I recently started keeping a fly fishing for Redfish journal. I keep detailed notes on each trip I make. I jot down the date, the tide, the temperature, the time of day, who I was with, the spots we fished or checked, wether or not there were clouds hampering our effort etc. Lots of stuff. I, of course, also describe in detail how the fish were acting that day and if we had success or not. Anything that might be an indicator as to why we found Redfish or not. It is going to be really cool, next year, to look back at my entries for the month of June this year and refresh my memory on where the fish were hanging out. I am learning every month.
You see, the Redfish we catch here in NC, are creatures of habit. They do the same thing year after year. They are resident fish and they live here. In the Fall – the more mature fish (5 yrs old or more) move out of the creeks and bays off the Intracoastal waterway and head into the ocean – where they spawn. The juvenile fish stay in the bays and creeks and marshes until they are old enough to be parents. There a number of factors that cause the bigger fish to leave their cozy, safe shallow water homes near oyster beds and spartina grass and head into the ocean – things like water temperature and definitely the movement of bait. The movement of the food brings them all back.
My focus on learning how this one fish lives and moves and eats and evolves has turned into an obsession. Each time I fish, regardless of catching fish, I learn something new. Focusing on them and learning about them is causing me to have more success each year. Just a few years ago I would fish a spot that had no life – no bait, no sting rays, no turtles etc. I would always say – “there have got to be fish here – it just looks too good”. Today I know better. I look for real signs of fish before I actually look for fish. I look for bait. I wait for the right tide. I look for other marine life. It is amazing to see success happen because of what I learn each time out. Sure – fishing is a lot of luck – but consistent success is directly related to focus, patience and learning. If I lost my focus on Redfish and just started fishing for anything that bites – I might catch more fish – but I would be less effective and I would certainly not have as much fun.
The hunt for this one specific fish and the challenge of catching them with a fly rod, consistently, is what drives me. It is not about the catching, it is not about the numbers – it is about the hunt and the not so obvious things happening during the hunt. The sounds, the smells, the quiet and the intense focus. The rare success I have comes from time on the water – hours and hours of focus. Focus on how these fish move and on what tide and what they are eating. Often too, it’s just as important to learn where the fish are not – and why. Kind of a process of elimination I guess. Every trip I take – I learn more about what I am trying to catch and over time – I am having more and more success.
Here is an NC Redfish being released to rejoin his school of buddies…
Keepin’ the Focus