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In the not-too distant past, when I was just learning this adventure of fly fishing, I remember hearing and reading that good fly fishers “anticipate the strike.”  While I knew what they meant, I didn’t understand what they meant.  I think I understand now.


I’m sort of a slow learner.  I mean, it took me a long time to even start fly fishing, so I figure my learning curve is going to be a long and steady arc.   In the past, when I would get a nice drift and see the fish rise for the take, the fish usually had to really take it … and then I would set the hook.  I thought that my reflexes were slow but it was more like I just had to be convinced that the fish was taking the fly.  I probably missed a few…or a lot!


The past few times out, though, I came to understand “anticipating the strike” and that mental state probably helped me catch at least one or two more fish each trip.  


The most recent time was on a relatively flat stretch of water on the Pueblo tailwaters.  Fish had begun rising during the warmest part of the day (it reached about 30 degrees), so I tied on a #24 Griffith’s Gnat, the smallest fly I had.  I watched a couple of fish rising sporadically near the far bank. I cast out and watched my fly drift toward the middle of the “rise circle” nearest to me.  The fish further out from me rose and almost instinctively I set the hook just as the near fish rose.  A nice little rainbow to the net.


The other rainbow I “anticipated” was on the Gunnison in November.  He was rising almost straight downstream from me and only about three feet out from the bank.  I didn’t want to move too much out of fear of spooking him, so I got enough line out to drift it down to him.  Because of some rocks between me and the fish, I couldn’t do a parachute cast, but I figured I could get it out in a seam and at the end of the drift, he might rise to it.  Just as the fly reached the end of its drift, I set just as he struck.  Turned out to be a great fighter!


It made me think about the things that can and cannot be taught.  I  learned how to get a drag-free, fly-first drift.  I learned to roll cast.  I learned to read the river.  But some things seem to be more difficult to be taught — and “anticipating the strike” may be one of them.  


Anticipating the strike is almost an instinctual aspect of fly fishing or maybe intuitive is a better word.  Different elements of fly fishing — those things that can be learned over time or from a guide/mentor — have to come into play before you can anticipate the strike.  Reading the river correctly, making a good fly selection, studying a fish’s feeding behavior, getting a natural drift  — all come into play.  


Then you rely on some sort of angler’s sense, an intuitive thought, an instinctual reflex to anticipate the strike.  





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