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Pondering the various fishing theories

Bruce Ajari

If you fish a body of water a considerable amount of the time it becomes well known to you. As such, you can become quite in-tune to the water and your successes on it. As time goes on you begin to catalog these things, whether you do so on paper or in your mind. Certainly the notes on paper are a more accurate reflection as time passes. I know that my memory is nowhere near as good as it once was.

Have you ever noticed how a particular bait, lure or fly works well one year, or a series of years, and then for some unexplainable reason the fish stop taking that offering? Do fish have memories and are they that good?

There are interesting thoughts coming from fishermen on this topic. The two I have heard the most are that fish do have memories and they sometimes get very used to seeing the same offering from year to year. At some point they stop hitting these baits, lures or flies as readily because they associate it with being caught.

Some fishermen truly believe that fish can become tuned-in on an item. Fly fishermen in waters that are fished very heavily feel that fish have attained their Ph.d.s and are extremely reluctant to take the same flies from one year to the next.

Another theory is that the water conditions dictate what type of mood the fish will be in regarding what a fisherman is offering. Think about high water years and low water years. Have you caught fish with a particular item better one year versus the next?

These fishermen believe that the conditions may dictate the types of food items that the fish are seeing. Thus, it could be different during high water years and low water years. This is certainly true in a river environment, so why wouldn’t there be some merit in lakes as well? From a fly fishing perspective in rivers, high water years tend to be great for aquatic insects needing highly oxygenated water, like stoneflies and caddisflies. In low water years, insects such as mayflies and midges tend to do better.

I do not know which theory holds the most water, but in my experience a fly that is very good will seemingly work well for years for everyone. The fly will still work, but the fly has to be presented by a much more proficient angler. Does this mean that fish can remember the fly or has the fish just seen so many naturals now that it knows that the fly is not acting the same? Because the same fly works, I would believe the latter is probably true.

I am in the camp that favors the water condition theory. The correlation here appears to be very strong. Our recent high water experiences at Pyramid Lake would bear this out as well. A fly that had not been producing well ” in the recent past when the water was lower ” is now producing well again. My angling buddies were commenting on how well that particular fly was producing recently.

While it is not rocket science, topics such as this make for some real interesting conversations while you are fishing. I’ll bet that you all have had similar dialogue with your friends. Maybe this is just another reason why people love to fish!


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