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Catching less. Enjoying more


by Mike Loebl March 30, 2020 7 Comments

By Mike Loebl - March 2020

Catching less.  Enjoying more

 Mike Loebl - Professional Fly Fishing Guide - Madison River Outfitters

I’m at a strange place in this game of fly fishing for trout.  I am trying to catch fewer trout. At the same time, I am trying to catch trout in such a way that the act of catching them is more enjoyable and memorable.   

I spent the first roughly 15 years I was in Montana trying to become as efficient as possible in targeting fish in all of the waters I frequent.  Along the way, I got pretty good at catching fish. Unfortunately, I’ve also grown increasingly aware of my impact on the resource from me hammering on the fish day after day.

As a guide, this puts me in a bit of a quandary.  It’s one thing to get the right fly dialed in for my guide trip tomorrow, another thing to sore lip every fish in a stretch of river.  It doesn’t help your future guiding when you’ve hooked every feeding fish. I’m certainly guilty of doing this in the past.

I’ve seen great spots dry up due to too much pressure, certainly, I have fished spots out to where the fish simply pack up and leave.

So for my own personal fishing, I am now trying to minimize my impact on the resource and on the fishery while maximizing my enjoyment.

This is a relatively new idea in my pea brain, so bear with me.  It might take some time to fully suss out.

So for one, I am trying to make fly fishing for trout harder.  Let’s see me try to hunt for the big fish that is rising to those BWO’s rather than just catch the easy ones rising all around.  Let’s try to catch the one fish in the spot that is nearly impossible to get the fly into. Let’s try that seam waaaaay over there that requires a perfect slackline cast into the wind. If I fail and catch nothing….Oh well.  If I succeed, then the enjoyment will be far greater than if I just cleaned up some easy fish. This is going to take a bit of a reset in the brain but I think it’s worth it.

Another thing I can do to minimize my impact but increase my fishing enjoyment is to use methods that are just more fun to fish with. Sure I catch less fish trout spey fishing than Euro Nymphing….but I catch enough, and they are certainly more memorable.  Wet Flies, attractor dries and other methods that require the fish to move to the fly are certainly effective, but have much smaller bite windows than dead drifting flies right to the fish. They are also more fun to cast. 

Speaking of casting, I’ve been designing and building bamboo fly rods, which is another avenue to increase my satisfaction while fishing. You know that excitement you get when you come up with a fly pattern to solve a particular fishing problem and it works? Well now consider, coming up with a rod design to fish one particular river, that feels perfect with the right amount of line out to cover the fish in these locations, that has the right amount of fish fighting power to let the fish show their stuff without playing them for far too long, casts in the wind with the flies normally used.  Yeah. Then build that rod. Or build that rod several times, scrapping each previous version due to imperfections until the design gets closer and closer to ideal. Finally, the rod is just the way you wanted it. Then go fish the rod in the scenarios you made them for. This is immensely satisfying. I’ve finally got a few of those rods complete. To say I’m looking forward to fishing them would be an understatement.

Other things that still get me super stoked to fish are numerous.  I love solving any on stream problems, from presenting the fly in a tough spot to finding a better fly for particular conditions.  Checking out new water, no matter how productive it may be is always worthwhile, and Southwest Montana and Yellowstone offer no end to the river miles one can fish.

The longer I do this, the more I am content to catch nothing while trying new things, or new spots.  I’m planning on fishing a ton this year and having a blast while I’m doing it. I just hope I can catch a few less fish along the way.

MIKE LOEBL - PROFESSIONAL FLY FISHING GUIDE

Mike Loebl, Professional Fly Fishing Guide

Mike began fly fishing at the age of 7 in his home state of Michigan, where he would later start his career in the industry at a fly shop in Northville. Fast forward to the present and Mike has been with MRO for the better part of the past two decades.  Mike has been instructing both single hand and two-handed fly casting throughout his time at MRO.  He spends an excessive amount of time on the water trying new techniques and refining his approach to the river.  As a guide, Mike loves to help his anglers hone their skills and teach folks how to be more effective fly fishers.  When not fishing, Mike can be found spending time with his wife Alice Owsley (also a fly fishing guide in the area) and their dog Norman.

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Mike Loebl
Mike Loebl

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7 Responses

Allen Branton
Allen Branton

April 12, 2020

Thanks, Mike- Excellent thoughts. These days I often go fishing and do not even cast. Looking for the right fish. If I don’t find it, I’m just fine.

Dave Long
Dave Long

April 02, 2020

Really enjoyed the article Mike. Thank you!

Mike Loebl
Mike Loebl

April 02, 2020

Rob, thanks for the comment. That is the beauty of fly fishing. We can make it anything we want, and you never reach the limit of what there is to be done in the sport or learned. I’m glad you are still finding ways to be fulfilled by it. I certainly am myself.

Mike Loeb
Mike Loeb

April 02, 2020

Mike and Tom, thanks for the feedback.

Rob Stanton
Rob Stanton

April 02, 2020

Bravo Mike. Fishing is so much more than just catching fish. Jon Bon Jovi observed that the reason for his longevity in the music business is that he became a master of his craft. Not just writing or singing, but editing and producing as well. Everything involved in the music industry became part of his day-to-day. For myself; I no longer fish with a rod I didn’t build up myself. I no longer cast any flies but those I have tied. I go nowhere without a camera and challenge myself to be aware enough to put it to good use. A day on the river is, for me, about as fulfilling as anything has ever been because of the scope to which I have expanded it. I am glad to hear I am not alone.

Mike Cook
Mike Cook

April 01, 2020

Well written and well thought out Mike. – thank you

tom croyle
tom croyle

April 01, 2020

mike is a beast !! He’s put us in spots I would’ve never thought possible … casting to, missing, and even sometimes landing Unicorn trouts !!!

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