Many years ago, I used to fish stillwaters with a fellow by the name of Guy, who had bad knees. I don’t know how bad the knees were. All I know is that when I was crouching in the tall grass or beside a bush at the water’s edge, he was standing tall, because it was uncomfortable for him to crouch.
So I was at an advantage. I could take cover just a little more than he could. So the fish were less likely to see me, and I would catch more fish.
Except that it didn’t work like that. In fact I don’t remember EVER out-fishing Guy. I may have done, but I think I would have remembered that.
So what was it about him that gave him such “good hands”?
I can’t say for sure. He often wore light coloured clothing. He did all sorts of things “wrong”, if you were to go by the book. He fished a sinking line almost exclusively, and he had only one retrieve (a steady long pull with a little twitch at the end that we all tried desperately to emulate). He stuck with a simple Woolly Bugger or Dragonfly Nymph, or perhaps a Mrs Simpson, or Muddler Minnow. Nothing fancy. And he stayed out there for a long time. That is perhaps significant. The mist would have rolled in, it was getting cold and dark, he might even have had dinner guests that evening, and sometimes it was now pouring with rain. But none of that mattered to Guy. He put in the hours! This made him a great fishing companion, because I was almost as patient as he was, and preferred being kept out longer than being asked to come home earlier.
Guy caught fish. A lot of fish. He just kept on pulling in fish, come what may. His hours on the water were part of it, for sure, but even when you were out with him for the same period of time on the same water, he was catching more fish. He once stood beside me at a stillwater near Fort Nottingham, on a cold winters day, and caught fish cast for cast, while I struggled. I had on a sinking line. I was emulating that twitch thing that he did. I borrowed one of his flies. I damn near wanted to switch to his brand of beer and take up smoking. I just couldn’t catch fish like he was!
So here’s the thing: Guy never moved.
He was like a pillar of stone in the veld. Like a fencepost. He didn’t scratch his nose, or check the time, or swing his head around, or fiddle with his tackle.
He cast that heavy sinking line with only one or 2 false casts, and thereafter he was completely motionless , apart from his retrieving hand, until he cast again.
How many times have you stumbled upon an antelope or a game-bird? Suddenly it is right in front of you, and you can’t believe you didn’t see it earlier! The secret: it was standing still.
I think there is a lesson in there for stillwater fly-fishermen.
Guy passed away last week. I never got to tell him that I still remember this little trick of his, and to thank him.