The best anglers I know all have at least one thing in common; they learn from everyone they fish with. Regardless of angling style, good anglers will learn something from every person they share a day on the water with. While I don’t claim to be a great angler, I do profess to being very observant of the habits and presentation skills of folks I fish with, especially those that are known to be very proficient at a particular technique or style of fishing.
Beyond just observing, I try to find little details or concepts in their angling that will carry over to mine. Sometimes it may be for a different species altogether, like an inshore saltwater snook technique that works well for smallmouth or pike roaming flats. Sometimes it’s just a nuance of something I already know, like when I noticed the national crappie champ, Charlie Bunting holding his jig completely motionless over suspended crappies and then suddenly dropping it six inches to trigger the bite. I was working the traditional lift and drop with my identical jig and getting no bites while he was wrecking them with his slo-mo lift, hold steady, sudden drop. See, nuances!
An observation and technique transfer that I feel is virtually universal yet hardly considered is between a spin guy and fly guy on a trout stream. I’ve fished both fly and conventional tackle in trout streams since my early teen years, yet it took working an International Sportsmen’s Expo 6000 demo tank with fly guy extraordinaire, Kelly Gallup to make me realize that the extremely consistent and successful spin pole techniques could easily be applied to the fly pole and that the only real difference between the fly and lure, at least when considering streamers and wet flies, is the delivery method. It matters not whether you cast the weight of the line or the weight of the plug when it comes to provoking strikes.
Historically, fly fishing was built around the dead drift. Really, the whole concept of a drag free drift is the heart of fly fishing. Long leaders, tiny bugs and considerable patience were the norm back in your grandpa’s day. These days, more and more fly guys are figuring out that fly motion, while perhaps not traditional, is a great way to get bites and that big streamers get big bites. Spin guys utilizing lures have always relied on motion more than anything else, so it stands to reason that there has been a significant advancement in their presentation details over time. Kelly Gallup figured out early on that by fishing with and observing good spin guys and then applying their lure’s motion to his flies, he could get closer to mimicking their success.
Now here’s the part that traditional fly guys don’t like to hear; a good spin-poler with a plug and/or a jig can catch trout at will, regardless of the conditions. High, muddy, run-off conditions? No problem. Mid-winter, half frozen river? Jigs will get bit. Warm summer flows? Simple stuff. Mid-fall, low clear water – plugs will get smashed with ease. I say all this not to ruffle anyone’s feathers, rather to point out that if you’re a fly guy that desires more consistency in your catching, pay attention to the spin-polers.