Fishing success largely depends on experience and time

By: George deVilbiss
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A reader recently emailed me that he just isn’t experiencing a great deal of success fishing and that he’d like to have some success at it before his two sons lose interest. He also asked if I’d be willing to act as a guide for him in order for him to gain some experience. There’s a great thrill in seeing a fish bite, to feel the rod virtually double over when a fish is hooked. I began fishing at a very early age and am no less thrilled in feeling that fish battle for its freedom today as I was as a youngster. There’s an old adage, however, that 10 percent of the fishermen catch 90 percent of the fish and that adage is actually pretty true. Being successful in fishing depends upon a number of factors. One is experience and the other is going, doing and participating pretty regularly in the sport. You don’t become a good golfer, for example, without golfing regularly. Why should fishing be any different? While some fishing can be done with success from shore, the vast majority is going to involve some form of watercraft. Because the reader that e-mailed me referred mainly to trout, I’ll try and limit this column to that species as involving all fisheries would require much more space than is available here. Fishing, as are many other sports, is not a cheap sport. Having the right equipment is a priority. In the days past, there were no fish finders and fishermen pretty much find them a necessity today. They will show you where the fish are and at what depth; they won’t, though, tell you what they’re hungry for. And, at certain times of year, downriggers are necessary to get to the depths fish will roam. Virtually every body of water will be fished a little differently and only experience will finally get you into a decent bite. There will be areas of a lake, for example, where fish will regularly be and other parts of the same body of water they’re not. I have been going to Lake Almanor for more than 20 years. The first couple of years I beat the lake to death without much success at all. I finally broke down and hired a guide. I not only learned in that one day how to properly fish the lake, but where. Today, we’re among the most successful on the lake, oftentimes even without fishing licensed guides on this particular lake. However, I could go to a different lake, use the same methods I use at Lake Almanor, and wind up burning a lot of gas without ever seeing the rod double over. It would take time to discover exactly where the fish might be. One day with a guide can be all it takes. Look for that subject matter next week, the use of a guide, something many anglers discount – but shouldn’t. It’s my job here to give you the information of where the fishing can be good and where anglers are experiencing a good success rate. You could go and never get bit. Only by going multiple times, learning the waterway and using the right equipment will you then be more successful. Without hiring a guide, you can shorten the learning curve somewhat by talking with stores in the area, who want you to be successful so that you return for their business. Talk with other fishermen, especially those you see cleaning fish. If you’re out on the water, look closely where you see other anglers and watch for their nets going down. Don’t be afraid to ask the pertinent questions of what they were using, what depth, what speed, and anything else you might need so that you can get into the action too. As to guiding this reader – or any others: I gave up my guide’s license some years ago and can not legally guide. Getting caught guiding without a license, I just cannot do. As I told this reader, I can give him – and the offer applies to any reader – any amount of instruction that could be a great aid in putting fish in the frying pan. I really do want you to be successful. All you have to do is ask. Lake Almanor: The rainbow bite is on. It’s extremely difficult to find a German brown now, but king salmon and rainbows are plentiful. Water temperatures have dropped from about 74 degrees to 67-to-69. We’re dropping the downriggers down 32-to-37 feet and letting out seven to eight colors of lead core. In one day, we caught at least a dozen salmon and rainbows, releasing all but one hefty little king salmon. The biggest rainbow we kept was just over six pounds. Most were tallied by using the tail portion of a night crawler threaded onto a No. 4 hook behind a Vance No. 4 dodger. A variety of lures were also used – Rainbow Runners, Speedy Shiners, Needlefish etc. – also accounted for a couple of fish, with the lure tipped with a single meal worm. The best bite is being found along the east shoreline at the north end of the lake. Any questions, comments or concerns, contact George at