Tricks of the Trade

Startling Secrets from a Veteran Angler

Story and Photos by Les Tanner

It was my wife’s response to a completely innocent question that got me to thinking about writing this, so blame her.

“When can I go fishing again?” I asked as I unloaded my gear after returning from my latest three-day excursion to the Lochsa River.

“Why on Earth do you think you need to go again? You’ve already learned everything there is to know about fishing. Instead, you should be mowing the lawn and fixing the leaky faucet in the bathroom sink and—”

If there’s anything I have learned in the past almost-sixty years, it’s how to tune her out when she begins talking like that. The more I thought about her answer, though, the more I returned to her statement that I know everything about fishing. Of course I don’t. Who does? But I do believe that I’ve gained more than a little bit of information about the sport in the past seventy-five years. I expect to be at it for another twenty-five or thirty years, too, but this might be a good time to jot down some of what I’ve learned. So here, for the first time in print, are a few of my tricks of the trade.

A major problem is knowing where to start, of course. Another will be knowing when to stop. I won’t describe how I became involved with fishing. For one thing, the first fish I ever caught was purely an accident (which describes a large percentage of what I’ve caught since then, as well), and because accidents can’t be planned, the details aren’t important.

Nor will I spell out precisely how to choose rods and reels and lines and lures, and how to read water and tie flies and so on. Those are the subjects of umpteen zillion books and videos and TV programs intended for folks at the two extremes of the fishing spectrum: those who don’t know which end of the long stick to tie the string to, and those who would bypass a fishing safari to Chile or New Zealand in favor of a month-long workshop on tying Royal Coachman flies on #38 hooks.

So I guess I’ll have to zero in on the subtler things that make me the guy that people point at and say, “See that guy in the orange hat? Somebody told me once that he’s a pretty good fisherman.” (I started that rumor many years ago, and it really caught on.)

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