Paul on the board at Penstock.

What happens to us? One minute you feel like you're flying along, making the right fly choices, catching a few fish, casting solidly, generally speaking doing pretty well. The following week you find yourself standing on the bank of your favourite stream and things just don’t feel quite right, you don’t seem able to choose a fly let alone find a fish and the one cast that you’ve made has left your favourite emerger firmly embedded in a tree high above. What’s happening? What's changed? This is one of those times in a fisherman’s life when you have to ask yourself… am I going to think this through or am I just going to blunder on?

From what I have read and when speaking with other fisherman, it would seem that just about everyone at some point has been through the same thing, those times when you just can’t find that place in your brain that will help put it all together, maybe this a plateau? Whatever it is, finding something or someone to help get us through this is our next step. Some people find it with the help of a friend, a lot of people head to the local fly shop or join a fishing club, and what are all these people seeking? Some call it confidence, others may say it's knowledge, my humble guess? Belief.

… Those times when you just can’t find that place in your brain that will help put it all together.

The discussion must now head in a different direction, we have to make sure that we have done all that we can to give ourselves the best possible chance of success, and let’s face it we are not really talking about our lucky hat (by the way I do have one of those). Belief in our choices and ourselves are what will take the angler to a higher place. The ability to decipher and understand what is happening with the fish, the water and whatever else we find confronting us is what will help us answer these questions. The more we fish, the more rocks we turn over, the more books we read and the more we search for these clues, the better fisherman we can become.

The hardest part of this process is time, life’s so busy these days that we are using most of it up just trying to keep ahead of the never ending cycle of bills, family commitments and the other mountain of personal responsibilities that fishing is sometimes hard to squeeze in. This is the very reason that losing your shit on the bank of your favourite stream is possibly not the best option. Daniel Hackett wrote a great story in FlyLife issue 62, it offers a clever and concise approach to building on basic skills and tries to help us all to narrow down time that is wasted that would have been better spent searching for fish. Daniel’s suggested approach goes like this, check the weather, learn a bit about hatches, sneak around in the grass, keep casts short and make sure you enjoy the day, sounds pretty good to me!

Of all the things that have left an impression on me when fishing with a guide, it's their unfailing belief that they will find feeding fish, they just don’t give in. The belief in their own ability is what makes them such strong fisherman and by following a few basic steps and making a few sound choices we can take our fishing to that next level. Make no mistake, some days will just be crap, but if we keep looking for fish, understanding a little about the insect life in the stream or lake and making better choices about where to go in certain weather, our confidence will grow along with our ability.

This now takes us back to the beginning. Check the weather, be organised, get out and get moving, look for any sign of a fish, keep it simple and most of all enjoy your self. My final thought on all of this, as in life, a belief in yourself and your abilities will allow you to become the fisherman that you always wanted to be, and that is probably a lot closer than you think.