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Book Review: Instinctive Fly Fishing by Taylor Streit

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December 17, 2012

Book Review: Instinctive Fly Fishing by Taylor Streit

By Kirk Deeter

Are you an "instinctive" angler? By that, I mean, when you see trout rising in the pool in front of you, are you locked into "predator" mode? Are your actions dictated by force of will? Or is your mind flooded with thoughts like making your rod tip stop as you cast at "10" and "2" on some imaginary clock face? Are you preoccupied with worries about drifting and mending? And when the fish eats your fly, does the fight come naturally?

One of the great dilemmas for those of us who write "how-to" stories on fly fishing is that, while we want to offer good tips that help our readers get better and realize more success, we also know that information overload can be counter productive, especially on a trout river. The real truth is, there is no substitute for personal experience. Time on water equals fish. We can write it, and you can read it, but if your brain is buzzing with physics and biology lessons at the moment of truth, that's rarely a good thing.

I've always felt that the best lessons come from guides. After all, they make their living by producing results in short time spans. They have hours (or minutes) to get you dialed, and the best ones have means for imparting straight talk advice in a way that sinks in with immediate effect.

Taylor Streit, a legendary guide from the Taos, New Mexico, area has produced a book called "Instinctive Fly Fishing" ($16.95, Lyons Press, now in its second edition) that does more to move the mindset of the angler from theory to practice and habit than the average book ever will. The trick was, he build this book's outline by speaking into a small tape recorder as he actually fished and guided over many years. That way, he didn't lose the key thoughts that often float away like bubbles on the river.

Some examples: "Direction of Flow—small streams with spooky trout fish best if you have the sun at your back. Consequently, those that flow west will usually fish best in the last half of the day." (That's assuming you are fishing downstream-up.) On fast water—"The faster the water, the less ranging trout will do to feed." (So you have to cover that type of water more diligently.) And "What's it Worth? When you start to get a fairly good idea of where fish are, the next step is knowing how many casts each spot is worth... the really skilled angler may walk a half-mile without ever making a cast and then throw a hundred times in one place."

This book is a very easy read. But it is powerful. And whether you're a newbie who wants to develop good habits, or a serious angler who wants to hone instinct, it's worth the investment.

Comments (16)

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from buckhunter wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

You can only learn so much from a book and there is no substitute for time on the water. I believe you can replace the word instinctive with experienced and the title will have the same meaning. It is a different level that few reach or even desire to obtain. Seems this book bridges that gap. This is a very good topic.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from haverodwilltravel wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

Buckhunter is dead on. There is no substitute for time on the water and good old fashioned predatory instinct. That said, anyone who is any good at flyfishing or hunting is most often a "student of the sport" and gathers information from multiple sources (books, mentors, others with superior skills, discussion, video, etc..), then adds the good ones to their quiver.Also, also all the really good fly fishermen and or hunters I know can crossover if need be....because they are OUTDOORSMEN first.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from clinchknot wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

I believe very little of that premise about being instinctive. The more you learn good mechanics, the more you address presentation correctly, the more learn good casting, and line control you can become a better predator. Wild animals learn from instinct..man?..the good flyfishermen stick out like a sore thumb. They take the time to better themselves...no "instinctiveness" involved...but they can pick up technique from being a good game hunter. "Instinct" is another copout saying you are instinctive, and don't need to work on techniques, and approaches.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

Clinch, Your post was predictable. (At least your consistent)

This goes back to our discussion of the Check Cast. Clinch feels I developed that cast because I learned it in a book. No chance. I discovered it because it was what I needed at the time. I thought outside the box and let my imagination (or predatory instincts) take over. If you stick to the book you will never be better than the cookie cutter fly fisherman.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from clinchknot wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

buckhunter...that wasn't the contention regarding YOUR check cast. If I had worked on the check cast I would have given credit to the person who developed it. And you could have picked up the check cast in a book. I've seen it demo'd at Sportsman Shows, and in many books. You can take that position, and probably due from an ego standpt., but virtually every situation has been described in books. Picking up on say "micro-currents" from a book by a Mike Lawson say, who spent a lifetime fishing Spring Creeks, and just has a new book out, and I went to the signing at our flyshop just several days ago is an example. You can be frustrated for a long, long time, having to deal with micro-currents you can't even see affecting your flies drift, and then identify, and pick up on what is happening from a book like Lawsons. Next time I have brain surgery performed, I will make sure the surgeon has read lots, and lots of books, and is going by them, and not performing outside the box like you seem to suggest.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

Clinch, If every went by the book, then there would only be one book.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

*everyone*

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from clinchknot wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

And to further my point as it relates to buckhunter's point. The stronger your foundation is regarding fundementals, and your experiences on the water the better you are able to think outside the box. and make modifications that are presented to you. I, in no way, think you can just learn flyfishing from a book.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from clinchknot wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

No buck, there are lots of books. And I do reject some info in one book in favor of the same topic info in another book. But people learn in different ways. You can learn from others, and never read a book. It just eliminates a lot of frustration, and why a lot of beginning anglers give it up IMO. They don't get a good foundation however it is obtained. And I never read this guy's book. He may have an interpretation of "instinctive" that sounds acceptable to me.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from treelimit wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

My instincts tell me the DSM-V would be a useful book about now.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from kirkdeeter wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

clinchfu, I think we're splitting hairs here. I don't think anyone is suggesting that good practice of fundamentals is a detriment. And goodness knows, I'm not arguing against books and magazine articles as means for skill improvement (after all, that's how I make a living). But as someone who makes a living writing those things, I'm also unafraid (as a lifelong angler, I actually feel compelled) to say that crossing from "theory" into "practice" is what ultimately hones an instinct that translates to better performance when fly fishing. It's no different than the golfer who reads a book, practices on the range, and ultimately hones the game by playing many rounds and keeping score. Or the musician who practices scales and theory, but only really gets good through the jam sessions. Of course, there will be failures along the way. That's expected. But "grooving" the game (or sound) only comes through actually playing. Taylor's book does a lot to connect the dots and circumvent the mental mish-mash. You should read it, and then offer an opinion.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from clinchknot wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

No arguement. What struck me as being deceptionary was the title..Instinctive angler. And the author could have well intended to be deceptionary to get folks interested in buying it. Authors tend to do that you know. It just struck a theme with me, and that is the flyfishing industry is lacking growth because anglers don't want to take the time to learn good flyfishing fundementals, and that is what the word "instinctive" meant to me.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from kirkdeeter wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

I am with you. Fundamentals are the building blocks for everything. Happy holidays to you and yours, clinch. I enjoy the banter, especially when it involves something we both obviously care very passionately about.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from clinchknot wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

Same your way Kirk. I'm not giving in to your compassionate thoughts though during this time of year. I will still fight the erge, and remain a ba-humbug, old scrouge. :)

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from gumby wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

So good to see Sayf....er, clinchknot in the holiday spirit. Hopefully Santa brings him some nice flies and joy in his heart.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from clinchknot wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

Joy in my heart is not having to go out in the holiday traffic, and all the hustle, and bustle at this time of year. I stay home, and watch my bowl games, and holiday basketball tourneys. Way too much commercialism for me. Ruins the idea of XMAS for me. And the fishing can be incredible on my SF this time of year...low, clear water, and nymphs, and streamers are the ticket. Just that the days are short, and often cold. But there is sure a window of opportunity on sunny, windless days, between say 11 AM and 3 PM.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from buckhunter wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

Clinch, Your post was predictable. (At least your consistent)

This goes back to our discussion of the Check Cast. Clinch feels I developed that cast because I learned it in a book. No chance. I discovered it because it was what I needed at the time. I thought outside the box and let my imagination (or predatory instincts) take over. If you stick to the book you will never be better than the cookie cutter fly fisherman.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

Clinch, If every went by the book, then there would only be one book.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

You can only learn so much from a book and there is no substitute for time on the water. I believe you can replace the word instinctive with experienced and the title will have the same meaning. It is a different level that few reach or even desire to obtain. Seems this book bridges that gap. This is a very good topic.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from haverodwilltravel wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

Buckhunter is dead on. There is no substitute for time on the water and good old fashioned predatory instinct. That said, anyone who is any good at flyfishing or hunting is most often a "student of the sport" and gathers information from multiple sources (books, mentors, others with superior skills, discussion, video, etc..), then adds the good ones to their quiver.Also, also all the really good fly fishermen and or hunters I know can crossover if need be....because they are OUTDOORSMEN first.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from kirkdeeter wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

clinchfu, I think we're splitting hairs here. I don't think anyone is suggesting that good practice of fundamentals is a detriment. And goodness knows, I'm not arguing against books and magazine articles as means for skill improvement (after all, that's how I make a living). But as someone who makes a living writing those things, I'm also unafraid (as a lifelong angler, I actually feel compelled) to say that crossing from "theory" into "practice" is what ultimately hones an instinct that translates to better performance when fly fishing. It's no different than the golfer who reads a book, practices on the range, and ultimately hones the game by playing many rounds and keeping score. Or the musician who practices scales and theory, but only really gets good through the jam sessions. Of course, there will be failures along the way. That's expected. But "grooving" the game (or sound) only comes through actually playing. Taylor's book does a lot to connect the dots and circumvent the mental mish-mash. You should read it, and then offer an opinion.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from clinchknot wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

I believe very little of that premise about being instinctive. The more you learn good mechanics, the more you address presentation correctly, the more learn good casting, and line control you can become a better predator. Wild animals learn from instinct..man?..the good flyfishermen stick out like a sore thumb. They take the time to better themselves...no "instinctiveness" involved...but they can pick up technique from being a good game hunter. "Instinct" is another copout saying you are instinctive, and don't need to work on techniques, and approaches.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from clinchknot wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

buckhunter...that wasn't the contention regarding YOUR check cast. If I had worked on the check cast I would have given credit to the person who developed it. And you could have picked up the check cast in a book. I've seen it demo'd at Sportsman Shows, and in many books. You can take that position, and probably due from an ego standpt., but virtually every situation has been described in books. Picking up on say "micro-currents" from a book by a Mike Lawson say, who spent a lifetime fishing Spring Creeks, and just has a new book out, and I went to the signing at our flyshop just several days ago is an example. You can be frustrated for a long, long time, having to deal with micro-currents you can't even see affecting your flies drift, and then identify, and pick up on what is happening from a book like Lawsons. Next time I have brain surgery performed, I will make sure the surgeon has read lots, and lots of books, and is going by them, and not performing outside the box like you seem to suggest.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

*everyone*

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from clinchknot wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

And to further my point as it relates to buckhunter's point. The stronger your foundation is regarding fundementals, and your experiences on the water the better you are able to think outside the box. and make modifications that are presented to you. I, in no way, think you can just learn flyfishing from a book.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from clinchknot wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

No buck, there are lots of books. And I do reject some info in one book in favor of the same topic info in another book. But people learn in different ways. You can learn from others, and never read a book. It just eliminates a lot of frustration, and why a lot of beginning anglers give it up IMO. They don't get a good foundation however it is obtained. And I never read this guy's book. He may have an interpretation of "instinctive" that sounds acceptable to me.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from treelimit wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

My instincts tell me the DSM-V would be a useful book about now.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from clinchknot wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

No arguement. What struck me as being deceptionary was the title..Instinctive angler. And the author could have well intended to be deceptionary to get folks interested in buying it. Authors tend to do that you know. It just struck a theme with me, and that is the flyfishing industry is lacking growth because anglers don't want to take the time to learn good flyfishing fundementals, and that is what the word "instinctive" meant to me.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from kirkdeeter wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

I am with you. Fundamentals are the building blocks for everything. Happy holidays to you and yours, clinch. I enjoy the banter, especially when it involves something we both obviously care very passionately about.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from clinchknot wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

Same your way Kirk. I'm not giving in to your compassionate thoughts though during this time of year. I will still fight the erge, and remain a ba-humbug, old scrouge. :)

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from gumby wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

So good to see Sayf....er, clinchknot in the holiday spirit. Hopefully Santa brings him some nice flies and joy in his heart.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from clinchknot wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

Joy in my heart is not having to go out in the holiday traffic, and all the hustle, and bustle at this time of year. I stay home, and watch my bowl games, and holiday basketball tourneys. Way too much commercialism for me. Ruins the idea of XMAS for me. And the fishing can be incredible on my SF this time of year...low, clear water, and nymphs, and streamers are the ticket. Just that the days are short, and often cold. But there is sure a window of opportunity on sunny, windless days, between say 11 AM and 3 PM.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment