There comes a time in our maturation as fishermen when we stop fishing to achieve, and start fishing to discover. It’s a subtle shift in attitude, but it can fundamentally change the fishing experience in ways that make learning easier and enjoyment fuller.
When we fish to achieve, we attach our personal identity to the results of our fishing efforts, be they good or bad. When we fish to achieve, enjoyment is metered out (or not) in specific units of fish measurement (total catch, inches, pounds, etc.) Enjoyment then hinges on success, and higher success feeds the ego identity, which ratchets up the level of success required for enjoyment, and so on and so on, until, somehow, a less than average fishing experience turns into a bad time and a blow to our ego. When we fish to achieve, we chain ourselves to the act of catching fish, with no recourse for fulfillment.
Fishing to discover is more consistently fulfilling than fishing to achieve, because it detaches from an identity based on measurements, and broadens the definition of success to include not just catching fish, but learning new skills, improving old skills, seeing new sights, revisiting favorite places, meeting new friends, re-connecting with old friends, or just about any other thing that deepens, improves, or enriches your current experience. Fishing to discover removes the target (catching more and bigger fish) and stops the comparisons (counting and measuring), thereby eliminating the possibility of failure. When you fish to achieve, a lot of mental space, time, and energy is used to keep score and care about the score, to maintain identity, etc. When you fish to discover, that mental space, time, and energy can be converted into quicker improvements in your technique, deeper understanding of the environment you’re fishing in, and even fuller enjoyment of the experience as a whole.
Of course, it’s easy to get stuck in the deep mental ruts of fishing to achieve. Catching more and bigger fish is just plain fun. A measurement, a comparison, a boost to the ego is fine, perhaps even healthy now and then. The truth is most of us will fish our whole lives in the pursuit of achievement. But if we can make that subtle identity shift even temporarily, just long enough to punctuate our fishing experiences with moments of discovery rather than measurement and self-reckoning, then fishing becomes not just a sport or a competition, but a way of encountering the world, a path to personal growth.
Flows from Bull Shoals Dam are still in the same pattern: somewhere around 10,000cfs in the morning hours (sometimes a little under, sometimes a little over) and then around noon flow increases up to around 18,000cfs (sometimes a little under sometimes a little over). Hoppers are catching nice fish, especially early and late in the day. #8-#10 Western Ladies, Fat Alberts, Wiley’s Ants, Psycho Ants, and Evan’s Baby Foam are the choice bugs. Weighted Girdle Bugs and other Rubberleg nymphs are consistent producers of fish large and small. Fish them heavy in fast water, lighter in slow water. #14-16 Tailwater Jigs, Devil Jigs, Rainbow Warrior Jigs, Copper John Jigs are all tactical killers and effective fished alone, in tandem, or behind a hopper or girdle bug. Stripping Dungeons and Mini Dungeons around heavy wood cover can be exciting!
Norfork has been normally running both units during daylight hours, which is good water for heavy girdle bugs, large streamers (CJ’s Big Johnson, Dally’s Weighted Twerking Minnow, Lafkas’s Lovechild Sculpin), and dredging the bottom with worm and egg patterns, especially the Blob fly. This morning however, Norfork was shut off until at least 11am, creating a rare wading opportunity for a few hours. Likely flies for low water would include Hunchback Scuds #16-18, DW Whitetail and Super midges #16-18, Griffith’s Gnats, Cracklebacks, and small terrestrial beetle patterns. Keep checking on the White River Fly Fisher app over the next couple of days to see if this morning low water opportunity will continue.