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.