By Howard Meyerson
Perhaps you’ve cast to a trout or steelhead only to find yourself snubbed. It approaches, looks, and backs away. Was it the motor oil on your hands, the color of the fly, the pattern chosen, or its presentation?
Or maybe it was a “fussy” trout.
Author and fly fishing guide, Matt Supinski, has a behavioral theory about feeding fish – when they take and why they don’t – borne of decades of observation, years of watching and fishing for trout, salmon and steelhead on rivers all over the world.
The 56-year-old owner of the Gray Drake and Trout and Eagle Lodges on the banks of the Muskegon River draws it all together in an eye-catching book called “Selectivity, The Theory & Method of Fly Fishing for Fussy Trout, Salmon & Steelhead.”
The 260-page, hard-cover book is creating a stir in fly fishing circles, drawing wide acclaim from top names in the field and rave reviews for its gorgeous color plates, fascinating fishing stories and core ideas which center around three feeding phases Supinski calls: Aggressive/Active, Selective/Reflective and Passive/Dormant.
“My notion of ‘selectivity’ attempts to address what I call the fish’s “split-personality,” Supinski writes. “Why at times they can be ferocious predators and kill artists exercising extreme precision, but with selective and precise demeanor. Or why they can be downright impossible to catch, either being extremely fussy and elusive or despondent.
“These bipolar behavioral phases of selectivity have taunted anglers for a long as people have been fly fishing…”
Supinski, who began fly fishing as a young boy under the tutelage of his Polish immigrant father at their fishing camp in the Allegheny Mountains, has been skunked a
few times himself. In Selectivity he expands on the concepts and shares personal fishing experiences that illustrate those core ideas. He takes readers to rivers around the world and recounts with unusual clarity what happened – for better or worse. Supinski admits to being an avid fishing diarist, someone who records in fine detail the outcome of a fishing trip.
Selectivity is not light reading – but it is very readable. It can be taken in small pieces or large. It is a beautiful book that lies somewhere between being a coffee table centerpiece and a masterful technical manual – a must-have for literate anglers who want to better understand trout, salmon and steelhead behavior. Supinski’s fascination with fish behavior began early too, once his father returned to Poland to get a graduate degree.
“As boy in Poland I built a tree house on the biggest pool on a river. I would sit in it for hours and watch how brown trout would respond to flies and how Atlantic salmon came in and the pecking order of things,” Supinski shared, explaining his fascination with feeding behaviors.
“I was interested in the natural process of how fish behave and spent more time observing than making casts. My Dad would say ‘You stupid kid. You’re not going to catch fish just watching them.’”
Selectivity is not a new concept. It was first addressed in a serious way by authors, Carl Richards and Dough Swisher in a 1974 book called “Selective Trout.” The topic has been fodder for discussion in beer halls and on stream banks all over the world.
Supinski, who has written for angling publications like Fly Fisherman, Fly Rod & Reel, Field and Stream, among others, also has authored other books like Steelhead Dreams and Orvis Guide to Great Lakes Salmon and Steelhead. He produced a Selectivity video in 2011 that visually illustrates his theory.
The idea for Selectivity came to him a decade ago; a book, he says, for the “thinking angler.”
“It started with a concept 10 years ago,” Supinski elaborates. “Writing this book two years and two years of editing, four years of sleepless nights and talking to people around the world. Part of the sport of fly fishing is to think about the game plan, what bugs are coming out. There is nothing out there today that makes people think any more. It’s all about ‘here’s the Top 10 flies for the Top 10 destinations.’
“I saw a void and thought we need to enjoy the thought process involved with fly fishing. I’ve pretty much said it all (in Selectivity). Now I want to write a novel about my dad.”
Selectivity is available from local book sellers and fly fishing shops and online from Amazon.com. Published by Stackpole Books, it costs $39.95. The Selectivity video costs $34.95. Serious anglers will find either or both a fine investment.
This story appears on MLive Outdoors.