Home Field Advantage:
I probably know the area of the Chattahoochee River below Buford Dam as well as anybody. I have spent on average about 500 hours a year fishing there for the past five years. While there are some disadvantages to fishing one location so frequently, the advantages far outweigh them. Everyone should have a place to call home.
As I have broadened my horizons a little and fished numerous rivers in the Southeast there is no doubt they all fish differently. However, there are things that I have learned on my home turf that translate anywhere.
Confidence – it matters. If I know a particular fly works well on a body of water and I don’t have confidence in that fly, I fish it on my home waters in areas I know are heavily stocked to catch some fish on that fly.
Confidence tells me when to switch out flies. At one time I thought that if I only caught a few fish that day they just weren’t eating well. While at times this is true, more often than not it is that they aren’t eating what we are throwing or where we are throwing or how we are throwing it. Even if I am catching some fish on my home waters will change flies if my catch rate isn’t where I think it should be. On rivers I am unfamiliar with, I know to change flies if I am not getting bit in areas that just have to hold fish.
Fishing the same body of water encourages you to fish all of the water, otherwise it gets boring. You will discover new fish holding spots every trip if you try. Take mental pictures where you consistently catch fish and look for similar water on new rivers you fish. Fish with different people on your homewater and watch where they catch fish, it might open new areas to you. I fished with a member of the USA youth fly fishing team recently at the dam and it encouraged me to fish tiny pockets and faster current. I caught an additional four or five browns that day alone doing this.
Home waters can help you safely learn your wading limits. Because you know where the dangers are you can push your limits a little more to find what is comfortable. I go places now safely without thinking that I would have never ventured had I not waded similar water at the dam.
Testing – home waters are the best place to experiment. New fly patterns are best tried here because you will have a better base line for comparison. Use new techniques where you can gain confidence in them. Try out different leader combinations. Try out different tippet sizes. I have been downsizing tippet to get flies down faster. Because I know I am going to catch a number of fish I can try different hooksets to see how much pressure a tippet size can take. I now can effectively fish 7x without breaking off fish, most of the time, knock on wood.
Friends – the best part. Nothing is better than the people you will meet that frequent your home waters. The best part is when they pull you away on adventures to new rivers to show you their home.
Fish on – Big T