Chasing Away the Skunk

So the new year hasnít started off with great fishing for me. Going back to the end of December, Iíve gone several trips without getting a fish to hand. For a variety of reasons, whether itís pulled hooks, broken tippet, or straight not hooking them, the fish have been elusive. Add chilly weather and cold water to the mix, and it adds up to the worst slump Iíve had in years. Since this isnít the first time itís happened to me, and it might be happening to you as well this winter, Iím here to give you a few tips for scaring away the skunk.

The first thing to remember is that like all slumps, it will eventually end. No one hits 100% of their shots, not even professionals. What true pros do when shots arenít falling is to keep focused and stay confident in their ability. They also go back to basics. For the flats fisherman this means staying positive even when things arenít going your way and making sure that when you do get an opportunity you make the most of it.

Casting practice: this should be a no- brainer, but many of you still donít work on your cast and only attempt to cast when a fish is in view. Thatís a sure path to failure. You have to keep the muscle memory up and the casting smooth so you donít ruin the few shots youíll get during slower winter days. This may mean casting at the park after work, or blind casting off the flat when itís cloudy. Keep in mind that itís not about sheer distance, itís about making quick casts regardless of the direction the wind is blowing. If you canít make a particular shot in practice, you wonít make it when it counts either.

Knots and hook points: another no- brainer, but the amount of popped tippets and pulled hooks going on out there astounds me. You need to practice your knots until theyíre automatic and absolutely, positively wonít fail when you finally hook that monster fish. Thereís no more sickening feeling than getting the fish to eat, only to pop the line before you even get it on the reel.

Dull hook points are another silly way to lose fish. Most anglers reuse their flies, but few of them take the time to inspect and touch up the hook point before tying the fly back on. When a picky fish grabs a fly, you have less than a second to set the hook before he spits it out. Razor sharp hook points will ensure you have the best chance for a solid hook up that wonít slip on a head shake or after the first run ends.

Staying positive and keeping things fresh: when you havenít been doing well, the tendency is to lose focus and give less than 100% effort, especially if the fishing is slow. Luckily for me, I am extremely persistent (stubborn) and when fishing is difficult I become grouchy and try that much harder. But for most people, you need something to keep you interested in the game until the action heats back up. This might be getting a new piece of gear, casting a different line, or trying some new flies. If youíre into tying, it might mean creating something different than your usual go-to patterns. It might mean using a new material or looking up different patterns online and incorporating a new technique. However you go about it, itís something to keep things fresh and interesting even if the fish arenít cooperating.

Most importantly, keep telling yourself that THE SLUMP WILL END! It might take until March, but it will end! Seriously, the only way to end the slump is to keep taking shots and believe in yourself. The game isnít really that hard, it only is if we make it so. If you truly believe that the next fish will eat, eventually it will and youíll get to chase that skunk far, far away. Aloha

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