If you're familiar with my book, Kayak Fly Fishing, you've seen Juan Veruete––he's the cover model.
When not posing for epic pictures, Veruete is a kayak fishing guide on the Susquehanna River, in Pennsylvania. Back during my tenure at Kayak Angler Magazine, I worked with Veruete a lot, interviewing him for how-to and tactic articles.
I also traveled down to PA to film an episode of a web series, when I was just cutting my teeth on creating and hosting videos. Watch that at your own risk.
I talked to Veruete recently for this blog post, but we ended up circling back to that day on the river. That day was a grind. It was cold, overcast, and the fishing was slow. I asked him how he keeps grinding it out on those slow days, either alone or with a client.
“The day we were out there, it was hard to draw confidence,” said Veruete. “We had made so many casts that weren’t successful. I always say on the Susquehanna, your next cast could be your personal best, your next cast could be a 20” fish or larger, that’s just the water we’re fishing in.”
“Part of that comes from experience, and just focusing yourself to get into that mindset,” he said. Veruete also considers research to be a useful tool to build up your confidence, especially when you’re just starting out. “There are places I fish, where I know there are hundreds of bass in a pool,” he said. “There are fish down there, and I know at least one of them is going to eat a bait.”
On those long grind days, especially if the weather is hot, I feel myself falling asleep with every turn of my reel. I bring a lot of snacks and a few drinks to keep myself going. I’ll also switch up my tactics to keep myself interested. Veruete does the same. “If I feel myself losing focus, I might throw a jerkbait for a while, even though I’m not really certain that’s the bait, but I’ll do it because it’s more active and it gets my brain going again,” he said. “Over time, you're able to focus longer and longer.”
That experience also helps you develop an understanding of what is happening at the end of your line. Subtle bites, weeds on your lure, the differences in structure along the river bottom, you can start to feel those differences over time.
“People who haven’t fished a lot, it’s harder for them to get that,” said Veruete. “Setting the hook is free, right? For newbies, I say, when you feel anything that doesn’t feel like what you’ve been feeling, set the hook. Over time you get to know the difference between certain things.”
The only way to develop your skills as an angler is to spend more time on the water. Get out there, even if the conditions make it a grind.
This post is part of a series called, Guides I Have Known, highlighting all of the people who have helped me both on the water and in life.
They are the fishing guides, paddling guides, and communicators who changed my perspective for the better. Read the first post here.