Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Intuition or “You can observe a lot just by watching.”

“90% of this game is half mental” 
- Yogi Berra

Yogi had it right... fishing is a mental game.

All well-seasoned anglers have had the experience of standing on a flat or rounding the bend of a new river and thinking “there should be fish here.”

Let’s call this feeling intuition. This intuitive moment may be triggered by nothing more than a riffle that reminds you of a spot on another river where you had success. Or, for the saltwater angler, you might be on a flat that has the same configuration as a flat on another island where school after school of bonefish streamed by you one afternoon.

But more often than not, this intuition is based on a more complicated process than simply similar circumstances. Perhaps you don’t even know why you have this feeling.  Maybe there are no apparent clues, but the subconscious mind is always sorting data, analyzing subtle clues and filing observations.

The wind’s direction and intensity, the water’s temperature and level, the weather, the hour of the day, the behavior of birds, sharks or baitfish may all be subtle clues that lead you to walk in a different direction, try a different fly, fish a bit deeper or wade to more shallow water or even leave an area entirely.

The seasoned angler indulges this inner voice. He has come to trust it and knows these feelings are useful and purposeful. This is not some psychic, new age, mumbo-jumbo. It is a feeling based on some unrecognized set of circumstances or conditions that your mind has fortuitously processed. Perhaps this intuition is an evolutionary, adaptive holdover from our hunter/gatherer days when skills like these were an absolute necessity for survival. And let’s face it, fishing is a form of hunting. More often than not, recognizing and using this intuition will make you a more productive fisherman.

If you are anything short of an expert, it is important to consciously attempt to collect and sort the data that flows by as you experience it. This mental cataloging of  information will help you make important intuitive leaps in the future. Notice the temperature of the water and its depth. Identify the type of flat or riffle you are fishing and keep track of where the fish are and where they are not. Open your eyes, watch the birds and the weather, notice the time of day, the tide level and the wind direction.  The list goes on and on and applies to trout in Chile, salmon in Alaska or bonefish in the Bahamas.

As you collect this data, correlate it to what is happening to the fishing at that moment. This intellectual process is the stuff of future intuition and is ultimately the difference between a good fisherman and a great fisherman. Maybe then you’ll know why the fisherman you’ve always admired for his uncanny ability to locate fish says “I think I’ll try over there.” 

Or as Yogi put it, “You can observe a lot just by watching.”


  1. Or you can just look for and follow the trail of Jolly Rancher hard candy...