Josh suggests some resolutions for 2019.
Five, four, three, two, one…. Happy New Year!! The fireworks explode, people hug randomly, and everyone proposes a toast. There is something refreshing about a new year. It’s a new beginning. You get to start afresh, wipe the proverbial slate clean and decide how you want to live out the year ahead. It’s a time for reflection, and improvement. What do I need to change to get where I want to go, and be who I want to be?
Your new year’s resolution may be to quit smoking, exercise more or spend less time at work. And each of those resolutions need one thing to bring them to fruition – action.
Flyfishing is the same. We all have fish we would like to catch, places we would like to visit and skills we would like to develop. But sometimes the thing that stops us fulfilling those goals is our lack of implementation. Our flyfishing goals seem to sink to the bottom of the bucket, and we don’t make real plans about how to achieve them.
As flyfishers, we’ve chosen a sport that is full of things we can’t control: the weather, the water, the landscape, the fish. There are an immeasurable number of variables. However, there are also many things we can control. And with a bit of planning, action and diligence, you can begin to fulfil some of your flyfishing goals before the clock strikes midnight again and another year is over.
- Perfect your skills
I am constantly surprised by the anglers I meet who tell me they have been flyfishing for five to ten years, yet their skill level is still very basic. Their casting is poor, they can’t tie a knot to save themselves and they don’t have the first idea about how to approach a stream. This is completely okay if you are just getting started, but if you’ve been flyfishing for years, it’s time to start improving your skills.
Like most things in life, flyfishing requires practice. And as your skills begin to improve, so will the rewards. Casting practice is important, as is getting out on the water. We all know anglers who can throw a beautiful loop in the council park, but rarely apply their skills to real life situations.
Having the perfect cast is not everything, and neither is catching fish on every trip. But we all know our weaknesses, so perhaps write down your goal and make a plan to improve that skill in 2019.
- Try a new species
I – like many flyfishers – used to have a one-track mind when it came to species I would chase on fly. It was trout and trout only. But since my epiphany in the last six years or so, I’ve realised that catching a new species on fly can be extremely exciting. Setting the target of a new catch, going through the learning process of how that species behaves and then conquering that challenge, is very rewarding.
Last year, one of the species I was focussing on was the ‘blue bastard’. True to their name, they had left me frustrated on several occasions. While I’d had hook-ups in Exmouth and the Northern Territory, the fish were always lost to the reef. Learning from my previous mistakes, I finally caught one in the Wessel Islands, NT and it was a good feeling. I ended up landing several on that trip, well and truly achieving my goal.
Whether they are nearby or a plane ride away, set your target on a new species or two this year.
- Explore a new location
Exploration is one of my favourite parts of flyfishing. But it’s one that has become a bit lost in our modern era. While social media has brought a lot of good to flyfishing, one of the things I don’t like seeing is the common refrain, ‘Where is this?’ under someone else’s fishing photo. Although some people are happy to share their location, many of us are not. Fishing is about going to new places to find your spot and enjoy the rewards of a well-earned location.
It’s important to explore with purpose. Make a plan of where you want to visit; check out the locations on Google Earth; inspect topo maps; and follow up hot tips from a local tackle store or mate.
There are real rewards in having your very own ‘secret spot,’ but they only come through exploration. So, expand your boundaries, take a risk and check out somewhere new.
- Teach someone to flyfish
When I started flyfishing at 13, I only had mates who enjoyed conventional fishing, and no one to go flyfishing with. The easiest way to fix that problem was to teach them to flyfish. Teaching a mate, dad, son, daughter, or wife could help you share your passion with someone you care about. If you don’t have the patience for it, you could invite them to a course or buy them a lesson.
About three years ago, I taught my Dad how to flyfish and have since enjoyed him having a greater understanding of the work that I do. Perhaps 2019 is the year to encourage someone to take up the sport and to become your next best fishing buddy.
- Commit to learning something new
Each year, I try and set my sights on learning something new or improving something I could be better at.
We all have a limit to our expertise and it is much better to learn from others than pretend we know what’s best. I have worked with flyfishing guides across Australia and around the world, and each of these individuals have built skills, knowledge and experience adapted to their own fisheries. They know them best. So, when I come to fish with these locals, I want to learn from their expertise.
In addition to understanding new fisheries, you may want to commit to learning a new technique. Spey casting? Czech nymphing? Lake techniques? These skills and more can help you to become a more versatile and successful flyfisher.
One of the quickest ways to learn is to book a guide, join a local flyfishing club, or attend a flyfishing course. You will be surprised by how much you can pick up from people who spend more days on the water than off.
Make 2019 the year to learn something new.
- Go On A Trip
Most of us have busy lives and it’s all too easy to put off going away until ‘things are a bit quieter’. Too often, the year comes to a close and the trip simply didn’t eventuate. But there is something about a fishing trip – the outdoors, the experiences, the company – that creates lifelong memories.
So, this year, make it your resolution to lock things in. Book the campsite, reserve the flights, take your annual leave. Make it a priority to get outside and fish. With a business to run and two young children, 2019 will be another busy year for me. But I make it a priority to lock in trips as soon as I can. Life is short; get out there and enjoy it.
- Become a conservationist
Being a conservationist doesn’t mean you have to be out there every day chaining yourself to the river – although go right ahead if you want to. However, it is about acknowledging that you get out what you put in. And if you don’t make a commitment to take care of the environment in which we fish, then you can’t expect anyone else to. Being a conservationist can be as simple as making a conscious effort to pick up rubbish. Or being mindful of your catch if you plan to release it – with minimal exposure time out of the water. All the little bits add up.
At varying points in your life, you may have more time to volunteer for river care groups, or to help out stocking fish, or to become informed about council and political decisions affecting our waterways.
Donating money, time and support can all benefit your local fishery, as does bending down to pick up the chip wrapper that someone left in the car park.
Our commitment to conservation has to be a team effort, and it’s a worthy goal for 2019.
- Refine your reporting/photography
Keeping a record of your fishing day is a great way to build intelligence about your local area, while also helping to remember (accurately!) some fishing highlights.
For the diligent, there are several variables you can report on: moon phases, water temperatures, tide charts, flies and catches. Others may just want to pin-point certain spots on the maps on your phone and take a few notes on what you saw. Either way, it all leads to a database of useful information for future trips.
For me, I love photographing the fishing environment: the fish, the action, the landscape. I set goals each year around photography and writing and seek to learn from others and try new things. Photographers love to talk about photography so if this is a skill you want to develop, don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you have a friend who is talented in this area, take them out for lunch with a pad and paper and be ready to listen.
- Be Positive
There is probably no better new year’s resolution than having a positive attitude. This obviously applies to all areas of life, and flyfishing is no different. It can be a frustrating sport at times, so committing to a positive outlook will make a huge difference to your experiences on the water. Positivity is critical when the fishing might be tough, yet you are still outside, enjoying the outdoors.
Speaking of being positive, it’s important in online discussions to maintain this mindset and to be respectful. Remember when engaging with other flyfishers that, regardless of our differences, we all share the same passion.
2019 is going to be full of positive people, positive trips and good outcomes. I don’t doubt it.
- Take action
Of course, there is one very simple factor required to kick all these new year’s fishing resolutions into gear: taking action. Don’t be the one who loads up Facebook on their lunch break to see everyone is out there having a good time, but is left behind. Set some fishing goals and have your best year of fishing yet.
All the best for a 2019, a year that’ll be full of memorable flyfishing experiences.