Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Lessons from a Heron

I've learned about fishing from a lot of people, books, movies and personal experience. Out of all of these resources it is the Heron that probably taught me the most. When I first started fishing I used to ignore herons and mainly thought of them as neat wildlife to look at but nothing more then that. There are certain fishing spots where a certain heron will be every time. These birds were my only company and tolerated me until I'd get too close. They'd often get annoyed and leave with a loud squawk or fly away to a high perch and yell at me for stealing their fishing hole. As I fished more I started to watch heron more and I began to realize they hardly ever got skunked. Sometimes it's good to watch the best fishermen. It's hard to beat the heron. These are the main lessons the heron taught me.

1. Wade slow and observe
I've never seen a heron run or in a hurry. Their movement is very proficient and even when they feel threatened they move at a pace that is hard to imitate. I learned that if I waded slowly and observed, things would reveal themselves. Standing as still as possible has the same benefits. If one can stand still enough you will often times find fish swimming near or right next to you.

2. Use Your Energy Wisely
How often have you seen a heron randomly stick its head in the water over and over? You probably haven't. This is because they stay calm and poised until the precise moment. I've tried to incorporate this more and more and as I've gotten older and hopefully become a better fisherman. I notice I cast a lot less than I used too. I also catch more fish. Casting blindly with no purpose really does nothing for you. If you can stay focused and wait until the proper moment you will likely be rewarded more often.

3. Try to Blend In
I can't tell you how many times I've been fishing then I get a glance of something out of the corner of my eye and it is a heron across the river. I never saw it until I got close. I'm sure many fish have had that same experience and found it to be fatal. If you can be sly enough to look like part of the environment the fish will feel at ease. In this element fish will usually feed and hit flies they might not otherwise when threatened.

4. Be Cautious of Your Shadow
This is a biggie and many times I over look it. Sometimes you have no choice but to have your shadow go over fishable water. I try my best to make sure it is away from where I am fishing. It's really important on small trout streams where the fish are already on the look out for anything peculiar. Moving shadows mean predators to fish.

5. Know When to Leave
Herons know when to take flight just as the danger gets close. It seems there motto is "live to fish another day". Take heed in that. If you're fishing somewhere and you think or KNOW the water is rising. Get out. If you see lightning bolts and it is obvious a storm is coming, take shelter. There's no glory in a fish story about someone dying from a lightning strike. When kayaking or boating and the swells are not looking good. Don't chance it. Listen to the heron, live to fish another day.


  1. Great Post. The Heron truly is one of the best. What I wouldn't give to have a pair of legs like that to wade around with :) With their blue and white color the fish probably just think they're clouds floating by. Right up until the get stuck by that pointy beak. I really like the lesson about the shadows. Nothing sends fish scurrying quicker in the small gin clear streams around here. Thanks for sharing. Tight Lines.

  2. Great points, and observations. An old fisherman once told me, "watch the pelicans, they'll show you where the fish are."

  3. There is no doubt, that if I acted more like a heron, I would catch a lot more fish.

    Great lessons and great post!

  4. Trout, I never thought about what a fish might see when looking up at a heron. You're right about the white.

    E.M.B. The old timers here say the same thing. Watch the birds, they'll show you where the fish are. It's almost the only way to find albicore and stripers feeding on bait.

    Sanders, Thanks for the comments!

  5. Kev
    Excellent suggestions and wise to use. We all should take some lessons from the Heron.