When four trout fishermen get together to renew old friendships, swap tales on the big fish that broke their 5-pound tippet and reveal secrets of magical fly imitations, you can guess what the conversation was about.
When my friends, Ed Dannaker, Don Bastian, Ken Hunter and I huddled together for a real interesting chat during Trout Unlimited's 50th anniversity, we were putting more than 200 years of hard knocks on the line.
And with all those years behind us, it seemed that we all still were learning.
Ed explained to us that, during a recent fishing outing when he was getting skunked on his favorite stream, a well seasoned angler kept netting- trout after trout along a stream bank that had grass tips hanging into the water.
That's not unusual - we all get skunked and there was nothing unusual about a grassy bank where grass stems hang down in the water. It was apparent the seasoned angler was fishing at the right place, at the right time and with a fly imitation that fish preferred.
In biology language, we often refer to this as conditioning. The fly fisherman knew that trout are creatures of habit and they often will move from an area that offers protection to choice feeding stations.
Although rewarding to the fish, it sometimes is dangerous because it is many times in shallow water. That opens up the possibility of predation particularly by man and large birds such as herons and osprey.
Not only was the angler netting many trout but he was using beetles as they fell helplessly in the water below. That's no secret because there is a ton of beetle patterns available.
Like many anglers who have been around for some time, he was kind and generous to give Ed the special beetle pattern and that, to Ed, was impressive.
Bastian, a superb fly tier, indicated we knew of the pattern but, as usual, and to be courteous, we never give it away or write about any personal fly unless given permission.
Ken Hunter brought up another topic that we constantly see in this fishing world and, when he grabbed his ear lobe, I knew what he was thinking - No matter how talented or gifted you are, "It always pays to listen."
If you fish Alaska, New Zealand, the blue-ribbon streams of the west, the Delaware or the limestoners of the East, experience on those waters will prove to you that they all fish differently. And, it pays to listen to the angler who lives on those waters.
My friend, Joe Humphreys, a expert night fisherman, tells about going to the San Juan River in the Southwest and fishing all night but not catching a trout. He failed to realize that many times in higher elevations fish regulate their feeding by the length of the daylight hours.
I have learned that the choice time to cast a fly and look for feeding trout is from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., or when the sun creeps behind the horizon or the photoperiod of that time zone. Five thousand, 8,000 or 10,000 feet above sea level can really make a difference.
Add 200 years of stomping along trout streams by anglers who have been there and are willing to share will save you hours of frustration.
Sometimes it pays to listen.