A forty-something couple walked by and I nod and the guy says, "You look like a hardcore fisherman if I've ever seen one."
I chuckled and stopped and let that sink in and they slowed their pace to hear what I was going to say and what came to mind was. "Yeah, I guess you have to pretty hardcore to carry your boat on your back" and without missing a beat, the woman says, "No S**t!"
Oh man, I barked out a laugh at that and we all smiled and went our separate ways.
I always have fun fishing, win or lose, but that little encounter was fun too.
So that's where the hardcore part of my title comes from. If you've got your friggin boat on your back, you're hardcore. It's a given. It's the starting point. We are hardcore.
There's lots of ways to be hardcore, but this is ours and the description fits.
And let's be real.. you don't get to be hardcore if you can't catch fish. If you can't figure out the basics, you go home and find something else to do. We all know that catching fish is a multifaceted game and there are lots of ways to deal with that. You have to understand many things and we all know that. We're already hardcore fishermen.
Now please forgive some background...
In my younger days, I apprenticed under a master potter in the guise of one of my college professors. I was one of his students and he got me the job of studio assistant so the college paid me for a year to do his bidding and he taught me in one year what normally takes six years of classes. Because he taught classes at all of those six stages of development and he taught me at the same time. It was a very sweet deal.
One day we were walking through the dry room where pieces that are still just dry clay are waiting to go into the kiln. Raw clay, so fragile.
He stopped in front of one of the shelves reserved for my work and looked at my pieces and then put his arm in and pulled them all on onto the floor and everything broke into pieces. I was shocked, to say the least, but he was the Master so I kept my mouth shut and he taught me a lesson that has stayed with me.
"All crap. You're trying too hard to make pieces. You're focusing on the results and not the craft itself. You're not here to make pieces; you're here to learn the craft. You're not here to make pieces, you're here to learn how to make pieces and that's not the same thing. Learn the craft and you can make anything you want at any time instead of dropping some clay onto the wheel and hoping for the best. Learn the craft and then you can use it to make your art."
Learn the craft.
So that's the deal for me. I don't want to learn how to catch fish, per se, I want to learn how to be a better fisherman. I don't just want results, I want to master the craft and they're not the same thing... at least for me. I want the learn the craft and the art.
So how do you become a master fisherman? F**k if I know, I'm just an apprentice.
But here's what I've been doing to try and I really started this thread in the hopes that others have ideas I've missed.
In no particular order...
I try to learn as much as I can about the fish I'm targeting. We understand and share the same basic motivators - food, housing, and sex. But these factors will play out differently for different species and you have to learn how they affect your particular target fish. The amount of material you will find will depend on the fish you're targeting. Naturally, freshwater bass dominate the available material, but if you search creatively, you can usually find good stuff for almost any fish. Natural diet, life cycle, reproductive behavior, it's all out there. Know your opponent. You can learn their preferences for all the different factors and how they change over the course of the year. As always, compare to your own experiences. Very little is written in stone.
I also try to find out what other people are doing. I automatically assume there are people out there that know more than me. I read forums, I search for web articles, I watch YouTube videos. If someone is out there talking about halibut, for example, I want to hear it. Life is gems among the dross so most of what you find will be the same stuff endlessly repeated, or just out and out bullshit, but every now and then, there's a gem.
I do random searches but I also do targeted searches. For example, if I hear about a new product or someone mentions something in a post that I don't know about, I will search it out. Not surprisingly, many fishing product manufacturers have fishermen on staff that really do know what they're talking about. If you want a specific recommendation, check out the videos by Chad Gierlich, owner of Hookup Baits.
Even many self-proclaimed YouTube fishing "experts" actually deliver some gems now and then, I give them all a chance.
I write stuff down. I've started a fishing log and I mentally review my trips and jot down notes about significant events.
I've started using tracking software that records where I am on the water and lets me record exactly where I caught every fish. I make a note of species and details like structure and bait. It includes charted depths.
I think the biggest thing is to take the time to deeply consider what you learn from others and what you learn from your own experiences. I will often pause a video and think about what the guy is saying. I think about how it compares to my own experiences and prior knowledge. I ask myself if I really believe it. Sometimes you can't help yourself, you just dismiss it as bullshit right away, but sometimes someone challenges my thinking and ends up convincing me that I need to expand my view.
And of course I'm always asking myself questions. Why did I catch that fish here? Why did I lose that fish? Why is this place good or bad? What trends am I seeing? What was it like when I was here before? When I'm on the water, I always try to stay in the game.
So that's my quest. I get the basic idea. I want to understand the nuances that separate the pros from the schmoes. I don't want to just catch fish, I want to master the craft and the art. Any suggestions?