By Spencer Durrant | Managing Editor
I’ve kept a fishing journal since 2017. It’s full of places I’ve fished, who I was with, what I caught, and what flies or lures I used. I keep the journal mostly for my own amusement, although it’s an interesting way to benchmark my growth — or lack thereof — as an angler.
That’s largely where the following list of resolutions comes from — last year’s failures in the field, and how I can mitigate them in 2020. And even though I spend more days fishing than hunting, these New Year resolutions should apply to all of us as sportsmen and women. If you have any resolutions, please share them in the comments!
New Year’s Resolutions for 2020
- Read more. A lot of folks set goals to read more each year, and they usually succeed early on in carving out time to finish a few books. For hunters and anglers, though, this is something we need to do more of. Replace scrolling through Twitter and Instagram with regular perusal of hunting and fishing literature. Publications like MeatEater, Hatch Magazine, MidCurrent, Field & Stream, and Fly Fisherman Magazine are stuffed full of worthwhile tips and how-to articles. Swap your 15 minutes of social media at night before bed for reading through some of those publications, and you’ll be surprised at how much new information you stumble across.
- Go somewhere you’ve never been. I grew up in the Mt. Nebo Wilderness Area in central Utah. From the wild rainbow trout to trophy elk, it’s a sportsman’s heaven.
It wasn’t until 2019, though, that I hunted a section of the 27,075-acre Wilderness Area I’d never set foot in. I found five gorgeous bull elk (that I couldn’t shoot, because I had a spike tag) and a young cow moose. This spot is only three valleys over from my usual stomping grounds, but like all of us, I got stuck in a rut of hunting the same draws and hollows year after year. Even though I didn’t notch an elk tag in 2019, the fact I stepped out of my comfort zone is worth celebrating.
You don’t have to jet to exotic locales to go somewhere new. I’m constantly surprised by what I find just minutes from my house. Chances are, you will be too.
- Add new recipes to your cookbook. Wild game is the best meat there is. Fish, elk, deer, moose, rattlesnake (which is largely illegal to harvest throughout much of the West, so please check all regulations on rattlers in your area), rabbit, squirrel, pheasant, duck — it’s all wonderful. It’s easy, though, to get stuck cooking elk steaks the same way you always have. Why not live a little? Try some new crazy recipes. Throw buffalo sauce on rainbow trout and serve it over a salad (a surprisingly good meal!). Learning new ways to cook your favorite wild game will only add to your knowledge as a sportsman.
- Be excellent at one thing. A few years ago, my buddy Ryan McCullough handed me my first size 28 parachute midge. After balking at its diminutive stature, and complaining about not having any 7x tippet, I started fishing it without too much confidence.
Fast-forward to today, and I’m actively seeking out situations where I get to fish tiny flies. It’s something I enjoy immensely, and I sacrificed a lot of days when I could’ve caught tons of fish, to net only a few. But I got those fish how I wanted to catch them, which is really what makes fishing fun.
This year, pick one thing you’d love to excel at. Whether it’s improving your Euro nymphing game or bettering your elk calls, relentlessly give it your all. I’ve often found that focusing on just one aspect of my hunting or fishing skills improves other areas as well, and I don’t feel overwhelmed by all that I’m not doing.
- Introduce as many people to the outdoors as you can. Just after New Year’s, I was in Colorado, fishing a section of the Yampa with my friend Bryan Engelbert. We were more than a little miffed at not having the river to ourselves. After all, we’d just walked through three miles of knee-deep snow. It was a safe assumption that we were the only ones dumb enough to walk that far for Colorado rainbow trout.
Despite feeling slighted at sharing the river, it’s heartening to see other anglers out in such horrible weather. As great as solitude is, we need more people outdoors. Hunting participation is quickly declining, and the fly fishing industry isn’t growing as quickly as it has. If we want to preserve and protect the uniquely American way of outdoor recreation, we need more stewards of the resource.
So, this year, take as many people hunting and fishing as you can. Show them why you’ll wake up at 4am, drive to a marsh, and sit in freezing water waiting to shoot ducks. Let them reel in a 15-inch brown trout on a Western river. It’s in those moments that the real magic of hunting and fishing manifests itself, and we can — and should — share that with those who haven’t yet experienced it.
This list is meant more as a jumping-off point than anything else. I hope it gets you thinking about how you can improve as a hunter and angler in 2020, and how you can share that with others.
Spencer Durrant is a fly fishing writer, outdoors columnist, and novelist from Utah. He’s the News Editor for MidCurrent, and Spencer’s writing has appeared in multiple national publications, including Field & Stream, Hatch Magazine, Gray’s Sporting Journal, American Angler, and Southwest Fly Fishing Magazine. Connect with Spencer on Twitter/Instagram, @Spencer_Durrant.