Smart people learn from their mistakes. Really smart people learn from the mistakes of others. So why don’t more anglers stop, look and listen?
Stop and take a few minutes to check your gear before you leave home. You do have a gear list, right? If you boat make sure you have the plug in, the extra gass and the bearing buddies in shape.
At the stream or lake stop well back from the water and sneak a look into the shallows so you don’t see the north end of a fish heading south when you pop up over the bank. If you do see a fish rising or tailing, stop and consider your options, check your leader and stand or sit quietly without false casting that can fly fish.
If you do hook a big fish and it runs off stop before you crank down that drag because effective drag tightens as the diameter on the spool decreases.
Look at guides, ferrules and reels before you start to fish. Consider your line. You can run the working end through your lips. If it feels rough, cut it off.
Look for bugs, birds and other keys to the action. Always watch other anglers — binoculars help determine Joe’s using red instead of rubber worms. If you spy a skilled angler hang your gear up for a bit and consider the situation. How does the angler fish a pool, riffle or rip? Where does the angler stand or wade to cast? Does the angler hold the tip, up, or down out of the wind.
You can hear fish feeding on calm days in fresh and saltwater and the crys of feeding birds carry for miles on a calm night.
Listen to your reel, if it starts to go “buzz, buzz, buzz” instead of one long scream your drag washers are squashed. Replace them if needed and avoid the problem in the future by releasing drags when you don’t fish.
Always listen to other anglers. Sure, some lie, but the chance of useful information rises in direct proportion to the distance of the venue. For example, last summer in British Columbia I got a great tip on Bonito fishing in San Diego.
Paying attention is the single rule. Keep an eye and ear out. Glean information from every available source and you’ll improve your results.