It’s a beautiful day, you’ve got the river to yourself, and you wade in full of hope. A few hours pass and you’ve caught nothing. Not a hit, not a tug, not even signs of fish. Despair builds, frustration takes over, and finally you just pack up and head home.
All anglers face it. Some refer to it as ‘not doing well’, others, ‘catching the skunk’, but no matter what name you give to it, fish-less days can bring an angler down. So what’s an angler to do? How does one make the best of a bad situation?
Often times a lack of results will shake one’s confidence. And this is the beginning of the end once it locks on. The first thing to do under these conditions is to give it another try before packing it in. Here are some tips to shake the skunk and turn the day around:
- Step back and do nothing. Quiet the mind and observe. Scan the water and focus on the food sources for the gamefish you’re after. Look closer for signs of fish. In some cases, birds, with their exceptional eyesight, may give clues to what can work.
- Assess what you’ve tried and change things up. If fishing nymphs deep, for example, try swinging a wet fly or fishing an emerger. Change colors, weight, and even leader or tippet size. Often times changing the size of the same fly or lure can make a big difference.
- Change location. Sometimes moving and fishing different water can make a difference. If fishing a pool, look at faster water. Change the depth of water being fished.
- Take a break. Conditions change as does the weather. An early chilly morning may turn into a warm sunny day. Likewise, cloud cover can roll in and reduce sun on the water. These changes can completely reverse poor fishing conditions. Bank-sitting or leaving the water and taking a snooze might be the best solution to slow fishing.
- Talk. Anglers are often tight-lipped about success, but for every secretive angler, there are those who are very willing to help a fellow fly fisherman have a good day on the water.
And what if the skunk won’t leave? Every angler has an opportunity to turn a fish-less day into a good day on the water by doing the following:
- Turn fishing time into casting practice time. Fly fishing is all about casting ability and there’s no better time to practice than on the water. Not only will an angler improve through practice, but one is still fishing, and who knows?
- Experiment. Take time to try other fishing knots, other fishing techniques.
- Organize & maintain. Organize your vest and your fly boxes. Clean your fly lines and gear.
- Think. Think about your fly fishing. Review your results and plan how you want to improve.
- Hope. Anglers are the epitome of hope. A final thought is to take the advice a wise old angler passed on, one fish-less day. “My son”, he said, “every day you don’t do well is paying forward to a day when the fishing will be even better than expected”.