There's certainly no reason not to learn from others' experience. Could be the same senses that let you read water and fish sign also let you pick up gems of wisdom from others.
A long-ago trip to the San Juan (15-hour overnight run, somebody has to stay up with the driver) and then zig-zag east along the CO/NM border to the Sangre de Cristos, with Billy Trimble, Alan Bray and Walter Zock, opened my eyes in a big way. By Coleman lantern light they were cranking out size 24 midges - I just held out my midge box and kept pouring their scotch. Carpet strike indicators and 3-fly, dry, attractor, tiny dropper rig on the San Juan - splitting fish evenly between the 3 flies - was something I didn't know and the essence of that stuck with me on every tailwater trout outing since. Though when we got to deep pocketwater on the Conejos, my Teeny line drifts and high-sticking, a skill I brought with me, were a decided advantage over Alan's lead-headed jigs on a floating line.
There are fishing situations where conventional tackle has a decided advantage - most of them involve casting 150' every cast and doing it all day without wearing yourself out - too much or too soon. Fly rods usually don't fit here.
Where fly fishing has a decided advantage is where stealth presentation is required, and where small bait imitations are accepted first. Fly fishing has a decided advantage for any close-in fishing. Luckily, that includes standing over redfish, black drum and big specs in skinny water. When Billy gave a presentation to a GRTU general meeting on fishing the salt focusing on skinny water, he mentioned rigging floating line with nylon leaders and fluoro tippet, because the nylon leader floats above the grass, and the fluoro tippet drops your fly to the fish. That stuck with me.
My preferred skinny water salt rig is a furled leader tied from nylon mono, with looped-on fluoro tippet - it turns over most anything, and if you keep it dry by sparing your casts, it doesn't even float, it sits on the water surface tension.
On Stealth, Gary Borger said natural selection applies to fish. Brave fish never grow up - they become food. Big fish got that way by being cowards. And he's right - only one out of 100 fish hatched make it to adulthood - the rest are food for other fish and birds. This is why you spare your casts and catch a fish every 3rd cast.
Certainly I learned a lot of what I learned by plugging away. But taking someone else's wisdom and applying it while you're plugging away makes you learn better and faster.
When I joined Frank Smethurst for 2-1/2 days on my home Guadalupe tailwater, filming an episode of Trout Unlimited On the Rise that aired on ESPN, he dropped as a joke that when he absolutely positively has to catch a fish right now for the camera, he ties on an Otters Milking Egg plastic egg. It became part of my standard slow-water nymphing technique to use a needle to slide my leader through an Otter's Milking egg attractor, slide up a bare hook, and tie on tippet for a tiny midge dropper. In fast water I'm going to swing wet flies, because I love it.
This little girl is on the bare hook, after she bit the Otter's Milking egg it slid up to the split shot, and at the bottom center of the photo, if you squint, you can see my size 22 midge dropper.
Then there are fly rod techniques that can't be duplicated on conventional tackle - most times. Two of those involve sinking lines. I mentioned water column hovering. While you can do this with weight and a continuously smooth retrieve - you're stuck with that retrieve rate. Picking the right sinking line lets you do it easily with a fly rod. Again, Tobin's new TSL grasswalker is a lure that lets you duplicate water column hovering with a slow moving lure on conventional tackle
While you can certainly duplicate bottom bouncing to some degree on conventional tackle, it's a whole lot more reliable on a fly rod with a Teeny line. I did it once way long ago - I was 16 - with UL spinning tackle fishing white bass on a summer night from a boat dock in a sandy cove. Threw out my lure as far as I could and stripped line from the spool into the lake. Sat down on the dock for 5 minutes to let the whole thing sink. Bottom bouncing the lure home followed the exact path the white bass were taking to the dock light. Guess what - I caught a white bass every 3rd cast (and put 17 on the stringer).
When I took Kevin Townsend to my beloved cypress tunnels to film an episode of KT Diaries, chasing endemic Guadalupe bass, he fished a floating line, I fished my T130. Maybe both of us are a little hard headed, but we sure had a good time.
Most white bass fishermen don't even realize a white bass run lasts 9 to 12 weeks, because the only time they catch fish is when schools of white bass are moving upriver and pushing schools of shad in front of them. That's a great time to fish. But between those times, there are stationary pods of fish, and late in the run, there are harems of small females being led around by a big smart male who's too aloof to be fooled by a roadrunner. I've caught 5 four-year-old male white bass in my life - 19 to 20 inches, and 5 lbs.
On an outing with friends, these are just my 2-y-o males - I released everything else. I also caught the other 4 for my limit while I was letting my friends fillet their pick from my stringer. Don't worry, white bass are the ultimate freshwater meat fish. They are impossible to eradicate, fecund, the females laying up to a half-million eggs, they normally only live 3 years, and are such voracious predators they deplete the food base that other species could also be eating.
Speaking of aloof, stripers in the river - they won't hit a stripped fly, but only a natural swing in the current - so Teeny line, and set up your drift so the line begins its swing in front of their faces - at least where you think they are from reading the water.
Yes, there's a tackle industry that tries to earn their fishing time by convincing you that you need a new $700 rod every year, because what you were fishing last year has been made obsolete by this new wonder.
Me, there was a time I had 3 fly rods, graphite with mated disc drag reels. I had given my first Orvis Green Mountain starter 7-1/2' glass rod combo to my nephew. I found myself catching big rainbow after big rainbow, not enjoying it, and wondering why I was harassing the fish -
- I was jaded and ready to quit.
So I began buying up vintage tackle for a Whole Lot Less money than new tackle. The short glass rods of the 70s fit in places new 9' rods won't, like hill country creeks, and one advantage of those old mid-length rods is fishing from a kayak.
Fortunately, the industry has also caught on to this with new glass rod offerings, but unfortunately, Cabela's hasn't restocked their 7-1/2' CGR 7/8.
The first time I hooked a 20" rainbow in fast water on old cane and a click-pawl reel, it was, oh, crap, what am I going to do now - and I remembered why we do this in the first place.
A little good speculating also doesn't hurt. I can trace the purchase of this 1917 Hardy St. George to an original $50 reel that I turned, and a couple more to get here.
It was a joy to fish, and I loved it. But after 4 years, its value had doubled, was burning a hole in my pocket, and I sold it for the exact price of my (then) new Tarpon, which I rigged for my daughter and me to tandem.
That brought me to this forum.