The other day, I was talking with Kelly Galloup, streamer fishing guru and owner of the famous Slide Inn on Montana’s Madison River. We were talking about the mistakes that many fly anglers make, and he had a very interesting point to offer.

He said: “Too many anglers make a cast, and then wish for something to happen, rather than making it happen themselves.”

That hit home. Of course, on the flip side, I’ve long said that it’s also a mistake for anglers to try to impose their wills on the trout, rather than letting the fish dictate how they approach the situation. But there’s a subtle, important difference between these trains of thought.

On the one hand, sure, you want to be a watcher before you become a doer. And by that, I mean, take plenty of time to watch the water, observe what the fish are doing, and then make a plan. Many a choice run has been ruined by anglers barging into the mix, and throwing their favorite fly without taking the time to consider whether or not it will work best.

Yet, on the other hand, especially when you’re streamer fishing, tossing a cast, and then waiting for something to happen at the end of a listless drift is a waste of time. Streamers are often most deadly when you charge them with panicked action. A little effort and action can also positively affect dry flies, even nymphs. How often have you made that little twitch of a dry fly to grab Mr. Trout’s attention, and had it work? And when you lift or swing those nymphs in the water, trout often find that an appetizer they cannot refuse, don’t they?

So keep that in mind. There’s a difference between watching and wishing. The “dead drift” doesn’t always ensure success. Sometimes, in fact it’s a dead end. To the extent you’re able to transform from watching to making something happen, the better off you may be.