS--Lee, perhaps that hand gesture is related to the balancing issues you mentioned in another post. Our wives always like to point out our quirks, but I'd say "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."
MartinlfMay 24th, 2007, 5:12 am
Moderator
Palmyra PA

Posts: 3125
Lee, your post reminded me of a fishing trip very early in my life with my very first fishing mentor, my Uncle John. He was famous for initiating the young ones in the clan to fishing, and he taught me the blood and clinch knots, among other things. One day I was fishing right beside him, and my bobber remained motionless as he caught bluegill after bluegill. Finally I bleated, "Uncle John, why can't I catch a fish? What am I doing wrong?" I will never forget his answer to my dying day. He removed his pipe from his mouth, looked at me, and said, "Boy, you ain't holding your mouth right." I later learned from my cousins that this was one of his favorite expressions when fishing with kids, along with "Hold her Knute, she's headed for the pea patch," which he would exclaim when a smallmouth took his minnow far out in the depths of the fishing hole.
"He spread them a yard and a half. 'And every one that got away is this big.'"

--Fred Chappell
CaseyPMay 24th, 2007, 7:03 am
Arlington, VA/ Mercersburg, PA

Posts: 653
last night in the gloaming as the sulphurs floated above our hats and the fish were slurping, we witnessed the Distraction Factor big time. my eyes went to a nifty play of fading light on rock and current, and suddenly there was the best (and only) fish of the evening. shortly thereafter, best fishing buddy announces, "At last! And I wasn't even paying attention!" after that, no more fish.

he thinks you're right. perhaps with their sensitivity, trout can sense something not entirely safe in a fly on the end of a line when the angler is concentrating, but that warning feeling disappears when the angler is distracted. perhaps there is some tiny vibration we're not aware of. after all, a great white shark can sense a seal from a huge distance, apparently by minute vibrations.

so next question: do drunks catch more fish?
"You can observe a lot by watching." Yogi Berra
TroutnutMay 24th, 2007, 7:43 am
Administrator
Bellevue, WA

Posts: 2706
I'm sure I'm not the only one who has noticed how often the trout take at the moment when we are most distracted and not paying attention.


I believe this is related to the fact that the best way to guarantee a fantastic hatch is to not carry any proper imitations of it.

Also, if you want nice, sunny weather, be sure to pack a bulky raincoat in your vest.
Jason Neuswanger, Ph.D.
Troutnut and salmonid ecologist

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