After nearly three score years of fishing, I have recognized some patterns when it comes to fishing. Most of those patterns are fairly broad and shot through with exceptions. Some are quite specific. Most are in between. That’s just the way it is with patterns that involve nearly infinite variables, such as temperature, oxygen levels, weather fronts, length of day, moon phases, insect hatches, turbidity changes, and on and on.
The specific ones, they are special, and sometimes obvious as hell. Here is a specific pattern, and only in the past score of years or so did it become obvious to me. I was aware in a subconscious way of this pattern for a very long time; I just didn’t articulate it to myself. I have been taking advantage of this pattern for a long, long time, almost without realizing it. Yet, at some level I did recognize it. Isn’t the human mind an endlessly fascinating thing? It does so many things at so many different levels that it is as hard to imagine its capabilities, as it is to comprehend what infinity means.
Let’s get back to the pattern. I first recognized it on a small creek that broadened and deepened at a culvert where a gravel road passed over. I stopped one day and cast a spinner into it, just out of fun. I didn’t expect anything, but I caught a nice five pound or so bass, and absolutely nothing else. I stopped again a week later and caught another nice bass, and nothing else. So I began to check that spot on a regular basis. And on a regular basis it would yield up one nice bass, and nothing else. In nature, size really matters one hell of a lot, as those bass were chasing off smaller bass from that spot. Size matters and so do physics. Fish live by the laws of physics, or maybe it would be more accurate to say, the laws of economics. There is a math of economics underlying fishing. A math too difficult for all of the world’s computers combined to solve. There are too many variables and too many unknowns. For instance, we don’t know how the earth’s magnetosphere affects fish, but we do know the magnetosphere is 15% weaker than it was two hundred years ago. There are forces at work on fish that we are completely unaware of, and the forces we are aware of are riddled with exceptions to what we think we know.
Once again let’s get back to the pattern, sorry about drifting. The pattern is, simply put, that there are occasional physical spaces that are optimum for a fish’s needs, and the bigger fish drive out the smaller fish from those spaces. They are such prime survival areas that there is constant competition for them. Remove the apex fish from that spot and it won’t be long until another apex fish takes it. It is the ultimate fish magnet, and depending on all of the surrounding circumstances, it will hold large fish. That particular spot just draws fish in. The best part is that once you know those spots, you can really catch some nice fish.
I am on a personal life-time experiment here on the Brazos River. I fish the same stretch of water all the time and rarely anywhere else. My goal is to learn this particular stretch of water at such an intimate level that I can catch fish more often than not.
And it is working. I know almost every pebble in my small stretch of river. Now I know where to cast, every time I’m on water. I know where not to bother. I know where the fish concentrate and I know a lot of specific spots that have a really high percentage for success. Fortunately for me, my river is dynamic and things change all the time, sometimes radically fast, and sometimes at a snail’s pace – but they change. So I have the rare good fortune of not only having a great place to fish, but a place that never stays the same for long. The challenge is unending, and I’m all the better for it.
I have little interest in fishing anywhere else. I need to change that probably, but it could be painful. I am addicted to my stretch of my river, probably hopelessly addicted. I get so much pleasure from focusing down to the tightest level that my mind is capable of on this one stretch of water, less than a mile in length overall, that I don’t feel a strong need to try elsewhere.
This pattern is simple once you start recognizing it. I’m going to speak of water with current; but remove the ravages of current and this pattern applies to still water too.
Fish need to, economically speaking, reduce the effects of current on themselves. Fighting current takes calories and conserving calories is a natural law that all living things obey. So the first clue is to look for a spot that has reduced current. The more the current is reduced the better it is.
The next thing to look for is underwater cover or structure, as we are fond of saying. There will be some form of cover, some form of structure that they can use to their advantage. What advantage is that? Two primarily, the first is provides camouflage from higher order predators. The second is used as an ambush spot to take prey more effectively.
If it has overhanging tree branches or some other form of aerial cover, then you are close to hitting the jack-pot. If it also gets considerable shade when the sun is high, then you have hit the jack-pot. Fish like everything I’ve listed, but they just love shade, they love it the way an old hound-dog loves lying under the house on a hot summer day.
Some of these fish magnet places remain for a long time; some come and go in a day – river and creek speaking of course. Knowing those places is a big, big plus. Knowing what kind of places to look for when you are on strange waters is a big, big plus too. All fish are economists, striving to get the most calories while expending the least calories. Successful fish have defied odds against them greater than the odds of winning the largest Superball Jackpot ever. The survivors get big, because they looked for places that maximized their advantages, getting the best return on their energy expenditure investment possible.
Fish are natural economists, every one of them. Think like an economist and you will catch more and larger fish.