12/20/2011
Deliberate Practice

The best way to make quantum leaps as an angler is to push yourself.   Get out of your comfort range.    Many of us find comfort in the familiar.   How many of us go to the same areas on the same lakes, casting the same lures and generally getting the same results?     We tend to practice what we already know.   What we know we can do. 

If you're frustrated with your fishing results, I'd suggest adopting one or more of the following principles during the new year:

1.)    Everytime you go fishing, fish a different (new to you) waterway.   Find a old copy of the Sanders Fishing Guide to Western NY or the Central NY version, read up on some lakes and rivers and try the ones that appear interesting to you.   If you can't get a Sanders Guide, go onto the DEC Website and check out some of the county by county fishing waters.

In the 1980s, before I had a boat, my buddy Terry and I would routinely select new waterways.  It was a lot of fun, checking out a new lake or river and unraveling some of the mysteries.   After a while, patterns start to emerge.   That's when things get really interesting.  We'd fish a lot around the various Lake Ontario bays, Finger Lakes and then once in a while try something different, like Oneida Lake, the Barge Canal at Widewaters or Cross Lake/Seneca River.   On a lake as vast as Cayuga, Oneida or Seneca, just going out of a different port can be like fishing a new lake.

2.)  Another good way to break out of the ruts is to fish for a different species.   If you primarily fish bass, ask one of your panfishing buddies or walleye aficionadoes if you could join him for a day.   Or just read up a bit on a different type of fish and try your hand at it.   We used to fish for perch a lot in the spring on Seneca and Cayuga Lakes.   It was amazing how many smallmouth bass we'd catch on Seneca Lake in 8' to 20' of water using light jigs and 4lb test.   Now if someone wants to catch bass in April/May on the Fingerlakes I know where and when - all because I used to perch fish a lot.

3.)  Hiring a guide can definitely help.   (That's enough with the self-promotion!)

4.)   Keep a fishing log!   This goes without saying.  Every time you fish, mark down the date and time your were out (e.g. 7 am to 4 pm,)  the water temp, sky conditions, wind, water conditions (color, level etc.)  and how you did.   Note where you caught fish and what you used.  Don't hesitate to draw a sketch of the areas you fished, making sure you mark down productive and non-productive parts.    If you didn't catch anything, you'll still want to notate what you did and where - that way you'll have an idea of what not to try next time you're out.   The key factor to pay attention to is what the weather was doing when the fishing was good and what it did when things slowed.    Most anglers never notice those subtleties.   A slight change in wind, sun position or cloud cover can do monumental things to the bite.