I had an interesting evening recently with some people that I have been giving some help with on their fly tying and fly fishing for the coming season. A question they had was what is the best way to prepare yourself for a competition to give your self the best chance and have confidence in what you are doing while not getting distracted with what everyone else is doing all the time or wondering what might work instead of concentrating on what you are fishing at that time.
In fly-fishing and competitions we all have our methodologies for preparing to go fishing; strategies that we plan out and attempt to follow during our days on the waters. I have found recently that spending a bit of time understanding and getting these process correct to suit your ability and keeping your confidence level high can help you fish more efficiently which will result in better catches. Therefore if you have your processes right and if you trust them then you will catch more fish. "Trust the process"
A lot of the top competition anglers will tell you that if you don't have confidence in what you are doing then you wont get the fish, for example if you are fishing a leader to long, short, heavy or light than you like it dose effect your belief and confidence in fishing that set up correctly also the same can be said if you are fishing a fly that you don't have faith in then it wont get the rises. But how many times have you put up your favorite fly and used your reliable set ups in strange situations and it has worked for you? This is because you have confidence in the set up and what you are using is part of fishing them correctly and understanding all this and spending some time on getting it right means you will always fish at the top of your game.
Over the last two years I have focused a lot on getting my processes down to suit me so when I go fishing I have no doubt in my mind that I have the set ups, systems and the right flies I need for that day. This has giving me the confidence I needed to go to a event or river and know that I have done all I need to do to be able to catch those fish, I stick to my game plan and I trust in my process and they keep me focused through out the day on the river or lake; leaving little or no room for doubt and questioning so I can focus in on just catching the fish.
Here is some of how I use my processes to aid my confidence to catch fish.
Preparation to fish a venue:
For several weeks before a competition day I will research the venue through online and other sources gathering what information I can, while also visiting the river or lake several times to do some homework on the style, size, depth and its environment. I don't like to over fish a place and I tend to find a local venue with similar attributes and spend more time there closer to the day. I would constantly take down notes of important information and start a broad tying list of what I feel I might need to fish there.
I would spend a good bit of time before the event fishing different set ups and systems on similar waters deciding on a game plan or approach that I will be using for the competition. I will have narrowed down my tippet choice, leaders and lines also. By the time the competition has come around I will have chosen my fly selection to a few nymphs, dries, wets or streamers depending on the water I will be fishing and they will be in a box separate from all other flies so they are easily accessed and there is no other flies to distract me from my plan.
The day before:
I like to spend this day cleaning, stretching and getting ready all my fly-lines and gear. I will look at what I need to bring on the day closely and make sure I will only have what I need, less is more here, you don't want a load of stuff in your pockets dragging you down or getting in the way of effective fishing. Recently I have switched over to a chest pack that will only just take what I need and no more.
I will make up any leaders I will be using on the day and double check all my flies stocked up are ready to fish. This is the day I will also decide on my game plan for tomorrow, by now I know the water conditions and weather so I should be able to predict the conditions and the methods I will need for the day. Once I have decided this I stick to my game plan.
During the day:
I am aware that anything can happen on any day but I do try my best to keep to my plan and for the majority of events I do, history has shown me that all the days I have followed my plan and trusted in the process is the days I have done well.
I keep focused on this day it can be distracting heading to a check in at a competition and chatting to other anglers, they have there plan and its to late for you to change yours so I don't tend to stand around to much chatting and just get on with the job in hand; trusting I have done my homework good enough.
I would go over the process of the day in my head before I start fishing and how I would like to approach and work the water I have been giving for the session. I double check my chest pack for all I need to have with me in the water and then begin to fish and move in the chosen direction.
Not wondering what the next guy is doing on the upper or below beats, or whats even happening in the run at the top of my beat, or if I should change a fly, I am just completely focused on the fly's that are in the water and the fish I am trying to catch. You will only catch fish with your flies in the water and no where else so be efficient with your time, and if you have to make a change do it for a reason and not just because you are addicted to changing flies.
This is where I begin to trust my process and all the work I have done in the previous weeks. You have to believe in your ability and have complete confidence in what you are doing and it will work for you.
No matter where I finish on the day be it in first or last I do realize that there is only so much we as anglers can do to determine or days results, the luck of the draw and the fishes behaviors can have a huge outcome on results. But I have found that if I have fished well and done all I can do to maximize my fishing time on the day; I fished with purpose and confidence then I am satisfied with what I have achieved.
I take what I can from the day in lessons and use them to improve my approach for the next event if you don't learn something that needs to be worked on to better your fishing then you are not being honest to yourself and you wont progress, if something is not right or good enough then work on it for the next day.
This is my general approach to fly fishing and competitions and most anglers have other methods they find that suits them and work for them. You should look at yours and if you are not happy or confident in it then spend some time getting it right and your fishing will be more effective. No matter what though always trust the process.
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