“The business of looking is the most important part of a fighter-pilot’s job.”
-Roald Dahl, Shot Down Over Libya
As fly anglers, we are not doing things as serious as fighter pilots, but this advice is applicable to our time on the water. Inattentiveness can cost us. In the same way pilots constantly search the skies, you should be regularly checking some of these items to improve your success on the water.
Check your fishing buddies.
Are they safe?
Are they in the way of your cast?
What fly are they using? How?
Check your motor.
Is it leaking?
Are you running over something?
Are fly lines near it, or wrapped around it?
Or, check your paddle.
Is it secured?
Check your fly.
Has the hook dulled?
Is the fly tangled in the leader?
Is the tail twisted around the hook?
Have the bindings of the fly unwound to the perfect shagginess?
Check your leader. As Jack Ellis said in his book Sunfishes, “I have lost many nice bass because I was too lazy to retie the fly after each fish.”
Are the knots loose?
Is it weakened by wind knots?
Is it frayed?
Is grass hung up on the knots?
Does the tippet have tie-on-curls?
Check your fly line. “The fly line is at the heart of this type of fishing. Because your flies are almost weightless, the fly line is both thick and weighted so that when you cast, the fly line carries the fly out to the fish.” Because of its significance, which I described in The Beautiful Addiction, the fly line needs continual attention.
Is it under foot? Or, are you sitting on it?
Is it knotted?
Does it need to be stretched?
Is it on a cleat? Tiller? Rod? Cushion? Strap? Handle? Or any other inanimate object come to life to stop your cast to that once-in-a-lifetime fish?
Check the connection of your leader and fly line.
Is the knot covered with goop?
Is either line frayed?
Has the “square knot” of the loop to loop connection mis-seated?
Check your rod.
Is it strung correctly?
Are the guides aligned correctly?
Are the ferrules letting go?
Check the trees.
Where is the wind from?
Where are the lee sides of objects?
Check the sky.
Are there any shady (or sunny) spots to cast into?
Are there predatory birds scaring fish away from a spot?
Check the dam release schedule.
Is your honey hole about to become dangerous?
Check your personal gear.
Where are your wallet and keys?
Is your cell phone secure?
Is your camera handy? You're about to catch a trophy!