How Fly Fishing is Like Asset Management

***As a rabid fly fisher, I tend to think about things in terms of tying a fly or standing in a stream or other fishing terms. This “Stream of Thought” is the first in a series relevant to asset quality control. ***

So, why am I writing an article about fly fishing? Well, if you don’t know me, I am crazy about the sport. When not working in quality control and asset management, taking care of client needs and the day-to-day operations of Genesis QMS, I dream of beautiful rivers and lakes filled with trout or steelhead.

However, it is winter, the lakes are frozen, and I do have a business to run.  Tonight, as I tie up my second fly, I have been thinking about how fly fishing and Asset Management (AM) share many common elements. So I thought, why not write a fun article about my thoughts. I hope you enjoy my ramblings!

What Do Fly Fishing and AM Have in Common? It’s all About the Details.

AM and fly fishing each require attention to detail, planning for the situation, inspecting equipment, improving the asset’s performance, and risk management. AM helps manage, maintain, and monitor critical assets, whether they are, say, in an oilfield or in your fly fishing pack. It provides the knowledge to solve problems and keep assets running at peak performance safely and reliably throughout their life cycle. Assets have certifications,Fly fishing tips compliance regulations, permits, and documentation. With AM, all of these are constantly being monitored, so there are reduced failures and downtime risks.

How Fly Fishing is Like Asset Management.

Whenever AM is discussed, most people assume it’s all about equipment. However, I want to stress that YOU, the fly fisher or asset manager, are also considered an asset. Don’t think of the actual fly-fishing equipment as the most important part of this sport. That’s you! Apply the basic principles of AM, whether fishing or maintaining your field equipment. It will help develop and speed up improvements on your journey to becoming a better fly fisher and asset manager.

So, let’s begin and see if you agree that fly fishing has some of the same elements found in a good AM program.

1. Compliance, Regulation, Certification, and Documentation

When it comes to AM, companies have to follow many regulations set by Federal, State, Provincial and other bodies. Pressure equipment must be built to a certain standard before being sent out on a job. Equipment design and any modifications must be approved and certified. Permits must be obtained, and all safety rules must be met. To ensure compliance, inspections over the lifetime of the equipment must be made. Also, job site workers must carry proper safety documentation. In particular, oil and gas is a highly regulated industry, with severe penalties if a company does not follow the rules. Here are just a few of the oil and gas industry regulators:

  • ABSA (Alberta Boiler Safety Authority)
  • AER (Alberta Energy Regulator)
  • CER (Canada Energy Regulator)
  • ASME (American Society of Mechanical Engineers)
  • NBBI (National Board of Boiler and Pressure vessel Inspections)
  • DOT (Department of Transportation – Federal, State, and Provincial)

There are also numerous regulations and compliance issues a fly fisherman has to deal with. Non-compliance will result in a fine or worse. Applying proper AM and having an area’s fishing synopsis with all the listed regulations and rules will go a long way in protecting you. Here are some of the regulations and issues for fly fishers:

  • There are different regulations depending on what area and water body type you are fishing in. For instance, BC has 8 fishing regions that could have different rules.
  • There are separate regulations for freshwater fishing and tidal water fishing, plus other regulations for different fish species.
  • Special regulations may apply to a specific lake or river. For instance, BC has a “Classified Waters” License which is different than a “general” fish fishing License. Elk River, as an example, is a “Classified Water.’’
  • You must purchase a separate Steelhead Conservation Surcharge Stamp in many steelhead rivers
  • There are regulations on how you can fish. For instance, on the Thompson River in BC, you may use a boat for transportation, but you cannot fish from a boat.

Elk and Sky Fly Fishing Photo with Jim

  • Some bodies of water allow powered boats. Some have power restrictions up to a complete ban on power engines, and some allow only electric motors.
  • You must have documentation, including a signed copy of your fishing license. Your equipment and records can be inspected without warning, so have these in your possession.
  • Depending on what you are fishing for and what body of water you are fishing in, there might be a “Catch and Release Only” regulation.
  • In some jurisdictions, it is unlawful to use barbed hooks, and in some areas, you can only fish with a single hook!
  • And just like in the world of field asset management, in fly fishing, there are penalties for non-compliance with the regulations, both financial and suspension of privileges.

These are just some of the regulations in fly fishing, and like the oil and gas industry, they differ from State to State, Province to Province, or Federally.

2. Equipment Assets

The proper well-maintained equipment will make you a better fly fisher and keep you safe. In each item I have listed, as in AM, monitoring and maintenance are required to keep the equipment running reliably and performing at peak performance. If you don’t, the result will be equipment failure and downtime. As a result, your time on the water will not be safe, productive, or enjoyable!

Here’s my personal list of fly fishing equipment, in the order of what I think are the most important pieces:

  • Proper Clothing. Suitable clothing is essential. You can’t function at peak performance if you don’t have the proper clothing for the conditions. If you are winter steelhead fishing, you will need to layer to keep warm. If you are fishing at Ascension Bay in Mexico, you’ll need clothing that provides sun protection. You will need waders and proper wading boots in rivers with cold water. Depending on the river bottom (sand bottom or coral, for instance), you may need studded wading boots. In fast-moving waters, it is essential to have a personal flotation device and possibly a wading staff, especially for us older fly fishers.
  • Good Polarized Sunglasses. These are absolutely necessary for eye protection and spotting fish, especially tailing bonefish on the flats or spotting trout in their river feeding lanes. You won’t be as successful without them, and good glasses may keep you from seriously injuring an eye in windy conditions.
  • A Good Diary. Document the events of your fishing day, including location, weather and water conditions, feeding patterns, insect hatches, throat pump samples, water depths, where the fish were caught, time of day the fish were caught, size of fish caught, equipment used such as flies, lines, etc., etc. Over the years, your fishing diary will become one of your greatest sources of knowledge and can be passed on to your children.Booby Fly for fly fishing
  • Flies. Where to begin? There are thousands of fly patterns, and it is critical to use the right fly and present it to the fish in the right way! Fishing for trout usually means matching the hatch. Sometimes it’s obvious which fly to use because you can see the hatch coming off the water. In this case, you match your fly to the bug species the fish is eating, both in color and size. If you are not seeing any rise forms, the fish are likely feeding sub-surface. In this case, you would use a sub-surface pattern, perhaps a nymph or leech pattern. After landing a fish, I usually throat-pump it to see exactly what it has been feeding on. Then I match the fly to that bug. Hatches can change throughout the day, so you must often change your flies. Your success rate will then go way up. I have my “confidence” flies for all types of fish, and as you fish more, you will develop your own fly patterns that you have confidence in. Sometimes fish are simply not feeding, so you would tie on an attractor pattern to create a “fight or flight” response in the fish to improve your chances. In stillwater fishing I resisted using one fly for years, but grudgingly have since changed my mind and started using the “Booby” when nothing else seems to be working. During those dog days of summer, the Booby stripped fast in shoal areas on a type 7 full sink line simply catches fish LOL.
  • Leaders and Tippet. Again, have a variety of diameters and strengths, different lengths, made of different materials like Monofilament or Fluorocarbon. Leaders and tippet are designed specifically for the fish species you are chasing and the environment in which they live. It is critical to constantly check your leader and tippet for wind knots, nicks, and frays. A trophy fish will not have trouble breaking you off if your tippet has a wind knot. I use loop-to-loop connections for steelhead fishing, especially during the winter. From backing to running line to fly line to sink tip to the leader. Why? Try knotting lines together when you have trouble feeling your fingers because of the cold!
  • Fly Lines. There are hundreds of line types. Gone are the days of just a dry line or wet line. Nowadays, fly lines are not created equal. Lines can range from basic and affordable to advanced and ultra-high performance, whether it be different cores, tapers, compounds, or other variables. Each is built with special qualities for the individual fish species and water type, such as stillwaters, rivers, and saltwater. There are single-hand rod lines, double-hand rod lines, shooting heads and integrated heads, freshwater or saltwater fly lines, and the list goes on and on. The proper line choice for the fish you are after is far more important than the rod or reel. Lines must be carefully inspected (Visual Inspection like in NDT), constantly monitoring for nicks or cracks, especially if fishing in saltwater areas with coral. Modern fly lines are coated to provide slickness, and many are designed to constantly release slickening agents. This is important for getting distance and feeding slack on drifts. The slicker a line is, the more effectively you will fish due to easier distance and extended drag-free drifts. Also, fly lines are now more durable, stretching your hard-earned dollars. All lines must be inspected not only for nicks and cracks but also for slickness of the line. If it gets sticky, then a fly line dressing should be applied to both clean and keep the line slick. Practice your casting. Your presentation of the fly is critical for success!
  • Rods. Rods are specialized tools built specifically for the type of fish you are targeting. They come in different line weights and lengths and have additional attributes for any fishing scenario. To optimize your success, you have to use the right rod. A rod used for tarpon would be useless for dry fly fishing for brown and rainbow trout on the Bow River in Alberta. Most modern rods are made of graphite or boron; however, glass and bamboo are still around and are a pleasure to use. It is imperative that you check your rods for any nicks caused when crawling over rocks or from getting hit by a weighted fly. Graphite will explode if enough pressure is put on a weakened area. Pick a rod that you can afford and that fits your fly fishing situation.
  • Reels. Like rods, reels come in different line weights and sizes. Some have drag systems, and some don’t. Some have drag systems that are sealed systems to keep sand and debris out. This is really important when fishing in tropical flats. Reels in this environment should be cleaned and maintained at the end of each day. The last thing you want is for your reel to fail with a trophy at the end of the line.

I have left out many fly fishing accessories, such as nets, throat pumps, floatant, nippers, bear spray, etc., from my list and concentrated on those I deem the most essential. Please share with other readers and me what your order of importance would be and why.

3. Return on Investment (ROI)

In fly fishing, the equipment can be costly. To list a few items: Premium single-hand rods now can cost over $1000. Premium two-handed Spey rods are over $1500. Saltwater reels can cost over $800. Premium fly lines are $100. Waders are over $800, and drift boats are over $15,000. (I won’t even mention jet boats). As you can see, it can be a very expensive sport, which doesn’t include travel expenses, accommodation, or food. With all these costs, maintaining your equipment is of paramount importance. Proper care and maintenance will prolong the life of the equipment and drastically save you money.

The greatest ROI? The cost of your time spent learning the sport….priceless…and the best investment you can make in fly fishing!

Fly fishing hutSummary: At the End of the Day, Measure Your ROI.

All of the above goes to show that fly fishing has many of the same elements found in Asset Management, in that you as a fly fisher are continually learning and improving. Your equipment must be properly maintained and operations optimized through proper practices.

With proper asset management processes in place, you will enjoy fly fishing and have your equipment working well for many, many years….and that it is a good ROI.

Ok, I could go on forever about fly fishing, but I think I have made a case that fly fishing shares many elements as a good Asset Management Program. Actually, when you think about it, Asset Management elements occur everywhere. What do you think?

Have some fun and share your thoughts on other everyday situations where Asset Management principles apply. In the spirit of continuous improvement, I’d love to hear from you, my fellow fly fishers, and asset managers!


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