Looking ahead to 2017…

Smiles from the threshold of the year to come,
Whispering ‘it will be happier’…”
― Alfred Tennyson

Anglers are a hopeful bunch, and perhaps the hope curve is highest this time of the year, when angling is still months away for us in the Southern Tier. Snow, ice, and arctic air might contain us, but within us our imaginations run like roaring rivers about what might be in 2017. We are hopeful in the pause of winter. We look back on the year, re-live the great moments on the water and learn from the not-so-great and then turn our gaze forward. We turn to tying flies, building rods, cleaning equipment, spooling lines, patching waders, and studding boots. And we dream and plan…

I set goals in most areas of my life, including fly fishing. I think the act of goal-setting is important in becoming a better angler. Goals stir us to action and hopefully, force us out of our comfort zone. It’s rare when I achieve everything I set out to do; in fact, if I hit 70 – 80% of my targets, I consider it a very good year, indeed.

All in all, 2016 was a decent year. A few factors and events influenced my results both negatively and positively. Because of the extreme drought, for example, I was much less of a trout fisherman this year and much more of a river rat, so that had an impact on some of my goals. The purchase of investment property in Florida also added a dimension to my fly fishing that was not in the plans back in January, 2016.


So it is with planning and goals. General Dwight D. Eisenhower, architect of the D-Day Invasion, once said that plans are useless but planning is necessary. My take on his quote goes along the lines of another version of it – that no plan ever survives “first contact with the enemy.” The crux and irony of planning is that one needs to do it to preclude failure but since so many factors change the course of events and impact plans, one must not be rigid to a plan and should only use it as a guideline. One must be committed to the goal or objective, but remain fluid with respect to the plan to achieve it.

So looking forward, I hope to set goals that help me achieve a higher level of effectiveness as a fly fisherman but not keep me from pursuing opportunities as they arise…

Here’s how I did in 2016:

  1. Learn more about nymph fishing – I read a little of Joe Humphreys and George Daniel’s works but as mentioned previously, a lack of trout fishing kept me from doing much in this area. Call this 10% complete.
  2. Learn to fly fish for musky. Per my 2016 plan, I purchased a new musky fly rod – a beautiful Scott Tidal “MP” 9′ 10 weight, and a Lamson Liquid Reel Pack to go with it (1 reel with two additional spare spools). I still need to purchase fly lines and then tie flies, study, and lastly, intentionally fish for these apex predators. Call this 20% complete.
  3. Saltwater flyfish in Destin, FL. – As mentioned in my Looking Back on 2016 post, I was able to wet a line a few times in Destin and had some fly fishing success as a newbie. 100% COMPLETE.
  4. Continue fly tying – learn to tie 5 more patterns. Thanks to last year’s BCFF Fly Tying Class, this is 100% COMPLETE.
  5. Donate a box of my flies to the TU banquet. The Al Hazzard TU banquet, a ritual of Spring was not held in 2016. Initially, it was rescheduled to late 2016, but it never actually happened. I’ll remove this goal for 2017 unless I see the event scheduled.
  6. Float-fish the Susquehanna (4X) – I did only one float of the Susquehanna this year, mainly because Mollie, my prized all weather fly fishing vehicle, was given away early in 2016, her rusted frame not able to pass another NY state inspection. I did not see a way to transport my small kayak to the river, as my wife’s SUV did not have a roof rack, but come fall, my interior design wife – the ultimate packer – showed how I could fit my kayak inside our SUV. So 1X could have been 4X after all. Call this 25% complete.
  7. Make perfect fly casting practice a habit. 100% COMPLETE.
  8. Fish with friends, including at least 3 trips with new friends. I fished with 11 different friends in 2017. 100% COMPLETE.
  9. Fly fish and/or attend fly fishing events 100 times this year. I also accomplished my goal of fishing / attending fly fishing events 100 times. This was a stretch goal but well worth it. 100% COMPLETE.
  10. Learn to tie 3 new fishing knots. 0% COMPLETE.
  11. Fish the Salmon River – Spring, Fall, Winter. I fished for steelhead in the spring and got out once for the fall Salmon run. 66% COMPLETE.
  12. Night fish for trout. 0% COMPLETE.
  13. Fish marginal waters. 0% COMPLETE.
  14. Build my own fly rod. As profiled here in early 2016, I built my first fly rod courtesy of the BC Flyfishers and expert rod maker, Joe Swam. 100% COMPLETE.

Putting a final measure on my results, I’d say I was a little over 50% effective in achieving my 2016 goals.

As most who have read previous “looking ahead” posts know, my process for goal setting starts with a look back and recounting of the year past, usually in December. Once that is done, I begin to plan for the year ahead in early January, mull my draft goals over through the rest of January and early February, and post them – a formal commitment – before my birthday in early March. This year I’m ahead of schedule…

My fly fishing goals for 2017:

  1. Learn more about nymph fishing – study Joe Humphreys’ “Trout Tactics”
  2. Learn to fly fish for muskie.
    1. Purchase line and leader
    2. Tie flies
    3. Study muskie fly fishing
    4. Fish for them
  3. Saltwater flyfish in Destin, FL.
    1. Fish the bay for redfish & trout.
    2. Fish the inlet / surf.
  4. Continue fly tying – learn to tie 5 more patterns.
  5. Float-fish the local warmwater rivers (4X)
  6. Fly fish, practice casting, or attend fly fishing events 125 times this year.
  7. Learn to build leaders. for a
    1. Buy kit
    2. Buy micrometer
    3. Fish my leaders
  8. Night fish for trout.
  9. Fish marginal waters.
  10. Build more fly rods / advance my rod building skills:
    1. Fly rod for my brother-in-law for his 60th birthday
    2. “River Rat” prototype.
    3. “Bay Rat” prototype.
  11. Search for the ideal river boat.

So here’s to achieving fly fishing goals in 2017! In the words of Saint Gerome (340 – 420), father of the Latin church: “Good, better, best, never let it rest. ‘Til your good is better and your better is best.”




5 Responses to “Looking ahead to 2017…”

  1. That’s a great list of things to achieve, I still need to do that for myself. I really enjoy reading your posts, keep up the amazing work. I pick up a lot from it.

    By the way, what would you say is the hardest thing for beginners to pick up? It’s something I get asked quite a bit on my site, theoutdoorelite.com, and I’d love to hear your perspective.

  2. Bob Stanton Says:

    I too am aiming to hone my nymphing skills, Bob, I feel that it’s probably the highest application of the fly fishing form, dry flies be damned. Oh, I’ll still opt to try a dry if the opportunity presents cuz it’s so much fun, but it’s truly a limited way to try to catch fish. One of my dedicated goals for the year is to learn to fish traditional wet flies in a manner beyond the swing. I’ve got some ideas I’m itching to try come spring. As for knots, might I recommend the “Davy Wotton wet fly knot”, sometimes abbreviated to “the Davy knot”. I use it at least 90% of the time, and not exclusively for wets or nymphs. It’s quick, easy to tie and at least as strong as the traditional clinch knot – plus, it saves a lot of tippet! You can find instructions for tying it on the interweb.

    • stflyfisher Says:

      Thanks, as always, for your comments, Bob. I agree with you on nymphing. Good for you to pursue the art. Same for fishing wets – especially soft hackle wets – they can be deadly. I use the Davy knot quite a bit – you are right about its effectiveness and simplicity. We need to fish this year!

  3. Todd Smith Says:

    Great stuff Bob. We have a lot of the same goals and I think I can help you out on the musky issue and the float trips. Let’s make sure we fish together this year.


    • stflyfisher Says:

      Thanks for taking time to read my post, Todd. Good to hear our goals are aligned. Looking forward to fishing with you and discovering some new spots on the Susquehanna!

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