Fail to plan, plan to fail. Everyone is probably well aware of the key role planning plays in any successful day on the water. Whether it’s spending time on Google Earth trying to find new flats, or checking tide charts to make sure you’re at your go-to spot at just the right time; there is no doubt that spending time planning will inevitably result in more consistent and more effective days on the water. BUT, and this is a big but (no pun intended), as the famous poet Mike Tyson once said: “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” Now unless your day on the water has gone horribly wrong, no one usually gets punched in the mouth, but the message still applies. The best laid out plan means nothing if you’re not willing to scrap the whole thing. This is what differentiates between a person who happens to catch fish and someone who is truly fishy.
On a recent trip to Cape Cod to chase migratory striped bass with some of my closest friends, Rol and Alex, I learned a thing or two about keeping an open mind from some very fishy people. Leading up to our yearly pilgrimage to the sand bar known as the Cape, we spent countless hours tying flies, sharing potential locations, and rationale as to why a spot looked promising. When it finally came to actually picking a spot to start fishing, I used this knowledge we’ve gathered during all our planning, and we ended up fishing an area that wasn’t new to any of us. We found a bunch of fish there and, by all means, had ourselves a great couple of hours landing chunky schoolies.
The next morning, it was time to really get after it and spend a full day scouring the Cape for a better class of fish. Naturally, however; we ended up back at the same spot from the afternoon before. To be fair, it’s hard to not go back to a spot where you had success just the day prior. After fishing from pre-dawn until around 7am, we had all caught our fair share of decent fish, but it was a time to switch things up. I immediately started looking at places I had marked on the map previously, trying to pick one that made sense with the current stage of the tide. I thought I had found a good spot that we were all familiar with, but Alex showed me a zone on his phone that none of us had ever looked at before. My initial thought was that it seemed risky to blindly pick a spot like that, especially when we are operating with short bite window because of the tide. Cautiously, we packed up the Jeep and headed to the spot that Alex had found and Rol had confirmed as looking like “a fishy zone.”
Well, I think we all know where this story is going. As soon as we got the spot, it looked 10x better than any of us thought and we all immediately tied into some hefty schoolies. Better yet, the next day when we were fishing the same spot, I found myself sticking to a particular spot within the spot where I had success the day before. Of course, Alex decided to go further back in the creek to do some exploring. Shortly after, he called Rol and I to tell us that we needed to come check it out. Long story short, I ended up catching the biggest fish of the trip in this specific spot. A spot I never would have fished if it wasn’t for Alex deciding to do “some navigating,” even if it meant possibly not catching anything.
So, what did I learn from this? Well, a few very important things. First, don’t be afraid to scrap your entire “plan” and try something completely different. Secondly, keeping an open mind will always lead to growing as an angler. Lastly, and most importantly, get yourself some truly fishy friends and learn from them. In just this one instance, I learned so much about how to approach new water from Rol and Alex, when I already thought I knew a lot. My biggest takeaway from all of this is that keeping an open mind when fly fishing is always the right answer. Try new techniques, fish new flies, fish with new people...it will only make you a better angler.