The Angler as Predator

About a month ago I was fishing with a bunch of friends and the weather conditions were particularly nasty. As we regrouped in the lodge one evening, I asked one buddy how he'd done that day, and he said: "Some anglers are casters, and others are predators. Today, I was a caster." Which was a gracious and eloquent way of saying he'd been skunked (he wasn't the only one).

As fate would have it, a few days later a new book by one of my favorite instructors and writers, Gary Borger, showed up in my mailbox. The title? The Angler as Predator. The book is now one of my favorite how-to books on fishing. It cuts to the core of something that's extremely important, something we rarely discuss. The mental game.

There is a definite science to this sport. You have to know how to load your rod with the right force. Time your casting stroke just so in order to punch out long casts. You must be in tune with the insects trout eat to know which fly to tie on. And you have to drift the fly precisely, reading currents to reduce drag until it floats like a natural insect. Those are all very important things to master. But sometimes we pour so much time and effort into understanding the physics, entomology, and hydrodynamics of good fly fishing that we forget about the psychology of the sport.

This is the great angler's trump card and Borger covers it better than anyone else I've read. He talks about being like a leopard as you fish, approaching the fish with stealth. Watching. Blending in. Minimizing sound. Recognizing opportunities and knowing how to subdue your prey quickly and efficiently.

The bottom line is that good fishing is about exploiting the weaknesses of your quarry. Since most fish we chase with flies have brains about the size of almonds, this might not seem difficult. But brainpower shrinks fast when unfocused, loaded down with thoughts like wading headlong into a run, or punching out that 60-foot hero cast. When I guide, I'd rather take a predator with a 30-foot limit on her cast than an angler who can show me his backing knot at will, any day.

This book is volume four in Borger's ambitious Fly Fishing, The Book Series, which will ultimately cover everything from casting to reading water, to picking flies. I am sure this one will stand out. You should get the whole series as these books become available, because Gary Borger is really one of the masters of the craft (as is his son Jason, who provides illustrations and commentary as well), and he's spilling the beans with uncommon candor and insight. The Angler as Predator costs $24.95.