Some Wise Words from Tony Orman – Hastings Anglers Club Life Member

The Missing Factor in Trout Fishing


by Tony Orman


Ten per cent of anglers catch 90 percent of the fish so the saying goes. You can have all the very best of gear and the best of lures or flies but at the end of the day, some anglers – yes 10 per cent  seem to have far more success.

Also at the end of the day, fishing is little different from other sports whether it be rugby, tennis or golf. Take golf for example. “Time” magazine once reported that the great American golfer Ben Hogan when playing in a tournament, mentally rehearsed each shot before making it. Indeed one golfing authority reckoned amongst the top flight golfers the mental side of golf was 90 percent of the game, physical 8 percent and mechanical 2 per cent.

That mental rehearsal is known as psycho-cybernetics. Books have been written about it. It’s nothing new really. And in rugby when you see Dan Carter, Beauden Barrett, Colin Slade and Aaron Cruden lining up and taking a kick, watch closely. They take several seconds before running in. During that time they visibly relax, but concentrate on the ball, then the goal posts, repeating the exercise and visualising the ball going up and over between the goal posts. It’s known as “muscle memory.”

The human factor, attitude and approach is a key factor. Yet it’s rarely mentioned in trout fishing.

Just to convince you that it’s the person and mental attitude that’s so important rather than gear, I know a trout fisherman who has incredible catch statistics. When I first met him he was using a blue fibreglass rod, made by Kilwell NZ Ltd, branded the Robin Hood and marketed as a “beginner’s rod”. Older trout fishermen may remember it?

Well, Jim used that rod predominantly on the Motueka, Maruia and Buller Rivers and would catch three hundred to four hundred trout each summer using the nymph or little wet fly. With the “boy’s rod” he would catch big trout and eventually after several highly successful summer seasons with it, on a large 3.5 kg brown trout in the Buller River the trusty and proven rod broke. Jim then decided to buy a carbon graphite rod. Jim was living example the person is more important than the gear. However that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy and enjoy the best of gear if you wish to and can afford it!

Jim’s skill and success embraced other qualities like regular fishing, analytical thinking, storing knowledge from each trip in a meticulously kept diary and to mention two more, concentration and commitment.

Top anglers in their attitude may have a certain key attribute. I remember when in Hawkes Bay fishing the Tongariro River with Alan Boyce who lived in Pakowhai Road, Hastings. I watched Alan closely because he was a “gun” trout fisherman. Confidence was a strong factor with Alan. He believed in his ability to get a fish although I add it wasn’t over-confidence that makes braggarts. But above all Alan fished with a total focus and concentration. As I watched I saw his whole attention on the line and fly as he worked it around. He believed every cast was a potential hook-up so he was ready – every cast – if a fish took.

Another key factor is observation. Pedro Burney of years ago was a character in the Hastings and District Anglers Club. He was totally innovative always seeking some new way or different way to catch trout in the Tukituki or on the Maretotara..  Flexibility was his key factor. In contrast  many fly fishermen are stuck in their way and won’t seek to change if their way isn’t working.  A Welsh trout angler Ieuan D Owen put it succinctly when he wrote: “The real source of angling knowledge is experience. This builds up over the years. The expert approaches every fishing day with an open mind.”

How much you enjoy your fishing is over to you. Don’t be too serious. I’ve known anglers to approach a day’s fishing like World War Three.

Then there’s the guy who is into numbers. He has to catch more than his fishing companions. And he wants to brag he got 50 or 100 fish for the season. The numbers game is not for me. Just enjoy your fishing, fish or no fish.

But the major reason to go fishing is that it’s good for you. It’s therapy.

It’s healthy. But there’s another reason too and it’s sobering advice from the late Ted Trueblood, a wonderful writer for the US “Field and Stream” magazine in the 1950s. Ted cruelly dying of brain cancer took his own life at about 69 – a relatively young age.

His wise words were:-‘Never say I’ll go tomorrow. When you get a chance to go fishing, go! If you wait until tomorrow, tomorrow will drag into next week and next week will drag into next month and next month into next year – and some day it will be too late.”