Most things in life are enjoyed more when confidence is built. Have you ever thrown a spoon, spinner or lure, and the size and color combination was dialed in and you “just know” you were going to catch fish? It happens regularly…and you gain confidence. The same is true throwing flies. They have proven true day in and day out, so they become our “go-to” fly.

But let me ask you: When you caught fish after fish on that one or two favorite lures or flies, did you try anything else? Why not? Did you make notes on the weather, time of day or night, time of year, water temp, presence of bug / terrestrial activity, etc? And how about the time you caught fish one day on a body of water, only to fish it the next day and couldn’t even get a bite using all the same lures / flies? I have a friend that so enjoys catching fish, that he has turned his passion into a study of fish behavior; keeping a journal of almost every fishing trip he takes.

Sometimes he will catch a fish or two, or just get a couple strikes, and he will tell me, “well I know they like this fly or that lures, I want to try other colors or other types of flies or lures to see what else they may be interested in!” Why change when you know what they already like? His answer, “because when I come back I want to be able to recount all that they were interested in, because tomorrow something may change and if I put all my confidence in one fly / lure, I may be disappointed and not catch anything. Really what it boils down to is he is building confidence in a variety of possible flies / lures that will catch fish, thus creating confidence in the flies / lures he uses! That is brilliant!

Ever hear someone talk of a lure that is absolutely killer and is a fish slayer? Only to try it yourself, and you can’t get a strike? That happens. A lot! So you run back to your favorite lure or fly. In 2017 that happened to me. I had heard all about this spoon called a Kastmaster. I had no idea how to fish it at all. I had been fishing spinners and catching fish all morning. I decided to mix it up and I put on a Kastmaster and fished it for 45 minutes without so much as a strike, and as I was about to get out of the water, a boat heading out on the water pulled up beside me, and one of the gentleman in the boat asked me how fishing was and what I was using. In a disparaging tone I responded, “it was better earlier.” He then asked, ” What are you using?” I said in an irritated voice, “hell I don’t know. Some stupid lure called a Kastmaster* a friend of mine swears by!” [WHAM!]

I no sooner finished bad-mouthing this Kastmaster*, when a few seconds following my statement, I set the hook into a fat, healthy 19″ rainbow. The two of them laughed hard. As did I. A similar thing happened this past weekend while fly fishing. I was catching small Brookies fishing wooly buggers (wet flies). I talked to a guy that caught several rainbows using a #18 Parachute Adams dry fly to rising fish. Well, that’s the dumbest thing in the world! He’s in the middle of this shallow lake, casting to rising fish that aren’t rising. Real smart. And in this nebulous of a ridiculously large body of water, the chances a fish will even see a #18 offering are slim to none. I had little to no confidence in this #18 Parachute Adams. Bigger has to always better, right? That was my theory. Besides, I cannot even see the eyelet on a #18 size fly to get the tippet through the tiny hole to tie a knot to the darn fly! That’s what I believed. I immediately tied on a similar Parachute Adams in #14 or #16 and caught absolutely nothing! And everyone knows if you’re going to fish a dry fly, to fish the shoreline structure, not the middle of the lake. I had NO confidence…

Then I put away my pride, and gave it a try. I put this #18 Parachute Adams on, and I was pleasantly surprised that I immediately caught a fish within a few short casts. In the middle of the lake no less! What just happened? Well, admittedly I watched somebody catching several fish, and I took time to learn from him, albeit slowly… And then I gained confidence in throwing a fly that the fish were keyed in on! I wasn’t too keen on it, but the fish sure were! And now I have a new favorite fly, and a new confidence!!!

And don’t get me started on the whole idea of spin fishing with a bubble and a fly! The bobber will scare the fish when it lands. It is not a delicate presentation when you cast a bobber out with a fly attached, plain and simple. Wet or dry fly? Both are stupid ideas! Oh wait, I forgot: I had never tried it. I assumed it was dumb. I had no confidence as this was a foreign concept to me. Well, until a new friend in 2016 showed me how to do it on an alpine lake. And I caught several nice fish. And a newfound confidence in another brilliant fish catching technique!

So here is how I would summarize: If you don’t have confidence in a particular lure, fly, or technique, do this: when you start catching fish using your favorite technique, lure, or fly, that would be a great time to pull out one of the lures or flies that you need to gain confidence in and give it another try. You will eventually catch fish, and a smile will light up your face. Confidence will come, I guarantee it!

Oh, and don’t forget to take notes in a journal… When you’re having a bad day on a body of water, your past notes might just be the answer to re-instilling confidence and put a few more fish in your net…