We had a Rhodesian (now Zimbabwe) SAS instructor for a man tracking course in Arizona in the 2000’s who taught us a lot of basic and simple tracking methods. We’d start out early in the morning with the instructors ahead with a 2-hour start. The only sign that anyone was there was the last boot prints the instructors made.
In teams of 4-6, we observed sign and quickly picked up the instructors trail. It was pretty easy stuff once you got it. Later in the day, we found our instructors collecting shade under a large tree on top of a mountain in Arizona. Our chief instructor was a no-nonsense man. He wasted no time and was very efficient and was a true master of his craft.
One thing he always repeated was that you can look without actually seeing. Train your eyes to not only look but also to see.
This translates well to microfishing and especially Darter microfishing and sightfishing in general. Most Darter fishing, and a lot of microfishing, is sight fishing. You need to be able to see your quarry to catch it.
Darters are masters of camouflage, and you can walk right over them in 3 inches of water and not see a thing. It is downright frustrating at first until after microanglers start to pick up what I call “Darter vision” and then they can pick up telltale signs of where fish are.
Darter vision is the ability to finally “see” the fish you are targeting instead of blindly looking over them. This will take some time and it is very akin to tracking. The more you do it, the better you will get.
Learning habitat for the fish species you want to catch is also very important. Some Darter species will occupy fast, rocky riffles, some pools in slacker water, others elsewhere. Knowing where to find the fish you intend to target will save a lot of time and frustration.
Winter is upon us shortly, this is a good time of year to organize and purchase new gear, plan trips, and prepare for the next year. Fish on the warmest days during the Winter, and not at morning when it’s coldest. Try the middle of the day. Be aware that water temperatures may lag behind outside air temperatures, so wait a couple of days after a cold spell is over to hit the water.
Micros usually hold up in the deepest pools in large sections of streams during the Winter, Darters congregate under rocks and may or may not be active. Fish undergo a mild hibernation and this drastically affects microfishing. All in all, Winter microfishing can be a challenge.