It’s easy to get in a rut and expect things at the old fishing hole to remain the same each season. You know, like when the water levels should come up and stabilize, and you know just exactly where the structure is located and the fish are hanging. You even know what exact plug they should hit.
It’s all fun until those assumptions fall apart.
Everyone is dealing with low-water issues and that’s what confronted all of us striper anglers at San Luis when it fell to its lowest level in 27 years. Many of us were holding our breath as it kept falling, wondering what to do. Many assumed it was just getting unfishable, but it turns out we all needed to reassess our strategies.
We were now fishing uncharted waters, in areas that we had never explored because they were usually so far underwater. Structure and bottom features we didn’t know existed began coming up and it required looking at the whole lake in a new way.
This period of low water revealed several things about how many of us approach fishing. I would try to work an area that was obviously not holding any fish in the now-25-foot water. I was subconsciously trying to re-create my normal rut – but after the initial shock, I knew I had to rethink my approach and assumptions.
I realized my attitudes and prejudices were controlling what I was doing – and it wasn’t working. A good fishing buddy confessed to me he also was struggling. He was bummed. Same syndrome. I remember the day I got out on the water last month during the low pool and found tons of fish at one of my spots, but in the low water they wouldn’t bite anything. Low-water lockjaw, which I had seen many times, but this was ridiculous. I finally decided find a better spot. Funny, a friend was just out cruising a part of the lake I never fish and he told me they were scoring there. My first thought was no way, because my preconceptions wouldn’t let me even consider the possibility this area could be hot. I thought about why this was happening, and it turned out to be a paradigm-shift moment for me. Yes, now I could understand why it was happening this way. Bingo.
I could see that my old habits had sabotaged me and why I wasn’t considering the new facts, mainly because they didn’t jibe with my experience. Later that day, after catching and releasing two big stripers, I was humbled because I don’t think I would have ever considered my buddy’s solution to the low-water problem. The bad conditions had made it really tough, but like so many things it took me way out of my comfort zone to a place where I learned that some of my standard rules didn’t apply. I was forced to do new things and rethink it all. This was the true serendipity of it all.
Most of my biggest breakthroughs also have come in tough situations where I’ve had to give up my usual techniques and dig in. Making the most of tough bites and conditions may be the biggest opportunity to learn we have – if you look at it right.
As in all of life, our routines, expectations, habits and attitudes can either be our biggest assets or our worst liabilities. I wonder how many golden fishing opportunities I’ve whiffed because I couldn’t make them fit my preconceived notions? The real war is in our mind. Never give up!
Roger George is The Bee’s fishing expert. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org,