Written by Bob Melrose.
Want to watch a pretty good angler? Watch a Great Blue Heron. They move slowly and quietly, and are very observant. All the qualities an angler should possess. All the really good anglers I know are keenly aware of their surroundings, in other words they don't miss much.
Most of your fishing should start before you are on the water. For example, when getting ready for an ocean trip start at the dock. Who is cleaning fish at the table, are their rods still rigged up, bait, spoons, hoochies? Can you check the stomach contents to see what size bait they prefer, or just simply ask where they were fishing? What direction are most of the boats heading, which are the guide boats? Is there a DFO officer around you can ask for info? As you are getting bait, ice, supplies, gas, ask the launch or gas/ tackle shop for info. Once on the water watch for "bird storms" the frenzy of birds feeding on the bait, what size of bait or type of bait? Carry a good pair of binoculars with you. If anglers are hooked up then try to see if they are mooching, trolling, drift-fishing? What colour of flasher/dodger/ spoon or hoochie? Are fish rolling, what are the whales feeding on? On the water we are intent on the rod tip for the bite but be aware of all the other things happening out there. Sometimes we miss the simple things. Are the hooks sharp, knots properly tied, any line abrasion, drags properly set? What direction is the school of fish moving?
When it comes to the lakes there are lots of observations that can help. Are the swallows or other birds on the water picking up hatching insects? What type of insects are in the air or at the launch? Any insects on lakeside vegetation or spent cases on the water? Any anglers with fish on, where are most of the boats and why are they there? Has anybody cleaned fresh fish at the launch, what is in their stomachs? Again carry binoculars to observe your surroundings. Is one angler or boat constantly hooked up? Check reeds or bulrushes for emerging insects. Politely ask fellow anglers how they are doing without intruding on the area they are fishing. Most anglers will offer up some tidbits of help. Carry along the feeding activity tables and check that against the bites you are getting. Keep a fishing diary and record all those observations.
Fishing the rivers and streams it is also critical to be aware of the environment. Shake the bushes; are there any insects on them waiting to hatch? Any insect shucks caught up in the backwater and eddies? Can you see any fish flashing as they take nymphs off the bottom? Any fish rising, and what are they taking? Where are the lanes fish are travelling in? Once we were fishing Sockeye Salmon on the Skeena. The previous trip was a great one with everyone taking their limit of 2 Sockeye. This trip however was a bust. An hour and a half of hard fishing with nary a bite from the four of us. We were packing up and thinking we had missed the run. However, with one last look found that because the water had dropped two feet the Sockeye had chosen a different path from our previous trip. By adjusting our casts and location we snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. Many times we have picked up Steelhead by noticing a rise or hearing a rise and moving into position slowly and quietly. I once watched Karl Mauser, a renowned angler, and holder of the world record Steelhead on the fly, when I was fishing Slide Pool on the Bulkley. He sat in his boat for over an hour watching then moved into position. One or two casts later he was hooked up to a big Spring Salmon. He said later he had noticed the occasional rise in that spot and figured this salmon was holding there. He was right.
Keep those senses on high alert and notice those small little things that can greatly affect your success.