All across the country, youngsters are back in school again, concentrating on the basic skills of reading, writing and arithmetic.
Now that the excitement of the first weeks of school have come and gone, teachers like my lovely wife are now fighting the battle of reminding day-dreaming students staring out the window at the beautiful fall weather outside to pay attention.
As in pay attention, please.
Why? Because they might miss a few key principles now that can pay big dividends down the road as the school year continues to unfold and the various exams take place.
Believe it or not, the same truth applies in angling, whether we're talking fresh or saltwater venues.
Because anglers who are carefully paying attention rather than simply flogging the water as mindless fishing drones as the hours wear on, the chances for on-the-water success rise dramatically.
All of which is illustrated by a conversation I had a few years back with longtime Texas Parks and Wildlife Department fisheries biologist Bill Provine.
A student of the game of fishing as well as of the fish itself, Provine's timely advice then still drives that point home today.
“A lot of people will spend all of their time on the water in a particular type of habitat doing a certain technique,” said Provine during our interview.
“But if the fish aren’t there or aren’t responding (to what you’re doing), then you’re wasting your time.”
And that applies to a day of fall, spring, winter or summertime fishing.
Provine suggests that one of the keys for anglers to avoid too much unproductive time on the water is to heed the aquatic chalk board message that the fish are sending on any given day.
“During any season or time of the year when you determine that something is happening more than once, like catching fish at a certain depth or in a certain habitat, it’s extremely important to concentrate on that particular circumstance,” he said.
“If that’s where the fish are at a certain depth or location, then a lot of times, you’re wasting your time by fishing (different types of) places, at least for that period in the day.”
In other words, to borrow from the tournament angler’s on-the-water vernacular, look for the day’s productive pattern.
“Once you hit on a pattern, then you may take advantage of it,” said Provine. “Look for that same (fish-producing) characteristic in the reservoir along a shoreline, at a similar depth, etc. for as long as that trend holds out.”
How does an angler go about discovering a discernible pattern for whatever species they happen to be pursuing on an on the water outing, piscatorial critters ranging from walleye to panfish, from bass to stripers, from to muskies to catfish and from redfish to flounder?
“One (way) is not to continue doing something that doesn’t seem to be working,” said Provine.
“If you’re fishing in a particular area, try several types of lures, different lure colors and different presentations at various depths," he added.
"If that doesn’t work, then go to another part of the lake until you discover something that works.”
When an angler actually catches a fish, Provine urges them to pause for a moment and to think critically about why such a hook-up just occurred.
This can be a huge key for the remainder of the day, something that each angler should strive to do before going back to work in an effort to prove that answer all over again.
“If something works, try to get it to work twice,” said Provine. “If it does, you may have a pattern that will make your time on a lake more efficient.”
And if it's more efficient, odds are, it's also going to be more enjoyable, something made true by repeated fish catches.
So whether you like school or not, give heed to the daily lessons that fish give on any given water body and the guess here is that you should be well on your way to passing an autumn angling exam with flying colors.