Id say its more about the hours put in, not the number of fish caught, if somebody fishes the odd time on one of the top waters then they could still have more fish than the people fishing a lot more often on a river that doesn't have a great run
A very interesting question that isn't easy to give a definitive answer to.
As has already been said, we never stop learning but then again that is also true of any tradesman who has long since finished his apprenticeship. An apprenticeship is the learning of the trade, at the end you are not considered a master, just someone with an accepted level of understanding and competence, from the end of the apprenticeship you start the beginning of learning to become that master, some get there others don't. Competence levels between tradesmen trained by the same guy will even vary.
I used this example that we see in industry because I think its a good comparison to the salmon fisher.
I don't think you can use the number of fish landed as a guide to a persons level of competence unless you attach a time frame to this.
I remember a client I had fishing with me who was in his late 70's, a really lovely man who in his own words had fished for salmon his whole life since he was a boy. As I got to know him he told me he had almost 100 salmon under his belt and you could see he was very proud of this. During his time with me we got him 2 fish nearer his goal but to see how he waded, cast and fished as well as how he played and landed those fish I would have considered him a novice. After all 100 fish in say 65yrs of fishing equates to little more than 1.5 fish per year and if he only fished for a week a year its only 390 day of experience, other guys could rack that number of days up in 10yrs or less.
I disagree with the concept that a hard won fish from heavily fished club water is worth more than one from a prime beat or places like Russia or Iceland. The reason is that every fish we hook and land teaches us something and we don't learn much from hooking and seeing nothing. Of course sitting in a boat where the gillie is actually catching your fish won't teach you as much as fishing for them yourself but generally prime rivers will teach the average angler more than poor ones.
I can think of another example of a great guy I took to Russia, he had fished for salmon for a while and had his successes here and there with fly and spinner, he wasn't a novice but I would not have considered him an expert either. Within a twelve month period he visited the Ponoi three times at prime time and landed around 200 salmon and probably hooked and lost another 50 or more, he also rose a lot of fish that never took the fly and saw huge amounts of fish behaviour, running fish, resting ones, fish taking on or under the surface, coming back again and again for the fly etc etc.
It was really interesting to see how this guy had grown in confidence as a result of his quickly gained successes, I then fished with him in the UK during the leaner times and it was clear to see his fishing knowledge and confidence was at a much higher level than it was when I first met him. He will not forget those lessons learned from a river full of fish and the experience he gained in reading the water, fly speed and depth, hooking up and playing fish etc, all of this can only come from having fish in the pools to learn from. I feel we learn very little from fishing an empty pool other than its empty.
I spend a lot of the year around salmon fishers of varying abilities, sometimes this is on the UK rivers where a fish for 3 days is a good result, other times its on prime foreign rivers where 5+ fish per day is expected. I feel I can tell those who have served their apprenticeship from those who haven't within minutes in most cases, even watching a man tackling up tells me a lot about his experience level, how he ties his knots or whether or not he waits to see the pool he has to fish before deciding on the line and fly choice etc.
I see guys who fish with me in the UK who haven't landed that many fish (due to not having the chance to fish the best places at the best times) but by watching them its clear they are competent fishers and well past apprenticeship stage. They cast well, wade confidently, understand what it is they are trying to do and what the fish will most likely be doing in the prevailing conditions, concentrate on and consider what the fly is doing at all times and can tie good knots etc. I know if these guys got the chance to fish Ponoi at prime time they would do very well but often finances don't allow this.
So in conclusion I have probably got back to where I started in saying that I don't feel the number of fish landed can decide this. Two guys can be taught the same things on the same day and one will remember it and the other won't even hear it, one will serve his apprenticeship faster than the other.
Salmon Fishing is always a learning curve.
Don't matter if you have done it for 1 year or 100.
And anyone who thinks they have it completely figured out is living in a fantasy world and fooling themselfs!
And I have met some funny ones in my time that blow there trumpet! Iv caught this much! Iv had more fish over 20 lb than you!
Every day on the riverbank is part of the learning curve. Obviously the curve becomes not quite as steep the older you get
The trouble is that the person who is capable and but not confident will say it the the hasn't completed his apprenticeship. The person who is confident but not capable will lecture everyone who will listen thinking that they are an old pro.
I fished with a chap on a smart beat. He spent every meal telling everyone what they ought to be doing to improve.... But I'm not sure he knew what he was on about
As a definite apprentice, this post struck a chord. Even with my limited knowledge, I have had anglers tell me things that I know are not right, or give opinions that I know they've read somewhere like here but are passing off as their own.
Yes, Ive seen them as well.
In life there will always be those who just pick things up better and faster than others so again the number of fish landed and especially their size doesn't guarantee the higher level of competence.
What I mean by this is that one guy might need to land 20 fish to learn the lessons that another guy has understood after only 5. There is a big difference between listening and understanding.
I read an old fishing book that suggested that you need to catch 1000 salmon before having the tenacity to put pen to paper on the subject. I'm not sure how many of us here can claim that, I can't!
I would tend to agree with springer on this one. I have taught people to fish for salmon that picked it up very quickly, listened and learned and just get it. Others you could teach for a thousand years and they still wont get it. I took a very experienced angler salmon fishing who had made a name for himself in the world of big game fishing. It was one of the most disheartening experiences of my life, and the last person I have tried to teach. I got him a fish in the end but the only name he made for himself with me started with a W!
As another newcomerI know it will be different for everyone, but can you remember what unlocked it all for you? Was it your first salmon? A casting lesson? A conversation with a fellow angler where you realised you knew as much as them - if not more?
And if you don't feel confident yet, shout up so I don't feel alone. Wobbly waders unite!
I reckon you ahve to be able to nail fish anywhere!!!
there are a few guys who can do that. I recall being called a jammy wee SH&^% and I think that means you have caught a few when others didnt!!!!
I have kinda lost the "desperate" notion to fish with a sandwich in your mouth kinda NEED to catch a fish but on occasion I can put the desperate hat on
I aint no "expert" cos I am totally out of touch with the new fly fishing side of things and I openly admit that!!!
There are other far more expert at that side of things BUT I think someone who has served their "apprenticeship" can go to a river, find out where the fish will be and use the right tackle to get thame!!!!
So what would you say is easier?
A big river regular(tay spey ect) fishing a medium to small river (North esk,helmsdale halladale ect,)
Or vice versa? Medium to small river regular to big river?
Who can adapt best,
I know the first time I went to the tay I very near farted a lump,
And on the other hand I was fishing with a tay regular on a highland river and he had half the pool coverd in his first couple of casts! Missing everything close in.