Having being asked why some anglers catch a lot more fish than others I decided to do a little maths. After fishing the Rangitikei for a week and creating a video of the catches. Condensing a weeks worth of angling into 20mins. Some angling friends were disappointed to catch only a small fraction of what our group caught. These guys were good fisherman, but not what I would call great. They fish a few times per year but it is social as much as anything. To put a figure on it I would say they are 50% as good an angler as our group. So with a bit of logic you would assume they would catch 50% of the fish that we caught. So with the Rangitikei we hooked 50 fish, they would expect to hook around 25, in similar conditions as a ballpark figure. Well it is not that simple, and looking deeper into this I see how the 10%er comes about. Or why 10% of the anglers catch 90% of the fish.

To make the math’s simple lets say I catch 100 fish and this other group, being 50% as good might catch 50 fish. Now lets break it down.

To catch a fish requires a number of things to line up. It is similar to a combination lock, in that, if one number is out the lock doesn’t work. Similarly with fishing, if one aspect of your approach or technique is not shown, you don’t catch the fish.

In reality, a fisherman who is twice as good as another, does not catch twice as many fish as the lesser angler, but rather a 90%+ more, as each combination escalates the improbability of a fish being caught. Below is the ‘combination lock’ so to speak to land a trout.

1) Sighting fish (ground covered): Being able to read water is a key factor, not only will a good angler cover 2x more ground (because they can quickly assess where to as well as where not to look), but they will approach the best looking spots with caution and so not spook as many fish as well. 

2) Sighting fish(spotting more fish) With good technique, a good angler will spot twice as many fish, so have twice as many chances, during a day on the water.

3) Cast) A good angler can roll cast, cast a tight loop into a headwind, and create accurate first casts, which is crucial when fishing the backcountry, as the 1st cast counts!

4) Presentation) A good angler can get a drag free more often and in more difficult situations.

5) Set Up) A good angler will know the appropriate leader construction, leader diameter, and knots to use on a given day, resulting more hook ups and less break offs.

6) Fly choice – A good angler knows what flies to use.  Depth, size, and type will be assessed with each fish, and correspond to river flows, and time of year. Rather than tying on the same pattern every time, a good angler will use a fly that is a lot more successful for the conditions.

7) Location – Good anglers know where to go, and at what time of year.

So lets do some simple maths on these 7 aspects.

 Angler 1 (a good angler)

All 7 aspects line up 25% of the time on average, and, of 200 fish seen he catches 50 fish.

 Angler 2 (an angler 50% as good as the ‘good angler’)

He gets things right, 50% of the time in each aspect. His odds of catching fish are the same odds as flipping a coin 7 heads in a row, or 1 in 128. So of 200 fish seen he will catch 1-2.

This maths explains why is it so useful to develop your skills as an angler, and, it also explains why a guide can make such a big difference. The guide can take care of 2-4 of these aspects. So instead of needing to flip 7 heads in a row you may only need to flip 3 heads, so your catch rate may improve to 12.5%, with the aid of a guide.